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

Posts tagged ‘Common Weal’

“Enough is as Good as a Feast”

Recovery completed and looking forward to my first ever Party Political Event, we left for Inverness for a morning’s dash about town with the intention of heading down to Farr to join a few other people to hear speakers talk about Green matters. A beautiful autumn day with low light across the Bealach


and again and again all the way across the country. The reads, yellows and browns are resplendent just now and are sharpened by the acute angles of sunlight. After the Bealach no photos as I would probably be just arriving by now. Appropriately, on a green day, my first stop off was at Highland Bicycles where the Volt Ebike was left for its annual make over. Time flies when one realises that I bought it over a year ago, although I have only used it properly for about 6/7 months of that time. Going to be interesting to see how I cope with a north-west winter. Last winter’s six months of horizontal rain was not tackled with any enthusiasm. This year so far so good and after the overhaul it genuinely feels like a new bike. Haircut, Highland Wholefoods and winter fishing clothes from Blacks were all sorted in rapid order and the trip out to Farr was under way in good time. Last and only time I was out here was to learn about bees from Neil and Alison Spence. This event had been moved from the Spectrum Centre in Inverness to Farr due to the unprecedented pressure of numbers. Evident as the car park


and hall so filled up.


All on time as well….west coast time is always at least 15 minutes behind, or if it is a Dance about an hour before it finishes before people turn up.

Settled in and pleased to see an Applecross connection in the form of Nessa who spent some time over our way and Roddy who wandered over to share sympathies over political events. Even before events kicked off just sitting there in a room of over two hundred liked minded people was a wee buzz and as Lesley said when she spoke first we all need these meetings to keep energy levels high, a battery top up. Always inspiring to hear Lesley Riddoch speak and she was constantly stopped by spontaneous applause. And yes she did mention the Nordic nations. One really fascinating point was the development of Norway’s nationality and how for a time they had full autonomy over their own affairs bar defence and foreign policy before gaining full Independence. Now the aim is Home Rule with just that in mind. And of course Land Reform, pointing out the tax advantages of having a Sporting Estate as a plaything and emphasising that our land distribution is ludicrous and unique in Europe. It being so “unBritish” to cap or limit anyone or thing. Ownership of land has to be one thing to be capped, whole tracks of land and people living on it should not be held to the whims of one person. A recent bad example of this being Radcliffe of Ineos/Grangemouth holding the nation to ransom and ends up with public funds and licence to frack in the Central Belt. Speaking to Brian this morning from Shieldaig and such a different picture where land has been released for housing the school less than ten years ago was under threat but now is thriving, such a simple way of “repopulating the Highlands” and why not. Many houses can be built without destroying the Highlands unique attractions and giving its soul back. There are still long stretches on the way home where you do not see a light from the road. Surprised myself and asked Lesley if I could take a photo and she obliged and chuffed with the result.


Next up was Robin from Common Weal and he amazes me in how he can talk so fast, without notes and pack so much enthusiasm, information and inspiration into so short a time. Interesting to hear the political outcomes and strategies of recent upheavals. I do not think any one has much of a clue what is going to happen next. The one thing is for certain the Referendum has only started a movement and not finished it. Robin’s analogy, from a French film , I think, was off a man/woman, stepping off the pavement and on the way down does he fall or fly and that depends on how much effort goes into his progress. He says it feels like we have stepped of the pavement. The austerity measures are affecting the poorest sections of society and you can feel his passionate anger against tis effect on whole sections of the community. After his session he is still enthusing.


John Finnie, MSP,


who moved from SNP to Independent to joining the Green party finished the first section off with a list of reasons why he has moved in this direction. Trident, NATO, pointless wars, useless and subsidised nuclear power. Read recently that nuclear power has produced £156 billion of power, cost £200 billion to build and will cost £100 billion to clean up and some people complain above renewable subsidy. A theme throughout the afternoon was the disenfranchisement of local government right down to community council level. Many areas have no Councils now and at home we have not had an election for the last two nominations. On going are the LRRG proposals, the Community Empowerment Bill and the Smith Commission, put in my wee submission but as it had to be costed will probably be ignored, so no one can say nothing is happening in this part of the world. And hardly a mention of other parties, nothing negative, only a response to a direct question to which Robin MacAlpine asserted that SLAB’s umbilical cord to its guaranteed support was being severed. What I liked about the afternoon was the range of ideas and actions various people were taking themselves and suggesting for both individual and community levels. Liked the call to resurrect the Highland Land League. John’s saying from old, “Enough is as good as a feast” is an apt summing up of how we should live. Local food, local energy, local industry, common sense proposals discussed.  All was excellently organised by Fabio, Isla and Ariane.

Away sharp to pick up the bike and home. A shift at the Inn, slightly disjointed, dropping into service already under way but not busy and slowly got into the swing as much as one could after such a different scene in the afternoon. Stayed on as staff wanted to head up to the Walled Garden, occasional caller such as Darren,


stopped in before staff Darren


and Lydia called in for a lift up.9Q7Q7126

The night ended in some fine music from John and Lorna.


His renditions of Green Fields and Caledonia were fine and emotional, music at its best. Uptil now have not really picked up on the song Applecross Bay, written by a McCalman (I hope), sensing the layout of Applecross resulting from the Clearances. 3,000 living here in the middle of the 1800s, now 250 maximum. But hearing the background to a fine song gives it even more resonance. Also heard the Common Weal event at Bogbain Farm went very well and Applecross was represented there as well. Would have loved to have been there but one has to select sometimes.

Today a long a very pleasant shift, busy enough with lots of very appreciative and generous people, music throughout the afternoon and good food and residents into the evening.


Requested another rendition of Caledonia to see me through and it seemed to work. So onto the bike and home around eight. It really is like having just bought a new bike, so Dougal and Eilidh got a wee walk down the Craig Darroch in the moonlight to finish off the day.

Two Hives,Five Tyres.

Full on day on Monday. Slightly earlier than usual start and nipped through 350 creels by 2pm. Another glass calm morning and only the occasional bird coming alongside, bonxie


and then a fulmar.


Even the gulls have disappeared. Speaking to Dave later in the day he mentioned the same. I am not sure if right but I take this as a good sign. May mean there is easy feeding in the water and they are not reduced to scrapping over bits of rotten bait that I throw back over. Seen small rafts of razor bills as well and that is another good sign.


Only saw these numbers late on in the summer last year.

Reason for doing an early shift was me off to Broadford to get another foreign body off my back. Over the Bealach in a bit of a rush


and made it to Kyle in shorter time than wise, bank for the Community Company, and only five minutes late. Managed a couple of pages of the Common Weal before being called in. Quicker than last time and mentioned it, got the comment about better skill. Unfortunately the after pain has made up for the quickness. A stop at Erbusaig, dropping off creels in Plockton


and a straight-backed drive home in some lovely weather. Always need to stop for the odd snap or two. Lovely spot around and about but it takes a lot to beat the drive into Applecross,


mountain down to the sea.


By the time I was home there was little doubt I was going to be fishing yesterday and that was the case, no danger. Whether it was a deeper one to cut out or maybe it was the “skill factor” I was glad this was the second one. Beautiful day and a missed one for the sea but such is life and a few wanders about with the dogs broke the day up. The weather is on the way out and little fishing till the end of the end of the week. New neighbours sheltering in the shade of the tree and seems well contented.


Bit of football and a final read up about creating an artificial swarm. Scary and would have preferred a more experienced hand by me. The hive has been very busy in the last couple of days although they are taking their time in drawing out the foundation. Was told it takes a lot of energy to do this.


Followed the instructions and now there are two hives tucked away by the hazel tree. Feed them until they get both established.


A bit of honey in the super but leave it until I am sure they have enough for the winter.

Landed langoustine for both Inns this morning and when I made it back home decided to try to clean up the kerb that is catching out all the tourists, another two tyres yesterday, Belgiums this time. It has got a bit overgrown and they are not seeing the edge before clipping it and bursting the walls of their tyres. Five in a week. Off to the surgery now with No3, puts my little back twinge into context.

The Common Weal and Amazing Music.

Left about fifteen minutes late due to the Filling Station again.Rebooted it three times to no avail and the trip to Inverness was a little quicker than I would have preferred. Weather on the Hill not bad but you would know it was winter.




Stop off into Fraser Auctions to pick up a rams head poker and made it to the AGM just after its start, missing very little.

As I am writing this a day later in Glasgow it has been great to look back on such a varied and really positive day. A couple of down sides in Inverness was hearing about the squid fishery on the East coast catching lobsters, fetching a poor market price as they are either dead or dying. Also many of them are prime females carrying berries, you do despair. The other downer was hearing about a Gairloch trawler towing of Barleyport with an Irish skipper and Romanian crew. Coastguard called up for tow as they had their own net and some one’s creels in his prop. He should not have been there as it was closed and of course he is destroying some one’s livelihood while he is at it. We suspect no prosecution and that allows these bullies to carry on. Another story of an email threat from a scalloper seemingly ignored. The threat was I am coming to tow and shift your gear or I will shift them for you. That is a breach of the peace but again nothing done. And it is always the same story, we are not all bad but there is always a rotten apple….easy solution is to bring back the three-mile limit, it used to work and can again. The meeting was extremely positive despite these idiots. There has been a huge amount of work done to get the Federation to where it is now. Financially healthy and now a voice that government listens to, and hopefully doing something about our problems. We did not have one before, it remains to be seen if they carry out any of our wishes. Managed to get a bit in about Applecross Community Company and our problems regarding Di minimus with the broadband. It was Richard Lochhead, himself , who brought the subject of broadband up. I was not just spraying the minister with problems. Did manage to bring up local government or lack of it as well and suggested for some people Independence would just be moving power from London to Edinburgh. Good to hear a politician who is in power try to explain his policies and aspirations. Got a bit of a buzz to hear him bring up the Common Weal. Bit of hilarity when one of the representatives wanted more fishermen and their voice being heard at the Inshore Fishing Conference being held in Perth. He wanted fewer people with Fairisles and beards, at which point most of the room looked across and saw a beard and a lopi, it was a close run thing. The guys mentioned something not complimentary about trawling and got several different kinds of laugh.

AGM photo 3

We had a good wee session on berries as well and again the three-mile limit. Great to hear a buyer’s view on berried langoustine and lobster. Very few buyers talk the way James Cook does. Alistair was telling us about his own experiments on returning prawns to the seabed and catching them again, proving survival rates are high and it is worth returning the berries. James  sounded like he wanted to be buying sustainably caught produce in the years to come and was not into a short-term cash in. Good to know he is treasurer of the Federation. Fishermen from all round the coast of Scotland were there today and although we we did not agree on every thing we did not fall out over anything and were a lot stronger by the end of the meeting. It was accepted that there were different problems in different areas where the solutions are going to be locally worked out solutions.

So then it was just a case of meeting up with Alison and trucking off down the A9 in the wind and rain, getting to the hotel with half an hour to spare, into the taxi and to the Oran Mor. Absolutely stunning music followed. Shelley Morris opened with lots of loving stories about her own life as an Aborigine in the Northern Territorries. Sweet lady with a strong and emotional voice. Seems she was up for Aussie of the year but came to Glasgow instead. She was a perfect lead in to Raghu Dixit. What a night, warm, loving, personal and self-effacing and his music stunning. With both Shelley and Raghu there was a common double theme, the first part was where is the sun and the second which gave you a little pride in where you are from. They told us several times about the warmth of their welcome and reception, both touching their chests in appreciation. Good to feel one comes from a part of the world where friendship and acceptance is important. Headed back, pizza, and kip. One thing is not missed back home  is fast food outlets……mind you the Inn is pretty fast. Back home now but glad I wrote some of these posts on the Ipad as I have already forgotten so much of a packed exhilarating weekend.

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