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

Posts tagged ‘land use’

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


before rounding the Cuaig corner.


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


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


and slightly shock up.


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


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



as it was breathtakingly beautiful.



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.


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.

A Torridon House Renewal.

Middle of the night and back from a pretty amazing day. It started off as usual, a sunday morning shift at the Inn with discussions about whether it was going to be busy, were all the visitors on the way south, will we have day trippers? But in the back of my mind was will I be in Torridon for a party? The reason behind this was an invite for Judith to attend a sort of opening day at Torridon House. The House has recently been bought and renovated by Felix and Sarah. The renovations are still on going but I am jumping ahead. Felix had turned up in Applecross on Shooglenifty night and obviously enjoyed himself and again made it down to the Inn with the next session of the Lochcarron musicians. it was then he invited Judith up to Torridon over New Year. Not one to miss out on some music I immediately offered to drive. To cut a long tooing and froing short, on Saturday some friends of Felix came down to the Inn and had some lunch and through chatting to them we discovered the “party” was on Sunday not Saturday as first intimated. Saturday would not have worked as we would have been too busy to go. I still thought there was little chance as staff were still thin on the ground but Caroline intervened and told the Boss she was to go. As Sketch or at least some members were reputed to be there I was delighted with this turn of events and happily drove north about two o’clock. This despite a busy bar and I tried to take as many orders to ease the conscience in leaving other people to do your work.

The day turned into one of those experiences that one will possibly never forget. We walked in as Felix was giving a speech on the steps of the front hall, a warm welcoming speech which was followed by a Buddhist ceremony.


A ceremony that was to create a new beginning and to cleanse the building of some of its unpleasant past (hope I have this right). To walk into this when we both had feelings wondering if we should be here immediately put us at ease. The makeshift sign on the way in helped.


We were quickly chatting to people we knew, Hughie, Morag, Sheila, Les, Clare and Jo, Jan, Nigel among many locals and then Herbert, Katerina, Peter and many others I never found their names, and that did not matter. I even got my New Year dancing in, bought my new Sketch album met Ali Levak yet again and heard some brilliant tunes.


Heard Felix and Sarah on guitar and fiddle play a tune they have written called the Mam, Glenelg’s Bealach, and felt Felix’s emotion talking about leaving Glenelg.


Heard this tune at the Inn when they were over and knew it was special then. Community, people and connections were the themes and feelings of the day expressed in music and chat and that for me was a strange and wonderful combination. Here we were in an Estate House which over the years has had a bad history connected to it on how its occupants had treated its people in the past, then we had an eastern spiritual experience followed by a desire and vision of  integrating community, music and arts with “The Big House”. A turning round of history, breathing an old decaying emblem of the past into a new form of community future. Idealistic vision but why not, better than its previous history, in particular a Colonel McBarnet who denied the tenants the right to keep any cattle or sheep, of a decaying establishment, a beautiful but dead part of the Highlands. The size of the Estate, the lands around the House means that land reform legislation would not affect positive ventures like this and the community members I spoke to were happy and enthusiastic in their praise of what was happening. A studio was already being used at the back of the House, outlying cottages were to be renovated to raise funds for more renovations and fund the project and a recording/composing and teaching music studio is planned.

Into the evening and as everyone was leaving and we were about to head home with plans to call in to visit so the Boss did not arrive during Inn hours, she was invited to stay for dinner.


Well, as driver, that meant me too and the table was set as the conversations continued. Everything from the spiritual to fishing and reminiscing, turns out the lady of the House has a retired fisherman and diver as a Dad.


Names such as Jimmy Philp, Dave Hardy and Ally Clam came up in the chats, blasts from the past from days in Kyle. Times when the scallop diving industry was slightly more Wild West than now with all its regulations and safety measures. Tales of nights in cells and Drams in the Field alongside Katerina talking about France, Canada and Buddhism meant the evening passed rapidly and so it was home over the Pass to the sounds of Sketch and a soundly sleeping guest.

Today, slipping back into some sort of routine, I was up at the Turbine House to pick up wood from the dryer. For whatever reason it was shut down so down to phone and make sure I was not going to blow it up with a restart. All went well and changed the mode to automatic restart. It shuts down reacting to any disturbance of power and as it is still being run in the restart is better being manual. Keeps Dougal occupied and the power saw came out in the afternoon and the sticking problem cleared up, been changing the sharpening angle and no idea if that was the solution but powered through the last of the pine and started chopping. Harsh east wind blowing all day but there was a classic west coast sunset


around 3.30/4 pm


so took the dogs down to the shore.


Eilidh easing back into a bit of exercise. In the quiet of the evening it is hard to believe this time yesterday we were surrounded by Germans, Austrians, French and Americans in a fine Big House. Don’t often use these words together but an open mind keeps one healthy. So throw in Mexico and South Africa and we have had a cosmopolitan Christmas and New Year. One little correction about Hogmanay and fortunately did not cause offence but our tweaking guy was not a transvestite but a Drag Queen, and a very good one. Suspect it was the first time Son No3 played some tunes on the pipes for one.

A Good Week for the Prawn.

Mid winter feel to Sunday. Sitting in the Inn at 6pm listening to drink fuelled “land reform needed” stories. Source that sparked them off was the thirty five years ago article in last week’s WHFP. It was about Gilbert who wandered into Mr Macrae’s house,opened his freezer and found a bit of venison in it so trouble ensued, ex gamekeeper in a tied house, bad situation. All began by said exkeeper wandering the land with binoculars so suspicions were aroused. Appears if it was not for a newspaper campaign then it would have ended in eviction rather than a “series of misunderstandings.” Bearing in mind this was a few miles down the road and only thirty five years ago no one can tell me that we do not need land reform. Things have improved a bit of course since then but according to the revolutionaries in the bar there is a long way to go. Had a look at Proposal 6 in the new land reform bill and immediately you see it will not be easy to legislate. The duty of community engagement on Charitable Trustees when taking decisions on land management is going to be a tricky one to legalise. 73. states a proposal that there will be a stand alone duty on Trustees of a Charity when considering the management, use or transfer of any land under the Charity’s control, the Trustees must engage with the local community and consider the potential impact on the community before taking the decision. Might be a problem if that went against the aims of the Charity, but I suppose if the main aim of the Charity is tax avoidance……although aims on the original Trust papers will have impact on any new legislation. And concerns raised for bodies such as Village Halls and Community Woodlands ending up with more onerous duties by default. Also what happens with the big Charities, how do they consult? Defining consulting may be a problem as we see locally. Glad I am just a fisherman.

Back to the bar and we had a few in during the day. Not enough to prevent the new bar staff wandering off home with nothing really to do. It was the same on Saturday evening but it does give you the chance to chat and get to know the residents. Crofters from Skye, NHS and SNH employees through to posh car organiser. Middle of the day saw a rapid increase in the wind coming from the west


and it was racing into the Bay for a couple of hours.


Good direction as the moorings are calm from this wind. Winter coming closer with Raasay wearing a small sprinkle of snow.


Lovely and bright while the breeze was up. Boss arrived back mid afternoon and settled into a glass or two of cabernet. A couple of meals and a game or two of scrabble saw the evening out.

Calm before the anticipated storm for most of Monday. Very fresh still from the north west meaning no danger of going out but calmed down during the day.


Continued tidying up the wood store and was on the bike a couple of trips to the shop and the Inn.


Interesting little mushrooms growing out of the damp beech and a lovely dusk scene cycling along the Street.That was preceded by a fine and bright start through the denuded apple tree.


Finish off with a picture I have not seen before of the Fortitude up on the beach in Kyleakin. This is a photo i got from fb courtesy of Angus MacSween, an exringnetter from Scalpay. In the background you see the houses up the back of Kyle, in fact No9 where I grew up is in the picture. Did not know much of what was going on in the fishing then, only my Dad was away all week and we had no money.


Posting this on Tuesday morning and it is grim. Dark, very wet and very windy and this is the foretaste. The Inshore forecast is giving sea state as “phenomenal for a time”. Going to see what the afternoon brings when it turns to the west. St Island may help protection for the dingy. The Varuna should be protected from the worst of it and when she swings round to the north west later in the week there is less wind predicted. A very good week for prawns. They can be out and about with little danger of ending up on any ones Christmas starter.

Changin’ Scotland and It Is.

That was some three days, even for here the variety was something. Had made it to bed after a shift on Thursday coming back from Contin and was shattered but in a good way. Friday was taken at a run although part of that was making sure I had finished a post for putting out on Saturday. Contin did look good and it was thanks to the pooches that I made time to see above and over the mists. Lovely weather  on Friday morning





and managed everything, all the menial stuff, the washing, dishes etc, in time for making it up to the Bealach summit


to watch the sun dip behind the Cuillin.



One of the jobs I had earmarked for the day was to feed the bees but when I went over to see how they were doing they were busy flying and saw some pollen coming in as well.


Extra ordinary in the last days of November how pleasant and warm it is. So although I had forgotten a couple of things in the rush it was worth it for the scenes taking place out west. After catching up with Alison at Garve we all made our way to Leckmelm to get the nest ready for later and then off into Ullapool to grab something to eat and get into another Changin’ Scotland. Calling in at the Ceilidh Place we were immediately chatting to all sorts of revolutionaries and as a result missed the start of the evening. Finding the right venue and not reading the programme did not help.

Back to Leckmelm and a night spent trying to keep Dougal off the bed. It was at floor level due to a big relative’s recent visit and Dougal thinking he was still on his Contin holidays made the most of it. Another late arrival at the Village Hall, this time due to fishing, bee and wood chat at the lodgings. Missed the start of Matt Qvortrup’s talk on Referendums. Really interesting and then it was Prof Adam Tomkins, some one who I had followed on twitter to see and read about another view. Had to stop after the Vote as I found him just a bit too harsh. Fair play for him coming up this way as he was in a definite minority view. There really was some good behind the scenes descriptions of how the Smith Commission has worked to get its proposals out but he did appear to lose it somewhat when he described all Glasgow’s secondary state schools as not fit for purpose and dipped even deeper into tribal party politics saying the English education system was wonderful alongside his eulogy of Mr Gove. Got a brilliant rant from a retired Glasgow teacher at the coffee break. Sent by his wife to apologise for his language later in the morning, unnecessary but great to chat with people from around the country. Although the afternoon was absorbing and thought-provoking, listening to the likes of Jeane Freeman, David Greig and Kathy Galloway among others, the evening was beckoning with Tom Smith, Lateral North, Andy Wightman and Dr Jim Hunter.

Kathy Galloway began her talk with an extra ordinary tale. Bill going through Parliament on Friday with cross party support to prevent revenge evictions. That is, tenants, who complain to their landlords about housing conditions being evicted for their troubles. the Bill failed to go onto the books because it was talked out of time…..by two Tory MPs ……and you felt the room already knew what she was going to say next…..two Tory MPs who were landlords. If I did not declare an interest at a CC meeting and did not leave the room I would be out on my ear. The point I take from this they are now so arrogant they do not seem to care who sees or knows what they do now.

Tom Smith showed a power point full of imagination of what could happen in Scotland in the future…..nothing was deemed impossible, an example being that Scapa Flow could be the maritime hub for the whole of western Europe. A cracking example put forward by Tom was of a Danish architect who decided it would be a good idea to build a swimming pool above a supermarket using the wasted heat to warm the pool. Not only that he put in a diving board that allowed the divers into the supermarket. So shoppers in the fruit and veg aisle were passed by divers inside the glass enclosed pool. Got me thinking about lots of seagoing ventures that could be feasible in the scheme of things. It is not long since the western seaboard was connected by sea routes and that brought to mind an earlier discussion about remoteness. Remote is a relative term and where you are determines how remote you are. London is remote from Applecross. The world map on the wall of the Inn shows Applecross as the centre and threads from all across the world coming to Applecross. Millennium ago the first settlers inhabited the centres of “civilisation” and these were the coastal fringes of an impenetrable and wild hinterland. Stopped for dinner at the Ceilidh Place where we had the good fortune to sit with Jim Hunter and as the meal went on great exchanges of stories took place.


He is now working on a book about the Sutherland Clearances and was telling us about the bounties paid out to “hunters” for eagles heads etc. Showing how the people lived on the land alongside the natural inhabitants and the diversity of wildlife that existed then. Not rosy by any means for the people but far better the denuding and degradation of the Highlands that took place over the last 200 years. The Scottish Govt’s programme has poor landlords in its sights and rightly so. Why should so few people hold sway over so many in a modern democracy? Why should the amount of land any one person can hold not be capped? Why can individual wealth not be kept under control. All these accumulations of power, wealth and property are ultimately detrimental to the surrounding environment. I equate these actions to my own life style, the constant striving for growth in the fishing industry inevitably leads to stock extinctions and a degraded eco system and as such should be controlled for the benefit for everyone. At Leckmelm the right of fishermen to fish to extinction was decried as it affects the non fishing community. As regards the degrading of the land and sea we are all in it together. Feels good to be amongst the revolutionaries. Meanwhile Dougal and Eilidh were given frequent walks and he, in particular had his moments meeting Douglas Fraser’s Sam and had a great wee mess about. One not so good moment nipping off in the dark to roll in the foulest rotten fish he could find. Result of that was a swim in Loch Broom. The end of the evening was interspersed with lots of chat about potential future opportunities for people and communities across the Highlands, but there was a wee stop for a snap.


We decide to head down the road as work commitments meant a full on day for Sunday for both of us. On the way down the road Jim Hunter’s mention of Angus Macrae of North Strome reminded me of hearing him in Assynt. I had the good fortune to have been invited up to take part in a Radio programme by Lesley Riddoch and towards the end of the recording Angus stood up to say how proud he was of the Assynt crofters in their buying of the Estate and he hoped this would be the start of a repopulating of the Highlands. He then went on to describe such an evocative picture of driving home in the dark from Inverness across the northern Highlands and seeing the lights back on in the Glens, keeping him company on the way home. So different from now when you can travel for miles in total darkness. Maybe the new reforms that are proposed may help Angus’s vision to be fulfilled.

I can only end by saying it was a privilege to have been in such company and that includes the whole week, ranging from the community leaders in Contin to the politicos, journalists, activists and the good people in Ullapool. One can only hope that the efforts of Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart can be rewarded in the continuing of this great weekend. Today was hard graft, a 10/11 hour stint, but rewarding at the Inn but rest now for a day’s fishing may be on the cards for tomorrow.

A Man of Assynt.

Friday evening; Sitting in Sleat after day one of the Community Land Scotland Conference AGM. Actually the AGM is taking place now but we are not members decided to head for the accommodation. Hot day so extra attention to spend time on the Dougal family, who are in the car at the moment. Planning a wee trip round to Ach na Cloich or Stonefield as it is in English. Try and time it for later around sunset time and compare to Applecross sunsets. To get Thursday out of the way, a bit of a non event for the work scene during the day, just a follow-up to the migraine. Wiped out and take a couple of days to get back on track. Made it up to the Inn and working an evening is a sure-fire way of keeping your mind of feeling not up to it. It was a little tense start to the evening as a couple of guests were put out a little by not getting what they expected. Have to say they left for their destinations very contented but it took a little extra effort from the out front guys. Lovely repeat guests that want to catch up with the Boss leaves us to sort out tables and keep things turning around.

So a quiet morning start, Alison has to get up early to do some essentials before heading off Sleat. Managed to get the cauliflowers into the ground, the battle with the slug hordes is still continuing. Most of the veg is still alive after replacing a few of the first wave which took the brunt of the onslaught last month. Some of the seed sowing has left a little to be desired. I set off up the road with Dougal and Co who were going to their first CLS AGM.


Arrived at Sal Mor Ostaig with plenty of time for lunch, taking Megan with us and dropping Owen at DMks and straight into the start of the Conference. Throughout the two days the most striking aspect, I found, was the quiet determination of the movement. There was no loud rhetoric but statements that were being backed up by more and more surveys and studies that point to the people living on the land should be the ones most involved in taking the decisions that affect their day-to-day lives. David Allston opened the afternoon with a reference to Norman MacCaig’s A Man of Assynt

Who owns this landscape?

The millionaire who bought it or

the poacher staggering down the hill in the early morning

with a deer on his back?

Who possess this landscape?

The man who bought it or

I who am possessed by it?

I have already posted this and make no apologies for posting it again, a beautiful, evocative description of how many who live up this way are attached to their land.These words seem to reach back to a time immemorial when land was communal and those living on the land did not need a piece of paper allowing them to do so. The statistics are out there saying Scotland’s land ownership is the most concentrated in Europe and some argue that is no bad thing, but the concentration of wealth, influence and power in so few hands has to be questioned in a democracy.  Maybe Gandhi is right, democracy is worth a try out. The land that has moved into community ownership has become less dependant on patronage and residents there have began to work out how to stand on their own efforts, a monumental task after centuries of deference to a supposedly more learned establishment. It must be scary for certain communities to take that “independence” step and chatting at the end of the service last night it was pointed out that all we would do would be to scrap with each other. And our local minibus was used as an example. I used the same example by saying it is on the road and being used as much as it ever was. The process of getting it back on the road was painful and unnecessary but that is the nature of small village politics. As long as we talk to each other about our differing views we will be okay. I would far rather that than rely on one person’s distant patronage that only allows a community to function in an arbitrary way. It is only a matter of time before change takes place. How, when and whether in genuine partnership, depends on the personalities at the time. Amanda Bryan spoke in the afternoon about a study carried out on Community owned land. Their capital value is up by 244%, turnover by 254%, direct staffing by 368%, local direct spend 434%. They have brought in £34 million of which 53% was their own funds. All pretty impressive statistics and stand on their own. I do not know of any community that is badly run but at the same time am privy to lots of disagreements within them but at no time does anyone think that they have made the wrong decision to look after their own community. A freeing up from patronage must be good. The breakout session about affordable housing was very interesting and there was a follow up in what I said later in the evening. So much value to meeting with like minds.

An early evening walk Dougal and Co along the loop road that takes you to Tarskavaig was just the time out one needs to process the days meetings and chats, to put things in perspective and to bring a reality to the over-riding buzz of the day. Dougal meanwhile finds every ditch he can, ditches that are more muddy than wet.


Lovely views of the Sound of Sleat and up Loch Nevis


along with a preponderance of bluebells.


The old tree catches the eye.


A lovely meal and before I know it, it is 9.30 and I decided on the spur of the moment to take a little drive up the road to Ach na Cloich in the hope of seeing the sun drop in the west. Did not realise that coming over a little crest on the road that I would see this. Would be a fine end to a day but there was more to come.


Rona Trip.

Full on couple of days starting yesterday with a day fishing on the beautiful Sound of Raasay. It was a day when I thought many times that people pay me to do this job. The sun hat and shades were on all day. As per usual it began a little chaotically with me putting another clean fleet together, okay but doing it on the way out does not leave much time to get set up for the day’s fishing.


Always being watched on the way out and in these days with the next generation of seals well under way.


There must be a healthy population of fish for them as they all seem to look in good nick except red eye here. Out last night no doubt.


Mr Eider is still looking though. It is quite rare to see one on his own.


It was a fairly uneventful day with a boat of media tarts not far off at one stage


and one or two boats of passing traffic.



Always like the variety out here and the comparison to the fat seals on the way out to the delicate spider crab could not be more in evidence.


Late in so a fish and chips take away from the Inn, onto the bike, and up the road to an ALPS meeting. I am sure we will get there sometime but it is not happening just now. One Group member expressed his disappointment in decisions being taken that affect some parts of the community adversely and with no offers to ameliorate the situation. Still it was an open meeting with many views expressed, not all of them complimentary to aspects of ALPS. I have never thought it a meaningful partnership but a small step in the right direction. These meetings are tiring and sometimes you say something that is jumped on but these days I just cannot be bothered to be offended. LAS keeps being brought up and discussed as though it has relevance to ALPS, always keep quiet as people say what they have to say and then we go back to talking about something relevant. Drained but not in any way surprised a nice bike ride home via the Inn cleared the head.

Today was Rona day. Sean was on board for a look at the site on Rona above Bill’s place over the Harbour. Often have a wee look at Bill’s blog http://isleofronalog.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/24-hours-without-rain/ I thought today would have been good as it was fresh for fishing but not too bad for travelling.The Flensburg guys were offered a day trip and it was fully booked. It was well fresh and speaking to Angus crossing the Range, he was checking I was not fishing, he said it was blowing 24 knots. After passing the Auk in the Blind Sound we turned the corner and made for the pontoon.


Only minor casualty on the way across was Michelle not quite getting her sea legs, but had recovered by the time we made ashore. There was a lot of jollity coming into the Harbour, possibly a bit of relief. Straight onto the back of Bill’s ATV and up the track at speed. Stopped off at the Church Cave turnoff and settled down behind a rock and put the world to rights, well Scotland, at least Rona and Applecross were sorted. The others turned up a little later due to photography stops and Bill headed off only to turn up with our straggler Christine.


We headed down to the Church Cave,


my first visit,


where during the Clearances people gathered together and used the cave as a church.


Different world but some of the consequences we still live with. Not to wallow in the past but never to forget it. And the sad thing is that it happens the world over whether it be Scotland or Bolivia, people living on the land have no control of it. Back down to the Varuna


where we had a final sorting out of the things we missed out and then back home. As we were preparing to leave bill spotted a white tailed sea eagle above us.



A lot quieter despite losing an ariel of the shaky mast, but bright and cheerful on the way home. Mission a success with Sean seeing the targets in Diabeg so the broadband network stretching round the north coast is a little closer. Put the party ashore and then got the prawns ready for landing to the Shed. On the way up the road picked up a hiker, Caroline on the way back to the Inn to try to find some jump leads for the bus, flat battery. Got help from the Inn, guess who?


Busy sorting shift at the Shed but still managed a good chat and saw some great photos of the Clan Macrae and some ones from the ground net fishing at the back-end of the seventies. Stunning light both on the way round


and also not too bad on the return journey.


You just have to stop despite the time and the knowledge there is another meeting.




Five minutes late for the Community Council one but at least I was not smelly. Long meeting with Bealach Beag showing its head again, a proposed Biosphere and Service Point closures but enough for now and off to bed, knackered.

At Last.

Over the last few weeks, partly through low energy levels, always finding something more interesting to do, but mainly because at times I dislike book work with a passion, the deadlines have been looming ever closer. Well today, mainly as I am feeling so crap about it I finally broke through the book work block. At times it felt an almost physical block, that is how bad it has been, I have been painting the public toilets rather than doing the paper work. Today however it began, partly as it has been going on so long you are afraid that you have lost important bits of paper, but so far, not too bad, and the trip to the accountant may be more humorous than dreaded and fines should be averted. That batch of “stuff” has been done. Now it is my own but hoping I am on a roll. Yesterday I was still in my avoidance mode and admittedly the health around the head area was not the best, not migraine level but not far of shut down. A cycle up the road with Dougal and Co to meet with Bill about alternative energy, he was instrumental in fitting our air source heat pump. Then a wee trip down the road before back up to the Inn for a fish and chips, then home via the shop, past another wood pile.


I think one of the views I never get used to is the one to the south west of the Cuillin, it so often is different almost every time you look at it.


The rest of the day was just survival mode  but did mange to watch the two episodes of the Bridge that I miss on Saturday evenings, working at the Inn. ALPS meeting scheduled in the evening but an hour under way before I remembered and would not have been fit for it anyway.

Due partly to the inactive day, although the 10 kilometres on the bike should have helped, turned out to be a pretty restless night and sleep had a major interruption around 4am. Mind you it may have something to do with the bright light outside, with the whole Sound lit up with the bright moon on the water. Not got my night photography sorted out so this has to do taken from the garden.


This morning it felt as though I was under supervision. Although a bit of a late start due to the broken sleep, the weather good but I have to sort out the shore stuff first and then enjoy the life on the water. Thursday if weather is good is going to be fun. Sight to the south was pleasant as I headed up the Tor Mor to see what was going on with the planting progress.


Machine in last week turning over the turf ready for a mini broadleaf forest.


Off round by the Hall and down to the shop with the hunting of rodents going on on the Tor Mor and every where you stop for a look around.


Although looking very like a spaniel he has a lot of terrier in him. Often when you are working at the wood you can let him out and he routes around. When you are ready to go in you look around for the tail like a periscope above the grass.


So half past eleven and fresh from the walk, late breakfast, good coffee it was into what I suspected to be a disaster, but not nearly as bad as I thought, it often is n’t but it is the thought. Once I catch up with everything there is going to be two hours a week promised so this does not happen again. I do not mind SAD as in a mild form it is a natural wind down for the winter, but this stress thinking of what you should have done, no. Rewarded myself with going out to finish chopping the rest of the wood and that is all in the shed now. So it is back to the “stuff” again after a jaunt with the Dougal clan and a nice cup of coffee. Another little bit of good news there is one set of minutes less I am going to be doing as well, so maybe 2014 is going to be even better than…………… If this keeps up heading off to Celtic Connections next week is going to be stupendous.

Making Friends in Lombardy.

The breakfast is the only missing link and that is due to habit. I should have taken my own pineapples with me but I manage. Today was an information overload, back into the forests of Val Camonica.


After a stop off at the forestry office where we met Jovanna, a doctor of forestry, we headed off to another tree place. Conservation is a key to this area and the wood ant is the main focus in this forest. I ask lots of stupid questions, my excuse being I am a fisherman in a forest but no one seems to mind. The ant is a really good indicator of the health of the forest and also tells us how the air pollution is affecting the trees. Basically if it is ok for the ants it is ok for us.


Were taken to various sites throughout the forest and some interesting operations and management that will not take place at home, although we will give it  a go. Brash is piled up in neat bundles and left to rot with the goodness going back into the ground, that is confirmation of things I knew.


Although Ruariadh says that replanting can be quite dangerous where the machines have been in, with brash and splinters left lying around. The hunting season is in full swing and shots echo across the valley. Up on an misty Alpine meadow there are a group of Scots and Italians talking about wood ants milking aphids, happens all the time but not with me involved.


We then wandered down through the mist to the hunter’s tower where we were told the practice of the hunters……..only banned in the eighties. Firstly they kept birds in cages through the summer and then took the clothes of so they thought it was spring and they started singing. Then they laid berries on the surrounding branches. The trap finally set by scaring the settled birds that had stopped by on their migratory route into the nets already in place. Then into the pot. Little discussion afterwards about me doing the same at sea, pause for thought.


Both coming out of Breno and again coming down from the mountain we came across some of the Alpine traditional farming ways.




Back to the forests after a two hour lunch of various foods I have never eaten and most wonderful. Their forestry methods are so far advanced to what I have seen at home over the last thirty years. There is no clearing felling but they do not have to deal with the neglect of wind blow. They take what they call coups out which are selected strips of trees and then there is a natural regeneration growth to fill in the gaps. There is a general move to replace the spruce with hardwoods. I asked about the house prices and they are very cheap to rent, about 200/300euros a month. The big drawback is there is no employment. The work is down on the valley floor and the journey down is too far and expensive, diesel is more expensive than Applecros. There also is the problem of little or no services….same problems, different place. The local group is trying to show that to welcome people in is good. You do not have to sell out your heritage and culture by attracting more young people to live in the area but they find it as hard as we that in persuading older, settled in their ways people to accept that the community life can change without it affecting their life style.


After the magnificent lunch it was back into another forest, this time included was a bit of archeology, very early and similar to the Celtic runes of Scotland. Again the themes of replacing the spruce with hardwoods such as beech. Also the traditions of coppicing are to be changed to allow the trees to grow tall which they seem to do very well around here. They are also looking at entering the tourism market and feel they are twenty years behind the game line. Walking, cycling and archeology are main themes to be pushed. Yesterday fished off with another fine meal at a little restaurant ,exquisite ravioli. I like the way they start taking out the starters when you sit down, bread, meats and sticks, then you get tucked into the mains. Then without asking the sweets come out . A good day.



Rallies in a Strange World.

Good lunch shift yesterday, thinking it was not too busy but by the time i headed home with my strawberry and cream ice cream at four there were over 150 people through the door.This seems to be the normal shift these days. How quickly you get used to it!! There seems to be a trend of guys travelling in groups, today there was a Mitsubishi Evo rally that paid a fleeting visit. We had a group of Porsches for lunch,


planned, and on saturday morning saw a bunch of Fords calling in for a coffee. There are usually some in these groups with a sense of humour and included in this group was a little Ford Fiesta and even better a wee Fiat Panda racing along trying to keep up. By the time the Panda arrived some of the Capris were already leaving, having had their coffee.

Both on Saturday evening and again on Sunday lunch had a couple of interesting chats with customers. After saying they probably had eaten their best ever steaks got chatting with a couple who had been in the army for 20 years with no regrets. They had been “abroad” and although they did not discuss the details they said the way they joined was through the OTC and not for any other reason than enjoying a good social life. and then became regulars. For me a relevant discussion as No4 is in Glasgow doing just that…..

Second discussion was a good one, one about landowners and how they do or don’t interact with their communities. While at work I always enter these conversations with a little trepidation as the customer is always right!! But the guy was very open and was either the landowner or son of one running an Estate down Loch Lomond way and what he said was very enlightened. Again always pleasantly surprised when your mild prejudices are challenged. He knew our owners and the stramash here last year concerning the Andy Wightman campaign and was asking about the fallout. He did seem to have a completely different attitude to working with communities and suggested that it was only a matter of time and we both agreed the mind sets will change and possibly that is already under way although it is a long road we are on.Bit of wood work in the evening with Dougal and Co before watching some of the football.

This morning, to be honest, was a struggle to get out fishing. The forecast for the rest of the week ended up being the incentive as tomorrow’s ‘cast is really poor. It was hard work today. I do not mind saying this and cannot be bothered with not being a macho fisherman. It was an awkward choppy swell that changed direction a couple of times during the day with an increase of wind in the middle of the day. Being slightly bloody minded hauled the last couple of fleets to make it to 400 for the day. One or two octopi coming up in the creels and despite the destruction they reap I cannot help but put them back over the side. Often wonder if I catch the same one again and again. Looked well cross and was changing colour rapidly, possibly telling me where to go.


Hard to describe the fishing as good but I am catching enough to keep the Inn going as well as some going to the Loch Ness Inn tomorrow morning and also taking some round for the Spanish market as well. Compared to days of old it is a poor catch but we live in today’s world. Fascinating Start The Week this morning on the radio discussing the future of the planet, always something to keep the mind occupied as you are mechanically hauling creels and nothing unusual happening around you. One startling fact about how we live and use resources is that 4 litres of water are used to get 1 litre of bottled water on the supermarket shelf. On a lighter moment, half listening to a half hour on fake tanning I heard a mother saying that her daughter had decided not to go to a university because the students were not tanned enough!! She ended up going to one in the north of England where there is a higher up take for fake tans. What a strange world we live in.

On the way in due to the weather Chris had a group of kayakers out around the moorings. The closeness to the shore of the houses has a bit of an historical context. Firstly there was very little good land so the houses were built on the edges of the croft ground and the crofts were there because the people were cleared from the better ground on the peninsula. Almost paddling in the garden.


Two days, a Season apart.

Yesterday the fishing went well, up by Sand and down the edge of the Range, hauling a few fleets left for two weeks and all was well. Only a buoy missing and a couple of small frap ups. I keep getting asked how the fishing is and it is only then do i realise how disconnected to the monetary side of things I have become. A day being on the water and having little or no hassles and no waves. Time to contemplate and come ashore physically tired….that is a good days fishing.  Not too bad a catch with 350 creels hauled and it was a quiet and grey day.


There has been lots of pretty heavy rain in the last 3/5 days and again in the morning. Lots of white water where normally you hardly see a stream.


When people ask me what the weather is going to do the next day I always think about wind and so the weather on Monday was good despite losing sight of both shores for a while. A very west coast day looking over to the “Rona Gap”, also known locally as the “Blind Sound”.


Today was so warm and sunny that the thought of fishing quickly faded and it was a day in the garden, not doing anything in particular, and cutting up the first load from the beech tree casualties.


Well, nothing in particular,means trying to keep the chick weed explosion I usually get under control. A bit of watering the tomato plants and watching the butterflies and bees on the dandelion flowers.




Never one to do much grass cutting none will now be done as long as the dandelions are out. To think I used to dig them up, even bought a tool especially for this task. Sometimes wonder why we do not like certain plants/weeds…..personally I think it is just because we are told to. After today dandelions are becoming my favourite plant which is just as well considering how many there are in the garden. Decided to order some more frames and wired wax bases, make them up and have them ready when I have a wee look in the hive next week. The news and social media is full of pesticide/Monsanto/bee problems at the moment. Seems US of A’s bees are in a spot of bother and may spell trouble for us all. Off to finish the sweet and sour prawns I made last night.

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