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

The Wee Boy on the Beach

Been on the Ardhu Pier for a fair bit over the last couple of days mending creels. The headphones on and lost in the music of Rura, Treacherous, Lone Bellow and others Dave from Oban startled me somewhat. Turns out he was here to change over the Succorfish unit that appears not to be up to scratch. The Sand receiver was only picking me up about 4 miles from the Base which is not really much use. The new VesperMarine unit will put us on the AIS traffic map. A new safety measure if nothing else and if used properly can cut down on gear conflict as there should be no hiding place for trawlers towing through creels. Ended up mending a whole fleet and putting most of it back together on board with the intention of doing little today. Dougal looking regally into the north wind.

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Later he is wandering about in the seaweed looking for crabs.

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Often wonder why when one starts work at the Inn that maybe not as fresh as you could be at the beginning of a shift and then you remember that you’ve done most of a days work before you start. An uneventful shift and with both nations schools back the pressure has eased somewhat. An uneventful evening until the very, very drunk lady on table 2 managed to throw up on the floor, before being led out by her partner. Bit embarrassing for anyone in their thirties to behave like that. The Boss went into action and everything was sorted out apart from the two tables out of action for the rest of the night. Saw a Facebook posting a little later and realised that she was still performing but now in some ones house. They had taken the wrong turning and appeared in a local’s house semi hysterical and was duly thrown out of there. I think her best move would have been to turn up at the Inn in the morning and offer a fair sum to one of the charity boxes for all the hassle she caused but it was not to be. One of the rare occasions where it will be a one-off visit to Applecross. Still queueing for tables but under control and waits are not too long. Even home before eleven. Getting some good sleeps in on these north wind days.

Another day of strong northerlies and after a slow start it was back on the bike and in the company of Dougal and Eilidh we were back down on the Pier mending the next fleet. Have become a little OCD with the creels and grouping the fleets all the same colours, white, green and black. Makes sense as most will be the same age and deteriorate together. The second fleet ashore now been mended with only a dozen of them to be washed before going back to sea. As you mend away, like hauling the creels, you think about anything and everything. Today the image of the wee boy lying drowned on the Turkish shore filled my thoughts. The politics around the image and general situation is being fiercely argued over but I feel compelled to put down some random thoughts. That wee boy had a mum and dad, maybe brothers and cousins but they felt forced to leave their home and try to make for a safer haven. We will never know what awful deeds drove those people to such a desperate situation. Went back to a conversation I had last night at the Inn with a Niseach and we were talking about subsistence living of previous generations in the Highlands and we cannot easily grasp how harsh conditions were for those folk not that long ago. My grandfather came from Leac a Li to the Crowlin Islands at the turn of the 20th century and thought they were a step up from south-east Harris. The Macleods did not even have a croft so an island that only just supports a 100 odd sheep nowadays must have seemed like “this will do”. They moved in a time of peace unlike those refugees we are seeing now. The daily grind of survival is alien to me standing on a pier mending creels, supplying a niche market for a comfortable living, plenty of clothes on and well fed so not feeling the biting north wind, company of my dogs, but easily connecting the trials of my predecessors with those  displaced by the actions of madmen. Look around Applecross and you see half the houses are empty, our own house now has two empty bedrooms, there are 65000 acres here that have not enough space to build one affordable house, and then back to that beach. There must be some better way to live our lives. There is space from Applecross to the Borders that could be used to help prevent pictures of little boys lying drowned on foreign beaches. So many people are feeling so inadequate just now. That wee boy will never be a dad….thoughts while mending creels….

Another shift at the Inn calls and unsure whether to post this. Will see after the shift. Seeing twitter and fb timelines that are full of shock at the photo. Puts so much into perspective in our safe and comfortable lives.

A Week of Northerly Winds.

Weary is a good word and sounds better than tired. Especially after reading about the refugee who was asked where he had come from when he arrived in Hungary. Afghanistan was the reply, impressive enough in itself but he was pushing his granny in a wheel chair as well. I suppose all things are relative and weary will do for me as I am recovering from hauling 300 creels in a stiff Northerly breeze. And after a weekend at the Inn where it was quieter but busy enough. Ran out of langoustine by Sunday evening so although I woke up at seven it took me two hours to persuade myself to go out, knowing what the weather was going to be like. Over the north end of Raasay the north wind and showers were picking up at the end of the day.

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Hard work and very little rhythm to the day especially as the tide was running against the wind and it takes a few creels to come on board before she settles into the wind and I can put her in gear to haul up wind.

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One of these little moments that comes along every now and again happened when I looked up and caught sight of a gannet wheeling effortlessly above the boat before turning away and gliding off to the south. Just for a few seconds the breeze, the work and tiredness fell away watching a perfection of nature in her own environment, and then back to my sprachle. That and a low rainbow over Rona were the only high lights of the day, still it is a preferred office.

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And although there are an abundance of berried females going back over the side there are enough langoustine staying on board for the Inn to make it worth while in the breeze. I suppose the news that Government can find half a billion to spend on upgrading Faslane but struggles to look after people who cannot look after themselves along with huge amounts of money being spent at Sand does not lighten the mood. Stood down at the Inn in the evening so managed another episode of True Detective. Tried to ration it but it is going to be finished on Tuesday, a fine piece of American Noir. Sinister enough to make you wince in places but a riveting story.

The target of nine fleets of creels washed in three weeks was just missed but it achieved its purpose and todays wash brings the total up to eight and with two being changed at sea, leaves only two more that badly need a wash. Kept fishing and at the Inn while doing this so feel quite chuffed at the work rate this summer although taking its toll on the body.

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A wee break there and another fleet washed, tomorrow a planned mend and Thursday a load up ready for a break in the weather on Friday.

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Dougal despite being out all night with Eilidh love these runs down the road. They find plenty to do while I get on with the pressure washing. This is made an awful lot easier with the headphones on and the Cambridge music playing away. Coming back there is a big tide this week.

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Calendars are going well and the response to all the enquiries is that at present we now have a paypal account, which will hopefully be live later today, but getting in touch to alisonapplecross@gmail.com we will get calendars out at £10 each and postage for up to two £2.80 and more, £3.80. Here is July.

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Sales are going well and coming to the time of year in deciding how many to order from the printer, Stewart Wright from Edinburgh, who gives us a good deal as all profits go to the Community.

September

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October

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I inhabit a strange world, (to me anyway) just now and am sitting in the middle of Charlotte Sq in Edinburgh going to go in to a private gathering of Kirsty Logan’s book of short stories, “A Portable Shelter”. She came out on the Varuna for background and sent one of the tales up by email for me to keep the technical bits in order, which I duly did and then received an invite. I have got to the stage in life where I now say why not? More often and cannot find reasons not to experience new ventures. Never been to a book launch so here I am. Off in now.

Seeing I was in plenty time and I was sitting with free wi-fi I thought I would write a little just in keeping with the surrounds. My star spotting was complete in seeing Bill Paterson coming out of a marquee, forgot his name but knew him as the father in Ian Bank’s Crow Road. Had planned to go fishing on Monday morning but the east wind was still blowing and decided that I would give it a miss especially as the weather was for a quiet spell on Tuesday/Wednesday so thought that would be soon enough to get round the gear. Took my time in setting off

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down the A9, stopping at Inverness for the Highland Wholefoods shop and again at Ralia Cafe before making it to Edinburgh without incident and took a stroll round the Square before going back for the iPad and relaxing outside the Writers Retreat where the event was to take place. As I was not on west coast time I was on time and only a couple of ladies there. It is another world and mixing with the Scottish literati I thought would be a bit stiff for me. A little chit-chat with a retired lecturer from the OU, also a poet, and then Kirsty came along and the place filled up. Kirsty won an award from the Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship, funded by Creative Scotland, allowing her to spend a year on creative writing rather spending time setting up creative writing workshops or tutoring, basically giving a writer space to write. Judging by the signed copy I was given it is money well spent.

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Kirsty came out on the Varuna on a breezy Saturday to do a little research on a short story about a Selkie Fisherman and sent me a couple of emails to check out some of the technical terms. I duly did and she then invited me down to the private gathering where she did mention Applecross and her “queasy day at sea”. Result was after the wee speeches and reading several people came up to me and of course everyone knew about Applecross. Ended up chatting with Tom Pow, a poet, who recently wrote a book called “In Another World” among Europe’s dying villages. And as it is a current concern of mine we chatted about Applecross and its future, dipping into a conversation about Bengali prawns, before back in the van and up the A9. Home by 1.30am and in time for a comatose sleep and into a couple of days fishing before the weather breaking today. This all happened with Alison answering a tweet by Kirsty asking anyone in the Applecross area who fished and would they take her out on the boat. Always take interested people out. Small world syndrome appeared when I mentioned to Alison about Tom Pow and she casually replied that he taught her English at school and had just bought the book.

Just enough time to keep nipping up to the Hydro progress and they are cracking on.

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Graham is down on the Gateway breaking rock while Steve and Ali have been spreading building up the road and the hard standing area.

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They are not hanging about and deliveries are coming thick and fast. The pipe is already here

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and welding and dragging is programmed in for next week when the forecast is for drier weather.

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Weather is not an issue but breezy dry conditions would help.

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Would also keep Dougal cleaner.

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Sad to hear that his grandfather, Patch, is no more, dying of old age last week. Lots of work continuing regarding the share launch with plenty of people waiting for the opportunity to invest and help the scheme. On a quick trip up the road to see Kenny and Jill’s visitors, taking in another fine sunset on the way,

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noticed that it was a cracking year for ragwort, not the best for the farm animals and eradicating it has been going on for some years now but it has taken hold this year.

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A bit of progress regarding the Community Council pleas on road repairs. The work has started on the road between Camusterrach and Culduie.

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These little things mean the Council does work if only at a low-level. Got to catch up on publishing minutes. Bad weather in the next couple of days will help. Was going to wash creels this afternoon but it has turned into a recovery day and only job to do before work tonight is to land more prawns for the Inn this evening. Yet another fish farm heads out west, wonder if the Chinese will be buying our salmon after their stock market crash.

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(Sunday evening) Not sure how far this post will go but home after another brisk day at the Inn. After landing the langoustines yesterday and thinking they would last till I was back out on Tuesday I was back out to the Varuna for another two boxes. They are playing a star role at the moment, going out to locals and visitors alike. Great to see people relishing good wholesome Scottish food in a dramatic surround and for once fine weather. Todays weather was slightly off kilter in that it was blowing a gale from the east but the temperature was up into the mid 20s and blue skies all around. A long and fairly tiring shift and when a finish at ten was offered I did not protest too much. Lots of walking involved as many folk were sitting outside eating in the Garden, Patio or just outside the Inn. All the flags out at one point and reactions to flags by some are interesting. The Polish who did not want the German flag is fair enough, bit of history there, the Swiss who do not want the French flag, and the Lithuanian who was so disappointed in us not having her flag. Maybe go onto to eBay and purchase a few. Flags are funny symbols of national belonging that some people hold dear and most people would say a region then a country. I am first and foremost a Highlander who looks to the sea for a living and a way of life. And for the life of me cannot explain why my flag is the saltire and not the Union Jack. A strange statement from some one who does not consider oneself to be Nationalist.

Back to the script, Friday and Saturday were concerned with the Raft Race, Fishing Competition and aftermath. Tricky decisions had to be taken due to weather forecast but everything went ahead as planned despite a heavy down pour as the Rafts were heading towards an exciting finish.

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Lower numbers than usual but with a following wind all three were neck and neck at the finish. Working during this part of the evening and only took the camera out after it was all over. Funny to think this man

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keeps my boat afloat, this being the same man later,

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after over £1000 raised for Macmillan Cancer Relief Care, at the Hall shorn. The second photo was taken by Lesley Fox at the Hall. One of the best engineers on the west. The lifeboat from Portree came over,

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unfortunately the helicopter was called out, the Coast Road Truckers played the night away and the Inn kept serving.

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The Fishing Competition took place on Saturday without the Varuna as I was still trying to keep the langoustines on the menu and I hate standing about on the boat doing nothing waiting for people to catch fish. Also I know very little about catching so is a bit unfair on who ever would come out. My day was as usual, as it was a windy start, washed a fleet and went out about twelve,

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hauled 200 creels and parachuted into the Inn till around eleven. Only the bonxies for company.

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Came across an electric blue squat lobster, usually found on the line and not at 50 fathoms.

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Enjoyed the challenge and did not hit the wall until after ten which meant it was very easy to drive past the entertainment going on at the Community Hall.

Going further back to Thursday and the three start to cover breaks and in for the long haul as Tarneybackle were playing after nine.

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Last two times it has gone well sorting out the diners and finding the space for the band to set up. Small Inn and needs a fine line between getting it done and not spoiling the customers enjoyment. They have a dedicated following and were enjoyed by all.

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I am sure they would not mind me saying that “The Glasgow Cat” is not the bar staff’s fav tune although the Boss was in there with all the actions. I was watching a follower making some slightly bizarre motions, not having taken part in the song before, and did not realise this was a request for the song. More my kind of song was their fine version of Dougie Maclean’s Caledonia, but that is the beauty of music, something for everyone. The wee chappie from Dundee got so excited after the rendition of Bonnets o’ Dundee that he stotted over to Judith and declared she had “the best pub in the world”.

Serious signs of autumn

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well under way

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although some of the summer bits and pieces have not finished such as the Buddleia which is still flowering away.

Monday is for something completely different.

Applecross Light Shows

Not able to find much time to post much as it has been fishing and Inn, sleep, eat and Inn again. Once this weekend is done and dusted it should settle down for a little while. English schools go back soon and that will relieve pressure plus there are rumours of more staff coming north. Although we have not had a good summer weather wise there have been many compensations. Beginning on Wdednesday,

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some of the light shows at the end of the day

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have been fairly described as spectacular.

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That and the fishing not being too shabby has made for an interesting year. All I need now is to see a few porpoises,dolphins and a couple of whales in the Sound. Not too much to ask?

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Although continuing all the time through emails, paperwork, phone conferences and meeting and despite the lease not being signed, although now agreed and in place, the Hydro has waited for no man. Not quite true as it is around eight years since we commissioned a desk top survey which revealed that Applecross is rich in Green Renewable Hydro Energy. Little did we know what a long and difficult road we were going to travel and by no means have we reached the end. There are still big obstacles to overcome but Government should use our Scheme as a case study to help other communities on their way. Unfortunately the fact that the current Government further south is more concerned in giving nuclear and fracking a helping hand rather than investing in communities to invest in themselves by building low impact environmental schemes that will enable these communities see a way into the future. A lot of people complain about the green/carbon tax as though it is drain on their wallets. Destroying the environment they live in will make a far bigger dent in the future. Of course there is going to be a carbon cost on our build but that will be reclaimed once up and running.

Mixed feelings while walking up the track being built up to the Penstock, excited that it underway, grateful to play a small part in it, but feel a little sad that it may be too late to halt our slow decline. May surprise a few people to read this and those who visit the Inn think we live in a thriving and vibrant community. Parts of it are but when you hear a young couple are planning to leave because there is no land available to them to grow an established business and another two couples with children are looking elsewhere raising doubts for some of the remaining families about who their kids going to have as friends. We do go in cycles but the cycles seem to be in a recurring decline and some how we have to break the yoke holding us in check stopping people who care about this community doing something about it. One of the reasons I am putting so many hours in at the Inn is there are not enough people living here to service the numbers of visitors. That is why the Boss is slightly desperate, trolling the internet for any one who will come from anywhere to help out, another sign of a shrinking community. I do not think I am being pessimistic but realistic. If I was pessimistic in my outlook I would have walked away from the Hydro Scheme years ago. The belief that it was the right thing to do has held strong. Maybe it will be the turning point and possibly change people’s attitudes on what is best for the community.

House below us sold as a holiday house, house above us for sale way outside local purchase and the house beside us being sold for around 400% of what it was bought for a mere 15 years ago. Must keep trying but it going to be a big ask. On a personal note taking the morning off and hiking up to the top of the track

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with the dogs may not have been the most relaxing way to go about some time off

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especially following it up with a 9 hour shift at the Inn.

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Honestly I really am excited by our Hydro Scheme and now away to wash some more creels.

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