So the morning half three start under the belt and through in Inverness still in the dark, only able to imagine the colours rather than see them. The train journey did not feel long as I slept most of the way. As we got into Edinburgh at ten I had a bit of time before the meeting. It was put back a couple of hours but after I had booked the train tickets. The wander down The Royal Mile was very pleasant in the autumn sun. Checked out the Parliament, wandered past the Indy Camp and over to Salisbury Crags. Heard in the passing that the response from the Camp after losing their court case was to park another car by the caravans. The climb up the hill was stunning and Edinburgh was resplendent in the autumn sun. Looking across to the castle,
seeing the old alongside the new, so different from back home.
The old and new side by side, in fact more them and us. Holyrood Palace just across from Holyrood Parliament. One lodged in the past and the other looking to the future.
The Crags were lit up looking through the courtyard of Murray House.
Time flew by and made for the cafe where over time the others came in. Just thinking that we had a good spread of knowledge from the east coast, west coast, diving and creeling, buying and legal were all round the table. Civil service joined us and off we went up a maze of stairs to a meeting room where we met with Fergus Ewing. This was our first meeting since he had taken over the brief from Richard Lochhead. The brief has been split and Fergus has rural affairs and connectivity. I had a good feeling about his reaction to what we had to say. He appeared to take on board our common sense views. Bob Younger gave a background summing up of how we have arrived at today’s position, citing the Cameron commission through to the Inshore Fisheries Act of 1984 and its detrimental effect of today’s harvest. Some interesting facts emerged that show how skewed the position is when it was pointed out that ground available to trawling constituted 96.3% of the total worked, this was an east coast statistic. Basically shows that the static gear industry is doing a pretty amazing job with such a little share of the resource, not only to survive but in many cases are thriving. And still the crab gear was being towed away to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. How much ground does the mobile sector need to operate at profit? We also pointed out that the static gear sector needs so little of the resource compared to the mobile sector as we receive so much more for our catch, landed in better condition all live with little or no discards. On the west it has been a relatively profitable summer in both sectors. Although unscientific, I would suggest that this is connected to less effort, certainly in our area. The drastic diminishing of the inshore trawl fleets from Mallaig to Ullapool must be having an effect. Also having 3/4,000 creels less north of the Crowlins.
We all managed to say our piece and it did seem well received and two suggestions were taken on board. The first was that towing away static gear was to become a criminal offence and a pilot scheme for spatial separation was back on the table. One could see the civil servant beside Fergus was becoming quite agitated recognising how the mobile sector is going to react to these proposals. I could see Fergus was reacting in such a way that customers do when they are told a few observations on the fishery and why they have so enjoyed such a good meal of creel caught langoustine. He was told about the filmed recovery in the Wester Ross MPA after only a year. Valuable breeding grounds being left alone to allow regeneration to continue both in and outside the area. But realistically politics enter a common sense argument and his next fishing event will be the SFF Annual dinner where the picture painted will be with many different colours. I managed to get my Norwegian anecdote at the end. To relate it again, kayaking in the Lofotens, I was speaking to a fisherman helping his partner run their campsite during the tourist season. We talked fishing, prospects, conservation and the likes. I mentioned that you can trawl up to the Scottish shore and I will never forget the look he gave me. He just lost interest in the conversation and you could tell he thought what an idiotic way to manage such a valuable resource. So the meeting ended on a positive note and renewed hope mixed with the usual realism.
Back up the road/rail and home by ten. Time enough for a mug of tea at the Inn and believe it or not a game of poker with a couple of ciders at 6/7 and yet another goodbye. No intention of fishing on Wednesday so no pressure going to my kip at 1.30am very, very tired.
Admit the last post was a bit rushed as I did not want to arrive at Mairi’s performance in a rush and feel flustered. First though one or two things that have happened over the week. As important as any was the dozen or so volunteers who helped tidy up and plant the Filling Station. One of the few beautiful days of the year and the Station is now looking good, pity it is experiencing problems with connections. We are still selling fuel. Seeking info in trying to reduce the breaks in operation. The weather has been good this week but now back to the regular, a northerly cold breeze and damp. Despite arriving back at half past two this morning tiredness has not been an issue today and pressure washing a fleet on the pier was easy work. Thursday evening has left some good memories both of the light outside, the late sun casting a shadow above Cruary, catching Clachan in her rays the soft late light on Milton, before settling down north of the Bay leaving the sole yachtsman in calm solitude. The craic with Ken was the start of a fine couple of days which is continuing although difficult to describe as it is almost indefinable. The journey south began yesterday around one and after a drop off the catch at the inn. As I was up at five and had hauled 300 creels so was a little tired, although it was calm, and had to stop three times for snoozes on the journey. Got the destination right first time although I was a little concerned when I parked up. Thinking about it, it may just prejudice, it being in West Pilton , or at least close by, including Muirhouse. Names that conjure up a bit of deprivation and crime. Seeing a family at the side of the road unfortunately confirmed this as I watched a young Dad yelling at a wee urchin to stop him running across the road. The wee boy, about three or four would have fitted in a black and white 1930s photo. What struck me most was he did not register that his Dad was screaming at him, must have been so regular that it had no effect. Just felt sad at the passing scene. Inside the Arts Centre, and the atmosphere is completely different. Warm, welcoming and safe. I settle in before the main audience and soon we are under way. I found it enthralling and experienced a period of timeless bliss. I think one way to describe it was when you are reading a book that you become so engrossed in and you want to turn the page almost before you have finished reading the one before you. An hour and whatever of pure enjoyment watching and listening to Mairi enact and play her musical journey to where she is now. I knew little of what I saw although it seemed as if I did, the Mexican escapade was good fun. And the man with the kind eyes. Discussion after was very structured and comments were invited on the performance. Cut short a little as the Centre had a fairly strict closing time, stricter than the Inn. So glad to have a quick chat with Mairi at the end before making my way back up the road. The plan was to stop, camp and catch up on a sleep before coming home by mid day. But I was so involved with Mairi’s performance that I was passing Kingussie before I began to feel a bit groggy. But with head full of thoughts dreams and feelings of good fortune, Achnasheen was soon in the rear. By taking little steps to Lochcarron, then Kishorn, the top of the Hill I was finally home by half two. I find these little dips into real life keeps you going especially when I left Applecross with Hydro complications, the Filling Station down again and a few tears at the Inn. All real but too much sometimes and it gets to you. The perfect antidote this time was Mairi’s performance, but it was more than that and that is going to remain a “mystery” as I can not explain the peace one enjoys from these events. Back home and because I am reflecting all the time, early up and washing creels, bit of pressure called on to fix the Filling Station again, this time with an audience of classic cars and bikes. Cracked it eventually but we have to get this connection sorted, as it is starting to cause concern. And then work which was fine for the two of us to work the floor fairly easily until eight when we were hit for six. At half eight we had two fours and a three waiting for tables. Beautiful day for weather, visitors and now some fine fiddle and guitar playing in the corner, this now being Sunday. The service has now finished and as usual the compliments were flying in to the kitchen. Langoustine, scallops, crab along side sea-trout, lobster and cod and that was just the fish were consumed with gusto by Americans, and Europeans alike. The only down side of the day is the troubles at the Filling Station. Got it going twice today and it has been reported to the technical dept for a look tomorrow and if it is our problem then we can go looking at our end. It is a happy bar tonight with people coming out to hear the music. A couple of boys, Cameron and Niel, who were at the School of Excellence in Plockton. They are a fine advert for the school and are accomplished players. Stayed long enough to hear a set from the Austrian bagpiper The Hydro saga continues unabated but there is not too much to say in detail at the moment. Some of the figures and projections are indeed puzzling me but important decisions have to be made informatively and quickly. So it has been a heady mixture of music people, food and Applecross over the last few days. Good strong conversations, connections strengthened and these young boys are good, not stop playing for the last hour and now we getting more of the small pipes. A satisfying weekend for the soul.
Thursday turned out to be a wipe out. Maybe a reaction to the stress of the Parliament visit but the day was spent dealing with a good old fashioned migraine. Got that out-of-the-way and Friday began early with my second trip to Edinburgh in a week. This time it was for Calum’s graduation in Medical Biology. Drive down was a bit on the slow side and broken by lots of road works on the A9. Arrived in plenty of time, parked up and headed off to The McEwan Hall. Have to say I found this a little strange as 30 years ago it was me and the Mrs who were graduating. In my case it was my sister and my aunt who came to see me in the gown, both sadly on longer with us. Lots of mixed thoughts as we watched the boy get the tap on the head from the acting Vice Chancellor. You have to tell yourself he is not a boy. The cap that they use to confer the degrees is supposedly made from the breeches of John Knox. Seems a previous student ended up in space and took an Edinburgh Uni emblem with him and that is now sown on the inside of the cap. Knox and space, bit of a mix. It is all very organised and we sit clapping for an hour or so lots of people we don’t know and will never see again. The chap who received a Music and Physics degree sitting in front of us managed to get himself in a right old fanckle. He had taken off his jacket and decided to put it back on just before going up for his degree…. over his gown for some reason. Off it came and just managed to get that sorted before turning his hood inside out. That was spotted by one of his mates just in time. I reckon he is going far. Saw him later striding off into the distance totally unconcerned about anything. Outside it was the photos of the proud man and his Mum, amidst the buzz of everyone’s excitement.
Although the weather was poor we messed about taking lots of photos and chatting, a bit of hanging about while the official photos were taken and then it was off to Teviot Row for a pint and a cup of tea. Mine’s the tea. Going into Teviot was strange as well as again it was 30 years since I’d been there. My first adventure away from home in the Highlands and not as prepared as they seem to be now. Spent a fair bit of time there on my first year before discovering the West End Hotel, shinty, lager and vodka…late developer.
After the pint it was back outside for a couple more shots and the gown was put back. Off to the B and B after arranging to meet up for a meal at 8pm. MacEwan Hall had quieted down a lot by the time we departed.
Eight o’clock saw us at The Apartment on Bruntsfield and a good meal we had too. It is always difficult when you eat out coming from Applecross. You have to compare with such a high standard. But the venison and lamb were very good and that was followed by an excellent pave. We were sat by a window which looked out over an over grown courtyard and on the window sill was a blackbird’s nest. There were five chicks in it and we watched he/she feed them for most of the evening before settling down for the night. Today saw us head back up the A9 to Applecross and a quick trip out to the boat for some large prawns was followed by a shift at the Inn. Hard to get into the scene but a couple of hours later it was all okay again. The evening started with a booking of 22 and that set the scene for the night. All went well until suddenly at 8.50pm there were 4×4 and 2×2 waiting for tables. A rapid shuffle and all worked out although it meant the chefs were still cooking at half nine. The comments were ranging from great food to the Austrian couple in the dinning room describing their meal as perfection. Seemed a long way away from the grad scene and I suppose it is. A memory provoking couple of days but this week it should be back to prawns and shifts at the Inn with a wee diversion to Ullapool midweek for a HIE event. Life as usual is varied. Can’t resist another picture of the graduate and hope all he desires comes true. It may be further studies, this time in Auckland, and I thought Edinburgh was far.