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

Posts tagged ‘community’

Applecross Meanderings

On the way south to see and hear Afro Celt Sound System and leaving Inverness behind finally. The ticket collecting machine did not like my Visa card. May be a west east issue. As a result by the time I had picked them up from the ticket office the planned train had left. So now after an M and S coffee, couple of music purchases, Lau and Julie Fowlis, it is south we go. Another difference between east and west is Christmas seems to have arrived on the east coast, horribly early. These little jaunts are essential to life in Applecross where believe it or not one does suffer from cabin fever. However a meander around the community,

with

and without the dogs allow for some good viewing of colours

and bird life.

Keeping the dogs off the beaches at the time of year is good for the seabirds, enabling them not to fly off trying to avoid mad spaniels and terriers. One or two little hiccups at the Hydro, a couple of tripped switches but no significant lose of power out put. Angus is always about.

It still uses up a bit of volunteer time, getting the key for access, checking over the switches and returning the key and you are three-quarters of an hour down, that as well as a screen clean and before you know it well over a couple of hours are taken up. But to counter balance there is always the views.

Events of the week have involved our Community Council no longer having enough elected councillors to continue, still have to check up to make doubly sure but an election is in the offing. Another meeting this week to progress the Community Company consultation, something that should not surprise anyone as the Community Company is obliged to find out what the Community want and for it to carry out its wishes if it is feasible. There may be consulting fatigue in the Community but this one is quite important as it is a Community led one. Yet more volunteer time but gradually cutting back on the overload.

Glen Wyvis’ “Flying Farmer”

Going back a little further in my “wait for a part fortnight”. Seems it may be in Belgium on Thursday and Muir of Old by Saturday. Today is only the second day I have missed, still slightly frustrating, but the wood and paper work may all be done by then. Unfortunately our internet is down, we have been switched back to BT and for some reason our router is not picking it up, I’m in the Inn and Alison is at Kenny and Jill’s. So back to the missed day between Awards and breakdown, a helicopter trip round the Black Isle,

courtesy of PDG and the “Flying Farmer”, John.

Never met him before Iceland and now the third time in a couple of weeks…….just like buses. Only discovered there was a space for a passenger

and Jolene jumped at the chance.

Early start so sleep almost all the way and way back, but I think it went down quite well. John’s enthusiastic commentary was excellent and really informative, apart from Cromarty

I am not able to remember where the photos are,

telling us how locally sourced the barley was going to be, stored locally and malted locally, this as well as the renewable energy has persuaded me to add a little more to the investment that gave me the chopper ride. Local and sustainable distillery with the still and biomass boiler being fired up this week. Promise myself to call into the site itself sometime this winter, may even like the dram. Good to get back though.

A Grumpy One

Although we are in for a busy weekend there is a definite end of season feel in the air. Maybe not helped by it being Friday and the first day on the water this week and even then it involved a northerly swell and a breeze from the south. By mid afternoon the breeze had developed into a wind, fortunately the fishing had improved from the morning although being in gear you have to watch when you steam past the south end you don’t get the tailing in the prop. Well more than once anyway. This coupled with noticing some spotlets of emulsified oil coming through my wet exhaust adds up to a bit of a grumpy feel to the day. I could have done with a longer visit from the dolphins. They came up very quickly, pirroeted a full 180 degrees out of the water alongside the boat and swam off. The oil problem is a heat exchanger and I have to find out if it is the gearbox or the engine oil I will be losing. It is never all joy and happiness in any job but at this time of year after a full on and busy summer these little things get blown up and exaggerated in the mind. Western world issues so in the grand scheme of life they will be trivial.

Good mood to have a mini rant about how the community is impacted by outside decisions and the little we can do about it. There is a theme across the Highlands that Community Councils are of little import and to some extent I would have to agree. As a region and country our local democracy is in pretty poor shape and to some degree unrepresentative. This is mainly due to most people’s perception that there is little the Council can do other than voice a community opinion. I do not usually post on individuals but the fact that the Inn Chef, Robert, and the School and Fire person, Marion, have to deal with a planning decision that stops their plans in progressing their presence on the Applecross peninsula is frankly incomprehensible. Robert and Marion, holding three jobs down between them, one young un and another imminent, working crofters cannot get planning permission to build a croft house near their croft. They are refused on the grounds that it is not in keeping with the surroundings environs and is too far from other habitations. I find it hard to put into words what I think of these decisions taken on the east coast by people who have no conception of what living on the fragile west is like. Apart from the ludicrous reasons for refusal, I can take you round Applecross and show you houses that have been built with no other houses near them, so as well as being a negative decision in the first place it has no place with any precedence. Ridiculous from which any angle you look at. It is easy to criticise but this and other decisions have little basis in a community’s growing it’s capacity and resilience. Another decision on the Street has been negative on the grounds the living quarters are upstairs. Considering that already happens in Holiday Houses three or four doors along it holds no water anywhere else but the east. You couple this with no land being released for affordable houses you can see we. are going to have problems in the very near future. Do people think it is ok for workers to live in multiple occupancy and caravans, in poor housing where do these issues come into the planning process. I leave the argument that everything is fine and should be left as it is to discuss, that is the rewilding argument in a way, saying that people should not and have not lived here for generations, which is patently untrue. Always change, sometimes the change is rather quick but you have to deal with it as it will not go away.

When, we as a community, are faced with an absentee landlord saying that a site is unsuitable because you can see it from the road you can only shake your head in disbelief. Drive down the road from Ardeslaig to Toscaig and you see every single house, holiday house and empty house from the road. Mind you I have been told of two other reasons for that site, the first being the presence of sink holes, not a good excuse due to the Turbine House being built there, and finally an agricultural reason just to make sure the site will not become available. You get the idea that releasing land is  not on the absentee landlord’s agenda, frustrating when you look at Achintrad, Sheildaig, Lochcarron, Balmacara, where affordable houses are being built and lived in by young folk who send kids to local schools and have employment in their locales. So individual planning decisions taken against this background feel so negative.

I have been to some positive and not so positive meetings lately, great to hear ideas put forward about a Community Hub, increased employment, housing from people who understand the fragility of the community and have  thoughts and plans to reverse the almost imperceptible decline. On the positive side there are more crofts being used now, the decline seems to have bottomed out and younger folk are growing and producing more food locally, building the resilience of the place, it’s a good year for wee ones being born, would be great if this was the norm rather than being unusual and employment must be 120%, more to do than the people living here can cope with. In a way it is a sort of curse when asked what is one’s agenda for the community. I can state that nothing is personal in that my living and employment prospects do not need to be improved so it is purely on a community level. Of course I may be wrong but I can see how a fine community can work in difficult circumstances and that is the one at the Inn. Great team and generally a happy place, building under pressure, workers not in ideal housing, but despite all the problems a fine example how a community can work.

So the consultations go on, there is the launching of a proper community consultation run by the Community Company, while the Trust Working Group continues. I feel I have made the right decision not to keep putting time into this and leave it to more positive minded people. I see no change in the direction the Trust is going in despite different personnel  on the Board. The suggested Chair of the Working Group, someone who is not only not local but is also not “independent”, confirms my decision to spend my time more usefully. I sincerely hope the Group is able to influence Trust policy for the future before more and more people think the  development of Applecross will have to go through new powers of the Community Empowerment Act.

Another meeting attended this week concerned the laying of fibre optic cable from Sheildaig to Lochcarron. Wonderful one may think but we came away from the meeting thinking little or no benefit to the community. There will be empty chambers for a licensed provider to build cabinets to deliver superfast broadband but that is unlikely to happen as cabinets cost around £65,000 and does not make economic sense to supply to a half-dozen houses. There was more unsaid than we were told, i.e. the contractor, the huge expense of laying a cable that is not going to be used locally. SSE backhaul does not really hold water and we all came away with the strong suspicion that the customer is based on the North Coast and has little to do with the local community and decisions are taken far far away. Meanwhile some residents are being promised 50/70 meg speeds from BT as they take in broadband by radio. Very puzzling and can only wait and see if this is true.

Now that feels better and life goes on. As said before the fishing was better than expected and the tea was good, it being these shrimps, all eyes

trying to make me feel guilty, some squats in mayo, and mussels increase,garlic and wine sauce, good accompaniments to baked Tatties.  This chappie was released after the photo and swam away happily in a flash of colour.

In-between the grumps the dolphin visits, they were too quick for me,


and the occasional calm days with lots of activities on and in the water,

a Thai massage and good chats with good people keeps you on a level, although maybe reading this I may need a lot more therapy.And to finish with a light show

or two.

 

Back after a Technical Break

Been a wee while since posting but there have been technical reasons for this and it feels good to be back. When I was preparing to post a couple of weeks or so ago my iMac bit the dust. I had been warned about a filling start-up disc and had tried to delete various files but to no avail. As I was enjoying an episode on 4oD everything went pear-shaped. Took it to a Dr and it came back, fixed only for a couple of hours, but minus all the files. So now owner of a MacBook and finally with a bit of technical help can post and with photos. Slowly getting used to it as there seems to be techniques to simple things such as scrolling down that I am only finding out on a suck it and see level.

Looking back it is extraordinary what we get up to on the peninsula. Daily life goes on and, although routine, it is never ever boring. Whether it is meeting people at the Inn or going fishing there are always lovely people to make contact with or wonderful things to see

and watch.

The banter with Geoff and Maureen over the last three weeks or meeting the family who just wandered in this morning are part of the daily tooing and froing. Certainly a bit of the English/Scottish involved but all at a banter level, not what I have been seeing on twitter this evening about Catalonians being beaten up by thugs for daring to vote for their Independence. As usual at the Inn we have a direct link to Barca and was told about the underlying current of fascism that exists in certain quarters of power in that country. Our source was quite definite about what has been known and talked about for years and now has been exposed on social media. I had to stop watching scenes of women being beaten up by men who were  wearing balaclavas and full riot gear. And they were the law of the land, makes you question how much you can take before standing up to authority that you believe to be wrong. Justice is an oft used word these days but there appears to be little on view. It was amazing seeing the restraint shown by the Catalonian populace in the face of such brutality.

The family in the morning hailed from Whitworth, N Yorkshire and I was treated to a wonderful word picture from an elderly gentleman who described a community of mills and workshops, neighbourliness and knowing everyone in the community. Very relevant in today’s world and how the Inn operates, unqualified help to anyone who needs it, whether it is simply finding visitors a bed to sleep in or sorting a breakdown. It is probably just me being in a positive frame of mind but for about ten minutes we had a lovely symbiotic and reminiscent conversation comparing the changes over the years in a Yorkshire mill town and a crofting township in Applecross. Sometimes a simple conversation can transport you across the moors to someones community that they are proud of and lets you in for a brief look.

Leaving the specifics aside for another post the fishing catches have remained very good

until the last week where there was a serious dip in the haul. This coupled with poor weather forecast for most of the week means langoustine availability is going to be stretched this week. Only a couple of portions left as I had an early finish today and likely not to be fishing until later in the week. Just being at sea keeps ones sanity in the increasingly crazy world we live in. Making the most of the quiet days

in-between the days of wind. There is a notable change in the air as it is now only after seven and it is wet, dark and windy outside.

Ashore and in tandem withe fishing there’s still plenty to do, cleaning the screen goes on,

sometimes in the dark as the day is shortening,

walking the dogs, although decided the Bay is a little too crowded with birds just now. some however do not seem to mind Dougal careering after them. The heron

has a disdainful look as he surveys the relentless dashing about. Eilidh dives into the river yipping away, unusual, but then I see an otter swimming out to sea. fortunately she comes back on command as she would have stood no chance if the otter had stood its ground. It’s a cliché but there is so much to do and so much to see and so little time to achieve this……..and that is just in Applecross. So I leave you with one of the sunsets of the last fortnight. Feels like a season away.

Lois Mor and John “Balure”.

Although we are now into the next week, rain is torrential, which means the hydro power chart is on a vertical climb from the falling down to 40 kWhs over the last wee dry spell, the resonance of Lismore is still strong. Again a powerful meditation starts off day 2 before a walk up to one of the high points of the island with views across to Glensanda on Morvern.

An obvious lead in to the Lingerbay Quarry proposal and Alistair Macintosh, Isle of Eigg and Soil And Soul. Then before you know it we are back at the present day’s living, crafting and building. Yorick is putting together another window frame while Sarah is dehorning a ewe and treating another of her Shetland sheep, graphic descriptions of maggot eruptions. We had approached the house from a different angle and saw the astonishing stone work,

the skill and pride of a craftsman in full view. Who said crofting is romantic, hard graft but fulfilling. And then it was onto a visit to the Broch,

with Mairi intending to pay her respects at Balure. On the way we stopped to sample a rest on St Moluag’s Chair, a rock hewn out by the Saint himself. The Broch is set on a high point commanding the western approaches and is said to have been built around 2000 years ago and was continually occupied up till the 12th century before the MacDougalls built their own castle. Photos taken, chat and reminisces over

we headed down to call in to Balure to pick up Mairi.

We were immediately invited into the house by John’s son Ian, where we were offered a dram of Balvennie Doublewood and a cup of tea. Again a strong connection was felt and we toasted the passing of John “Balure” and Mairi added a story of her wedding to Dave which involved John. They had organised a Grand March for their evening part of the wedding and as usual the bride and grooms families were at the head but Mairi’s folks were late so John and Dorothy of Balure took their place with John leaning into Mairi telling her to “Ca canny lass, ca canny” before leading off with her to the tune Mairi’s Wedding. We keep these people with us by telling and retelling their stories. I felt it was a privilege to be asked in and invited to honour this well-loved man of their community and hope we did him justice.

Maybe it was through meditating with old friends and visiting the brooch and hearing tales of times ancient and not long past but you felt at one with the island and its community with its thread, unbroken and strong through timeless ages. The chat continued as we walked through time

and emerged at the Heritage Centre, for Mairi to meet up with her co organisers for the Tap Roots Festival, and for us to wander up the road back to Carnie Cottage. All these walks have a micro aspect to them as well seeing the late autumn flowers

and the small gardens on top of fence posts

make the walks longer. Lois Mor is the great garden so it is fitting here is Lois Beag

I wanted to go down to Salen as the island’s sole fishing boat was anchored there

and so leaving Martin to concoct his plate of potatoes and seafood chowder I was back on the bike to cycle down to the sea’s edge and take in the late evening’s sun sinking down behind the Morvern peninsula.

A truly beautiful evening and some very interesting sights to see

which on further investigation turned out to be lime stone kilns.

Yet another connection to the homeland, there are lime stone kilns in Applecross, like Lismore the lands are controlled by absentees, we both have Irish saints and going by some of the tales of Lismore we both scrap well amongst ourselves.

After yet another fine tea, the cooking has been the finest from Applecross seafood, Mairi’s Dalh and Ian’s seafood pasta, we set up for a bunting ritual trying to rid ourselves and places of negativity in all forms. Mairi then sang her song which stopped our concept of time for its content and beauty. Fire is a useful tool for more than giving warmth and so ended a long and fulfilled day, heading for the stairs exhausted but content in the knowledge of a strong sense of belonging.

Community Audit.

A day ashore due to a breeze from the south so a catch up with a fuel dip and a screen clean

up at the Head of the Hydro. Interesting that it was only ten days since going up and the screen had a skim of green algae on it. With the rain we have had over the last few days there is a spate running so there is no effect on the power out put, it running at 90kWhs for the last week. It was shoes off and trousers rolled up and even then getting pretty wet on cleaning.

Good to see the monitor reading at 7000 kWhs more than the whole of last year with just over three months to go. Called in to grease the generator shaft, Dougal seems to have mastered photo bombing now.

This despite being the subject of many himself, this checking out the dam at the Head.

You would think he would be happy with all the ones I take of him. Have to say he gives me hours of pleasure and entertainment.

At the moment the community audit is well, with everything up to date, the Hydro running well, the Filling Station has 7000+ litres in each tank and, dare I say it, the broadband is going like a train, at least in the schoolhouse. There has been a dramatic improvement around a week ago with download and upload speeds both good, certainly relatively, hopefully across the community. The fact it is quiet is a good sign. There is always some sights on the way

(Friday evening) Starting to think I should not be saying anything about broadband these days. This morning it had to be kicked started and also hear that the improvement is not universal throughout the community, frustrating. Even since writing the above a couple of days ago we are now taking in fibre optic from Broadford by radio. All the rest is as stands as there seems to be only two cabinets. There is supposed to be a big push in Applecross, something we are very sceptical about, opinion says that someone “important” has been pushing for us, I suspect it is because AppleNet exists and is a tiny wee threat to current monopolies.

On the water today with nothing but tangles due to the strong tides, rain and a few ships of interest,

and a couple of small foul ups as the creels went out earlier in the week. Still, managed a good fishing despite feeling very tired after sorting out the tangles. Trying to get a stock in for a couple of days off next week with a trip to Lismore planned. Attention caught by hearing familiar voices on the radio. Mark Stevens interviewing Jimmy up at the farm chatting about Angus the stag he is feeding by hand. Just so happens I caught Jimmy in the Inn having a blether with the twins, Phammie and John

while Angus was causally  looking at Dougal, having just come down from the screen, who decided that he was a bit too big and close to chase. He does look well fed.

Although the rain here is not at as heavy as places further east with word that the road to Inverness is closed due to flooding and part of it washed away west of Garve there was a litre break and the sunset came through again, different but always worth a look.

 

“Hindsight is an Exact Science”

Feels like a weeks worth has been done and it is only Wednesday, but then when does a week start and finish in Applecross? On Sunday it was one of those days when the door at the Inn opened around 11.30 and stayed open as people came in from all corners of the world, I am pretty sure there was some one from every continent in. I know we had Afrikaans, Chileans, Asians, Aussies and the usual Europeans and North Americans all complimenting the food and service, the weather which was a little wintry did not put anyone off. Kitchen worked well and long and when I sat down at around six it was to a fine shell of hand dived scallops with a rice and salad to go with it. By the end of the day the weather had improved somewhat and Thor appeared over Skye and Raasay to show the visitors that Applecross has at least two seasons a day.

This meant that with the forecast for a breezy Monday morning from the west to settle down later, a relaxed start to the day was appreciated. With it being so busy though I had to get out and a lunch time haul into early evening brought the langoustines back on to the menu board. With a few more berries appearing in the creels another fleet has to be hauled to keep the supplies going. Almost got the long-standing fleet on the Pier repaired so that will go out in the next week.

Monday evening we had a Trading Company meeting and the main topic at the moment is broadband. It is complicated and with so many factors involved, quite a few of them are not in our control. Giving everyone individual addresses before switching over to the new system has thrown up more than a few problems. We have had no internet for about 4 weeks, but is now up and running. Likewise the North Coast although there is a lot of drop off. Today’s problem is a router in Toscaig which is now in the post so that should be sorted fairly quickly. I think that the statement “Hindsight is an exact science” could quite easily be applied to our attempts at providing this service. We all find it very draining and the strong rumour that fibre optic is coming over the Bealach, treated with a fair amount of skepticism admittedly, would be such a boon to our efforts in keeping the system going. Using remote islands to service the more tricky parts of the peninsula, relying on people’s good will, while not having enough expertise in the community to ease the burden of the few who are keeping the system up and running is getting harder and harder. The alternatives are pretty grim, getting a half meg from BT or paying three times as much for a poor satellite service that is constantly being slowed down as they put on too many users restricting width. Maybe we have to go through the fire like we did with the Filling Station before we find a solution to our problems. The latest national solution is certainly not going to work in its current form, loading so much work on community groups so we get the next generation network. We are struggling to get and keep this generation one. However as always you feel better after a meeting like this as you hear everyone’s views, opinions and the actions to be taken. Must be a sign of age or just the fact I have been self-employed my whole life, I accept we are where we are and we have to deal with it, maybe some of the decisions we take will not be to everyone’s individual benefit but will have to be taken.

Going fishing and easing away to some extent from the direct stress of these issues helps although the body comes under a fair bit of pressure hauling over 400 pots. Beautiful sunny/blue sky day,

gannets

and even the seagulls were enjoying.

It was warm but never too much so, it is always too hot or to wet or too windy or too cold for some people, this must be another age thing…it is what it is. Over the Monday/Tuesday I was keeping fish/shellfish and other sea creatures alive for a pick up on Tuesday evening to stock a refurbished sea water tank in Moray. Some boys had been in touch and they were diving in Lochcarron to collect some shallow water animals. Managed some lemon sole, wrasse, codling, feather stars, shrimps, dog whelks, a couple of small octopodes and a big seven finger starfish. Surprised to learn they only live  for about three years, overfeeding on langoustines I reckon. The fact that I was able to keep the various animals alive with relative ease shows how the creels work in our environment, only cropping what we need to sell and returning the other sea life back. Opinions are currently a little tense on the inshore waters fisheries with opinions properly divided between mobile and creel sectors. I find it almost mirrors the political state of the country where you only look at the facts that confirm your views. Classic example of that is a minke whale comes ashore drowned with rope damage and immediately creel men around the coast are to blame for every mammal drowned. There is no doubt that the re are fatalities, I have had two in my forty years at sea and suffice to say these two days to have been my worse days in the job, far worse than losing a boat, which I have managed to do as well. Anecdotal, I know, but these mortalities take place in both fishing methods.

Today, with a brisk south-easterly wind blowing I was up early to wash the fleet I kept on board,

rather warm for the pooches though,

Dougal for once being more sensible than Eilidh,

before going up for a badly needed massage. Was second in line so took an hour out at the Inn patio with the headphones on and listened to breathing and music while watching the ever-changing light on the Cuillin. Not a bad way to have a break before the ever so painful massage. I register how much I need them by how painful they turn out. These massages are more than just physical manipulations but the chat is holistic as well and having No3 at home over the last couple of weeks there have been a few “in the mind” chats as well to counter the pain of headaches. Sarah also has some great yoga moves which I am hoping to find time to carry out. Actually all this adds to a good feel good factor and having a half hour to ones self is surprisingly regenerative. Now as it is Thursday morning fishing calls.

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