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

Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Applecross Meanderings

On the way south to see and hear Afro Celt Sound System and leaving Inverness behind finally. The ticket collecting machine did not like my Visa card. May be a west east issue. As a result by the time I had picked them up from the ticket office the planned train had left. So now after an M and S coffee, couple of music purchases, Lau and Julie Fowlis, it is south we go. Another difference between east and west is Christmas seems to have arrived on the east coast, horribly early. These little jaunts are essential to life in Applecross where believe it or not one does suffer from cabin fever. However a meander around the community,

with

and without the dogs allow for some good viewing of colours

and bird life.

Keeping the dogs off the beaches at the time of year is good for the seabirds, enabling them not to fly off trying to avoid mad spaniels and terriers. One or two little hiccups at the Hydro, a couple of tripped switches but no significant lose of power out put. Angus is always about.

It still uses up a bit of volunteer time, getting the key for access, checking over the switches and returning the key and you are three-quarters of an hour down, that as well as a screen clean and before you know it well over a couple of hours are taken up. But to counter balance there is always the views.

Events of the week have involved our Community Council no longer having enough elected councillors to continue, still have to check up to make doubly sure but an election is in the offing. Another meeting this week to progress the Community Company consultation, something that should not surprise anyone as the Community Company is obliged to find out what the Community want and for it to carry out its wishes if it is feasible. There may be consulting fatigue in the Community but this one is quite important as it is a Community led one. Yet more volunteer time but gradually cutting back on the overload.

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.

Community Audit.

A day ashore due to a breeze from the south so a catch up with a fuel dip and a screen clean

up at the Head of the Hydro. Interesting that it was only ten days since going up and the screen had a skim of green algae on it. With the rain we have had over the last few days there is a spate running so there is no effect on the power out put, it running at 90kWhs for the last week. It was shoes off and trousers rolled up and even then getting pretty wet on cleaning.

Good to see the monitor reading at 7000 kWhs more than the whole of last year with just over three months to go. Called in to grease the generator shaft, Dougal seems to have mastered photo bombing now.

This despite being the subject of many himself, this checking out the dam at the Head.

You would think he would be happy with all the ones I take of him. Have to say he gives me hours of pleasure and entertainment.

At the moment the community audit is well, with everything up to date, the Hydro running well, the Filling Station has 7000+ litres in each tank and, dare I say it, the broadband is going like a train, at least in the schoolhouse. There has been a dramatic improvement around a week ago with download and upload speeds both good, certainly relatively, hopefully across the community. The fact it is quiet is a good sign. There is always some sights on the way

(Friday evening) Starting to think I should not be saying anything about broadband these days. This morning it had to be kicked started and also hear that the improvement is not universal throughout the community, frustrating. Even since writing the above a couple of days ago we are now taking in fibre optic from Broadford by radio. All the rest is as stands as there seems to be only two cabinets. There is supposed to be a big push in Applecross, something we are very sceptical about, opinion says that someone “important” has been pushing for us, I suspect it is because AppleNet exists and is a tiny wee threat to current monopolies.

On the water today with nothing but tangles due to the strong tides, rain and a few ships of interest,

and a couple of small foul ups as the creels went out earlier in the week. Still, managed a good fishing despite feeling very tired after sorting out the tangles. Trying to get a stock in for a couple of days off next week with a trip to Lismore planned. Attention caught by hearing familiar voices on the radio. Mark Stevens interviewing Jimmy up at the farm chatting about Angus the stag he is feeding by hand. Just so happens I caught Jimmy in the Inn having a blether with the twins, Phammie and John

while Angus was causally  looking at Dougal, having just come down from the screen, who decided that he was a bit too big and close to chase. He does look well fed.

Although the rain here is not at as heavy as places further east with word that the road to Inverness is closed due to flooding and part of it washed away west of Garve there was a litre break and the sunset came through again, different but always worth a look.

 

“Media Tart”

I honestly do not go looking for things to do or get involved in, I have a wee problem with saying “no”, especially if it helps a cause I believe in and round Applecross there are plenty of them to be active in. Sunday evening found me down at the Pier, mainly as a result of a contact that involved Paul, a Reuters photographer coming out on the Varuna on Monday. Rather than have a pile of rope on the stern I roped up the last fleet to be washed this year, managed all but the last twelve, leaving them for the way out in the morning. I ended up switching off the music and listened to the nature flying round Pol Creadh, the grumpy calls of the herons, the occasional honk of the cormorant, the high-pitched but short call of the small gull and all accompanied by a cacophony of a flock of birds settling into the trees on the Culduie side of the Bay. This done, I had promised myself that a trip up to the Hydro screen was needed and duly set off with the dogs at the back of nine. Fading light but an enjoyable and rapid hike up the track. Not before losing the dogs for a couple of minutes, then hearing a series of excited barks coming towards me I thought a hind would appear soon but was slightly taken aback by a badger tearing across the path in front of me with a Dougal in hot pursuit about 5 yards behind, both going at a serious rate of knots. Dougal, fortunately, responds to shouted requests and immediately came to a muddy halt, not realising that tackling a badger would have been out of his league and would probably ended up with a visit to the vet. Screen cleaned, Dougal double checking it,

mainly to get rid of the mud, power increased back up to 90Kwhs and a welcome couple of Crabbies to finish a very long day.

Not before getting my hand crushed by a Bantry Bay Irishman saying keep up all your campaigning, it will come good. Seems he is battling his government over their attempt to harvest seaweed in Bantry Bay on an industrial scale. Why do authorities keep expanding industries that outgrow their environments, our salmon farming comes to mind. Export figures come before longterm sustainability.

The Inn has been full to overflowing the last few visits,

doing the door most nights now to give the Boss a well-earned break.

For me it is a lot easier coming from home or the sea to organise front of house. Would not be quite so keen if I was there day and night. Wednesday evening was finished of with some fine box playing by Ali from Inverness, originally Caithness. He has and is still playing with Addie Harper, both Senior and Junior. Thursday evening saw another visit from Tarnybackle and they went down a storm, always good to get a wee catchup with John’s fine version of Caledonia, our version of the Irish Spancil Hill.The Inn that night was full all night, example being the seventeen geographers from Hamburg University. They loved the Inn, the music and everything about the night. Hug from the organiser, reminding me of the many compliments and even more hugs from customers who leave after saying what a friendly place it is, the food amazing and the atmosphere second to none. The Catalonians who have visited could not be more friendly, especially when we talk nationhood, resulting in yet another leaving hug, Karen’s German Mum completing a fine warm series of shifts. So satisfying when customers leave with such a strongly felt welcome that they come up to you to shake hands or give you a hug, it is a testament to every one who works at the Inn. The previous Thursday it was a bunch of HillBillies playing and again busy night.

Feeling like the media tart from Toscaig at the moment. It all started on Tuesday with Olivia who was travelling with a group of 21, mainly, landscape architects from across Europe with a Prof from Edinburgh.

They were doing an alternative view of the NC500, pouring wax into the waters of the Rogie Falls does sound alternative. She had come across the SCFF report on sustainable creel fishing on the Net and was after an interview with a fisher chappie. My name was suggested and I rarely miss chance to put forward the long-term sustainable practice of creel fishing so agreed to meet up. Beautiful evening and we sat outside the Inn in the evening sun

talking fishing and trying to talk her through why the establishment allows our waters to be degraded so much by the trawl and dredge. A view from the outside and she just could not understand why we have allowed ourselves to be dictated to by such a small group of fishers. Unfortunately due to Brexit one of the principles the Federation used up till now, Article 17, will now fall by the wayside, which is a fairer distribution of wealth amongst fishermen. Chatted about the NEF New Deal and the No Growth economy. I do not want to keep growing, I am happy to stay small to work within the environment I am fortunate to live in. From then it was on to Paul, working up a photographic essay for Reuters News Agency who came out on Monday on a rainy and breezy day.

Hauled a couple of fleets of creels that was pure pleasure on seeing the quantity and quality of langoustines in them. Although the female egg carriers are appearing more and more in the creels the landed catch is still looking as good as it has done over the last 15 years. He did seem to enjoy himself and said he found it all very interesting, especially the sustainable side to the job. Lots of photos taken and I saw him in the Inn enjoying a fish pie before heading off to photograph Ewen and head up to Assynt and some gamekeepers. From there it was at the Inn and an interview with the BBC Travel Show about the effects of the NC500.

And Applecross Ices got a mention as well.

Here is what you don’t see below the counter

but luckily inside has Jolene.

More and more the different angles to the NC500 are coming to the fore, having turned into a road trip is proving, I think a mistake. There is so much more to the Highlands than this mad scramble to do 500 miles in a week or in some daft cases a day. The last media event of the day was being interviewed by the BBC Travel Show, an interview that, ironically was stopped several times by a five car convoy, two camper vans and a screaming toddler in a push chair. I may not have said what the anti NC500 folk wanted to hear but pointed out that although Applecross has changed it is not all bad…..in fact I find little that is. Standing outside the Inn looking across the Bay I saw the Sand track and was reminded of my mother on a BSA250 going along it carrying out her district nursing duties post war. Yes, you can argue everything has changed here beyond recognition, but I can still walk up that track and meet no one, take time out and draw in the awesome scenery from miles around. Maybe the change is that the folks had little opportunity to take that time out as they were closer to subsistence living. I know that things were not easy when my Dad grew up here and he regarded me coming back as a failure as he was unable to achieve his ambitions due to family loyalties. The NC500 has turned Applecross into a pit stop on a track, but over time those who follow TV and Ad campaigns and tick boxes may find a new box to tick and those who have taken time to find the real Applecross will come to further explore its Spiritual qualities that I come across every day.

Rain at Last

(Tuesday) Given the choice between a 33C urban office job or a grey still morning with soft falling Highland rain on a glass sea,

well there isn’t really any way I could do the 33C one.

Took a couple of hours to get on the water on Monday morning. A longish, felt longer than it was, shift at the Inn. Occasionally the odd shift drags and looking at the clock becomes a regular glance every twenty minutes. Plenty of people through and no one knows you are a bit out of sorts. Headache kicks in properly mid afternoon despite lots of painkillers. They still came from as far afield as Hawaii and Sardinia. Home via the Chalet internet and bed by ten. Although it is still busy it feels a lot quieter at the Inn. Still no tables but at least the residents are not waiting for their’s and there is not a queue of twenty.

(Friday evening) you could say it is a bit of a recovery day. Needed a long sleep and even with that behind me there is a pretty constant tiredness in the old legs. With the week almost done it is not that surprising as most days it has been pretty physical. Today’s recovery day involved a bit of a catch up at the Chalet, hoping not for much longer as Alison is taking our broadband contact home from Inverness to work on our switch over. We and others have been off for four weeks now, too long. Had a conversation about it today and it feels like a rerun of the Filling Station problems. Crashing every day, rebooting, late billing and general stress. The fact that fuel is no longer is not a topic of anyone’s chat is testimony to how well it is being run by the Trading Company now. I am hoping this will be the case with our broadband in the months to come.

So a visit to the Community Hall where the School entertained us by running a French Cafe lunch, with Thor, Mason and Lily attending our table, in French no less. Lots of Potential for front of house at the Inn. The onion soup and chocolate cake were pretty good as well. Sam and Caroline are up from deep Deep South and arranged for Sam to come up to the Hydro screen checking it over for a clean. After Mick’s visit last week was thinking all was not quite as it should be with a fair bit of rain it was only running at 54 kWhs this morning. Looking at local streams I reckoned there should be more power being produced. After a wander through Carnoch, with Sam, visiting his favourite birch tree,

we made it to the top via the Archeological Trail.. By the time we came back down to the Turbine House there were 84kWhs being produced.  via the Archeological Trail. Lots of chat about land, sea and everything else, and a lesson learned about cleaning the screen

more regularly in the summer.

Better to have wet feet rather than wet shoes. You can see half the screen clean and the water going through while most is running over the dirty half.

Does not matter what the weather the view is always worth a stop and look.

Came back down through the coppicing part of Carnoch after Sam stopping to admire the Hebridean Barns, resuscitated through the ALPs project and reverting to its original purpose of clothes dryer.

We were in good company as well.

Fishing has stayed at a very healthy level with only 250/300 creels hauled to get the requisite amount for the Inns and a decent wage. Although tired my extra wee trip out on the evening of the Solstice was not regretted. On the way when I was heading back to the lights of Applecross, the hum of the Diesel engine and the breaking of the water against the bow, I went back in time and thought of the fishermen of Applecross who spent a week at a time away from home and what they must have been thinking of when they saw the lights of home after their week away, in far harsher conditions than I usually experience. Apart from the many octopodes,

occasional gannet

and that sunset

it was the simple routine of hauling, emptying, rebaiting, stacking and reshooting the creels.

Often said and thought by me that these trips to sea keep my sanity intact after the frenzy of the Inn. This week has been a little easier, a little dip in the numbers to just being busy. That’s every table being full but not the twenty people waiting. There are a fair amount of workmen at Sand and the biggest problem they have is accommodation. Amusing as that was one of the selling points during discussions around the Range expansion, that the work would fill accommodation places in Applecross. My quiet protestations that this was not necessary fell on deaf ears but has proven to be true. The first visit of Tarneybackle took place last night and they went down a storm, especially as they did not sing Sam the Skull. There was dancing till late and a return visit in three weeks is on the cards so farewells were not too extreme.

And always a view to stop and see on the way to and from the Inn.

Seeing in the Solstice

Couple of days ago I had a strong urge to be on the water around the Summer Solstice. Yesterday as the sun set over the Staffin Cliffs I made it out to the Varuna and intended to fish into the Rising Sun.

Sunset was worth it in itself and although there was the remnants of the northerly breeze coming down the Sound on the way out.

I picked up the first fleet and began hauling. Feeling of aloneness in nature was strong but also an awareness of working just a little near the edge. Everything had to be thought through and the descending darkness meant that I could not really carry on as my fleets were too near the other boats working the Sound and I have put a couple of fleets over them in the last two hauls in broad daylight. Not enough light to see the bouts although to the North it never darkened at all.

Steaming in to the lights of Shore Street, Milton and Camusterrach listening to the bow wake and the steady hum of the engine may turn out to be one of my moments of the year. Earlier in the day it was relax time

for a couple of the Schoolhouse inhabitants.

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.

The Spring Winter Battle.

Was going to post this a little earlier today but Dougal was looking a little sad

so brought that part of the day forward. He is now suitably filthy after a wee trip down to Toscaig where he went digging for rodents and tried to consume some afterbirths. The walk always includes other activities such as the wood gathering and the odd shore retrieval. Last winter I was alerted to some salmon farm floats coming ashore just out from Cruary. Had my eye on them and planned a salvage with the Varuna on a high tide and north wind. One however came a floating into the Bay and is now in the garden to be used as a raised bed after having the top cut off and the polystyrene disposed off. Garden is very unkempt but my excuse is I am waiting for the dandelions to seed as there are no end of bees and other pollinators on them.

It being Spring there are signs of growth everywhere.

Where does one start with all the political turn arounds, swings both local and national. Another election which closely follows our local Highland Council elections. I probably would have done anyway but certain that my number 1 vote is going to Topher Dawson, who resides in the west just up the coast, is standing for the Green Party and so far has been the only candidate to visit Applecross. He is a very self-effacing chap who has visited 15 community councils and not once asked for anyone to vote for him. (One of those weird co-incidences has just occurred, a second candidate, Biz, has just been to the door with a leaflet!!) Topher, as well as attending our CC, came up the next day to the Hydro Scheme and up to the Head where he gave me a hand in cleaning the screen, this can be seen in his election leaflet. Then we have Andy Wightman contesting a defamation case in the courts and having to crowd fund for his appeal. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/awdefamation This is an appeal that we have contributed to, on two counts, if he goes broke as a result he loses his seat and would be a great lose to the Scottish Parliament, and we need people like him to speak up and out for the many issues that affect us all locally. And finally our neighbouring country has decided to call yet another election, but new UK immigration laws are already having an effect in the Highlands as is seen in Lagan. A family who emigrated to Scotland from Canada in 2008, were running a local shop and coffee shop, are being deported despite petitions, letters, MPs protesting. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-39657447?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_scotland_news&ns_source=twitter&ns_linkname=scotland People wonder why we want to have our own country, well not deporting residents who are part of a rural community and not having our MSPs taken through court by directors from a company based in an offshore tax haven would be a start. The local news just broken today is that the Kishorn Yard is now going to be used for building a floating offshore wind farm. Two hundred jobs for a worthwhile cause and all appears well locally. Hopefully it will fit in well with the local economy providing orders and employment for existing local businesses. I am sure there will be unintended consequences in the future but we will wait and see. http://www.kishornport.co.uk/2017/04/floating-wind-farm-to-create-up-to-200-jobs-at-kishorn-port/

The season is well underway although it appears that there is still a battle going on between Winter and Spring. Winter is forecast to win back some more time at the start of next week, but there are days, like today, when the bees are loading up with pollen.

We are caught a bit in the middle of it as we are not getting to sea as much as we would like to. Last week and again earlier this week the catches have not been too bad and for the most part the Inns I supply have them on the menus. The gear mending and washing season is already upon us and yesterday I was along-side the Pier loading up creels that have been clogging up the jetty for the last few months. A bit more activity around the Pier and had to wait while other users landed scallops and the Marine Scotland boat which is working on salmon smolt research.

Cleaned, baited and stacked on board for tomorrow. Getting a little busier on the water

although I am as far west as I have been for quite some time. The bonxies are arriving in ever-increasing numbers

and one or two are looking particularly bright

with a variant of colours on their feathers.

The Inn is busy but apart from Good Friday, when it was off the scale with 534 meals served throughout the day, it has been manageable. The Dream Machine also in operation would have put the figure over 650. I do not work Fridays but the rest of the shifts have been busy enough. Only when people like the Truckers come in from Sheildaig for their weekly band practice do you realise how busy it is. You are just doing the normal job of finding tables for people to sit at and eat the great food. They just shake there heads at how busy it all is. Last week and it could only happen in Applecross Inn but when you have to deal with a booking for seven that was not written down, you take emergency action. Hopefully Geoff and Maureen did not mind too much when I moved their table, yes their table, with their half eaten meal on it to make way for the seven. Knowing the regular customers really well has its benefits as I would not have done that with 99% of the other visitors to the Inn. The Good Friday session was topped off with a three coming in at 10.15pm and looking at the menu.They were told it was all over but checked the fryers were still on they asked if they could have their own chicken nuggets cooked. Okay was the reluctant reply so out one went to come back with nuggets and drumsticks. the kitchen staff duly obliged and as a wee something arranged the drumsticks very artistically in lines like a rack of lamb. Was looking good until the next request was can we make it a takeaway. There is no real answer to this and so off they went, more happy Applecross customers, the Inn caters for all. Last night was a little different as there were lots of twos coming in and we have a limited supply of tables for two. The Boss was getting a well-earned rest so I was on the mix and match. Managed four tables and it gives extra pleasure seeing two couples leaves the table and saying sincere Cheerios outside with handshakes and hugs. Three hours before they had never met. Some people prefer not to share and if they are prepared to wait just a little longer then that is perfectly okay as well. Good food is not exclusive to the Inn and when convenience food is needed to assuage a fierce hunger there is nothing better than hot fried langoustine tails in sea salt and wild garlic leaves from the garden.

The brown bread should be home-baked but the day is not long enough.

To finish I managed a trip to Inverness with langoustines for the Loch Ness Inn and coming back through Glen Torridon on a wood scouting mission by our local tree surgeon, the view looking down on Loch Maree is often worth the stop. One of the iconic views in Scotland.

Capt ‘n Taneil

There seems no end of meetings to keep a Community functioning and there are many more that I do not go to. Tonight was the Community Company AGM where we saw two new directors coming forward, a retiring Chair after six years and a healthy and on time financial accounts. Many names mentioned tonight, both paid and volunteers, support from members and lots of projects in the pipe line. The latest being the proposed land purchase from the Highland NHS to build elderly/disabled housing by the Applecross Surgery and a feasibility study to examine prospects of re-establishing a ferry from Toscaig Pier along with other ideas prior to possible purchase from Highland Council. Imagine what the Community could do with access to a parcel of land….that was another meeting, this time on Friday. It was a little sad to hear the Chair say she had failed in her attempt to access land from the Trust. I do not see it as that. It is all part of the process and one day the dam will break. She had innumerable conversations about land with the Trust but all were rebuffed, but never directly, showing that this approach has been tried as well as the requests during Trust/Community Company meetings.

But suddenly there is not enough time in the day, or at least the parts of the day that you are not recovering from all that needs to be done. The recent weather has helped raise the energy levels somewhat although have to admit it was a pretty slow start this morning. Convinced myself that I was still suffering from Winter Lag and it was really an hour earlier. There is always a variety to life here. On Thursday I had the very pleasant company on board the Varuna of one of our soon to be departing Aussie staff.

Taneil came out to see what went on and insisted that I was Captain so we were Capt and Taneil for the day. Could not have picked a better day for it. In fact it was a short one as the fishing was pretty good and we had enough on board after five fleets. Stacking creels and tailing squats

make the day short and there always plenty to see, maybe attention span needs to be improved..

( Due to blip in the power lost Internet for a couple of days)

(Thursday) The variety of life never ceases here and Friday was just like that, so different from thursday. Taking some langoustines through to Loch Ness Inn, the Boss blagged a lift through as her leg had been playing up and strong antibiotics are not conducive to driving. She was having a Board meeting at the second best Inn in the Highlands and as Dougal and Eilidh were with me there was a walk on the cards, meeting was going to take three hours plus. With no real plan in mind I took the road to the end of Bunloit and took the hill walk rather than the Great Glen Way and went up Meall Fuar-mhonaidh.

Just kept walking to the time permitted and found it really enjoyable despite being a water man. As I am not often on the hills away from Applecross this is the first time I have been walking on a grouse moor. Seeing the burnt barren strips of land

where there could be varied habitation

that sustained such variety of life other than a mono culture for the few.

It was a little change for Dougal from his usual racing miles behind turnstones and oystercatchers, he was in his element  for a couple of minutes when he put up a black grouse.

The chase lasted long after the grouse was well out of sight. Up to the snow line and with views down Loch Ness and across in land to the Cairngorm a fine walk. Back to the Inn where the meeting was still going on so I headed up to Inverness to race round the usual commercial outlets to keep the business side of things going. Easily spend £1,000 on equipment, always the other side to a good fishing. The marine environment needs constant replacing of gear and capital. Good to get home though.

Back to yet another meeting, the last hopefully for a wee while regarding the Trust consultation. I reckon I have done really well to keep quiet and only interject, mainly from a realistic and tired/patient view-point. Interesting where the ” Working Group” has arrived at. A very polite version of what the Community Company has been doing for the last decade or so. We have put together a statement that has two main points.1 Improving the poor communications with the Trust and 2 The need for the Community to access land to continue its attempt to develop along sustainable lines. Bearing in mind this is a new approach from the whole Community rather than the perceived Commies who live in the Schoolhouse it has been an interesting exercise in watching the Group hold firm. Constantly brought up was the Community Development plan and again and again restoration of old Trust buildings. A Trust agenda as opposed to a Community one. This goes back to who and how the  consultants are paid, who is running the consultation and what is the agenda. The agenda is not remotely what it was at the start. This all may seem negative but I have stated time and again a win/win for the Community and Trust to work together. The perfect example would be for the Trust to sell the Community land and for the Community to develop as the Community needs and wishes. The Trust as the land provider gets finance and kudos for helping the Community to continue to develop. It will be interesting to see reaction to the statement finally sent to the Trustees, the best and politest possible, undemanding but pointing out  the situation as it is. One reaction locally was disbelief, followed by the question, “What the hell have we been trying to do for the last decade?” There will be people within the Community that will disagree strongly from the statement issued by the Working Group but we are democratic and are supposed to representing the view of the majority of the Community. I know in the past that any division has been used by the Trust to allow nothing to progress as there is a negative/passive view about the future here. So not only do we have Brexit, a pending Independence Referendum we have interesting local politics as well.

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