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

Archive for the ‘Hydro’ Category

“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.

Fuel back on as is Summer Colour

Took a bit of an effort but a trip up to the Screen was needed as it was just over the two weeks since the last time. Now know that three weeks is too long at this time of year as the algae grows very quickly and clogs the holes in the screen up thus the water running over the dam goes over the screen rather than into the chamber. Very dry just now, until today that is, but even now the sun is back out. Decided not to go out today due to the strong south-easterly due to swing round to the south-west. The trip up to the Hydro Head was after a day at sea. It was a day, that although well remunerative, was hard hard work. There was an awkward breeze all day from the north and had to keep going in and out of gear to keep up to the creels and there was just enough motion to make crossing the deck stacking the creels a little graceless. Thus the limbs were tired and ached somewhat, but as usual the rewards for a wee volunteer are immense

both when there and on the way up.

The two pooches would go up every day to check it out of course. Going back to the day at sea,lovely morning,

although the day was hard work the only thing that takes me in is having to land before the evening service at the Inn. Reading that there are people who are now so removed from nature that they cannot teach/tell their children about the environment they live in. This morning began by passing the ubiquitous seals on the Culduie rocks, with watching gannets fly off when you get a little close then a small pod of dolphins swim by with there young. What comes up in the creels seems colourful in the extreme

although the haddock, first for a while, is not in a healthy state.

Now know that this is a Yarrel’s Blenny,

a bit of knowledge from Chris who came to pick up for the aquarium. The last couple of fleets provided the tea for this evening along with many other meals at the Inn.

Tailed all the way in having to finish them off at the moorings, a rare occurrence.

Did not make it out on Monday, a pity for Bethany, as she was on her day off and had arranged to go out, but the breakers were underway by 7.00am and a north wind in full sun meant a breezy day. Finished roping up

the fleet washed on Sunday morning.

That pressure getting it ready was unnecessary but weather and tides always change plans here.

Today another day ashore but still plenty on the go and took the delivery for fuel,

unusually we ran out of diesel on Monday and petrol today, combination of high sales and slightly later delivery caught us short. Only the second time since the refurbished refurbishment. But all well now. Increased my IT knowledge by entering the delivery into the Site computer, still have to work out how to post videos on the blog but will be there fairly soon. Weather is so changeable as can be seen at the After Games Do

and the four Massey Feguson’s parked

at the Inn this morning. The Filling Station snails came out in the rain

and like the sea life are as colourful.

 

 

Crofting the Sea.

And in the post arrives the prototype of the 2018 calendar, still raising funds for the Applecross Community Company and kindly printed at cost by Stewart of https://yourdoricmor.com printers in Edinburgh. The offering for September.

While catching a few langoustines and squat lobsters on my own, although it is a draining physical occupation, you can do it almost subconsciously. Sometimes a trigger can make you think and that is what happened just before Christmas last year. A couple of fisher folk from Shieldaig stopped off for a quick brandy or two while waiting for the bus to take them back round the coast. And lots of questions came my way from which the information required meant a dip into my past when we had a good going scallop farm based in Toscaig and Camusterrach. A combination of it being a hard job, aging body and a slight change in the scallop spawning, possibly due to climate change, meant a great way to make a living was shelved naturally. But the conversation stuck and now there is a little long line in place, tucked away and less than a quarter the length of a crab fleet, to on grow scallops and mussels for personal use.

Work on filling my wee long line continued over the weekend and finally getting the mussels in the water yesterday. I took 30/40 kilos of mussels of the bottom of my dinghy,

a deliberate leave as I wanted them at a decent size for on growing.

Starting to feel like a sea crofter.

Hoping to have a range of seafood by next year that will include, mussels, squat lobsters, langoustines and queen scallops. A fine seafood linguine, fresh and mainly chemical free. Seems that there are traces of emamectin  benzoate appearing in the Inner Sound from the salmon farms. This comes from their lice treatment and hopefully will be banned as proposed next year. But back to the mussels, the next stage is to empty them into a pergola netting, prepared by putting the netting round a tube and filling through the tube with the netting tied off at the base.

The tube was a cardboard one spotted in the school grounds which came up the road in the form of packaging.

Then onto the long line where the mussels settle in, grow the beard attachments and then make their way through the mesh, making the mesh the rope which they will hang onto, feed naturally and grow fat without any grit.

It was a chequered start to the week, with surviving a twelve other shift without me and the Boss falling out. This, it turns out is quite hard work when coming to the end of a long weekend at the Inn. Also knowing that there is a pretty full on day ahead of you. So on Monday it was a 4.45am start, hauling 300 creels before I saw many other boats out beginning their day. Do not usually see the sun breaking through over Applecross Bay both the time of day and year make that an unusual occurrence.

Taking ashore 50 odd kilos for both Inns and setting off to Inverness via Drum by 11.30 with Alison and the pups. Too long a day for them to be on their own. Full van so Sean had to take Alister back after his weekends work on the broadband. Seems most if not all are connected apart from Raasay. Some work to be done and then Sean has to make a trip over to do some physical replacements over there. May join him if time permits but despite the long days there does not seem to be much of that about. A run round Inverness, purchasing anything from food to wedding jackets, haircuts, pet food and boat hooks before heading to Eden Court to make sure of my ticket to see a German renewable energy film. Fascinating but disturbing as well when you realise how little is being done in this country, in fact how we are regressing in the UK. Interesting point about across the world subsidies to fossil fuels compared to renewables, if I remembered right it was 5,300 billion to 120 billion. As well as the FiTs that we get from producing green energy from the hydro scheme we will be reinvesting these monies back into the community. Many people visit Applecross for more than the scenery, good food and walks, but also to make contact with a vibrant and thriving community. Monies well spent on two levels. Made it to the film with an hour to spare so it was off down the Ness with the dogs.

No plan but ended up in the greenery of the Ness islands which they loved. Lots of new city dog smells for them and a good hour to chill out before the film. By the time Alison had finished her Community Leadership meeting it was 11.30pm by the time we were back parked at the Schoolhouse.

Maybe a reaction of packing too much into a day and not eating properly Tuesday’s planned day off did not go to plan as the day was spent, sitting mainly as too painful to lie down, waiting for a migraine to dissipate. But even then when the recovery kicks in there is time to take the mates out for a wander down the shore in the evening sun and set up for the next days fishing.

Still the catches are holding up, only down side is I am still missing a fleet of creels to the north, spreading the search further each time as it looks like it has been dragged out of position. Summer definitely here going by what is floating by in the water.

Busy with other boats fishing close by.

 

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.

Hydro Walk and Local Colour.

(Friday evening) Down from a trip up to the Head of the Community Hydro to show Rosslyn and brother Gordon the set up.

We had gone to the Turbine House where Owen joined us but he had band practice so did not head up the track. The view on the way down was worth the trip up on its own. Sights, sounds and chat all contributed to affine evenings walk. Having hauled 360 creels earlier in the day did not lessen the enjoyment although the legs felt it a little. Gordon is well versed in the industry, being involved in geotech in Norway, and may well come up with some new ideas to use the energy locally.

Lots of questions about generation, best times for usage, how much etc. Always good to see things from an outside perspective, learnt that early on in the volunteering scene. On the way up there are always colours

and nature to see and I was always being left behind both on the way up and back down. With the unusual dry spell we are in the 52% down spell included in the business plan.

(Saturday evening) Finishing up at the Inn tonight as have not the energy to go down to the Community Hall to hear the Band of Matthias. Germans playing rock covers. Busy enough evening but little contact, maybe a wee bit too tired but as long as no one knows. Coming up to eighteen hours since work began, earlier start with lambs calling and the rain falling, an unusual occurrence over the last three weeks. Not a fan of dozing so got up and used the forecast for the beginning of the week to get out. Bit of wind on the way so next week not expected to start before Thursday. There was a bit of a change in the blue skies we have had over the last few days.

Was fortunate to only have to haul four fleets as the fishing was fairly good. Despite having a fleet cut and not retired and losing a fleet, suspect some of the buoys the pile barge had wrapped around it was two of mine.

Two fleets down just now having lost one to the north, failing to recover that one after three tries. Not to panic as I will get it back eventually. That is fishing, plan a boat drying out and pressure wash, oil change and a trip to Inverness via Loch Ness Inn when it is windy. No end to the hours of activity. But in amongst it all I enjoy the chats with the elders of the community, random craic about sheep, peat cutting and had a visit from the south end of Raasay. A chap, Willie, who fished on the Mary Ann with my Dad no less. These little dips into the past are good for keeping the older folk alive, the oral history of the area will become harder to maintain in another generation as the world becomes more mobile. Well it is now kicking out time………. and done in the best possible taste.

The colours at sea

and on the shore

are equal to those on land, mostly they are out of sight and mind so tend not to be looked after as well but more of that next.

The light on the way down from the hydro did take the breath away though.

“My Wife danced with Colonel Gaddafi”

Being on the water is the ultimate, just observing the many sights one sees in nature, whether it be a line of cormorants or squid eggs on the creel,

but the balance is working at the Inn which constantly throws up surprise after surprise. You turn up in whatever mood (and yes sometimes it is a shift you just want to get through) and if it is not a particularly good mood these are the ones that are turned round when you meet people. These last three weeks there has been  a stream of fascinating encounters with the various guests of the Inn. Alex,

the young chap from Essex with the Aussie accent, who has decided to walk round the Coast of Britain and Ireland, including all the western isles to raise monies for the RNLI. He so far has raised over £40,000 and is now going down the east coast on his way home. He was struggling a bit with carrying his pack due to back problems but is still under way as far as I know.

Then there are the growing numbers of people who come in the door and call me by name. I have to ask a few questions now to place them and promise to try to remember names…almost impossible as there are so many repeat customers. Trying to use tags does not always work as I have remembered a couple’s dog called Archie, she is a GP in Gorgie and he is press officer for RNLI…but can I remember their names.  Events manager at SEC, architects from Glasgow, accountants from Elgin and a few more dogs called Archie are all coming in. Tonight it was the vets from Springholm and eventually managed to remember the last conversation with them, which I thought was not bad considering they were last here four years ago. Sometimes names do not matter, the four from Minnesota who were in this week were great craic and had a fine night and a drink with them. For them, me borrowing a baseball cap with the logo, “Make Applecross Great Again” coined by Tom and Aron just cracked them up. You find that you have to put Americans at ease, certainly the ones I come across, when we briefly discuss politics. They are at one both embarrassed, unbelieving and to a great extent scared about their new leader and wonder how it has happened. A very general statement but the American citizens who travel tend to have more open, liberal and democratic bent to their views. It is shaping up to be a very interesting summer as already I am being asked for views on Brexit and Independence.

Some you make a connection with that is completely out of the blue. Another group of Americans, this time an L.A. based five, four of whom are TV writers and an actor. They made their way round Applecross, while staying at Eagle Rock and, according to them, were met with what they called incredible kindness where eve they went and even included Dougal, the Applecross I want to know and do. Had a couple of drinks with these people and there is a great exchange of interest in each other’s lives.

They were very interested in the how the Community operates and were hugely interested in the community ventures and struggles and barriers we still have to break down. You could tell that this group were touched by the genuine spirit of Applecross and they are coming back with AK insisting on a day out on the Varuna. As she has done some crabbing on Chesapeake Bay I think she will have no problem in dealing with a day on board.

On thursday evening, it being slightly quieter, noticing that there was a gentleman sitting quietly at table 7 on his own and with his golden retriever, I sat down to have a wee chat. He was staying in room 3 and a rule learned from the Boss Lady is no-one is left out. Many people want to be left in solitude or if there is a couple but you pick up that very quickly and that is part of the deal. However in this case I struck gold. Turns out he was from Harrogate, names exchanged his being John, I found out he is an investor in our Community Hydro Scheme. Incidentally the Turbine House has been beautifully clad

with sustainably cut larch and is looking good. Back to John, a regular visitor and so very supportive of the Community ventures but realistic of the challenges, he was 40 years in the RAF, straight from school and travelled round the world through this occupation. His wife had died eight years ago and he had bought his dog, Poppy, as company. This snippet as well as our wee chat about what a mess we seem to make when we intervene in other people’s countries, in particular the Middle East. Then he casually commented that his wife had danced with Colonel Gaddafi and it was a running joke between them that the Colonel never recovered and went down hill from then on. The late arrival, originally from Ardnamurchan, but spent a bit of time in Sheildaig due to his Mum being nurse there for a time in the eighties, completed an evening that otherwise would be spent watching Netflix, dozing on the couch. The memories from Shiedaig were fun as names were dredged up like “Biter” and being pushed off the pier when he was too cheeky by a fisherman. He couldn’t swim but he was told to stand up and he realised he was in waist deep water. Think I may know the name of the fisherman but better keep that to myself just in case. Then a message comes through from Deep South. A small film crew, claiming not to be in the Bear Grylls category, but interested in wild/adventure activities were put in touch and seem to be coming up this week. Weather not looking so hot but Wednesday seems to be slightly better. Of course being the Applecross Inn the next conversation I have is with a camera woman who is going out to Panama to work with……Bear Grylls. You could not invent the Applecross Inn as you would not believe it.

Out and About and a 28th

A day to forget. As the point of no return approaches I finally get some paperwork done. It is ridiculously easy if it was done on the day or even at the end of the week. 6/9 months later and scrabbling about looking for statements and invoices does the head no good. But one set of VAT Returns upto date and a trip through to Inverness means that Books maybe done on time and the debt collector phone calls can stop. Find it strange that a reclaim of around £500 can be turned into a £2,000 due but that is HMRC for you. Keep tabs on the wee boys and let the super yachts be built.

Had a weekend chatting away about small hydro, small fishers and basically small businesses. With a far better spread of small earners ploughing profits back into local economies instead of it being drained away from being recycled and keeping everyone occupied and less poor. Whether people may be against renewable subsides it is a way to both redistribute wealth and produce cleaner power. of course the down side of that is unless it is community owned then the subsidy just goes to the landowner who tends to have wealth already. The way round that is to direct the subsidy to community only schemes. Too Cuban for the current UK I suppose where there is a 95% cut in renewable subsidy under way.

As I was supposed to be doing paperwork over the weekend I managed to do everything but and was out and about,

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hoping to catch some winter shots.

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Not a lot doing although the hills had a covering

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there was a rapid change in the temperature.

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Big tide

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on Saturday and Dougal

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and Eilidh had a great run on the Bay sands

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after delivering the last of the local AppleJuice forms. Saturday evening ambled along and finished fairly early with a couple of scrabble games and more hydro chat. Mick was over with some of the larch which is for cladding the Turbine House and got the control boards connected remotely. There was a bit of playing about with the programs that allowed the hydraulics to open up the spear valve fully and we now have the generator running at 100%. It was a bit of an amble on Sunday lunch shift as well, 20+ lunches and the Boss away at a Brewery meeting. Was called in to do a photo shoot and not sure how successful in the light. Something to do with tele and publicity.

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Nipped up to the Inn on Friday for a token bottle of Crabbies to help celebrate the Boss’s 28th year in town especially as she does not look a day over 60!! No fishing until all paperwork done and can then go back to the real world of real work and stop being a volunteer tax collector for the government. Seems the reports on catches are that they are very poor so am not missing much. Away to the first of the Celtic Connection weekends via an AGM. Unfortunately train tickets bought were for an AGM in Inverness and not where it is going to be held….Edinburgh. One of the jobs is the train station at Inverness and will practice sob story on way in.

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