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

Posts tagged ‘An Arcasaid’

Sleep Well

No matter how much you expect the expected it is side swipes you a little. After all the excitement of the last couple of days, I impress myself and up early to set out to sea. Phone rings and it all changes, Catriona from An Arcasaid, is telling me my 96-year-old mum has passed away peacefully early this morning in the company of two carers. She was beautifully cared for to the end and the circle of her life is now complete. The best way to describe her was as an almost compulsive carer and it was fitting she was seen off in similar company. Throughout my teenage years my mum nursed her mother, two aunts and an uncle to their ends. Before it was her father in the fifties and since then I know of families in Kyle grateful of her nursing skills. An old and common Highland tradition still alive and well as it was my mum’s turn to be looked after in her later years. Obviously more formalised at the Care Home, but equally well-loved and looked after. She was proud of being a Queen’s nurse and whoever she was in the ward she lost no time in telling the nurses looking after her that she too was a nurse.

The next day and a half has been filled with mayhem at the Inn, trying to carry out the duties in seeing off my mum in a dignified way, dealing with the flood of memories when you go to say cheerio and take a couple of photos from her room, now so quiet. All seems to be going like clockwork, making it over to Broadford, meeting Iain, and so far not coming across any obstacles. Made it back and was in plenty time for the mayhem and you focused on what was coming your way, waves and waves of people who were hungry and wanted food. Felt a little submerged towards the end as one or two were getting slightly grumpy at having to wait for their tables. This despite being reassured that they would be fed. The only casualties were the two girls who were drinking for a couple of hours outside and then decided to order food after the kitchen had been closed for half an hour. Little sympathy from the five members of staff they tried to order food from. How far does one go to accommodate. Not an essential service and it really needs two-way involvement to make it work for any one. Little hiccup for one  table as an order was eaten by the new computer. Resulted in a staff member being chased out of the kitchen…….oh the stress. Every now and again some one came up to me and offered condolences. A life ended and life goes on, a strange mix to deal with. Some good conversation at the end of the evening in the peace and quiet of the aftermath.

This morning, back on the phone, and major gold mine discovery of marriage certs, birth certs, marriage banns, telegrams, triggering lots of memories, then off to work..or to the Inn at least. Through contacts, made it to a minister, and put the internment a step closer. Felt so strange serving so many people, hearing the music and then arranging a funeral just out of the sounds of every day enjoyment. Still lots of political chat going on and the belief we are on the road. So many people visiting from across the world are genuinely interested and even excited about what is happening here. Land reform and ownership is a hot topic. Is it possible for one country to keep another one but only to one country’s advantage and expect things just to continue as before? So the afternoon goes on and Judith is able to deal with the Michelin Guide inspector and everything continues. He left impressed. Gets a little hairy for a while and the odd small chips gets left out. But the compliments keep flowing in from the Belgians, French, Americans and even from Sri Lankans.

The evening was slightly quieter and I was allowed to go home to continue to put a couple of more pieces into place for Wednesday. Still depends on a couple of things slotting in. As per usual one drifts back into the past and taking the dogs out think how different I live my life from my parents. I scrap, argue believe in different ways of doing stuff, have less respect for establishment but probably all based on my upbringing. Just manifests in a different way. The main difference is not having the unquestioning faith in the ultimate truth and trying to pass it on to the next generation. Still  from a distance the only regrets I have is the inevitable pain I caused during my mild teenage rebellion. Now enjoy the insights my upbringing has given me to a way of life too often ridiculed as from another age. The passing of an era causes turbulence to anyone close to that passing. Sleep well tonight, I think so is my mum.



Mum and The Applecross Crime Wave.

With In the Wake of Neil Gunn by Mike Vass playing on a dark winter’s evening In Applecross, all is relatively well. Yesterday it was off to An Arcasaid for my first Christmas dinner of the year. Went with Son No3 to have a meal my mother/grandmother and a very pleasant time we had.
This place, along with what I hear about Howard Doris Centre, must be among the top places in the country for looking after elderly folk. The obvious care and attention the staff display for the folk staying at the Home is lovely to watch. Photos were taken by staff, Jackie Cairns,

photo 1

and I managed a couple myself.


Conversation was with the staff rather than my Mum as she has declined well into Alzheimer’s but seems happy, in fact happy as Larry, as she laughed and chortled her way through her meal.


Food was excellent and we both managed two desserts, a rather large panacotta being my second one.We did not stay for the ceilidh as I suspect we will see said ceilidh band over our way at Hogmanay.

First phone call of today started off badly, “Our toilets have been vandalised”. Images of broken cisterns and flowing water came to mind but it turns out that it was graffiti spray painted on the north gable end. So on the bike and up for a look with Dougal waiting impatiently to set off.


These days and in this weather it takes ten minutes to set off on the bike, choker, hat, gloves, coat, all never where one leaves them. So straight to the Toilets where we find some unusual postings. Lots of speculation about message, language and general puzzlement why it has ended up on our toilet wall.


Brief stop at the Inn to wait for a passing shower and rainbow


before biking back down the road to cutting, chopping and stacking most of the larch backs picked up on Saturday. And even on days like today there was a glimmer


or two off to the west.


Back to the Toilets and the investigations have continued throughout the day and we seem to have narrowed it down to some Greek football slogans, possibly with a touch of Millwall thrown in. We may even have the two teams involved, at least one coming from Thessalonike and the graffiti may even be a little rude. All very strange. Intriguing comment on twitter while trying to find out more was that there are Caley Thistle and Ross County slogans daubed on a remote Greek island puzzling the residents there.

That was some fine music and going by a fb posting may squeeze another concert in at Celtic Connections, best described by Celtic Connections themselves. The Fiddletree Gig.

“The giant sugar maple for which this project is named, having grown on a Cape Breton hillside for perhaps 300 years, was felled in 1994 by local luthier, fiddler and composer Otis Tomas, who went on to craft its wood into a unique family of instruments, and his reflections on its history into a unique suite of music.

After previous acclaimed performances at the Celtic Colours festival, this UK première features Tomas with a hand-picked ensemble of Scottish, Irish, Canadian and US musicians: Sarah McFadyen (fiddle), Joel Sanderson (cello/viola), Abby Newton (cello/fiddle), Mairi Campbell (fiddle/viola), Paul MacDonald (guitar), Laoise Kelly (harp) and Claudine Langille (mandolin).”

Means we are going to be running down the road to the Old Fruit Market from the Royal Concert Hall to catch the Shooglenifty 25th Anniversary concert. But you only live once.


Carers…..just the best

Realised how hard it is to be a trades man in Applecross, not that I have any pretensions in that direction. Went up to the toilets on Wednesday morning to do a bit more of the finishing off and ended up chatting to passersby more than actually working at what I should have been doing. Lovely start to the day


when taking the dogs out and came across my first living puffballs.


Having said that it is a pleasant way to spend the day and I did get a fair bit done in the afternoon. We have installed a solar panel so there will be hot water for the first time at the toilets.


Managed a beach clean seaside of Darren’s new wall and got a quarter load of wood for the growing stack at the back of the house. More and more wood sheds are being built around the community with the obvious conclusion that wood is becoming the priority fuel here. Weather still poor with a window predicted for Thursday, but a trip to Inverness had been planned and sure enough it was still windy in the morning as I set off. A bad winter has not arrived for most people but here it is well under way. For a fisherman wind and lots of it is a bad winter and that is what we have so far. Bad winter ashore is cold and lots of snow for most people but that usually means it is quiet at sea. Cannot do anything about it as the old folk would say and the next three days have a couple of storms coming in again with the second one on Sunday looks pretty nippy.

Thursday morning I almost stopped on the dual carriageway coming to the Kessock Bridge as the sun was shining full blast on the town and again on the way down to Dingwall where there was a magnificent rainbow over the Firth but on both occasions may have picked up points on the licence and points in this case do not mean prizes. In Applecross there would have been a couple of photos to show. Pace of life out there is just wrong. Rattled through a few things and bought my first gluten-free muesli…have to mix it as it consists of buckwheat, rye and millet. Did not pick everything up as I tried to get to the biosphere meeting at Achnasheen in reasonable time. Met an Applecross resident at the Garden Centre who told me he thought a biosphere was a big glass bubble…..hmmmmm. After being at the meeting for an hour or so I reckon I would have been better off finishing what I should have done in Inverness. Lets say setting up a biosphere in Wester Ross has one or two hurdles to overcome….the main one is to explain to people what it is, what are the benefits, and who is going to run it. If it is volunteers they are after it is going to be a big ask. Relatively easy to get volunteers for something tangible, broadband, public toilets, Filling station, but for a “concept ” of something that may be beneficial…..remain to be convinced. Sustainable tourism seems to be a newish buzz word and not really sure if it is sustainable as it is so reliant on such a big carbon footprint. Dougal turned up in Achnasheen getting a lift through with Alison, met up with a local spaniel who told him where to go,did a quick tour of the Station,


and came back with me.


Today was a wee dip into the past with a few connections along the way. Went to An Arcasaid to see my now very elderly mother,95 next time round in February, and have Christmas dinner with the residents.


I have to admit that I was mildly apprehensive but as it turned out there was absolutely no cause. It was a wonderful two hours or so and very engaging. Absolutely everything that my mum needs to live has to get done for her. It is hard to describe my feeling for the women looking after my mother without sounding smarmy but they are simply amazing. The way they care for her is special and genuine and quite simply they love her and look after her so well. Our value system is so so wrong when so many of these people are paid not much above minimum wage while administrators, legislators, money gamblers and movers and commission takers earn fortunes. I suppose it is the difference between value and price. looking at the staff they get an obvious value out of what they do. Chatting about this and that and always get the feeling that many people are so impressed with what is going on here on a community level.  Met Lorraine who has not long started there


and turns out I was in school with her and reminisced about former school companions/classmates. Love these dips into times gone by. The elderly folks were then entertained by some Portree pupils, some fiddle and some Cold Play, it did not seem to matter. When I arrived back home I saw the focus was about girls now ladies I had known in school and noticed my uncle Kenny got a mention in “Sandy” Macrae’s biography as the shinty mad chap from Balmacara House school. Yesterday I came across Kenny standing beside young shinty players, one of whom may be Sandy…how strange would that be. Going to have to investigate further. Noticed going through Lochcarron the yacht that was blown across the loch and ended up on the Attadale shore.


Not in the right place but safe from the next run of storms predicted on Landward tonight.

Alzheimer’s and a Full Day.

A trip to Broadford on monday to visit and leave some pin-money for my mum at An Arcasaid. She has been there and before that at Graham House, Dornie for close to ten years now. Alzheimer’s has become almost as common as cancer with most people knowing some one or some one’s relative who has the condition. For me it has been a strange process in dealing with the “problem” but at the same time realising how fortunate that I live in the NW Highlands. My mum gradually lost the capability to look after herself after my Dad died and this manifested itself in her repeatedly saying that her memory was really poor and she kept writing everything down so she knew what was going on. It is a shame but she kept writing the same things down as she kept forgetting them. There is a sort of sad/funny logic to that. Finally when her home help could not be sure of her safety she was admitted to Graham House. One of the jolts that I felt witnessing her “decline” was the day she asked if I had a family, at the time she was surrounded by photographs of our four boys. While she was heading for Graham House I felt guilty in not being able to look after her. She was renowned for nursing her elderly relatives when she lived in Kyle, a granny ,great-uncle and two great aunts all died while I was in primary school. Looking back I did not enjoy growing up in what was essentially a Hospice for about ten years. So here I was shunting her off to a home. I was very surprised when going through the process to get the compliment from both social and medical personnel wishing that every one was as easy as me to deal with. I only went along with every one’s wishes because I knew what they were doing was for my Mum’s best interests. Staff at graham House and An Arcasaid were really good at putting my mind at rest as well, one saying that they loved their “job” but would really struggle to look after their own mum. I know I do not go to see her as often as I should but she does not know me now, and has not done so for probably five or six years, so I would probably be going for myself. My mum was fortunate she did not go through too much of an aggressive phase, with only a couple of spells that I knew about. I know every time I go and see her I always leave with a huge sense of admiration of the staff in both Homes in Dornie and Broadford. The staff genuinely love my mother and look after her so well, it is a vocation for them. When I left yesterday she was being spoon fed her lunch, like a baby. Everything comes full circle and her circle is almost complete. She used to look after people as a nurse and is now being looked after by like-minded people. NHS and Social Services get knocked by many people …never by me.


Monday had so much in it. Picked Andy up as he was heading off to his work, catching a train at Strathcarron. We talked non stop over the Hill and it was one of these spontaneous connections you come across quite rarely. Almost knowing what you are going to say and hear before you it happens. We both stopped saying “I know what you mean” before the second hairpin on the way down and just got on with it. A minute from the Station I mentioned that although we were driving for forty five minutes it felt like five. I am not sure we said anything of world shattering importance but it felt right…hard to put into words.

Nipped down to the Pier at Kyle and saw the fleet in sheltering on the west side of the pier from the easterly gale. Kyleakin and Broadford had their fleets tied up as well.



The journey home was filled with stops as I took some photos for another post and the trip back over the Hill brought you back to concentrating on what was in front of you.


Further on with the strong easterly blowing there were tricky bits to get through.


But the sunset….


Tag Cloud

Wee Ginger Dug

Biting the hand of Project Fear

Beyond the Horizon

Commentary and Sustainability Policy Analysis from Dr Calum Macleod

Lenathehyena's Blog

IT'S NOT ROCKET SALAD.........in the Land o' cakes and brither Scots

Scottish Communities CAN

Scottish Communities Climate Action Network

Beyond the Bloomin' Heather

A critical discussion of the history and politics behind Scotland's most beautiful landscapes

Jean Urquhart

following dissolution of parliament this site will move to jeanurquhart.com

Derek Bateman Broadcaster1

An ongoing dialogue

derek bateman broadcaster2

My first and last ever blog (probably)

Small Scales

fisheries and ocean conservation in Atlantic Canada


e-learning, networking, and the UHI


It's got a backbeat. You can't lose it. If you wanna dance with me.

derek bateman broadcaster2

My first and last ever blog (probably)

Jessica's Nature Blog


Shawndra Miller

Giving voice to the world’s remaking


Just another WordPress.com site

Life at the end of the road

the trials and tribulations of an accidental crofter


A Highland GP on life the universe and anything...

Auld Acquaintance

Scottish Independence