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

Posts tagged ‘Andy Wightman’

My Applecrcross.

Just back from a fairly intensive training four hours at the Hall for current and future directors of the Community Company. This is drawing to an end a week of life in Applecross, such a variety of occupations, walks,


jobs and thoughts in a rural existence. Maybe because I am used to criticism and have grown a thicker skin as I have got older the anonymous letters and notices posted around the community have affected me less than they would have twenty years ago. Using the term anonymous is not quite correct but my rule of never mentioning names when talking about the negative stays in place. The only thing I would say further is my lack of understanding concerning campaigns of destruction.

However we are where we are and this is my Applecross, a place where there is no better dog walks,


no better scenery to enjoy,



no better Inn to work at, no better occupation(fishing) to be fortunate and fit to do and no better bunch of people (with the very few dark exceptions) to know. The weather in the north-west this week was pretty atrocious up till Friday. There was a steady strong to gale force wind blowing from the south with a fair bit of rain


to help the Hydro through a good week.


The weather improved as the week went on, stayed windy but dried up, meaning a tidy up of wood


and planting of tatties commenced,


even a painting of buoys.


Reminds me that the result of a gear conflict consultation has been published. Slightly incredulous of the conclusion. The static gear men have to make sure their gear is properly marked with buoys of a certain size and computer chipped. Marine Compliance then come along, scan the buoys, if they are not chipped they haul the gear take it ashore, discard the catch. This from people who refuse to prosecute trawlers who tow away our creels. The local creel men are disgusted by the lack of support we are getting from the government for one of the most sustainable ways to fish these waters.

I digress, my Applecross continues with a couple of shifts at the Inn, one really busy and the next, Thursday evening almost dead, but came across a couple from Finisterre who turned up with old camper van trouble, a leaky hose below their radiator. After a look I phoned the expert and as it turned out Ewen was passing on the way to work at the Yard and end result were a very grateful couple who enjoyed plates of langoustine and a music session in Camusteel before heading happily back over the Hill with good opinions of our community. Wednesday evening was very busy and one of the groups, a six, were expected in for 7.30pm but turned up after eight, a good excuse as you can see.


We had seen the engine going by with flashing lights and got the news of a car fire…very impressive and luckily no one hurt. Fished all day on Friday but leave that for tomorrow.

Almost forgot but I kept my 100% voting record since I was first eligible to vote in the late 70s. Was really pleased to see Andy and John elected as they will be fine MSPs representing their constituents. No Polling Notice to take photo off as it was retrieved just as I arrived having been blown half way up the tree.


Inversion,Awards and Protest Walk.

(Saturday morn) Sitting in the Bon Papillon having had a fine ciabatta bacon roll, when in Edinburgh…….has n’t the same ring as Rome but you know what I mean. Early, as have not translated the walking times from Google Maps yet and Stewart will soon be arriving to take the photos and titles for next years calendar. Sounds so organised but does not feel it. Set off with Annie roughly on time and started up over the Hill.


Interesting weather in that it was foggy


but not so much so that the scene at the top of the Bealach


merited a couple of stops.


The Cullin looked spectacular in the inversion


as did all the directions.



A bank stop and on to Inverness. Uneventful train journey down although the tickets bought needed proof of over fifty fives which caused a little consternation as we all looked under forty-five. As Caroline decided not to go down and we were sitting with some one we established had Lewis predecessors offered him a night out in Edinburgh. We were not sure if he really was a Fifer or got off the train a couple of stops early to get away from us.

To the Exibition Centre and what turned into a night to remember. Although it went on a little long, the food and company were excellent as were the entertainment with Fred Macaulay and mind reader Colin Cloud. Starting with pre meal drinks


…non alcoholic cocktail for me and a burst of pipes and drums,


the meal and then the awards. Highlands and especially the west did so well. So good to see the Kylesku Hotel with Sonya and Tanya doing the ticket and winning their award, most hospitable hotel. Still slightly shocked to have won the Friendliest Pub in Scotland but we did. After photos


it was off to the Sheraton for a glass of champers with Sonya and Tanya


and an early night.


Before I turned in it was lovely to hear Sonya quietly explain that when they bought the Kylesku they were in Applecross during their first year and saw what Judith had done here and she said that they were inspired by what they saw and went home to their place and worked to make the Kylesku Hotel what it is now.


Earlyish start and we are at the Bon Papillon, a small and quirky wee cafe encapsulating beautiful baking and a gentle atmosphere, with Stewart for some fine coffee and scones which followed the bacon roll. And then to Inverleith for a lift out to Dalkeith. Andy Wightman and Sara Beattie-Smith alongside Denis Canavan….exalted company whether they think it or not.


Every now and again you take a step back and wonder at the variety of activities you get involved in. Last night emersed in Tourism Awards and keeping a strict eye on the alcohol levels to make it out to Dalkeith Park to take part in a protest walk (my first ever). Lots of photos taken and Applecross Trust did come up in one or two of the conversations.


The issue was about a Laird, with lots of offshore tax avoiding companies charging the public £10/20 for access to his land. There is a grey area in law as there has always been a charge of a £1 to enter the Park, meaning that the charge can be levied. If one refuses to pay can access be denied? There was no attempt to charge us for our wander around the Park, taking the decision that the publicity would not help their case in todays political climate.


As ever there is usually an Applecross connection and in this case a direct one, a second home to Buccleuch Properties Ltd, such a small world. Good to meet people, craic with “John” second name undisclosed due to past histories with banks, casinos and exs’s. The freedom to roam is enshrined in Scot’s law as long as privacy is protected and no vandalism carried out. Always a contention in such areas as Applecross Bay where it is discouraged to camp. If left as you find it, as far as I understand then no one is breaking any law. Really interesting conversations, especially on the way back. German housing, I am sure not perfect, but sounded so much better than our daft system. The local Landers buy the land and do not have to pay development value, put services in and then sell on to some one who then proceeds to build their house. The land is sold at a small profit while recovering the cost of putting the services in. You then proceed to contract a builder to erect your house which is then better built than over here due to the extortionate cost of land under development. The profit the builder makes in this country is capped by how much he has to pay for the land so profit has to come out of the build leading to a much lesser standard of housing. Only expected to last 60 years….crazy. But his life now involved walking twenty miles a day, and a reassessment that involved him doing something useful and joining the Scottish Greens. Interesting that the day produced a full-page article in the Sunday press which said very little about the day but instead concentrated on the Greens proposal to use existing legislation in the Settlement Act of 1919 where land was compulsorily purchased for use, in the original case of making small holdings and housing for returning soldiers. An interesting side-show was two locals asked about the walk and were very interested in what they were told about the imminent charges and expressed ignorance and thanked the walkers for the information. Long walk back from Leith where Andy was heading to see tenants who were going to be made homeless by a charity which was selling the properties. A charity that had previously donated profits to homeless charities. I do not envy the politicians with conscience who are going to try to correct anomalies and grey area abuses of the laws of the land. One very important conversation with Andy stuck in the mind and it was followed up with examples, try never to make any political enemies unnecessarily. Good to remember that the 2003 Reform Act was passed by a Lab/LibDem coalition. SNP have passed a Community Empowerment Act, a little weaker than some would have hoped and the Greens are carrying on the struggle and need cross/party allies. I have never been held to party lines. Inevitably one picks up enemies and some are very locally based but that is more the other person’s problem….Sound advice.

Interesting to see a new strand emerging on social media where those who want land reform and a bit more conservative management of the land are now called a “very vocal minority”, which is strange as it is exactly that which is calling it out, Pot/Kettle and Black springs to mind. Saturday evening after a brave but fruitless effort on the rugby field, a solitary evening eating a fine indian meal on Rose Street. An early night beckoned and this must be a sign of the ageing process. It did mean a fresh start today and a fine trip up to Inverness via the Garden Centre for compost and seed tatties. Back home and ready for snooze on couch before plodding photos and posting. And you know you are back home when you take a dozen or so ticks out of Dougal.

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.


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.


Fame at Last but Embargoed.

Continued inactivity which has only included a bit of wood cutting, trying not to think too much about the weather


and lack of daylight, checking the 48+kWh at the Hydro and a few hours at the Inn. Today I spent a couple of hours in a sort of suspended surrealism. I went to the dress rehearsal of our school Panto. Pleased to announce that I have finally made it. On the stage as a character alongside with fine specimens of the community. The kids were brilliant and obviously had done a deal of work on their lines. The set and backup were amazing as well and hats off to everyone involved. As this was the dress rehearsal I better stop and not announce any spoilers. The camera is going in for a serious overhaul sometime soon but managed a couple of photos, embargoed till next week.

On Wednesday evening to pass the time I went on to Twitter tweeting about Land Reform, relevant as the Bill was being debated at Holyrood. I find Twitter a good source of info, reading articles that stretch your preconceptions. Anyway time rattled by as we were involved in a fine tweeting stream that included rateable values and sporting activities exemptions. The unanswered question first posed by Andy, “Why should the campsite pay rates and the estate, alongside it, run by one of the richest men in the world through a company in Jersey does not. There was no answer. Possibly the answer lies is in political friends of the government of the time. Possibly the same situation today regarding fracking licences. As with MPAs lobbying continues apace on behalf of those that have, public benefit and environmental improvements take second place when it comes to land, sea and its uses. I have noticed recently that the Lairds case is laced with irritation regarding references to the 19th century being put forward by the Reformers lobby. While acknowledging that we do not and should not live in the past surely an understanding of how we got to where we are today is essential. The fact that sporting activities were made rates except by a Conservative Government in the ’90s tells you more than trying to find a justification for this exemption to continue in current climes. Locally this comes up regarding the touristification (new word?) of place names here. Applecross is not Shore Street and Shore Street is not Applecross. Likewise old names across the Applecross peninsula show that these hills were worked and lived on. They were not always the treeless, barren, overgrazed heather moors of today. An example being Druim a’ Clachain, a long-lost cottar township between Applecross House and Alt Beag. http://www.applecrossplacenames.org.uk/map/ It is a concern that rewilding takes in many glens and ancient habitations in trying to create a man-made “wilderness”, one that never existed in the past and is only a vision of a few bureaucrats living in the towns and cities.

(After serving 50+at the Inn) That’s me awake now. Came up at five and had a couple of hours setting up the bar for an invasion of boatyard workers and tradesmen while trying to find accommodation for four Chinese who were travelling our wonderful NorthCoast500. The latest heavily promoted tourist wheeze. It was not long before the Wellington Brioches and Ribeye Steaks came flying out after the smoked chicken and squat lobster salads were all consumed. Perfect night for the food and a very easy bunch to please. Service was exceptional even going out to the cars to take desert orders. They were impressed.

(And now today) Day flew by with a trip to a very painful but deep massage from Sarah, but worth it. It was blowing a gale both at Shieldaig


and coming back around the coast.


A call in to pick up some hot and cold smoked sea-trout from Lorna and Derek. Had some kept back and there was not much left to choose from as they had just finished their Christmas online sales so just added some smoked cheddar and brie. http://applecrosssmokehouse.co.uk Had some hot smoked sea-trout for a quick-lunch and it was sublime. The massage was hard work and instead of going back to the power saw I crashed for a couple of hours. A definite sign that the massage had taken its toll. Have a long-term problem with my left arm….possibly hauling hundreds of thousands of creels over three and a half decades. £40 well spent, and no hangover after spending it. (Turns out that was yesterday)

The excitement of the Hydro over and it working away, seemingly with little problems, the mundane work of keeping everything ticking over cannot be ignored. The broadband went down round the North Coast a couple of weeks ago and when Sean went over to Raasay to check the mast he found worrying signs of deterioration


and we are going to have to do a fair bit of work on it and possibly the others to keep the system live. Going to re drill and resin the bolts and put stays in to lengthen the life span of the equipment.


The conditions are harsh and the masts are not strong enough to withstand our winters so an upgrade is essential. Always the problem with pioneering.

The weather continues on its merry way with depressions following one after another.


When you come out to work at the Inn like today, (it is now Sunday), sometimes it’s nailed. Time flies by when you meet a Native American Indian historian and then a Coffee Vendor from Crieff. Our own retired chaplain was in as well and is off to Umbria to fill in. Filling a preaching gap over there. Back to the First Nations and a wide-ranging chat from Dee Brown to the First Settlers up here, going through American right-wing politics. Interesting that locales are so different. New Mexico to the north is still hippie commune country while in the south of the state it is a hard right-wing politic. Being in Crieff and Vancouver Island and liking coffee I was able to hold my own on First Nation Shell Beaches and Free Trade coffee. The afternoon was completed with showing a project design manager to his room, he arrived in a pro to type F series Jag, his job to sort out the remaining snags on the journey. Looked like a zebra on speed or what a zebra would look like if you were on speed.


Valentine’s on the Horizon.

Woke up Monday morning feeling as though I had been fishing yesterday, but not surprising looking back on the day. If it is day after day you are used to it and get conditioned but it was so out of the blue. Quiet uneventful fishing after not too early a start, still a few prawns about but not in all the fleets, very much a patchwork of some good and some very poor. Bit of a grey day


with snatches of light.


A rarer but not too uncommon egg cluster comes up in the creel. Any one know what these eggs are going to grow up to be?


Tuesday evening and it was Community Council meeting with the usual on the agenda, Roads Dept with a list as long as your arm, NHS proposal on the table, can be sure it will not be extra services, PO proposed changes, again nothing but new loops and hoops to climb through, parking, all with in our remit but with very little power to do anything about these issues except to keep badgering the officials.

Not too much happening since with quite a bit of Netflix consumed, but still managing more book work especially on Wednesday. Been a bit lax with the dog walking although Dougal took it on himself to go on his own walk this morning. When Zuzu and Fuzzy headed out Dougal was waiting at their gate. Saw him coming back at the top of the road and when he saw me he came charging down the hill, ears flying back in the breeze. That is going to be a good photo if I ever get it. A happy picture and a good feeling to see your dog racing towards you, pleased to see you. Up a bit earlier this morning to fuel up the Auk and a few meals tonight, around the fifteen, so kept busy. Been amused by some of the comments on the Andy Wightman Blog post about Applecross, http://www.andywightman.com/archives/4124  have to say amused to keep me from feeling sad that some people still hold those views. It is not so much whether people agree or disagree with the land reform proposals, it is a complex issue, it what they tend to use to back their arguments. Got me thinking that if it was not for incomers then this place would be in a poor state. There would not be one child in the school if not for people coming in to live here. There is only one person working at the School who was born in Applecross, I am always wary of using “racist”language as that is what it is and prefer resident as opposed to incomer and the even more ludicrous indigenous. What is indigenous anyway, first generation, second, or may be born here. Seems to be a very subjective term and depends on one’s own status. Anyone prepared to live here, and it is not an easy choice although it has its compensations, and prepared to participate is welcome as far as I am concerned. Not only the School, the Inn, the Walled Garden, the Campsite, the Ice cream, the Community Company ,the Community Hall, Health Service, Coal Shed and almost all tourist outlets have healthy elements of incomer participation. What a sad place it would be without some fresh-faced impetuous to keep us going in the right direction. The opinions of those who are against any form of change whether it is land reform, or crofting, or fishing are living in a past era that has gone and does not exist. It must be hard to still hanker after a bygone era. I do that sometimes but it is not with regret. I look back and enjoy having been part of it not keep as system from another time.

Was closing on time, may be even early after a busy enough shift, but the Valentine’s ice cream arrived and a quick tasting took place with 100% positive comments. So with the fridge stacked


and the menu printed we are gearing up for the weekend.


Nervous and rightly so as the Boss is still going to be south and Caroline helping the next local bride celebrate her up coming wedding so we are flying solo. Under instructions to be romantic…..we’ll see. Lots of preplanning going on and that makes it run so much smoother on the night.

Changin’ Scotland and It Is.

That was some three days, even for here the variety was something. Had made it to bed after a shift on Thursday coming back from Contin and was shattered but in a good way. Friday was taken at a run although part of that was making sure I had finished a post for putting out on Saturday. Contin did look good and it was thanks to the pooches that I made time to see above and over the mists. Lovely weather  on Friday morning





and managed everything, all the menial stuff, the washing, dishes etc, in time for making it up to the Bealach summit


to watch the sun dip behind the Cuillin.



One of the jobs I had earmarked for the day was to feed the bees but when I went over to see how they were doing they were busy flying and saw some pollen coming in as well.


Extra ordinary in the last days of November how pleasant and warm it is. So although I had forgotten a couple of things in the rush it was worth it for the scenes taking place out west. After catching up with Alison at Garve we all made our way to Leckmelm to get the nest ready for later and then off into Ullapool to grab something to eat and get into another Changin’ Scotland. Calling in at the Ceilidh Place we were immediately chatting to all sorts of revolutionaries and as a result missed the start of the evening. Finding the right venue and not reading the programme did not help.

Back to Leckmelm and a night spent trying to keep Dougal off the bed. It was at floor level due to a big relative’s recent visit and Dougal thinking he was still on his Contin holidays made the most of it. Another late arrival at the Village Hall, this time due to fishing, bee and wood chat at the lodgings. Missed the start of Matt Qvortrup’s talk on Referendums. Really interesting and then it was Prof Adam Tomkins, some one who I had followed on twitter to see and read about another view. Had to stop after the Vote as I found him just a bit too harsh. Fair play for him coming up this way as he was in a definite minority view. There really was some good behind the scenes descriptions of how the Smith Commission has worked to get its proposals out but he did appear to lose it somewhat when he described all Glasgow’s secondary state schools as not fit for purpose and dipped even deeper into tribal party politics saying the English education system was wonderful alongside his eulogy of Mr Gove. Got a brilliant rant from a retired Glasgow teacher at the coffee break. Sent by his wife to apologise for his language later in the morning, unnecessary but great to chat with people from around the country. Although the afternoon was absorbing and thought-provoking, listening to the likes of Jeane Freeman, David Greig and Kathy Galloway among others, the evening was beckoning with Tom Smith, Lateral North, Andy Wightman and Dr Jim Hunter.

Kathy Galloway began her talk with an extra ordinary tale. Bill going through Parliament on Friday with cross party support to prevent revenge evictions. That is, tenants, who complain to their landlords about housing conditions being evicted for their troubles. the Bill failed to go onto the books because it was talked out of time…..by two Tory MPs ……and you felt the room already knew what she was going to say next…..two Tory MPs who were landlords. If I did not declare an interest at a CC meeting and did not leave the room I would be out on my ear. The point I take from this they are now so arrogant they do not seem to care who sees or knows what they do now.

Tom Smith showed a power point full of imagination of what could happen in Scotland in the future…..nothing was deemed impossible, an example being that Scapa Flow could be the maritime hub for the whole of western Europe. A cracking example put forward by Tom was of a Danish architect who decided it would be a good idea to build a swimming pool above a supermarket using the wasted heat to warm the pool. Not only that he put in a diving board that allowed the divers into the supermarket. So shoppers in the fruit and veg aisle were passed by divers inside the glass enclosed pool. Got me thinking about lots of seagoing ventures that could be feasible in the scheme of things. It is not long since the western seaboard was connected by sea routes and that brought to mind an earlier discussion about remoteness. Remote is a relative term and where you are determines how remote you are. London is remote from Applecross. The world map on the wall of the Inn shows Applecross as the centre and threads from all across the world coming to Applecross. Millennium ago the first settlers inhabited the centres of “civilisation” and these were the coastal fringes of an impenetrable and wild hinterland. Stopped for dinner at the Ceilidh Place where we had the good fortune to sit with Jim Hunter and as the meal went on great exchanges of stories took place.


He is now working on a book about the Sutherland Clearances and was telling us about the bounties paid out to “hunters” for eagles heads etc. Showing how the people lived on the land alongside the natural inhabitants and the diversity of wildlife that existed then. Not rosy by any means for the people but far better the denuding and degradation of the Highlands that took place over the last 200 years. The Scottish Govt’s programme has poor landlords in its sights and rightly so. Why should so few people hold sway over so many in a modern democracy? Why should the amount of land any one person can hold not be capped? Why can individual wealth not be kept under control. All these accumulations of power, wealth and property are ultimately detrimental to the surrounding environment. I equate these actions to my own life style, the constant striving for growth in the fishing industry inevitably leads to stock extinctions and a degraded eco system and as such should be controlled for the benefit for everyone. At Leckmelm the right of fishermen to fish to extinction was decried as it affects the non fishing community. As regards the degrading of the land and sea we are all in it together. Feels good to be amongst the revolutionaries. Meanwhile Dougal and Eilidh were given frequent walks and he, in particular had his moments meeting Douglas Fraser’s Sam and had a great wee mess about. One not so good moment nipping off in the dark to roll in the foulest rotten fish he could find. Result of that was a swim in Loch Broom. The end of the evening was interspersed with lots of chat about potential future opportunities for people and communities across the Highlands, but there was a wee stop for a snap.


We decide to head down the road as work commitments meant a full on day for Sunday for both of us. On the way down the road Jim Hunter’s mention of Angus Macrae of North Strome reminded me of hearing him in Assynt. I had the good fortune to have been invited up to take part in a Radio programme by Lesley Riddoch and towards the end of the recording Angus stood up to say how proud he was of the Assynt crofters in their buying of the Estate and he hoped this would be the start of a repopulating of the Highlands. He then went on to describe such an evocative picture of driving home in the dark from Inverness across the northern Highlands and seeing the lights back on in the Glens, keeping him company on the way home. So different from now when you can travel for miles in total darkness. Maybe the new reforms that are proposed may help Angus’s vision to be fulfilled.

I can only end by saying it was a privilege to have been in such company and that includes the whole week, ranging from the community leaders in Contin to the politicos, journalists, activists and the good people in Ullapool. One can only hope that the efforts of Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart can be rewarded in the continuing of this great weekend. Today was hard graft, a 10/11 hour stint, but rewarding at the Inn but rest now for a day’s fishing may be on the cards for tomorrow.

From Bees to Boris.

It has been a quiet few days in that the weather has been pretty poor. It was good to get the extra fleets up on Friday as the weather broke over the weekend and stayed that way up till now. Hoping to be back on the water tomorrow, back permitting. A potter about day on Saturday which included a wander down to the shop with Dougal.


There seems to be a burst of colour showing how well the heather is doing this year and any break in the showers and wind the bees are out collecting.


The evening we were up at the Inn as usual and it was a steady night, less silly busy than usual and the Boss took some time off leaving us to do the front of house ourselves. Good mix of Europeans and home-grown and all happy with one or two comments expressing best meal. Always good to pass on to the kitchen. Couple of late arrivals from the Hostel, Germans from Frankfurt, deliberately took the bus so they would speak to people. They had an interesting take on learning language in that they reckon that we have more time concentrating on other stuff rather than spending time learning some one else’s language. I am always in awe of the effort people make to learn my language and have promised myself that this winter I am going to make an effort, however small, in order to interact a little. They got me talking about the Referendum and in a good way, just explaining the logic of how it is going to pan out. With Son No4 home as well the discussions are raging at home and it is great to hear articulate reasons put forward. Defence, economics and the rest are getting the full works. Something I got into only when we went to war in the Falklands in the early 80s. Good these discussions are taking place with an air of respect and no one is falling out but using words rather than fists to support their arguments. Bit different from some the bigotry expressed by some supporters I have seen on twitter this last week. Fascinating programme on just now about how people may vote and suggests that people who are risk averse tend to vote No. Great chats with the boys about how the brain works and scans showing parts of the brain reacting to liberal ideas. Feel lucky.

Sunday was a long day at the Inn, inundated by Italianos from Florence and was broken by a trip to Shieldaig, a taxi run for three cyclists,


two of whom were booked into the Inn. Geordie, a Spanish cyclist, had joined them and it was a bit of a squash on the way back. Interesting chat speaking to a lady working for Boris in London and a teacher in Hackney. Love hearing other people’s perspective and there’s on Scotland was genuinely positive and they had a lot to say about the welcome they had received around the country. Also a wee insight into how Boris “works” with planning. That, and a couple who were travelling around the country having sold up in Amsterdam and he was reading “The Poor Had no Lawyers”, so the obvious conversation followed. Would like to get it sourced but read last week that 70/80% of land ownership in Scotland is based on the profits of slavery. I guess that may be a bit high but even if it was 10%, nothing to be proud off. Just missed a spectacular shaft of light over the Sound. By the time I got the camera out it had gone but still not so bad.


Wind continues yesterday from the North so it was a trip out to the boat to bring ashore the rest of the prawns for the Inn and as it was up in the van I was duty bound to fill it with wood on the way back.


Power saw on the beach and the tree is now home unfortunately I must have weakened my back as I could not move this afternoon after leaning into the back of the van for something and moved the wrong way. In retrospect should have cut them into smaller logs. Painful but may be okay tomorrow as I recognise the muscle that has been stretched. Compensate by using stomach muscles to protect the damaged back muscle and a visit to Sarah is on the cards for Friday. May be painful. It was shaping up to be productive day, working on buoys


and a tidy up but came to an abrupt stop. IMG_0989Had a laugh at break time when Teacher came out to ring the bell for the end of the break but the wee ones had n’t quite got the hang of it and carried on playing across the road. There was quite a lot of bell ringing to get them to come back to the classroom. Son No3 looks as though he is heading off tomorrow fit and healthy and according to the Doc one of the most tested patients she has come across. He has three pages of twenty tests per page to his name. Seems an unknown infection and no long-term damage so off to a dive in Scapa Flo and next term.

Land and Food Craic

Dog walking is great for having a good think about all the ups and downs of life in Applecross. Went out on Saturday afternoon,IMG_4716


Dougal meeting and shouting at the Ardhu “wild”boar, not really wild, in fact very curious at this loud nuisance


and again on Sunday evening with them and there is always something new to see and think about.


Little touch of autumn under way.


These trips around The Sanctuary help see things from another perspective, at least I give it a go. Talking to people with different persuasions, but who are your friends is a great way to allow ” Two people to look at the same thing and see it differently”. The growing debate about Land Reform falls into this category. Saturday evening’s company threw up some interesting thoughts and I always take comfort in the fact that there has never been such a state as the status quo. Events, developments, people, attitudes will always mean that our environment, economic,political and social, are ever-changing whether positive or not. It sometimes feels a little over the top sometimes when I describe what happens at the Inn, meeting and getting to know people, exchanging opinions, views even compliments, how it all feels so positive. Having learnt so much over the last couple of years from Judith and Jill and feeling a bit more confident about having the ability to deal with most things there you find that you can take this out into the community. You feel that bit more confident that although your views are by no means universally they are mine and can be argued without rancour. Been reading a guest blog by Dr Jim Hunter  on community land ownership and found it really interesting. But as well the blog the comment stream that follows these articles are equally of interest.http://www.andywightman.com/?p=3029 There are the usual comments that come from entrenched positions but these combined with meeting fresh views in the Inn are invaluable in developing one’s own take on the debate. Speaking to Steve about the comparisons with Norway’s land distribution and their land use which seems to be so different to what happens here. There are so many more people involved in rural decisions and a more populous and varied aspect of land use. More locally controlled and better managed forestry coupled with a mature grazing policy. Here we have barren moorlands kept that way for grouse and red deer where there could be a proper native reforesting that could generate fuel, improved soil structures, domestic animal habitats and amenities for the many. It is not as though there never were trees covering the Scottish landscape. Policies that are dependent on grants rather than community benefit will soon belong to the past. Just had a conversation with some one who is not a “land reformer” and even she had to admit all is not well in the hands of those who have the power to let nothing happen. As it was suggested on Saturday evening Patience is a key factor and that was what I was told, I am patient.

The wonder of Applecross allows you to have these “radical” thoughts and still enjoy the walks, the environment you wander through and you arrive back home refreshed and ready for more.

Sunday lunch was a fairly relaxed affair just keeping an eye on the big table groups that were coming in on the hour. One of the nice things was that there were five groups of 7+ in at the same time and 3 of them were local.


Finished the shift with a fine venison burger and later in the evening had a scoop of Scottish raspberry ripple which, I think, supersedes just about everything that has gone before….that is until you try another one.  A wee bit of tension from the Boss as she knew there was a review coming out this weekend and it turned out ok, with quite a bit of license. 7/10 is a good pass rate on a crazy day,http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/food-drink/features/restaurant-review-applecross-inn-applecross-1-3051022.

Going back to the theme of the “circle of life” it is everywhere. Was speaking to some Americans and found out they wee from Boston and that brought back a memory of my landing in Boston on the first stage of me hitching across The States. Had a contact in Vermont so phoned from The Boston Tea Party Gift Shop. Of course the Tcheuchter from the Highlands could not work the phones and always will remember the girl who not only helped me but put me up on her couch for the night. Not only that but trusted me enough to got out with her boyfriend and left me alone in her flat and the next morning took out to the freeway and from there I set off. Told the Americans this and you could see how pleased they were to be told how I never associate the people with their government. Only once have I come across a no tax paying Republican at the Inn, but left her to it. Really wanted to ask her why were their bridges and roads were now falling apart, maybe because they did not pay taxes…..but I served her the scallops anyway.

There is Freedom of Speech,isn’t There?

Things have settled down a little at The Inn but not until after a really busy Sunday lunch with lots of people waiting for a table. By 3.30pm it was a lot quieter and the staff managed to take their regular breaks, which helps every one’s moods somewhat. Funny what you get used to when asked if it was busy and the answer is no but people still have to wait for tables, most establishments would settle for that being really busy!! Last night and into this morning was recovery time. No concentration but casually flicking channels and noting there was nothing but rubbish on. Did manage to stay awake for the nine and a half seconds Bolt took to win his race, but apart from that the other highlight of the evening was the sky around 9.30pm.


Took the camera and the Jenny and Eilidh out for a wander and beautiful to watch. No photos do it justice but I keep trying and on the way back I keep seeing equally wonderful plants on the ground.


Early on in the day there was a little gathering of tractors and the latest arrival in Toscaig was on display, a lovely little red Fergie.


This morning I was honestly hoping for a little more wind from the North West and settled down to watch Saturday’s episode of Top of The Lake. Pretty grim and unrelentingly brutal, underbelly of New Zealand life. As the wind was dropping and The Inn had no langoustine it was down to land some, what we now call”splitters”, a quick visit to the Filling Station to help a guy get diesel and then off out to catch some more for the menu. Slightly better than expected, that is the advantage of having low expectations. Anything quarter decent and you think you have a good day. As I went out around eleven I just hauled the 300 creels so not to be too late for the kitchen to cook them off. It is genuinely hard work to keep up as I saw three tables on a quiet afternoon tucking into them. Will have no problem once winter in justifying not going out. Hibernation is a natural state of mind for me.

It has generally been easy to keep the blog positive and even upbeat but every now and again something comes along to make you wonder about what drives some people to do the things they do. As it is around the 12th of August and the grouse moors open up for business there are a few articles in the papers questioning the still feudal system of land ownership in Scotland. The Observer editorial take on it was very interesting and I copied and pasted a couple of paragraphs.

“Painfully slowly, but surely nonetheless, the ancient and unearned privileges that have maintained the ownership of Scotland‘s wild and beautiful places in so few hands are being eroded. Many ordinary Scots are becoming aware of what, for centuries, had been the nation’s dirty big secret: that 432 landowners possess half of their country.

Very few Scots know much about the web of legislation that has been spun throughout their country’s post-Reformation history to keep this vast territory safely under lock and key. They know this though: that in a modern democratic state, such concentrated land ownership in the hands of so few is immoral.

The landed interests are also waking up to the prospect that the age of their dominion over man and beast on their property may be coming to an end. In the submissions by assorted landowners to the Land Reform Review Group, instituted last year by the Scottish government, a motif emerges, redolent of four centuries of casual entitlement: we are the best custodians of these places; we provide sustainable employment in communities; we protect the nation’s rare and wonderful species. While most have reluctantly accepted gradual reform, such as the series of successful community buy-outs, anything that smacks of being forced to sell land for the benefit of the community is anathema.

Such a development, the estate owners and their agents aver, would jeopardise the £350m annual cash injection that they provide to the fragile rural economy. This claim, though, does not stand up when set beside the participation levels in field sports of some of our Nordic neighbours, where the pattern of land ownership is markedly different from Scotland’s. Our European neighbours long ago threw off the ancient bonds of feudal ownership.

Radical land reform in Scotland will not radically alter the lifestyles of the landowners. No one is suggesting a Mugabe-style land grab or advocating unfair prices for land purchased, despite the fact that each of these characterised the transactions that secured some in their ancient piles.”

From time to time we suffer locally from outbursts regarding our views on land reform. Interesting to note that during Andy Wightman’s campaign last year I was on telly saying there was no “land grab” involved. You always get other people’s prejudices thrust on you for taking a point of view that sits uneasy with the establishment. Last year I was called to “account” over the campaign and it was easy to say that I had nothing to do with its organisation or conception but still had to endure a very unpleasant “dressing down” over an hour and a half. All pretty silly as you have work hard in trying to acknowledge any thing that is valuable for the community that comes from that source when you see how entrenched it is. Just recently there was an email selectively circulated with a nasty, personalised intro designed ,I think, only to isolate Alison and paint her as a trouble maker. I find this “stuff” very unprofessional and unhelpful but maybe inevitable as political bases are changing slightly. These defensive outbursts are so unnecessary as any one can see for themselves. The Alison Blog (3), strange title, as she has not got a blog, one from here is probably more than enough, was lifted from a comment stream about 8 weeks old,http://www.andywightman.com/?p=2801#comments and was around the time where it was minuted that there was to be no community wood coming from the Gateway/ALPS felling. I can leave any one to judge if Alison is the liar she is accused of being. I am sure by writing this I am going to have to duck but not writing it would mean this blog is not worth the paper it is written on. To sum up this is just bullying. So good to be able to go out to fish and leave some of the rubbish behind. Ironically I do not find my relationship with Richard under any pressure as the last time I saw him he arranged for me to take his nephew out on the Varuna, just wish he had gone to Last October’s ALPS meeting instead of going to the Hill. The underlying irony of all this is that if it was not for Alison exposing the Trust’s first appointee as a fraudster we would not have had ALPS or any awards received.

Rallies in a Strange World.

Good lunch shift yesterday, thinking it was not too busy but by the time i headed home with my strawberry and cream ice cream at four there were over 150 people through the door.This seems to be the normal shift these days. How quickly you get used to it!! There seems to be a trend of guys travelling in groups, today there was a Mitsubishi Evo rally that paid a fleeting visit. We had a group of Porsches for lunch,


planned, and on saturday morning saw a bunch of Fords calling in for a coffee. There are usually some in these groups with a sense of humour and included in this group was a little Ford Fiesta and even better a wee Fiat Panda racing along trying to keep up. By the time the Panda arrived some of the Capris were already leaving, having had their coffee.

Both on Saturday evening and again on Sunday lunch had a couple of interesting chats with customers. After saying they probably had eaten their best ever steaks got chatting with a couple who had been in the army for 20 years with no regrets. They had been “abroad” and although they did not discuss the details they said the way they joined was through the OTC and not for any other reason than enjoying a good social life. and then became regulars. For me a relevant discussion as No4 is in Glasgow doing just that…..

Second discussion was a good one, one about landowners and how they do or don’t interact with their communities. While at work I always enter these conversations with a little trepidation as the customer is always right!! But the guy was very open and was either the landowner or son of one running an Estate down Loch Lomond way and what he said was very enlightened. Again always pleasantly surprised when your mild prejudices are challenged. He knew our owners and the stramash here last year concerning the Andy Wightman campaign and was asking about the fallout. He did seem to have a completely different attitude to working with communities and suggested that it was only a matter of time and we both agreed the mind sets will change and possibly that is already under way although it is a long road we are on.Bit of wood work in the evening with Dougal and Co before watching some of the football.

This morning, to be honest, was a struggle to get out fishing. The forecast for the rest of the week ended up being the incentive as tomorrow’s ‘cast is really poor. It was hard work today. I do not mind saying this and cannot be bothered with not being a macho fisherman. It was an awkward choppy swell that changed direction a couple of times during the day with an increase of wind in the middle of the day. Being slightly bloody minded hauled the last couple of fleets to make it to 400 for the day. One or two octopi coming up in the creels and despite the destruction they reap I cannot help but put them back over the side. Often wonder if I catch the same one again and again. Looked well cross and was changing colour rapidly, possibly telling me where to go.


Hard to describe the fishing as good but I am catching enough to keep the Inn going as well as some going to the Loch Ness Inn tomorrow morning and also taking some round for the Spanish market as well. Compared to days of old it is a poor catch but we live in today’s world. Fascinating Start The Week this morning on the radio discussing the future of the planet, always something to keep the mind occupied as you are mechanically hauling creels and nothing unusual happening around you. One startling fact about how we live and use resources is that 4 litres of water are used to get 1 litre of bottled water on the supermarket shelf. On a lighter moment, half listening to a half hour on fake tanning I heard a mother saying that her daughter had decided not to go to a university because the students were not tanned enough!! She ended up going to one in the north of England where there is a higher up take for fake tans. What a strange world we live in.

On the way in due to the weather Chris had a group of kayakers out around the moorings. The closeness to the shore of the houses has a bit of an historical context. Firstly there was very little good land so the houses were built on the edges of the croft ground and the crofts were there because the people were cleared from the better ground on the peninsula. Almost paddling in the garden.


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