Although there is a brisk east wind blowing these days there is a definite feel that Spring is here, or almost anyway. Went to the couch with the plan of heading to Perth early doors accompanied by my companion Dougal but that went awry when I woke up suddenly at 4.30am meaning I would have to leave immediately with little breakfast and drive a little more than steadily down the A9 to get there on time. I decided that it was not feasible especially as I did not get to bed till two which probably meant that driving that distance with so little sleep would not have been safe. have to say I was not happy about the decision as i have always wanted to press the case for sustainable fishing and this is one of the forums that are available to us. however I know that there are very capable and articulate fishermen that were going down the road to put that same case. Result I went to bed and slept like a log for another four hours. We had another problem in that our regular dog sitters were out of communication so we were not sure about dog sitting status.. The Spring feel gradually overtook the disappointment of not going to the Fishing Conference and I broke out the paint tin, sand paper roll and cleaned the kitchen. So by late afternoon in a better frame of mind I set off to Ullapool with Dougal around five stopping off to check out the accommodation at Leckmelm. The light at this time of year with the direction of wind is spectacular
and a couple of stops on the Hill were necessary.
I do not often do this but I had phoned in advance and booked a night with a fine couple of fish experts and cone gatherers.
After a welcome cup of tea I made it to the Macphail Centre via the Ceilidh Place to meet up with Alison and listen to an informative evening provided by Ian Fraser, financial journalist with an inside track on the doings up to and after the crash of 2008. Surprised that there was little I did not understand and was not aware off and so disappointed that we seem to be on the same road again, politically induced property bubble to try to secure another spell in power for certain politicians. You do despair sometimes, I suppose I was not in that good a mood anyway as, just before leaving home, I read a response from the Scottish Govt about our de minimis ruling and it was not good reading. Another reply will be going south, object to the time these things take for so little gain. Back to the lodgings where the cone gatherers had returned and were having a wee malt round the fire. Very pleasant late evening where Dougal made himself at home with just the one little mishap. I ended up with a couple of little puncture marks separating Dougal and the Oran, the madame of the house. Dougal did overstep the mark as Oran objected to him sniffing her bum, but all ended well with just an overturned coffee table and my marked hand.
Early start next morning due to misreading the watch so Dougal got a wee walk around 6am. Another snooze before we had a bit of toast, dropping off the bottle of wine, oyster bags, and a couple of photos of around and about.
Find cone gathering intriguing but unfortunately have read Robin Jenkins The Cone Gatherers, one of the most unremitting dome laden books I have ever read, ending in the inevitable disaster. Interesting work with its own set of intrigue and stories, some too close to home to relate. Once we got Oran’s mate out of the van,
not forgetting the ferret,
we headed over to Ullapool to enjoy a full session of Changin’ Scotland. Admittedly we were still an hour early but gave us time to have a roll and coffee before e going to hear an entertaining “sort of workshop” by Joe Lafferty. It was based on hope and he went round the audience at one stage and asked what people hoped for but also what would happen next, implying the vote in September is just the start and not the endgame. Loved the one that started it off. Speaker said he hoped that Trident would be taken out of Scotland and in the year 2020 a world disarmament summit takes place that leads to ending all possession of nuclear weapons. Another was to go back to the Greek system of three-year politicians being drawn out of the hat. The one that caught the imagination was to go across Scotland and paint the drab dreary estates in bright colours. a Tobermorification of housing in Scotland. Bit like Leckmelm, blue wood, then yellow bale and at the end turf roof.
The thrust of the talk was that hope leads often to community and puts that above self. Good to have a bit of realism as well in the form of Eileen Reid telling us that education is not in such a great shape as it could be and that is a devolved power. She commented that it would take a lot more than painting the houses of the estates to sort out a lot of the problems of endemic poverty and poor education in areas of the Central belt. This was followed by Douglas Robertson, Stirling University, who talked about housing and made a few pointed comments about how the audience, middle class was okay and had benefited from house price rises but how the whole of the housing station is so distorted and unhelpful to the country as a whole. David Donnison then spoke about what was missing from the Referendum debate saying he was still undecided but I suspect after listening to him he will be voting yes, only a feeling. Jean Urquhart came onto the panel that finished off the day. We were given enthralling talks from Cat Boyd, Jamie Maxwell, Robin MacAlpine and Ronagh Gallacher, all connected to RIC and The Common Weal. Whether you believed their politics or not their articulate passion was inspiring and if nothing else the Independence Debate is finally getting people re engaged in politics again. They arguments carried a lot of weight and came from the left where there is now a chasm as Labour seems to be out doing the Tory party in trying to catch the 250,000 votes south of the border they need to win the next election. Fascinating times and good company to be in,some of which would be frowned upon by the powers that be back home, challenging your ideas, and giving you so much to think about. There is one thing that annoys me about this Referendum when people ask me about what I think. So many people say they do not have enough information to make a decision. I could not disagree more it is everywhere and it will be up to people to be bothered to read and then decide but saying they need to know more is just not an excuse. Interesting talk from Jean when she told us about a visit from a Norwegian delegation going around Scotland. Now given our admiration of everything Scandinavian at the moment she asked them what Norway wants and she was more than a little surprised by their reply…they want to be like Scotland, food, culture, whisky, energy resources, can go round the world be recognised and welcomed, writing, art, ideas……how other people view you is interesting without getting too big-headed. Interesting that a campaign that says we are not able to do this or cannot do that or will not be able to do the other holds almost 50% in the polls, I suppose if you are told that for centuries it difficult to realise the potential that has been there all along.
not being too interested in politics and the arts, went for a wee walk up above Ullapool,
interesting Skara brae type houses beside the path and renewable energy around the buildings,
although a bit disappointed to see they were holiday houses and not lived in. So day finished off with a fine meal and banter at the Ceilidh Place and a satisfied drive home.