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

Posts tagged ‘Assynt’

Night time in the Highlands

That is the bartering done for the Christmas dinner, prawns delivered in exchange for the venison to be roasted and kraken rum and raison for dessert of course. A Clare Macdonald recipe which includes prawns,smoked bacon, philli cheese,lemon juice and parsley is the trad starter for the last 5 or so years and never fails, in fact so much so we always have too much of it, great with oatcakes. Only thing between now and Christmas is the quiz tonight at the Inn, another short straw. Not allowed the local section or one about land reform. Bit unfair asking some one from Kent what vehicle Baxter drives. They probably would not understand the question. It seems to be the time of year when you do a bit more reminiscing and saturday morning saw a bit of that when Kennac was talking about some of the old characters of Applecross. I think this was a bit of a diversionary tactic to keep his mind off having a dram to get over the previous night libation. I just missed the days when there were enough young guys living here to make up some decent football teams and there were some good shinty players as well. Reminded me of Jim and Johnny Nic talking in Plockton,earlier in the week, realising they were getting to the end of their careers when they turned up with the second team “on a wet day in Skye” and still did not get picked to play. Saturday evening at 9.30pm the phone goes and it’s a request for help. Regular visitors Derek and Jan have hit a stag west of Achnasheen and come to a very sudden stop,airbags popping and stag almost coming through the window. They are stranded and the car is totalled on a bleak midwinter’s night in the Highlands.

On the way to pick them up I remembered going to a gathering at Lochinver Hotel,I think,and took part in a Lesley Riddoch radio phone in, the occasion being the Assynt crofters buying their land. The highlight for me was a short but powerful speech by Angus Macrae from North Strome. He described the drive back from Inverness in the middle of winter going home to Strome, driving through the empty glens and how he hoped the Assynt people were leading the way to repopulating the vast empty swathes of the Highlands. He described how comforting the drive would be if it was interspersed with lights on the sides of the glens and knowing there were families there again and they would be with him on the drive home. Although this was said over 20 years ago I can still see Angus standing up and the vivid description of his desire. Aye and before I knew it I was at the scene of the stag and after a natter with the local Bobbie, quickly loaded up the van and occupants were soon back in Applecross. Not the start of their holiday they expected but all,apart from the car and stag, seemed well.

January is already filling up with a social media course, a visit to Glasgow for the first night of Celtic Connections, and a visit to Strontian to discuss with their community about community consultation and whether it is necessary and pointers on how to go about it. A really interesting meeting is set up for the end of January when a contact Alison met at Comrie is coming to discuss the challenges of climate change and how it is going to affect our lives and economy. The observations of those living in the countryside on any changes we notice are going to be valuable data for the future. Possible changes in how the scallops spawn due to slight increase in the water temperature, although not scientifically proven may be indicative of these changes. Another is the sea grass that is growing on the marker buoys at this time of year. We never had to clean the buoys outside the summer months.IMG_1073

SCFF,kind people and some poetry.

Just been hit by a bit of a lurgy. Started at about 2 o’clock yesterday and has really kicked in this evening. Another very, very busy week that has been so varied as well. In the last eight days fishing has taken up four days with seven shifts in the Inn. Jess, the “awesome” Aussie came out last week and this continued my recent theme of seeing what I do and where I live through other people’s eyes. Although she had a fear of being seasick and handling sea life I think Jess really enjoyed the day out. She was slightly surprised about how many prawns go back over the side but at no time did she suggest that we land any of the berried ones. The staff in the Inn, on the very rare occasion a berried prawn is landed, immediately are on the case. Anyway the constant supply of fish, cuttlefish, starfish kept Jess going for the day. The political scene has moved on somewhat in that the SCFF has been formed. That is the Scottish Creel Fisherman’s Federation. Eight associations from around the Scottish coast have come together, with a ninth expected, to represent a large part of the inshore fleet that up till now has had no political voice. Creel boats represent 74% of the inshore fleet and 49% of income, figures that in themselves tell you of our efficiency and lower running costs. These small working units are locally based and are an important contributor to the social and economic make up of small communities up and down the west coast.

Although the Mairead M is not an Applecross boat and lands berries this type of operation has a minimal effect on the environment. So we shall see what this new body can achieve. I still think it is a long haul and my ambition would be to overturn the Inshore Fisheries Act of the 1980s and redress the balance of fishing in favour of the stocks. Ambitious, I know, and not a universal desire among the fleet but I do believe in it.

The Inn has been providing me with lots of great moments and I have been meeting some special people and all you have to do is be kind and look after them and you get so much back. Dick and Joan from the States have been staying at the Inn for a week and they left this morning but their interest enthusiasm and company was second to none. They are a little older than me and I could only pay them the best compliment I know and that is if I ever get to their age I would like to have their energy and outlook on life. It is something we do automatically, finding accommodation for any one who wants to stay in the community and it is met with such gratitude. Last night finding four French people a B&B in Culduie and this followed by their meal of Coquilles St Jacques and Langustines was one of last night’s highlights. Unfortunately all this is tinged with some sadness as Judith and the rest of Vera’s family were called through to Inverness on Sunday as she become very ill. Listening to radio 4 on Monday morning I heard Tori Amos talk about her dying mother and how upset she was but also her mother , part native american, telling her that she will always walk with her ancestors. So even after she dies she will always be with her. It resonated immediately as you think of your own forebears, you remember conversations and visits to your own folk and you keep them alive by just thinking about them and occasionally talking about them.

Went out to Coillighillie today with Dougal and Co to see Tim for Judith and he was talking about the circle of life especially the mother/daughter cycle where at birth the mother is looking over her daughter but the roles are reversed later in life. Today also included hearing a very interesting presentation about the removal of timber from the Estate using the sea route from the coal Shed. This was where coal and lime were delivered in the past and in some ways a return to the less carbon consuming past may be the way ahead to make some of our living excesses more affordable. So on the way back from seeing Tim, with Waterbound by McGoldrick on the iPod walking through the glades of Coillighillie thinking about anything and nothing the Norman MacCaig poem came to mind about Assynt.

Who possesses this landscape?

The man who bought it or

the poacher staggering downhill in the early morning

with a deer on his back.

Who possesses this landscape?

The man who bought it or

I who am possessed by it?

False questions, for

this landscape is masterless

and intractable in any terms

that are human.

Getting used to our new fast broadband. Ironing out the problems as we go along. They seem to be mainly router based and we got our’s up and running this weekend. Alison has completed the application for more funding to roll out the service for the rest of the community next spring. Lots planned for this week. Picking up the bees tomorrow from Audrey with a quick lesson on feeding, fishing may be sparse due to the poor weather but looking forward to going over to Eilean Donan castle on Sunday evening to see Treacherous Orchestra for the first time. Seen just about every one in other bands but not as this unit. So bees, great music and meeting lots more kind people…… I was asked today what more did I want and had to reply nothing. Got a questioning look but what I said was true. And Brunei arrived on Sunday.

Some people are really poor…….all they have is money.

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