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

Archive for the ‘Local Food’ Category

A Grumpy One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

or two.

 

Three Days

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

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

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

Mallaig and Feis na Mara was the next destination.

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

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

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

who arrived on stage with a variety of pipes,

bodran,

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

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

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

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

Lois Mor and John “Balure”.

Although we are now into the next week, rain is torrential, which means the hydro power chart is on a vertical climb from the falling down to 40 kWhs over the last wee dry spell, the resonance of Lismore is still strong. Again a powerful meditation starts off day 2 before a walk up to one of the high points of the island with views across to Glensanda on Morvern.

An obvious lead in to the Lingerbay Quarry proposal and Alistair Macintosh, Isle of Eigg and Soil And Soul. Then before you know it we are back at the present day’s living, crafting and building. Yorick is putting together another window frame while Sarah is dehorning a ewe and treating another of her Shetland sheep, graphic descriptions of maggot eruptions. We had approached the house from a different angle and saw the astonishing stone work,

the skill and pride of a craftsman in full view. Who said crofting is romantic, hard graft but fulfilling. And then it was onto a visit to the Broch,

with Mairi intending to pay her respects at Balure. On the way we stopped to sample a rest on St Moluag’s Chair, a rock hewn out by the Saint himself. The Broch is set on a high point commanding the western approaches and is said to have been built around 2000 years ago and was continually occupied up till the 12th century before the MacDougalls built their own castle. Photos taken, chat and reminisces over

we headed down to call in to Balure to pick up Mairi.

We were immediately invited into the house by John’s son Ian, where we were offered a dram of Balvennie Doublewood and a cup of tea. Again a strong connection was felt and we toasted the passing of John “Balure” and Mairi added a story of her wedding to Dave which involved John. They had organised a Grand March for their evening part of the wedding and as usual the bride and grooms families were at the head but Mairi’s folks were late so John and Dorothy of Balure took their place with John leaning into Mairi telling her to “Ca canny lass, ca canny” before leading off with her to the tune Mairi’s Wedding. We keep these people with us by telling and retelling their stories. I felt it was a privilege to be asked in and invited to honour this well-loved man of their community and hope we did him justice.

Maybe it was through meditating with old friends and visiting the brooch and hearing tales of times ancient and not long past but you felt at one with the island and its community with its thread, unbroken and strong through timeless ages. The chat continued as we walked through time

and emerged at the Heritage Centre, for Mairi to meet up with her co organisers for the Tap Roots Festival, and for us to wander up the road back to Carnie Cottage. All these walks have a micro aspect to them as well seeing the late autumn flowers

and the small gardens on top of fence posts

make the walks longer. Lois Mor is the great garden so it is fitting here is Lois Beag

I wanted to go down to Salen as the island’s sole fishing boat was anchored there

and so leaving Martin to concoct his plate of potatoes and seafood chowder I was back on the bike to cycle down to the sea’s edge and take in the late evening’s sun sinking down behind the Morvern peninsula.

A truly beautiful evening and some very interesting sights to see

which on further investigation turned out to be lime stone kilns.

Yet another connection to the homeland, there are lime stone kilns in Applecross, like Lismore the lands are controlled by absentees, we both have Irish saints and going by some of the tales of Lismore we both scrap well amongst ourselves.

After yet another fine tea, the cooking has been the finest from Applecross seafood, Mairi’s Dalh and Ian’s seafood pasta, we set up for a bunting ritual trying to rid ourselves and places of negativity in all forms. Mairi then sang her song which stopped our concept of time for its content and beauty. Fire is a useful tool for more than giving warmth and so ended a long and fulfilled day, heading for the stairs exhausted but content in the knowledge of a strong sense of belonging.

A Lismore Ceilidh

This is a wonderful way to visit an island, you immediately feel that you are not a tourist and are being allowed to interact with island life, chatting to residents and finding out what they do and how they do it. As well as that, our own connections are coming up again and again and we are finding we know the same people but under different circumstances. After a strong meditation, a cycle down to the south end of the island,

passing the small but well-kept village hall,

a visit to the Heritage Center, not quite long enough, and then on to Mairi’s sister and brother-in-law who are building a fantastic new house with ongoing legal access problems hopefully coming to a conclusion. Confirms my bus theory that a few decades ago a bus toured through the Highlands and Islands and dropped off awkward customers in every community. Awkward is a pejorative term as other words spring to mind. Sarah and Yorick are coming to the end of a long and protracted access dispute with a neighbour. A strainer placed in front of an access point with no other purpose than to prevent access.

They had managed to buy a croft of an elderly couple and proceeded to self build a fantastic looking house themselves while working the croft, Sarah building up a textile business

while Yorick puts the house together. Amazing workmanship and dedication while having to go to court with the neighbour. As it is still going on I better not say too much other than wonder why people go down that road which seems to be based in such awkward bad neighbourliness.

Another fine evening’s worth of Applecross seafood was produced and an evening of music was in the air. Being part of the community was apparent from early on when Eric dropped in and added to the “Big Archie” story. He certainly seems to be a colourful character. Calling in to the Heritage Centre where we met Murray, who turned up for the music session later, and then on down to Mairi’s relatives. It all appears that we are making contact with the community rather than a fleeting sightseeing visit. Maybe I am too aware of the numbers that come through Applecross and just stop at the Inn before hurriedly going on their way. Having Mairi chat away about who everyone was gives a more substantive view of the island. The visitors here do not seem to be out of keeping with the numbers living in the community and I only met two groups of tourists on bikes when I travelled down to the south end. Distinct similarities to Applecross emerge all the time. The land is very similar although there is none of the regimented plantations, there are lovely native tree groves that are abundant with bird life. There are far more cattle and sheep on the ground, although sheep do seem to dominate the landscape. The population does seem to be slightly younger but some do need help in the sheep gathering and keeps the younger members of the community very active. The west theme of having several jobs is manifest here on the island.

After our meal of Applecross seafood, which it was nice to share with a couple of the arriving musicians we went through to be entertained by several locals who turned up as preparation for the Tap Root Festival in a couple of weeks time. Accordion,

fiddle,

whistles, piano, a couple of songs and a bit of craic. Could not help thinking of ancient times, of many ceilidhs, of tales told, songs sung and tunes played. No one taking the lead but a natural flow and rhythm to the evening. It was only till later I discovered that Big Archie dropped in for a wee dram. He caught up with Mairi in the kitchen before taking his leave. So much packed into just one day.

Slow Misty Mountain and Big Archie’s Dead Sheep.

The first of the days off involved getting up at half seven, nipping out to the Varuna for the medium langoustines, some to Applecross and the rest to Loch Ness Inn, before sorting out some mussels and seafood for the trip down to the south-west. I have never experienced a trip to Lochcarron such as the one on Monday morning. I picked up the convoy of eight cars at the little spring above the hair pin on the Applecross side of the Bealach and then proceeded to drive at between 5/15 mph through the mist till we came out the other side, increased to around 20mph after that so the fact that, although feeling a little pissed, I restrained from the horn or lights, passed one at Tournapress but not till Kishorn glen did I try to pass another, nipped back in when saw a camper coming the other way. Then got the finger from the car in front, young chaps in convoy, with silly little double exhausts, equally silly prints on back window, Arbath, NC500 2017. So waited until they decided to stop at the golf course before normal driving began and arrived 20 mins late for meeting.

Meeting went well and after a couple of hours, a quick shop, adding to the stack of seafood I left Applecross with, it was the road south to a hoped for break of two days of peace and bliss on the island. Taking the road down to Port Appin I was in unknown territory. Came down to the pier, unloaded and after local info parked van in right place. Peace was already descending and watched a fisherman catch a large mackerel of the jetty in the lowering sun.

Ferry appeared back from the island and was soon loaded up and on board for the short ten minute trip across.

We left the Pier House, a well known restaurant behind and were soon on the island.

It was apparent that all was going to be well as an elderly gentleman offered to take the bags and punnets of food down to the house. A fine plan as my two miles turned out to be a good four and carrying mayo buckets and bags would have meant two trips. As I was first to arrive the mussels were prepared and when the last ferry brought the others over we tucked into Andy’s suggested recipe of coconut milk and Thai paste to cook the mussels in was greeted with thumbs up all round. Simple meals are the best.

On Lismore and sitting round the table listening to the story of Archie, the film crew from Cologne, and the final scene of the dead sheep. Seems a group of film students from Germany came to the island for the purposes of making a film about a daughter finding her father but a sheep was killed before this happened by the daughter and it turns out the sheep was a particular favourite of the father. So to do the final scene. Big Erchie was asked for a dead sheep, one that had recently passed away. Well this was not available so Erchie dispatched one of his own and duly delivered the carcass to the film crew. They then began filming the final scene but they chose the only and busiest crossroads on the island, much to the chagrin of the residents. Not only that but it was around ferry time so a double whammy. To make matters worse Erchie’s partner discovered her pet/favourite sheep had made it into the other world so she arrived extremely irate at the film set. She soon had the film crew on their knees begging for a bit of peace and quiet to conclude their project. Tuesday morning saw the story embellished even further as Erchie had prior to delivering the “pet” tried to make use of a rather large and very dead tup, two weeks dead in fact, and having a blue tinge to it. With the help of a neighbour, tow ropes they attempted to use the tup but we’re overcome by the gasses that were emitting from the now mobile tup. So plan B was put into place and £70 changed hands to pay for the delivery of the dead sheep. Sounds as though the island was greatly affected by this German visitation to the extent that cars and water courses have still to recover.

So a couple of days of cycling, talking, meditating and walking are planned for the days ahead.

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.

 

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.

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