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

Archive for the ‘Local Food’ Category

Meaning of Life

Cycling home listening to Duncan Chisholm playing An Ribhinn Donn followed by Big Archie with this back drop showing to the North West

and having completed a twelve-hour shift at the Inn helping make people happy and content constitutes a real meaning to life. From the guy who was at the Inn before I was having had the usual two punctures to the final group on table 14 who were eating a Cheese Board and Sticky Toffee Puddings it was an almost universal appreciation from all who visited the Inn on the day. The weather, food and welcome brought them all out and judging from the spontaneous handshakes and thanks as customers left it went well. The whole team at the Inn has to be proud of what they did today. The comments and stories today could have filled a book and came from everyone from across Europe to the States and back. I am only guessing that there were probably over the 600 people served well today. The kitchen went like a dream, even when Steve had to cook off a whole sirloin to feed the last seven tables. Ranged all the way through to several well done ones. Every one who waited just a little longer than usual were all so considerate. Mind you we were are all pretty knackered by 10.30pm. But for me the tunes and the post sunset was uplifting. The first stop was just before Milton and then as the Staffin Cliffs came into view I had to stop and gaze in awe.

Hegg Mac

In a bit of mild shock this evening over what could have been earlier. I am well aware of the greater tragedy for many folk after the insanity in Manchester. We have a Manchester connection at the Inn and it brings it home that we are never far away from the actions of madmen. These people have to have a disconnect with the norms of humanity to carry out acts like they do. My own potential mishap pales into insignificance when put against what the people of Barra must be feeling tonight, but life for others goes on.

Tuesday was a hit the wall day and that meant that absolutely nothing got done and resulting in eighteen hour days since, not remotely catching up but at least not falling further behind. The weekend featured the music brought to us by Hegg Mac, a band

that Matthias from Karslruhe,

brought over to play their world tour of Applecross. To be perfectly frank I did not hear as much as I would have liked. Saturday night the tour got underway at the Community Hall but as I was fishing and others were younger and keen to go I stayed on and finished at the Inn. Feeling pretty knackered so the ease on down of the late night suited me fine and the second night of the tour took place at the Inn. Busy old lunch even with the poor weather. Although sold as the “acoustic set” there was a fair amount of setting up.

When they did get to play they rocked and sounded really good. Good food

and great music, what more does one need, Raymond taking the snaps?

Again coming to the end of the shift I did not hear as much as I would have liked but did manage the whole of the first set. They finished up at the Walled Garden but that turned out to be my Wall day.

Monday saw me delivering langoustines to Loch Ness Inn, Alison to Beauly, Aron to Toscaig and racing around Inverness trying to organise passports, Gaelforce, Highland Wholefoods, before picking up wood and herring

on the way home. Light and still at the Shed moorings.

Maybe the Tuesday off was so on the cards although I did not see it on the horizon.

Back on the trolley for Wednesday and it was down to the Pier early to throw off some creels for washing,

before nipping up the road for a badly needed massage from Sarah, back to the Pier to wash the creels and then the shift at the Inn. Busy enough with a table of fourteen booked in at 8pm but as they were the Karlsruhe crowd on their last night all went well with only a short wait for tables for a couple of residents. We then finished the night with a truly acoustic session

but again tiredness takes over and I am off down the road for an early start on Thursday as the weather had quietened down.

Fishing fine and one of the fleets back in operation so just the other to find. Unusually have had five attempts at it so far, beginning to wonder if it has been dragged a little out of position. The well forecast weather arrived this afternoon

and it was a pleasure to be out.

Not a lot of sea life about but the views are fine and quiet waters are the order of the day. The bees are looking very healthy and busy

and the garden is buzzing with bees and colour.

That left today to deal with and all was going well. Varuna beached alongside the Pier, another fleet ashore to be washed along with the bottom of the Varuna. Things going swimmingly, not quite getting the fleet ready for going out in the morning as there were a few bars to repair. Not a good set of creels these ones. Have had a lot of the welds breaking earlier than they should. So with the oil change left to do I floated her off. Decided I would make a really good days work and change the oil at the moorings. Only just decided to do that as it was easily put off for a day or two. Went below and thought just a little more water than there should be, pumped her out and proceeded to empty the sump, then saw water pouring in from the aft compartment, another quick couple of pumps, change of oil and filters, open up the aft hatch to a little fountain of seawater coming in where there should be a bolted on anode. Rotted away and still have a little shake thinking if I had put the oil change off the Varuna would have settled on the bottom in about an hour. Phone to Ewen, who picked up parts on the way home and now ready for another beaching, through the night this time. So close to having my wee world turning upside down.

(2.00am) Ashore again after leaning her against the Pier, waiting for the tide and fitting a new bolt, packing and anode on. The light was fine on the way out,

so now a couple of hours sleep before it all starts again.

Back to Hegg Mac and talking to Matthias it seems the name is taken from a colloquialism with an added Scottish twist, basically meaning de stressing, going with the flow and Scottish, even Applecross style. Thought about that many times this evening when it all could have been so different.

Now 6.00am and all is well after my mini scare, the Varuna is back on her moorings, sitting peacefully as though nothing had happened, and I am going to bed after having an hour and a half sleep. So Hegg Mac works but a wee insight to what goes on behind the scenes in getting some langoustines on the plate.

Blood Doning, Roads and Fishing Talk.

Sitting in Inverness Railway Station wondering if I wait for the next train which comes in over two hours as no message and no partner coming off the instructed to meet train. A remark and a small curry beckons. It’s been a “fun-filled” couple of days, going back to Tuesday in fact when I set off over the Hill to Kyleakin to give blood. All by appointment means you get seen to as soon as you arrive, the only trouble is arriving at the right time after travelling fifty odd miles. Building up a strong distaste for the needle in the arm bit but as I have benign blood, no antibodies, so any one can have it, it’s better that some one gets it….I can always make more. The weather has taken a turn for winter and although cold and windy it is not unusual being called the lambing or cuckoo snows. The Bealach was looking good

but there was not a flake of snow on the road, it being well cleared.

Unfortunately the road continues to deteriorate and more photos going in to the HC Roads Dept

coupled with the news that RBS are no longer sending a bank van to Applecross due to “health and safety concerns over the route” into the peninsula. We had a very helpful visit from Richard Green who is hoping to be re-elected as one of the councillors in Ward 6 and interesting to see how disturbed he was at the state of the Bealach in places.

(Well that was all at the Station) and Alison turned up on the next one so no need for the mobile, till the next time. With all that is going on at sea and on land currently, waiting an extra hour or so in a van is little hassle. The day had started at 5.15am to get out to the Varuna for some langoustines for Loch Ness Inn. They were duly boxed and put in the back of the van to be delivered in the afternoon. The morning was to be taken up with The Inshore Fishing Conference. Made it in time, just, and heard Fergus Ewing’s opening speech. There was not too much about us in it and it seems a page and a half was missed out that would have made it more relevant to the static gear boys. Have thought for years that we have our politicians and audiences the wrong way round. The politicians should be in the audiences and listening to what is being said rather than telling us about policy and then heading off out the door while the real stuff goes on. I was a bit nervous most of the morning as I had been asked to go onto a panel. I had thought that it was in one of the workshop breakouts but it turned out to be in the main auditorium. Just as well I did not know that until half an hour before. Went to the Norwegian workshop but was slightly off focus for me and it was all about science and compliance rather than down to earth inshore fishing.

So it was off to the Main Hall for the last session before lunch and home. After an intro from  knowledgeable Brexit lawyer/facilitator, Daniel,

and a wee intro from the three of us it was Q and As and I can only go by the reaction and it did seems favourable from what a few people told me afterwards. I tend to go onto automatic pilot a bit when in meetings and this was a first for a panel. Seemingly I sort of butted in and got everyone talking about Inshore Fishing rather than Brexit and went on a little ,mild, I thought, rant about it was the fishermen catching the fish being the main reason that there are not fish in inshore waters. Must have touched a raw nerve with an Avochie fisherman as he asked an awkward two parter but luckily I had enough knowledge to answer it. I appreciate the comments afterwards and just relieved that I did not make an idiot of myself. Now have a researcher, Cardiff University getting in touch and been invited to another Conference!!. Part and probably the most important part, of these gatherings is meeting people and information collecting. The most striking conversation I had and related to the recent ridiculous dredging in Lochcarron. I was listening to a diver telling me how it was and the day it all changed for him. Lucrative diving off Gairloch, enough to be able to afford a rather smart car, which partly due to personal circumstances and good fishing he could now afford. He remembers that day so well as he was on the phone ordering the car and turning round the headland he saw three dredgers circling on the ground he had just come off. He then gave a before and after description of how the sea bed had waves of sand which were protecting the marl beds and above that in shallower waters were the flame shell reefs. On Monday back in the water and all flattened to desertification levels where only periodic visits from dredgers can now fish there. The whole marine eco system has been degraded to this level now up and down the coast to the extent that divers only find small patches that the dredge cannot get into. The whole reason for me being on the panel was to give a different view on how we treat our environment, catch less treat the catch and the environment better and receive a greater economic return. Not “rocket science” as a previous member of our community used to say with much regularity. There should have been more fishermen there but the forecast had Friday as the best day of the week

after the northerly gales at the beginning.

I am a strong supporter of the SCFF

and in turn appreciate the sterling work our officials do,

one of the few organisations which does not advocate the status quo for its members all the time. Thanks to Sally for the photos and encouragement.

Then it was down to the Loch Ness Inn with the still live

and kicking langoustines. Some larger ones going down now to try to keep supplies going more uninterrupted.

The fishing has tailed off dramatically but the weather has kept some of the visitors away and the day’s fishing on Thursday saw through the weekend. Good weather, an easterly breeze with lots of sunshine for the week,

despite the lack of langoustines bodes well for a pleasant but tiring spell. So leave the land side for another day as we are in-between responses and to last night’s sunset to leave you with.

The Inn with Everything.

More has happened in the last seven days to fill a chapter in a book but as there is a bit of emotion in the air tonight I will just post a picture of the window showing table 11. Not only does the Inn serve top class dressed crab, creel caught off the Inn shores and so well dressed in Applecross, they sell hand dived scallops lightly sautéed in garlic butter with bacon, rice and salad, langoustines pan-fried in lemon, herb and garlic butter and squat lobsters in garlic, sweet chilli or accompaniments to lemon sole, plaice or cod, but the sun sets inside as well. The Inn with everything. The emotion concerning the land and sea will have to wait for a more considered space of time, so here is the sun setting inside the Inn.

A Mother’s Day to end all Mother’s Days

So that was Mother’s Day at the Inn. With the blue sky start to the day and langoustines in great demand yesterday it was out to the Varuna for the rest of Thursday’s catch. On up to the Inn, landed and cooked off for service, it was straight onto the bottling up before the doors opened and stayed open for the day. The weather was stunning and at one stage we had Spanish sitting beside Italians, Dutch drinking coffee outside and Serbians scoffing wine in the Garden. This went on until the magnificent sunset occurring during evening service.

There was an indication that the day was going west when the first order of the day was 7 coffees and a tea and that was followed ten minutes later by 8 Hot Chocolate Fudge Cakes. We knew they were coming and come they did. Boss was back in control and only had a minor panic for ten minutes when a three on the Big Table were still there when the eight came in for the same table. But as usual it all works out but we needed the good weather for the diners who sat in the Garden. The Walled Garden was busy as most of the Applecross residents headed up there knowing the Inn would be busy. Good to see so many familiar faces who keep coming back, from Lochcarron, Kyle, Kishorn, Achanalt and the rest of the Highlands. Slightly off-putting having more and more people call me by name and I have not a clue who they are. Just managed to dig up a memory for the costume designer from London who was chatting to me before Christmas. Graeme’s folks were over (Bloody Project) and news breaking this week that the film rights of the novel have been sold. I reckon with careful sustainable development Applecross Community can create employment directly and indirectly from all this activity. It is already underway with projects like the Brewery and the Community Company activities. And as the Consultation has progressed the potential in the Community is apparent, but more of that soon.

The days at sea have been a limited lately but as the catch has been fairly good

the langoustines have stayed on the menu board and are selling really well.

The weather helps so much, sitting in the Inn Garden eating creel caught langoustines from the waters you are looking over, sun shining from a crystal clear blue sky…. can not get much better. As the sun is setting and there is a bit of chill in the air

people head for the warmth of the Inn but customers were torn between the stunning scene outside or eating the wonderful produce caught off the Scottish shores.

Yesterday the weather was perfect and the Bay called with the dogs. And here he comes

bounding along with endless energy

followed by the more sedate mammy.

Beech trees are looking imposing in the morning sunlight.

It is so uplifting although by the time I made it home the last two or three days activity had caught up and it was dozing on the couch until a shift at the Inn. Could tell there were plenty of people about during the day mainly as the run on langoustines meant an early start is planned for Monday morning. Ended up staying till after twelve to let all the staff down to the Rock and Roll Disco and Dance show at the Hall. Cycled past resisting the temptation to call in. Cannot do everything and the missing hour beckons. When you sit down and write what goes on here you realise how much goes on and I have not been posting so much of the activities but as Spring marches in we shall try to do a wee catch up in the next few days.

Cornering Failure

You never know what is round the next corner, or in my case on the corner. I made off to Inverness around 9 this morning after taking some langoustine ashore for the Loch Ness Inn. Called in at the Inn where I decided to go round the coast and up Glen Torridon. I had plenty of time so managed a couple of stops on the way to try to capture the beauty I was driving through. First had to try to get the locals to use the passing place

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before rounding the Cuaig corner.

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I have never managed to capture this scene, the road winding its way north against the backdrop of the magnificent Torridons and the bleak foreground of the Cuaig common grazing. A brief stop at Ardeshlaig

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before coming to the corner up Glen Torridon. Black ice and before I could react I was sitting in the van on rock and heather five feet below the road

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and slightly shock up.

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Would have been a fine bit of parking if there had been a car park there.

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Twinge in the back was all and after checking the langoustine in the back I was helped by some very kind visitors who let me use their phone to get in touch with recovery. A pleasant hour was then spent waiting for Peter to turn up, not before Colin wandered down having recovered another van further up the Glen. So home in a wee Peugeot instead of my van which is almost certainly written off. A cup of coffee and natter at DMK’s before coming back over the Bealach stopping again

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as it was breathtakingly beautiful.

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So a phone call or two before making arrangements to head off to Inverness, this time to buy a van, still instead of thinking if only I had….I think I was looked after today.

I knew my post last night would cause reaction and am pleased that it did. I am always careful not to personalise problems, but becoming less afraid of pointing out the negative effects of organisations, hoping that they will change. I can only say that being positive is the only way ahead. Sorting out a nonexistent Filling Station, then a duff one, helping to improve Broadband, helping with the Hydro, both publicize it and sorting out small problems. I believe we will have affordable housing built in Applecross and maybe in the future the community may be able to buy into the current housing stock and create a two tier market. Short term we need affordable housing now. I have enjoyed a Facebook conversation since coming home and I know there are residents ready to take this community forward. Access to land is definitely not a lost cause and it will happen either through talking, cajoling or in the last resort using powers given to communities by the Scottish Parliament.

I got so involved in posting last night that I forgot to post the photo of the German contingent in town with Graeme.

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I give tables little titles when I put the food orders through, usually after a wee chat and it causes puzzlement in Prep and kitchen as they are off the wall at times. Their title was “Graeme and the Germans” I suggested it could be a title of one of his future novels, we’ll see. The crumbles went down a treat as did the haggis and cheese melts.

The day has ended with me missing out on the funeral service, leaving the beer kegs in Inverness but salvaging the langoustine by selling them to the Applecross Inn. So instead of a planned trip to The Loch Ness Inn it will have to be another trip over the Bealach for the best seafood in the Highlands.

“Nothing has changed in Applecross since “The Bloody Project””

Typical, just when you want to have a wee chat with a Welsh man you can’t find one anywhere. A lovely shift at the Inn today and while the rain belted down, the fire was on and the food was as good as anywhere in the Highlands, so said the customers, and as you know they are always right. Working my way back and yet another funeral attended, this time on Saturday. Jessie, having passed away earlier, brought memories back from years gone by. Many a visit of a weekend coming from the Inn and stopping off for a late night dram with Angus and Jessie on the way home. Usual chat about fishing from Angus, he first went to sea on the Truelove with my own Dad and I think stayed at sea his whole life. Jessie kept our glasses full and maybe tried to keep us in better shape for the short drive home in the early hours with offers of tea/coffee while Angus gave another rendition of the beautiful Eilidh.. Happy memories. After the internment I went down to the shore to give the dogs a run out and run they did.

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This was after watching the rescue of an Inverness taxi of the now not so immaculate verge at the entrance to the VT.  The afternoon was taken up with rugby and as a Scotland supporter found myself in the unusual position of being relatively relaxed during the final ten minutes of the match, having a cushion of two scores ahead. Kept the volume down for Eilidh and she only became concerned hearing me crossing the room when Scotland scored their last try. On Friday evening I was in two minds whether to go out to yet another meeting, this time a continuance of the Trust led “community” consultation. Decided that it was better to go in order to appreciate things first hand. I have spoken to a number of people who were at the meeting since and there is quite frankly a lot of head scratching going on in the community. No one is saying that consulting about the aspirations of the community is a bad thing but honestly spending 45 minutes discussing the minutiae of the process that has been slumbering on for over a year now had people wondering why they had given up their Friday evening. We still have not even finalised setting up a steering group to set up a Forum, which seems to be a direction we are going come hell or High Water. Interestingly if you have a contrary opinion of direction or of outcomes then you are shown to be against the process. There is a very fine line to be walked by the numerous people in the community who are unhappy with the process. One puts one hand up to be part of a process you can hardly be enthusiastic about as if you don’t you are painted into an anti corner. I believe this whole process depends on one factor and only one. Have the Trustees of the Applecross Trust had a change of mind or direction in running the Applecross Estate that is inclusive or is this just a tick box exercise to counter new Community Powers that will enable us to strengthen our capacity showing that the Trust by its actions and obstruction is working against the sustainable development of the Community. We have heard about “The Shared Vision” ad nauseam but it is only “shared” one way. There has not been one iota from the Trust. I have to agree to a certain extent that the running of the Trust is entirely the duty and work of the Trustees but when it becomes a barrier to the survival of the community I live in that is when I have to quell a certain amount of anger, anger I found reciprocated in conversations the following day. Several questions were asked directly of the Trust and several opinions offered from the floor that showed a level of scepticism regarding any change of direction from the Trustees. I specifically asked for any examples of evidence of a change of heart and received absolutely nothing positive in the response. In fact I was told that a couple of people were worried by my reaction to the answer or lack off offered. I no longer react in such a way any more that would cause any discomfort to the room and still wait for any sign of any change of direction from the Trustees. On Saturday I was given the quote of the decade. “Nothing in Applecross has changed since “The Bloody Project”” A “talk shop” changes nothing here, it will keep open communications, but only if we have at least one Trustee on the Forum and even that has been resisted so far. It is a “shared vision” after all. So next Friday and the next and the next and the next we are as a community supposed to turn up to the Hall to form a Forum which may or may not be constituted, have no powers or objectives other than to discuss. One really annoying part to all this process is that any disagreement is used against the Community to show up its divisions. A tactic that is used all the way up to National Politics level these days. I can easily disagree with many members of our community but am actually finding that I am coming across far more agreement than division. It was quite revealing that a member of the community suggested that the Trustees should take part in a “quiz” about Applecross and see the extent of their knowledge of the community that is so affected by their decisions on running the Trust. I will leave you a quote from this year’s accounts, late by the way but not important for some, stating that the Trustees are maintaining the traditional enterprises,buildings and infrastructure of the Estate “as a place of inspiration for the general public and THOSE WHO LIVE AND WORK THERE”.

Extraordinarily who should be staying in Applecross this weekend but Graeme Macrae Burnet, the author of The Bloody Project. For the few of you who do not know this is a novel about a murder in Applecross in the 19th century and accurately putting forward a sense of what residents had to put up with from The Big House. It made the Man Booker Prize shortlist and Graeme was in town with German publisher and journalists to promote the publication of the Bloody Project in German. They had a great time and left extolling the warmth of the welcome from the Inn, the food and the Applecross experience. It is not all sweetness and light here, as last week, watching from the Inn some visitors being admonished by a resident on their driving. Always gets me going as I think the least we can do is welcome those wishing to visit….it is traditional hospitality. We had a bit of banter when they came in and it turns out they were from Tyrone and were not in the least phased by the rudeness, their words, of an individual after spending 40 years living in a war zone. They left after a proper welcome.

A little break in the weather meant the langoustines and squats are on the menu with more prospects this week. Another funeral planned next week with a busy day thrown in but with weather settling down mid-week we should keep the visitors well fed. There is still always time to appreciate the beauty of the place both on the sea,

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shore,

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the rivers

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and streams,

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the company,

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wild life

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and scenery

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watching other people work to keep the community going,

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and this makes things so much better.

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I am fighting for the place where I live, many may not agree with a lot of what I say but generally I have not found any other alternative for this community. Leave you with these stats I stated on Friday night. 8 primary school children, 10 people in their 20s and 40% of the population over 60 years of age. If the Trustees are going to engage with the community they are going to have help solve our housing crisis instead of putting up more and different reasons why we cannot have more affordable housing in Applecross and far more people living here.

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