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

Posts tagged ‘Ceilidh Place’

Fishing,Inn,Music,Hydro and “Oh Dearie Me”

Saturday morning and a fresh breezy day from the south. One washing out drying another underway, three days fishing, a couple of shifts at the Inn, a trip to Ullapool to hear some of the best music Scotland has to offer, some Hydro investigating and an “Oh Dearie Me” moment.

Fishing began on Tuesday and the weather held most of the week, a mixture of sunny

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and grey

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but mostly calm apart from finishing off on Thursday afternoon when a fresh southerly sprang up and it was a bumpy steam home. The last fleet of the day was a little up and down but luckily I left the best till last. The fishing has taken a bit of a dive and catching and putting back the berried langoustine is starting to hurt. That last fleet is an example of just keeping going despite the catch being poor. I probably caught as much in that fleet as I caught in the previous five.

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But that is fishing and although in general terms pot fishing is the most routine of all you do come across many surprises. And of course as long as you pick the weather it is always a pleasure being on the water. Friday, I decided not to go out and that gives an indication of how poor the catch has become, as the weather was fine. Thought that only two days since hauling the creels I would be hauling on the day would not be enough for a decent amount of langoustine to be in the creels. Be out of langoustine at the inn this weekend as I sent off a few kilos to Loch Ness Inn early on Friday. But hopefully it will all start again next week. The choice is to land the berried females and I cannot do that now. Maybe it is good to do without now and again. Fine days

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and nice to head back to the moorings knowing that is another good effort under the belt.

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The Inn has been a little quieter this week, although still very busy. I was at the Inn last night due the previous night’s music, and sorting out where everyone was to sit is still stressful with plenty on the list, remembering the residents, larger tables booked and then a five and eight wander in looking for something to eat. You work out a wee seating plan for the evening and usually it is not even close. You change the plan several times in your head and pretend you know what you are doing. When a couple decide they do not want to share they have to wait a little longer, the fact they do not want to share usually means they are a little prickly anyway, get a little bothered that they have to wait longer. All you can do is just chat away to them. Finding accommodation for a couple who come down later to eat, they are so appreciative of the help they get when they come to Applecross. It is a fundamental of living here, so whether you own an Estate, shoot on one, work on a harbour on the North East of England, a nurse or retired GP living in Guernsey, you make them all welcome and hope they enjoy the Applecross welcome. In the passing Davie alerted me to an unusual light over to the west. Only just caught the halos below the sunburst.

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Working last night was a wee penance for taking Thursday evening off to go up to Ullapool to hear some stunning music from Ali Hutton

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and Ross Ainslie

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alongside Owen Sinclair. Accompanied by Canadians and the odd Aussie in the Boss’s car we arrived early due to me thinking that it started at 7.30pm. 8.30pm start meant a couple of pints at the Ceilidh Place and me nipping down for a few chips and a wander round the harbour. Music was immense, front row seats watching masters at work with whistles, pipes, guitars and a couple of fine songs from Gordon. Enjoyed by all and good to meet up with the Pankhursts who Ross reckons have been to more Treacherous gigs than he has, and he plays with them!! A long drive but the music was so worth it and the banter was up there as well. Andrea, on the sound, seems an important part of the deal, and photos taken at the end,

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all a bit chaotic as people were leaving and chatting.

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Back by 1.00am and although up early to get the langoustine away on the lorry a relaxed day on Friday. Keeping an eye on the Hydro as the website is not showing power output at the moment so we have to go up to see all is well. The spear valve does not seem to be operating as well as it could be so power is a little restricted. Probably simple resetting of head levels or such like. Going up to the Head to check the screen is always a pleasure with the weather favourable. Bit of green on it and a quick clean

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and shift a couple of stones which rolled up against the gate which keeps the flow going before making my way back down. But not before dipping feet into the pool and taking time out,

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relaxing in one of the beautiful parts of the world.

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I like the fact that all one sees is a small dam, a track and a shed when green energy and money for the community is produced in idyllic surrounds.

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The “Oh Dearie Me” moment I have to say caught me a little by surprise and involves the MRD500. I thought having to break into the music room because there was no key available to use the community sound system for the ceilidh, replacing the door with no cost to anyone bar the volunteers who put everything back together, was the end of the matter. But no, a letter appeared addressed to the Community Council questioning my “integrity” to hold public office. Had to leave the room for 5 minutes while the others discussed me. I can only view this latest with humour and disbelief that people can spend so much effort to write so much rubbish. Skimming the letter, I was almost calling the police myself to be taken away in handcuffs, such was the dire awfulness of my actions. But enough this a positive, beautiful and fulfilling place to live and as one of the fellow councillors said afterwards it becomes easier to ignore personal vendettas the more ridiculous they become, just have to guard against the constant pecking away at ones contribution to the community.

 

 

Inspiration in the Rain.

Driving west of Achnasheen in the lashing rain at 10.30 last night on my way home from Ullapool the old head was brimming full of conflicting thoughts having just come from Ullapool via Inverness. Often think of Angus Macrae of North Strome saying very eloquently about how he wanted to see lights in the dark glens keeping him company for the way home. Fourteen hours earlier the day started as usual with Dougal and Co heading out for their first jaunt of the day and a quick breakie. Unbeknown to them it was going to be a longish day for them as Alison was away to Arisaig to a little gathering of LDO guys who are going to talk about what sounds like boring things such as di minimis rules on grant funding. These items sound boring but are going to be critical in the ongoing work within our communities. For me and the Dougal crew it was off to Inverness and an IFG meeting at Great Glen House. Set off in good time but came across a wee problem in that the van coming down had a bit of a brake problem, alright for me but not for the van as, although missing me, ended up securely in the ditch.

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To cut an everyday saga short half an hour later they were pulled out and everyone’s day continued. Not a cross word was said and all were just concerned with sorting out the accident. Slightly hairy moment when the van shot out across the road and up the opposite bank. Only in the ditch for half an hour, good Applecross help.

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Ended up being twenty minutes late for the meeting but it was fairly interesting despite itself. There is still a feeling that we are not being listened to very well….the opening up of the west coast grounds to squid trawling and this strange hardship fund that is only designed to compensate poor trawler men for not catching enough prawns this year are two very bad examples of badly thought through policy from above. As often happens the chat over the lunch sandwiches elicit the most interest for me. Brief chat with Richard but longer one with Nick and Beth about data collection and luckily it turned out that Beth’s phd was done on nephrops in Torridon and we had a good chat about the survival of returned berried langoustine. If I was told by the scientists that it was a pointless exercise I would be so disappointed but would have to change my practise. Fortunately for me there is no known science that tells me by returning the berried female is detrimental to the returned one or the fishery as a whole.

After a wander about the buildings with Dougal,

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a look across to the south of the growing town,

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a trip to the Dog shop and Wholefoods, it was back on the road to The Strathpeffer Pavilion.  On the way into Strathpeffer I had to stop as a field, with no apparent reason to me, had hundreds, possibly thousands of birds landing and taking off on the land.

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Important purchase of two tickets for the Treacherous Orchestra gig on the 25th of April. Bit strange as I do not what I am going to do this afternoon, dogs check out the Pavilion http//strathpefferpavilion.org/ grounds, a chat and catch up with Andrea, a lovely bowl of  potato and leek soup and up to Ullapool. Mid afternoon in the Highlands means the lights are on early.

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Stopped in at Leckmelm but no lights on. Plenty of time for a fish and chips sitting on a bench across from the pier on a windy and cool november evening in Ullapool. This is living the real sensations of life up here.

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The mutts got plenty of exercise and had a good night-time tour of the wee town, little surprised how many houses had no lights on. Lots of reasons, I am sure, but hope second houses was not one of them.

So to the Ceilidh Place and Lesley Riddoch. www.lesleyriddoch.com/blossom-book-tour.html Huge amount of informative chat and ideas about the Scottish nation, how we seem to view ourselves, how for some reason we listen to people who tell us we cannot do it ourselves. Many comparisons looking across to the Scandinavian countries and looking at energy or banking whether it be Norway or Germany. 41 energy companies in Germany and in Sweden the price of energy went down due to the 2008 crash, obviously because there was lots of spare capacity about, but in our energy rich country what happens….the opposite. We do have a lot to learn from other people and countries and have to cast off the “it won’t work here attitude”. Interesting statistic from Norway when they passed a law giving landowning Norwegian men a vote in 1814, 45% qualified. In 1832 the same happened in Britain and 5% qualified. We have suffered inequality for centuries. I do not have the mindset of wanting more so do not understand it but those who have vast lands and wealth their whole existence seems to be occupied in either growing or at least keeping it. A little of this came out at the IFG meeting when one of the organisation representatives became quite shirty when it was suggested that a more equal share of a quota was suggested. It was the “hard work” ethic that was introduced and the example of some one wanting a croft you do not go to the big farmer and take some of his farm for the crofter. Looking at it another way what he was really arguing for is the farmer to have more than his needs while the potential crofter is to have nothing. How we address this growing problem in our society is going to be crucial, but we either accept the present situation or look at way to redress the imbalance. These imbalances were created with the full backing of changes in the law in the past by those who directly benefited, maybe now it is to be redressed. An interesting example Lesley put forward was the impoverishment of the quality of the land over centuries of overgrazing and told us about a small project carried out by Ron Greer and Derek Pretswell www.andywightman.com/?p=3291. But more importantly was the project that involved planting of 100,00 hectares that would now be a community asset and Dunkeld, Birnam and surrounding area would be carbon neutral. Failed because they did not have the right “qualifications” for the project. Their Loch Garry project counted for nothing despite them taking land that was sour and turning it into a rich soil structure now supporting lots of wild life habitat. Planting lupins was one of the keys in returning nitrogen back to the depleted soil. Met a teacher who is involved with the Ullapool St Ayles skiff and a great chat about the community aspects of this. It will happen here.

Struggled to leave as I knew, as usual, there would be good craic after and would have to use one’s brain in keeping up a banter with these guys. So after many offers of Highland hospitality from Jean, the offer of a room to a flask of coffee for the journey home, had to be turned down and I made my escape, but not before meeting Noel outside and having a chat about fishing, SCFF www.scottishcreelfishermansfederation.co.uk/ and MPAs before turning down yet more offers of a place to crash.

So there I was driving through the rain with everything in overdrive, not the van as I followed a police car for twenty odd miles at a respectable distance and speed. Inspired, but knowing the huge problems of community work, realising that no matter what you do you will always be criticised, but aware that you are fortunate to know  some amazingly kind and considerate people. This with the Finlay Macdonald Band on the Ipod made for a “short” journey home.

And that is how I finished my day with a brief political/land /nation discussion, the good fortune we have to live in such a place amongst wonderful people. So important never to lose sight of this amongst all the hassles and carp of daily life.

A Bit Gloomy.

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Went off to Strathcarron Monday morning to catch up with the Strome Bypass saga. Was late due to the weather, kept pulling over and watching the ever changing rays coming through the clouds.

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It was fairly interesting although things began to wilt by lunchtime. It was universal and I was quite surprised at that as there were many professional meeting goers there. There is a long and fairly tedious process that the Highland Council have to go through if they go on to seek funding from some other source. they have to go through all possible options and put them up against agreed objectives and whittle them down to options that will be costed and then built…..maybe. During the meeting I could not help recalling a conversation with Morris over the weekend when he mentioned he was in the Faroes and said the infra structure even there was vastly superior to ours and when I was in Norway up in the Lofotens, they built bridges to communities that were smaller than Broadford. Also in Lombardy where we went through tunnels in very sparsely populated mountainsides. For a rich little country we do not do the infra structure very well. I do like the option over the Strome Narrows, but I hasten to add I do not live there or the detail has not been set down on paper yet. For Applecross it is the best option and the west would be so much closer, at least until we start going by sea again. The journey over the Hill took far longer than normal as I had to stop taking a wee photo round the next corner.

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Although windy, the light was playing its usual tricks.

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On the way past noticed a new wood store at the Smithy…definite signs things are changing here, using more of our natural resources, not in quite the same scale as Lombardy but getting there.

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Yesterday, another dark day with bright spells between the squalls. Lightened up the day with a look at the Celtic Connections line up and probably will go down on two consecutive weekends as some of the music is ace. Also discovered that Lesley Riddoch is speaking at the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool and it will be up there on Friday, albeit after an IFG meeting in Inverness. So Dougal and Co will be well-travelled that day as Alison is off down to Arisaig and Jill and Kenny will be in Dumfries. Dougal takes his family to Inverness and Ullapool could be a post on its own. With the miserable weather on the go and purely coincidentally I thought the Highland cattle next door were not looking their happiest, knee-deep in glaur. Sure enough in one of my frequent trips out the gate to get another barrow load of chopped wood there were two out on the road. They had pushed over a strainer and got out through the gate.

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Clever beasts and to be frank the two of the four that were out on the road looked well up for a jaunt. Felt a little sorry for them putting them back into the “field” although they are Highland cattle and they may used to it.

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Hard enough being a fisherman….crofter/fisherman looking out the window just now, a step too far for me. In many ways it shows the slow break down in the crofting system where it is now individuals becoming small holders rather than townships coming together on several occasions throughout the year to help the township in shared tasks. There was never a golden age but I do remember back in the 60s/70s the fank gatherings were, although hard work, happy community gatherings where genuine laughter was heard.

Last night it was a quiet Community Council meeting, a little gloomy again, started with a no crime in the area report but notice that there are plans to close Lochcarron, Kyle and Dunvegan police stations. Maybe get the crime report more active. With a brief chat about the pier, establishing as the CC guy on the ALPS Management Group that opinions are far too diverse in the community to offer any cohesive advice to the best solution. Sounds like a cop-out. Then on to a strangish discussion about an issue that has been rumbling on in the community for over a year, our community bus is off the road, easy to get it back on the road in a technical sense but is turning out to be very difficult to achieve. Another letter and prospect of another meeting and hopefully……. It is approaching the end game with several people trying all sorts of ways to resolve the problem. It is not really a conflict but more a brick wall. Frustrating in the extreme and very hard to write about it.

Another very relevant local problem that has reared its head is di minimis totals that the community companies have to deal with. What this means basically is this is a method to prevent State Aid distorting the competitive markets. We came across it when receiving funding for from CBS to set up the community broadband network in Applecross. Who in their wisdom decided we were in competition with is beyond us. It is not as though BT are going to supply us with anything more than the half meg we have already. It does seem just an easy option for those to say that it is di minimis rather than sit down and work out the actualities. Read a cracking email from this morning that puts the problem really well.  It detailed a local supply that barely goes outside the immediate area and the funding could be declared di minimis due to another company doing the same trade in another country with no intention of supplying this locality.What we seem to be missing at the moment are people in positions who are looking at rural problems and actively finding positive ways around those issues that arise due to unintended consequences. The problem with di minimis is there is a cap of 200,000 euros which lasts over three years and that can and is a severe restriction on some communities development while in no way affecting any competition rules in the outside world. Interestingly public funding for a nuclear power plant can find its way around this while it looks as though our anchor community organisations may be caught up in it. How silly is that, How on earth, by helping our communities, do we impinge on the competitive world.

Interruptions this morning were Dougal, the Mobile Library

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and a group phone call/skype from the guys running the Travelling Tales project. On the bike in a very wet gale to the Inn later for the evening shift. Even Dougal is not greatly keen on a day like this. So now minute writing and a vitamin D capsule should see me through to work.

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