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

Posts tagged ‘hens’

Treacherous and Politics.

Feels as though I am in a bit of a maelstrom and have taken time out to write this post I hope with a lot of thought and awareness of the high seas and rocky shores around me. A news item regarding Applecross Trust hit the press on thursday which has been coordinated by the Land reformer Andy Wightman. Probably mentioned before but Alison and I met Andy for the first time at a talk organised by Vicky and chatted about land issues and ownership etc. His proposed campaign came up but we were only told on a confidential basis which has come back to bite us a little this weekend. The simplicity of the campaign has been lost in the furore created and many people have lost the point of it and reactions have varied from panic to wondering what on earth is this all about. I was first contacted by the press on Tuesday and again on saturday to do a piece for the BBC. It is no secret that I think many things could be done differently here and for the better and I accept this view is not shared by all but I was taken aback by the strength of reaction in some quarters. Throughout the weekend allegation and counter allegation have swirled about and the latest update and encounter relayed to me over the Sunday lunch shift. By this time I was looking forward to a hastily called meeting for the Community Company response to what was happening. Over the afternoon and today I have been told of the more humorous aspects to the gossip racing around. Judith is going to convert the Big House into a luxury hotel. The CC is going to build 100 houses and we will be overwhelmed by dole scroungers. The sea will be all fished out and all the deer will be poached. Me thinks one or two people would have been better watching X Factor. The Community Co meeting went well and there were direct questions to me from other directors to answer and was able to reassure and clear the air and we settled on a short fairly neutral statement explaining the Company’s non involvement.

So it was with some relief I headed over to Eilean Donan to see the magnificent Treacherous Orchestra. They were preceded by the School of Excellence at Plockton, great musicians for the future. The concert was sublime, an hour and a half of fantastic music making it impossible to stand still and make your heart sing. It so fitted in with what was happening back home and kept a perspective of what is valuable in life. It is uplifting to see so many people just laughing, smiling and enjoying themselves, a great antidote to the bigger issues that have crowding in in the past couple of days. Fiddle, pipes and accordion driven on by a vibrant base and drummer who worked his socks off all night. A sound to remember.

Today’s ALPS meeting did not start off well at all but after an hour and a half there was an uneasy agreement. One of the main themes that kept coming up was communications and the importance of them. I have to acknowledge the importance of the SEA and the course I have been on. I met up with Fiona at the concert and had a chat about what was happening and although I do not remember all the specifics but the gist about focusing on the issues and staying away from personalizing problems kept me in good stead over the rest of the weekend.At the ALPS meeting I was able to make the point several times that the campaign was not conceived, organised or carried out from the Schoolhouse. I also felt that it was important to point out that I have know about it for several weeks but respected a request of confidentiality and that although I decided not to sign up to be a member of the Trust I did support the thrust of the campaign. There were several issues aired and one or two solutions proposed of which I think one has potential and may be discussed at a later date, if proven successful. One issue that keeps coming up is the separation of environment,culture,heritage and social issues. I do not think this can be done as they are too integrated. The meeting would not have taken place if not for the campaign and there was also a chance to explain what it hoped to achieve and state that it was not a land grab. I suspect that this may be lost in translation but we will see. I was pleasantly surprised by one comment which implied that the mere fact of my attendance was admired. “Balls” was the word used. And there was a thanks on the way out as well which I have to say was appreciated. The one thing I am uneasy about was the way my blog and comments on fb were called into question but I can only say they are my thoughts and I question myself all the time so I think questioning the Trust is not too out-of-order. I know any comments and feedback I get do not share this view. I do not mind having my views challenged but do not like the idea of pressure being put on the writing of them. Anyway they are being given an undue importance in the eyes of those who disagree with them and if it opens up a debate for the future good and well. All the issues we have here are not going to be sorted out by journalists but by the people who live here so we might as well get on with it.

On Saturday found a little time to watch the bees going about their business and saw some coming back with full bright yellow pouches of pollen. They are also feeding well having put my third kilo of sugar/syrup on the top board. Not so good news on the chicken front with Mr Pine Martin arriving on two consecutive evenings and we are now down to 3 hens who now are residing in the henhouse until the martin moves on. Philipines arrived on the weekend which puts us up to 71. Managed a First Responders meeting tonight with a lot of interest expressed. Tomorrow…. who knows?

The Sunday Egg-Wicked Hen

I met Donald at the shop today. It was a busy little place today and as Donald was out helping his sister celebrate her birthday at the Inn he gave me this poem promised at the shop. It has been around for many decades and no-one knows who is the author.

In Applecross that pious place, Where men are far from gay.

They found a hen that laid an egg, Upon the Sabbath Day.

With shameless glee she clucked aloud, And made her proud confession,

So forthwith she was summoned, To appear before the Session.

With faces long, with mournful mouths,And woeful eyes to heaven,

They sat in judgement on that hen, Who could not be forgiven,

At once they sentenced her to death, And so her neck was riven,

And thus another sinner, To her destiny was driven,

‘This wicked hen had sinned’ they said, ‘And had to pay the price.

Alas, the creatures of this earth, Are sunk in sin and vice’

Happily in Applecross, This is rare experience,

We know that all other hens, Are good Free Presbyterians.

Academia, Iron Age Housing, Diving and back at the Inn

Sitting here winding down after a stint at the Inn and a couple of packed days. Did not start too well yesterday morning with what seems to be  migraine headache. Bit of a pain in the butt so to speak as I’ve only started getting them last year. Anyway dragged myself up and out with Dougal and Co, fed the hens and did a bit of tidying up for the visitors Andrea and Ruth. Spent a couple of hours chatting about fishing, the relationship between fishermen and the civil service and lots more. Sometimes when you feel that cabin fever is coming on you don’t have to get out but guys visit and give you another burst of enthusiasm. Went up to the Inn where I continued my recovery with a curried parsnip soup, probably the best soup in the world, while Ruth and Andrea tucked into a Seafood platter for two,which included, scallops,prawns, oysters, haddock, herring, and crab. It was ok. The chat is often better in the Inn and really enjoyed Ruth’s company. I have made up a new term which described the conversation as Eastern blue sky thinking. Chat involved yoga, shakti dance, the environmental/economic balance and much more. Alison made it back from Dunkeld and joined in. Turned out Andrea knew Brian who was in building the next stage of the Iron Age House, Sam joined in as well and it was a night of connections.It was a very warm evening in the Inn as Ewen and Mary were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary with their family.

Today went up with Dougal, his Mam and Gran to the roundhouse where the roof timbers were going up.Although the weather was pretty dreich everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.After getting the dogs home it was off to do my prawn dive. Probably broke every rule in the book but after a longer than expected look I eventually came across them all neatly tied together with just a few on the outside of the boxes ending up as gourmet food for the crabs and dog whelks. a bit of manoeuvering with dingy and they were tied back onto the Varuna minus predators. There is always a silver lining in Applecross and as I was looking for the prawns I came across a few scallops which will be tea on monday.Watched a cracking game of rugby with an extremely tense ending but good that Scotland were not playing. And then it was off to the pub and although it was not busy very enjoyable. There is a M.O.D. trail on just now involving surface and submarine activity on the Range and the hotel is booked up with the guys running the trials. Getting to know some of them and the banter was good. A few locals came out later and the Jaeger bombers were in evidence. My oldest, Kenny arrived back from his two and a half months in South Africa with his girlfriend Jill. Good to see them back looking fit and healthy. I never really know what the boys get up to or where they are but they always seem to turn up now and again and it’s always good to see them. I like Kahlil Gibran’s description of your relationship with your kids in The Prophet. You are the bow and they are the arrows and you fire them off into the world. That way they live their own lives and not yours. Enough of the philosophy and off to bed ready for another shift tomorrow.

Fishing…missed opportunity?

The list on Tuesday’s post is on hold until tomorrow. The weather is really bright just now but is tempered by a west to southwesterly gale. Good  walking day, an occupation essential for a bit of clarity of thought and conversation and there are certainly lots of these. Yesterday I was through in Inverness meeting with fishermen involved with formulating a management plan to try to improve the inshore fisheries of our coast. There were very few positives to take away. Marine Scotland,the government agency responsible for fisheries have decided to terminate the contracts of our local coordinators in the belief that their job was done once they had presented our plan for approval. Every one else round the table was under the impression that we were just starting to sort out the mess our waters are in. I have a fairly pessimistic view of our local stocks and is based on having a historic view of what preceded our fishery. Mentioned it before but one of the best books I have read about the current state of our seas is written by Calum Roberts and he explains in simple layman’s language the term a ‘degraded environmental baseline.’ This put simply means that a young guy coming into a fishery makes £700 a week thinks everything is ok, but when you talk to the previous generation they will say what it used to be like, and even their experiences would be enhanced further by fore fathers. What generations of fishermen have done  in a very short space of time is fished down through the various stocks. That has resulted in the absence of a local herring fishery, a haddock, cod, whiting fishery and we are now catching crab, prawn and lobster which are bottom feeders,beautiful eating, but the end of the sea food chain. It makes you think that I have spoken recently to an Applecross worthy who climbed up  the hill above the Bay and in 1948 counted 53 basking sharks in the bay. The level of life in the Inner Sound must have been awesome using the true meaning of the word. If I see one in a year I consider myself fortunate. When we sit round a table squabbling and having national government support with drawn from your positive proposals I always think on what it used to be and we should be embarrassed about the way we have gone about things regarding the sea. A little mini rant I know but it is frustrating when you believe everyone can be better off if the fisheries were managed properly. What industry ashore is it accepted that you destroy the future of that industry? That is what is being done by fishermen when they land berried prawns. I won’t even think about trawling today.

It was suggested several times throughout the meeting yesterday that one of the problems we are up against is the loss of power of the centre, in our case the civil service in Edinburgh. They seem to have realised that they have given a voice to the people who matter and who have a much more practical view on how their industry works, far more than a desk bound civil servant who lives 300 miles way. Does this threaten their jobs, which is managing the fishery? This got me thinking about the problems we are encountering on land as well and there are similarities, instead of distant civil servants we have to deal with distant owners and however well-meaning both can be, the distance seems to a crucial factor in their lack of knowledge in how certain lifestyle works that is alien to their day-to-day existence. Decisions are taken at the centre that have no effect at the source but impact on the daily lives of those living in the remote areas. To be fair, in as much as I can, I think it must be very hard for those people in power and control to give any of that up I think we have to question that authority if it does not deliver.

However, always to finish on a positive note I am off to take Dougal and family back out, feed them and the hens and plant shallots and onions before going off to work at the Inn. Life goes on, Alison having headed of to Dunkeld to take part in a housing conference. We do laugh at the well-meant tourist question, But what do you do in the winter?

You’re standing on the lunch

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