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

Posts tagged ‘CBS’

Games Day without the Games.

Least said about Friday as it was a migraine day, three in about seven weeks is not good but in terms of pain and nausea it could have been worse. Lasted twelve hours and did not have too many after effects as I managed to haul 400 creels and six and a half hour shift at the Inn yesterday. Early start to try to get the prawns in before the evening rush. Unfortunately the evening rush started about 3.30pm and did not stop till after 9pm. Also when landing the prawns had a wee look at the Inn rota and seems I was working there since 12 pm. So it was home for a rapid shower and straight into the organised mayhem. It actually was not too bad although very, very busy. People coming down from the Games field wanting fed. Last night the kitchen were brilliant. 10s,11s,18s,6s and all the rest were going through at the same time and the food kept coming out. You knew how much every one enjoyed it by the compliments that came your way over the evening. I go on about the contrast in Applecross all the time and despite all these people in “town” I was in the middle of a mist bank for most of the day, on my own with the skuas,gulls and fulmars, I suppose they were getting fed as well come to think about it.

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The morning mist came and went most of the early part of the day.

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This has been the first time in 30 years that I have never made it to any part of the Applecross Games, but I do have a couple of excuses. Sounds like there were a lot of people there so the efforts of the organisers would have been well rewarded. As with all events they do not just happen.

Good shift today and not too many hangovers evident, possibly went home as opposed to putting it off for another day. Spent quite a bit of time with a farming family who had steamed over from Plockton and chatted about community work.

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It is always so positive when I talk to outside people and they are very interested/impressed with the amount of work that goes on. It seems different when you see the practical problems on the ground and you know the reasons why events do not run as smooth as they could. With the Filling Station, the ongoing software crashes tend not to affect me so much as I can always access fuel and the constant callouts are merely irritating at worst. Annie, our software guru, is going to try to address the problem, assuming Gilbarco will let us deal with it ourselves. We have tried MD level with little progress and are, after today, going down the political route. It is not through lack of trying and we will solve it and most people will forget the initial teething problems. Always the problem of being a pioneer. It is the same with the broadband installation. On one level it is going ok but the BT lines are causing us issues. We have three lines up and running and for some reason unknown to us two of the lines keep dropping from 6 to 2 mgbs and when that is sorted out they drop them back down 10 days later. This coupled with CBS not being as quick as we expected in releasing monies so we could set up the relay from Portree. One week has evolved into six and everything is in place apart from the finance.Unfortunately the customer is not interested in all these “reasons” for a system not working, they just want fuel and faster internet connections. One of the keys to the problems seems to be Gilbarco, Datacash,CBS do not live in the community where there are stresses and strains put on the community company when it tries to provide a service but find outside influences adversely affect the service. In a positive light these are teething problems and while they are happening you have to take the long view and keep going. Although the devil is in the detail you keep positive when you talk to visitors who are interested in the work of the community and without fail they are really encouraging and want you to succeed. Leaving the Inn pretty exhausted after 26 hours solid work and little food in the last two days, stopped to take a couple of photos of the now rampant meadow sweet and the tranquil scene south across Ardban.

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All seems ok again and its all worth it.

“Calm Man” and Community Broadband.

Least said about yesterday the better as it was another “head day”. Bit worryingly soon since the last one. Possibly how I went about Monday had played a part on it. Out fishing and then the Inn where I was back and fro to the Garden as it was a lovely evening in bright June sunshine and not eating till 9.30pm since breakfast probably all contributed to a next day stopper. The fact that I am pretty ropy still may mean a little bit too much of sun on a fair-skinned West coaster was the main factor. Does that mean a “McDonald’s style cap for a shift at the Inn in the good weather?

Enough of that, as weather wise, I did not miss much at sea and I did catch the Hebnet boys, Simon and Ian, in the evening as they went back up the Tor Mor to check why the Ardhu connection was not running.

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Interesting watching and listening to the problem solving and seeing the initial post transformed into a more substantial unit. Lovely walk up there with the dogs and the view spectacular.

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Dougal and Co found the young stag who is living dangerously inside the new south coast deer fence and sent him off in the direction of Milton.

Breezy day with a stiff south-westerly blowing and another day ashore. Had a post card sent to the Inn for me which has made my week. A week ago I mentioned I had come across a Californian with his German wife and related a pompadom story and how he complimented me with the comment of “common man”. Common man would have done for me as I look askance at our insane class system where who you are accounts for too much in our society and not how you got there and not how you treat your fellow-man/woman. I got a brilliant post card correcting the compliment as ‘Calm man” in amongst the general mayhem of service at the Inn. to quote ” Calm as in the opposite of Gordon Ramsay when he so eloquently strings together entire sentences using nothing but the F word. Calm as in the house is on fire but we will tend to it when we’ve finished our beer and we get some time to spare. Calm as in not giving my wife a dirty look and saying”You don’t know what a pompadom is? Well straight back to Germany Fräulein until you get a proper education” ” The rest of the post card was just as good. I thank you Jake for taking the time out to send such card. It has been appreciated by many at the Inn and I suspect Kalie will update you and thinking back, how DO you describe a pompadom?

Training for the installation was going ahead at the Community Hall this morning and dropped in to take a couple of photos. It is a very smart system and when there are problems they can be dealt with on a laptop at home sussing out what the problem is without some one driving round the North coast to push in a cable that has come loose.

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For me it has been really interesting watching the coming together of The Applenet and CBS partnership. Having gone on the SEA course and not being directly involved in the broadband roll out but at the same time being a director and seeing the communications of all sides with every one ending up on the same page, some of that course applications has been evident. Short term frustrations have been overcome and one can see why CBS were asking for details and plans that seemed a paper exercise to people who just wanted to get on with things. A lot of effort went into the final business plan and worst case scenarios were laid out to show that the Network would not collapse for lack of finance and also build up a reserve for capital replacement. It is a simple idea but there are a lot of logistics involved to carry it out. Going to CBS we will be able to carry on round the North coast where their internet is even worse than ours, almost non-existent. It has been a balance of making sure all the is dotted and ts crossed without endangering the project with too much paperwork After the training this morning the guys are going to go out to the compiled list and start on the connections having upgraded the main relay points.

On the way back from picking up the papers noticed a colourful flower sitting in a ditch in Camusteil, suspect they may be garden escapees,possibly nasturtiums.

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Alison’s entry to the recycle peg bag competition is out on the line working away. No foxes were hurt during the making of this bag.

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A “Big Boat” to a Signing.

Both mornings of thursday and Friday were bright and calm.

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So it was off out to keep the prawns and squats going at the Inn and over the past three days there were large quantities going out on the plates when I was working on Thursday, Saturday and today with all the usual comments. The Europeans are on the move with lots of German, Dutch and French visiting, Belgians, Spanish and Italians not far behind. Both the afternoons the weather turned a little with a northerly breeze getting up on Thursday but good for some.

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Friday morning saw the Hampshire heading south from Shieldaig and as I was heading out to the middle bank she took a turn east into and round Applecross Bay and south then west over to Coal Mor.

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She is a spectacular looking vessel although I think slightly out-of-place in the majestic scenery we are so used to. Not taking anything away from the craftmanship and skill in putting this ship on the water, I prefer the beauty of the dandelion. Turned out that the eight booked into the Inn at 8 o’clock were from the boat. As no one had turned up by twenty-five past we gave their table away as there were another four,and two threes, Gemma and mates being one. So this was source telling us that the eight were from the Hampshire,the fact that they were wearing jackets with Hampshire on them was also a clue. They were all very pleasant and quiet dispelling my prejudice of guys with lots of dosh and ostentatiousness and waited for another table while having a pint or two. We had to keep this info away from Judith as she gets in a bit of a tizzy when coming across a little bit of status!! By the time we passed on the news that the Hampshire guys were in they had their haddock,prawns and haggis and were just about to leave. She still managed to glean that the owner was from her native Yorkshire and I used to think Yorkshire was land locked.

On Friday evening we had a very productive Community Company meeting where progress about the broadband was discussed and all positive apart from the possible delays in procuring the wayleave consents for the relay masts as they have to go through the usual and possibly protracted legal scrutiny. This has to be done before CBS release any of the funding for the project. Hope we can convey this urgency to the party involved. Pressure to carry out work on the toilets as the timescale for Leader funding is fairly uncooperative. They seem to be no longer interested in the actual projects themselves but more about the audits and balance sheets of the fund itself. We will get there. Also we have decided to investigate the possibility of funding for another snowblower for the Bealach. We got away with it this year but may not be so lucky again, we are due a bad winter and a prolonged closure of the Bealach has an adverse economic and social effect on the community.

It was busy last night but went well and enjoyed the late arrival of the four French bikers along with the Shieldaig contingent. Although busy Gemma immediately picked up on the atmosphere where there was a constant chatter of people enjoying themselves. That is one of the pleasure of working the floor is being part of a moment of others lives. I loved the comment from the French biker lady, “Good food and a good smile”. Says a lot for the Boss Lady, after all we just work at her creation.

Another busy lunch and Judith went behind the bar as her ankle was playing up but was quickly in trouble trying to get the 610 teas she ordered for the 8 Germans sitting on the Big Table, off the till, sure there was a button to do this but Joe was not working today so could not show her.

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Later when it was quiet after the lunch rush, Judith, as chair of our Community Company, signed the Lease between the Company and Trust for the rent of the river where we are to put the run of river hydro scheme.

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I have a strong feeling that this was a historic occasion for the Community and it was in typical Applecross fashion that the occasion passed on with very little fuss. Annan witnessed the signing and felt very proud to be asked to do so. He understood well the significance of the signing.

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Broadband, How we got to here.

With the broadband very close to rolling out through the community it is good to take stock on how we have got to here in Applecross. When the community company was set up, initially to “save” our Filling Station, a consultation established the most urgent needs within the community and one of them was the issue of employment. Not just employment but more varied and diverse and poor broadband provision was cited as something that was holding back opportunities. Already there are skills within the community that are under utilised both on a personal and community level. In many cases people assume that agendas are being followed but the beauty of the community company is that only the wishes of the membership control the direction of the company. The ownership is in the hands of the community. So with this in mind Alison put together a funding application together for a pilot project to Investing in Ideas.This evolved from a feasibility study into a pilot project as contact was made with Hebnet, Simon Helliwell and Ian Bolas from Eigg and Rhum respectively. A scheme was already underway in Knoydart and has been extended to their islands of Eigg and Rhum.There has been 100% take up on their scheme. The application was accepted and work with Simon and Ian began with Alison finding the host, first trying the Broadford Co-op but this did not have a positive response.

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The Broadford Village Hall proved far more conducive and the system was installed with the dish pointing our way and the receiver installed on the Tor Mor above the Hall where free broadband was installed along with eight other connections and teething problems were then ironed out.

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Leading up to and during the installation both Jill and Sean’s volunteering work have been invaluable. I sometimes think that volunteer hours should be tallied up but I suppose that goes against the principles of volunteering and starts to sound like The Big Society call from deep south. Which as far as I can see is just government withdrawing from services and expecting to save money from volunteers. Once volunteering is not freely given then you are on a road to disaster. I can only claim to write about it and help roll a power cable down a hill in the rain for the power supply to the Tor Mor receiver. Despite a little negativity in the community about whether it is going to work, all of it uninformed, the project is a classic community based example of every one benefiting both on a personal and community level.It ties in with something I have come to believe that if a community is functioning on a level that everyone has the chance to benefit from the workings of that community structure then that model is working. We may be moving towards that goal. From the Tor Mor the signal is beamed back to the shed on the pier and then back to the houses and it works.

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The next stage was the Village SOS application which we needed to roll the broadband  through out the community and this coupled with abusiness plan that showed its social enterprise capacity in being able to finance itself. This was duly applied for and just short of £50,000 was awarded last autumn. In conjunction with this Community Broadband Scotland was being set up by the Scottish Govt in order to help provide broadband provision in remote, rural communities where fibre optic is not going to be an option. So it was for Alison to go off to the DTAS and put the case for Applecross to be included in their plans and this is what has happened. We were chosen as one of the rural communities where inovative solutions were being tried out or at least being considered. So with all this groundwork having been done and part of the Village SOS grant being put aside to pay for a part time project officer George has come on board for ten months to assist on the roll out. As with everything new there will be lots of doubts about the scheme, but all I can say it works and when I hear about all the other problems throughout the community regarding broadband, I am so glad that we were part of the pilot project. Business plans,tender documents and grant applications are going ahead just now working closely with Hebnet and CBS. There was a conference last week organised by CBS, the Hebnet boys were over for a visit and today CBS’ Sandra and Alastair are over this afternoon.

Went to the meeting this afternoon for the first hour, only Sandra was over and good to see her again. Went so I would be ok with any one asking questions about installation, backhaul, a few bits of techy detail like wayleaves and memorandums of understandings just so I know what is going on, I am a director so best that I do. Off to the Inn for  an uplifting shift where everything went like a dream, very busy but it was a night where everyone was aware and helpful and very appreciative for everything they got to eat and drink. The French who turned up late in the camper van that had come over the Hill with his brakes practically on fire could not say enough about the food. Luckily they had a translator and it was very pleasant to pass on to the kitchen the comments especially as young Kenny is now on the stove on Wednesdays. A good day. I live in a good community where there is lots going on and lots of good people live here.

MBA Delivery to Uags

Coming down from my Knoydart/Doune high, been told to “stop going on about it”, it has been a case of getting into as much of  a routine as one does here. We had taken on a trip out to Uags for the Mountain Bothy Association to transport a load of building materials on the Varuna. The first bit was very easy and after an hour’s work the boat was loaded up and back on the moorings with the intention of me taking the equipment round in the morning.

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Sunday morning and I decided to pull out as the weather was not suitable and went off to the Inn where things have generally quitened down with the occasional busy spell. The weather turned out to be not too bad but I had taken the decision and that was really all that was too it. As in Knoydart, when Andy decided that the trip to Airor was not on it was not on. Land people look out to sea and see it differently, on shore winds, half hour calm periods in between squalls are seen as reasons for going/not going. On Monday and Tuesday mornings the decision not to go was taken again and were ready for a weather window yesterday early doors. And so it was, turning up at the pier at the back of six, the Varuna in at the pier, and loading up enough food for a battalion, we were off south. Loaded to the scuppers and towing a “mussel farm” dingy we did a slow 6 knots. The weather stayed reasonably calm and we embarked on a rapid transfer of 4×2 lengths of timber, 8×4 sheets of ply, fire places, cement, glass,sand, tools, wheel barrow and last but not least, the food. This was all done on my wee 10 ft Orkney longliner with a constant eye to the west. While I had no problem with the operation the stress levels were way up and my constant thought was ” I must learn to say NO’. But I did leave a bunch of volunteers happy with their lot and ready to get stuck into what looked like a major renovation of the Uags Bothy. No photos of the unloading due to health and safety regulations although I think I was being filmed by Steve from the Varuna as I headed ashore with load after load. Wonder if you could go out there when it was done and squat in it. Be a nice place to live!!

It did turn out to be  a weather window and the squally westerly window increased again but not before I got home. Up to and past the farm with Dougal and Co as Alison is away at the CBS conference with Sean and George. Working tonight so have to tire them out a little. Eilidh ended up well exercised as she decided to run with the deer. Not often, but she sneaks of before you notice and is on the hill out of sight. Back to the Inn and loaded the other better behaved ones to go back up the Tore Garve path where I meet her trotting down the track with not a care in the world. We were walking through the Carnoch plantation when she took off. I find this place very moody and dark but in between squalls, patches of sunlight lite up the path.

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You come across a cleared settlement in the middle of the wood and it feels quite eerie to me. I have this feeling when visiting places like Hallaig on Raasay and you connect in some ways to the pre Clearance times when the indigenous population was shoved off the better land. Now there is a Sitka spruce forest where people used to live….maybe there will be affordable housing there when it is all felled and people will be living and working again where they used to.

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With Eilidh back in tow, and in better frame of mind looking around you were able to appreciate the spring blooms.

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Before work and in between the showers it was a catch up in the garden with the Charlottes, Sharp Express, Red Duke of Yorks and some Roosters all in the ground with some fine manure. Then on to setting up some tomato plants in the porch kindly given to me by Torquil at Tore and peas, beans in the toilet roll inners with some beetroot and carrots in the new raised beds topped of with more “fertiliser”. Quieter evening at the Inn and home tired after a long day which started falling out of bed at 5.15am. Came across my first dog that had wheat intolerance and another which had a little tankard and stopped off for a wee sup of beer, responsible drinker though as he only had one. Had another chat with Gordon and Val and chatted about the heritage Centre and gaelic place names going “live’, which will be imminent. Mentioned his uncle, who is a natural sennachie, and who told me the other day about Bob Hardie who ran the Inn around the war years. Seems his previous job was chaffeur to the Bishop of Glasgow….simple a mine of information. So with another day ashore today and it is off out to the garden again although noticeably colder today.

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