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

Posts tagged ‘community’

“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.

“It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got.”

( Wednesday evening) Every now and again things are in place which either mean all is well in life or there is a spot of trouble to deal with. Today was one of those days when you have to cope with a spot of bother. Early start due to a day off yesterday and the plan to haul extra fleets went well until the last one. Just a wee bit tired, 540 creels hauled and thinking of heading home, turning round to shoot back my final creels, found myself on the wrong side of a creel which wrapped itself round my legs. That would be okay to deal with but I was in gear and going half ahead so the weight of the buoy was trying to pull me over the stern. Adrenalin kicked in and after what felt like an age, but was probably only a minute, I managed to ease myself into a position to fall backwards off the creel and away from the rope that was trying to catch an ankle. Only resulted in a couple of pulled muscles and a little shake. Thinking about it on the way in you accept that was as close as you want to go but no point in dwelling over it or you would pack in the job. Clarity of thought is so distinct and so many people say how time seems to slow when you are in serious trouble, but I reckon it is the mind working through the survival strategy. I am sure there are many incidents that happen every day at sea like this and no amount of regulation can cut them all out. One of the silly thoughts that went through the brain was, “mustn’t spoil the upcoming wedding”, daft, I know, but it gives that bit more of an incentive, if any was needed. So the engine stopping on the way into the moorings turned a good long day at sea into one of those days. Uncertain about why she stopped but got her going quickly and soon was tied up.

( Tuesday, last week) One of the things I love about this life is its unpredictability, slightly later than usual I was getting ready to go fishing last week when I saw an unfamiliar boat heading slowly into the moorings. Turns out Joel with three SNH guys were out on a wee field trip. Unfortunately their gear box was playing up and heading for Lonbain was too risky. After a request for help, equipment and people were put aboard the Varuna,

we steamed north shooting yesterday’s cleaned fleet off in the Bay. We were looking for flame shell reefs and although we were working with gps marks it was not till the last dip with the camera that we came across them.

There was plenty evidence of maerl beds which is good in itself. I am sure this would be described in certain quarters as supping with the devil, but if it helps the environment in any way I am up for it. Passing The Sand Base on the way home one wonders about the 22 million investment…….

Hauled a fleet, on the way in, still trying to hook up my missing one but failed yet again. Lots of squats though so not a total waste of time. Started towing the boat south

to meet Angus who completed the rescue, turning up just south of Saint Island.

Another few broken creels mended and a squat lobster fried rice completes the day. Means an early start tomorrow to make up for the lost time.

( Now Thursday evening) And now taking a bit of time out after a busy night at the Inn, a spot of reflection. With Tarnybackle singing It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got, so true working at the Inn. Introducing the song it sounded like a plea from the heart asking why we do not help each other more instead of just looking out for ourselves. Classic small example of this was Zuzu and I headed over to the Filling Station to try to sort out the lack of receipts over the last week. I had tried on several occasions and Zuzu had a go as well before going off on hols for the last week. Pooled knowledge and we sorted it out in approximately five minutes. Went into the system as the engineer and got the drawer opened with a bit of knowledge I had learned and fixed my earlier mistake. Good feeling of working together for community benefit walking back to the Inn. Where it was one of those special nights, friends made, can see several tables with people deep in conversation with each other they had never met before eating their meals together earlier in the evening. The camaraderie is immense and although the Boss was a bit tense thinking it was going to be a struggle to seat every one nothing went wrong, comments were off the scale about the food and the service. Easy for me to convey a magnificent Highland night of hospitality, food and drink, (Sandy even got his chic chip ice cream with sprigs of mint) and fine appreciated music. Enjoyed Green Fields of France, Caledonia and others of the folk and country tradition. Like the last couple of years working at the Inn with an ever-changing but fantastic team gives you so much satisfaction. It has been very fulfilling despite the numbers over the last few days and regulars keep coming back despite the ten levels of busy. Rob in his dapper tweeds always cuts a fine picture. Asked if he would mind a picture taken but my shift finished before he came down on the Sunday evening. The Boss took an iPad photo.

Asked to take some photos of the new wonderful lobster linguine

and as they were opposite and very photogenic the langoustines were snapped as well.

Did not know it was supposed to be for the Herald or more care on composition would have gone into the shot. The intrepid two arrived back yesterday, pretty knackered, hungry but contented.

( Finish off Friday evening) As ever one day does not lead into the next with any sort of conformity. This morning saw me out on the Varuna but nothing doing when I went to start her, ignition okay but starter motor dead. Ashore, phoned the ever reliable Ewen, luckily in Inverness, new one picked up and now in the van, ready for refitting tomorrow, langoustines in for the day and the old motor off with out the usual one stuck nut problem. That is usually my engineering experience. Lazy sort of day with only activity was spending lots of money on camera equipment, mainly to keep ashore as the marine environment takes its toll on the one I have. Although the weather is a bit broken the langoustines are still going into the creels although the numbers of berries seem to be coming in earlier this year. The days we are out are a joy to be on the water,

still waters and a view to die for

in every direction.

Interesting vessel moored at the moorings last week,

someone doing some serious open water rowing.

Did not get to chat so have little info about who it was.A wee blast from the past occurred when Willie came over on Saturday evening from Erbusaig to help entertain the Sally Leaving Do. There was only 27 of them and they were great craic. One thing I like in the Highlands is the generation cross over and girls in school with the boys just treat you as anyone else rather than parents. Banter flowed and a fair few vodka and lemonades were consumed, some with ice. The handbag was heavy with tins of cider on the bus for the way home. Back to the blast from the past and it was a photo that appeared on FB of the Curlew being fitted out on the Slip in Kyle, my Dad being on the left of the four, this would be in the seventies and a few memories came back……

In the News

Sometimes there is just a wee bit too much going on. Feels like we are not really living at home just now as our internet is not functioning and sounds like another week is on the cards. We are switching over from ADSL to fibre optic and involves IP addresses and there has not been smooth changeover in any of the community Broadlands up and down the west coast. This is the fundamental problem with the rural economy, there are not enough people living on the lands that the community does not own. We just do not have the numbers to take on all the services that other places take for granted and used to be carried out by the Local Councils. The view from the temporary office is not too bad though.

The consultation that is going on just now is extremely frustrating in that it is a visionary/wish list but if things went ahead my question is who is going to run all the ideas. Keep saying it but we need 100 more people who want this life style to live here. It is hard work doing one, two or even three jobs, raise a family and then volunteer to keep essential services going. It is the nature of the modern world that consultations have to take place at all but for funding applications one does need to show community support of some kind, but there is always a danger of misuse of these for ulterior purposes. Can only hope that this one is not one of these. I have hung in but find doing practical stuff, Filling Station, Hydro etc is more rewarding than a talk shop and have dropped out. I can go to the Inn for that.

So on Monday last it was a 3.50am start as I was told the Beeb were coming in to do a wee news item on creel fishing and the obvious benefits as opposed to the prawn trawl but more of that later. Fished well and spent a couple of hours trying to retrieve one of my lost fleets with no success. Was alongside the pier by 1.00pm but camera did not turn up on time and it was 3.30pm before I was cycling up the road with the catch to the Inn. What I did not know and often happens when the routine is broken and just a little bit more tired I headed ashore leaving all the electronics switched on. So Thursday morning saw us back out but nought in the batteries so no fish. Two day trickle charge but weather poor on Saturday so lucky with good fishing the langoustines lasted until Sunday lunch. The Inn was a little strange in that Friday and Saturday evenings were a wee bit quieter than normal but both Thursday and Sunday certainly made up for it. Long long and very busy shifts with lots of people stories and great comments from happy people heading off north. Back on the horse this week and it is a hard week working this weather on your own. It is not settled but not too windy, Took today off mind you as it was a 5/7 southerly forecast and it turned out to be a white horse day. Managed a bit of work considering it was my “hit the wall” day. The night at the Inn was full on again and still here as the boss is away having a curry next door to the schoolhouse.

So in between the work and the Beeb there was a wee gathering of greens at Achnasheen where a lot of interest was shown about sustainable fishing. Very direct questioning and a good receptive audience. Fine lunch and company and as usual the connections are everywhere when I met one of the group. Plan B were in Applecross many years ago and at the end of the summer put on a play/music involving some fine musicians and acting. Anne Woods was on the fiddle and here she was, only just recognised her but good to meet up again after so long. Really sorry to see Topher not making it through to the HC, he would have been a good councillor. I never miss a chance to describe the fishery and compare how it was to how it is now to show that although we can make a good living still we should have a far healthier sea than we have. And then it was the Community Council AGM and a Chair Report to do. It is only when you look back over the year you realise all the things that have gone on, from defribulators to keeping the HC up to date on the hammering the Bealach is getting because of the NC500. There are now a couple of places where it will be dangerous soon. One wonders what a Bealach closure will do to the local economy, but if we do not get some remedial work on the Hill then this is bound to happen.

Fishing this week continues to produce plenty of langoustines, no squats but one cannot have everything. Interesting day yesterday when we hauled the three fleets and then went to see if I could recover the missing one. Had an older fleet shot where I had lost it and picked up the creels in almost the perfect position, the third last creel picked up the last creel of the missing fleet. Only problem was I now had two ends wrapped round the south-east can and after buoying off the missing fleet I managed to get a finger trapped under a bar tight rope. Possibly cracking a bone going by the size of ring finger today. But all is well as after a bit of organising I have more creels to catch langoustines again. All with the loss of one old creel and 50 metres of rope. Ended up a little too close to the can

and it’s resident who was using it as a fishing post was getting a little nervous too.

The news item has been broadcast and generally well received by the public with the inevitable backlash from the trawl sector, but more of that next time.

The weather over the last week and a half has been mixed

but summer is showing its full green coat

with the sea scenes more changeable, greyer

and more in tune for sail boats.

A few less photos about just now as one of my lenses has made its way to Edinburgh for a revamp due mainly to the harsh conditions on board. The contact between body and lens seems to have given up. Thinking of treating myself to a shore camera.

As well as Broadband the Hydro has been acting up a little. Remote access has kept it going but a visit from Mick was required this week and the classic IT solution was carried out to over ride a software glitch and with the more unpredictable weather it is back up to maximum out put after our very dry spell. A bit more investigation is going to be carried out to find initial cause.As a whole it is going really well and after rents, investor interest payments and building up capital reserves there should be monies coming to the Community soon.

Missing

Just finished a fairly busy shift at the Inn but heart not in it with the news from Plockton. One of our community of fishermen is missing with the boat being found across the loch. A heavy feeling and cannot help imagining the scenario. Will never know but that does not stop the mind playing out the final scene. Tonight we did not have a table ready for a booking and they could not understand why, another trio went away because they were made unwelcome……..they came back and that was repaired but putting everything into perspective I feel so sad. It was only this week that Walter, who was staying round the coast, had gone to Plockton, met with Bruce, and came back with my nickname and a “how are you doing”. Not only do you never expect it to happen to you but you do not expect it to happen to fishermen you know. There are many communities but the one I belong to, despite our ups and downs and disagreements, is a special one and if you lose a member it stops you in your tracks and does make you think that bit deeper. I often have to fend off comments of why are you not out today?. Luckily I have got to that stage in life where I do not have to justify whether I go out or not. Thoughts with the family, it must be a hundred times worse for them. Still a very faint hope that I may be assuming the worst but three days of searching the shoreline around Loch Kishorn has not produced anything positive. (Now a week later and I am afraid we have to bow to the inevitable)

Maybe todays driech weather adds a little to the mood but thoughts that Spring had arrived have dissipated a little. Fresh breeze blowing mostly from the west making fishing non existent and hard work when we get out. The catches have tailed off a little meaning that more fleets of creels have to be hauled to keep the supply going. Unfortunately we are a little out of sync with the numbers of people who have descended on Applecross. Even in the poor weather langoustine and scallops are the popular dishes. Creel caught always get mentioned as many people have not experienced the firm flesh of the creel caught as opposed to the trawled variety. But Spring has arrived between the showers and the snow forecasts

and some days at sea have been spectacular in their clarity.

The other days you just get through.

It is often at sea I see the arrivals and departures as indications of a change in the seasons. When you see buds appearing often there may be snow following. When you cycle home from the Inn on a Sunday evening and you see the three whooper swans take off in line head south and then wheel off to the north flying over Milton to disappear to the north up the Glen then you know Spring has arrived. A truly awesome sight as you see them at the start of a journey that will take them hundreds of miles north for the Summer. Now we have six more on the Loch, one assumes they are ones from further south who are resting for a few days before heading north.

One swallow does not make a Summer but two bonxies make a Spring.

No grass cutting till the dandelions are away as the bees are flying on the odd days of warm sunshine.

We had a week of fantastic sunsets, possibly two weeks ago, time flys, every one different.

Last Wednesday was a day of contrasts. early start to get my bulkhead filter changed and land langoustines for the Inn before taking out a couple of boys from Deep South who wanted to film for a pilot show about outdoor/wild activities and it seems, through a contact, I fitted the bill. All was going well until trying to get the filter back together. I have had trouble in the past with this but after a couple of hours, gave up, sacrificed a washer and it all came together making sure everything wa sealed up as it was downline from the fuel pump so would draw air if not. Knackered with the effort in a cramped space but was just on time for the boys and a decreasing north westerly. Have to be careful with passengers assessing how assimilated they are to the work space and Rufus and Steve did not have their sea legs. The day gradually improved and they seemed happy with what they filmed. They tried a drone flight but was aborted as on the way up it hit one of the buoys on the cat rail, adroitly caught by Steve before disappearing down under. Unfortunately my battery was flat so no photos of the film crew. Ashore in time for a shift at the Inn and the visitors have arrived. There is little time to make much contact now as the numbers mean that you are just trying to find them a table to eat a meal before the next wave comes in.

Saturday and Sunday shifts were a bit like that but still the welcome must be maintained or there is little point in being there. I think that there could hardly be a worse place to work if you did not want to. Having said that when you are a little under pressure some one says something or orders something that is either misheard/misconstrued or just plain wrong you have to keep smiling and back stage there are plenty people to laugh at you as can be seen when little Missy from Aussie land appears with a “mistake” on a plate.

We have attracted a group of Polish residents from London….they drive up every third or forth weekend, the group getting bigger and bigger, Sunday lunch found them colouring in the kiddies drawing books while waiting for lunch, different but then this is the Inn.

Even dealing with the numbers there is nowhere else one would want to be.

Capt ‘n Taneil

There seems no end of meetings to keep a Community functioning and there are many more that I do not go to. Tonight was the Community Company AGM where we saw two new directors coming forward, a retiring Chair after six years and a healthy and on time financial accounts. Many names mentioned tonight, both paid and volunteers, support from members and lots of projects in the pipe line. The latest being the proposed land purchase from the Highland NHS to build elderly/disabled housing by the Applecross Surgery and a feasibility study to examine prospects of re-establishing a ferry from Toscaig Pier along with other ideas prior to possible purchase from Highland Council. Imagine what the Community could do with access to a parcel of land….that was another meeting, this time on Friday. It was a little sad to hear the Chair say she had failed in her attempt to access land from the Trust. I do not see it as that. It is all part of the process and one day the dam will break. She had innumerable conversations about land with the Trust but all were rebuffed, but never directly, showing that this approach has been tried as well as the requests during Trust/Community Company meetings.

But suddenly there is not enough time in the day, or at least the parts of the day that you are not recovering from all that needs to be done. The recent weather has helped raise the energy levels somewhat although have to admit it was a pretty slow start this morning. Convinced myself that I was still suffering from Winter Lag and it was really an hour earlier. There is always a variety to life here. On Thursday I had the very pleasant company on board the Varuna of one of our soon to be departing Aussie staff.

Taneil came out to see what went on and insisted that I was Captain so we were Capt and Taneil for the day. Could not have picked a better day for it. In fact it was a short one as the fishing was pretty good and we had enough on board after five fleets. Stacking creels and tailing squats

make the day short and there always plenty to see, maybe attention span needs to be improved..

( Due to blip in the power lost Internet for a couple of days)

(Thursday) The variety of life never ceases here and Friday was just like that, so different from thursday. Taking some langoustines through to Loch Ness Inn, the Boss blagged a lift through as her leg had been playing up and strong antibiotics are not conducive to driving. She was having a Board meeting at the second best Inn in the Highlands and as Dougal and Eilidh were with me there was a walk on the cards, meeting was going to take three hours plus. With no real plan in mind I took the road to the end of Bunloit and took the hill walk rather than the Great Glen Way and went up Meall Fuar-mhonaidh.

Just kept walking to the time permitted and found it really enjoyable despite being a water man. As I am not often on the hills away from Applecross this is the first time I have been walking on a grouse moor. Seeing the burnt barren strips of land

where there could be varied habitation

that sustained such variety of life other than a mono culture for the few.

It was a little change for Dougal from his usual racing miles behind turnstones and oystercatchers, he was in his element  for a couple of minutes when he put up a black grouse.

The chase lasted long after the grouse was well out of sight. Up to the snow line and with views down Loch Ness and across in land to the Cairngorm a fine walk. Back to the Inn where the meeting was still going on so I headed up to Inverness to race round the usual commercial outlets to keep the business side of things going. Easily spend £1,000 on equipment, always the other side to a good fishing. The marine environment needs constant replacing of gear and capital. Good to get home though.

Back to yet another meeting, the last hopefully for a wee while regarding the Trust consultation. I reckon I have done really well to keep quiet and only interject, mainly from a realistic and tired/patient view-point. Interesting where the ” Working Group” has arrived at. A very polite version of what the Community Company has been doing for the last decade or so. We have put together a statement that has two main points.1 Improving the poor communications with the Trust and 2 The need for the Community to access land to continue its attempt to develop along sustainable lines. Bearing in mind this is a new approach from the whole Community rather than the perceived Commies who live in the Schoolhouse it has been an interesting exercise in watching the Group hold firm. Constantly brought up was the Community Development plan and again and again restoration of old Trust buildings. A Trust agenda as opposed to a Community one. This goes back to who and how the  consultants are paid, who is running the consultation and what is the agenda. The agenda is not remotely what it was at the start. This all may seem negative but I have stated time and again a win/win for the Community and Trust to work together. The perfect example would be for the Trust to sell the Community land and for the Community to develop as the Community needs and wishes. The Trust as the land provider gets finance and kudos for helping the Community to continue to develop. It will be interesting to see reaction to the statement finally sent to the Trustees, the best and politest possible, undemanding but pointing out  the situation as it is. One reaction locally was disbelief, followed by the question, “What the hell have we been trying to do for the last decade?” There will be people within the Community that will disagree strongly from the statement issued by the Working Group but we are democratic and are supposed to representing the view of the majority of the Community. I know in the past that any division has been used by the Trust to allow nothing to progress as there is a negative/passive view about the future here. So not only do we have Brexit, a pending Independence Referendum we have interesting local politics as well.

Cornering Failure

You never know what is round the next corner, or in my case on the corner. I made off to Inverness around 9 this morning after taking some langoustine ashore for the Loch Ness Inn. Called in at the Inn where I decided to go round the coast and up Glen Torridon. I had plenty of time so managed a couple of stops on the way to try to capture the beauty I was driving through. First had to try to get the locals to use the passing place

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before rounding the Cuaig corner.

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I have never managed to capture this scene, the road winding its way north against the backdrop of the magnificent Torridons and the bleak foreground of the Cuaig common grazing. A brief stop at Ardeshlaig

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before coming to the corner up Glen Torridon. Black ice and before I could react I was sitting in the van on rock and heather five feet below the road

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and slightly shock up.

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Would have been a fine bit of parking if there had been a car park there.

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Twinge in the back was all and after checking the langoustine in the back I was helped by some very kind visitors who let me use their phone to get in touch with recovery. A pleasant hour was then spent waiting for Peter to turn up, not before Colin wandered down having recovered another van further up the Glen. So home in a wee Peugeot instead of my van which is almost certainly written off. A cup of coffee and natter at DMK’s before coming back over the Bealach stopping again

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as it was breathtakingly beautiful.

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So a phone call or two before making arrangements to head off to Inverness, this time to buy a van, still instead of thinking if only I had….I think I was looked after today.

I knew my post last night would cause reaction and am pleased that it did. I am always careful not to personalise problems, but becoming less afraid of pointing out the negative effects of organisations, hoping that they will change. I can only say that being positive is the only way ahead. Sorting out a nonexistent Filling Station, then a duff one, helping to improve Broadband, helping with the Hydro, both publicize it and sorting out small problems. I believe we will have affordable housing built in Applecross and maybe in the future the community may be able to buy into the current housing stock and create a two tier market. Short term we need affordable housing now. I have enjoyed a Facebook conversation since coming home and I know there are residents ready to take this community forward. Access to land is definitely not a lost cause and it will happen either through talking, cajoling or in the last resort using powers given to communities by the Scottish Parliament.

I got so involved in posting last night that I forgot to post the photo of the German contingent in town with Graeme.

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I give tables little titles when I put the food orders through, usually after a wee chat and it causes puzzlement in Prep and kitchen as they are off the wall at times. Their title was “Graeme and the Germans” I suggested it could be a title of one of his future novels, we’ll see. The crumbles went down a treat as did the haggis and cheese melts.

The day has ended with me missing out on the funeral service, leaving the beer kegs in Inverness but salvaging the langoustine by selling them to the Applecross Inn. So instead of a planned trip to The Loch Ness Inn it will have to be another trip over the Bealach for the best seafood in the Highlands.

“Nothing has changed in Applecross since “The Bloody Project””

Typical, just when you want to have a wee chat with a Welsh man you can’t find one anywhere. A lovely shift at the Inn today and while the rain belted down, the fire was on and the food was as good as anywhere in the Highlands, so said the customers, and as you know they are always right. Working my way back and yet another funeral attended, this time on Saturday. Jessie, having passed away earlier, brought memories back from years gone by. Many a visit of a weekend coming from the Inn and stopping off for a late night dram with Angus and Jessie on the way home. Usual chat about fishing from Angus, he first went to sea on the Truelove with my own Dad and I think stayed at sea his whole life. Jessie kept our glasses full and maybe tried to keep us in better shape for the short drive home in the early hours with offers of tea/coffee while Angus gave another rendition of the beautiful Eilidh.. Happy memories. After the internment I went down to the shore to give the dogs a run out and run they did.

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This was after watching the rescue of an Inverness taxi of the now not so immaculate verge at the entrance to the VT.  The afternoon was taken up with rugby and as a Scotland supporter found myself in the unusual position of being relatively relaxed during the final ten minutes of the match, having a cushion of two scores ahead. Kept the volume down for Eilidh and she only became concerned hearing me crossing the room when Scotland scored their last try. On Friday evening I was in two minds whether to go out to yet another meeting, this time a continuance of the Trust led “community” consultation. Decided that it was better to go in order to appreciate things first hand. I have spoken to a number of people who were at the meeting since and there is quite frankly a lot of head scratching going on in the community. No one is saying that consulting about the aspirations of the community is a bad thing but honestly spending 45 minutes discussing the minutiae of the process that has been slumbering on for over a year now had people wondering why they had given up their Friday evening. We still have not even finalised setting up a steering group to set up a Forum, which seems to be a direction we are going come hell or High Water. Interestingly if you have a contrary opinion of direction or of outcomes then you are shown to be against the process. There is a very fine line to be walked by the numerous people in the community who are unhappy with the process. One puts one hand up to be part of a process you can hardly be enthusiastic about as if you don’t you are painted into an anti corner. I believe this whole process depends on one factor and only one. Have the Trustees of the Applecross Trust had a change of mind or direction in running the Applecross Estate that is inclusive or is this just a tick box exercise to counter new Community Powers that will enable us to strengthen our capacity showing that the Trust by its actions and obstruction is working against the sustainable development of the Community. We have heard about “The Shared Vision” ad nauseam but it is only “shared” one way. There has not been one iota from the Trust. I have to agree to a certain extent that the running of the Trust is entirely the duty and work of the Trustees but when it becomes a barrier to the survival of the community I live in that is when I have to quell a certain amount of anger, anger I found reciprocated in conversations the following day. Several questions were asked directly of the Trust and several opinions offered from the floor that showed a level of scepticism regarding any change of direction from the Trustees. I specifically asked for any examples of evidence of a change of heart and received absolutely nothing positive in the response. In fact I was told that a couple of people were worried by my reaction to the answer or lack off offered. I no longer react in such a way any more that would cause any discomfort to the room and still wait for any sign of any change of direction from the Trustees. On Saturday I was given the quote of the decade. “Nothing in Applecross has changed since “The Bloody Project”” A “talk shop” changes nothing here, it will keep open communications, but only if we have at least one Trustee on the Forum and even that has been resisted so far. It is a “shared vision” after all. So next Friday and the next and the next and the next we are as a community supposed to turn up to the Hall to form a Forum which may or may not be constituted, have no powers or objectives other than to discuss. One really annoying part to all this process is that any disagreement is used against the Community to show up its divisions. A tactic that is used all the way up to National Politics level these days. I can easily disagree with many members of our community but am actually finding that I am coming across far more agreement than division. It was quite revealing that a member of the community suggested that the Trustees should take part in a “quiz” about Applecross and see the extent of their knowledge of the community that is so affected by their decisions on running the Trust. I will leave you a quote from this year’s accounts, late by the way but not important for some, stating that the Trustees are maintaining the traditional enterprises,buildings and infrastructure of the Estate “as a place of inspiration for the general public and THOSE WHO LIVE AND WORK THERE”.

Extraordinarily who should be staying in Applecross this weekend but Graeme Macrae Burnet, the author of The Bloody Project. For the few of you who do not know this is a novel about a murder in Applecross in the 19th century and accurately putting forward a sense of what residents had to put up with from The Big House. It made the Man Booker Prize shortlist and Graeme was in town with German publisher and journalists to promote the publication of the Bloody Project in German. They had a great time and left extolling the warmth of the welcome from the Inn, the food and the Applecross experience. It is not all sweetness and light here, as last week, watching from the Inn some visitors being admonished by a resident on their driving. Always gets me going as I think the least we can do is welcome those wishing to visit….it is traditional hospitality. We had a bit of banter when they came in and it turns out they were from Tyrone and were not in the least phased by the rudeness, their words, of an individual after spending 40 years living in a war zone. They left after a proper welcome.

A little break in the weather meant the langoustines and squats are on the menu with more prospects this week. Another funeral planned next week with a busy day thrown in but with weather settling down mid-week we should keep the visitors well fed. There is still always time to appreciate the beauty of the place both on the sea,

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shore,

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the rivers

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and streams,

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the company,

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wild life

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and scenery

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watching other people work to keep the community going,

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and this makes things so much better.

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I am fighting for the place where I live, many may not agree with a lot of what I say but generally I have not found any other alternative for this community. Leave you with these stats I stated on Friday night. 8 primary school children, 10 people in their 20s and 40% of the population over 60 years of age. If the Trustees are going to engage with the community they are going to have help solve our housing crisis instead of putting up more and different reasons why we cannot have more affordable housing in Applecross and far more people living here.

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