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

Out and About and a 28th

A day to forget. As the point of no return approaches I finally get some paperwork done. It is ridiculously easy if it was done on the day or even at the end of the week. 6/9 months later and scrabbling about looking for statements and invoices does the head no good. But one set of VAT Returns upto date and a trip through to Inverness means that Books maybe done on time and the debt collector phone calls can stop. Find it strange that a reclaim of around £500 can be turned into a £2,000 due but that is HMRC for you. Keep tabs on the wee boys and let the super yachts be built.

Had a weekend chatting away about small hydro, small fishers and basically small businesses. With a far better spread of small earners ploughing profits back into local economies instead of it being drained away from being recycled and keeping everyone occupied and less poor. Whether people may be against renewable subsides it is a way to both redistribute wealth and produce cleaner power. of course the down side of that is unless it is community owned then the subsidy just goes to the landowner who tends to have wealth already. The way round that is to direct the subsidy to community only schemes. Too Cuban for the current UK I suppose where there is a 95% cut in renewable subsidy under way.

As I was supposed to be doing paperwork over the weekend I managed to do everything but and was out and about,

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hoping to catch some winter shots.

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Not a lot doing although the hills had a covering

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there was a rapid change in the temperature.

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Big tide

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on Saturday and Dougal

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and Eilidh had a great run on the Bay sands

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after delivering the last of the local AppleJuice forms. Saturday evening ambled along and finished fairly early with a couple of scrabble games and more hydro chat. Mick was over with some of the larch which is for cladding the Turbine House and got the control boards connected remotely. There was a bit of playing about with the programs that allowed the hydraulics to open up the spear valve fully and we now have the generator running at 100%. It was a bit of an amble on Sunday lunch shift as well, 20+ lunches and the Boss away at a Brewery meeting. Was called in to do a photo shoot and not sure how successful in the light. Something to do with tele and publicity.

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Nipped up to the Inn on Friday for a token bottle of Crabbies to help celebrate the Boss’s 28th year in town especially as she does not look a day over 60!! No fishing until all paperwork done and can then go back to the real world of real work and stop being a volunteer tax collector for the government. Seems the reports on catches are that they are very poor so am not missing much. Away to the first of the Celtic Connection weekends via an AGM. Unfortunately train tickets bought were for an AGM in Inverness and not where it is going to be held….Edinburgh. One of the jobs is the train station at Inverness and will practice sob story on way in.

Volunteering.

It has been a lively spell of weather over the last couple of days. Blowing a gale from the north and the Hill is closed. I would hazard a guess that there will be some pretty serious drifting on the top today. We have a snowblower back in town except it is not quite as it seems. It is fits onto the front of a tractor but does not fit into the snowblower shed so part of it has to live in Lochcarron. Ever the optimist that is better than no snowblower at all. In between the snow showers I went up to the Hydro to clean the screen and all seemed well. Was up to check as we had an unexplained stoppage, restarted fine, and then a power cut. The restart from some reason did not go above 35 kWhs so I stopped it again but could not restart. Ewen then moved in and shut down the power and it has been fine since but we are missing the last 10 kWhs as it is running at 80. Been ramping up the hours, paperwork is through for the tax relief and first payment from SSE has turned up so we seem to be on our way. At times during the snagging you get a little nervous especially as it is a community investment but at 420,000 kWhs we are on course. Views from up there were spectacular when watching the weather coming across the Sound.

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A couple of shifts at the Inn pass pleasantly by as we have about 20 people in and no pressure but to chat to people. The Boss was chatting to one customer and he was going to work abroad, had a Scottish girlfriend and wanted to propose, but it was not going well. She had not been feeling too great the night before and on the way to the Inn had almost gone off the road so she had a bit of a fright and went to bed early. The Boss ended up giving him advice for about an hour trying to think of romantic spots further up the west coast where he could get down on one knee. Looking out the window it may have to be inside as the snow passing by is horizontal. The regulars, up to give Dave a hand controlling the hinds, are fine banter although one gets the impression that there are topics you have to stay clear off. One mentioned he has named his latest dog Brex.

Wednesday was just one of those days and tells you how reliant we are on power and volunteer work. The Tax relief forms arrived and hundreds had to be filled in for people to reclaim tax relief on their investments. Alison had finally won her battle with the HMRC but filling in the forms was tedious and went on for ages. So I took a batch up the road and three of us spent hours round the table filling in everything but the personal details of the investor, then the power goes off, so the Filling Station has to be rebooted and with a data error showing that took an hour longer than expected, but has to be done or the Postie is stuck. Then onto the Hydro. So I reckon between form filling and the other rebooting and re-starting the volunteer hours put in by Judith, Frances, Ewen and myself over the day amounted to over eleven. Small communities are so reliant on volunteering, whether it is Annual Games , running The Community Hall, Heritage Centre etc. Still as the weather was fresh

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and that does not deter Dougal

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and Eilidh there was still time in the day for a wander along the shore and watch the waves roll in over the Pier.

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Dougal in particular loves the wind in his hair.

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Have to say Tuesday was the result of falling off the wagon, and so soon after The New Year celebration. Twice in two weeks is at one too many and that should do for quite a while. The excuse was the arrival of a couple from Deep South, Essex. They rocked up at the end of 2015 and Applecross, as ever made a pretty fair impression, so much so they were back after a stay in Plockton and a trip over to Lewis. The “session” was joined by a couple from Brighton and good craic was had. A great night where views, opinions, knowledge and laughter flowed. I noticed that there were up to three conversations going all night, mostly at the same time. Just as well as there were six of us and no one was talking to themselves. An evening to dip briefly into other people’s lives, what Applecross does best. The remaining four posed for a wee photo shoot and the most disturbing thing about the shot is the clock in the corner.

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Boy did I suffer for the night, the suffering only eased by one of the Inn’s momentous venison burgers that, and seeing the state of the other participants. The things one has to do to get through the dark month.

Winter Fuel.

Getting used to the quieter house now as everyone departs to carry on their own lives. Father-in-law away before New Year to be replaced by Son No4 and Rachel, while Son No3 stays on till last Saturday. Only just gets the bus at the Inn as it drove off as he was opening the door outside the schoolhouse. Not a lot to report. Still shore bound and still not finding too much energy to be doing too much.The light box is on and it is pretty dreich outside.  Having said that on Friday looking west most of the day it looked as though Skye was enjoying a much better day.

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The light to the south-west was unusual

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but captivating and stopped the wood chopping for a while. This last one taken by No3.

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The Inn is very quiet just now and have to be honest I am finding it hard to adjust to the quiet times. There are far more staff on out front than previous years and at times more staff than customers. On Saturday after chatting to the cavers, who are carrying out a fairly extensive potholing exploration of the limestone caverns around the Alt Breugach river and a couple of other regulars, I headed for home to watch the Glasgow game on telly. I am not into crosswords and there would have to be no one coming in to be able to concentrate on more serious paperwork so I get a wee bit bored waiting and watching the clock tick by.

However the balance to this is that you never know who comes in the door. Thursday evening I regretted finding out what the family did, who were sitting at the Big Table, until just as they were leaving. Turns out he was the Edinburgh Book Festival Director and a wee conversation ensued about Kirsty Logan and short stories and my trip down to Charlotte Square. It’s these meetings that keep me from giving it a break over the winter, like yesterday chatting to the retired GP from North Yorkshire. You build up a sense in how far you can go with banter about retired GPs as we have many in Applecross. But then all is well when Felix, Sarah and family come in.

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Once the welcome, food and chat are done and dusted they got the fiddles

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and guitar

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out and an afternoon of very fine tunes and songs was had.

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The warmth you receive from them and many other customers visiting the Inn is the fuel I need to get through the winter and I suppose at the Inn in Applecross there is no better place to top up. The walk through the Estate and round the Bay with the ever-present oystercatchers and Dougal and Eilidh also get us closer to the spring when life break out again.

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The Year has not properly kicked in, partly to do with the weather and mostly to do with lack of enthusiasm. Also the oiler on the power saw is blocked so that has slowed up the wood supply. Been on the Net and decided it will be going to Inverness rather than me taking it apart. Get the Pier books up to date and all my stuff as well is not the most enthralling prospect. The batteries are fully charged so there may be a couple of days fishing coming up. Bit of pressure to get out tomorrow for some leaving visitors. The end of the day showed a fine sunset

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behind the Red Cuillin, more pre sunset. The bank of cloud making for a slightly unusual light.

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This apart there is little doing other than taking Dougal and Eildh down to the Bay where they head off into the water bothering the seabirds for a few minutes. They just fly up and then land as soon as they are past. Dougal just makes me laugh with his enthusiasm,

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comes running at speed when called

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looking slightly demented

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and is ready for the next escapade. Good company as is the more genteel Eildh.

Nice shift in the Inn last night. Nice in the respect of it was just like the old days, one person working the bar under the watchful eye of the Boss. She only had to pour one pint all night so it was not stressful for her and time passed really quickly for me. Still there were around 20 meals to serve and people to look after and this topped off with Andy’s fine chicken fried rice. The longer days are not far off.

Knockando Memories

I was going to write this post yesterday but the loss of my power of speech and lack of co-ordination put paid to that. The health has recovered somewhat although rather tired and not through over work. Finishing off a shift at the Inn that was not too onerous, the earlier shifts have been hit harder as many people are coming out for lunch and not travelling during the evening. The poor health and other symptoms were directly related to the exuberant welcoming in 2017. Yesterday began next door with a fine spread for lunch, good chat and some fine whisky. Some slightly bizarre tales of men becoming women and ending up in women prisons as sort of men, one in particular changing his mind half way through. I had with me a drappie of Knockando to keep me going through the day. This dram has memories of an epic weekend in a different life. Many years ago a weekend trip was  arranged and began with me collecting my pickup from the Lochcarron Garage after its MoT and heading to Kyle where I parked it at the Pier. With nothing in my mind other than jumping into the car with a couple of mates and heading to Portree to see Runrig. A fine night in prospect but the first indication that all was not well in Kyle….I had parked the pickup at low tide and with a spring tide that weekend, well, it does not take too much imagination to work out what happened. Managed to forget what was under way in Kyle and had a cracking night. So saturday morning, 6.00am, high tide lapping through the pickup, along came help. A fisherman returning from a party towed me through Kyle at around 30/40 mph to the local garage for a clean up. That was bad enough but the driver was far from sober and I was being towed in reverse. I decided that there was nothing more to do but keep going on the planned weekend, phoned the garage from Inverness, took a lot of stick, (sinking a pickup, being a fisherman etc), but ended up at Knockando distillery having a wee taste of their malt, given to us by a quite eccentric/old-fashioned manager. Back to Applecross and bit too much banter about sunk pickups and a local, that to this day, does not know how lucky he was to survive the banter unscathed, one of my mates that day was an exbouncer and was 6.6 foot by 6 foot and later I learnt he was debating whether to squash my tormentor.

There are so many empty houses in Applecross now the traditional first footing does not happen as in the older times. Now we tend to gather at pre arranged houses or in this case a Shed. After leaving Blaven, replete with food and drink, I made my way to the Cheffie’s Shed where there was a grand supply of many fine malts, Glenmorangie, Bunnahabhain, Highland Park and the rest of the Knockando with a fine Dalmore 15-year-old thrown in. Time passed very quickly and I blame the two pear ciders for my poor state of health. But the craic was immense and the company better. Met the lively wee photographer, Jonathan, and had good craic with the sisters although things were getting a little hazy by then. I rolled home around ten knowing the next morning may be a rough passage to sail through. Actually although the pain was pretty sharp first thing it eased in plenty of time for work. Decide the walk to work would be therapeutic and so it turned out.

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Hogmanay was a fine night at the Inn, there were a few later bookings, but all was done  in good time by 10.30pm. Again there were lots of craic, humour and banter and Amir. Turned out that really was Ahmed, (he was n’t playing hide and seek) an Indian who decided he wanted to experience the Scottish and Hogmanay. The “skirt” was requested and delivered and off he went to the changing room or the toilets in this case. As he did not appear after around 20 minutes I decided to see how things were going. He definitely had not mastered the dress code and he had the kilt tied on like a sari. So I had another first experience at the Inn……dressing a little Indian, all in the best possible taste of course. Over the course of the couple of days he was here he lost and found his car keys, phone, kilt and discovered how cold it is in the North. He said he was coming back, we shall see.

(And yet another day later) And still on Hogmanay with every one well versed in the etiquette of the night the Inn was empty by 10.40pm and I went off to the turbine house to take end of year production and exports. Then it was off to the head of the Bay, I like a bit of peace and quiet, contemplation time and spent the last hour of the year with a wee drammie of the Knockando. I welcomed the new Year in standing outside, listening to the placating sounds of a stream running down the hillside, gazing up at the Plough, and just being. Surprisingly hard thing to do even living in a place like Applecross. Then it was down to the Hall where the masses had gathered and there were the comradely greetings and well wishing. Local and visitor alike, in fact I think it is so important that those who visit here are made welcome and that seemed to be the case most of the time. Great atmosphere and good humour that over rode the lack of sounds coming from the stage. The key for the music room must have gone missing again as the sound system being used did not seem to be working too well. Did not take anything away from the night though and it was all over, for me anyway, by 1.30am.

Last night at the Inn was pleasant and easy-going and finished fairly early, walked home with only the one minor incident, dropped a glove in the dark and smacked my nose on a wall trying to find it. So only scar from the weekend did not involve any stimulants of any kind. getting back to a bit of normality today with dipping the tanks at the Filling Station and going up to see the Turbine was in good order. With Ewen having changed the two breaker switches there has been a good run of 100% since then. Paper work slowly coming through and for those who want to claim the tax relief the Apple Juice ref no is WMBC/MSB/S0970/39920 18331/SCEC and office we are dealing (Cardiff), hoping the forms are through in the next week. I know that the admin with HMRC has been a bit of a mare but is  coming together. Angus and his two mates were wandering around the Turbine House,

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unconcerned to any human activity.

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Then it was a bit of wood chopping and getting batteries of the Varuna for a charge and thoughts return to work and a bit of fishing. And just to finish with hoping that everyone has a year that brings contentment and peacefulness to their lives and all friends and family. A heartfelt thanks to all who have read, commented, liked and tweeted the Blog, I have enjoyed writing and taking photos for it.

Thor’s Back Slates

After the storms and on the way home with a load of ageing beech wood the light to the south was showing off Thor’s Back Slates

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to fine effect.

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And Now Conor.

And now Conor races through,

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although the moorings are generally pretty well protected with still a bit of westerly blowing.

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Has not swung round to the north-west during the fiercest of the winds.

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The dinghy is at the pier, the mooring work was done six weeks ago and the stern gland tightened. Only the batteries are needing a charge but no one is going anywhere this week so that will not be till the wind dies away a little before I take them off for a charge.

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Just watch and wait with one or two customers to serve at the Inn. met some “Pit Yackers” to add to my collection of North east England localities like the Sand Dancers of South Shields. Was up briefly at the Inn on Christmas morning but everything under control and did not stay around. The Belgian with two punctures was being sorted by a tow truck back to Torridon Hotel, the prosecco out and the wind blowing so just a few snaps of Conor before doing very little for the rest of the day. Lost the internet last night but Sean battled up Tor Mor to fix a part taken out by Conor.

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Unsung heroes are the guys who keep local services that everyone takes for granted going. Up to the Inn now for the Boxing Day shift.

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