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

Posts tagged ‘Bealach’

Blood Doning, Roads and Fishing Talk.

Sitting in Inverness Railway Station wondering if I wait for the next train which comes in over two hours as no message and no partner coming off the instructed to meet train. A remark and a small curry beckons. It’s been a “fun-filled” couple of days, going back to Tuesday in fact when I set off over the Hill to Kyleakin to give blood. All by appointment means you get seen to as soon as you arrive, the only trouble is arriving at the right time after travelling fifty odd miles. Building up a strong distaste for the needle in the arm bit but as I have benign blood, no antibodies, so any one can have it, it’s better that some one gets it….I can always make more. The weather has taken a turn for winter and although cold and windy it is not unusual being called the lambing or cuckoo snows. The Bealach was looking good

but there was not a flake of snow on the road, it being well cleared.

Unfortunately the road continues to deteriorate and more photos going in to the HC Roads Dept

coupled with the news that RBS are no longer sending a bank van to Applecross due to “health and safety concerns over the route” into the peninsula. We had a very helpful visit from Richard Green who is hoping to be re-elected as one of the councillors in Ward 6 and interesting to see how disturbed he was at the state of the Bealach in places.

(Well that was all at the Station) and Alison turned up on the next one so no need for the mobile, till the next time. With all that is going on at sea and on land currently, waiting an extra hour or so in a van is little hassle. The day had started at 5.15am to get out to the Varuna for some langoustines for Loch Ness Inn. They were duly boxed and put in the back of the van to be delivered in the afternoon. The morning was to be taken up with The Inshore Fishing Conference. Made it in time, just, and heard Fergus Ewing’s opening speech. There was not too much about us in it and it seems a page and a half was missed out that would have made it more relevant to the static gear boys. Have thought for years that we have our politicians and audiences the wrong way round. The politicians should be in the audiences and listening to what is being said rather than telling us about policy and then heading off out the door while the real stuff goes on. I was a bit nervous most of the morning as I had been asked to go onto a panel. I had thought that it was in one of the workshop breakouts but it turned out to be in the main auditorium. Just as well I did not know that until half an hour before. Went to the Norwegian workshop but was slightly off focus for me and it was all about science and compliance rather than down to earth inshore fishing.

So it was off to the Main Hall for the last session before lunch and home. After an intro from  knowledgeable Brexit lawyer/facilitator, Daniel,

and a wee intro from the three of us it was Q and As and I can only go by the reaction and it did seems favourable from what a few people told me afterwards. I tend to go onto automatic pilot a bit when in meetings and this was a first for a panel. Seemingly I sort of butted in and got everyone talking about Inshore Fishing rather than Brexit and went on a little ,mild, I thought, rant about it was the fishermen catching the fish being the main reason that there are not fish in inshore waters. Must have touched a raw nerve with an Avochie fisherman as he asked an awkward two parter but luckily I had enough knowledge to answer it. I appreciate the comments afterwards and just relieved that I did not make an idiot of myself. Now have a researcher, Cardiff University getting in touch and been invited to another Conference!!. Part and probably the most important part, of these gatherings is meeting people and information collecting. The most striking conversation I had and related to the recent ridiculous dredging in Lochcarron. I was listening to a diver telling me how it was and the day it all changed for him. Lucrative diving off Gairloch, enough to be able to afford a rather smart car, which partly due to personal circumstances and good fishing he could now afford. He remembers that day so well as he was on the phone ordering the car and turning round the headland he saw three dredgers circling on the ground he had just come off. He then gave a before and after description of how the sea bed had waves of sand which were protecting the marl beds and above that in shallower waters were the flame shell reefs. On Monday back in the water and all flattened to desertification levels where only periodic visits from dredgers can now fish there. The whole marine eco system has been degraded to this level now up and down the coast to the extent that divers only find small patches that the dredge cannot get into. The whole reason for me being on the panel was to give a different view on how we treat our environment, catch less treat the catch and the environment better and receive a greater economic return. Not “rocket science” as a previous member of our community used to say with much regularity. There should have been more fishermen there but the forecast had Friday as the best day of the week

after the northerly gales at the beginning.

I am a strong supporter of the SCFF

and in turn appreciate the sterling work our officials do,

one of the few organisations which does not advocate the status quo for its members all the time. Thanks to Sally for the photos and encouragement.

Then it was down to the Loch Ness Inn with the still live

and kicking langoustines. Some larger ones going down now to try to keep supplies going more uninterrupted.

The fishing has tailed off dramatically but the weather has kept some of the visitors away and the day’s fishing on Thursday saw through the weekend. Good weather, an easterly breeze with lots of sunshine for the week,

despite the lack of langoustines bodes well for a pleasant but tiring spell. So leave the land side for another day as we are in-between responses and to last night’s sunset to leave you with.

Cornering Failure

You never know what is round the next corner, or in my case on the corner. I made off to Inverness around 9 this morning after taking some langoustine ashore for the Loch Ness Inn. Called in at the Inn where I decided to go round the coast and up Glen Torridon. I had plenty of time so managed a couple of stops on the way to try to capture the beauty I was driving through. First had to try to get the locals to use the passing place

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before rounding the Cuaig corner.

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I have never managed to capture this scene, the road winding its way north against the backdrop of the magnificent Torridons and the bleak foreground of the Cuaig common grazing. A brief stop at Ardeshlaig

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before coming to the corner up Glen Torridon. Black ice and before I could react I was sitting in the van on rock and heather five feet below the road

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and slightly shock up.

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Would have been a fine bit of parking if there had been a car park there.

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Twinge in the back was all and after checking the langoustine in the back I was helped by some very kind visitors who let me use their phone to get in touch with recovery. A pleasant hour was then spent waiting for Peter to turn up, not before Colin wandered down having recovered another van further up the Glen. So home in a wee Peugeot instead of my van which is almost certainly written off. A cup of coffee and natter at DMK’s before coming back over the Bealach stopping again

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as it was breathtakingly beautiful.

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So a phone call or two before making arrangements to head off to Inverness, this time to buy a van, still instead of thinking if only I had….I think I was looked after today.

I knew my post last night would cause reaction and am pleased that it did. I am always careful not to personalise problems, but becoming less afraid of pointing out the negative effects of organisations, hoping that they will change. I can only say that being positive is the only way ahead. Sorting out a nonexistent Filling Station, then a duff one, helping to improve Broadband, helping with the Hydro, both publicize it and sorting out small problems. I believe we will have affordable housing built in Applecross and maybe in the future the community may be able to buy into the current housing stock and create a two tier market. Short term we need affordable housing now. I have enjoyed a Facebook conversation since coming home and I know there are residents ready to take this community forward. Access to land is definitely not a lost cause and it will happen either through talking, cajoling or in the last resort using powers given to communities by the Scottish Parliament.

I got so involved in posting last night that I forgot to post the photo of the German contingent in town with Graeme.

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I give tables little titles when I put the food orders through, usually after a wee chat and it causes puzzlement in Prep and kitchen as they are off the wall at times. Their title was “Graeme and the Germans” I suggested it could be a title of one of his future novels, we’ll see. The crumbles went down a treat as did the haggis and cheese melts.

The day has ended with me missing out on the funeral service, leaving the beer kegs in Inverness but salvaging the langoustine by selling them to the Applecross Inn. So instead of a planned trip to The Loch Ness Inn it will have to be another trip over the Bealach for the best seafood in the Highlands.

A Rant, a Skull and Cracking Weather.

Wonderful weather this morning and we have a few similar days to look forward to. Onto the bike for work slightly earlier as the Boss was cavorting in Belfast over the weekend with sister. Just had to stop off on the way to take one or two snaps. Unfortunately left my ISO speed too high from the night before trying to take a photo of a fine-looking stag in the Inn Garden.  Everywhere you looked was stunning, the loch by Milton,

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Torgarve,

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Lochend

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and the Cuillin of course.

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Going by the good weather I reckoned the travellers would be out and about for lunch, lots of skeptics in the kitchen, but by 4.00pm including the last late lunchers we made it to 53, 3 better than my bet. Just had the satisfaction of winning as there was nothing at stake. When it is a bit quieter you have more chance to chat to the diners and they are still coming from afar. German, one an oncologist at Raigmore, Dutch and Aussies, from Applecross, they showed us the streets they were born on from the map of Perth, Australia, on the wall. Brexit is a very hot and topic up here and many people, working and contributing to life in the Highlands are wondering what is coming down the line. There has been nothing positive said about it so far from the tables of the Inn. Another bunch from London, Aussies again, who dined well before catching the flight south. Skye, Inverness and Lochcarron were also over. So we ran out of langoustine and I had to nip out to the Varuna to get them back on the menu for this evening. Shift finished with a fine chicken linguine and take away golden syrup and caramel ice cream, leaving a happy contented bar with a full accommodation upstairs. Sunset was not too shabby either

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and with time in the morning before the customers arrived to watch some eiders wash themselves on a flat calm Bay against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks……all in all a pretty good day.

Not too bad yesterday but for different reasons, Scottish sport, that is other than football is taking a bit of an upturn with Andy Murray a set and break up just now after beating Raonic on Saturday and wee Greg Laidlaw slotting over a very late penalty to beat the Argentinians at Murrayfield. The morning we went up the Bealach but it was misty at the top so the hoped for photos did not happen. Dougal and Eilidh

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however enjoyed a gallop in the snow chasing smells that must have included the many mountain hares we have crisscrossing the hills. Dougal pausing for effect on part of the ALPs wall that is still standing.

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Luckily we have no grouse shooting on the west so the hares have only to watch predators from the sky and not the indiscriminate slaughter they seem to experience on the grouse moors around the Cairngorm . Last night at the Inn was very pleasant with every table used, every table complimentary about the food and service and every table leaving by half nine.

Friday saw us out on the water and it was just as well the waters were calm and I was catching for the Inn. There would have been little reason to stay out, the fishing, catch wise was awful. The quality in the day was in the surroundings which were just beyond words so photos will have to do.

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Still having a little struggle getting up and about in the mornings but manage to haul just short of 400 creels. Kept the last one aboard with the intention of taking three fleets ashore for the winter. Means I can get round the rest of the gear in the shorter hours ensuring less foul ups.

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The start of the week and up till getting on the water on Friday was inauspicious to say the least. Walking the dogs and watching the odd box set while trying and failing to do some needed book work, getting to crisis point so setting deadlines for this week. A couple of wee tales I came across last weekend, the first coming from asking a couple where they were from. Turns out they were from Banff and Macduff and hence I got the story of the outlaw James Macpherson, his hanging and clocks. Also was told about the Annat skull on the same day. So first, to Macpherson. It was said he was born from the coming together of a laird and beautiful gypsy. He became a renowned fiddler, swordsman and leader of a gypsy band. He possibly became too powerful and was captured in Keith and taken to Banff. He was tried, possibly to do with being a gypsy but also he was bothering some of the lairds a bit too much, one in particular, Duff of Braco, and sentenced to be hanged. 16th of November 1700 was his hanging date where he played a fiddle tune he composed, Macpherson’s Rant, after which he broke his fiddle across his knee. A reprieve was said to be on the way to Banff from Turriff and when Duff of Braco spotted the lone rider coming he put all the clocks forward by fifteen minutes and the hanging went ahead. The magistrates were allegedly punished and for many years the town clock in Banff was kept at the wrong time. In Macduff the west-facing clock is still covered so the Banff people cannot read the correct time to this day.

Thought to have belonged to the daughter of the Garve Wizzard, who lured passersby to their deaths in the Black Water and stealing their possessions, the skull was to be drunk from as a cure to epilepsy. The skull became famed in the Celtic/Druid world as this cure was accompanied by a prescribed walk and incantations. The presbyterian church was involved in trying to deny its existence but seems its use was confirmed as late as 1900 in Torridon by one minister of the church. Talking to the visitors at the Inn and you learn so much of folklore and local history.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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and boar fish

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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

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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.

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It’s not Unusual.

Seeing the snow-capped mountains surrounding the Inner Sound coupled with an ongoing Northerly gale I was in two minds whether to go over the Hill this morning. Looking ahead to the forecast for today I had arranged for Dougal and Eilidh to be chipped at Connon Bidge. A call into the Inn we headed off up with the assurance it was open and sure enough it was an easy journey over.

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Just Making a Wage

Longer stretches between posts at the moment and that is reflecting how much time is left over. there is always time but sometimes the energy levels are pretty low and watching a Scandinavian TV series on iPlayer is all that happens in the evening. Fine couple of days at the Inn over the weekend. The wedding seems to have progressed very well with lots of young folk visiting from the neighbourhoods. Did not have too much contact with the wedding itself or the gentle aftermath as work intervened but the general impression was that a fine time was had by all. Happy with my reminisce on Thursday and to come away with no hangovers, although my football reputation may have suffered somewhat. Being disabused by a Sgiathanach is acceptable if you have played football for Kyle/Plockton, I suppose. Sunday at the Inn was pretty hard going during the day although the evening was a bit easier and the 50th birthday group were very pleasant to serve. The day had started with a 25 from a car rally quickly followed by 22 geologists. The others 120+ just came in, had wonderful food and went. And that was just Sunday lunch. The weather had turned to the North so the stocks of langoustine hanging from the Varuna have been almost used up. The fishing effort is slowly increasing to keep up with demand. The size of the langoustine that are now coming into the creels are much smaller now but suiting my market. I tail the smaller size of, what we call Threes, langoustine and they are sold in half pint mugs as a sharing starter.

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Seem to go out onto the tables in a couple of days. They are still ten times the size that is commonly called smash or beetles and there is not wastage.

In between trips to the Inn and to sea there is a growing list of tasks, not least collecting a few bits of wood here and there.

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There are tons of wood lying on the ground, mainly as a result of the storms of 2/3 winters ago and have dried nicely and seem to be going back into the ground. Wondering if some of the tatties have not gone into the ground a bit too soon

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seeing what was lying on the drills on Saturday morning.

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There are lots going on on the Community Company level just now and much of it is too fresh to comment on right now but a retrospective will be coming soon when things die down a bit and get less emotional. I will always take a positive about it even if getting there is stressful and rocky. On a practical level the Raasay mast is providing us with a difficult problem. The mast itself has been worked on by Paul https://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/about/ and is solid, very solid by all accounts. The problem is intermittent and is only solved just now by Paul rebooting the power. We have already been trying to work out whether the quality of power to the mast has to be improved or whether the equipment or some of it is faulty. We are ordering replacement equipment and this has to be configured before setting off for another expo to Raasay. We, as are the other communities in the same position, are on the pioneering edge of trying to provide community broadband and we are now in the difficult “keeping it going” stage rather than the exhilarating setting it up one of three years ago. Due to the income and expenditure based on the original business plan there is little spare profits but they were always going to be ploughed back into the system anyway and it is one community.

After a weekend of lots of people, discussions and meetings, steaming out to the fishing grounds can always be a relief of sorts. hauling a few more pots than before but there are still enough about to make it a decent catch. “Just making a wage” as the saying goes. The bonxie numbers are slowly increasing and there were four round the boat today scrapping with the black backs for the bait. The newly berried langoustine keep coming up in the creels,

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a small percentage but a definite change in their behaviour. This time of year we should be seeing the mature eggs coming off the females, the green sac which is the pre egg stage, and the new eggs appearing on mass around August time. The fact that some are appearing five months early is saying that there is a change taking place. There are quite a few cuttle fish coming up as well, this one carrying an unusual markings around its eye.

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They do not seem to like the pressure change and struggle to get back down. It was a little busier to-day with a number of boats out on the grounds. Speed of youth passing by on the way in.

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Yesterday I nipped over to Kyleakin to give a pint of the best to the Donor unit. I get a follow-up letter being O negative which is good for everyone and stocks are low. Picked up a nice secondhand lens for the camera. Cannot justify a new price especially the conditions that it would have to endure. Expense enough hobby second-hand. Stopped at the top of the Bealach to try it out.

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Took a couple of minutes to work out how to work the zoom, must do some reading up. Always something to do and on the way past the Gallery a couple of posts had to be moved to Toscaig in the back of the van, easy done especially when you get a snap when you are there.

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The Bealach, a World Problem Solver.

In the grand scheme of things Applecross is a pretty decent place to live despite all the ups and downs, the stresses of community work with breakdowns and installing, designing new systems. Every now and again you get a little time which if you are in the moment is worth so much to the spirit. Although it was not a very productive day in that I did not go to sea, there was a lot on the cards. I left slightly early for more work on my arm at Shieldaig so I could stop on the top of the Bealach. I was not disappointed. I had the company of two of my best friends. Alison was on the way back from a Rural Housing Conference and I was not sure when she was back in Applecross. Weather was bright and fresh,

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snow crisp and clean, Eilidh and Dougal ready for a mess about in the snow. They stopped briefly for one

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or two

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posed photos

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but the way they gambled about made for a laugh out loud. Dougal of course has to go one better and ruffles his fur in the wind.

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Stunning views all around and one never, ever tires of them. Although I was still time limited that twenty minutes felt as though the weight had dropped off and all was well in the world. Surely a solution to some of the worlds problems would be to take Trump, Cameron, Putin et al, take them to the top of the Bealach and all their issues over Trident, Mexicans and what suit you wear would pale into insignificance when they look around at the wonder of the world they live in.

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