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

Archive for the ‘wood’ Category

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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Music and New Year at Glasgow

(Sat afternoon) Back in Glasgow for this years finale at Celtic Connections and it went very smoothly. Who needs mobile phones, you just arrange to meet up and take it from there. Took ten minutes longer to find the air bandb but with little hassle. Straight back out and off to the Oran Mor for a rip-roaring night of trad music provided by Dosca and Elephant Sessions. I had never heard of Dosca before but will certainly keep an eye out for them in the future. Fiddle, flute, pipes and rhythms with a miners song thrown in and before you knew it their set was over. So good, and then into The headline boys, but before that, at half time I was crowd spotting and by the end of the break had found seven people connected to Applecross. The music was brilliant, driving traditional using traditional instruments getting people to find it impossible to stay still. I noticed a debate about the direction the music is going and have to say I enjoy it, at the same time I have seen the Wainwright Sisters and Songs of Separation along with Mairi Campbell in the last couple of years. There is a greater amount of testosterone about the scene at the moment but music like everything else has its own cycles. Off to do a spot of Trainspotting now before checking out the maestro that Duncan Chisholm is.

Won’t any spoilers on T2 just to say go and see it. It is brilliant. Lots of pathos, humour and reflections on the absurdity that is life. Evening saw us at City Halls and enjoyed some fine fine music played by Duncan Chisholm

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and many of his compadres.

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I love the tunes he plays from his Affric trilogy, especially Crask.Time just flies by and due to ticket not being used, Son No4 came out for the jolly.

Sunday lunch was Italian and another family occasion, but not before checking into a very colourful Chinese New Year gathering

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on George Square.

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Vibrant reds, yellows

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with smiles to match.

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And as the sign says people make Glasgow.

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One would like to think that is a nation wide concept, barring the few bampots we have scattered round our communities. The food, service and banter was second to none and a rapid two hours passed only with a mild panic at the end with me losing the tickets for the evening concert. Easily sorted by a reprint at the RCH and then proceeded to a grand night of music.

 

Have to admit Graham Mackenzie passed me by but going by the standard of musicians on stage he has been noticed and appreciated by those who know. Then followed the Mark O’Connor Band. Our only experience of Americana music this time round, great blue grass mix of songs, fiddle and mandolin tunes, backed by driving double bass and flat picking guitar. Certainly satiated but had a bit of a nagging feeling of wanting to stay down for more. Knew there were several more bands to see but needs must and we were on the train north on Monday. Does not take long to get back into the flow of things so priority has been to get the paperwork done and several VAT returns have gone in, bills gone out and tax returns worked on. Some deadlines met, certainly the more important ones, some not but getting to having a clear desk for the first time in about ten years. The weather has been fairly inclement but still pretty good for the middle of winter. There have been some lovely glimpses.

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As well as the book work the routines of wood splitting,

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dipping the Filling Station tanks attending part of a broadband meeting, picking up a couple of boys from the train to work on the broadband network and walking up to the Head to clean the screen and grease the turbine shaft. Did this with company but more of that later. A wee foot note to Celtic Connections, sometimes you don’t get it right. Not going to criticise the music but just that Dub Opera is not my scene. Despite that, there was some great classical Indian singing

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and a fine pibroch by Barney the piper.

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Back to the Wood.

Difficult to believe we live in such a beautiful world tonight. It is hard to imagine, from a privileged position, what drives some people to kill and destroy others they do not know. Wandering about collecting more wood, coming across some beautiful fungi,

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light on the remaining wood,

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then after the dogs back in the van a wander down to the shore amongst the oyster catchers and turn stones,

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seems so far from the violence around the world.

Stayed Healthy and Gathered Wood.

Just dogs and wood this week. Had an option to go fishing on a calm Friday but turned it down to go wood gathering with the dogs.

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Does not seem to matter what season it is they amuse themselves endlessly in the undergrowth.

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As ever there are many tons of wood lying about Applecross and keeping an eye on seasoned wood, making sure no one else has plans, means you stay away from the coal man for another year. It also means you get a fair bit of exercise to compensate for not going out on the water. Came across some old beech wood with some beautiful marling,

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warped and twisted on the ground for more than a couple of years. If caught earlier would have been good to see it worked.

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Made it to the wood on Saturday only by dint on taking the right course on Friday evening. Around 9pm it crossed my mind to go out and join in the Boatyard Christmas End of Year Bash. Decided against it and was so relieved I had when I called in to the Inn on Saturday morning. The recovery was still underway and seeing an appearance just before eleven was so glad not to have been involved the night before. A scrambled eggs and salmon aided this recovery. The next appearance, only time was going to heal, the daylight was causing a problem here. Last to appear was in fine fettle and had a pint of Kronenberg for breakfast…..he was definitely delaying the inevitable. I was almost having a hangover watching from the sidelines. A good night seemed to be had by all at the Inn, maybe next year………

 

Dogs love the Hydro.

Decided it is okay just to exist some days and today is one of them. We have more staff than customers at the moment at the Inn but if one is there then the Boss does not need to be so still serving a purpose. The days are still “filled” with chat about the Consultation and a screen clean. The route has changed and seems to be okayed by the company.

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Not sure if connected but the hydro was running at 3/4 kWhs below maximum last week and seems to have climbed to the full 90+ now.

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Lower water levels and a bit of sun grows the screen blocking algae which lets the water flow over rather than into the camber. Wood is taking a bit of time

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and energy too.

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Lateral North Goes to Venice.

Been asked to do a wee story of the Applecross Community Company so far for Lateral North https://www.facebook.com/lateralnorth/?fref=ts.

Applecross is a peninsula on the North West coast of Scotland with a small and spread out population of approximately 220 people. From the east you travel over the highest Pass in Scotland.

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This story all began in 2008 when our Filling Station was under threat of closure so the Community formed a Company under the 2003 Land Reform Act Scotland which then proceeded to refurbish and run the Applecross Filling Station

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on a volunteer basis, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the Scottish Rural Development programme and the Community.

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Since then the Company has taken over, refurbished

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and run the local toilets. This was funded by LEADER, Highland Council and HIE and local contributions.

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The Community Broadband scheme was next,

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funding to set up the system was provided by Investing in Ideas, Village SOS and Community Broadband Scotland. This has proved challenging both to set up and maintain

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and we are hoping to connect via radio link to fibre optic backhaul in the near future.

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Funding from Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund enabled the Company to welcome the Internationally renowned Flensberg University into the Community,

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hold a Conference on renewable energy,

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and hold numerous workshops from wood fuel

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to showcasing electric cars.

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As result Applecross has become greener with, for example, the installation of several wood fuel stoves burning local wood supplies.

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Last year we formed a Community Benefit Society, AppleJuice, which carried out the building of a Community Hydro Scheme,

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HighlandEco, the contractors built the scheme while we ran a Share Issue to raise £803,700 to pay for it.

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The scheme is capable of producing 90 kWs from run of river. Jamie here putting the finishing touches to the soft ware programs

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and Mick showing the school children the workings of the turbine.

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And Dougal checking the Pipeline.

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This has been the most challenging of all, taking the Community Company around 7 years to plan and develop before Apple Juice funded and built it. It was completed in December 2015 and will provide a future income for the Community to invest in projects to increase capacity and sustainable growth. Working well.

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Worth celebrating as some of the team did.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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,

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with Graham

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to check the head levels and screen,

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water coming over, head okay, Dougal double checking

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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

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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

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

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

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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.

 

Political Wood Stack.

Even if you do nothing for a whole week in Applecross there is always something going on or conversations to comment on. Up till today it has been a pretty dull week, waiting for the first storm of the winter to pass through on Monday and Tuesday, and not going out fishing when I should really have, as there are no langoustines on the menu board and the weather was not too bad on Wed/Thurs. Today was back to the strong winds but looking more hopeful for getting back into the swing of things next week. The dinghy is back on the out hauler and ready to go. Unfortunately when I took her into the pier,bailing her while hanging onto the rope and keeping her off the shore wrecked my shoulder, so hauling creels was not on the top of the agenda.

A little wait for the worst of the rain to pass through yesterday morning before attacking most of the wood left for this years outside wood stack. Seems to have gone a wee bit political and may not be fully apparent on first sight. As I have aged the progress to the right-wing of politics has not taken place, in fact possibly gone the other way as I have become even more disinterested in wealth. On the wood stack front my thoughts are very, very simply put. Trident and nuclear weapons are useless in the extreme in that a deterrent never used is not a deterrent. And if some one was to push a button to start a nuclear strike that person would be insane or at the very least dehumanized to the nth degree. Pointless being second in pushing the button. A long-winded way of explaining why I have a Trident submarine in my wood stack. Some one somewhere must have a logical explanation as to why we spend so much money on something we cannot use while we struggle to find money for services, health and education, I remain to be convinced. Lots of angst flying about how to use one’s second vote in our upcoming election….such an easy choice as I have already met him, found him to be interested and supportive of community empowerment and real sustainable development, and supports an economy that is sustained within the environment, so John Finnie our Green list candidate gets my second vote. There are lots advocating two votes for SNP but when you have fine candidates like John, Andy Wightman, Patrick Harvie among many others you know you are voting for people who will try to take your views to the legislature. And the Trident view is shared, needless to say.

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On the local front I always find it interesting that no one mentions the Filling Station in any of the conversations I have, or the public toilets. Come to recognise that this is a good sign in local politics. It means they are working well. Unfortunately that cannot be said for the AppleNet Broadband system. I personally do not think there is anyone to blame as it was an ambitious pioneering project that will still work but in certain places throughout the community there are poor signals. The system was based on the Eigg and Knoydart models but the big difference here is the number of relays to get the signal to the various outlying and awkward placed settlements. These problems were not so acute in the first systems set up further south. Seems one loses the strength of the connection if at the end of a series of relays. There also is a problem in places like Craic Barn where the signal is bounced of walls from house to house resulting in possible distorted reception from noisy radio signalling. And weather is always going to be a problem. Our masts have to be more robust and money made from the connections is going to be reinvested in the network, that goes without saying. It is a new phenomenon that we experience living in the same community as the service and responsible for that service. We are the Indians in the BT Call Centre dealing with the problems but we are in the shop or at the Community Hall or the Inn while coping with the down side of the network. I do not have any regrets in anything we have tried and on the positive side WHAN is still on the horizon, the fibre optic cabling is installed in Mallaig, the masts are in place but need equipment installed and improvements are on the way. Our local network needs improving and outside help is being approached to do just that. Back to the down side the WHFP tells the story of how bad our Skye connection is and how long BT are taking to connect the Mallaig line to the WHAN Network. As the connection date was 9th Nov 2015 I am going to stop predicting when the BT connection takes place. Maybe I will prefer being a graduate in India in the Call Centre for a wee while longer. I look forward to AppleNet dropping out as a conversation piece just like the Filling Station has done, and like the Filling Station the problems are being addressed, maybe not as quickly as some would like.

The Hydro may well be doing that already although I find it is in many people’s minds and it appears to have awakened the potential in the community. Not a few people have remarked that if the community can build a Hydro Scheme against all the odds then what are the limits. Lateral North will soon be coming here to carry out a project on just that. A vision, without the constraints of land in outside hands and lack of affordable housing, but sustainable employment both meaningful and connected to the local environment. Jamie and Mick from HighlandEco were back in midweek to run through some of the glitches in the systems, a bit of rewiring and some software programming called for. It seems to be running smoothly at 100% capacity just now. Still a bit of landscaping to finish off with some gates and fencing to be erected but the system is generating money for the community day and night. Patience while AppleJuice builds up some capital before the monies raised will be reinvested in the community. It was interesting chatting about the regression of FiTs and how they affect the future of the renewable industry. It was pointed out that actually FiTs can lead to the wealthy becoming even more wealthy as systems are built on the Lairds land and public monies are siphoned off in that direction. The regression does hit the community schemes the hardest as they have to raise investment on top of the capital cost of build and if, like us, we do not own the river we are hit with rents that will make future schemes unviable. Wonder if it would be possible to have a two tier FiTs system where communities can enjoy a better return thus a genuine redistribution of the nations finances while improving the drive to renewables. That would get over the problem of the transfer of public funds into already deep pockets.

 

A Torridon House Renewal.

Middle of the night and back from a pretty amazing day. It started off as usual, a sunday morning shift at the Inn with discussions about whether it was going to be busy, were all the visitors on the way south, will we have day trippers? But in the back of my mind was will I be in Torridon for a party? The reason behind this was an invite for Judith to attend a sort of opening day at Torridon House. The House has recently been bought and renovated by Felix and Sarah. The renovations are still on going but I am jumping ahead. Felix had turned up in Applecross on Shooglenifty night and obviously enjoyed himself and again made it down to the Inn with the next session of the Lochcarron musicians. it was then he invited Judith up to Torridon over New Year. Not one to miss out on some music I immediately offered to drive. To cut a long tooing and froing short, on Saturday some friends of Felix came down to the Inn and had some lunch and through chatting to them we discovered the “party” was on Sunday not Saturday as first intimated. Saturday would not have worked as we would have been too busy to go. I still thought there was little chance as staff were still thin on the ground but Caroline intervened and told the Boss she was to go. As Sketch or at least some members were reputed to be there I was delighted with this turn of events and happily drove north about two o’clock. This despite a busy bar and I tried to take as many orders to ease the conscience in leaving other people to do your work.

The day turned into one of those experiences that one will possibly never forget. We walked in as Felix was giving a speech on the steps of the front hall, a warm welcoming speech which was followed by a Buddhist ceremony.

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A ceremony that was to create a new beginning and to cleanse the building of some of its unpleasant past (hope I have this right). To walk into this when we both had feelings wondering if we should be here immediately put us at ease. The makeshift sign on the way in helped.

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We were quickly chatting to people we knew, Hughie, Morag, Sheila, Les, Clare and Jo, Jan, Nigel among many locals and then Herbert, Katerina, Peter and many others I never found their names, and that did not matter. I even got my New Year dancing in, bought my new Sketch album met Ali Levak yet again and heard some brilliant tunes.

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Heard Felix and Sarah on guitar and fiddle play a tune they have written called the Mam, Glenelg’s Bealach, and felt Felix’s emotion talking about leaving Glenelg.

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Heard this tune at the Inn when they were over and knew it was special then. Community, people and connections were the themes and feelings of the day expressed in music and chat and that for me was a strange and wonderful combination. Here we were in an Estate House which over the years has had a bad history connected to it on how its occupants had treated its people in the past, then we had an eastern spiritual experience followed by a desire and vision of  integrating community, music and arts with “The Big House”. A turning round of history, breathing an old decaying emblem of the past into a new form of community future. Idealistic vision but why not, better than its previous history, in particular a Colonel McBarnet who denied the tenants the right to keep any cattle or sheep, of a decaying establishment, a beautiful but dead part of the Highlands. The size of the Estate, the lands around the House means that land reform legislation would not affect positive ventures like this and the community members I spoke to were happy and enthusiastic in their praise of what was happening. A studio was already being used at the back of the House, outlying cottages were to be renovated to raise funds for more renovations and fund the project and a recording/composing and teaching music studio is planned.

Into the evening and as everyone was leaving and we were about to head home with plans to call in to visit so the Boss did not arrive during Inn hours, she was invited to stay for dinner.

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Well, as driver, that meant me too and the table was set as the conversations continued. Everything from the spiritual to fishing and reminiscing, turns out the lady of the House has a retired fisherman and diver as a Dad.

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Names such as Jimmy Philp, Dave Hardy and Ally Clam came up in the chats, blasts from the past from days in Kyle. Times when the scallop diving industry was slightly more Wild West than now with all its regulations and safety measures. Tales of nights in cells and Drams in the Field alongside Katerina talking about France, Canada and Buddhism meant the evening passed rapidly and so it was home over the Pass to the sounds of Sketch and a soundly sleeping guest.

Today, slipping back into some sort of routine, I was up at the Turbine House to pick up wood from the dryer. For whatever reason it was shut down so down to phone and make sure I was not going to blow it up with a restart. All went well and changed the mode to automatic restart. It shuts down reacting to any disturbance of power and as it is still being run in the restart is better being manual. Keeps Dougal occupied and the power saw came out in the afternoon and the sticking problem cleared up, been changing the sharpening angle and no idea if that was the solution but powered through the last of the pine and started chopping. Harsh east wind blowing all day but there was a classic west coast sunset

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around 3.30/4 pm

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so took the dogs down to the shore.

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Eilidh easing back into a bit of exercise. In the quiet of the evening it is hard to believe this time yesterday we were surrounded by Germans, Austrians, French and Americans in a fine Big House. Don’t often use these words together but an open mind keeps one healthy. So throw in Mexico and South Africa and we have had a cosmopolitan Christmas and New Year. One little correction about Hogmanay and fortunately did not cause offence but our tweaking guy was not a transvestite but a Drag Queen, and a very good one. Suspect it was the first time Son No3 played some tunes on the pipes for one.

Hydro and Disconnected Gearboxes.

Walking down from the site of the Pen Stock at the Hydro Intake, Mike Vass playing his In the Wake of Neil Gunn, just low enough so the tumbling of Alt Breugach over the rocks is also part of the music, all is well in my world. Put that together with the expansive, awesome view of the Inner Sound and blue sky you would expect me to say that. The last part of the journey has been a little fraught and to explain one has to be on board the Varuna around 2.30pm on Thursday afternoon. The had started so well with the sacrificial hauler plates changed

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along with the knife

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on the way out. Never like “just steaming” and have to be doing something. The last fleet of seven just hauled and was kept on board to take ashore for a wash when things went awry. I had previously picked up one of my own ropes, cut, respliced it and dropped it over the side before finishing my fleet. Turned to go home when I heard the sound of rope in propeller. Bit puzzled as I had all my rope on board but then realised that it was the other rope that I had spliced had caught either on my sounder or the keel and then went into the prop. Bar tight and tried to get clear again by putting into gear and hoping the rope cutter on the prop shaft would do the job. Unfortunately what happened was like putting a winch pull on the gearbox which smashed the centre of the drive plate and pulled out of the bell housing.

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It was still just engaging so hooked rope, onto the creel hauler to cut free and engage gear but too much and complete breakdown.

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Nothing for it but to call for assistance and DJ on the Grace Anne was the recipient, coming across from Raasay, a fair bit to the south, but rope on and an hour and a half later we were back on the moorings, grateful for the help.

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When a little younger fretting about lost time and expense would always kick in but now there is too much to do. Showered and up to the Inn where the Boss was taking the evening off so it was Linda and myself out front. A good night and all the tables enjoyed themselves, so many people are just a little sad in leaving and I have attended more than a few “last suppers”. New group have been in at least twice, live in London but were so complimentary about amazing food and friendliness. Phone call to our resident engineer, Ewen, to explain my plight and arrange an early morning visit to the Varuna. I think it is fair to say bad enough but could have been worse, always have in mind the Ivanhoe which was lost in Portree Sound with a rope in the prop, tried to remove it by thrashing the engine revs and ended up cracking the stern gland and sinking. Last thing before coming ashore yesterday was checking any water intake which was nill. What I have never done is to raise the revs to try and free any ropes, just not worth it, enough damage without doing that.

Lift over the Hill with Ewen, after taking numbers and details for part ordering, walk round the head of Loch Kishorn,

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followed by a lift to the Van Hospital out side Lochcarron. The lift almost came too soon as everything was stunning, more than a little hint of autumn.

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DMK Motors and another fine job done, back over the Hill,

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down for the bike and up to the Hydro Scheme to see the further progress. Worked up a sweat in the beautiful weather but well worth it to see how it is going, getting ready to pour tomorrow,

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having finished putting the panels up, this being where the water falls over the dam, through the screen and fills up the box before making its way down to the turbine house and generating electricity,

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while Steve was laying the first of the pipes.

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A few more lengths to go but the speeds they are working at….no problem, so thinks Dougal.

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Gravel sand mix arrived and I nipped half way back up, well quarter of the way, to see where they wanted the load dropped. knackered by this times and have settled for a couple of bacon and egg rolls, a cracking mug of Peruvian coffee and The Elephant Sessions playing in the background. One or two wee rumours suggesting they may be heading this way. So I should be cheesed off, down but what ever switch was flicked about three months ago is still on and a wood cut is on the cards for the afternoon. (written yesterday afternoon.) Two ways of looking at events, could mope about a four figure bill and four figure loss of revenue or think that I have a bit of time in the next week or so to catch up in so many things.

The week had been quite good for weather,

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langoustine catches and work effort. Mornings,

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followed by pleasant days at sea

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and meeting regulars at the Inn have filled the days. On Thursday evening took a trip back with Ian Wallace, over with Jamie, and recalled with him many of the old names and characters sadly gone from the area, Straight, Douchie Douch, Peerie, Morag, Straight and Gillies and many more. He had been woking on the first bit of the Sand road with RJ Macleod’s and had a pretty impressive memory going way back to the 70s. On the odd grey day there has been plenty of activity going,

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Dougal and Eilidh are getting plenty of exercise with all the coming and going.

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Little time to read about supposed rogue helicopters landing on the shore outside the Inn.

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Some one put something up on YouTube and it was picked up by the press, a no news day. Good response from the Boss.

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