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

A Busy Wee Spell.

It was one of those nights of light sleep and a 5.30am start as the forecast for this week is pretty appalling for late August and do not expect much time on the water from now till Saturday. So an early breakfast for the pooches and off the moorings nice and early with a lovely sky

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and calm waters.

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The intention was to get as many creels up today as possible as I do not seem to be able to catch enough to keep the Inn going for more than two days. I keep thinking that the fishing has declined a bit but it is because so many berried ones are going back. Just cannot land any now it has become engrained over the past 10/15 years now. Going north and it was still fine but the passing sailor was starting to show a breeze under way.

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Four more fleets and it was hard graft with a few things not staying where they should. last sailor passed and I called it a day after hauling 500 creels and a long splash going home, time to tail the inevitable squats.

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Treat the next few days for catching up many of the jobs that need doing ashore.

Back to Friday and after the dolphins I had planned a restful early afternoon before going up to the Community Hall to help organising a family ceilidh. Isla had got in touch a wee while ago and asked if there was anywhere her travelling group from Oxford Uni could play a gig and I had checked making sure it was not clashing with the Fishing Weekend. It did not, so booked Community Hall, organised sound and everything was set until mid afternoon phone call from Community Hall saying Music Store locked and no key. The planned snooze goes out the window and a rapid search round the community for the key to no avail. Only thing for it to avoid a cancellation was to find a Liverpudlian, a jemmy bar and we were soon in. Unfortunately the door was no more as it was weaker than the lock,

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but we were in and the ceilidh was on. Met up with Isla and the guys, all 16 of them at the Inn,

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sorted a few soft drinks out and some drinks for the band and away we went. A raffle for calendars and wine went fine and the music with some completely new dances, a Thread the Needles and Nine Pins,

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went down well, especially with the visitors and there were plenty. People who came, came to dance and it was nice to see a ceilidh with lots of kids running about, some hard to catch.

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The visitors from Toscaig left early to make more ice cream, going as well as the langoustine this summer.

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Finished up with a St Bernard’s and a Orcadian Strip the Willow. Good friendly night.

Saturday started on time but for the wrong reason, meant for an early start but the head said otherwise, Lots of painkillers got me going at the back of nine but knowing the day was set fair and the pain receding settled into a fine days fishing with the bonxies.

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Missing my afternoon kips due to lack of time and arrived at the Inn with a bit of a back wash from the days pills but soon that was lost in the melee of the night. Tonight’s event was another charity event, a bed push over the Hill, one that happens annually and means a booking of 15 meant no tables down that end of the bar. it went well until the usual late comers. They got seated, were appreciated and all was well. Lots of monies raised and home, knackered by 11.30pm knowing I had to go back out to the Varuna to land the rest of the langoustine, feeding the monster is becoming seriously hard work.

The sunset was special

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and waitresses

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are always around for a shot in the sunset.

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I think it was Saturday afternoon I was checking out the camera as it was acting up a bit, went out to the garden and discovered a little unusual way of sorting an error communication between lens and body. Apples,

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mint

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and puppies were looking fine, rampant, bored

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and slightly apprehensive.

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Sundays langoustine

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were looking fine as were the staff.

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Langoustine cooked off so were not being abused or being mistreated. A day that was beautiful but busy again, very busy. Lots of people outside so there is not too much competition for seat and tables but dishes one way and food the other way just kept coming in and going out. Made it through to six with the help of a brownie before sitting down to a plate of squats in chilli sauce rice and salad. Life is tiring but good. Made it out the door and away on the bike after another bar glass wash up and seeing them coming in again. Brief interlude with a journalist who was doing a more in-depth view on the NC500, a bit more than how wonderful the drive and scenery is. more on how it is affecting people who live here and how they go about their lives. Every now and again you get a bit of a jolt and a group of four Italians came in for lunch and chatted a little to them. Love the sound of the language, second only to the lilt of the Gaelic, turns out that one of them was woken up in Rome 150 kms away by the earthquake that so cruelly destroyed so many lives up in the mountains to the north-east. An immediacy when you speak to some one directly connected to events that are heart-rending but distant when seen on TV. Reminds me of the couple from Nice on table 7 a few weeks ago. Pretty rapid movement on our episode with the door as a new one has already been purchased and is back in Applecross along with lock.

Friday morning and it is a different season from yesterday. This morning after a short doze on the couch it was an early start, mainly to get langoustine away to Loch Ness Inn and with the forecast not very good, a quick look round the remaining creels. Turned out it was very quick. Hauled the first one with lots of berried langoustine, more than a few squats but enough langoustine to go to the next one. Went to pick up the buoy without checking the GPS and turns out it was the south end, meaning I was broadsides to a southerly force 4. Half way through the second fleet, called it a day and was back on the moorings before 8.30am. When I was out there it crosses my mind about why we put ourselves out so much and for what. Pouring rain, grey skies and heaving on a white-capped sea do not make for an easy life, then this happens.

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I am surrounded by a small pod of dolphins

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with lots of babies

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rushing to and fro and all is well again,

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not questioning why or where I should be but just living the moment.

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I feel a rush of gratitude that these magnificent mammals include me, even for fleeting moments, in their daily meanderings.

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This follows on from coming home last night after a shift at the Inn where the staff used the word “carnage” quite a few times to describe the evening. It was n’t really although at times you did wonder about the functionality of the operation. Weather wonderful and the kitchen were going pretty hard to keep the food going out as many of the customers were eating out in the garden enjoying the evening sunshine and the truly magnificent views across the Sound. I had a feeling that it was not going to continue like this as it was perfect midge weather for around about 7.30/8pm. Sure enough by 7.40pm they arrived and with a vengeance resulting in everyone wanting to come inside. Full bar and they kept coming, this time I got the last orders well before everyone were on their tables, but even then this was not enough. The nine Italians  who turned up and were served at 9.30pm as the kitchen were still cooking anyway. The only restrictions we put on at this time of night it is past time for steaks and lamb so the shellfish and fish go out. Not a problem for the Italians, scampi all round, with their kids enjoying the wee person’s menu. You try and keep a handle on it but what’s a langoustine meal more or less and the couple of Dutch girls, coming in at 9.20pm, managed one amongst all the melee. End result is the 21 kilos of langoustine landed this afternoon is now down to one. Despite a couple of rooms of residents getting absolutely pie eyed, one couple disappearing off to their beds before their cranachans came out, the neighbouring table had a nice freebie, it quietened down enough for the staff to have a welcome drink around eleven. With todays early shift in mind I headed home around 11.30pm, tired but pretty content and that was despite being in the dark due to forgetting that my torch was on charge back home. Slow cycle back with some good music on the headphones and coming round the bend passing Alt na Chriche the tumbling water over the rocks caught my attention. With Dougal and Eilidh in attendance I wandered back up the brae and sat on the little stone bridge just listening to the stream gurgling its way under the road and of down past Burnside. After the concentrated application of the previous six hours it was the perfect relaxing, slowing down of an over active mind. It had been a pretty intense day all in all as earlier the morning and indeed all day the conditions were simply awesome,

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a word that I use in its proper sense.

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Conditions during the day could not have been better, the sky,

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a landscape painting with clouds breaking up the blue and keeping the temperature to a reasonable level for the natives.

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The langoustine, despite the numbers of berries were still okay and the squats kept coming on board.

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Going through gloves at a rapid rate.

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It was a day when I honestly wanted to stay on the water till sunset but the people need served and the demands of the market still has a say in my schedule. I was fortunate to see so much during the day from setting out and throughout the day. I reckon the Varuna is a bit like the Inn where it looks and at times feels chaotic but it works and provides for what she was built for.

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The first signs of autumn is apparent in the sea when you see cuttlefish

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eggs on the creel.

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Amongst all the sea life coming up you see the weird and wonderful at times.

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The first part of the week, with the weather at times breezy, meant I finally caught up with the gear ashore and had it washed and back on board to be taken out on Thursday morning. Fitted in a Trading Company meeting on Tuesday and a long discussion about Broadband and its future. There are so many variables to fit people’s needs and wants around. The coming of fibre optic, connecting to the AppleNet system, the communities to the north who may be joining and the BT “promises” meant it was a fairly long evening, always difficult after a day at the creels.

Also managed a return to my Thai masseur as phone numbers were changed in the interim, painful but worth the trip over the Hill.

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I am upbeat just now and enjoy the intensity of the challenges I face, but I am sure I will come across a grumpy bad-tempered customer and the Varuna will break down, I just hope I will treat this in a way that will be conducive to keeping my positive outlook on people and the life I lead. Great to welcome a couple of new wee residents to the area, another Oscar and an as yet named Kilbride/McInnes only a few days old. Of course Oscar’s parents,the new teacher and partner have also settled in and great to see the age of the community decrease, a welcome change. Unfortunate incident a couple of evenings ago involving tasers, CID and a bit of a stramash but that story is better left to the courts to sort out. Also there are a few employees or soon to be ex-employees who are not too happy as the Hartfield Hostel is laying of most of its staff. It does make you query how organisations apply for community based grants and use a community to procure monies with lots of promises only for those aims to be so wide of the mark as to be off the scale. Just to leave you with a quote and a link so you can make your own minds up if this is a good use of public funds, bearing in mind the imminent closure and laying off of staff.  http://www.venturetrust.org.uk/news/2014/3/marketing-and-developing-adventure-tourism-applecr/

“The project will leave a legacy of sustainable economic activity in the Applecross area; activity which is socially advantageous, environmentally responsible and ethically grounded. This investment will generate a robust social enterprise local employer, maximizing usage of the hostel facilities as well as developing adventure tourism in Applecross.”

Summer is Taking its Toll.

(Friday evening) Missing out on the Raft Race this evening, the weather, the phone call reporting chaos at the Inn and cooking tea with washing a fleet of creels this evening all mount to too much on. (PS didn’t find energy to wash creels) It is a fine event, along with the Fishing Competition tomorrow, is a lucrative fund-raiser for the RNLI and other local Charities and is held each year. Fishing trips for langoustine this week have had a fair bit of variety both with weather variations and people out on board.

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On Tuesday we had a very interested German on board and he was fascinated by the day’s activities. Got chatting to him and it turns out he had a couple of companies, a security and another one which was involved in industrial cleaning. He had an air of German wealth about him and was good company. On Wednesday his partner had bought him a days grouse shooting near Inverness. A topic that is hitting the headlines these days with the “mysterious” disappearance of raptors, hen harriers and eagles, in the vicinity of grouse moors. The numbers of disappearing tagged birds are rising but no proof is available yet which can confirm the strong suspicions that some grouse moor managers are culpable. Interesting to hear his view of the size of the Applecross Estate. He told me that in Germany a big estate would amount to 500 or the larger ones a thousand hectares. He shook his head at the size of “ours”, a huge 65,000 acres under the sway of one man. Interesting in that here was a man obviously comfortable in hunting/fishing/shooting circles shaking his head at our antiquated land ownership. A successful day at sea, as he said at the end of it that it was an experience he would never forget. Tuesday’s fishing routine although sorting out a fleet that did not self shoot in the required order did take a bit of sorting out.

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On Thursday it was Peter and Daniel. Peter is connected to MCS, a charity involved in sustainable marine usage. Peter’s son was out as well and they seemed to enjoy the day, probably more than I did due to the foul ups and the breeze from the north-west. It was a strange morning as it started bright and then the mist rolled in from the north.

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From then on the fog bank moved in and back out to and from the west.

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Although the amount of langoustine landed has dropped by a good bit, due to the large amount of smaller berried females in the creels, the quality is still good. But the squats, they just kept coming and coming, all 14 kilos of tails. Every second between fleets we were tailing but when you have them for tea you know they are so worth it, a great by catch. One of the few days I left my camera ashore so no photos of the guys tailing without the gloves. Bit of filming went on during the day, sustainable, and good to show how everything that was not sold was put back alive. Today and Wednesday morning on the way out, and between work on deck getting the Varuna ready for the day, look up and watch a gannet gliding just above the rippling water, keeping her distance but a timeless moment in nature. Just like the family of porpoises surfacing on the smooth sea, always on the move but sedately, don’t seem stressed but alive and in their element. Bar Thursday the weather has been bright

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and quiet

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all week with the passing traffic creating the bigger waves.

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(Sunday evening) Talking about stress, it is a whole week since posting and home late last night, going through the photos in the file puts the fishing week in sequence.

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Sometimes not noting anything down you move away from the immediacy of events like last Saturday. It was a “learning on the job” night for me. I was on the door and doing the seating for the evening as Boss was tired. No one can do this job day after day, not even her. It was the usual hectic night, weather rubbishy so every one inside. They just kept coming and meals kept going out. Seats still to find and although I knew what to do, that is gather all orders of people waiting for tables and give the kitchen a heads up, I was still putting in orders at 9.15. Steaks, gammon and all the usual fish and shellfish. So the achievement of doing another impossibly busy evening at the Inn was tempered somewhat by giving the kitchen so much to do so late in the evening. Learnt a way round it but the kitchen had to suffer from the lesson.

Thursday was similar but was a bit more controlled and all the orders were in before 9.00pm. Again doing the door and checking that no one slips through the system and is waiting too long is a stressed job.We had three groups of ten in on the night along with the usual busy crowds. Boss was enjoying a well deserved night off on Loch Ness enjoying Loch Ness gin. The night goes on and you are very aware who is waiting too long for tables, ie residents, but you have to keep reassuring them and they seemed unconcerned. Amongst all this there was an Italian lady, very pleasant, who wanted a tomato salad but not dressing. Andy immediately went on the case, a Mediterranean salad quickly conjured up. Taken out but was rejected, I thought due to the dressing, so, back to kitchen where I was told it was just olive oil. Back out I went but no it was the shallots that knocked it back. The tomato salad, which I then made up, was a bowl of cherry tomatoes. They were accepted with mucho gratias and all was well. Two minutes later I was back at the table, but only because her partner also wanted the tomato salad with his steak. It was a long and round about way of getting there but there we did. This all happens as a sub plot on a night of general organised chaos. At the end of service the front of house do five highs, I think in relief of getting to the end of another service unscathed.

Wednesday evening was notable for getting to meet a couple of folk, a couple of friends, one from Portugal, living in London and her friend a New Yorker, financial manager. Chatting to them, organising their meal, taking a photo memento but on reflection always interesting to hear reactions. After telling her about the German economist closing his Deutchebank account she asked where he went next. She was already thinking about the next good place when I was thinking about the trauma of a major European bank in trouble and how that would affect us all. Two people looking at the same thing but seeing it different keeps your mind open. Anyway back to yesterday and an early start with a bad back and shoulder. Sleeping badly this week, I think because of a strong moon, woke up in fair bit of pain. Best thing to do is keep going and go out and catch langoustine, trying not to seize up. These days the catch is well down although by the end of the day it is still decent and landing some of the bigger sizes on the day keeps the supply going. At the back of nine, on my second fleet, I look up and Ewen steams past at speed with his load of fishermen. Perfect day for them and me. In the good weather and the company of the bonxies feeding up for their migration in the next few weeks eases the painful muscles.

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In early enough to get a deep sleep for a half hour in the afternoon before making my way up to yet another full on shift. Up till eight it went well and then the heavens opened above Applecross while there was a glorious sunset over Raasay. Everyone piled into the bar from outside. Worked out okay as we were helped by the non appearance of a group of six. Late shift as all the staff wanted down to Hall for the Fishing Competition dance. After a few chats with late drinkers I made an appearance after twelve. Stayed and had a yarn or two while the auction went on. Raised a great amount of £6,000. A very fine effort. Made it home by 1.45am and sober.  Today was mainly about survival and a copious amount of painkillers helped through the morning bottle up. Turn your back and the bar fills up and stays like this all day. Food piles out, dishes pile up in the prep room and glasses pile up on the bar. A day to get through for most of the staff as several did not finish the night before as sober as I did. Taking the painkillers for the head had a side effect and the shoulder and back eased somewhat but the legs from walking the miles front of house were tiring by six, so a beef burger and home on the bike by seven. Good news for tomorrow is a visit to Shieldaig for a long over due massage. So I will finish up with a sunset from earlier this week.

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Lazy Sunny Afternoon.

The weather has finally taken a turn for the better although the southerly breeze which is blowing from time to time is making things a little harder. The creel mending and fishing continues and on the way back to the mooring with another load of clean creels the young ones were taking full advantage of the rays.

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They showed little fear as I drifted past them dozing in the sun.

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Although ones suspects that the animal world is not all it seems there are times when it is very appealing.

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Almost went over to join them.

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At the Inn on Thursday, time 10.30pm and chatting to a very late regular when in walks a lost looking German lady. The very late Bruce had phoned ahead to order three meals and got two crabs and a langoustine cooked at 9.00pm. Unfortunately putting up the tent took a lot longer than the instructions said and he appeared around 10.00pm. About five minutes before I had decided that he was not coming for some reason and offered his meals to some of the staff. A couple of langoustine were consumed and the cold smoked was following when I caught sight of them coming up to the door. Rushed into the kitchen, rescued the meals, added some hot smoked salmon and served. So back to the German lady, she came in and confirmed first suspicions that she was lost, showed me her map and a written address of the hotel that she was heading to. First line was reassuring, Shore Street, but then it fell apart as it was Shore Street, Inveraray. They had put Shore Street in the GPS and followed it north from starting point, Fort William. Luckily for them we had a backup spare room for sleep in as the Boss was not 100% sure she was coming back from Inverness. So they stayed, were very relieved and quickly got into the whisky. I left them fairly merry at 1.00am, but not before an interesting chat about life , social work in Germany and how they found Applecross welcoming. So if I am stuck in Cologne I was promised to be looked after. I like this cycles/karma happening in this life and if it spills over to the next one as long as I do not come back as a langoustine or squat lobster I should hopefully be okay.

The evening was relatively peaceful although I had to move the resident house band, Tarneybackle, from a few tables to accommodate diners. In fact there were a few moving around the Inn but it was all in good humour and as long as the bills followed to the new tables all was good. Good music, songs and going by the comments fine food were all around along with the banter and craic, even the lawyers were on good form. At sea it was a bit of a hard graft this week.

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Wednesday was anticipated to be the last calm one of the week and it turned out to be otherwise, coming in early, coming across a nasty wee foul up in a strong south-westerly. Had a reasonable amount on board so not terribly bothered but a longish punch into to the wind on the way home. Did not expect to get out on Thursday but it was the converse of Wednesday and it was a lot quieter than forecast. Took another fleet in on an uneventful dreich day, leaving me with washing over a 100 creels this weekend, but breaking the back of the creels needing a pressure wash.

Taking a wee swatch back to Cambridge, the serious chat revolved around the Brexit vote. To a person there was a general feeling of shock and disbelief at the outcome of the vote. It is complex as there are so many sides to how one voted and even in this area Cambridge was heavily in favour of staying while out in the more conservative parts of the Fens and surrounds there was a definite vote for leaving. But there was realistic chat about how our group can easily be reinforcing our own views and living in a bubble of sorts. Everyone in the group was in employment and doing relatively well, relatively I said. When you read about large numbers of people who are one month from defaulting on their mortgage you realise that all is not well in large parts of people’s lives. There is a strong feeling of uncertainty about the future and I am coming across differing opinions at the Inn as well. Late guests from Germany were chatting and Brexit came up. They were disappointed about the result but on the other hand all countries have problems. One of the group was an economist and had closed his account with Deutsche Bank over fears of the stability of the bank. I had been reading one or two articles about it’s over exposure and seems he agreed. Explains the hard-line approach to Greece, hardline capitalists/bankers are not differentiated by nationality it seems. While Thursday evenings social worker was saying we were right to leave. Apologies to Alisdair, there are numerous ways to spell, for getting his name spelt wrong in the last post and it seems Harry took a photo of me dozing in the sun with Dell Mae in the background. Harry being the arty chap that he is played around with the result.

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Friday morning I was politely told at half seven that there was a fuel delivery at 8.00am so after five hours sleep it was up to the Filling Station to meet up with the driver who had already arrived. In true Applecross manner I had his history of buying and selling houses, flat and divorce, all within twenty minutes. Back for a snooze on the couch before taking the pooches up the road for a look at the Intake.

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Knew there was plenty water around but it was quite spectacular up there and even Dougal was baulking about going in for his dip.

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It was Eilidh who dived across to the other bank despite looking like she was not interested in going out before hand.

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Water pouring over the dam

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and sure there was the equivalent of another 200kWs going down the river alongside the 90kWs going down the pipeline.

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There are plenty kWs going through the monitors

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although slightly frustrating that the grid cannot take more and the local excess is not being sold.

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Perfect timing as the weather closed in again during the afternoon.

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Weather of Every Kind.

Hard to take in it has been over a week since I was listening to and singing along with some of the finest musicians in the country. A week and a bit full of fishing doing shifts at the Inn watching the weather piling into the Bay and a couple of meetings to boot. The fishing has kept going although with the weather breaking at the end of last week there have been little gaps on the menu board where beside the Applecross Bay langoustine the N/A has been evident. Not for more than a day though and visitors staying more than one day get a taste of Applecross eventually. The summer is in its later stages as can been seen by the numbers of berried females appearing in the creels

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and the scalders wrapping themselves round the ropes, stinging arms and hands, hours after I forgotten all about them.

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Rubbing your eyes or/and having a pee can have disastrous consequences.

Seeing the rig stuck on the shore on the west side of Lewis makes you think the local rumours that it may have been an insurance job. Why any one was at sea with such a well broadcast forecast far less towing a 17,000, 35-year-old rig is for some one else to ponder. We were just fortunate that it had died down before the wind had swung round to the north-west. This is the wind that is the worst for the moorings so although it had decreased it was still too strong for a day at sea. While the rig was coming ashore on Lewis the waves were crashing in on the Bay.

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Every seventh roller bigger than the previous one being whipped up by the south westerly.

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It is a dramatic backdrop for the Mercedes rally that had arrived after midday.

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A jolly group of French, with very little English and good craic. Ate lots of seafood and very very appreciative. When Antony came in at midday he took a double take, every table was taken, and it stayed like that all day. It was busy and it being the first of the month the music from Lochcarron was playing.

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Was meant to finish at six but nearer nine when I left. Hard work but very enjoyable.

When the wind was not blowing it was raining and rain it certainly did.

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When you get wet then it does not seem to matter as you can not get any wetter

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so you just get on with it and rather the rain than the breeze that is strong enough to double the effort you need to haul the creels while bracing against the motion all day.

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Like running a marathon without thinking about it. The rest of the week bar Friday was routine with major amounts of squat lobsters coming ashore. There are still langoustine on shallower waters, despite the number of berried females growing, and to catch them the squats are going into the creels in vast numbers this season.

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Not sure what these leech type worms are, attached to the creels occasionally and laying eggs on the creel.

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And came across a dog fish nursery on some rough ground, mermaid purses both born and ready to go.

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New, to me anyway, passing traffic, a Marine Harvest well boat maybe. Interesting how salmon farming has progressed from the idea that it could be an extension of the croft with crofters owning a cage in the lochs at the bottom of the croft. Now a multi national industry no longer in the hands of small producers. seems to be the way of our capitalist society of aggregating commerce, size and profit in a smaller number of hands. Every now and again one has a day to forget. These days they seem few and far between and on reflection if you cram it all into one day then hopefully you get a good run after. Had taken ashore a fleet of creels on Wednesday evening and put them ashore,

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washed them and mended by Thursday, so ready to take out on the Friday. By the time I was ready to shoot the creels on the ground it felt like a half days work had been done. So with a little more motion than forecast I started hauling creels and went from one to the next, shot over or fouled up in a bunch. Took twice as long to haul five fleets than I normally would. Cut some one’s rope on lost it before retrying but kept the buoy so no damage, just hassle. Could not get another fleet finished as it was shot over at 90 fathoms and my hauler plates were starting to slip. So coming ashore thinking good to get finished, and thinking of what to cook, when my brand new outboard ends up in the water still running. Not really sure how but it did, at least I managed to grab it and a trip to Inverness on Saturday has meant it can be sorted for £200. Bit distressing paying for it and returning it to the workshop at the same time. Don’t let anyone tell you this job is easy. At least I have plenty of strawberries and raspberries, calling in at Black Isle Berries on the way home and getting back in time for the evening shift at the Inn. Busy but went well until 8.15 when 30 people wander in from the growing gale wanting something to eat. Normal night at the Inn I suppose.

There have been little breaks in the weather and taking the dogs out in the late evening you are stopped in your tracks by the view across the Sound.

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Cycling home in the dark into the teeth of a growing southerly gale, sitting at Cambridge Festival base camp seems a lifetime away. It is not just the music but the people who make the trip so worthwhile. Talking about this and that with guys you are comfortable with

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while the Tiger Moths fly overhead in a warm climate is a great way to break the day-to-day routine of life in Applecross. A spot or two of music also played at camp.

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We often meet up either at the Main Stage or Stage 2 as we head for the same area to watch the music, around 15 guys meeting up in a 14,000 crowd just happens again and again and is a lovely part of the Festival.

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Also taking time out to wander by the Duck Pond when things get a little too tiring.

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Other activities also took place like green haircuts, pedaling to produce the energy needed for the hairdresser.

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Sunday morning began with a world band called Varldens Band, strong Swedish influence but they opened by dedicating their set to their lead singer, Charu Hariharan, who was refused a visa to enter the UK to sing at Cambridge. How ridiculous is that, she can travel round Europe but when it comes to sing here she gets turned down. Some of the group were quite visual in their appearance

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and the Chora was out again.

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They had a great set but really got the crowd going when they turned Scottish with some tunes by David Foley of RURA. He plays the flute as well as he beats the bodhran. Stayed at the Main Stage to hear Solas followed by Blazin’ Fiddles,

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good rocking Celtic music at its best. Tiring badly by now but went over to the snooze spot by the back of the Stage 2 to listen to Della Mae, a grand all female blue grass band. Out for the count within minutes and woke up with Alister on one side

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and Harry on the other. Appreciated the wake up as I heard them sing a brilliant version of Sixteens Tons. Was not too bothered as I knew they were back on at the Club Tent later and they were exquisite. By now I was well awake, fed and watered, and ready for what turned out to be one of the high lights of the Festival, a set by the brilliant Duncan Chisholm.

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I have always known about his fiddling but never up till now paid too much attention to it. Back in my hazy past I was putting on events at our local hall and one of the best nights was to bring in Wolfstone, one of Duncan’s earlier bands. Struan was also playing in this band but has now turned his hand to marine electrics and has worked on the Varuna….fascinating how lives take different turns. Back to the gig and it was truly captivating, He has just completed a trilogy of albums with many slow airs and he took us all the way back to the Highlands up to his homeland of Farrar, and Affric. It was simply stunning and I turned round to some of the guys and could see in their eyes they were in the glens with me. His music and playing were immense. His band was not too shabby with Ali Hutton filling for Innes Watson, Megan Henderson, Jarlath Henderson, Greg Lawson and Su-a-Lee on the cello.

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Noticed that Bruce MacGregor, Julie Fowlis and Jenna Reid were all on the edge of the audience watching and listening and that says so much to Duncan’s status. Went to buy the trilogy and chatted to him after and true to form he is very much a gentleman, naturally interested and appreciated the praise heaped on him. So by shaking his hand I completed very briefly meeting and shaking hands with a fine threesome of top Scottish fiddlers having already met up with John McCusker and Bruce MacGregor. It is not that any of anyone’s music was any less enjoyment but his Mr Chisholm’s set was awesome. Still to come, Baaba Maal, from a distance as was Imelda Mae, followed by another blast of Della Mae and finally although torn between the New Orleans Hot 8 Brass Band and Kila,

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I opted for Kila to finish my Cambridge break.

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Wonderful time, great food, company

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and not too much cider and left with some great memories to see through the rest of the summer gales. A rapid and organised pack up

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with Andy kindly running us back to Peterborough to catch the train north on Monday morning meant the Highlands were calling us home again.

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