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

Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

So Much…..

Siting at the menu table after 4 hours work and just before it all kicks off again you wonder how on earth she runs this place the way she does. I have only been here for the weekend, granted I have also been fishing and washing creels and trying to sort a breakdown in the last couple of days, but running the Applecross Inn takes a phenomenal effort. When things are running okay it is busy, food, accommodation, drink and people all coming in and going out the door. The Dream Machine outside is also ploughing on with haddock, Aron’s ice-cream and coffee all going south as fast as it is being made or fried. As well as all this the roof needs done, the cold store gets put outside to make way for more space in the Prep room, new gas boilers and constant repairs for accommodation. For me, without all the extra stuff, this morning from just after eight it was checking out residents, taking booking for accommodation and meals for anytime this summer, bottling up the bar, cutting lemons, changing the menu board, ordering soft drinks and answering random requests from the phone, redirecting customers to the Walled Garden for breakfasts, sorting the float out for the Dream Machine and finally getting the crashed till system up and running again. Twelve o’clock now so the day starts. That plus another twelve staff, cooking, serving breakfast, servicing rooms, prepping, preparing salads…..

(The above was written in the heat of the battle just before twelve last Sunday, cannot believe that it is ten days since last post). Having said that, looking back on the photos there has been a lot packed in. The weather has been immense over the past while, to the extent of having three fires in Applecross in 24 hours. The first one in Toscaig had about ten residents and holiday makers beating out a fire across from the old homestead. The following day I called in one that started on the Coast Road, across the Bay. The opinion was that this was started by a passing car throwing a cigarette out. The Fire Brigade came from over the Hill as well as our beaters. If this had not been tackled, judging by the flames seen across from the Inn, this one had the potential to race up the Hillside behind Cruary. While the Brigade were in another one was called in at the Campsite and seems this was caused by wood worm dust coming down on an extractor fan, over heating, setting off what could have been a serious fire at the Steading. Pure coincidence/luck that the fire men were in Applecross and were diverted from across the Bay. Story is that another ten minutes and there would have been serious damage.

The week has been taken up with some long days, combining the fishing and the Inn. This is what I have been telling myself during the winter that I work the whole year during the summer months and should not feel so bad during the winter wind down. Yesterday, for example, I was up at 6.30am, fishing till around 3.30pm, landed the langoustine and squat tails, a half hour on the couch and shower before going up to the Inn till just before midnight. Finding the Inn very rewarding these days, meeting lots of folk, both regular and new arrivals. The weather makes such a difference to people’s moods and on week’s like these no wonder so many people come for a “get away from it all” holiday. And there are some who get that bit more, speaking to Ian last night and we were talking about the essence of the place, a spiritual peace. The bubble of the Inn can be left behind by walking in any direction for ten minutes and you enter a place of peaceful serenity. At a meeting last week I asked some one to describe the character of Applecross, he could not which I found a little disturbing as he is tasked with conserving it. But more of that later. I love being surrounded by people’s contentedness, happiness, pleasure of visiting such a beautiful part of the world and you try to covey to them what it is like to live here. Despite being hectic, busy, sometimes not enough time to stop and look around, the conversations you have with people like the Walkers or Ian, who obviously connect with the place, reinforce the feeling of pure joy of living in Applecross. Very occasionally there is a spare room available due to late cancellations and one such was filled on Sunday. I showed them the room and left smiling at how excited she was by the room the view and the promise of good food, a Hungarian who had just come of the ferry from one of the Western Isles having the holiday that they will never forget. You meet the world and their dogs at the Inn, so far not a Trump voter in sight, and there are a large number of Americans on the move.

The fishing had taken a bit of a dip last week but seems to have recovered somewhat on the last couple of hauls, catching enough to keep both Inns supplied. This morning there was an early start to get some langoustines over to the east coast with a regular carrier who was heading back with an empty lorry. The sights and sounds on the fishing trips are as varied as ever, some soaring and graceful,

some that jar, who is watching who,

traffic as other marine users ply their trade and make their up the Inner Sound,

natures intriguing creatures,

this being a Rhizostoma octopus floating by, I stopped to take a couple of shots but as the tide was flowing found it quite hard to manoeuvre, but pleased with the effect of the exhaust discharge on the water over it

and just the views of all the different goings on

and weather

fill one up.

Even the blackbacks have a certain beauty.

Still time for Dougal and Co to go for a wander on the mornings I do not go to sea. The advantage of being single-handed was I had time to recover on Monday morning before going out to haul two hundred creels in the afternoon to keep the Inn going. A walk is as good as a rest.

The trips home on the bike from the Inn are as good an example of the contrasts that Applecross throws up. Serving a hundred and fifty folk followed by a serene cycle home in the moonlight.

The rest of today , although the plans have not been set out properly yet, involve most of the rest of the day off with just a stop off at Aird to pick up a half ton of bait for the creels on the way home. The plan is to head north to Ullapool, eventually for a spot of music, possibly an art gallery visit and a dog walk thrown in. And it seems the weather is holding out so looking forward to a busy day off. Again so much has been going on so will try and catch up over the weekend as there was another film crew on board the Varuna and two more Consultation Meetings plus a missed CC Meeting due to tired head. Onwards. Duncan Chisholm on the stereo certainly setting us up for the rest of the day.

 

 

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.

Applecross Rainbows.

Tourist/fishing season has not kicked in fully so the indifferent weather at sea is not a problem. The catches are not bad on the few days we go out but it is the rainbows that catch the eye. Whether at sea

or on the way to the Inn

or up the Glen

they add a bit of colour to the day. Still busy.

Mr Chisholm Accompanies One

Walking back from the Inn on a dark and damp Friday night, I realised that distance and time can be measured in music, especially if you are listening to one of the Duncan Chisholm Trilogy. In this case it was Affric, An Ribhinn Donn get you under way, followed by the cascading Big Archie and before you know it before Night in That Land comes on. It was a perfect way to come home after a very, very enjoyable evening.

The lead up to the show earlier could have been more relaxed as it has turned out to be a very busy week. A gentle start as still recovering from the lurgie on Monday but was out in the evening, initially at the Inn, but ended up at the Community Hall, for a meeting about Out of Hours in Applecross. Only being lightly involved in local politics and finding that hard enough I do not envy those at either Highland or National level. In this case we heard how times have changed and we no longer have as good a supply of GPs as we would like and those new do not have the 24/7 commitment to coverage that those in the past had in the Dr Findlay’s days. Mind you there is probably less alcoholism now as in the old days. We can consider ourselves so very fortunate in our current Situation. Even the managers were suggesting we have as good a service as any where round the Highlands. But Doctors need time off and the cover is going to be still locum but is also going to be a mix of paramedics and nurse practitioners. This has already happened and there seems to be little concerns in the community. The ambulance service were also present and first responders are back on the menu. We were going down this route before but was stalled due to an unresponsive SAS, but that has now been solved and the Health Care Assoc is going to take this on. The defribs are now in town and hope to be in position in the next month or so. Being Applecross it is not one or two but six are going t be installed round the Community, monies all raised within the Community itself. Certainly impressed the managers.

Tuesday saw the CC meeting take place, constructive and frustrating at the same time. Knowing we have little powers and can only keep telling the authorities about the state of the Bealach. However there does seem to be a bit of action, partly as a result of photos of the deterioration of the road that we send in. Newspapers are always looking for angles on the NC500 and when you talk to a journalist giving two sides you leave yourself wide open to editing, but it turned out to be fairly balanced. Some people on the following Facebook steam say exactly the opposite of what you want to put across. Everyone, in my view is welcome, but it is going to put an undoubted strain on our infrastructure. Many communities would wish our problems

Wednesday and my fishing career has restarted.

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I had been out to the Varuna on Tuesday afternoon to link up my new batteries and fire her up for the first time this year. Bit suspicious that I have a dead cell in the system so isolate the lighting bank as a reserve. The batteries are new because of one of those little mishaps, perfectly avoidable, but happen anyway and end up with you poorer and with a sore head from hitting it against a wall. Had two ashore, fully charged and back in the van when I was asked to nip over the Hill to pick up a couple of Internet boys from the train. Remembered the batteries in the back, the slidey floor and the insecure back door. The van is not quite a Teuchter wagon but is heading there. I actually stopped, but the hand brake never held so went round the next bend. Big mistake as two £100 batteries shot out the back door and lay smashed on the Bealach. Did not stop hitting the steering wheel until after Kishorn. Fishing went surprisingly well with only one out of the five fouled up. I have realised this week how much I have missed the sea with all its magic,

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colours

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and life.

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Dozen  kilos and a few squats means the year is under way, langoustines and squats now back on, well appreciated on Thursday evening by the regulars, five squat lobster in garlic starters with Isla having chips and salad with hers. Fine food for a young un. These squats were caught on the way back from Rona,

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was there with Sean trying to link up the Applenet but did not go all to plan as a bit of kit was forgotten. Shows up how the stretched capacity of the community does break at times. If we had two people involved then a phone call back to Applecross, an instruction for some one on the computer and all would have been sorted. Still some work done

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and may be finished through a phone call. This was exactly the chat I had with an MSP who stayed at the Inn on Wednesday evening. Our community capacity is being stretched so thinly, but soldiering on we will continue. Good to chat to a Chair of one of the Committees that have an over view of rural life. You can still give him the difficulties of survival over here even if he is at the opposite end of the spectrum with your political views. Working at the Inn has taught the ability to accept the many faces of human nature and not react adversely. I was being watched by the regulars who were imaging newspaper headlines the next day involving front of house in fracas with landowner

So we are up to Friday and third day in  row we are off to sea. Bit of a breeze but just a little more than gentle. Again good run with another five up with only one foul and it had been lifted by a neighbour possibly exacerbating the work. Due a wash so took it closer to home. Friday evening was earmarked for a movie showing and to be frank I was not enthusiastic, it being a hard few days and managing to squeeze in a short sharp migraine on Thursday night. However well worth the effort as Postcards from Applecross was a cracking video taking in different aspects around the community. Nick, Stephen and lately Angelica have put together a series of  short videos lasting an hour showing the variety of occupations and life styles on the peninsula.They ranged from the croft to the sea taking in the Inn, wool dyeing, ice-cream making and photography on the way. I found it very touchingly simple, getting to the soul of the community, but not branding it in a tourist sort of way. Regular visitors to the Inn will love a glimpse into how people live in order to stay here. The beauty of the place is shown in the photography of Jack’s, Angelica and Nick, who sadly passed away last year. Had a lot of time for Nick who fell in love with our wee place and he came out on the boat for a day, becoming colder than he had ever been in his life. He was a quiet gentle man and with an eye to his surrounds.

Footnote to the evening; I walked up to the Hall and soon after leaving the house a car passed and then stopped to give me a lift as Fiona saw there were no dogs being walked. Chatting away I was slightly taken aback as we scooted past the Hall. Fiona then commented that she was going up to the Bay as she was slightly early, methinks this is a little unusual but okay. She then mentions she is heading out to dinner and not to the Hall. So half way round Milton Loch we screech to a stop as we both assumed we were heading for different destinations. Me to work and her to the Hall instead of where we were really going…me to the Hall and her to Gordon and Val’s.

Back to Mr Chisholm and this afternoon on the wood run. I had moved onto Cannich and it took all of that album plus the tracks up to the third , Lorient Mornings of  Farrar, to load up what felt like a 3/4 ton of wood,

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shifting it 50 metres to the van. It was heavy going but with his beautiful, haunting fiddling playing, the graft on a driech day was minimal. Dougal and Eilidh were in their own world but never far from all the ditches.

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Cuillin Rays and Running Dog

The Year has not properly kicked in, partly to do with the weather and mostly to do with lack of enthusiasm. Also the oiler on the power saw is blocked so that has slowed up the wood supply. Been on the Net and decided it will be going to Inverness rather than me taking it apart. Get the Pier books up to date and all my stuff as well is not the most enthralling prospect. The batteries are fully charged so there may be a couple of days fishing coming up. Bit of pressure to get out tomorrow for some leaving visitors. The end of the day showed a fine sunset

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behind the Red Cuillin, more pre sunset. The bank of cloud making for a slightly unusual light.

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This apart there is little doing other than taking Dougal and Eildh down to the Bay where they head off into the water bothering the seabirds for a few minutes. They just fly up and then land as soon as they are past. Dougal just makes me laugh with his enthusiasm,

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comes running at speed when called

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looking slightly demented

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and is ready for the next escapade. Good company as is the more genteel Eildh.

Nice shift in the Inn last night. Nice in the respect of it was just like the old days, one person working the bar under the watchful eye of the Boss. She only had to pour one pint all night so it was not stressful for her and time passed really quickly for me. Still there were around 20 meals to serve and people to look after and this topped off with Andy’s fine chicken fried rice. The longer days are not far off.

Knockando Memories

I was going to write this post yesterday but the loss of my power of speech and lack of co-ordination put paid to that. The health has recovered somewhat although rather tired and not through over work. Finishing off a shift at the Inn that was not too onerous, the earlier shifts have been hit harder as many people are coming out for lunch and not travelling during the evening. The poor health and other symptoms were directly related to the exuberant welcoming in 2017. Yesterday began next door with a fine spread for lunch, good chat and some fine whisky. Some slightly bizarre tales of men becoming women and ending up in women prisons as sort of men, one in particular changing his mind half way through. I had with me a drappie of Knockando to keep me going through the day. This dram has memories of an epic weekend in a different life. Many years ago a weekend trip was  arranged and began with me collecting my pickup from the Lochcarron Garage after its MoT and heading to Kyle where I parked it at the Pier. With nothing in my mind other than jumping into the car with a couple of mates and heading to Portree to see Runrig. A fine night in prospect but the first indication that all was not well in Kyle….I had parked the pickup at low tide and with a spring tide that weekend, well, it does not take too much imagination to work out what happened. Managed to forget what was under way in Kyle and had a cracking night. So saturday morning, 6.00am, high tide lapping through the pickup, along came help. A fisherman returning from a party towed me through Kyle at around 30/40 mph to the local garage for a clean up. That was bad enough but the driver was far from sober and I was being towed in reverse. I decided that there was nothing more to do but keep going on the planned weekend, phoned the garage from Inverness, took a lot of stick, (sinking a pickup, being a fisherman etc), but ended up at Knockando distillery having a wee taste of their malt, given to us by a quite eccentric/old-fashioned manager. Back to Applecross and bit too much banter about sunk pickups and a local, that to this day, does not know how lucky he was to survive the banter unscathed, one of my mates that day was an exbouncer and was 6.6 foot by 6 foot and later I learnt he was debating whether to squash my tormentor.

There are so many empty houses in Applecross now the traditional first footing does not happen as in the older times. Now we tend to gather at pre arranged houses or in this case a Shed. After leaving Blaven, replete with food and drink, I made my way to the Cheffie’s Shed where there was a grand supply of many fine malts, Glenmorangie, Bunnahabhain, Highland Park and the rest of the Knockando with a fine Dalmore 15-year-old thrown in. Time passed very quickly and I blame the two pear ciders for my poor state of health. But the craic was immense and the company better. Met the lively wee photographer, Jonathan, and had good craic with the sisters although things were getting a little hazy by then. I rolled home around ten knowing the next morning may be a rough passage to sail through. Actually although the pain was pretty sharp first thing it eased in plenty of time for work. Decide the walk to work would be therapeutic and so it turned out.

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Hogmanay was a fine night at the Inn, there were a few later bookings, but all was done  in good time by 10.30pm. Again there were lots of craic, humour and banter and Amir. Turned out that really was Ahmed, (he was n’t playing hide and seek) an Indian who decided he wanted to experience the Scottish and Hogmanay. The “skirt” was requested and delivered and off he went to the changing room or the toilets in this case. As he did not appear after around 20 minutes I decided to see how things were going. He definitely had not mastered the dress code and he had the kilt tied on like a sari. So I had another first experience at the Inn……dressing a little Indian, all in the best possible taste of course. Over the course of the couple of days he was here he lost and found his car keys, phone, kilt and discovered how cold it is in the North. He said he was coming back, we shall see.

(And yet another day later) And still on Hogmanay with every one well versed in the etiquette of the night the Inn was empty by 10.40pm and I went off to the turbine house to take end of year production and exports. Then it was off to the head of the Bay, I like a bit of peace and quiet, contemplation time and spent the last hour of the year with a wee drammie of the Knockando. I welcomed the new Year in standing outside, listening to the placating sounds of a stream running down the hillside, gazing up at the Plough, and just being. Surprisingly hard thing to do even living in a place like Applecross. Then it was down to the Hall where the masses had gathered and there were the comradely greetings and well wishing. Local and visitor alike, in fact I think it is so important that those who visit here are made welcome and that seemed to be the case most of the time. Great atmosphere and good humour that over rode the lack of sounds coming from the stage. The key for the music room must have gone missing again as the sound system being used did not seem to be working too well. Did not take anything away from the night though and it was all over, for me anyway, by 1.30am.

Last night at the Inn was pleasant and easy-going and finished fairly early, walked home with only the one minor incident, dropped a glove in the dark and smacked my nose on a wall trying to find it. So only scar from the weekend did not involve any stimulants of any kind. getting back to a bit of normality today with dipping the tanks at the Filling Station and going up to see the Turbine was in good order. With Ewen having changed the two breaker switches there has been a good run of 100% since then. Paper work slowly coming through and for those who want to claim the tax relief the Apple Juice ref no is WMBC/MSB/S0970/39920 18331/SCEC and office we are dealing (Cardiff), hoping the forms are through in the next week. I know that the admin with HMRC has been a bit of a mare but is  coming together. Angus and his two mates were wandering around the Turbine House,

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unconcerned to any human activity.

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Then it was a bit of wood chopping and getting batteries of the Varuna for a charge and thoughts return to work and a bit of fishing. And just to finish with hoping that everyone has a year that brings contentment and peacefulness to their lives and all friends and family. A heartfelt thanks to all who have read, commented, liked and tweeted the Blog, I have enjoyed writing and taking photos for it.

And Now Conor.

And now Conor races through,

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although the moorings are generally pretty well protected with still a bit of westerly blowing.

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Has not swung round to the north-west during the fiercest of the winds.

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The dinghy is at the pier, the mooring work was done six weeks ago and the stern gland tightened. Only the batteries are needing a charge but no one is going anywhere this week so that will not be till the wind dies away a little before I take them off for a charge.

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Just watch and wait with one or two customers to serve at the Inn. met some “Pit Yackers” to add to my collection of North east England localities like the Sand Dancers of South Shields. Was up briefly at the Inn on Christmas morning but everything under control and did not stay around. The Belgian with two punctures was being sorted by a tow truck back to Torridon Hotel, the prosecco out and the wind blowing so just a few snaps of Conor before doing very little for the rest of the day. Lost the internet last night but Sean battled up Tor Mor to fix a part taken out by Conor.

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Unsung heroes are the guys who keep local services that everyone takes for granted going. Up to the Inn now for the Boxing Day shift.

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