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

Making my way back to the north lands, a beautiful day and stunning countryside flashing by.Travelling solo as Alison is heading south to spend some time with her Dad. I still have the residue of last night’s stunning visual and sound experience which will keep me going through the mundane routines making even them special. Our accommodation was based on price, 50% reasonable reviews and proximity to the centre, but having a little experience of Front of House can be a curse at times. Like in Iceland you cannot help but gauge how you are treated /helped through your day. Had a wee cringe when I heard the French chappie ask for some tabasco for his scrambled eggs, the waitress had never heard of tabasco despite this foreign person spelling it out for her, going for help maybe was on the cards but he never got his tabasco. Place was clean, maybe not Grace/Irena clean but clean enough and served its purpose, but maybe another venue for Celtic Connections. Booked most of the tickets for a five-day venture in January. Had a scare when one of the key concerts, Mandolin Orange was booked out, at least that is what CC said. I went onto their own website and was fortunate to get a couple of tickets so with Lunasa, Bothy Culture, Lau and a couple of others to be confirmed the winter will be less bleak.

Sights that I never see in Applecross bring home to you how fortunate one is in life. Last night I had the “great” misfortune to run out of battery in my camera, having left my backup at the accommodation and not having a second battery to hand. I called in to Jessops on the way to the station this morning and could not help comparing my good fortune in going to buy a back up battery, paying £90 for the privilege, while thinking about the guy who was making his bed up in the same doorway when we passed the night before.Maybe it helps to think it is a beautiful country and day when you have a home, family and structure to ones life. Passing through the lush farmlands of Perthshire, the bleak, snow-covered moors of Dalwhinnie and the the birch woods around Aviemore one can only hope the homeless chap has a couple of good experiences that will see him through his day. If a ticket machine not accepting my card and a camera battery running out is a problem in my life, I think I will settle for that.

The concert from beginning to end was stunning,

colourful

and a rocking good sound. Dhol Drummers, Kora,

 

Bagpipes,

Bodhran,Flute and singing were all top drawer.

All familiar as I have seen the Dhol boys with Shooglenifty and have followed the Afro Celts for some time. The cross over of the Celts with the Asian and African sounds seem very natural and the evening was topped off with Griogair singing a fine Jacobean Gaelic song, aimed I think to get people’s feet back on the ground so they could wend their way home. Met up with other guys from Applecross, Sheildaig, Plockton and South Uist with other musicians spotted, a feeling of Scotland being just the right size of country where huge amounts of talent and camaraderie abound. Been asked to write an article and blog post for another site so going to have to put deadline on myself to get both done. May be away for a couple of days……but then something else may happen.

But get home means a trip over our little hill.

On the way south to see and hear Afro Celt Sound System and leaving Inverness behind finally. The ticket collecting machine did not like my Visa card. May be a west east issue. As a result by the time I had picked them up from the ticket office the planned train had left. So now after an M and S coffee, couple of music purchases, Lau and Julie Fowlis, it is south we go. Another difference between east and west is Christmas seems to have arrived on the east coast, horribly early. These little jaunts are essential to life in Applecross where believe it or not one does suffer from cabin fever. However a meander around the community,

with

and without the dogs allow for some good viewing of colours

and bird life.

Keeping the dogs off the beaches at the time of year is good for the seabirds, enabling them not to fly off trying to avoid mad spaniels and terriers. One or two little hiccups at the Hydro, a couple of tripped switches but no significant lose of power out put. Angus is always about.

It still uses up a bit of volunteer time, getting the key for access, checking over the switches and returning the key and you are three-quarters of an hour down, that as well as a screen clean and before you know it well over a couple of hours are taken up. But to counter balance there is always the views.

Events of the week have involved our Community Council no longer having enough elected councillors to continue, still have to check up to make doubly sure but an election is in the offing. Another meeting this week to progress the Community Company consultation, something that should not surprise anyone as the Community Company is obliged to find out what the Community want and for it to carry out its wishes if it is feasible. There may be consulting fatigue in the Community but this one is quite important as it is a Community led one. Yet more volunteer time but gradually cutting back on the overload.

Going back a little further in my “wait for a part fortnight”. Seems it may be in Belgium on Thursday and Muir of Old by Saturday. Today is only the second day I have missed, still slightly frustrating, but the wood and paper work may all be done by then. Unfortunately our internet is down, we have been switched back to BT and for some reason our router is not picking it up, I’m in the Inn and Alison is at Kenny and Jill’s. So back to the missed day between Awards and breakdown, a helicopter trip round the Black Isle,

courtesy of PDG and the “Flying Farmer”, John.

Never met him before Iceland and now the third time in a couple of weeks…….just like buses. Only discovered there was a space for a passenger

and Jolene jumped at the chance.

Early start so sleep almost all the way and way back, but I think it went down quite well. John’s enthusiastic commentary was excellent and really informative, apart from Cromarty

I am not able to remember where the photos are,

telling us how locally sourced the barley was going to be, stored locally and malted locally, this as well as the renewable energy has persuaded me to add a little more to the investment that gave me the chopper ride. Local and sustainable distillery with the still and biomass boiler being fired up this week. Promise myself to call into the site itself sometime this winter, may even like the dram. Good to get back though.

Sheep that Couldn’t Pee

After the fine morning we are back to the autumnal/winter south-westerly breeze and mainly grey skies. Although it is a little frustrating that there are no langoustines on the menu board I am less fretful than in younger days. Looking back on the week, despite the inactivity at sea and a seasonal feeling taking hold, there were a couple of highlights. One involved working at the Inn and meeting the C of I vicar, Terry and his wife Alison. Wednesday evening went as planned with it being a lot less frantic, still having to watch tables for residents, but being able to chat to people for a little longer. I had already made contact earlier in the evening so sat down in their vicinity for my supper. The House 9 Cowans were in and the evening really kicked off from then on in. A proper Highland Pub craic and ceilidh ensued over a couple of malts, well possibly three. Although unlike at the Awards Ceremony no one was counting. Everything was up for discussion, politics, banter, world events, certainly Ireland was up there with Brexit and local community activities ranked fairly high. I like the fact that card-carrying Tories, an Irish vicar and a Scottish Green can pass the time of day discussing the events of the day and remain/become friends over the piece. It was only left for me to state that it is evenings like these that make working at the Inn so enjoyable. Working is probably the wrong word.

So often when you chat to people the connection is there, like the friends of one of the late Prof Romanes’ daughters. She was so surprised I had heard of him, far less knew and worked with him when we were scallop farming. And so to the vet, Alasdair, who used to live in Fintry and now in Doune. Only realised that I had spoken to them the last time they were here. Loved his story of the ewe that could n’t pee. She had turned up at the practice and belonged to a “hobby farmer” who fed it to the extent it did not eat grass, even when put in a field of fellow grass-eating sheep. Resulting in a crystallising blocking it channels. Despite having a “bit” chopped off it did not survive through the next 24 hours although she was able to pee, which must have been some relief as she left this world.

Going further back into the week, on Tuesday, I headed over the Hill making my way to Sleat for a bit of a wild card concert put on by Duncan of Seall. The Red Dirt Skinners and what a find the were.

On the way I stopped off for a shop and to drop off my sick iMac at a doctor. Not very hopeful of getting it going and getting data recovered but still worth a try. Then down to Dave and Maggie’s for a wee ceilidh. Always great for a catch up and usually afterwards I wonder why we do not do this more often, just drop in to people’s houses  for nothing more than making or at least keeping a strong connection going. The upsetting side to the visit was finding out I had missed the passing on of Sylvia. the Iceland trip had put me out of communication and missed both her passing and send off which to all accounts was immense. Hearing that both Slippy and her daughter did her proud on the day. The least I could do was to call in to Ruairidh and try to convey some heartfelt feeling, always feels so inadequate and hopefully he picked up some genuine sympathy and for a few minutes felt a kindred spirit. When we lose empathy with our fellow-men then we are in trouble. I suspect a lack of human empathy in our Political Leaders leads to many a war, and although often said it is very rarely their sons and daughters who are sent to fight their wars.

So easy for me, as I was back on the road to Sleat via a monster fish and chips in Broadford. The Skinners were awesome, soprano sax

with guitar and vocals were immense.

Mostly their own self penned songs, all accompanied with stories, with a couple of covers thrown in. Sunshine in Leith stood out and came a close second to the version sung by the 20000 Hibs fans after they had won the Scottish Cup. Don’t think anyone can compete with that version. Sat at a table of Lochcarron and Kishorn guys but you are never on your own when at a music gig. This concert ranks as one of the best and the drive home felt short.

So back to Monday and a trip up to the screen to check up and clean. In spate

so it was a shoes and socks off rather than wet feet.

Pooches as usual in attendance.

A wee snippet as I await my heat exchanger part for the Varuna. Perfect day to go to sea but times have changed. Every company seems to have cut its cloth to a bare minimum these days so when one has a break down you can no longer go into either Inverness or any component parts place and get simple parts of the shelf. I have a 7/10 day wait for the heat exchanger for the gear box. No point in fretting as a week over 40 years at sea is nothing. This morning I had serious pangs about being ashore while watching the Grace Anne slide north.

So nothing for it but to enjoy the morning ashore, watching the geese share the field with the Highlands

across the road.

Next it was up the road with the dogs along the Beechwood path.

The weather for the Hydro has been good for most of the summer so a day like today is the perfect antidote.

Trees are wonderful to walk beside, under, through and the colours at this time of year are so vivid and on the ground as well.

Back to the Inn where I was recognised by my calling for Dougal not to bother a wee dog, which turned out to be from Barleyport. Wee chat before seeing another photo at the back door, Lyndsay and Shaun,

who are heading off on their travels tomorrow and I don’t mind saying the Inn will not be quite as bright while they are gone. Pretty sure they will be back though. And then it was off home for a gentle afternoon.

 

 

From Ice to Awards

Finished the Iceland trip with a quiet day around Reykjavik. Morning was spent messing around with photos and posting before Alison went down the road to a museum and I went up the road to the Perlan Centre. A place built on geothermal tanks that has a glacier in it.

A genuine glacier, or at least part of one.

There were layers of ash in the ice, a crevasse and an ice tunnel.

For the first time I balked at a tourist payment and it was to go out side on the balcony for a better view of the city. This was an extra fiver on top of the guided tour of the inside glacier. Fair play to them for being able to make a bit of money of their visitors and they do seem to have done it without overdeveloping and spoiling what people are coming to see. The only complaint on the whole visit came from the serving staff of the Perlan. And it was only because they had to deal with a slowly revolving centre from where they were serving their coffee and cakes. They had to rearrange their furniture as it turned slowly round and I got a wee grump from a staff member who was unimpressed with the design.

In the evening I decided to head out to have a fish and chips, we had kept the expenditure down with the self catering, down by the harbour. For a capital city Main Street this is about the right size.

Cod and chips was expensive but worth it. So very early start on Friday but picked up outside front door and were at airport in no time. Packed out with people going places and slightly nervous about everything although on flight and sound asleep for the two hours it took to get to Glasgow. On the train and another three hours North, again asleep, before decanting to the Premier Inn and another Awards Ceremony.

We talked ourselves down and actually think the Boss does not want to enter too many more. It means more to up and coming places and helps them on their way. The Applecross Inn has arrived many years ago and the aim is not to let standards drop rather than to keep gathering prizes. A good night though with some people taking a little longer to get ready than others.

And seemingly there were a few whiskies drunk towards the end of the night. Judging by my lack of hangover they could not have been imbibed by me. So the kilt gets its third outing of the fortnight and good to meet up with Mountain Cafe,

John, Glen Wyvis, and Coast and Glen. A very well behaved table,

at least for most of the night,

and they went looking for the stars of the evening.

 

Good to get home and back to the Inn with a couple of shifts on Saturday and Sunday. It is now the time of year and back to earth, waiting for weather and finding out which heat exchanger was down. Found out it was the gear box

so it is off and waiting for part.

Sitting in the Perlan Centre after a guided tour of a glacier, inside the building but made up of real glacial snow and ice. Chuffed to be mistaken for an Icelandic chap, think it was the Scandi look rather than the accent that did it. The short trip is coming to an end with a gentle wind down day, Alison going to a museum while I went up the road to this ice place after listening to the John Beattie Lunchtime Show. Although we never made it to the glaciers or geysers we packed in as much as we could and need to go home for a rest. May be snoozing on the planed train journeys before making it to Inverness in time for yet another award night at the Kingsmills. Slightly strange scene here as the centre cafe serving area is revolving ever so slowly and now in front of me is the stairway and back entrance. They have to keep moving the seats and tables to keep up with the revolve. Finally balked at my 490 krona ticket for going out a door onto the balcony. They are maybe just a little too keen on the charging, but not enough of an issue to let it bother me.

Yesterday, taking Graham’s advice, we went up into the north-west, an area that inspired Jules Verne to write Journey to the Centre of the Earth. And travelling round and over it is easy to see why. The only thing we missed out on and that was due to the car, was the dirt track road going over by the Snaefellsjokur Glacier. We took the next one and a fine trip over it was too. The roads here have had a major investment package poured into them, all looking newly tarred and double tracked.

On the way round the peninsula we drove through fields of lava

and we stopped for me to take a couple of autumnal snaps

of the moss that is always first to colonise the lava.

Seemingly this is a bright almost fluorescent green in the Spring time.

Should have realised that the weather was a little fierce seeing the waterfall in the background going back up the hill.

On this part of the journey Alison had us stop at a couple of points, Longdrangar and Djupalonssandur, where the wind was now a full storm, especially up on the cliff top.

Hard to keep your balance and the power of the sea on the rugged shoreline was spectacular to watch. The photo had to be straightened as I do not have a tripod and it was hard to keep one’s balance.

We drove past the next stop but so glad we turned around to go down the short road to Djupalonssandur.

Another black sand beach and storm force winds.

The sea surging up the beach and I got a foot soak for trying to catch a photographic wave.

I find it hard to take pictures of the full ferocity of the wind, these will have to do.

I had no idea about how this beach still holds the remains of a tragedy which took place on the 13th of March 1948, when the Grimsby trawler, Epine, foundered on the rocks off the beach.

Here is an extract from the inquiry which took place after the loss, seemingly to lay blame on the skipper for the disaster.

 

“At the time of the stranding the wind was a moderate gale with a rough sea and the vessel pounded heavily and took a heavy list to starboard. Water began to enter the vessel in large quantities and in less than ten minutes after she struck the water in the engine room reached the dynamo and extinguished the lights. The crew came out on deck and with one exception were wearing their life-jackets. The skipper gave this man his own life-jacket. Seas were sweeping the deck and the lifeboat was found to be stove in. In the opinion of the Court it is almost certain that had it been possible to launch the lifeboat it would immediately have been dashed to pieces on the rocks, and no attempt at rescue from seaward was feasible. Some of the crew were washed overboard but others managed to climb into the rigging after firing six distress rockets, and lighting one fire on top of the wheelhouse and another on the whaleback. The wireless operator who seems to have stuck to his post and done his duty with commendable fortitude got into touch by radio telephone with the steam trawler “Spurs”, and also sent out a distress message. Shortly after the ship struck, Malariff Light was seen at times about on the starboard beam. The place where the vessel stranded was rocky with high cliffs but with a small beach at their foot. After some time a light was seen ashore first on the top of the cliffs and later on the beach. Attempts to establish communication with the shore by Morse lamp were unsuccessful and it seems that those on board the “Epine” decided that the best thing to do was to await daylight. Meantime, the wind increased to about Force 9 with a corresponding increase in the sea and some of those in the rigging of the trawler were overcome by exhaustion. Shortly after day-light the Icelandic rescue party ashore succeeded in getting a rocket with line attached on to the wreck which was finally secured by those on board the trawler and four members of the crew were taken ashore in the breeches buoy. One other member of the crew of the “Epine” got ashore by jumping overboard and swimming or being washed ashore, but the remaining 14 hands had already perished either by drowning or exposure.”

Although well over a half century ago the remains, still scattered over the beach provide a poignant reminder what was like at sea before rules and regulations improved life for the deep-sea men. In daylight it must have been bad enough, to have foundered in the middle of the night, just pure terror.

On the way back round after a burger and some fish at Olafisk we stopped a couple of times for some beautiful landscapes

and the quiet,

inquisitive Icelandic horses.

They were gentle and possibly long-suffering as yet another traveller stopped to take a snap of them.

So back before dark, no scratches and a full tank, with just a small half hour deviation before getting back on the right walking track. Took a photo of the “home ground” as it is good to get acquainted with my new national stadium.

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