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.

 

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