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

Conference and Ceilidh, Day 1

A short snooze and a boring rugby match and now back on the keyboard mainly because we have just finished a pretty stunning two days where Applecross has hosted a day and a half Conference on energy efficiency and related matters. Last night we were dancing to the music of the Kyle Ceilidh Band, attended by many of the Conference goers. Yesterday morning I woke early and with a sinking feeling as the old head was going to give trouble, today of all days. Up, painkillers and a lie down on the couch before more painkillers and up the road to the Community Hall for the Conference. Lucky that it was brought under control by lunch time with more painkillers than I would tell the Doc. Unfortunately I know that I have taken too much as the stomach tells me so. All well by evening and it does not matter as there is too much to do to think too much about it. Immediately you saw how much work had gone into the organising of the Conference although I was well aware by the number of emails that had been flying about over the last week. It was noted locally that some of the info went out a little late but that was as a result of late financing of the Conference. Initially it was thought that HIE may have been interested in part funding it but that was not to be and a rush of requests for local sponsors rapidly filled the gap. Had a laugh when I picked up my name tag as when I booked I had filled it in slightly tongue in cheek.

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Sat at the back to watch proceedings get under way.

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First up was Jess to tell us about the Trust and how they operate in Applecross. Some interesting facts for those on the floor and Jess was followed by Wolf and then Alejandra, from Bolivia, to give us a summary of their trip to Applecross and what they hope to achieve here. Sometimes tea breaks are just as important to those attending these events where information is exchanged and disseminated.

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The tea-table was surrounded with people in animated conversations. Back into the Hall where we heard Elaine Morrison talk about Just Energy.

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Fascinating amount of knowledge out there and the presentations hopefully will be appearing on the AEE websitehttp://www.spanglefish.com/applecrossenergyefficiency/  and/or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ApplecrossEnergyEfficiency and possibly on the Community Company page.https://www.facebook.com/applecrosscommunitycompany. Rather than me badly regurgitating excellent presentations better reading them directly. A quick-lunch and as Callum wanted a little footage of wood chopping, headed off down to Heather’s but was not too impressed with the axe, she did agree. Take my own axe to finish it tomorrow. Seems it was on the gaelic news tonight, thought the hen was more impressive than me getting the axe stuck in the wood. Did manage to chop some. Called in at the Inn to give Cheffie an idea of who was going to eat what from the set menu and by the time I made it back to the Hall Amanda had just about finished her presentation about establishing local wood fuel supplies. While I was at the Inn I was stopped in my tracks by a unobstrusive meeting taking place. Every now and again some thing happens that really brings it home telling you that you are on the road.

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The meeting was with Mick and Duncan of Highlandeco and local contractors concerning the ground work building the turbine house, pipe line and intake. This was followed by Nick Chapman who told us about the work of Community Energy Scotland who have mentored us through to where we are, in particular Mel Macrae who has since moved on to greater heights but is keeping an eye on how it is going. The local power initiative is the next stage of the project. Finally it was Susan Walker’s turn to tell us what is happening on the south end of Skye’s crofting township of Camuscross and Duisdale where they are also looking at hydro and a community hub, coupled with what looks like a thriving crofting community. The agriculture side of Applecross crofting has been crammed into the marginal lands on both the south and north coasts and has not the same opportunities as the bigger better land crofts of Skye but even here we are starting to see little hot spots of new crofters trying out different things other than the traditional sheep.

So a 4.30pm finish on the first day and after a quick dog visit, they have been neglected a bit lately, up to the Inn before the masses came. Switched into the Maitre d’ mode and just as well as Boss was not long back and feeling not too chipper after a long couple of days on the road. Twenty-five from the Conference were expected to eat before heading down to the Hall for the Ceilidh. All went well apart from a soup for a haggis, but quickly sorted by cheffie, with not too much grumbling. Have a memory stick to fill up for Kayvan who was taken by the music we played as background in the morning.

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To be fair he had been in since sixish,in the morning that is. Stayed till around eight and then back to the Hall again. The ceilidh was simply awesome The Flensburg guys were on the floor all night, they had no choice. First time I knowingly danced with a Bolivian, a Nicaraguan, a Nepalese, an Indonesian, a Kenyan and a German all on the same night. Sadly Christine from the Phillipines was not feeling too well but was better yesterday so joined in late. They were really quick learners and by the end of every dance they knew what they were doing. The floor from the first dance to the last was full and the night was based on raffle and donations kindly donated from the Inn and the shop. I love this picture, showing young and older, lots of different cultures all coming together, having a great time. I don’t think Michelle stopped smiling all night.

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A princely sum of £350 was raised. Willie and the rest of the Band said it was the best night they played at in years and they said it several times and meant it.

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Having booked bands before I went looking for money to pay them but it had already left the building. Applecross at its best, half eleven at night and off I went. Raised the money in quarter of an hour with an unsecured loan and back at the Hall as they finished packing the equipment away. Michelle from Kenya and Flensburg had a starring role as she sang unaccompanied,seems it was “the Titanic song” originally by Celine Dion, beautiful it was too even if I did not recognise it and it kept the kids attention, well maybe not Thor’s.

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Back by popular demand Michelle had us and the band singing along to a song from her homeland.

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I found this very moving, here we were in the far north-west of Scotland listening to a young lady from Kenya singing a song to us from her own culture. It is one world and I have been wearing the tee-shirt for years. Heart felt thanks to all who organised the two days. Last Conference post to come.

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