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

Posts tagged ‘LAS’

A JCB on the School Run.

Not entirely sure how to deal with the latest from America. Had the radio on all night and woke up around the time it was all over for Clinton. We live in a strange, strange world where everyone else is to blame. The same in this country, poor, out of work or immigrants. Some of the aftermath is quite chilling and there is so much in history that has gone before that should prevent past insanities repeating itself. Racism is very simple and breaks down any empathy we have for our fellow beings. It is even more poignant today as it is the 11th of November and  the”Lest we forget” seems to be losing its message. Reading Edmund Blunden just now and feel very conflicted and pressured into the wearing of symbols. The reasons why people have voted the way they had on Tuesday have been analysed to death, it is the result of those votes that is so worrying. Have always thought the use of nuclear weapons would be insane……….first strike insanity and second strike pointless. Empathy and sanity go together so now we have, admittedly only through the filter of media, someone ,who may fit some of these behavioural traits in charge of the biggest nuclear depot in Western Europe which is just down the road. Applecross does not feel very remote at the moment.

It was a struggle not to be pulled into a despairing train of thought and eventually made it out onto the water the morning after. It turned out to be a pretty poor day, more wind from the south than forecast and cold with not too many langoustines, but the forecast was for even more wind, so stayed out until a fleet that was shot over sent me in, being too hard to free.

Going back to last week fishing and Inn have to be served and we were back out on Friday with a decent catch. Seven fleets hauled and two good ones providing the bread on the table. The catches are very unpredictable and you just go to the next fleet hoping. It was the same yesterday but down to one good fleet. Cold gradually seeps into you by the end of the day. Have to keep moving on the way in, as soon as you stop you realise how chilled it is at this time of year. Like it when the pressure is off with not so many people around but enough to earn a pound or two. Bit different for me as I am not involved in the mad Christmas dash for the hiked prices paid on the Continent. A first fall of snow on the 3000 feet tops


and then further down over the weekend. Reports of the snow falling on the Bealach.The weather has not been too inclement with some nice views off to the west.



The Inn was busy enough over the weekend. Was there since Thursday as swopped Wed for Fri. Handy for the Boss as she was away with the Ice cream Man and others to see if they could win yet another award at the Highland Tourism Awards.This time it was for the informal eatery category. Although shortlisted, no mean feat in itself, the award went to Canna. We thought the omens were good.



An excited phone call was received at the Inn when Applecross Inn got a mention from the stage and a cheer from the floor. Fergus was on the podium and mentioned the Tuesday meeting so there is hope. It is because I creel fish I come across sea pens with attendant symbiotic starfish attached


and boar fish


and are able to put them back alive.


Thursday evening at the Inn and there were more staff than customers, it just felt that way, I only stayed on to get update from the Community Company Meeting. Could have been better, but volunteering is not easy, and if one has stresses in our own lives it is really difficult not to bring these to Meetings. These ups and downs are cyclical but do take their toll on people who care. Friday through to Sunday at the Inn was pretty busy, shifts that pass quickly with plenty to do especially as groups of 10, 11 and 14 book in alongside a full accommodation and several “walk ins”. We counted 46 meals on Friday evening. Met my first Saudi visitor and a pleasant couple from Norway, he was doing a Divinity degree at Edinburgh, a couple of gardening/farming sisters from Stranraer, the yurt lady from Cornwall…..the list goes on with Applecross at the centre, never remote. This week it was a Para-Olympic coach who casually talks about flying around the world, last trip coming back from Rio. Empathizing with fellow humans being is so easy, losing sight of that and you are in or making trouble.

Local politics are cracking on as well. The Trust consultation hit a bit of a rock in September when a very confused and directionless public meeting took place in spite of advice to the contrary. This consult is threatening to be one of the longest in our time and as a result, like referendums, people are tiring. And this was evident from the few numbers out on Tuesday evening when the consultation took off again. Thirteen people out, the Trustees we are told, are shocked by the community comments. They did not realise that they are not universally loved by all and do not understand why. Remember a similar reaction when the LAS campaign hit the headlines. We keep hearing about a shared vision but for a vision to be shared we have to have some idea what the Trust’s is. Maybe one day. Little surprised how shocked the trustees seem to have been, I am well aware how a part of the community think ill of the Community Company despite, fuel, toilets, broadband and hydro, but never shocked just disappointed. Maybe when one is so remote from life here it is hard to judge views. A visit on Wednesday afternoon on the way to the Inn for another wee chat. Agreement that the Trustees do not seem to know about the workings of the community and still rely on patronage and favours. The consultants acknowledge that it would take so little to dissolve the distrust of decades. We are still reduced to looking around for wee scraps of land for affordable  house sites, and not getting them.

School taxi on the agenda for the Community Council meeting that followed on immediately. Seems to be a target for HC cuts but as they are obliged to transport the wee ones to and from school and there seems to be little other options. Seconding council vehicles was suggested, humourous to the community as there would only be a JCB or snow plough available in Aplecross. The wee fellow up the Glen would probably love the ride to school on Finky’s digger. Shows up the deficit of local government, officials taking decisions from 85 miles away. With the intervention of officials and the total lack of alternatives a favourable outcome is expected. On the good news front there may be a bit of movement on the road front concerning the deteriorating Bealach. A few well-directed photos showing how bad the road edges are is registering at base. With all the NC 500 publicity the HC is between a rock and a hard place, even more cars and more deteriorating roads. Just a rumour to finish on, but a good one, we may be getting a snowblower back for the Bealach.

Thursday and it was up to the Hydro to check the screen and although needed a brush did not seem too bad. Wet feet when running so full. The river was in spate


and for most of the last twelve days the turbine has been working at 100%. Looks and feels good to see it churning out the kWhs.


Transatlantic journey Home.

After a very pleasant and relaxing afternoon atLenzie and an uneventful journey back into “town”, already getting blasé  about driving around Glasgow. Mind you when I came in on my own on Friday I was honked, I think for driving too slow and the guy behind me got stuck at a red, and made me think the tables are turned when I am stuck behind a 20mph tourist in Applecross.  The only difference is I don’t use the horn. Transatlantics were superb. We knew what to expect and lived up to them. Supreme music played by top class musicians, Julie Fowlis with some mouth music was up at the top but the rest was pretty bearable. Phil even managed a Fergie joke. But with names such as Danny Thompson, Jerry Douglas, Shawn Colvin, Michael McGoldrick, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott you cannot really go wrong. Short walk back to the hotel and another early crash and the road north set for tomorrow. A special tw weekends away and promises to be an annual event.

A nice leisurely meander up the road which involved calling to Dunkeld to pick up the missing marbles for the inlaw’s  Christmas present. A lovely community run centre


and I just cannot help it but immediately felt all the better for it. Tips left are just a wee bit bigger and the ambience feels good, this in the middle of The Dukedom of Atholl. Seems the current Duke is South African. Interesting drive north now after our wee LAS campaign of a couple of years ago, made you very aware of land issues across the country, I suppose my views have not changed that much but probably been confirmed especially due to the way one is treated when one does not conform to the establishment line. There is a fair old lump of Perthshire  under the Dukedom. Uneventful journey up the A9


and over to Achnasheen where Alison picked up the car. Noticed a tyre was a wee bit down so got the  pump on it and while that was underway the Achnasheen wildlife came over for a look to see what was going on,


some not so shy hinds and some very well fed ducks



who just wandered up to the vehicles.


Through the trees one can see the now controversial track that has been cut into the side of the hill above Ledgowan Hotel.


The estate has changed ownership in recent times and there is a bit of an atmosphere locally and with ramblers and walkers. I have only met the owner once and try to stay away from personalities but rather the system which allows these situations to develop. It is not fair that whole communities can be held to ransom with a change of land ownership. It happens in very few other countries across Europe where huge chunks of land changes hands with the communities involved having no say at all in these transactions. These communities have to rely on the good will of the new owners or not as the case appears to be here. A really tricky problem to solve as we are where we are and you have to go back centuries to discover the theft which the current owners were not involved in but perpetuate.

Good to get home and the weather has been quite settled


although the desire to go fishing is only slowly returning. Fresh breeze on Tuesday morning from the south south east so with me still having a hacking cough decided to leave it a bit later in the week to go out. A few shifts at the Inn planned and with the weather a little more settled we should be on the water before long. It will be quite a while before the memories of Celtic Connections fade.

Bees and politics.

A day off which meant finishing of clearing the croft. Left it the other day thinking it was a half hour but three hours later….


Have another pile of wood for burning and then it was down to Lower Toscaig with Dougal and Co. There was a carpet of sea thrift down on the shore, seems to be a burst of flowers around.


Maybe due to the late spring followed by this warm spell and everything is under way at the same time.  Sometimes I think Dougal’s main aim on walks is to get as dirty as possible, unlike his serenity the evening before in the late sunshine.


He looks so innocent but seems he is a good traffic calming influence for cars passing the school, at least with local drivers.



He does let his image slip a little sometimes.Some good summer rain today and it is supposed to be heavy tonight, the garden does need it, but no wind forecast so a day at sea planned for tomorrow.

The Community Council AGM was on tonight with an ordinary meeting to follow. This time the audience was treated to a Chair’s report, a little unfair saying this but there was a previous one that has stuck in a few people’s minds. This involved not using the toilets during high tide…leave the rest to the imagination. A reasonably positive list over the year, weekly food waste collections over the summer,playground equipment installed, ACC taking forward transfer of pier, toilets, installing broadband and hydro scheme, securing graveyard fence from deer intrusion, and ongoing matters such as looking at snowblower replacement and setting up a first responders unit. So this balanced up against the negatives of the continuing doctor/gp recruitment and having to deal with a very unusual petition last autumn as a result of the LAS campaign against the Trust. A fairly positive year looking back. despite often wondering at the time is it worth it.

As a day’s fishing planned tomorrow a “meet the Trustees” days will probably pass me by. This is as a result of last years campaign where the Trustees are trying to make themselves more visible to the community. It would have been better to have maybe held it in the evening and possibly in the Community Hall instead of during the day and at Clachan.This knocks out the younger/working part of the community….the future. But the fact there is a meeting at all is an improvement.

Chatted with Audrey about bees and their health and she said she had lost two of her three hives this spring and the tricky local subject of varroa came up. So my next job is to sprinkle some castor sugar on the bees soon as they groom the sugar off themselves and knock some of the mites off as well. I still have not seen any mites but better safe than sorry.

Missing Creels hooked and Filmed.

Yesterday’s trip to Inverness was unavoidable due to lateness of accounts and a visit to the accountant became critical. There is not much to them but last year’s chaos has led to books being scattered to all four corners of the schoolhouse. Now gathered together and a two and a half hour session later meant that things are now under control again in that sector. The good thing was that we were speaking and very amicable by the end of this. She mentioned that she is treasurer for a local group and sat down the other night to do some work for a meeting and ended up working for hours trying to balance her books. So it is not just my affliction although I know of some strange people who actually enjoy keeping books. Always good to meet people and we ended up talking about parents suffering from dementia and other bits and bobs. We often elevate situations and issues above the people who are involved in them and it never works. Of all the lessons I learnt about the political situation last year in Applecross the two most important were that this place is timeless and all the huffing and puffing is hardly going to register in the historic timeline of the place. The LAS campaign has certainly left a little mark that cannot be erased and it is going to be interesting to watch the next chapter. More importantly whatever one’s views the desire to personalise issues must be resisted and I think we did that very well despite what was thrown around. It is the easiest advice in the world to give to two protagonists to step back and not be so personal and I remember being told this last year and found it so difficult to stand up for a belief or principle and not be accused of having agendas. I always assume that once people attack you personally then their grounds for debate are either lost or pretty shaky. A couple of regular guests are staying at the Inn just now and are up for lots of discussion, often quite provocative, and I was asked to answer really quickly would I vote yes next year. I did not answer that straight away although I am probably going to and immediately found myself trying to justify why. The questioner found it surprising that I took so long in replying but the vote is far more than a gut reaction. I think people who are not naturally Nationalist but are more concerned with a more localised system of democracy have to explain why they will vote in this way. And in almost every sphere of life the status quo is not an option. Even our “petitioners” last year found this out. I think being asked these difficult questions brought on this train of thought.

It is always good to have a ramble, back to Inverness, it was a visit to the upholsterer where I dropped of a chair from Toscaig. There was a discussion about it being still in the chair category, dog food stop, Highland Wholefoods and a haircut. Waterstones are an essential visit, just waiting for the JO Nesbo and Peter May books to become bendy. A trip to the Co op, the only supermarket I can allow myself to enter these days and off home, but not before picking up a couple of batteries at Dingbros. Arranged a sparky visit for tomorrow morning as my little electrical issues are beyond me. Entertainment is arranged for the afternoon as a Crofters Hearing is taking place at the Hall. Would have liked to have gone but needs must and it will be off fishing. Some people seem to exist to keep lawyers in a job.

Fishing today and it started uneventfully with me hauling 4 fleets and catching a few prawns and squats. Had Nick out with me and he filmed my operation for a few hours.IMG_1692

Nick himself is not sure how the filming will develop but intend to do three ten minute films about Applecross and putting people in them as well as the natural beauty of the place and not intending them to be commercial.


Easy guy to get on with. We did have similar views on sustainable fishing and nature in general so the day passed gently, serene was one word he used to describe the day, until I went to see if I could recover the lost fleet down by the Range. Kenny had already been in touch and I reckoned it was not going to be easy. Turned out the fleet was in one big ball and well out of position, the fleet I shot to try to hook it did but in between these two fleets was Kenny’s and this was all at 90 fathoms. Hauled my own top fleet up with a little trouble and took it west out of the way and then went back to the missing one. Kenny meantime hauled his and tried to clear it but had to give up but leant me a crew man for a while. It was just a case of methodically going through the bundle picking creels of one by one. Sore fore arms and a creel exchange later, eventually all my creels were on deck with a three-quarter mile of rope lying in one big tangle on deck.


So all that was left in the day was to scrape some mussels from under my dingy to make Moules Marinieres  for tea and head up to the Inn for a couple of hour and be grilled on whether I vote Yes or not!! It is good to feel the energy levels come back.

Company AGM showing there is Applecrosslife.

The Community Company AGM took place tonight with 45 people attending, with another 8 apologies, at the Community Hall. With all the speculation, rumours, press attention, there was a degree of tension among the directors and LDO. This had been dissipated somewhat by our meeting of the previous evening where we arranged and organised the AGM meeting. We have never claimed to be greatly interested in the area of governance but know it is very important.Looking round the Board of fishermen,chefs,hoteliers child carers,engineers and craftsmen and now a life coach no one has that interest but help was offered from the floor. The evening began with a showing of the CES video Alison and I had seen on the second morning in Perth celebrating 10 of Community Energy Scotland. It showed different communities around Scotland,volunteers all working with the same aims in mind, all wanting to increase the resilience of their communities, all wanting to make them a better place for every one to live in. Judith, as Chair, then presented her report and you did realise what an impressive year we have had, the Community Broadband Scotland has been announced and this coupled with our other funding should ensure decent broadband for the whole of the Applecross peninsula and maybe include other communities nearby. More on that when press embargoes are lifted. This project in itself will open up possibilities for home working that would have been unthinkable with half meg band width. The Filling Station is still a success although the volunteers know the onerous task it is to keep it working. If we had a decent software system it would be so much easier to run. It still functions about 95% of the time but needs rebooting on too many occasions and we will never know how many sales we miss out on when the system crashes and we are not told about it. We have not had it signed over yet as we have not accepted that it is fit for purpose. Gilbarco are still working on a solution and this will be a relief when supplied. Climate Challenge Fund has been used successfully over the year mainly to progress the Hydro scheme to the lease signing and planning stage. The Company is now working on applications which hope to reinstate The Coal Shed Pier with Highland Birchwoods and Prince’s Countryside Trust for funding for a support worker to look after the elderly. The LDO report followed and the fact that it lasted over 45 minutes showed how much has been achieved and also how much has to be done so this community can survive healthily into the future. Similar problems are shared among all the communities we are getting to know,problems of housing, income generation, declining school roles and everything I have mentioned before and will do again. The talk was also very innovative in that all the problems have a solution,they must have. Things like our rubbish grid means we will find ways of using the electricity locally through storage or usage. Hydrogen storage for domestic heating and/or transport. Funding will be sought for the little ground that may be available to us at Toscaig Pier and the Surgery for units and/or housing in keeping with needs in both areas. Growing and producing quality Applecross branded products must be a way to strengthen this community and there was chat about how to engage with the younger people’s needs. New rules concerning food waste means that in vessel composting needs to be looked at very seriously in rural parts and that is an area we are planning on a community level. The meeting ended with a question and answer session and was surprisingly short but as so much information was put out, there was much to digest. The only myth that was brought up was the 100 houses the Company were going to build and this was despite our LDO telling us how difficult it was through out all the rural areas concerning the provision of accommodation, how difficult it is to build one. Only two community housing projects are being built in the CAM area, Helmsdale and Iona. So hopefully the fact we were not planning 100 houses in the first place and the problems of building them has put that one to bed for a while but I make no excuse for wanting more people to live here. Would n’t it be nice to be able to pick a five-a-side football team or a netball team and travel to other schools to play.I am old enough to remember an full football team coming over by boat to play Kyle in a friendly. Now our footballers from Camusterrach have to go to Kyleakin to play their football. The LDO pointed out that a doctor had dropped out of the last round of recruiting interview because she did not know how small our primary school was and how difficult it was going to be to find decent accommodation. Does not matter how young or old you are that should ring very loud warning bells.

So it was off to the Inn for a coffee and chat about the meeting and it was very positive. It is never about winning and losing ,there is enough of that going on in the Middle East with horrible consequences and without demeaning any of the horror over there I have felt pretty bad over the past few weeks about some of the reactions here locally. I would be a fool not to have learnt a huge lot more about this community over the last 7 weeks and I think I have. I have managed to keep my views and backed them with,what I think are decent enough arguments, and been reasonable and respectful even to those who have approached me. It is now a time for people to reflect over the winter months what they want for THEIR community. Their was a reflective view from the north coast last night at the Inn concerning the recent petitions and signing etc and how the first one was turned down flat, the status quo one, and how the next one had to be reworded in such a way that the community as a whole could have signed it. As this was in reaction to the LAS campaign, that must mean to me that there is change in the air. People’s evolutionary thoughts about their own community do not go away even if campaign’s come and go and I think we need campaigns like we have just had to concentrate people’s minds and so we do not just fade away as a community. One spokesperson on the CES video said just that. I take heart from the reaction recently in that this community is alive and well and looking to the future for their old and young folk. One of the conversations at the Inn concerned Finbar in that he would no longer need to come for his pint of guiness as he would be able to have that at home and be able to be on skype with his new broadband connection as he had his pint via laptop. Dancing with the girls may prove a problem later in the evening though.

To finish when we got home an email was waiting for us from a young member of the community which did not need any comment but made us smile and think it is all worth it.

“I just wanted to say that was a very interesting meeting,so many exciting possibilites……There is no good reason why Applecross cannot be a thriving community. Especially when there are so many intelligent,practical and forward/sideways thinking people here.” As Meg Ryan said “Yes, yes, yes” Probably a few more yeses but you know what I mean.

Struggle to find the Applecross photo of the day but realised it was the leaf and the picture of the sycamore tree to show the colour and vibrancy of the community despite it being autumn going into winter. We have a future and it is ours.

Letters, petitions and much energy expended by some.

Health all good again and have another couple of shifts under my belt at the Inn. Saturday evening was a very enjoyable one and would you believe it busy. At one stage we opened up the dinning room but customers decided to wait so they could sit by the fire. There was a couple from Whitby that reckoned I was more stressed out than they were about them finding a seat for their dinner. It means there a is a good banter and rapport by the end of the evening and they and me are very relaxed by the end of the evening. There were a couple of tables I had to ask to move for people so they could eat but luckily I knew them from my ever-expanding networks of ,hotel work, fishing, local politics and community “stuff”. And they got to sit by the fire half an hour later and all ends well. They are usually so happy with the good atmosphere, food and ambience that every one wants every one else to be content. it is such a simple way to live but can only be carried out in trusting company.

Local politics are back on the agenda and it would not be an honest blog if I ignored them. I knew there was a letter going to be sent to the press today and it was to be a rehash of the “confidential petition” that was selectively circulated round some of the community although I did not know it was to carry signatures,eight, with no surprises Like the “petition”I found the letter strange and was fairly irrelevant to everything that is being discussed about land reform,community survival both on a local and national level. It was the first “petition” I have ever heard of that was confidential but it was n’t and it’s only purpose was to gather as many signatures as possible so it ended up being very garbled. I do like discussion and argument but on an intelligent level and I am more than happy for people to disagree with me. It is a shame that the petitioners have completely missed the point of both the campaign and the role of the Community Company and the Community Council in the community. Usually when things get personal I know I am on safe ground because there is not a lot of logic in the opposing argument. Although some of what has been going on in the community has at times been fairly stressful I have to accept that as I have put my head over the parapet and expect the pelters coming my way. But as I have said before and will say again no one has come to me to complain that I am involved with running the Filling Station, or taking over and refurbishing the public toilets,or helping set up an income generating hydro scheme, or ,as announced, being picked by the Scottish Govt as one of six areas to drastically improve our broadband. For obvious reasons we chose particular sites to upgrade as part of a pilot scheme and the schoolhouse was one,even simple things like iplayer is now accessible for people working irregular hours,and our community has been recognised at national level as one that is positive and proactive. There is another announcement pending which we hope by the end of next year Applecross may have an 18 meg system. That is what we are aiming at. This is supported by the Community Council. At present the Company is involved in reinstating the pier at the Coal Shed so large numbers of artics do not truck wood out over the Coast road but is taken away by sea transport and we are left with a rebuilt vernacular pier that was a unloading point in the past for coal and other supplies brought in by sea. Even I am impressed by how much has been done in such a short time, and this does not include the toddlers play park and Doctor’s campaign, First Responders. Actually I am proud of this community and I am really sorry to have missed AppleX Factor as that appears to have been another example of what I am talking about.

I have often talked about the list above and it will only grow as the next generation come through and take over the reins set up in the last 3/4 years and as people realise that, with a little confidence, they will get involved and the capacity of this community will continue to grow. So with this in mind I turn to the Land Reform Scotland campaign, which does not change any of my views. I want to make it clear that I read The Guardian on Saturday and the WHFP on a Thursday, I don’t read the Telegraph or The Daily Mail although it is good that other people do for a bit of righter wing balance, just saying this so people know where I am coming from. Over the years I have read Who own’s Scotland and more recently The Poor Had No Lawyers, also Soil and Soul and enjoyed and got frustrated by the story of how the land was taken from the people who lived on it over the centuries but latterly this is changing and in many cases the land is being returned. Latest being the Island of Scalpay. What I really object to is this attack on our institutions to get to my own personal views. If people object so strongly to them that they have to go to the national press to miscall our Council and Company just to get at me, well I thought that some of those that signed this “petition” were better than that. A tweet stream tonight was going on about how the LAS statement in response to todays letter was not factual because two individuals had prior warning of the campaign. I am a little surprised that the letter/”petition” is being defended in this way as it fails on so many levels to make much sense. Surely if one is against LAS there are better arguments than the misleading aspersions to the the ones circulated in the letter. I suppose I have better “local” knowledge of who is involved but then I could not and do not comment on other communities until I get insights from people living there. How can anyone sign a “petition” supporting a strategic long-term plan that no one ,to my knowledge, has seen. To make it as clear as I can one of my crimes is that I met Andy Wightman in Lochcarron and was given prior warning of the LAS campaign, the most important part of this is the info was given in confidence and for me that is important. Over the years here I have been in the same situation several times and that confidence when asked for has never been broken. I went to Lochcarron as an individual, not as a director or councillor and believe we have moved on from the olden days when we had to be subservient in order to receive the patronage of the laird. This is 2012 for goodness sake. But as ever I am fortunate to be here now and this is only a tiny blip in the timeless history of Applecross. When I was on the “Forgotten” path the other day I listened to Darrell Scott’s Open Door on the ipod,brilliant. Just put it on again and it is a fine way to end a day along with the surprising release of writing this blog.

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