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

Archive for the ‘Applecross Inn’ Category

Sheep that Couldn’t Pee

After the fine morning we are back to the autumnal/winter south-westerly breeze and mainly grey skies. Although it is a little frustrating that there are no langoustines on the menu board I am less fretful than in younger days. Looking back on the week, despite the inactivity at sea and a seasonal feeling taking hold, there were a couple of highlights. One involved working at the Inn and meeting the C of I vicar, Terry and his wife Alison. Wednesday evening went as planned with it being a lot less frantic, still having to watch tables for residents, but being able to chat to people for a little longer. I had already made contact earlier in the evening so sat down in their vicinity for my supper. The House 9 Cowans were in and the evening really kicked off from then on in. A proper Highland Pub craic and ceilidh ensued over a couple of malts, well possibly three. Although unlike at the Awards Ceremony no one was counting. Everything was up for discussion, politics, banter, world events, certainly Ireland was up there with Brexit and local community activities ranked fairly high. I like the fact that card-carrying Tories, an Irish vicar and a Scottish Green can pass the time of day discussing the events of the day and remain/become friends over the piece. It was only left for me to state that it is evenings like these that make working at the Inn so enjoyable. Working is probably the wrong word.

So often when you chat to people the connection is there, like the friends of one of the late Prof Romanes’ daughters. She was so surprised I had heard of him, far less knew and worked with him when we were scallop farming. And so to the vet, Alasdair, who used to live in Fintry and now in Doune. Only realised that I had spoken to them the last time they were here. Loved his story of the ewe that could n’t pee. She had turned up at the practice and belonged to a “hobby farmer” who fed it to the extent it did not eat grass, even when put in a field of fellow grass-eating sheep. Resulting in a crystallising blocking it channels. Despite having a “bit” chopped off it did not survive through the next 24 hours although she was able to pee, which must have been some relief as she left this world.

Going further back into the week, on Tuesday, I headed over the Hill making my way to Sleat for a bit of a wild card concert put on by Duncan of Seall. The Red Dirt Skinners and what a find the were.

On the way I stopped off for a shop and to drop off my sick iMac at a doctor. Not very hopeful of getting it going and getting data recovered but still worth a try. Then down to Dave and Maggie’s for a wee ceilidh. Always great for a catch up and usually afterwards I wonder why we do not do this more often, just drop in to people’s houses  for nothing more than making or at least keeping a strong connection going. The upsetting side to the visit was finding out I had missed the passing on of Sylvia. the Iceland trip had put me out of communication and missed both her passing and send off which to all accounts was immense. Hearing that both Slippy and her daughter did her proud on the day. The least I could do was to call in to Ruairidh and try to convey some heartfelt feeling, always feels so inadequate and hopefully he picked up some genuine sympathy and for a few minutes felt a kindred spirit. When we lose empathy with our fellow-men then we are in trouble. I suspect a lack of human empathy in our Political Leaders leads to many a war, and although often said it is very rarely their sons and daughters who are sent to fight their wars.

So easy for me, as I was back on the road to Sleat via a monster fish and chips in Broadford. The Skinners were awesome, soprano sax

with guitar and vocals were immense.

Mostly their own self penned songs, all accompanied with stories, with a couple of covers thrown in. Sunshine in Leith stood out and came a close second to the version sung by the 20000 Hibs fans after they had won the Scottish Cup. Don’t think anyone can compete with that version. Sat at a table of Lochcarron and Kishorn guys but you are never on your own when at a music gig. This concert ranks as one of the best and the drive home felt short.

So back to Monday and a trip up to the screen to check up and clean. In spate

so it was a shoes and socks off rather than wet feet.

Pooches as usual in attendance.

Photogenic Applecross Morning

A wee snippet as I await my heat exchanger part for the Varuna. Perfect day to go to sea but times have changed. Every company seems to have cut its cloth to a bare minimum these days so when one has a break down you can no longer go into either Inverness or any component parts place and get simple parts of the shelf. I have a 7/10 day wait for the heat exchanger for the gear box. No point in fretting as a week over 40 years at sea is nothing. This morning I had serious pangs about being ashore while watching the Grace Anne slide north.

So nothing for it but to enjoy the morning ashore, watching the geese share the field with the Highlands

across the road.

Next it was up the road with the dogs along the Beechwood path.

The weather for the Hydro has been good for most of the summer so a day like today is the perfect antidote.

Trees are wonderful to walk beside, under, through and the colours at this time of year are so vivid and on the ground as well.

Back to the Inn where I was recognised by my calling for Dougal not to bother a wee dog, which turned out to be from Barleyport. Wee chat before seeing another photo at the back door, Lyndsay and Shaun,

who are heading off on their travels tomorrow and I don’t mind saying the Inn will not be quite as bright while they are gone. Pretty sure they will be back though. And then it was off home for a gentle afternoon.

 

 

From Ice to Awards

Finished the Iceland trip with a quiet day around Reykjavik. Morning was spent messing around with photos and posting before Alison went down the road to a museum and I went up the road to the Perlan Centre. A place built on geothermal tanks that has a glacier in it.

A genuine glacier, or at least part of one.

There were layers of ash in the ice, a crevasse and an ice tunnel.

For the first time I balked at a tourist payment and it was to go out side on the balcony for a better view of the city. This was an extra fiver on top of the guided tour of the inside glacier. Fair play to them for being able to make a bit of money of their visitors and they do seem to have done it without overdeveloping and spoiling what people are coming to see. The only complaint on the whole visit came from the serving staff of the Perlan. And it was only because they had to deal with a slowly revolving centre from where they were serving their coffee and cakes. They had to rearrange their furniture as it turned slowly round and I got a wee grump from a staff member who was unimpressed with the design.

In the evening I decided to head out to have a fish and chips, we had kept the expenditure down with the self catering, down by the harbour. For a capital city Main Street this is about the right size.

Cod and chips was expensive but worth it. So very early start on Friday but picked up outside front door and were at airport in no time. Packed out with people going places and slightly nervous about everything although on flight and sound asleep for the two hours it took to get to Glasgow. On the train and another three hours North, again asleep, before decanting to the Premier Inn and another Awards Ceremony.

We talked ourselves down and actually think the Boss does not want to enter too many more. It means more to up and coming places and helps them on their way. The Applecross Inn has arrived many years ago and the aim is not to let standards drop rather than to keep gathering prizes. A good night though with some people taking a little longer to get ready than others.

And seemingly there were a few whiskies drunk towards the end of the night. Judging by my lack of hangover they could not have been imbibed by me. So the kilt gets its third outing of the fortnight and good to meet up with Mountain Cafe,

John, Glen Wyvis, and Coast and Glen. A very well behaved table,

at least for most of the night,

and they went looking for the stars of the evening.

 

Good to get home and back to the Inn with a couple of shifts on Saturday and Sunday. It is now the time of year and back to earth, waiting for weather and finding out which heat exchanger was down. Found out it was the gear box

so it is off and waiting for part.

A Grumpy One

Although we are in for a busy weekend there is a definite end of season feel in the air. Maybe not helped by it being Friday and the first day on the water this week and even then it involved a northerly swell and a breeze from the south. By mid afternoon the breeze had developed into a wind, fortunately the fishing had improved from the morning although being in gear you have to watch when you steam past the south end you don’t get the tailing in the prop. Well more than once anyway. This coupled with noticing some spotlets of emulsified oil coming through my wet exhaust adds up to a bit of a grumpy feel to the day. I could have done with a longer visit from the dolphins. They came up very quickly, pirroeted a full 180 degrees out of the water alongside the boat and swam off. The oil problem is a heat exchanger and I have to find out if it is the gearbox or the engine oil I will be losing. It is never all joy and happiness in any job but at this time of year after a full on and busy summer these little things get blown up and exaggerated in the mind. Western world issues so in the grand scheme of life they will be trivial.

Good mood to have a mini rant about how the community is impacted by outside decisions and the little we can do about it. There is a theme across the Highlands that Community Councils are of little import and to some extent I would have to agree. As a region and country our local democracy is in pretty poor shape and to some degree unrepresentative. This is mainly due to most people’s perception that there is little the Council can do other than voice a community opinion. I do not usually post on individuals but the fact that the Inn Chef, Robert, and the School and Fire person, Marion, have to deal with a planning decision that stops their plans in progressing their presence on the Applecross peninsula is frankly incomprehensible. Robert and Marion, holding three jobs down between them, one young un and another imminent, working crofters cannot get planning permission to build a croft house near their croft. They are refused on the grounds that it is not in keeping with the surroundings environs and is too far from other habitations. I find it hard to put into words what I think of these decisions taken on the east coast by people who have no conception of what living on the fragile west is like. Apart from the ludicrous reasons for refusal, I can take you round Applecross and show you houses that have been built with no other houses near them, so as well as being a negative decision in the first place it has no place with any precedence. Ridiculous from which any angle you look at. It is easy to criticise but this and other decisions have little basis in a community’s growing it’s capacity and resilience. Another decision on the Street has been negative on the grounds the living quarters are upstairs. Considering that already happens in Holiday Houses three or four doors along it holds no water anywhere else but the east. You couple this with no land being released for affordable houses you can see we. are going to have problems in the very near future. Do people think it is ok for workers to live in multiple occupancy and caravans, in poor housing where do these issues come into the planning process. I leave the argument that everything is fine and should be left as it is to discuss, that is the rewilding argument in a way, saying that people should not and have not lived here for generations, which is patently untrue. Always change, sometimes the change is rather quick but you have to deal with it as it will not go away.

When, we as a community, are faced with an absentee landlord saying that a site is unsuitable because you can see it from the road you can only shake your head in disbelief. Drive down the road from Ardeslaig to Toscaig and you see every single house, holiday house and empty house from the road. Mind you I have been told of two other reasons for that site, the first being the presence of sink holes, not a good excuse due to the Turbine House being built there, and finally an agricultural reason just to make sure the site will not become available. You get the idea that releasing land is  not on the absentee landlord’s agenda, frustrating when you look at Achintrad, Sheildaig, Lochcarron, Balmacara, where affordable houses are being built and lived in by young folk who send kids to local schools and have employment in their locales. So individual planning decisions taken against this background feel so negative.

I have been to some positive and not so positive meetings lately, great to hear ideas put forward about a Community Hub, increased employment, housing from people who understand the fragility of the community and have  thoughts and plans to reverse the almost imperceptible decline. On the positive side there are more crofts being used now, the decline seems to have bottomed out and younger folk are growing and producing more food locally, building the resilience of the place, it’s a good year for wee ones being born, would be great if this was the norm rather than being unusual and employment must be 120%, more to do than the people living here can cope with. In a way it is a sort of curse when asked what is one’s agenda for the community. I can state that nothing is personal in that my living and employment prospects do not need to be improved so it is purely on a community level. Of course I may be wrong but I can see how a fine community can work in difficult circumstances and that is the one at the Inn. Great team and generally a happy place, building under pressure, workers not in ideal housing, but despite all the problems a fine example how a community can work.

So the consultations go on, there is the launching of a proper community consultation run by the Community Company, while the Trust Working Group continues. I feel I have made the right decision not to keep putting time into this and leave it to more positive minded people. I see no change in the direction the Trust is going in despite different personnel  on the Board. The suggested Chair of the Working Group, someone who is not only not local but is also not “independent”, confirms my decision to spend my time more usefully. I sincerely hope the Group is able to influence Trust policy for the future before more and more people think the  development of Applecross will have to go through new powers of the Community Empowerment Act.

Another meeting attended this week concerned the laying of fibre optic cable from Sheildaig to Lochcarron. Wonderful one may think but we came away from the meeting thinking little or no benefit to the community. There will be empty chambers for a licensed provider to build cabinets to deliver superfast broadband but that is unlikely to happen as cabinets cost around £65,000 and does not make economic sense to supply to a half-dozen houses. There was more unsaid than we were told, i.e. the contractor, the huge expense of laying a cable that is not going to be used locally. SSE backhaul does not really hold water and we all came away with the strong suspicion that the customer is based on the North Coast and has little to do with the local community and decisions are taken far far away. Meanwhile some residents are being promised 50/70 meg speeds from BT as they take in broadband by radio. Very puzzling and can only wait and see if this is true.

Now that feels better and life goes on. As said before the fishing was better than expected and the tea was good, it being these shrimps, all eyes

trying to make me feel guilty, some squats in mayo, and mussels increase,garlic and wine sauce, good accompaniments to baked Tatties.  This chappie was released after the photo and swam away happily in a flash of colour.

In-between the grumps the dolphin visits, they were too quick for me,


and the occasional calm days with lots of activities on and in the water,

a Thai massage and good chats with good people keeps you on a level, although maybe reading this I may need a lot more therapy.And to finish with a light show

or two.

 

Three Days

The catch up continues with a pretty daft three days at the end of last week. Thursday went as normal, catching a few langoustines and lots of squat lobsters, then off to work at the Inn. All going well despite the slowing down of the fishing. The edge has been taken off the numbers coming through the door and with three people still on the floor things are so much easier. One or two late arrivals keep cooking going until the nine o’clock deadline  and then the craziness kicked in. Jump into the van and head south for an overnight to Edinburgh for a meeting to review the Marine Plan, three years after its installation. Made it as far as Ralia before disappearing into the back of the van and crashing out on the mattress put there just for the occasion. Arriving in Edinburgh in plenty of time, I had an appointment with an Apple IT chap to see if anything could be done for my iMac. Grim prognosis, but not without a little hope and a sideline I managed to gain a little knowledge in uploading photos to the blog on the MacBook. So not a total waste of time. I do not think I am a soft touch but seeing the homeless on the streets outside the Apple dept and Waverley Station with me passing them carrying a couple of grands worth of IT equipment seemed a touch too incongruous for my comfort. Dropping a pound into a cup did not make me feel any easier.

But time tramps on, getting a little lost and taking a bit longer to park at the Ocean Terminal meant I was slightly late….only to miss out on the coffee.

There was a couple of no shows and my name was missed out so I slotted in to a table with Sally and four others. It was actually far more interesting and productive than I thought and once we got going I had plenty to say. Unfortunately The Marine Plan is a touch too woolly and can be used to justify almost any activity at sea. It included offshore, oil and gas, renewables, as well as inshore fishing and salmon farming. Sally and I had our say about small-scale industries, coastal communities under pressure, population pressures, affordable housing….in fact we had plenty to say. A slightly worrying aspect to the day was the acceptance that one user may always be to the detriment of another. Agreeing that there will be problems in a physical sense it is a pity that this is the case. Surely  species specific fishing should be encouraged as opposed to the all in approach of the mobile sector. I always work on the theory that if you stay silent, or don’t vote then your voice at the Inn when you complain about life’s injustices does not mean so much. Again look at the Catalonians, they spoke and demonstrated peacefully. So that completed it was back in the van, but not before chatting to a couple of co-conspiritors who are trying to help regain some of the degraded marine environment and get some of the ocean life back to a more healthy state. The Marine Plan is aspirational but it will only stay that way until politicians take some brave and in some quarters, unpopular decisions that will improve the health of the inshore waters.

Mallaig and Feis na Mara was the next destination.

Made it over the New Crossing, lots of traffic on the way north.

Did not make the junction turn off on the M90 as it was closed so turned to the west at Dunkeld, going through the Sma Glen, Crieff and Crainlarich. A couple of snooze stops were needed so missed out on Anna and Mairead but enjoyed Mischa and Co followed by Dosca, a Glasgow fast playing trad band who are about to record their first album.

They were full on and the young crowd loved them. Great top see such a lot of young teens out and about. Lots of effort on a spangly look, some of the older ones joining in with lights in their hair and pink wigs. A very huggy crowd, may be due to people not seeing one another for a while with some from the islands and more remote peninsulas meeting up after some time. Then it was the turn of the main man, Griogair,

who arrived on stage with a variety of pipes,

bodran,

beat box and rap, Gaelic at that. This was all backed up with a pretty heavy-duty base beat from the DJ at the back. Wall of sound in Mallaig probably went on for a good while after I had left for the road at 1.00am. I was intending to stay the night but the call of home was too strong. Needed five snooze stops to get back by around six in the morning. Luckily the next gig was late due to the speed limits on the A9.

Next up was filming an advert for Volt ebikes. I have had a Volt Alpine for over 7500 kms and the Co of two brothers are doing a dozen stories of people using the bikes. It seemed to go well with me starting at the Varuna and a drone, coming ashore,

waiting for rain to pass, landing the langoustines, and taking them up the road to the Inn. very few retakes and finally serving the starter portion of langoustines to the boys.

All good positive fun and after riding the new version of the Alpine am certainly going to upgrade in the future. Then it was a simple task to slip back into one of the day jobs and start a shift at the Inn.

Back after a Technical Break

Been a wee while since posting but there have been technical reasons for this and it feels good to be back. When I was preparing to post a couple of weeks or so ago my iMac bit the dust. I had been warned about a filling start-up disc and had tried to delete various files but to no avail. As I was enjoying an episode on 4oD everything went pear-shaped. Took it to a Dr and it came back, fixed only for a couple of hours, but minus all the files. So now owner of a MacBook and finally with a bit of technical help can post and with photos. Slowly getting used to it as there seems to be techniques to simple things such as scrolling down that I am only finding out on a suck it and see level.

Looking back it is extraordinary what we get up to on the peninsula. Daily life goes on and, although routine, it is never ever boring. Whether it is meeting people at the Inn or going fishing there are always lovely people to make contact with or wonderful things to see

and watch.

The banter with Geoff and Maureen over the last three weeks or meeting the family who just wandered in this morning are part of the daily tooing and froing. Certainly a bit of the English/Scottish involved but all at a banter level, not what I have been seeing on twitter this evening about Catalonians being beaten up by thugs for daring to vote for their Independence. As usual at the Inn we have a direct link to Barca and was told about the underlying current of fascism that exists in certain quarters of power in that country. Our source was quite definite about what has been known and talked about for years and now has been exposed on social media. I had to stop watching scenes of women being beaten up by men who were  wearing balaclavas and full riot gear. And they were the law of the land, makes you question how much you can take before standing up to authority that you believe to be wrong. Justice is an oft used word these days but there appears to be little on view. It was amazing seeing the restraint shown by the Catalonian populace in the face of such brutality.

The family in the morning hailed from Whitworth, N Yorkshire and I was treated to a wonderful word picture from an elderly gentleman who described a community of mills and workshops, neighbourliness and knowing everyone in the community. Very relevant in today’s world and how the Inn operates, unqualified help to anyone who needs it, whether it is simply finding visitors a bed to sleep in or sorting a breakdown. It is probably just me being in a positive frame of mind but for about ten minutes we had a lovely symbiotic and reminiscent conversation comparing the changes over the years in a Yorkshire mill town and a crofting township in Applecross. Sometimes a simple conversation can transport you across the moors to someones community that they are proud of and lets you in for a brief look.

Leaving the specifics aside for another post the fishing catches have remained very good

until the last week where there was a serious dip in the haul. This coupled with poor weather forecast for most of the week means langoustine availability is going to be stretched this week. Only a couple of portions left as I had an early finish today and likely not to be fishing until later in the week. Just being at sea keeps ones sanity in the increasingly crazy world we live in. Making the most of the quiet days

in-between the days of wind. There is a notable change in the air as it is now only after seven and it is wet, dark and windy outside.

Ashore and in tandem withe fishing there’s still plenty to do, cleaning the screen goes on,

sometimes in the dark as the day is shortening,

walking the dogs, although decided the Bay is a little too crowded with birds just now. some however do not seem to mind Dougal careering after them. The heron

has a disdainful look as he surveys the relentless dashing about. Eilidh dives into the river yipping away, unusual, but then I see an otter swimming out to sea. fortunately she comes back on command as she would have stood no chance if the otter had stood its ground. It’s a cliché but there is so much to do and so much to see and so little time to achieve this……..and that is just in Applecross. So I leave you with one of the sunsets of the last fortnight. Feels like a season away.

Dolphins,Spiders and Dogs.

Today in itself would take up a full post. Without looking for it, there are so many things to do, get involved in, favours, requests, work and just living, you have to limit oneself otherwise you go into a bit of a tailspin. Today will have to wait for the next post. Since coming back from Lismore it was straight back into catching langoustines. The Inn only ran out on the Thursday evening so not so bad and the Loch Ness Inn is fully stocked. It was a pretty long day on the Friday to catch up  but they are still coming on board despite the fact that more and more of the berried females are coming into the creels. I have been able to ignore the large numbers I am putting back as there are a healthy number of bigger males and females about. I am probably returning around 15/20 kilos on a full days fishing, but knowing the vast majority of them survive it feels as though you are doing the right thing and possibly stopping the decline of the stock even if by a small fraction.

Every now and again a creel comes up and takes you back to when this amount of langoustines in each creel was normal,

 

whether is it is just part of a natural cycle the fishing has been pretty good this year. It may be down to a little less pressure on some parts of the Inner Sound where a fair bit of breeding takes place, I have not seen a prawn trawler this year so a lot less pressure from that direction. The enlarging of the Range will not have kicked in yet so any changes in catch quantities will not be attributed in that direction. Saturday I do not usually go out in a breeze but saw the forecast for the following few days and it was decidedly autumnal so knew that langoustines would be scarce. lovely day ashore but rather up and down at sea. Bright sunshine does not help the staggering across the deck for most of the day. Managed a couple of hundred plus before heading in with enough for the weekend and into next week. Highlight of the day and it was only for a few seconds was on the way in splashing into a southerly force 4/5

a family of dolphins came across for a wee visit. the baby came out of the water several times and spun in the air before swimming off leaving me feeling blessed.

There are little things like these visitations that let me know that what I do is a way of life worth having and, although tiring, it is not what most people call work.

The Inn, no matter what the weather, keeps going and even if the schools are all back there are plenty people around for it still to be termed busy. It is what you are used to….. if all the tables are used and no one is waiting that is not too busy. What is busy is if all the tables are used, the weather is good and twenty people are eating outside, and twenty more are waiting for tables,…..Last night I was quite tense as I could see we were going to have a logjam around 7.30/8pm and sure enough with the 14 booked taking out a quarter of the bar, most of the residents appearing at that time, ten walking in and the regulars that are up this week meant a stressful hour. And the Boss was having a day off so you just got on with it and as usual it happens like magic, all the prep work pays off again. A weird little side-show was the request to sign one of the calendars which, if not mistaken, was going to be auctioned off. We are definitely in the hunting season as more and more of the tables are being taken up by shooters and fishers. We had a trustee table in and despite what a lot of people misconstrue we get on find with them, they leaving with compliments and calendars.

This week the weather was as expected and although no gales I waited until I had to go out for the Inn as it would have been seriously awkward to work in all week. Yesterday was heavy going and the thought of doing that all week did not appeal. There was plenty to occupy as we had a new customer for diesel at the Pier, the hard grafting Michael from Shieldaig.

Good income for the Pier as the number of diesel users have dropped off. Then it was up to see the Hydro with investors from the community hydro scheme at Balerno

on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Good walk up with the usual interested chat about how we got to where we are and a good exchange of information. The weather this summer has been perfect for the Hydro with it running at almost full capacity for the last two months after a dry Spring.

Dougal enjoying his customary dip,

watch a high altitude spider have a meal,

take a look at the view

and clean the screen after a barefoot slip on the pipe.

Then a day and a half dip, doing nothing and not enjoying it, before kicking into gear again on Wednesday with a badly needed massage and Inn shift. And so it goes on.

Tag Cloud

Wee Ginger Dug

Biting the hand of Project Fear

Beyond the Horizon

Commentary and Sustainability Policy Analysis from Dr Calum Macleod

Lenathehyena's Blog

IT'S NOT ROCKET SALAD.........in the Land o' cakes and brither Scots

Scottish Communities CAN

Scottish Communities Climate Action Network

Beyond the Bloomin' Heather

A critical discussion of the history and politics behind Scotland's most beautiful landscapes

Jean Urquhart

following dissolution of parliament this site will move to jeanurquhart.com

justsust

Re-imagining a just and green society

Derek Bateman Broadcaster1

An ongoing dialogue

derek bateman broadcaster2

My first and last ever blog (probably)

Small Scales

fisheries and ocean conservation in Atlantic Canada

UHeye

e-learning, networking, and the UHI

Writing

It's got a backbeat. You can't lose it. If you wanna dance with me.

derek bateman broadcaster2

My first and last ever blog (probably)

Jessica's Nature Blog

https://natureinfocus.blog

Shawndra Miller

Giving voice to the world’s remaking

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

isleofronalog

Just another WordPress.com site

Life at the end of the road

the trials and tribulations of an accidental crofter

milesmack

A Highland GP on life the universe and anything...