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

Archive for the ‘Abroad’ Category

Best Man, Best Groom and Best Bride.

(Poor internet has delayed posts somewhat)

And into the evening we sailed. Photos taken again, best man playing up to his role

after piping us into a lovely meal.

Photos taken before,

after and during

making sure the night was well documented.

Ceilidh band spot on and the floor was filled from first dance

to the Orcadian Strip the Willow as the las dance. All the usual antics, speeches, mine being the shortest, took place with happy contentment on everyone’s faces. Had a wee chat  with an exfisherman who fished lobster off Islay and Jura and reminisce about the early days of trying to get on your feet, the battle of trying to pay ones debts, hard work and to a certain extent missing a bit of the family growing up. The dancing, chat was all topped off with some fine bacon and sausage rolls and tablet, lots and lots of tablet. I think I was only out done by the groom in the tablet stakes. The disco did not appeal so left the best man to do his moves on the dance floor

and headed off to a very sensible early and soberish night. Think Calum was still up throwing the water bottle to No1.

Another fine breakfast saw us off on time to make it home for the evening shift at the Inn. Uneventful trip back with Raymond in attendance. Only needed to do a couple of hours as there were plenty of staff on the go. Sat the fourteen who just turned up in amongst the rest of the punters, would have been good if they had all paid, Boss had an attempt to see if any one would see them on the road, but police over in Skye so a shrug of the shoulders. Good eleven and a half hours sleep before going out for the rest of the langoustines hanging off the Varuna and then heading up to a busy shift, but manageable and little to distinguish it apart from the very pleasant and pleased Galicians and New Yorkers. Seafood helped them on their way. Tomorrow it is off to Raasay on broadband duty. Broadband is becoming a massive headache for us but more of that next time.

The Parrot Visiting from Germany

It is beginning to seem that I could start any post with, “a bit of variety this week” and that was certainly the case this week. Going back into the time line of the last post to Tuesday, I had done a day’s fishing and came in to meet the ladies for a bit of filming on the Varuna.

They had come up on Sunday and I met them over the weekend when they had come down for a meal on the Sunday evening.

Seemed to go well enough on the day and I am pretty sure I will not be watching the programme just in case I am on it. The Bloody Project has struck again and it was good to see Graeme and to meet his partner, just finished his French detective mystery and good it was too. Interesting from the boat perspective as we could see Culduie, where the deed was done, scurrilous Ardhu, Camusterrach, the Big House and Shore Street which was Applecross village in the book.

So up to Friday and a day off. It began at 7.00am, selling langoustines to the Loch Ness Inn and ended at 1.30am on Saturday morning loading just short of a half ton of herring into the back of the van at Aird. The time in-between was the day off. We headed north after twelve, stopped for lunch at Gairloch and a trip down to the beach with the pups.

Then going further north we took a detour down the Inverasdale/Cove road, mainly because Gemma proclaims it is the only place she knows that is better than Applecross,

so it had to be seen.

It is truly a beautiful part of the Highlands and Dougal and Eilidh seemed to agree.

Another beach walk with Dougal having a discussion with the white cow, who seemed very disinterested in him.

Then off to Ullapool to an exhibition/private showing of how plastics are entering our world in not the best of ways, even becoming part of the geology. Not an edifying prospect but well underway and out fishing the next day I pick up a plastic bag floating by

just to reinforce the message of the way we live has to change. Met up with Sara, a contact from the Inshore Fishing Conference and the discussion about sustainable fishing carried on to the Ceilidh Place where we were treated to some awesome music by King Creosote and Mairead Greene. Time just flew by and it was an hour later than I thought before we were back on the road home. Me in the passenger seat after a couple of Thistly Cross ciders and just as well as we were met on the road just outside Shieldaig by our local custodian, Craig. Not knowing the van he rapidly turned round and followed us down the Coast Road to stop us enquiring as to our late travelling home. Think Alison was quite excited to be stopped by the bobbies with blue lights flashing and all. Mason and Thor would have been impressed as the last time I saw them they were in said car outside the Schoolhouse. So the last stop was for the bait and salt and home by 2.00am, asleep by 2.05am and up at 6.00am to go fishing. Not even enough time to take off the wrist band.

It was hard work leaving the house at that time in the morning and staying on the couch with these two was very tempting.

Days off are tiring but the sights, sounds and conversations were all so worth it. Maybe Dougal could have done with more than the Pinewood walk at Inverewe and the two beach walks but his form was still good and he enjoyed the trip down to the Ullapool Harbour, fishing boats

and tall ship included.

So from the fishing to the shower and straight to the Inn where we had a tricky evening dealing with many bikers, a closed Walled Garden for Calum’s wedding and lots of visitors wanting to eat good food. And again on Sunday, the full twelve-hour shift, with a half hour for a bit of food. Lots of good food, laughter, good craic and a parrot,

a German one at that.

Seemingly she stayed at the Inn couple of years ago and was back for a return visit. She came out briefly for a wee look around during the quiet spell in the afternoon. Busy but a well run if a times tense day and even the nine bikers who turned up at 8.55pm for a meal were happy to be served nine fish and chips. They had just rode down from Thurso, turned up late at the Campsite and came straight down to the Inn. You could not serve them so another group were treated to the Highland hospitality of the Applecross Inn. The visitors were from all over, Kazakstan to Holland and all parts in-between. Hope the two Dutch girls who were to be in Mallaig for 2.00pm on Monday made it. They were to drop a hired car in Portree  and make it down the road to Armadale to catch the ferry across Sleat Sound and I think it was going to involve some hitch hiking. Good “we are all European” chat with them and while acknowledging we all come from different parts they hoped we would finally have the nerve to become Scottish in our own rights. All the european visitors are really sad about Brexit and hope that Scotland will stay around. We shall see.

Finishing on a sad note though I heard off the sad passing of John, who used to live in Applecross and worked and inspired many troubled youngsters. He also had a pretty troubled past which unfortunately caught up with him. I only have good memories of John, taking me out with No 3 and doing a spot of sea rescue before my trip to Canada with the kayak. So there was an appropriate sunset to finish off a memorable weekend and to remember him by.

“Away tae f**k ye”, Walls Everywhere

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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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,


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

From Kinlochourn to David Francey ending with Robbers

Sitting a public bar in Ardnamurchan and it brings back memories of what the Applecross Inn used to be like. Although the fish and chips look pretty good there are five, two ladies and three guys round the bar and me. (Six now) Would imagine the Inn is filling up by now even if it is getting post season. Down here for a David Francey evening at Resipole Arts Studio. http://www.resipolestudios.co.uk Called in to check venue and getting excited now. Just Dougal and Eilidh with me at this one as Alison is up in Shetland enjoying a Wool Week. So with this in mind and having decided that on breezy /windy Mondays I am on the road and heading down parts I have driven past for years and wanted to go down but am always going somewhere. Today I made for Kinlochourn, a sign I have often passed and wanted to travel down the 22 miles. And I did and it was special,


beautiful day,


the dogs in fine fettle and I headed down towards the head of Loch Hourn. Brought back a few memories of working aboard the Dauntless Star in my teenage years, although was more interested in the football and working how to get to the next dance than learning about the fishing. We fished Loch Hourn and moored at the head of the loch twice a week.


Was walking for a good two hours and it was so peaceful with only the sound of tumbling water and the occasional call of a disgruntled heron taking off to fish on the other side of the loch. What a place to clear the head, to listen to the sounds of nature and Dougal and Eilidh on their inevitable rodent hunt. The rodents down here must be more astute as I never saw any victims. Interesting how quiet it was, remote I know, but apart from a bit of fish farming at the start of the journey, it seemed the only activity was about the big house, guys checking where the deer were for shooting and a couple coming back along the track from fishing. Always on the lookout and there was a new run of river Hydro, newly built Turbine House by SSE using the excess from the Loch Quoich scheme.  Some of the burns are wonderful to sit beside to watch and listen


making their way down the slopes. Some forestry but pretty barren as you head west so the tree on its own catches the eye.


In fact every where you looked….



You wonder if it is just another walk for them, I think they knew they were somewhere special.


(Cheesecake was pretty good as well) Better not fall asleep during the concert. More later but now off for another short walk and feed the dogs before going back up the road for what should be some amazing music. Salen at dusk on the way up to the venue had inky feel to it, restful.


And that is how it turned out, amazing, (now on a stormy Tuesday evening) and still a little high on yesterday’s walk, scenery, music and people. It seemed it caused a little stir that I had travelled so far to hear some special music. It was a long way and the green part of me always questions my privileged position and whether I abuse it just for pleasure, although satisfying the spirit is important. Luckily, earlier this year I spotted a post on social media from Mairi Campbell, video of Empty Train by David Francey and was immediately hooked. Just so happens I noticed an Eden Court gig by the very same but on a Saturday evening. So looked up the tour dates and the nearest was at The Resipole. Even the fact that when I turned up and noticed my dipped headlights had fused I was really up for this. Surprisingly it was well known that I had travelled and met David at half time and again after the gig, bought one and was given another cd, photos were taken, Dougal


and Eilidh became involved and all in all it was a fulfilling end to a fulfilled day.


The music was top drawer and many songs I knew from the Empty Train album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKrE2ziF28I Even the drive home was uneventful, the cds getting me to Invermoriston Bridge, meeting very few but puzzled drivers coming the other way when I was dipping at last moment to side lights. Bit of a tense drive back but made it by 2.15am and still high after the day’s music and scenery.

Of course needs must and it was back on Hydro duty and later on another check, this time with Dougal and Eilidh who are starting to wonder about the wisdom of all the fuss. But if you haven’t voted please do as it will help the continued development of Applecross into the future. https://www.mandsenergyfund.com/projects/applecross-energy


I had a wonderful wee visit from Maisie, Freya and Morganna who decided they wanted to test my DNA. Mention of a rugby ball in the garden was just the excuse methinks. Seems I had to give them a fingerprint and then there was a test to see if it rubbed out. It was, then I was told I was a robber if it didn’t, a conversation then ensued as to whether there were good robbers and bad ones……. It is why I get into all the hassle and stress of community stuff, so that there will always be lovely kids running about next door at the school.


Duncan Chisholm Took us Home Early at Cambridge.

Cycling home in the dark into the teeth of a growing southerly gale, sitting at Cambridge Festival base camp seems a lifetime away. It is not just the music but the people who make the trip so worthwhile. Talking about this and that with guys you are comfortable with


while the Tiger Moths fly overhead in a warm climate is a great way to break the day-to-day routine of life in Applecross. A spot or two of music also played at camp.


We often meet up either at the Main Stage or Stage 2 as we head for the same area to watch the music, around 15 guys meeting up in a 14,000 crowd just happens again and again and is a lovely part of the Festival.


Also taking time out to wander by the Duck Pond when things get a little too tiring.


Other activities also took place like green haircuts, pedaling to produce the energy needed for the hairdresser.


Sunday morning began with a world band called Varldens Band, strong Swedish influence but they opened by dedicating their set to their lead singer, Charu Hariharan, who was refused a visa to enter the UK to sing at Cambridge. How ridiculous is that, she can travel round Europe but when it comes to sing here she gets turned down. Some of the group were quite visual in their appearance


and the Chora was out again.


They had a great set but really got the crowd going when they turned Scottish with some tunes by David Foley of RURA. He plays the flute as well as he beats the bodhran. Stayed at the Main Stage to hear Solas followed by Blazin’ Fiddles,


good rocking Celtic music at its best. Tiring badly by now but went over to the snooze spot by the back of the Stage 2 to listen to Della Mae, a grand all female blue grass band. Out for the count within minutes and woke up with Alister on one side


and Harry on the other. Appreciated the wake up as I heard them sing a brilliant version of Sixteens Tons. Was not too bothered as I knew they were back on at the Club Tent later and they were exquisite. By now I was well awake, fed and watered, and ready for what turned out to be one of the high lights of the Festival, a set by the brilliant Duncan Chisholm.



I have always known about his fiddling but never up till now paid too much attention to it. Back in my hazy past I was putting on events at our local hall and one of the best nights was to bring in Wolfstone, one of Duncan’s earlier bands. Struan was also playing in this band but has now turned his hand to marine electrics and has worked on the Varuna….fascinating how lives take different turns. Back to the gig and it was truly captivating, He has just completed a trilogy of albums with many slow airs and he took us all the way back to the Highlands up to his homeland of Farrar, and Affric. It was simply stunning and I turned round to some of the guys and could see in their eyes they were in the glens with me. His music and playing were immense. His band was not too shabby with Ali Hutton filling for Innes Watson, Megan Henderson, Jarlath Henderson, Greg Lawson and Su-a-Lee on the cello.


Noticed that Bruce MacGregor, Julie Fowlis and Jenna Reid were all on the edge of the audience watching and listening and that says so much to Duncan’s status. Went to buy the trilogy and chatted to him after and true to form he is very much a gentleman, naturally interested and appreciated the praise heaped on him. So by shaking his hand I completed very briefly meeting and shaking hands with a fine threesome of top Scottish fiddlers having already met up with John McCusker and Bruce MacGregor. It is not that any of anyone’s music was any less enjoyment but his Mr Chisholm’s set was awesome. Still to come, Baaba Maal, from a distance as was Imelda Mae, followed by another blast of Della Mae and finally although torn between the New Orleans Hot 8 Brass Band and Kila,


I opted for Kila to finish my Cambridge break.


Wonderful time, great food, company


and not too much cider and left with some great memories to see through the rest of the summer gales. A rapid and organised pack up


with Andy kindly running us back to Peterborough to catch the train north on Monday morning meant the Highlands were calling us home again.

Singing Nancy Spain with Christy Moore……

Going on the few holidays from Applecross I have never been too concerned as the break come to an end as I am back home here. Have a couple of days at sea under the belt and todays weather being forecast to be inclement I kept a fleet of creels on board to wash today. I, although the Inn was reasonably busy, left early, but not before coming across a coffee barista who was serving at the Festival…..the world is getting smaller and he wished the Inn was his local, and managed to back to the Varuna and put the creels ashore ready for today, handy as the N/NW wind comes in on top of the pier. Going to have some fine music on the headphones as I head back to Cambridge while pressure washing.

So back to Friday afternoon and a trip back to base camp, where some were getting ready for the evening,


before heading back into the arena to hear some amazing Caribbean/traditional music from Edward 11.



Then onto Michael McGoldrick


coming in with the cider and ale bang on time I admit mild disappointment when I only saw four of them. Quickly forgot the numbers as they were simply brilliant and a great wee interlude when he brought on his talented family to play even more whistles. Only when listening to his set and John Joe Kelly


who was beyond description on the bodhran, did I realise I was missing the music of the Celts a little. Went to listen to some Deep South blues at Stage 2 from my favourite dozing spot


but KT Tunstall drowned him out from the Main Stage. So ending the day with Glen Hansard,


having asked Andy who he was and the fifth time I was told, it sunk in …The Commitments. Great sounds with some almost thrash guitar but very tuneful and a Van the Man song thrown in. The end of the second day was hard to describe and it was the first time I have come across Gipsy Punk.


Not to everyone’s taste but it was an enthralling show


and it was a show with huge energy




with Eugene Hutz and one of the girls ending up on top of two big base drums on top of the audience.



Best way to describe Saturday was in the terms of a musical journey. After breakfast, as usual Andy turns out the full English


for anyone in the camp who wants it, it was off to Quebec to hear Vent du Nord,


a fine quartet who are passionate about where they come from. Then it was off to Chicago to hear some blues from The Cash Box Kings guitar, mouthy and vocals superb,


and followed by John McCusker with a fine band. You keep seeing multi instrumentalists turning up with different bands. Heidi Talbot


and Chris Drever.


So from almost coming home it was now away to Haitian Creole with Leyla McCalla but just could not stay awake for the whole set but the CD makes up for missing some of it. Back to the Main Stage for a bit of Mid west cowboy songs with a Californian influence, Sam Outlaw, hats off before the camera came out.


The variety is immense. Then some blue grass with Darlingside,


just a half set here due to overlap, but knew I was going to see them later as there was a cancellation due to ill-health. From the NE of the US of A they were a fine quartet of harmonious musicians and as Andy said, ironic, which can be unusual for the neighbours across the waters. So then it was to the Den where Rachel Sermanni was playing a lovely set with stories to every song.


The Den is by the Duck pond and amongst all the people and sounds the swan is serene.


The Buddhist emptying the dirty water of the broken coffee machine by straw would not at first sight make a song but it did. Spoke to her after and said the next time I saw her overworked Dad I would mention I had heard her. To think one of the last times he spoke to me he was reading a summons out to me for speeding.  So back to the music and after another listen to an awestruck Darlingside it was over to Africa for some Afro Celt music. The sun was setting just before this gig



and the girls were happy.



Engrossing and I was captivated by both the Gaelic Rap


and the rhythms and colours from Asia and Africa.


It could not possibly get better but next on was Christy Moore.


He played just about every song I knew and then his encore. I do not do bucket lists but if I did towards the top would be singing Nancy Spain with Christy Moore and here I was at Cambridge doing just that with 10,000 others. What an end to a perfect, if tiring, day.

And back home now on a Thursday afternoon almost exactly a week after it all kicked off, in the general rush of things….phone call from Inn means I nip out to the Varuna for yet more langoustine despite the fact that I was out the last two days. Fleets washed and mended and ready to be picked up tomorrow morning. Cambridge is but distant memories.



New Blue Deal and Cambridge Starts.

(Over the next few posts I made a few little jottings down in-between some immense music and craic over the four days we were on site at Cambridge.)


In Cambridge now settling into a BBQ at Andy’s after what seems like three days on a train. After an early start on Monday to avoid the afternoon’s breeze managed to get round 350 creels for a decent catch, the last for a week, so both Inns will have a few langoustine while I’m away. Went through to Aberdeen to take part in a workshop organised by the NEF and they are working on a report about coastal communities, their survival and future. It is really difficult to define coastal communities when you have Margate, Mallaig, Stonehaven and Applecross all classed as coastal. Managed to say a couple of relevant pieces and will certainly email a more lengthy synopsis about our potential and barriers. It was a good day out with a lot of brainwork involved and even including my little spat with a well known east coast fisherman with differing views about MPAs. Met some really interesting people but the only problem for me was there were not enough people on the ground from the places, rather too many academics and council workers. Good but you could tell there was a lack of experience of what it was really like on the ground. The afternoon was split into workshops and it was then I realised that I could have been in any one except aquaculture. Tourism, inshore fishing and energy and the connections between them all. I think there is going to be a missive sent to NEF about what it is like on the ground battling to keep the communities alive. The report is a huge undertaking and will be difficult to collate with so many different problems to identify and deal with. Lots of enthusiasm and made a few new contacts, as usual it helps coming from Applecross.


Thursday involves an early start and by 7.15am we are queueing at the gates waiting for opening at ten.


Banter good and time flies by as the regulars start appearing.


Before you know it the new bigger tent is up, following instructions makes it easier (Alison is good at that) and a wander into a now familiar site follows while Alison catches up on sleep. The same camping area is bagged and it is good to meet up with familiar faces. Weather so so by mid afternoon but forecast right in that it just passed through. Some waited though.


Planned a pre music nap but a few ciders got in the way and before you know it Imar


were blasting out a fine set,


so much so went to get their cd signed and had a wee chat with Tom after the gig.


There was a little hiatus with a couple of acts that did not appeal. Most of the time it is working out which to go to as there are so many good ones. English hand on the ear folk has never appealed but I gave it another try with little success. Couple of good songs and another cider filled the time before a fine Bluegrass band from the West Country came on, Flats and Sharps, were very, very good despite their sound problems with instrument pickups. Back to the tent for an early night after welcoming the late comers from Argyll. They did not take advice on setting up the tent well and made some remarks to the effect they were holding fairly sharp tent poles so wandered off. They are always late and made up for it in imbibing as I was back up at one to join them. Far easier doing this than getting grumpy in the tent trying to get back to sleep. So day 1 ends well into the start of day 2. It is going to be a long week-end but so looking forward to what turns up.

(Friday afternoon) It is only mid afternoon and blown away already by Megson


and Mike and Ruthy Band. Stunning and could go home already with what I have heard and the craic has been immense. Megson from the NE of England singing beautiful penned songs from their homeland followed by the guys from Massachusetts and that area. Brilliant story/song about a trip south,”the road goes on for ever and the party never ends” alongside Vincent 52 with great banjo playing.


“The road goes on……”lyric was a frustrating lost memory but the young ones in the camp found it on the net while we tried to guess who sang the lyric. Straight to the marquee to buy a couple of CDs and back to the camp for a wee break before more and more and more. Robert Earl Keen for those who are wondering.


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