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

Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Applecross Planets not in Line.

The Applecross planets are definitely not lined up. Today however they came a lot closer in that a relay was replaced by Dan at the Hydro, Alfie, the plumber, and Duncan were at the Toilets yesterday, Broadband working at the moment with new equipment ordered and trip to Raasay planned and training for the Board organised for next Saturday.

Going back to the beginning of the week and a bit of branch collecting after a fine but very busy lunch shift at the Inn. I am collecting wood for fuel which saves a bit of dosh but I sometimes think I go out just to enjoy the scenes around Applecross.


The dogs love these expeditions and the late evening light was lovely to”work” in.


Monday was a recovery day with just a little wood cutting to get us outside in the bitter North wind blowing down the Sound. Tuesday started off with a jump out of bed and a swear as I remembered I was supposed to be at the pier fuelling up the Auk. Only ten minutes late and they were having an early cup of tea so not too bad.


Did not envy them as they made their way out to a bit of shelter in the Bay for a days diving. Had planned a quick trip to Inverness via ConnaVets for some dog chipping and tic medicine. Brightened up despite a fresh wind blowing in from the Glen.


All fine and managed over the Hill despite the course weather.


Back in plenty of time for a Board meeting at the Hall. Only thing to say about it was that there is too much concentrating on the past mistakes, of which there will be many more in the future, and not enough to sort out any repetition. My theme throughout is the Company is trying to turn around the continued decline in Applecross. Some people may not see it as the Inn is booming and news of another family leaving and yet another family mooted as going. There is another disturbance going on but really not my place to write about it as it is private, sensitive and sorely affects the people involved. Only mentioned as it does affect the Community with one of its pillars looking for support.

You can see why I think the planets are out of line and it is not just the weather. On the way to Inverness I met Graham of Lateral North http://lateralnorth.com on the way in working on a project which includes Applecross. Met up after Tuesday’s meeting and again during a lunch break on Wednesday. Managed to take delivery of the fuel and as the weather still too poor for me to go fishing went up to the Intake,in between snow showers,


with Graham


to check the head levels and screen,


water coming over, head okay, Dougal double checking


down to the turbine house and a manual restart. Seemed alright but after going back up saw the deflector plate still down, so water coming through but not activating the turbine.

On Wednesday I went over to Strathcarron to a Rural Parliament session to put in suggestions for a Rural Manifesto. Only five people turn up but it is during the day and came away feeling a little down and see that we are fighting a losing battle trying to keep our communities alive. The recent wedding has brought it sharply into focus for me, where are the twenty something year olds in our community now. They came from Skye to Glasgow and filled Applecross with craic and laughter and it has gone quiet again. There is full employment here, not what every one wants to do, but there is plenty on the go. Space for more skills but nowhere to live.

Feeling not very chipper on Thursday morning it was a real struggle to motivate myself out the door and go to sea. There was a strong easterly forecast which did not help, eventually made it out but forgot to top up the bait. Silly but maybe inevitable considering my mood. Made it round three fleets in the snow


and landed enough langoustine and squat tails to keep the Inn going for a day or so. The inn on Wednesday seemed busy but working the floor on ones own with every table being used and a queue at one stage, felt busier than it was. Time shoots by on a night like that. Called in at Eagle Rock on the way home to say cheerio to some regulars, the Boss being there on a night off. Came in covered in snow as was on the bike. A welcome surprise, in that I had forgotten he was on the way, Connor turned up with his partner Nadia, Sixteen years it has taken him but so good to see him and have a chat with them, living the London life, east end where it seems to be happening. Had a little dip into the past with him and will see him over the weekend as they are staying till monday. Later in the evening, a pleasant after sunset glow


and where there is a sunset there always seems to be an Aussie or two.


This morning with a big snow fall yesterday it was looking fine out to the southwest.


Now, with the sun shining, a quick shower and a two-hour drive to Portree for eight hours of fantastic Scottish music, the mood should be lifted a little.


Changin’ Scotland and It Is.

That was some three days, even for here the variety was something. Had made it to bed after a shift on Thursday coming back from Contin and was shattered but in a good way. Friday was taken at a run although part of that was making sure I had finished a post for putting out on Saturday. Contin did look good and it was thanks to the pooches that I made time to see above and over the mists. Lovely weather  on Friday morning





and managed everything, all the menial stuff, the washing, dishes etc, in time for making it up to the Bealach summit


to watch the sun dip behind the Cuillin.



One of the jobs I had earmarked for the day was to feed the bees but when I went over to see how they were doing they were busy flying and saw some pollen coming in as well.


Extra ordinary in the last days of November how pleasant and warm it is. So although I had forgotten a couple of things in the rush it was worth it for the scenes taking place out west. After catching up with Alison at Garve we all made our way to Leckmelm to get the nest ready for later and then off into Ullapool to grab something to eat and get into another Changin’ Scotland. Calling in at the Ceilidh Place we were immediately chatting to all sorts of revolutionaries and as a result missed the start of the evening. Finding the right venue and not reading the programme did not help.

Back to Leckmelm and a night spent trying to keep Dougal off the bed. It was at floor level due to a big relative’s recent visit and Dougal thinking he was still on his Contin holidays made the most of it. Another late arrival at the Village Hall, this time due to fishing, bee and wood chat at the lodgings. Missed the start of Matt Qvortrup’s talk on Referendums. Really interesting and then it was Prof Adam Tomkins, some one who I had followed on twitter to see and read about another view. Had to stop after the Vote as I found him just a bit too harsh. Fair play for him coming up this way as he was in a definite minority view. There really was some good behind the scenes descriptions of how the Smith Commission has worked to get its proposals out but he did appear to lose it somewhat when he described all Glasgow’s secondary state schools as not fit for purpose and dipped even deeper into tribal party politics saying the English education system was wonderful alongside his eulogy of Mr Gove. Got a brilliant rant from a retired Glasgow teacher at the coffee break. Sent by his wife to apologise for his language later in the morning, unnecessary but great to chat with people from around the country. Although the afternoon was absorbing and thought-provoking, listening to the likes of Jeane Freeman, David Greig and Kathy Galloway among others, the evening was beckoning with Tom Smith, Lateral North, Andy Wightman and Dr Jim Hunter.

Kathy Galloway began her talk with an extra ordinary tale. Bill going through Parliament on Friday with cross party support to prevent revenge evictions. That is, tenants, who complain to their landlords about housing conditions being evicted for their troubles. the Bill failed to go onto the books because it was talked out of time…..by two Tory MPs ……and you felt the room already knew what she was going to say next…..two Tory MPs who were landlords. If I did not declare an interest at a CC meeting and did not leave the room I would be out on my ear. The point I take from this they are now so arrogant they do not seem to care who sees or knows what they do now.

Tom Smith showed a power point full of imagination of what could happen in Scotland in the future…..nothing was deemed impossible, an example being that Scapa Flow could be the maritime hub for the whole of western Europe. A cracking example put forward by Tom was of a Danish architect who decided it would be a good idea to build a swimming pool above a supermarket using the wasted heat to warm the pool. Not only that he put in a diving board that allowed the divers into the supermarket. So shoppers in the fruit and veg aisle were passed by divers inside the glass enclosed pool. Got me thinking about lots of seagoing ventures that could be feasible in the scheme of things. It is not long since the western seaboard was connected by sea routes and that brought to mind an earlier discussion about remoteness. Remote is a relative term and where you are determines how remote you are. London is remote from Applecross. The world map on the wall of the Inn shows Applecross as the centre and threads from all across the world coming to Applecross. Millennium ago the first settlers inhabited the centres of “civilisation” and these were the coastal fringes of an impenetrable and wild hinterland. Stopped for dinner at the Ceilidh Place where we had the good fortune to sit with Jim Hunter and as the meal went on great exchanges of stories took place.


He is now working on a book about the Sutherland Clearances and was telling us about the bounties paid out to “hunters” for eagles heads etc. Showing how the people lived on the land alongside the natural inhabitants and the diversity of wildlife that existed then. Not rosy by any means for the people but far better the denuding and degradation of the Highlands that took place over the last 200 years. The Scottish Govt’s programme has poor landlords in its sights and rightly so. Why should so few people hold sway over so many in a modern democracy? Why should the amount of land any one person can hold not be capped? Why can individual wealth not be kept under control. All these accumulations of power, wealth and property are ultimately detrimental to the surrounding environment. I equate these actions to my own life style, the constant striving for growth in the fishing industry inevitably leads to stock extinctions and a degraded eco system and as such should be controlled for the benefit for everyone. At Leckmelm the right of fishermen to fish to extinction was decried as it affects the non fishing community. As regards the degrading of the land and sea we are all in it together. Feels good to be amongst the revolutionaries. Meanwhile Dougal and Eilidh were given frequent walks and he, in particular had his moments meeting Douglas Fraser’s Sam and had a great wee mess about. One not so good moment nipping off in the dark to roll in the foulest rotten fish he could find. Result of that was a swim in Loch Broom. The end of the evening was interspersed with lots of chat about potential future opportunities for people and communities across the Highlands, but there was a wee stop for a snap.


We decide to head down the road as work commitments meant a full on day for Sunday for both of us. On the way down the road Jim Hunter’s mention of Angus Macrae of North Strome reminded me of hearing him in Assynt. I had the good fortune to have been invited up to take part in a Radio programme by Lesley Riddoch and towards the end of the recording Angus stood up to say how proud he was of the Assynt crofters in their buying of the Estate and he hoped this would be the start of a repopulating of the Highlands. He then went on to describe such an evocative picture of driving home in the dark from Inverness across the northern Highlands and seeing the lights back on in the Glens, keeping him company on the way home. So different from now when you can travel for miles in total darkness. Maybe the new reforms that are proposed may help Angus’s vision to be fulfilled.

I can only end by saying it was a privilege to have been in such company and that includes the whole week, ranging from the community leaders in Contin to the politicos, journalists, activists and the good people in Ullapool. One can only hope that the efforts of Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart can be rewarded in the continuing of this great weekend. Today was hard graft, a 10/11 hour stint, but rewarding at the Inn but rest now for a day’s fishing may be on the cards for tomorrow.

Fly Overs.

Just a quick post as we are just ticking over with a bit of wood cutting and working through a cold. Weather has definitely changed although not severe in any sense just have to get used to not having those wonderful sunsets on your door every night.


Breezy for fishing but that is more than compensated by the numbers still coming to the Inn. Both Saturday evening and Sunday luck were full and even people waiting for a table at one stage. Dining room full on Saturday as well. Steve coped well in the kitchen ably assisted by Dave as we discovered that the reason Robert was away for the weekend was for a wee double marriage ceremony on the eastern side of the country with his now wife Marion and sister-in-law Helen. Keeping that quiet in Applecross was very impressive as even if no one knew some surely could have made it up and passed it on. The guests are still coming from every where and at one stage during lunch we had Israelis, Slovakian and Germans in at the same time alongside Shieldaig and Lochcarron. Saturday evening finished off with a couple of conversations about The Common Weal, Nuclear Power, Nationalism and Green Energy, not to mention coming out of Europe and Currency issues. We may live on the edge but have a line to the rest of the world.

The swans were posing a bit on this side of the loch but as soon as you stop they are very wary. Hoped to get a snap with them feeding with bums in the air but not to be.


Accompanied by a couple of mallards. Day brightened up to notice the Bay full of gulls and popped out for a couple of shots.


While occupied with the gulls I was overflown by the resident geese


and think their numbers are growing as well.


They were just doing a swing round the Bay.


The building site has progressed but not much happening as contractor is on the other side of the world with a few others from the Applecross hamlets.


Off to Contin for a few days on a Social Enterprise course and that is followed up with a trip to Ullapool to the last Changin’ Scotland gathering. So no need to look for any excuse not to go fishing.

Wind, Wood and Social Media.

Very windy day on Sunday and it was the van instead of the bike to work.



The fire end of the Inn was busy with tables being used twice by the end of lunch time.


Plenty of staff on so it was back home early enough to take a couple of shots of the new wood pile at Milton, some lovely hardwood stacked European style, to mature over the year.


Fishing this morning although it was not a quiet day.

Seals looked pretty relaxed on the way out.


Managed 200 pots up and there was a reasonable fishing of mainly small and medium prawns so did not feel about too bad about heading in on a half day.



The forecast is very changeable and is changing itself from day to day. Saturday I was telling every one that it was going to be a great week and by Sunday it was down at the bottom again, so hence the reason for trying it on Monday. Still not seeing a mate for the eider who has taken up residence in the moorings.


After landing prawns I went back out on the bike with Dougal and Co up to the Walled Garden and back and stopped to have a look at some of the stumps of the trees that are being removed for safety reasons.


Old trees that have done their time.


Sort of know what they feel like. I am back to only thinking what I should do next as there is such a pile of things to do.

Luckily the weather was favourable today as we had a social media day at the Hall. Met Rene last night at the Inn where we had an informal session with Ipads to see if we can improve usage and cut down on wasted time. Good targets to aim at. Lots of info and I think most people there were quite inspired to improve their own profiles/marketing and information spreading. I now seem to have opened a new twitter account and am following  a few guys maybe with the intention of reaching a few more readers, we will see. Rene Looper, an extremely engaging tutor and already have forgotten more than I knew before today. http://tuminds.com/


Lovely rainbow over Milton,


almost too close for a snap as could not squeeze it all in but it was worth stopping to view.


Both on the lunch trip to the Inn and again in the evening keep meeting the Flensberg students who are going round as many houses as time permits, carrying out a survey and seeing if improvements can be made to reduce carbon and bills. Early night tonight,sometimes you are just not up for it despite everything happening, with a creel wash planned for tomorrow if the forecast is right.

Inspired Social Enterprising and a little football.

On thursday I headed off to Sal Mor Ostaig to the fourth part of our Social Enterprise course. This is turning into an inspiring little journey where you pick up methods and meet people who seem to be improving ways of looking at how you deals with issues and processes in our own communities and organisations. This part of the course was about delegation and negotiation and almost without realising it I have changed my way of dealing with what seems insurmountable problems. It is now coming up to a year since we started to negotiate the Heads of Terms of the hydro lease and we have learned so much about how the legal process works, mainly slowly and expensively, and that is usually paid for by those who can afford it least. The course however suggests that you look to what you have gained and not what you think is a poor deal, also I am proud of the fact that I have shaken hands with those I have fundamentally different views and have managed to depersonalise the whole process. Also the fact that you try to keep a long-term focus while you are bogged down on what you think are trivial or poor counter arguments is very important and will see us through in the long run. The course is run in such a way that you take different methods and aspects and turn them to individual circumstances in your own communities. There are many examples of really good Boards who are all active and have their own individual expertise. The speaker we heard this time was from Oban and was a director of the Atlantis Leisure Centre and while realising that this is a perfect model it is something to aspire to. There is a lot of personal reassessment going on amongst the participants and everyone is saying they are far more reflective in their dealings back home. While we have a limited capacity here in Applecross just due to our numbers I think there is a huge amount of untapped and underused energy here and there may be some little appearances from the Social Enterprise course at our Board meetings in the near future. I think one of the things we fall down on here is that not enough of us go out to see what is happening in other communities. Looking at other people’s success stories are inspiring and you head home with lots of ‘new’ ideas.

On the way home I went north through Broadford and armed with binoculars I did a recce on the Applecross hills, basically making sure that we could see Tor Mor, the proposed site of the broadband reception and there are several possible host buildings at the north end of Broadford. Talking to people on the course there is laughter when you tell people who our broadband speed is .39 of a meg. This is another aspect of the course that has come through in that while you get bogged down in negotiations you do not lose focus on other important issues. Probably the hydro scheme may be the single most important event in our recent history possibly pulling the population and school roll decline round but we still have to try to make living here easier by increasing or at least retaining services taken for granted in most other parts of the country.

Back home felling good but not that well physically and scrambled a shift at the Inn without anyone but the Boss knowing I was not up for it. Staff is falling like ninepins at the moment and there are troops arriving from Australia to fill the ever-increasing gaps. It always good to see some staff offering to fill in just through a sense of loyalty to the Inn. Some guys offer hours way beyond their alloted shifts just because they know how stretched things are. Saturday was another 300 meal day but not for me. Used it as a recovery day with just a short quieter day at the Inn. This was followed by a couple of Manchester United fans from Australia accompanying me down to watch the final game of the season at Mark’s. Only in Applecross. Unfortunately for all concerned it did not go well and I think am becoming a bit of a jinx in Mark’s eyes. Five minutes to go I said it should be all over only for Manchester City to score twice in injury time. Never mind Ross County are in the Premier League next year, surely more important.

Meanwhile we are watching with interest and not a little apprehension at what is happening to the European economies and how all this will affect our prawn markets.

Work,Learning,Music and good People

Very busy and varied week which started with a trip to the Loch Ness Inn to bring their staff back to Applecross for a night out. The trip back involved a stop off at Rogie Falls for a little treasure hunt which ended up with every one getting a slug of baileys.Then it was off to The Waterside, Judy’s sister’s cafe in Lochcarron. An Irish coffee later and it was back to the Inn in the Community bus. Worked until about 11pm before heading home for a well earned rest. Tuesday and it was away to Sabhal Mor in Sleat where we took part in the third of six two day sections of our social enterprise course. I think it is a combination of us all getting to know each other and a relaxing into the course. We all have to do a presentation about a given subject and I have to say I was very fortunate in that it was a comfortable subject. Covey’s 7 Habits are about sorting yourself out and then being able to interact successfully with other people on a business and personal level. The evening in the pub is just as important for the course where as you trust more you tend to share your problems with other people with whom you build up a confident two-way relationship. Although I often feel a bit out of my depth I do seem to hold my own being passionate about the things we talk about. Extremely nervous about my presentation but got through it because I really liked the subject and the guys I was speaking to were very understanding. I thought the 20 minutes I spoke for was actually 5 mins so must have gone into some zone. Picked up a new tag when speaking to some-one about the success of Kinlochshiel shinty team. They are very professional in their approach to the game now and so are their players partners who now call themselves SWAGs…….Shinty Wives And Girlfriends. Back home on wednesday to another shift in the pub and to be met with Mark’s jubilation at his Iranian visiter to the Inn. I reckon I trumped him today with Norway and Kenya though. The competition now stands at 29 countries which have visited the Inn. I keep thinking how extra-ordinary this is. Weather has improved dramatically and a couple of days fishing ensued. the weather was fantastic with the fishing not bad so contentment is the order of the day. Friday evening saw us off to the Celtic Connections Festival weekend at Broadford. Friday night saw us booking into a great friend’s place at Erbusaig and then heading to the Big Top, slightly later than planned but met with brilliant music especially provided by Raul Malo, The Michael Mcgoldrick Band and the Deadly Gentlemen. Saturday saw us in Raasay where Alison had a good catch up with one of her friends on Raasay House Communtiy Company while I took Dougal and family to Hallaig,a cleared township on the east of the island. I find it very atmospheric and going there transports you back in time almost hearing the life that used to go on there.Although many people do not like the gorse it is great for bees and is one of the early sources of food for them. The last few days of bright dry weather has brought it out. in full bloom.The walling is a bit different over here in that they seem to stand the top stones on end. A beautiful craft that lasts for many decades. I have been twice on this path and its ancient mosses always catch the eye, some up to two feet in height.It was back to the festival in the evening after a visit to my mum at An Arcasiad where she is being well looked after as she enters the later stages of Alzheimer’s at the grand old age of 93. The evening programn of The Civil Wars, Daimh, Roseanne Cash and Niteworks was second to none.The Civil Wars were a cracking harmony duo who rattled of a series of very beautiful songs,they were followed by the scottish group, Daimh who had several guests including Karen Matheson.For me the highlight was listening to the glorious Roseanne Cash and watching her obviously enjoy singing to an appreciative crowd.She was also very complimentary about scotland, its people and music.

After listening to Motherless Child,I’m Moving On,Take These Chains and Heartaches By The Number among many more it was off back to Dave’s.Another shift at the Inn,a walk home via Robert and Marion’s croft and an evening’s reflections of lovely people,interesting conversations, brilliant music, fantastic weather and scenery,and work that satisfies the soul and body the thought that I am very fortunate does cross my mind.

Judith with some of her staff

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