Hit a little wall today when I decided “No”. Just a little too tired to head out to sea and the weather was not very inviting. First things first and it was back to bed for an hour, solid sleep so obviously needed. Then it was off up to Carnoch Wood with Dougal and Co and a pleasant wee walk through an atmospheric old wood.
Unfortunately on the way back down the road Eilidh decided she would have “a go” at a tourist’s dog, very embarrassing and unpleasant for the tourist, but I know it looks far worse than it is as she never makes contact. Dougal, never one to miss out on anything, comes bounding along to join in. All over in seconds but me with scratches and twisted ankle from hauling Eilidh away. Back down the road to pick up some prawns for The Loch Ness Inn and while I was boxing them up at the Inn I was informed the Filling Station was down. A reboot and a really good chat about community work and sustainable fishing during my wetstock dip and getting it going again. Although it is the last reason why you do community “stuff” it is always feels good to get encouragement from people who really appreciate a service you play a part in providing. The reboot was successful first time and away we went for another snooze but not before having the dogs out for a wee stroll. Noticed it’s the devil’s bit scabious that are showing now in huge numbers and also covered in some sort of flies. It is so-called as it’s roots end abruptly as if bitten off by the devil, obvious I suppose..
In the evening got a phone call saying there were a couple of ladies in distress with their camper van teetering over a bank at Toscaig pier. By the time I arrived all was under control as Billy and DJ had the towrope attached and all it needed was a pull on the side pillar to make sure it did not cope as it was pulled off the bank. No idea how they managed to get the van where they did and thought it a wee bit insensitive to take a photo. But result was two very happy and relieved ladies. Never stuck in Applecross, although that may not be a bad thing!! Having said that Mark, Around Britain, does seem to be still stuck here although his Scooter is mended but still needs to make its way back.
As always, these days housing is an issue in rural parts and Applecross is no different. Being in Toscaig always reminds me of how I am now here. The crofters at the turn of last century gave a croft to Finlay Macleod, my grandfather, for him to establish himself and raise a family in the hamlet. Times have changed but generosity of spirit and possessions do not. They are timeless. I really enjoy the fact that his house has been renovated and is lived in now, means that it is still alive as is the house down by the pier, although slightly more controversial. The shore base for the scallop farm had become very underused and I complied with a request for an affordable house site. I always try to do things on trust but sometimes this does not work out. The house was half built and then sold on for lots of dosh. But, for me, that is always going to be Greg’s problem. He was not big spirited enough to pass on the favour he received but decided to cash it in. The house is now lived in for 6 months of the year and is an addition to the housing stock of Applecross and who knows in the future….. There seems to be a new positive mood going by a report of a meeting held last week in Toscaig where all sorts of possibilities were discussed regarding Doctor’s accommodation and the potential of resuming some grazing land for house sites. This is taking place with the worrying back drop of a continuing decline in the school roll. Splitting my croft to allow some one to establish themselves in the community was the reason the meeting was held but as it is an ongoing situation I do not want to prejudice anything until all is resolved, but good to hear very positive comments about it all.
I always think it is slightly crazy that initiatives are taken by people who rent land/crofts on a 70,000 acre Estate while there are 70,000 acres…… This is all taking place with a sort of mad background. Reading an article in the Guardian about “special” mortgages for people wanting to buy second homes for investment. Specifically geared for tax avoidance but with no consideration of what effect this has on the communities they buy in. It is a complicated issue and every case is individual but when the surveys say that once you have more than 20% second home ownership in a community then that community is then struggling to retain its services and the population ages, school rolls decline and the essence of the place struggles to maintain a presence. We are up to 50%. Rather than criticize any one with a second home, there are a hundred different reasons for having one, I find it more fulfilling in trying to alleviate the problem in practical ways. The ethics of the lenders have to be called into question as it is only the bottom line that is their criteria. More and more you see the system skewed towards people who have money enabling them to make more. House prices to local wage ratios will be driven completely out of sight for the local working population, I suppose they are already. I find links every where I look when I think of a problem and tonight I was listening to a speech given by Bill Shankley to his players about how they should feel privileged to play for the club and more importantly the fans, a community based speech. All we hear about from the 70s/80s is how bad the country was run etc but behind it there seems to have been a stronger sense of community and that has been driven down by this cult of the driven, achieving, individual and the sooner it re emerges the stronger our fragile communities will be. Some people who come here to live take their high expectations with them and expect the same instant service they have become used to in their previous lives. When these are not met by “local” services a few get a little too grumpy and you do question why they have come to live here. There is nothing more satisfying than investing in your own community…. that’s enough me thinks I better get back to work tomorrow and think less.