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

Posts tagged ‘Celtic Connections’

Afro Celts and the Dhol Drummers

Making my way back to the north lands, a beautiful day and stunning countryside flashing by.Travelling solo as Alison is heading south to spend some time with her Dad. I still have the residue of last night’s stunning visual and sound experience which will keep me going through the mundane routines making even them special. Our accommodation was based on price, 50% reasonable reviews and proximity to the centre, but having a little experience of Front of House can be a curse at times. Like in Iceland you cannot help but gauge how you are treated /helped through your day. Had a wee cringe when I heard the French chappie ask for some tabasco for his scrambled eggs, the waitress had never heard of tabasco despite this foreign person spelling it out for her, going for help maybe was on the cards but he never got his tabasco. Place was clean, maybe not Grace/Irena clean but clean enough and served its purpose, but maybe another venue for Celtic Connections. Booked most of the tickets for a five-day venture in January. Had a scare when one of the key concerts, Mandolin Orange was booked out, at least that is what CC said. I went onto their own website and was fortunate to get a couple of tickets so with Lunasa, Bothy Culture, Lau and a couple of others to be confirmed the winter will be less bleak.

Sights that I never see in Applecross bring home to you how fortunate one is in life. Last night I had the “great” misfortune to run out of battery in my camera, having left my backup at the accommodation and not having a second battery to hand. I called in to Jessops on the way to the station this morning and could not help comparing my good fortune in going to buy a back up battery, paying £90 for the privilege, while thinking about the guy who was making his bed up in the same doorway when we passed the night before.Maybe it helps to think it is a beautiful country and day when you have a home, family and structure to ones life. Passing through the lush farmlands of Perthshire, the bleak, snow-covered moors of Dalwhinnie and the the birch woods around Aviemore one can only hope the homeless chap has a couple of good experiences that will see him through his day. If a ticket machine not accepting my card and a camera battery running out is a problem in my life, I think I will settle for that.

The concert from beginning to end was stunning,


and a rocking good sound. Dhol Drummers, Kora,



Bodhran,Flute and singing were all top drawer.

All familiar as I have seen the Dhol boys with Shooglenifty and have followed the Afro Celts for some time. The cross over of the Celts with the Asian and African sounds seem very natural and the evening was topped off with Griogair singing a fine Jacobean Gaelic song, aimed I think to get people’s feet back on the ground so they could wend their way home. Met up with other guys from Applecross, Sheildaig, Plockton and South Uist with other musicians spotted, a feeling of Scotland being just the right size of country where huge amounts of talent and camaraderie abound. Been asked to write an article and blog post for another site so going to have to put deadline on myself to get both done. May be away for a couple of days……but then something else may happen.

But get home means a trip over our little hill.

Music and New Year at Glasgow

(Sat afternoon) Back in Glasgow for this years finale at Celtic Connections and it went very smoothly. Who needs mobile phones, you just arrange to meet up and take it from there. Took ten minutes longer to find the air bandb but with little hassle. Straight back out and off to the Oran Mor for a rip-roaring night of trad music provided by Dosca and Elephant Sessions. I had never heard of Dosca before but will certainly keep an eye out for them in the future. Fiddle, flute, pipes and rhythms with a miners song thrown in and before you knew it their set was over. So good, and then into The headline boys, but before that, at half time I was crowd spotting and by the end of the break had found seven people connected to Applecross. The music was brilliant, driving traditional using traditional instruments getting people to find it impossible to stay still. I noticed a debate about the direction the music is going and have to say I enjoy it, at the same time I have seen the Wainwright Sisters and Songs of Separation along with Mairi Campbell in the last couple of years. There is a greater amount of testosterone about the scene at the moment but music like everything else has its own cycles. Off to do a spot of Trainspotting now before checking out the maestro that Duncan Chisholm is.

Won’t any spoilers on T2 just to say go and see it. It is brilliant. Lots of pathos, humour and reflections on the absurdity that is life. Evening saw us at City Halls and enjoyed some fine fine music played by Duncan Chisholm


and many of his compadres.


I love the tunes he plays from his Affric trilogy, especially Crask.Time just flies by and due to ticket not being used, Son No4 came out for the jolly.

Sunday lunch was Italian and another family occasion, but not before checking into a very colourful Chinese New Year gathering


on George Square.



Vibrant reds, yellows


with smiles to match.


And as the sign says people make Glasgow.


One would like to think that is a nation wide concept, barring the few bampots we have scattered round our communities. The food, service and banter was second to none and a rapid two hours passed only with a mild panic at the end with me losing the tickets for the evening concert. Easily sorted by a reprint at the RCH and then proceeded to a grand night of music.


Have to admit Graham Mackenzie passed me by but going by the standard of musicians on stage he has been noticed and appreciated by those who know. Then followed the Mark O’Connor Band. Our only experience of Americana music this time round, great blue grass mix of songs, fiddle and mandolin tunes, backed by driving double bass and flat picking guitar. Certainly satiated but had a bit of a nagging feeling of wanting to stay down for more. Knew there were several more bands to see but needs must and we were on the train north on Monday. Does not take long to get back into the flow of things so priority has been to get the paperwork done and several VAT returns have gone in, bills gone out and tax returns worked on. Some deadlines met, certainly the more important ones, some not but getting to having a clear desk for the first time in about ten years. The weather has been fairly inclement but still pretty good for the middle of winter. There have been some lovely glimpses.



As well as the book work the routines of wood splitting,


dipping the Filling Station tanks attending part of a broadband meeting, picking up a couple of boys from the train to work on the broadband network and walking up to the Head to clean the screen and grease the turbine shaft. Did this with company but more of that later. A wee foot note to Celtic Connections, sometimes you don’t get it right. Not going to criticise the music but just that Dub Opera is not my scene. Despite that, there was some great classical Indian singing


and a fine pibroch by Barney the piper.



“Away tae f**k ye”, Walls Everywhere

After a busier than expected shift at the Inn but still quiet, bit of banter about fillet steak, whether one was enough, an early night for a quick pack and hitting the road for Edinburgh on Thursday morning. This time for another fishing meeting. Quick nip up to the accountants with more papers before catching the train south. Sleep a lot on trains so short journey and arrived in plenty of time for meal and a few red wines. I always compare food to back home and when away realise fully how fortunate we are in Applecross. What probably used to be half decent food is now shown up to be really quite poor. The wine flowed just a little too freely and the morning part of the meeting had a bit of a recovery mode under way. I seem to be misjudging this alcohol lark, having read recently that the dry time between New Year and Burn’s Night is called the Scottish Ramadan.  Head of Marine Scotland was there for part of the morning.


Couple of local issues, seems prosecuting trawlers who tow away gear is going to remain almost impossible but there may be a closure of the Inner Sound to most mobile boats and set up a Community fishery. So some good maybe. Very frustrating to listen to civil servants saying they will help and take the fishery forward but when it comes to micro managing the gear conflict they wring hands. There was a prima facie case inside the Crowlins a couple of years ago and the punishment could be seen as a deterrent but Marine Compliance stated there was not enough evidence and that was without interviewing anyone involved in the incident. So maybe not a lot of movement there although there is a case slowly edging to court in the near future on the east coast. Although the proposed closure on the Inner Sound is not a complete closure as the boys from the south have taken a step back and included local mobile boats it is a step in the right direction and if done with permits and monitoring the closed area for improved stocks or otherwise. You keep going to these meetings and wonder sometimes what the point is but when you hear about the perilous state of the European fisheries you do not want to go down that road. Also there is a delegation invited over from Norway this Spring to the Inshore Conference at Inverness. Invited by Marine Scotland and will be good to hear what they have to say, having a four mile no mobile limit around their shores. Cracking cod and saith industry as a result.

So then it was onto Glasgow by train. A city that I am learning to like a lot with all its contrariness. The taxi driver was extremely suspicious of the address I gave him as it was in Townhead. Did not mean anything to me but he reckoned it was a rough run down council estate. Turned out fine and think it seemed more students than anything. Our first AirBandB did not get off to a good start mainly due to lack of mobile phones in the Macleod family. Spent a couple of hours waiting for Mohammed to turn up but it turns out he had already instructed us what to do by email that morning. Found out soon enough and Tom Russell was next on the list. Brilliant concert full of banter, humour and great music. Immense lyrics and finished with his now so prescient song, “Whose going to build your walls?”, written ten years ago. Think it was becoming a bit of a burden to him but it involves a great sing along. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9bgmi0I5hY. Next morning it was down town and Glasgow shows her many sides. Opposite on the door step is an empty bottle of Buckfast.


As we head down past the tower blocks on a beautiful morning we hear the band,


at first we thought Orange but it was  of the Irish persuasion.


As we were passing the Tower block we heard a scream of “Away tae f%*k ye”.


We just cracked up although living with that may not be quite so amusing.


The marchers certainly looked serious enough. In fact I did feel a little intimidated taking a few photos but got away with pretending to be a tourist. Into town, passing a beautiful mural,


lunch and back to the BandB for a quiet afternoon before the evening’s entertainment.

Out and About and a 28th

A day to forget. As the point of no return approaches I finally get some paperwork done. It is ridiculously easy if it was done on the day or even at the end of the week. 6/9 months later and scrabbling about looking for statements and invoices does the head no good. But one set of VAT Returns upto date and a trip through to Inverness means that Books maybe done on time and the debt collector phone calls can stop. Find it strange that a reclaim of around £500 can be turned into a £2,000 due but that is HMRC for you. Keep tabs on the wee boys and let the super yachts be built.

Had a weekend chatting away about small hydro, small fishers and basically small businesses. With a far better spread of small earners ploughing profits back into local economies instead of it being drained away from being recycled and keeping everyone occupied and less poor. Whether people may be against renewable subsides it is a way to both redistribute wealth and produce cleaner power. of course the down side of that is unless it is community owned then the subsidy just goes to the landowner who tends to have wealth already. The way round that is to direct the subsidy to community only schemes. Too Cuban for the current UK I suppose where there is a 95% cut in renewable subsidy under way.

As I was supposed to be doing paperwork over the weekend I managed to do everything but and was out and about,


hoping to catch some winter shots.


Not a lot doing although the hills had a covering


there was a rapid change in the temperature.



Big tide


on Saturday and Dougal


and Eilidh had a great run on the Bay sands



after delivering the last of the local AppleJuice forms. Saturday evening ambled along and finished fairly early with a couple of scrabble games and more hydro chat. Mick was over with some of the larch which is for cladding the Turbine House and got the control boards connected remotely. There was a bit of playing about with the programs that allowed the hydraulics to open up the spear valve fully and we now have the generator running at 100%. It was a bit of an amble on Sunday lunch shift as well, 20+ lunches and the Boss away at a Brewery meeting. Was called in to do a photo shoot and not sure how successful in the light. Something to do with tele and publicity.


Nipped up to the Inn on Friday for a token bottle of Crabbies to help celebrate the Boss’s 28th year in town especially as she does not look a day over 60!! No fishing until all paperwork done and can then go back to the real world of real work and stop being a volunteer tax collector for the government. Seems the reports on catches are that they are very poor so am not missing much. Away to the first of the Celtic Connection weekends via an AGM. Unfortunately train tickets bought were for an AGM in Inverness and not where it is going to be held….Edinburgh. One of the jobs is the train station at Inverness and will practice sob story on way in.

Celtic Connections Part 1

Coming to the end of a long day but what music. Did not know about Small Glories but when their album is out this summer its a sure cert for a buy. They were brilliant, a duo who played their own as well as covers, Led Zeppelin folk band,evocative song about a fisherman lost at sea. They spent a bit of time in the East of Canada in the Maritimes writing songs. She played a mean banjo and we had a series of jokes about it. One being what do you call a woman on a banjo players arm……..a tattoo. Found out later that Cara Luft was a Wailing Jenny.


Reminds me…earlier in the day while waiting for Alison to come up from Dumfries I nipped out for a wee snack. On the way out I over heard the next customers request, “Three bottles of Buckfast, please.” I was definitely in Glasgow, the “please” gave it away.

As I had bought The Lone Bellow’s album after the Cambridge gig I was familiar with the set. The atmosphere, the crowd, the venue (OranMor) and the music made for one of those gigs that I will never forget.


You could see the band were affected themselves. I do not think I have been to a gig where, almost to a person, the crowd came to listen to the music first and foremost. They played a series of slower emotionally charged harmonies around an old style mic and people in the crowd shushed everyone to silence. You could hear a pin drop. Before and after this part of the show it was rocky Americana, full on guitars, keyboards ands rhythm.


If there is such a thing as a musical spirituality it was at the Oran Mor on Saturday night. They came back on to do an acapella version of Slip Sliding Away that was simply awesome. Privilege to be there.

Day 2 After a pleasant lunch with in-law’s and Son No4 I split off and headed back down to the centre and Hazy Recollections, main attraction was Small Glories and they were good value. They dedicated their set to the Saskatchewan families who had lost relatives in the insane shooting back home. Power of music. There were five sets in all and was well taken by Michael Cassidy and a band Have Mercy Las Vegas. Great sounds. Nothing wrong with the other two but pleasant to doze off to. In the evening the ten ladies who went to Eigg for a week this summer treated us to a special two hours of musical magic. From Bulgaria to the Gaelic Highlands and so many places in between. The theme of Separation was a loose theme for the music and ranged from songs about homeless in London to the cave where the Macleod’s massacred the Macdonalds. We heard Norn and Gaelic, accompanied by fiddles, clarsachs, bass guitars and mini organ.


And then outside I come across a couple, Bridie and Donald, I served at the Inn last year. Inevitable I suppose. Used my google map app to get home as we only have the one road in Applecross, a bit more confusing down here. Discovered that it was less than ten minutes from the hotel but thirty minutes the way I went.

The weather by the way was much the same as back home although it seemed slightly more remote due to the streets, buildings and people, not as raw as Applecross.



Starting this late Tuesday evening and should be in a good mood. Celtic Connections are looming large this week-end, starting with The Lone Bellow and following up with another four days of what should be cracking music, ranging from Songs of Separation, a bit of BBC ALBA, and the brilliant Riannon Giddens. Have managed about 5/6 hours of book work today and that has not lightened the mood. Not terribly bothered but getting books to Inverness and doing three VAT returns is a bit of an achievement. These systems that have to go into place will be sorted by February, they will have to be as the season at the Inn seems to be already starting. The Inn’s accommodation is already mostly booked for the rest of the week.

Monday was supposed to be the last day for getting the accountant sorted, well it was Sunday, but I am a brilliant procrastinator. As the Hydro had shut down on Sunday and Ewen had tried unsuccessfully to restart it I went up to the Intake to check the water flow. There was plenty water coming through the bottom of the screen and as ever I had the brush with me as it seems to attract a fair bit of grass and sediment just now.



Not enough to impede flow but a brush across to keep it clean takes no time. I have picked up one of the bugs going round Applecross, slowed my progress on the climb but gave Dougal lots of investigation space on the way up. Taking a break to have a look at the awesome views and wee fire over the Bay.



Back at the Inn and after a phone call I went up to restart the Turbine as Ewen had put it back onto manual start. Successful, but the next job was to get a tow out of a rut on the track into the Hydro. Val was first up but after a fine effort which included some intricate reversing, Owen was next up. Broke the rope and finally Ali arrived in the Track Machine and was easily pulled out. Good to get towed out and Applecross again when I get three offers in the space of half an hour. Time flies by in the mud and water of a Hydro Scheme. Followed this up with a wander round the Bay with Dougal as the sun was lowering to the west.


Cattle happy chewing the cud in the field at the Big House. So a day away from the books.


Wednesday evening now and the feeling of “can’t be bothered coupled with stress” has lifted a little, helped by a pleasant and friendly drive to Inverness, catching a few photos on the way and way back. Did like the one on the Bealach heading home. The skies brightened as the sun was setting in the afternoon lighting up Kishorn through the snow of the Applecross Hills. May make it on to next years calendar. The Inn is already booked up for the rest of the week and we are expecting a busy, busy season. The Italians and Belgians loved the banter and seafood tonight. I think the North Coast 500 have done a pretty amazing job on their advertising. A really good problem to have but we are already nervous about the numbers for this summer. We are trying to put across that just driving the route is not an achievement in itself but enjoy the local food, drink, hospitality and scenery while helping the local economies that need a little boost. Article after article is appearing across the world, the latest being the NY Times and you wonder how our roads are going to cope with this extra pressure. But it is a good problem to have.

Finally the bad run of losing people connected to the Community continues with the passing of Ian and Alec. Ian “Cruary” a local historian of repute used to come up to his Mums in Toscaig and get the tatties planted on the croft. Son No3 was often down helping and Ian made a lot of time for him. I heard many a tale from Ian over large drams. Reminds me of my uncle Robert when we called in at Shieldaig, he would say “you’ll have a dram” while going to pour one. The option was limited to having a dram. About a half inch from the top and then he would ask if you wanted water. There were quite a few sips taken to get the right amount of water in and the drive home was slow and careful.  Alec, I knew less well, owned Tilda’s house in Camusterrach and had not been well for some time. We are losing many of these characters just now but they will live on through tales and memories.

Festival Ends and almost Home.

(Sunday morning) Relaxing morning before heading out to the in-law’s. Yesterday found me in the Science Museum for wander about. Lots of parents escaping with their small kids. A great place for them to mess about and learn at the same time. In the passing I noticed a relevant quote from Winston Churchill no less. 50th anniversary being celebrated, mainly on the Thames, I think, he said of Scotland, ” Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind”. Sort of makes you a little proud of being from here and it is little wonder that so many people want to own us and our lands. Strange that we do not see ourselves as being capable of looking after our own. This must be where the Waverley lives when she is not paddle steaming up and down the west coast in the summer months.


After a meal in the Rotunda across the road, amongst all the Strictly goers, it was up to the Old Fruit Market for some more music. Did not know too much about the two acts but was  fine night of entertainment. Steel pedal guitar of Sweden and a little backing from Denmark with Maggie Bjorkland


and this was followed by the brilliant Lambchop.


Off beat Americana and apart from the mildly annoying couple standing beside me it was a fine two hours. (They would have been better chatting in a noisy pub). It is a fine music venue.


Taxi back down to the Clyde was very entertaining when we got the low down on the Weegie boy racers who are using the city centre for their night-time shenanigans. According to the taxi driver they have been closed out of other towns in the central belt, gravitated to Glasgow, and get away with it as they “are the sons and daughters of policemen”. The opinion is that they are better racing around town rather than doing drugs and breaking into people’s houses!! Taxi driver had a couple of amusing suggestions for what else they could do. Such a quiet life up north.

And now back at the hotel on Sunday evening after yet another fine, fine night of music. Afternoon spent out in Lenzie with a personal taxi service which also picked up son No4 and Rachel. Plenty of time for lunch and chill out before heading up to the Old Fruit Market again. Ended up walking all the way due to lack of taxis,but perfect timing as Chris Drever came on stage for a warm up set, late fill in and very enjoyable it was. Calexico were simply awesome.


Had a great wee chat with a lady from Zimbabwe, living in Peckham and we swapped community stories. Told me she was a journalist after I had mentioned the blog. Would not have done so if I had known early enough in the conversation. Love dipping into another world if just for a few minutes. The change over on stage just flew by and before we knew it the sounds were blasting out from the stage. Trumpets,


accordion, looks so like a young Seve,


keyboards and guitars were a great mix of Tex/Mex sounds. Journalist knew Donald Shaw who told her that if the band were in a good mood they would play one hour forty, bad form it would be one twenty set. It was one forty-five and they looked in good form. Irish guys beside us were rocking. Cold and fresh walk back with not a taxi in sight.

Journey up the road was early, quick and uneventful. Beautiful snow scenes all the way north especially as we neared home. Saw this ruin in the snow on the way down but so often am not able to stop as we are going somewhere and trying to get there on time. It is such a stark reflection on the history of the Highland depopulation. Must have been a hard life based on subsistence living then.


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