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

Posts tagged ‘Aron’s ice cream’

A Grumpy One

Although we are in for a busy weekend there is a definite end of season feel in the air. Maybe not helped by it being Friday and the first day on the water this week and even then it involved a northerly swell and a breeze from the south. By mid afternoon the breeze had developed into a wind, fortunately the fishing had improved from the morning although being in gear you have to watch when you steam past the south end you don’t get the tailing in the prop. Well more than once anyway. This coupled with noticing some spotlets of emulsified oil coming through my wet exhaust adds up to a bit of a grumpy feel to the day. I could have done with a longer visit from the dolphins. They came up very quickly, pirroeted a full 180 degrees out of the water alongside the boat and swam off. The oil problem is a heat exchanger and I have to find out if it is the gearbox or the engine oil I will be losing. It is never all joy and happiness in any job but at this time of year after a full on and busy summer these little things get blown up and exaggerated in the mind. Western world issues so in the grand scheme of life they will be trivial.

Good mood to have a mini rant about how the community is impacted by outside decisions and the little we can do about it. There is a theme across the Highlands that Community Councils are of little import and to some extent I would have to agree. As a region and country our local democracy is in pretty poor shape and to some degree unrepresentative. This is mainly due to most people’s perception that there is little the Council can do other than voice a community opinion. I do not usually post on individuals but the fact that the Inn Chef, Robert, and the School and Fire person, Marion, have to deal with a planning decision that stops their plans in progressing their presence on the Applecross peninsula is frankly incomprehensible. Robert and Marion, holding three jobs down between them, one young un and another imminent, working crofters cannot get planning permission to build a croft house near their croft. They are refused on the grounds that it is not in keeping with the surroundings environs and is too far from other habitations. I find it hard to put into words what I think of these decisions taken on the east coast by people who have no conception of what living on the fragile west is like. Apart from the ludicrous reasons for refusal, I can take you round Applecross and show you houses that have been built with no other houses near them, so as well as being a negative decision in the first place it has no place with any precedence. Ridiculous from which any angle you look at. It is easy to criticise but this and other decisions have little basis in a community’s growing it’s capacity and resilience. Another decision on the Street has been negative on the grounds the living quarters are upstairs. Considering that already happens in Holiday Houses three or four doors along it holds no water anywhere else but the east. You couple this with no land being released for affordable houses you can see we. are going to have problems in the very near future. Do people think it is ok for workers to live in multiple occupancy and caravans, in poor housing where do these issues come into the planning process. I leave the argument that everything is fine and should be left as it is to discuss, that is the rewilding argument in a way, saying that people should not and have not lived here for generations, which is patently untrue. Always change, sometimes the change is rather quick but you have to deal with it as it will not go away.

When, we as a community, are faced with an absentee landlord saying that a site is unsuitable because you can see it from the road you can only shake your head in disbelief. Drive down the road from Ardeslaig to Toscaig and you see every single house, holiday house and empty house from the road. Mind you I have been told of two other reasons for that site, the first being the presence of sink holes, not a good excuse due to the Turbine House being built there, and finally an agricultural reason just to make sure the site will not become available. You get the idea that releasing land is  not on the absentee landlord’s agenda, frustrating when you look at Achintrad, Sheildaig, Lochcarron, Balmacara, where affordable houses are being built and lived in by young folk who send kids to local schools and have employment in their locales. So individual planning decisions taken against this background feel so negative.

I have been to some positive and not so positive meetings lately, great to hear ideas put forward about a Community Hub, increased employment, housing from people who understand the fragility of the community and have  thoughts and plans to reverse the almost imperceptible decline. On the positive side there are more crofts being used now, the decline seems to have bottomed out and younger folk are growing and producing more food locally, building the resilience of the place, it’s a good year for wee ones being born, would be great if this was the norm rather than being unusual and employment must be 120%, more to do than the people living here can cope with. In a way it is a sort of curse when asked what is one’s agenda for the community. I can state that nothing is personal in that my living and employment prospects do not need to be improved so it is purely on a community level. Of course I may be wrong but I can see how a fine community can work in difficult circumstances and that is the one at the Inn. Great team and generally a happy place, building under pressure, workers not in ideal housing, but despite all the problems a fine example how a community can work.

So the consultations go on, there is the launching of a proper community consultation run by the Community Company, while the Trust Working Group continues. I feel I have made the right decision not to keep putting time into this and leave it to more positive minded people. I see no change in the direction the Trust is going in despite different personnel  on the Board. The suggested Chair of the Working Group, someone who is not only not local but is also not “independent”, confirms my decision to spend my time more usefully. I sincerely hope the Group is able to influence Trust policy for the future before more and more people think the  development of Applecross will have to go through new powers of the Community Empowerment Act.

Another meeting attended this week concerned the laying of fibre optic cable from Sheildaig to Lochcarron. Wonderful one may think but we came away from the meeting thinking little or no benefit to the community. There will be empty chambers for a licensed provider to build cabinets to deliver superfast broadband but that is unlikely to happen as cabinets cost around £65,000 and does not make economic sense to supply to a half-dozen houses. There was more unsaid than we were told, i.e. the contractor, the huge expense of laying a cable that is not going to be used locally. SSE backhaul does not really hold water and we all came away with the strong suspicion that the customer is based on the North Coast and has little to do with the local community and decisions are taken far far away. Meanwhile some residents are being promised 50/70 meg speeds from BT as they take in broadband by radio. Very puzzling and can only wait and see if this is true.

Now that feels better and life goes on. As said before the fishing was better than expected and the tea was good, it being these shrimps, all eyes

trying to make me feel guilty, some squats in mayo, and mussels increase,garlic and wine sauce, good accompaniments to baked Tatties.  This chappie was released after the photo and swam away happily in a flash of colour.

In-between the grumps the dolphin visits, they were too quick for me,

and the occasional calm days with lots of activities on and in the water,

a Thai massage and good chats with good people keeps you on a level, although maybe reading this I may need a lot more therapy.And to finish with a light show

or two.


“It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got.”

( Wednesday evening) Every now and again things are in place which either mean all is well in life or there is a spot of trouble to deal with. Today was one of those days when you have to cope with a spot of bother. Early start due to a day off yesterday and the plan to haul extra fleets went well until the last one. Just a wee bit tired, 540 creels hauled and thinking of heading home, turning round to shoot back my final creels, found myself on the wrong side of a creel which wrapped itself round my legs. That would be okay to deal with but I was in gear and going half ahead so the weight of the buoy was trying to pull me over the stern. Adrenalin kicked in and after what felt like an age, but was probably only a minute, I managed to ease myself into a position to fall backwards off the creel and away from the rope that was trying to catch an ankle. Only resulted in a couple of pulled muscles and a little shake. Thinking about it on the way in you accept that was as close as you want to go but no point in dwelling over it or you would pack in the job. Clarity of thought is so distinct and so many people say how time seems to slow when you are in serious trouble, but I reckon it is the mind working through the survival strategy. I am sure there are many incidents that happen every day at sea like this and no amount of regulation can cut them all out. One of the silly thoughts that went through the brain was, “mustn’t spoil the upcoming wedding”, daft, I know, but it gives that bit more of an incentive, if any was needed. So the engine stopping on the way into the moorings turned a good long day at sea into one of those days. Uncertain about why she stopped but got her going quickly and soon was tied up.

( Tuesday, last week) One of the things I love about this life is its unpredictability, slightly later than usual I was getting ready to go fishing last week when I saw an unfamiliar boat heading slowly into the moorings. Turns out Joel with three SNH guys were out on a wee field trip. Unfortunately their gear box was playing up and heading for Lonbain was too risky. After a request for help, equipment and people were put aboard the Varuna,

we steamed north shooting yesterday’s cleaned fleet off in the Bay. We were looking for flame shell reefs and although we were working with gps marks it was not till the last dip with the camera that we came across them.

There was plenty evidence of maerl beds which is good in itself. I am sure this would be described in certain quarters as supping with the devil, but if it helps the environment in any way I am up for it. Passing The Sand Base on the way home one wonders about the 22 million investment…….

Hauled a fleet, on the way in, still trying to hook up my missing one but failed yet again. Lots of squats though so not a total waste of time. Started towing the boat south

to meet Angus who completed the rescue, turning up just south of Saint Island.

Another few broken creels mended and a squat lobster fried rice completes the day. Means an early start tomorrow to make up for the lost time.

( Now Thursday evening) And now taking a bit of time out after a busy night at the Inn, a spot of reflection. With Tarnybackle singing It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got, so true working at the Inn. Introducing the song it sounded like a plea from the heart asking why we do not help each other more instead of just looking out for ourselves. Classic small example of this was Zuzu and I headed over to the Filling Station to try to sort out the lack of receipts over the last week. I had tried on several occasions and Zuzu had a go as well before going off on hols for the last week. Pooled knowledge and we sorted it out in approximately five minutes. Went into the system as the engineer and got the drawer opened with a bit of knowledge I had learned and fixed my earlier mistake. Good feeling of working together for community benefit walking back to the Inn. Where it was one of those special nights, friends made, can see several tables with people deep in conversation with each other they had never met before eating their meals together earlier in the evening. The camaraderie is immense and although the Boss was a bit tense thinking it was going to be a struggle to seat every one nothing went wrong, comments were off the scale about the food and the service. Easy for me to convey a magnificent Highland night of hospitality, food and drink, (Sandy even got his chic chip ice cream with sprigs of mint) and fine appreciated music. Enjoyed Green Fields of France, Caledonia and others of the folk and country tradition. Like the last couple of years working at the Inn with an ever-changing but fantastic team gives you so much satisfaction. It has been very fulfilling despite the numbers over the last few days and regulars keep coming back despite the ten levels of busy. Rob in his dapper tweeds always cuts a fine picture. Asked if he would mind a picture taken but my shift finished before he came down on the Sunday evening. The Boss took an iPad photo.

Asked to take some photos of the new wonderful lobster linguine

and as they were opposite and very photogenic the langoustines were snapped as well.

Did not know it was supposed to be for the Herald or more care on composition would have gone into the shot. The intrepid two arrived back yesterday, pretty knackered, hungry but contented.

( Finish off Friday evening) As ever one day does not lead into the next with any sort of conformity. This morning saw me out on the Varuna but nothing doing when I went to start her, ignition okay but starter motor dead. Ashore, phoned the ever reliable Ewen, luckily in Inverness, new one picked up and now in the van, ready for refitting tomorrow, langoustines in for the day and the old motor off with out the usual one stuck nut problem. That is usually my engineering experience. Lazy sort of day with only activity was spending lots of money on camera equipment, mainly to keep ashore as the marine environment takes its toll on the one I have. Although the weather is a bit broken the langoustines are still going into the creels although the numbers of berries seem to be coming in earlier this year. The days we are out are a joy to be on the water,

still waters and a view to die for

in every direction.

Interesting vessel moored at the moorings last week,

someone doing some serious open water rowing.

Did not get to chat so have little info about who it was.A wee blast from the past occurred when Willie came over on Saturday evening from Erbusaig to help entertain the Sally Leaving Do. There was only 27 of them and they were great craic. One thing I like in the Highlands is the generation cross over and girls in school with the boys just treat you as anyone else rather than parents. Banter flowed and a fair few vodka and lemonades were consumed, some with ice. The handbag was heavy with tins of cider on the bus for the way home. Back to the blast from the past and it was a photo that appeared on FB of the Curlew being fitted out on the Slip in Kyle, my Dad being on the left of the four, this would be in the seventies and a few memories came back……

Mr Chisholm Accompanies One

Walking back from the Inn on a dark and damp Friday night, I realised that distance and time can be measured in music, especially if you are listening to one of the Duncan Chisholm Trilogy. In this case it was Affric, An Ribhinn Donn get you under way, followed by the cascading Big Archie and before you know it before Night in That Land comes on. It was a perfect way to come home after a very, very enjoyable evening.

The lead up to the show earlier could have been more relaxed as it has turned out to be a very busy week. A gentle start as still recovering from the lurgie on Monday but was out in the evening, initially at the Inn, but ended up at the Community Hall, for a meeting about Out of Hours in Applecross. Only being lightly involved in local politics and finding that hard enough I do not envy those at either Highland or National level. In this case we heard how times have changed and we no longer have as good a supply of GPs as we would like and those new do not have the 24/7 commitment to coverage that those in the past had in the Dr Findlay’s days. Mind you there is probably less alcoholism now as in the old days. We can consider ourselves so very fortunate in our current Situation. Even the managers were suggesting we have as good a service as any where round the Highlands. But Doctors need time off and the cover is going to be still locum but is also going to be a mix of paramedics and nurse practitioners. This has already happened and there seems to be little concerns in the community. The ambulance service were also present and first responders are back on the menu. We were going down this route before but was stalled due to an unresponsive SAS, but that has now been solved and the Health Care Assoc is going to take this on. The defribs are now in town and hope to be in position in the next month or so. Being Applecross it is not one or two but six are going t be installed round the Community, monies all raised within the Community itself. Certainly impressed the managers.

Tuesday saw the CC meeting take place, constructive and frustrating at the same time. Knowing we have little powers and can only keep telling the authorities about the state of the Bealach. However there does seem to be a bit of action, partly as a result of photos of the deterioration of the road that we send in. Newspapers are always looking for angles on the NC500 and when you talk to a journalist giving two sides you leave yourself wide open to editing, but it turned out to be fairly balanced. Some people on the following Facebook steam say exactly the opposite of what you want to put across. Everyone, in my view is welcome, but it is going to put an undoubted strain on our infrastructure. Many communities would wish our problems

Wednesday and my fishing career has restarted.


I had been out to the Varuna on Tuesday afternoon to link up my new batteries and fire her up for the first time this year. Bit suspicious that I have a dead cell in the system so isolate the lighting bank as a reserve. The batteries are new because of one of those little mishaps, perfectly avoidable, but happen anyway and end up with you poorer and with a sore head from hitting it against a wall. Had two ashore, fully charged and back in the van when I was asked to nip over the Hill to pick up a couple of Internet boys from the train. Remembered the batteries in the back, the slidey floor and the insecure back door. The van is not quite a Teuchter wagon but is heading there. I actually stopped, but the hand brake never held so went round the next bend. Big mistake as two £100 batteries shot out the back door and lay smashed on the Bealach. Did not stop hitting the steering wheel until after Kishorn. Fishing went surprisingly well with only one out of the five fouled up. I have realised this week how much I have missed the sea with all its magic,





and life.



Dozen  kilos and a few squats means the year is under way, langoustines and squats now back on, well appreciated on Thursday evening by the regulars, five squat lobster in garlic starters with Isla having chips and salad with hers. Fine food for a young un. These squats were caught on the way back from Rona,


was there with Sean trying to link up the Applenet but did not go all to plan as a bit of kit was forgotten. Shows up how the stretched capacity of the community does break at times. If we had two people involved then a phone call back to Applecross, an instruction for some one on the computer and all would have been sorted. Still some work done


and may be finished through a phone call. This was exactly the chat I had with an MSP who stayed at the Inn on Wednesday evening. Our community capacity is being stretched so thinly, but soldiering on we will continue. Good to chat to a Chair of one of the Committees that have an over view of rural life. You can still give him the difficulties of survival over here even if he is at the opposite end of the spectrum with your political views. Working at the Inn has taught the ability to accept the many faces of human nature and not react adversely. I was being watched by the regulars who were imaging newspaper headlines the next day involving front of house in fracas with landowner

So we are up to Friday and third day in  row we are off to sea. Bit of a breeze but just a little more than gentle. Again good run with another five up with only one foul and it had been lifted by a neighbour possibly exacerbating the work. Due a wash so took it closer to home. Friday evening was earmarked for a movie showing and to be frank I was not enthusiastic, it being a hard few days and managing to squeeze in a short sharp migraine on Thursday night. However well worth the effort as Postcards from Applecross was a cracking video taking in different aspects around the community. Nick, Stephen and lately Angelica have put together a series of  short videos lasting an hour showing the variety of occupations and life styles on the peninsula.They ranged from the croft to the sea taking in the Inn, wool dyeing, ice-cream making and photography on the way. I found it very touchingly simple, getting to the soul of the community, but not branding it in a tourist sort of way. Regular visitors to the Inn will love a glimpse into how people live in order to stay here. The beauty of the place is shown in the photography of Jack’s, Angelica and Nick, who sadly passed away last year. Had a lot of time for Nick who fell in love with our wee place and he came out on the boat for a day, becoming colder than he had ever been in his life. He was a quiet gentle man and with an eye to his surrounds.

Footnote to the evening; I walked up to the Hall and soon after leaving the house a car passed and then stopped to give me a lift as Fiona saw there were no dogs being walked. Chatting away I was slightly taken aback as we scooted past the Hall. Fiona then commented that she was going up to the Bay as she was slightly early, methinks this is a little unusual but okay. She then mentions she is heading out to dinner and not to the Hall. So half way round Milton Loch we screech to a stop as we both assumed we were heading for different destinations. Me to work and her to the Hall instead of where we were really going…me to the Hall and her to Gordon and Val’s.

Back to Mr Chisholm and this afternoon on the wood run. I had moved onto Cannich and it took all of that album plus the tracks up to the third , Lorient Mornings of  Farrar, to load up what felt like a 3/4 ton of wood,


shifting it 50 metres to the van. It was heavy going but with his beautiful, haunting fiddling playing, the graft on a driech day was minimal. Dougal and Eilidh were in their own world but never far from all the ditches.


A JCB on the School Run.

Not entirely sure how to deal with the latest from America. Had the radio on all night and woke up around the time it was all over for Clinton. We live in a strange, strange world where everyone else is to blame. The same in this country, poor, out of work or immigrants. Some of the aftermath is quite chilling and there is so much in history that has gone before that should prevent past insanities repeating itself. Racism is very simple and breaks down any empathy we have for our fellow beings. It is even more poignant today as it is the 11th of November and  the”Lest we forget” seems to be losing its message. Reading Edmund Blunden just now and feel very conflicted and pressured into the wearing of symbols. The reasons why people have voted the way they had on Tuesday have been analysed to death, it is the result of those votes that is so worrying. Have always thought the use of nuclear weapons would be insane……….first strike insanity and second strike pointless. Empathy and sanity go together so now we have, admittedly only through the filter of media, someone ,who may fit some of these behavioural traits in charge of the biggest nuclear depot in Western Europe which is just down the road. Applecross does not feel very remote at the moment.

It was a struggle not to be pulled into a despairing train of thought and eventually made it out onto the water the morning after. It turned out to be a pretty poor day, more wind from the south than forecast and cold with not too many langoustines, but the forecast was for even more wind, so stayed out until a fleet that was shot over sent me in, being too hard to free.

Going back to last week fishing and Inn have to be served and we were back out on Friday with a decent catch. Seven fleets hauled and two good ones providing the bread on the table. The catches are very unpredictable and you just go to the next fleet hoping. It was the same yesterday but down to one good fleet. Cold gradually seeps into you by the end of the day. Have to keep moving on the way in, as soon as you stop you realise how chilled it is at this time of year. Like it when the pressure is off with not so many people around but enough to earn a pound or two. Bit different for me as I am not involved in the mad Christmas dash for the hiked prices paid on the Continent. A first fall of snow on the 3000 feet tops


and then further down over the weekend. Reports of the snow falling on the Bealach.The weather has not been too inclement with some nice views off to the west.



The Inn was busy enough over the weekend. Was there since Thursday as swopped Wed for Fri. Handy for the Boss as she was away with the Ice cream Man and others to see if they could win yet another award at the Highland Tourism Awards.This time it was for the informal eatery category. Although shortlisted, no mean feat in itself, the award went to Canna. We thought the omens were good.



An excited phone call was received at the Inn when Applecross Inn got a mention from the stage and a cheer from the floor. Fergus was on the podium and mentioned the Tuesday meeting so there is hope. It is because I creel fish I come across sea pens with attendant symbiotic starfish attached


and boar fish


and are able to put them back alive.


Thursday evening at the Inn and there were more staff than customers, it just felt that way, I only stayed on to get update from the Community Company Meeting. Could have been better, but volunteering is not easy, and if one has stresses in our own lives it is really difficult not to bring these to Meetings. These ups and downs are cyclical but do take their toll on people who care. Friday through to Sunday at the Inn was pretty busy, shifts that pass quickly with plenty to do especially as groups of 10, 11 and 14 book in alongside a full accommodation and several “walk ins”. We counted 46 meals on Friday evening. Met my first Saudi visitor and a pleasant couple from Norway, he was doing a Divinity degree at Edinburgh, a couple of gardening/farming sisters from Stranraer, the yurt lady from Cornwall…..the list goes on with Applecross at the centre, never remote. This week it was a Para-Olympic coach who casually talks about flying around the world, last trip coming back from Rio. Empathizing with fellow humans being is so easy, losing sight of that and you are in or making trouble.

Local politics are cracking on as well. The Trust consultation hit a bit of a rock in September when a very confused and directionless public meeting took place in spite of advice to the contrary. This consult is threatening to be one of the longest in our time and as a result, like referendums, people are tiring. And this was evident from the few numbers out on Tuesday evening when the consultation took off again. Thirteen people out, the Trustees we are told, are shocked by the community comments. They did not realise that they are not universally loved by all and do not understand why. Remember a similar reaction when the LAS campaign hit the headlines. We keep hearing about a shared vision but for a vision to be shared we have to have some idea what the Trust’s is. Maybe one day. Little surprised how shocked the trustees seem to have been, I am well aware how a part of the community think ill of the Community Company despite, fuel, toilets, broadband and hydro, but never shocked just disappointed. Maybe when one is so remote from life here it is hard to judge views. A visit on Wednesday afternoon on the way to the Inn for another wee chat. Agreement that the Trustees do not seem to know about the workings of the community and still rely on patronage and favours. The consultants acknowledge that it would take so little to dissolve the distrust of decades. We are still reduced to looking around for wee scraps of land for affordable  house sites, and not getting them.

School taxi on the agenda for the Community Council meeting that followed on immediately. Seems to be a target for HC cuts but as they are obliged to transport the wee ones to and from school and there seems to be little other options. Seconding council vehicles was suggested, humourous to the community as there would only be a JCB or snow plough available in Aplecross. The wee fellow up the Glen would probably love the ride to school on Finky’s digger. Shows up the deficit of local government, officials taking decisions from 85 miles away. With the intervention of officials and the total lack of alternatives a favourable outcome is expected. On the good news front there may be a bit of movement on the road front concerning the deteriorating Bealach. A few well-directed photos showing how bad the road edges are is registering at base. With all the NC 500 publicity the HC is between a rock and a hard place, even more cars and more deteriorating roads. Just a rumour to finish on, but a good one, we may be getting a snowblower back for the Bealach.

Thursday and it was up to the Hydro to check the screen and although needed a brush did not seem too bad. Wet feet when running so full. The river was in spate


and for most of the last twelve days the turbine has been working at 100%. Looks and feels good to see it churning out the kWhs.


NC500,Depopulation,Life on the West.

(Friday afternoon) Sitting with Murray in the background doing his stuff. All going so well 2 up and a break in the third. Not much going to be happening this evening I think, maybe a few years ago it would have been a couple of pints at the Inn. Not so much energy now and a long day planned tomorrow. Having to haul a few more creels to catch the same amount of langoustine. Looks like the deeper water langoustine are not interested in the bait just now. There are one or two still going in the creels further up the banks but very patchy. It has been a good spell so not too many complaints. The berried langoustine are starting to appear and over the next month will amount to 50% of the catch. Bit of a struggle getting out this morning as the tiredness is setting in again. On the way out finished putting together the fleet I took in on Wednesday. Timed it well finishing just where I wanted to shoot it back. Although out late had plenty of time to catch enough for the Inn. (And he has won, unusual for a Scot to watch sport and expect a win.)

I had nipped up on Tuesday evening to pick up some boxes for a delivery east and caught some late evening sun.



When the Boss left on Wednesday morning she had another load of langoustine


for the Loch Ness Inn.


Yesterday the disadvantage of not having a crewman or worker alongside you has to be overcome by willpower and in a driech and breezy morning I went over to the pier, set up the washer,put the headphones on and washed for a couple of hours.


Getting the creels ashore before they are too dirty helps and keeping up with splicing and mending at sea also cuts down on the maintenance so it was all done by 2pm with most of the creels back on the ropes and ready for this mornings finish. Have to keep an eye out for traffic as you get so involved sorting everything out  before sorting the days fishing.


Guessing the vectors two boats are travelling on becomes second nature.


There is still the algal blooms around


but a lot of fresh water makes for interesting changes in the colours.


Having a few problems with the Hydro and a pity as it is 90 kWs weather just now. We have clocked up the 200,000 kWs hours so not all bad.The evening was spent at the Inn where it was very peaceful despite some waiting for tables. With three behind the bar and three out front all went smoothly. Probably still classed as very busy but for the Inn it was just a steady evening. Managed away to catch up on a fine curry provided by our new next door neighbours. Unlike the Wednesday evening when I came in just before 6pm and it was pretty chaotic and stayed that way until after 10pm. The guy who booked a table for 9 said he thought he was doing us a favour when he looked in and saw we were busy so he gave us half an hour notice. Some people expect a lot but when the Boss has raised the standard so high people do expect. Have to say some of the visitors were very complimentary about the service. I think they wonder if they will ever get a table and when they do, quicker than expected, they are in good humour and when the good food arrives they know they are in the right place. Only blot on the evening was when a little harassed I forgot to put a line separating the starter and main course order. Got away with it but know the kitchen is under enough strain without theses silly mistakes.It is good the place can still run pretty well when the Boss is away. Now well established the Inside Out Dream Machine has a new smart sign above the serving counter.


(Now Saturday afternoon) It has come a long way from the couple of tubs of ice cream sold to customers you knew by word of mouth. Hard to imagine the Inn without this unit. There were thirty people queuing up outside it  in the pouring rain on Saturday afternoon. Another fishing trip under the belt. Out after nine and only hauled 250 creels but enough to see them through the weekend hopefully. It was a black backs verses bonxie day for the bait and giving as good a they got. Stayed in the shallow water and there were just enough langoustine and plenty of squat lobster tails. Kitchen staff will be a bit grumpy with me tonight.

And now for the NC500 moan. When I landed the catch at the Inn, coming up to the Street you could see the chaos. Three cars parked in the first passing place past the Street, cars the length of it and about 30 Ducatis parked, no, treble parked, outside the Inn. The car park was already full. Could not get to the landing bay but had to lift over three or four bikes to get the catch into the Inn. There are going to be no parking signs at the Filling Station, a bizarre thing to have to do. Who in Applecross goes on holiday and blocks of a Filling Station by parking at it? We now have a website called NC500 in 24 Hours. I took about 15 minutes to travel the length of the Street today and this is not the peak season yet. There is talk of a local referendum being held to take Applecross out of the NC500. Every one else is having referendums so why should we not. It will get genuine reasons out why it is not working here. It should show that the services cannot cope with all this added pressure, maybe something that should have been thought of before the advertising campaign. Heard reports this week that bikers are closing off sections of the Bealach and then conducting time trials. No photos of the chaos as I was so relieved to get of there as soon as possible. The good thing about living here though is you can live outside this bubble and have a quiet peaceful life here.

Sometimes it is good to moan so I will continue. We are experiencing another wave of departures and the latest will mean that there will only be six pupils at the school. I have been pulled up in the past for being pessimistic but I reckon I am an optimist but a realistic one. We are now at the stage where one family leaves there will be a far larger % drop in the school and the average age just keeps going up. The Community Company is battling to try to redress these issues but the huge difference here is we are not community owners, we do not have the land to build on despite numerous requests. And if you actually sit down and think it through that is the only way ahead. Take small town personality politics out of the argument and you would be hard pushed to find a more negative landowner on the west coast. One that does not say no but never says yes.  One does wonder if it is getting too late to regenerate the peninsula. With all its history we may just become a tourist destination serviced by people brought in for the season.

Feeling Positive

From the Community Company point of view, not everyone’s I have to admit, things are a lot more positive and anyone with any misgivings about the financial rumours can go online. The notices posted around the community are out of date and unhelpful. For those members who were genuinely concerned about the status of the Company can now honestly believe it was an administrative error, one that should not have happened, but one that was always going to be corrected. But all is positive in that it is raining, the Hydro is going full steam, you can see the dry spell last week before the rain and then again the rain last night which has it running at full tilt, only the power is the true reading at the side of the screen,

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 21.48.40

the Toilets are being cleaned by Marion and Roddy and the Filling Station is selling a fair bit of fuel. Will be the first ever fuel to be ordered from The Czech Republic for Applecross Filling Station as Zuzu is on a wee break out there but monitoring the levels. Also learning from mistakes is essential for going forward and some training is being set up for all the directors. As with everything it gets more and more complicated as more and more comes through the Company. Subsidiary trading companies and IPS are already formed and we are looking for new directors to take up some of the load for the future. Going back to the Toilets, there was a problem with the disabled unit and this was cleared and cleaned up by Liz and Jan. They do not even live here but think what we are trying to do is worth supporting by helping keeping things going. There is only so much one can do as volunteers and it is so good to have established a paid post for administration.

As ever there is never just one strand running in Applecross. Tuesday I decided that a wander up the hill above the house


was in order and Dougal was in complete agreement.


I have become less and less interested in piling in hours and hours of work just to show how hard I work. I think the older you get the less you need to prove and living becomes more important. The views from up here are the best


after crossing Alt na Chriche.


Did not go very far up as I did not need too much exercise on a day off.


Plenty langoustine at the Inn along with a few squat tails, so the day off was justified.

Wednesday was back at sea


and notice the size of the langoustines are decreasing, denoting the end of the good spring fishing, and the deeper water is not fishing so well. Still reasonable catch but seeing a fair amount of eggs, mainly last years females at the end of their carry. There are one or two early eggs from this years breeding, very early, as they do not usually show till August. Just the cheeky cormorant


along with more arriving bonxies.

The Inn has had some crazy days. Tuesday, an 8 was booked, but a 14, 3x 8s and a few 6s sorted the day out. Wednesday was similar but the evenings when I came on were very pleasant. Had our first ever visitors from Myanmar, formally Burma, accompanied by a Mexican and Vietnamese. Thursday evening was one of those that flowed all evening and everyone went home at a decent time as well. The last night of the Cobbleys for a couple of weeks anyway. Think we might be seeing more of the retiring Dave. They have a wee artist in the family, Isla, and there is a drawing of me on the Varuna up on the wall. Round the bar we had the glass blowers from Tain, making friends and possibly doing business with a couple involved with a smart label that tells when a product is out of date. Down on table 10 we had the surfing GP from Fochabers. Interesting chat about the Scottish NHS in comparison to what is happening to the NHS South of the border. Apolitical as he did not claim any party allegiance but was definitely relieved to be practising in Scotland, although we have our own problems. The scarcity of rural GPs may well be solved by English GPs having had enough and coming North. The lactose intolerant was very happy with his scallops pan fried in oil. Everyone was so appreciative about the quality of the food which cheered Cheffie up as he had worked just one or two hours over the EU working hours limits this week. Outside the Silver Dream Machine has reappeared and is set to do lots of business selling ice creams, coffees and fish and chips this summer.


Today, an early start to get langoustine from the Varuna both for the Inn and the Loch Ness Inn before going for a shoulder massage and chat at Arrina and Shieldaig. Inverness and a quick shop in the usual places, Gaelforce, HIS and Highlandwholefoods. Picked up Alison as our car is now being driven around the Borders by a green list candidate for the Scottish Parliament. Home by six to the good news about the Company, so a good day which has made this a productive week.

Fireworks, “Big Boys” and Birthdays.

Out on Friday on a wonderful and quiet day


to haul a few creels and keep the langoustines on the menu board. Very little to report apart from a few tangles, a missing fleet,a couple of fleets foul on other gear and the odd but smart cormorant looking for a mate going by his crest.


Although never feeling the cold during the day it is very easy to chill down on the steam in after you have cleared the deck but the scenery keeps it fresh.


Time to talk a wander up the Sand path in the evening light with Dougal and Eilidh.


The light all day was quite special.


Evening free so the baked potatoes were enhanced by squat lobster in marie rose sauce. Left the Inn after landing the langoustines in the safe hands of a visitation of the regular “big lads” who come up for the Fishing Competition in August. They were up for the rugby on Saturday, taking a minibus trip (not ours) over to the Strath to watch the game.

Saturday morning and a morning spent up and down the road and on the phone to see if I could get the Hydro up and running. After a bit of tooing and froing and under instruction I managed to top up the pressure in the dump load tank and the turbine was under way again. Unfortunately it only ran for about four or so hours. Jumping ahead to Monday afternoon I was back up at the turbine house but this time in the safer hands of Mick. I had another go on Sunday morning, although there was a restart during the day it was only running at around 5/10kws. A new build which although the principles are simple involves, software programs, circuit boards, fuses and breakers has to go through a snagging period. Even now the turbine has turned over 68,000 kwhs so projections are on course. Was up on Monday for just over an hour and learned a huge amount about how the head sensor works, monitoring the levels at the intake, sending signals to the turbine, where the actuator opens and closes, regulating the water coming into the turbine. The level at the intake is maintained so it is the power produced that drops off due to the water levels. Mick was trying to work out why the turbine had shut down concentrating on the head sensor. Possible reaction to severe frost but not confirmed and the same sensors are scattered round the country and geared to withstand -20c. Started up when I was there and watched the power settle at 17/18kws and the head sensor control the level of water at the Intake. Fascinating stuff and am already able to take investors round the turbine house and heating unit at the Campsite. Sunday morning  included just such a visit.

Lots going on at the Inn over the weekend. Friday evening was left to the boys build up to the Saturday game and Saturday shift was pleasantly busy, the Boss being away to pack for an escape in the morning. Something about a birthday escape. Easy going evening but busy enough to keep on your toes, only down side was the plaits on the iPod. turned out it decided to die but kept playing the same song on repeat instead of shuffling. About four hours into this I was asked how many songs on the playlist before realising what was the problem. The teachers on the Big Table now know the words to Stacy Earle’s “Did I say I was sorry” word-perfect, said it was a good song around 7pm. Then it was the fireworks sent up by some of Judith’s dedicated followers,


sent off in to the sky from the Garden.


The expected Rugby invasion did not materialise although we did get a phone call saying they were on their way for late food splurge. The spirit had caught up with them and all but the local contingent came in. had a good last hour listening to their reminiscent of escapades from growing up times. It struck me that nowadays there are not many people living where they have grown up, a sign how mobile the world has become. Where you belong has become far more important than where you come from.

Sunday morning, passing a frozen Mill Loch on the bike,


and a quick visit up to the turbine house to see if I could identify fuses but with no luck, came down and showed Mike around the unit and he was well impressed by the community’s efforts. Had been an early start to get some more langoustines from the boat.


Then the Boss left quietly before 11am


and found out there were just the two of us on till six.The weather was still holding and a busy day expected.


Good banter on the check out with a couple. Just during the chatter found out the lady was working in the NHS and then as a dietician, door opens as I point over to the ‘big boys’ in for a breakfast and a break before the England/Italy game. But unlike junior doctors she claimed that she was not working weekends!! Would have been a great project…here is Big Derek on his way to Applecross taking a break and getting some sun before settling in at the Inn for the weekend.


It was a full on but under control and very enjoyable shift. Every table was full right up till four and then again at six but we had reinforcements arriving then and the evening was a lot easier. Four years on this job and nothing panics you now. Systematic but friendly service sees you through, meeting the Black Isle farmers, the retired lorry drivers, the teachers are all part of a shift that flies by. Only little moment was when Dan was over from Lochcarron for a meal with friends, when he was paying I asked how his Dad was, knowing he was seriously ill, bit rocked by his reply….he had passed away on Saturday. For a few seconds everything means nothing and nothing means everything, all you can do is shake hands and try to pass some feeling over to a young guy who has just lost a young Dad.

The food was exquisite, the usual langoustine, scallops, crab were supplemented by some gorgeous turbot, comfit duck, seafood broth, pork fillet, followed by an amazing tiramisu from Marion. The usual array of ice creams came out of Toscaig, (Applecross Ices) aptly named for the day Love, Passion and Desire. The chocolate sorbet with the cherries was a great way to finish off a long day. Finishing off this post and checking up on a refreshed turbine power read out watching the power out put increase from 17kws going up to 29kws in the last two hours. Signalling a change in the weather from the hard frost and clear skies to a wet and windy Tuesday. We will always have this silver lining as we look out the window and see nothing but horizontal rain.

Big Starfish and small Castaways.

Noticeable on the way over the Hill that the rivers were full, white water running down the Russel Burn. Knowing what the forecast was like from keeping an eye on XCWeather, http://www.xcweather.co.uk/forecast/Applecross as good a forecast around just now although dipping into BBC Inshore Waters and Magic Seaweed help if you want to dodge out for a half day, it was not too much of a shock coming from the summer of Cambridge back to the autumn of Applecross. And Tuesday was wet windy


and even a little cold and involved a lot of catching up by getting the prawns back on the menu going out to the Varuna to land the last of the prawns hanging over the side. A fuel delivery arrived and we got a call for the new receiver about padlock keys. I went back up to help receive the delivery taking Dougal and Co with me to wander around the Bay.


Bumped into the tree surgeon who has had a lot of work to catch up on this summer.


Commented it was a shame that all this lovely beech was being cut up for firewood but the integrity of the paths took precedent over taking the wood out in plank lengths.  We have had the best ever monthly sales in July selling over 25,000 litres. The new system and the 5p a litre has helped greatly. The connection cable and now the nozzle shut off problem, fixed by Duncan, shows there are always going to be problems but the system is working well and great the book-keeping is going well. I am carrying on dipping but Zuzu has taken over the book work on that and although not a major job is one that has to be done. And one that tends to be at the bottom of my list.

Back into the fray this evening with an extra shift and it is as busy as ever but the weather is causing little problems along the way. If you are camping and it is cold and miserable and wet where do you go with your family but to the local Inn. While at the Inn trying to feed everyone is the objective and guys sitting on tables chatting for four hours while we struggle to find seats for the next wave. Many, almost all, the customers are aware of this and willing share tables or offer their tables and move to the bar but every now and again you come across an awkward situation where people just look at you and think “tosser”. Had the opposite reactions on Wednesday evening when a group of thirteen came in unannounced, willingly split up and passed up at table for a young family while another small group on a big table after hogging it for four hours slagged me off for daring to suggest they could possibly move on for another big group. Ears are always sharper for picking up abuse. While it bothers you that not every one is happy coming to the Inn there is little you can do in certain circumstances. Thursday evening and the stresses mainly came from the kitchen, a long day to start with and at the middle of the evening shift there is a bit of a lull before the second wave comes in at around and after eight and then the kitchen get hit meaning they are flat-out till after nine, a long time since they started cooking and prepping in the early morning. Couple of social media connections in the form of Maggie and another family who read the Blog celebrating their son’s eighteenth. Also my brother-in-law’s wife’s mother appeared, staying at Clive’s.

And the fishing recommenced on Thursday with the southerly still blowing throughout Wednesday morning. It quietened off and the rain started. The morning shift in the Bay


landed a few prawns but was hauling through a layer of fresh water until I moved out offshore a little.


Crustaceans do not like the fresh water and even the short time they come through it are disconcerted to the extent  they are tricky to get out of the creels. Wee breeze that was not forecast got up and as I was trying for a day and a half’s work plus a night at the Inn was finding it hard going. Coming up to what was possibly the last fleet the rudder went again. Round the wrong side of the post, my fault for not securing it properly the last time. So with me drifting broadsides, water coming into the aft hold and the aft pump choked it was five minutes of “what do I do now?” Working on your own has lots of advantages, any mistakes you make there is no time for recrimination but get it sorted. So with the pump freed up and replete with sockets, spanners and stilton loosened of the ram and swung the rudder back round. Hatch closed and headed back in feeling seasick and knackered. After ten minutes started tailing the squats again and realised what effort you put in to sort out stuff at sea. My left arm was in spasm for the next twenty minutes due to forcing the rudder round. Five minutes ashore and then to the Inn for a busy evening, stressed kitchen and finished off with a fine mascipone ice cream of Aron’s.

Friday just as hard and although not off the mooring too early doors it was full on day. Bolted up the rudder properly and only have to change a coach bolt as the one I lost was replaced by a shorter one before the original turned up. Main problem solved and movement of the plate the piston is secured to has been stopped. Out to haul 250 creels before heading to Rona to pick up Castaway Clare after her month on Eilean Garbh raising moneys for The Glasgow Burn’s Unit. http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=CalderClaire1&faId=594243&isTeam=false


Would have been in better time if not fouled gear on the last haul. Tried it last week in a northerly sweep but dropped it for a better day. Picked up from the other end before it got tight. Only way to haul it on board was to cut off my last seven or eight creels and two of the other boats. Breeze had picked up so this meant we were alongside the Rona pontoon an hour later than scheduled. Just the board to take down,



loaded up and away south to home, decanting creels and Clare before landing the prawns and squats late. Service already well underway so prawns to be blanched later. Still despite the long days and exquisite tiredness it is good to be back where I belong, seeing the changing season through what turns up in the creels. A larger number of berried prawns


coming aboard for short stays, signifying the onset of autumn, and we are still waiting for summer. Picked up a three-fingered starfish,


regenerating, and reminded me of how the fishermen when they worked the ground nets would cut the starfish and throw them back, dead they thought, before realising they were actually increasing the population as each part regenerated. Some large starfish


about and the distinctive looking blackbacks.


Of course the bonxies are ever-present although numbers appear to be down this year.


To finish off three days of satisfying graft, a meal of squat tails, leaves and new potatoes from the garden followed by a cycle south with the dogs.


And all that without MPAs and Hydro.

Zones,Ice Cream Medals and History in the Living Room.

In the zone, that where we were tonight, I think I may be using the royal”we”. Made it with a couple of minutes to spare and very quickly in the deep end. Jack, Heather, and I. Eighteen booked in at the top end of the bar for 7pm so the four tables to the north gone for the night. Residents and walk ins made for a busy, busy evening. But first the hot news from Ingilston was that Aron had won eight, yes eight, bronze medals for his ice creams. He had put in twelve flavours  and honestly hoped for one award. This was the kick off for the evening. As soon as I heard the news I wiped the board outside and was going to write-up his achievements. My writing is eligible but does not compare to the Boss’s……in fact no one’s does.


So just asked the two visitors approaching the door if they could write. Got a wry smile from the Mrs who said that believe it or not she could and not only that she could do joined up as well. Thought I had come across a teacher. All just good craic which set up for the evening. Seems the other news from the Royal Highland Show was Aron’s shirt, so loud it was heard at Edinburgh castle, ten miles away, and yes even he has now been interviewed by Dougie Vipond, almost tempted to call him Our DV. Bit of a late shift as we had twelve people waiting for tables around 8.30pm. As usual it all works out and there were many happy people leaving the Inn. From start to finish the customers were special, appreciative, interesting and great company. They came from Maine, California and the mid west, France and all parts of the UK. Humour levels high as was intelligent conversations. At one time in between a retired Met Bobbie and two French journalists. Very different opinions on Scotland, England, France and Europe. And that was without going into the Ref, Salmond and Sturgeon. A couple of mistakes tonight in the ordering but even they were okay, lamb for a crab and a curry for a linguine. The mood and atmosphere were so good that the lamb and curry were eaten, complimented and were no longer regarded as mistakes. Nights like these fly by and the ten o’clock quiet descends on the bar. A dozen people left down stairs as I spend my second night sleeping in. Morning up earlier to get away to do some fishing as the weather has settled down again and met Berry, the Californian with this family getting ready for breakfast. Another good chat, this time he expressed surprise at hearing Iris Dement on our playlist, always back to music. Abiding political theme is not if but when the next Indy Ref is going to be. Hope there is not too much anti Jock sentiment stirred up by the more basic press. I suppose we have a job to do in continuing to welcome one and all as guests first and foremost, an easy thing to do in an evening like last night.

Although the evening shift goes like a dream there is still time to think of the Mackenzies and their extended family as yesterday they said goodbye to Mary. Big crowd and they came from far and wide to pay their respects. Always a catch in the throat as the coffin is lowered slowly down into the grave. The weather stayed off and a brief chat at the grave side meant I was one of the last to drift away. I never made it in time for the service but paid my respects at the grave. Went to the Heritage Centre and had a wander around for ten minutes waiting for the mourners from the Clachan church to emerge. Not sure if I am privileged to be on the Heritage round of photos as every one else I saw has passed away, just think that I am older than I look.

Tonight I was told that this summer/spring is the worst for 43 years.


Not sure what the reference is but good it is not. One day of decent weather


followed by four or five of miserable stuff. Even Dougal


and Eilidh are getting down about it.


So in between the fishing days there are still creels to mend,


prawns to deliver to the Loch Ness Inn,


where there must have been some serious celebrating last weekend, some cousins may have been partaking.


Also I picked up some boards from the sign makers at Inverness, did not know at the time what they were, but Alison had organised historical photos put on hoardings


with the intention of displaying them at the Filling Station.


And since the engineer has been here there has been no drop off. Seems it was a hardware issue and not our broad band.


Was back out while Alison unpacked


and spread them out in the living room.


They are amazing and will look tremendous on site.


Spread around the room you could not help but be transported back in time.

The garden is very unconventional and we no longer have any vestige of a lawn, the grasses being waist-high. The Aquilegia are looking fine


and the rain on the mantle always stays as drops on the leaves.


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.

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