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

Mr Chisholm Accompanies One

Walking back from the Inn on a dark and damp Friday night, I realised that distance and time can be measured in music, especially if you are listening to one of the Duncan Chisholm Trilogy. In this case it was Affric, An Ribhinn Donn get you under way, followed by the cascading Big Archie and before you know it before Night in That Land comes on. It was a perfect way to come home after a very, very enjoyable evening.

The lead up to the show earlier could have been more relaxed as it has turned out to be a very busy week. A gentle start as still recovering from the lurgie on Monday but was out in the evening, initially at the Inn, but ended up at the Community Hall, for a meeting about Out of Hours in Applecross. Only being lightly involved in local politics and finding that hard enough I do not envy those at either Highland or National level. In this case we heard how times have changed and we no longer have as good a supply of GPs as we would like and those new do not have the 24/7 commitment to coverage that those in the past had in the Dr Findlay’s days. Mind you there is probably less alcoholism now as in the old days. We can consider ourselves so very fortunate in our current Situation. Even the managers were suggesting we have as good a service as any where round the Highlands. But Doctors need time off and the cover is going to be still locum but is also going to be a mix of paramedics and nurse practitioners. This has already happened and there seems to be little concerns in the community. The ambulance service were also present and first responders are back on the menu. We were going down this route before but was stalled due to an unresponsive SAS, but that has now been solved and the Health Care Assoc is going to take this on. The defribs are now in town and hope to be in position in the next month or so. Being Applecross it is not one or two but six are going t be installed round the Community, monies all raised within the Community itself. Certainly impressed the managers.

Tuesday saw the CC meeting take place, constructive and frustrating at the same time. Knowing we have little powers and can only keep telling the authorities about the state of the Bealach. However there does seem to be a bit of action, partly as a result of photos of the deterioration of the road that we send in. Newspapers are always looking for angles on the NC500 and when you talk to a journalist giving two sides you leave yourself wide open to editing, but it turned out to be fairly balanced. Some people on the following Facebook steam say exactly the opposite of what you want to put across. Everyone, in my view is welcome, but it is going to put an undoubted strain on our infrastructure. Many communities would wish our problems

Wednesday and my fishing career has restarted.

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I had been out to the Varuna on Tuesday afternoon to link up my new batteries and fire her up for the first time this year. Bit suspicious that I have a dead cell in the system so isolate the lighting bank as a reserve. The batteries are new because of one of those little mishaps, perfectly avoidable, but happen anyway and end up with you poorer and with a sore head from hitting it against a wall. Had two ashore, fully charged and back in the van when I was asked to nip over the Hill to pick up a couple of Internet boys from the train. Remembered the batteries in the back, the slidey floor and the insecure back door. The van is not quite a Teuchter wagon but is heading there. I actually stopped, but the hand brake never held so went round the next bend. Big mistake as two £100 batteries shot out the back door and lay smashed on the Bealach. Did not stop hitting the steering wheel until after Kishorn. Fishing went surprisingly well with only one out of the five fouled up. I have realised this week how much I have missed the sea with all its magic,

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colours

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and life.

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Dozen  kilos and a few squats means the year is under way, langoustines and squats now back on, well appreciated on Thursday evening by the regulars, five squat lobster in garlic starters with Isla having chips and salad with hers. Fine food for a young un. These squats were caught on the way back from Rona,

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was there with Sean trying to link up the Applenet but did not go all to plan as a bit of kit was forgotten. Shows up how the stretched capacity of the community does break at times. If we had two people involved then a phone call back to Applecross, an instruction for some one on the computer and all would have been sorted. Still some work done

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and may be finished through a phone call. This was exactly the chat I had with an MSP who stayed at the Inn on Wednesday evening. Our community capacity is being stretched so thinly, but soldiering on we will continue. Good to chat to a Chair of one of the Committees that have an over view of rural life. You can still give him the difficulties of survival over here even if he is at the opposite end of the spectrum with your political views. Working at the Inn has taught the ability to accept the many faces of human nature and not react adversely. I was being watched by the regulars who were imaging newspaper headlines the next day involving front of house in fracas with landowner

So we are up to Friday and third day in  row we are off to sea. Bit of a breeze but just a little more than gentle. Again good run with another five up with only one foul and it had been lifted by a neighbour possibly exacerbating the work. Due a wash so took it closer to home. Friday evening was earmarked for a movie showing and to be frank I was not enthusiastic, it being a hard few days and managing to squeeze in a short sharp migraine on Thursday night. However well worth the effort as Postcards from Applecross was a cracking video taking in different aspects around the community. Nick, Stephen and lately Angelica have put together a series of  short videos lasting an hour showing the variety of occupations and life styles on the peninsula.They ranged from the croft to the sea taking in the Inn, wool dyeing, ice-cream making and photography on the way. I found it very touchingly simple, getting to the soul of the community, but not branding it in a tourist sort of way. Regular visitors to the Inn will love a glimpse into how people live in order to stay here. The beauty of the place is shown in the photography of Jack’s, Angelica and Nick, who sadly passed away last year. Had a lot of time for Nick who fell in love with our wee place and he came out on the boat for a day, becoming colder than he had ever been in his life. He was a quiet gentle man and with an eye to his surrounds.

Footnote to the evening; I walked up to the Hall and soon after leaving the house a car passed and then stopped to give me a lift as Fiona saw there were no dogs being walked. Chatting away I was slightly taken aback as we scooted past the Hall. Fiona then commented that she was going up to the Bay as she was slightly early, methinks this is a little unusual but okay. She then mentions she is heading out to dinner and not to the Hall. So half way round Milton Loch we screech to a stop as we both assumed we were heading for different destinations. Me to work and her to the Hall instead of where we were really going…me to the Hall and her to Gordon and Val’s.

Back to Mr Chisholm and this afternoon on the wood run. I had moved onto Cannich and it took all of that album plus the tracks up to the third , Lorient Mornings of  Farrar, to load up what felt like a 3/4 ton of wood,

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shifting it 50 metres to the van. It was heavy going but with his beautiful, haunting fiddling playing, the graft on a driech day was minimal. Dougal and Eilidh were in their own world but never far from all the ditches.

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A Dougal Sunset

Bonny evening in Applecross.

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(Sat afternoon) Back in Glasgow for this years finale at Celtic Connections and it went very smoothly. Who needs mobile phones, you just arrange to meet up and take it from there. Took ten minutes longer to find the air bandb but with little hassle. Straight back out and off to the Oran Mor for a rip-roaring night of trad music provided by Dosca and Elephant Sessions. I had never heard of Dosca before but will certainly keep an eye out for them in the future. Fiddle, flute, pipes and rhythms with a miners song thrown in and before you knew it their set was over. So good, and then into The headline boys, but before that, at half time I was crowd spotting and by the end of the break had found seven people connected to Applecross. The music was brilliant, driving traditional using traditional instruments getting people to find it impossible to stay still. I noticed a debate about the direction the music is going and have to say I enjoy it, at the same time I have seen the Wainwright Sisters and Songs of Separation along with Mairi Campbell in the last couple of years. There is a greater amount of testosterone about the scene at the moment but music like everything else has its own cycles. Off to do a spot of Trainspotting now before checking out the maestro that Duncan Chisholm is.

Won’t any spoilers on T2 just to say go and see it. It is brilliant. Lots of pathos, humour and reflections on the absurdity that is life. Evening saw us at City Halls and enjoyed some fine fine music played by Duncan Chisholm

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and many of his compadres.

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I love the tunes he plays from his Affric trilogy, especially Crask.Time just flies by and due to ticket not being used, Son No4 came out for the jolly.

Sunday lunch was Italian and another family occasion, but not before checking into a very colourful Chinese New Year gathering

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on George Square.

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Vibrant reds, yellows

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with smiles to match.

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And as the sign says people make Glasgow.

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One would like to think that is a nation wide concept, barring the few bampots we have scattered round our communities. The food, service and banter was second to none and a rapid two hours passed only with a mild panic at the end with me losing the tickets for the evening concert. Easily sorted by a reprint at the RCH and then proceeded to a grand night of music.

 

Have to admit Graham Mackenzie passed me by but going by the standard of musicians on stage he has been noticed and appreciated by those who know. Then followed the Mark O’Connor Band. Our only experience of Americana music this time round, great blue grass mix of songs, fiddle and mandolin tunes, backed by driving double bass and flat picking guitar. Certainly satiated but had a bit of a nagging feeling of wanting to stay down for more. Knew there were several more bands to see but needs must and we were on the train north on Monday. Does not take long to get back into the flow of things so priority has been to get the paperwork done and several VAT returns have gone in, bills gone out and tax returns worked on. Some deadlines met, certainly the more important ones, some not but getting to having a clear desk for the first time in about ten years. The weather has been fairly inclement but still pretty good for the middle of winter. There have been some lovely glimpses.

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As well as the book work the routines of wood splitting,

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dipping the Filling Station tanks attending part of a broadband meeting, picking up a couple of boys from the train to work on the broadband network and walking up to the Head to clean the screen and grease the turbine shaft. Did this with company but more of that later. A wee foot note to Celtic Connections, sometimes you don’t get it right. Not going to criticise the music but just that Dub Opera is not my scene. Despite that, there was some great classical Indian singing

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and a fine pibroch by Barney the piper.

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(Just about to hit the road again) I have an annoying habit of saying that the last concert I was at was the absolute best, but coming out of the Angus Grant tribute, that was the feeling. We arrived just a few minutes late but were met by a crowd standing at the doors of the Concert Hall. Suggested that maybe Angus had been in the back toilet setting off the fire alarms. An immense project that was seamlessly carried out and told  to us by Ross Martin about Angus’ short journey. Had a distinct leaning towards music sessions ranging from pubs in Lochaber to Edinburgh to Birnam and Galicia, they were simply awesome, to Rajasthan. The highly amusing theme, Ross related to us, was Angus’s use of the current pub as his postal address, turning up a couple of hours before the session started, where ever the location to open his mail, digest it and have a couple of pints in the meantime. The photos of Angus were shown high up on the stage throughout the concert, poignant and beautiful, kept us from wandering of focus why we were there. Angus did not care who he played with, beginners or those at the top of their game. The music was phenomenal, the first half mainly about the story of the sessions with many musicians from these periods in Angus’s life coming on to stage, interspersed with Shoogle stalwarts. Karen Matheson’s rendition of laying to rest to the sound of the sea, An Ataireachd Ard. Another tale was when Angus was involved with the filming of Rob Roy, he was leaving the set when the props guy went after him and tried to get his beard off him. He give up after a few tugs when he realised it was Angus’s own home-grown one. Half time was a wee catch up folks from Glenuig, Knoydart, Shetland, Glenelg, the Borders and even an ex workmate from the Applecross Inn with the music from DJ Dolphin Boy. Chuffed this was taken in Applecross when Shoogleniftey went on their 25th anniversary tour and I met the man himself at the Inn.

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Hard to believe that the music carried on till after 12, four hours from the start and it just few by. Shooglenifty played the second half with guests and some of the best musicians in Scotland were on the stage, Venus and Tweeds, 2.15 to Vigo, and many more. Adam played a brilliant fiddle tune inspired by Angus called “The Wizard. You could sense the emotion all through the evening and feel the build up to a stunning climax. Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound had absolutely nothing on what took place on the stage over the last half hour. The fiddlers, all six of them, the pipers, rhythms, guitars and mandolins all driven along by James’s driving beat brought together such a joyous sound that was almost celestial. Maybe Angus was not that far away and was singing along with us, a wee bit sacrilegious to some, Queens hits to the tunes of the Gaelic psalms. James summed it up at the end telling us the wonderful bearded fiddler, no longer with us, lived by the motto of ” Be kind to strangers, one love”. During the concert I discovered a flat camera battery which was no great lose as I came across Sean Purser’s photos on Facebook and so good. https://www.facebook.com/sean.purser/media_set?set=a.10210198776818838.1073742005.1021967353&type=3&pnref=story.

Sunday was pretty laid back, but time flies by and back down the road for more.

After a busier than expected shift at the Inn but still quiet, bit of banter about fillet steak, whether one was enough, an early night for a quick pack and hitting the road for Edinburgh on Thursday morning. This time for another fishing meeting. Quick nip up to the accountants with more papers before catching the train south. Sleep a lot on trains so short journey and arrived in plenty of time for meal and a few red wines. I always compare food to back home and when away realise fully how fortunate we are in Applecross. What probably used to be half decent food is now shown up to be really quite poor. The wine flowed just a little too freely and the morning part of the meeting had a bit of a recovery mode under way. I seem to be misjudging this alcohol lark, having read recently that the dry time between New Year and Burn’s Night is called the Scottish Ramadan.  Head of Marine Scotland was there for part of the morning.

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Couple of local issues, seems prosecuting trawlers who tow away gear is going to remain almost impossible but there may be a closure of the Inner Sound to most mobile boats and set up a Community fishery. So some good maybe. Very frustrating to listen to civil servants saying they will help and take the fishery forward but when it comes to micro managing the gear conflict they wring hands. There was a prima facie case inside the Crowlins a couple of years ago and the punishment could be seen as a deterrent but Marine Compliance stated there was not enough evidence and that was without interviewing anyone involved in the incident. So maybe not a lot of movement there although there is a case slowly edging to court in the near future on the east coast. Although the proposed closure on the Inner Sound is not a complete closure as the boys from the south have taken a step back and included local mobile boats it is a step in the right direction and if done with permits and monitoring the closed area for improved stocks or otherwise. You keep going to these meetings and wonder sometimes what the point is but when you hear about the perilous state of the European fisheries you do not want to go down that road. Also there is a delegation invited over from Norway this Spring to the Inshore Conference at Inverness. Invited by Marine Scotland and will be good to hear what they have to say, having a four mile no mobile limit around their shores. Cracking cod and saith industry as a result.

So then it was onto Glasgow by train. A city that I am learning to like a lot with all its contrariness. The taxi driver was extremely suspicious of the address I gave him as it was in Townhead. Did not mean anything to me but he reckoned it was a rough run down council estate. Turned out fine and think it seemed more students than anything. Our first AirBandB did not get off to a good start mainly due to lack of mobile phones in the Macleod family. Spent a couple of hours waiting for Mohammed to turn up but it turns out he had already instructed us what to do by email that morning. Found out soon enough and Tom Russell was next on the list. Brilliant concert full of banter, humour and great music. Immense lyrics and finished with his now so prescient song, “Whose going to build your walls?”, written ten years ago. Think it was becoming a bit of a burden to him but it involves a great sing along. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9bgmi0I5hY. Next morning it was down town and Glasgow shows her many sides. Opposite on the door step is an empty bottle of Buckfast.

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As we head down past the tower blocks on a beautiful morning we hear the band,

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at first we thought Orange but it was  of the Irish persuasion.

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As we were passing the Tower block we heard a scream of “Away tae f%*k ye”.

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We just cracked up although living with that may not be quite so amusing.

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The marchers certainly looked serious enough. In fact I did feel a little intimidated taking a few photos but got away with pretending to be a tourist. Into town, passing a beautiful mural,

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lunch and back to the BandB for a quiet afternoon before the evening’s entertainment.

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Replete from a magnificent week-end in the two cities, but came home to the sad news of another of the Applecross Inn’s family passing away. As a result I do not feel up to a posting from the travels. We all knew of Tony’s struggle over the last year or so and I for one was so impressed with his attitude to life, knowing there was so little time left for him.

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I never once heard him complain about his troubles. Since coming up from Yorkshire to Shore Street Tony quietly became part of the Applecross community. There are many people living here who will always be grateful for his offers of help, lifts to where ever. If it was to the train or hospital he would offer with the minimum of fuss. For me his double bacardi, lemonade and no ice will be a sad miss at the Inn along with his wind up banter. And his holidays, when he was out having a meal, he invariably had langoustines and every single time without fail he would call me over and thank me saying, “Snoddy, I was just on my holidays”. This after consuming yet another heaped plate of langoustine. He was always on hand for any fund-raising and many charities across the country were the better off for his efforts and he knew the meaning of community. Sometimes when you felt a dip in your optimism of your own place he would come up to you, grab your hand and say some words of encouragement and that would make it all worth the effort.  I know many in the community will miss Tony, his chat and his mischievousness, I know I will. On Saturday evening I was in Glasgow at Angus Grant’s awesome Tribute night and am reminded of Karen Matheson’s rendition of An Ataireachd Ard. A beautiful Gaelic song of laying to rest by the sound of the sea. Here are Runrig and Ishbel Macaskill’s version of that song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77-ggDJEFQg  

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.

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