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

Posts tagged ‘Lesley Riddoch’

Arctic Circle, Nordic Horizons.

It felt somewhat strange to just be in Iceland. It just sort of happened, although well aware that it takes so much to get these Gatherings of the ground. Unfortunately Lesley could not make it due to a bout of ill health. Everything went so smoothly and little effort after leaving the flat in plenty of time, then the subway, bank, bus and airport. Little consternation when last call for boarding came as we were strolling towards the gate. Not too worry as there was plenty of time. Spotted Nicola, FM, strolling through the airport and again boarding the plane. After landing we got on a couple of buses heading for Reykjavík and again Nicola on board. Amongst all the crush she still very pleasantly had a couple of selfies taken for a couple of Americans. She never even batted an eyelid when one of the Americans asked what her name was, and that was after the selfie. I like this photo taken at the Scottish Reception on Friday evening.

Only been here for a couple of days but have come across so many polite and helpful Icelanders. They seem so laid back and give you lots of time to get you where you want to go. From the bus driver who dropped us of at our accommodation to the guys at the whale watching office and the especially at the check in desk for The Arctic Circle Conference. The Scottish contingent has been organised by Nordic Horizons. http://www.nordichorizons.org   I came as an unregistered hanger on and would have paid the full fee if I had to but as I was not planning more than the drop-ins today and again on Sunday it would have been an expensive trip. They could not have been more helpful and I had my badge printed out with the right country on it. Others had to change theirs from the UK to Scotland. Everything was done on time and we wandered up to our first event

where Nicola Sturgeon was taking part in a Q and A after a short speech.

I have to say that without the screen of the media presentation I was tremendously impressed with her erudite, passionate and informed performance. Even the Turkish citizen, who proclaimed his love for Margaret Thatcher did not faze the FM with his weighted question.

Off to the harbour after lunch,

you would expect this. But not before listening to an Iceland’s modified version of “Mercy” and an Adele song. Very soiree style.

First passing the huge Finnish icebreaker which was there as part of the Conference.

Cold brisk wind but a good antidote to the heated rooms of the Harpa Centre. There was a variety of boats

and only got into one conversation, albeit stilted as his English was not the best. turned out he was a boat builder and was interested in the longboat we were alongside.

Time shoots by and before you know it we were heading down the road back to the awesome Harpa Centre. Turns out listening to “The News Quiz” followed by the “Archers” and forgetting the time difference meant we had turned up an hour early, not as early as Maggie who was working off her first email and was puzzled there was no sign of anyone one and a half hours before the start. Met an Icelandic gynaecologist who had spent nine years at Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital. She had introduced herself on the sight of the kilt and proceeded to expound on the wonderful time her family had in Scotland. Her kids continuing to learn English but with a broad Dundee accent. They are being pulled up for it as they are told it is not “proper”  but insist on keeping it.  Conversation revolved around Iceland now and seems there are problems here on the ground with ordinary working folk. Although there are signs that there is development going on all around

people are wondering where the money has gone and is another crash imminent. At least some of their crooks did jail time. Cynically speaking ours seem to get or keep their bought honours. The kilt has been brought out for the Scottish Reception. Wearing the kilt certainly has its benefit and kept catching sight of photos being taken. After meeting up with others heading for the Third Floor, a couple of glasses of red, we were at the Reception. Just a busy friendly, informative evening, and we were fortunate Nicola, when on the way in, headed for our little group

which had been boosted by Kirsty and her colleague from SAMS. Again selfies all around, followed by another short speech emphasising the connections that we all have. In closing wondering what advice we can get for our footie team. Towards the evenings close a Saami wandered up for a warm and inquisitive chat. He was a reindeer herder and was asking about hunting red deer. I am not sure he understood the controls the landowning elite in Scotland have over the “wild”red deer. Maybe a photo to follow. And after another glass of red it was home, a brisk half hour walk in the biting wind.

Farr Conversations.

This is the sort of post you would really like to write in situ trying to capture the buzz of the evening but needs must and it was a long trek home but so worth the effort. By the time I was on the road on Friday all seemed well. Big improvement on the head front, tooth healing up nicely so with Dougal for company it was over the Hill in an easterly direction. Coming up to Craig the scenery was a good excuse to stop and take a wee shot.

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Obviously beautiful but peaceful as well with few cars passing. Dougal a little reluctant to get back in but I knew he had not long to go before his regular stop at Rogie Falls.

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He enjoys the new smells along the paths but does not like the bridge so have never made it across the Falls yet with him.

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He was happy enough to go up the river with me. Then it was to the vets where he was put on a light steroid for an irritated foreleg and also purchased an organic tick tablet lasting three months. Should have had him on a lead as he made an escape before getting up on the table. Rest of the day involved a bit of shopping and dropping off an outboard before meeting up with Alison and her dad, Raymond, a meal and out to Farr.

This was the main event of the day, the rest is just a west coast way of justifying a trip east by cramming in as much as you can. After another Dougal walk round the shinty pitch it was into the Hall with the other 300 and settle into an evening of music and chat.

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Lurach had the evening off to a fine start, well after the coffee and cakes which seems are a tradition at Farr. Fiddles and Whistles before Julie Fowlis and her man, Eamon, came on stage for an enthralling spell of Gaelic song from the Strathdearn and Strathnairn area.

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Interesting how she over rode her strong feelings to sing her native island songs and turned the evening to a project and research of songs of these parts. The voice and accompaniment have been reviewed by many people but suffice to say you could not hear a pin drop as the songs became part of you. The connection to the land is so powerful as is the sea and hearing this through music is the ultimate. The land is ours.

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Then it was Lesley’s turn and although I have now heard her speak on a few other occasions there is always another aspect to travel along. The land reform package proposed as well as the Community Empowerment legislation is not the most radical moves in the west, but the reaction to it tells a story. painting Sturgeon as a communist is laughable and it is more interesting to hear the story from Durness. There they have been told that there will be no “development” and the good reaction to that is a proposal to take control themselves. That is the people who are living on the land, not the new owner based in Liechtenstein. The psychology of land, land ownership and land is so hard to break into. The fact that some one distant owns land for decades or centuries does not give him/her the right to carry on in perpetuity especially when you wander across the Highland and you see land degraded in the extreme. You also know that this has only taken place in the last two centuries. A chat with Jim Hunter at Ullapool comes to mind when he told us that he is doing yet another study on Strathnaver, this time about the abundance of wildlife that coexisted with the then human population in the Glen. It shows up this new “wilding ” map where there should be a wilderness. If you superimposed another map on top of it, that is the pre Highland Clearance map of where folk lived, you find that this is a well populated area of rivers and glens. Where as Lesley pointed out if you walk along a certain river in Caithness you will be guaranteed to meet a water bailiff within minutes.

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The theme of “it is our land” was referred to time and time again and it is. Ours in the sense it no ones and every ones. Reminds me also of how far off track we have travelled and how careful new legislation has to be. Although LVT is not on the table at the moment it is an aim for many who see this as a means to stop land speculation. Side note why should land be so expensive? Why should the younger generation be excluded from owning a house through the unavailability or affordability of land? Going back to LVT, speaking to good friend on the Black Isle who could be caught in an unintended consequence of LVT. The aim of this tax would be to lower the cost of land, laudable in itself and allows more younger people access, but if you are running an agricultural business funded by loans backed by land as collateral, what happens when the value of that land comes down and the bank gets worried about the collateral behind the loan? I think I will stay local as I see too many greys in the picture, admire the people who see their convictions in black and white. Applecross got a mention at Farr and there is so much out there it is portrayed as an example of an outdated, unsustainable way of managing a huge land mass. No amount of PR can change that and going by conversations here and outside there is a stronger sense of capacity and well being at last emerging through the rural parts of the country. The drive home after an evening like that, although two hours plus, passed in no time despite the numerous “wild animals” crossing the road.

 

“Enough is as Good as a Feast”

Recovery completed and looking forward to my first ever Party Political Event, we left for Inverness for a morning’s dash about town with the intention of heading down to Farr to join a few other people to hear speakers talk about Green matters. A beautiful autumn day with low light across the Bealach

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and again and again all the way across the country. The reads, yellows and browns are resplendent just now and are sharpened by the acute angles of sunlight. After the Bealach no photos as I would probably be just arriving by now. Appropriately, on a green day, my first stop off was at Highland Bicycles where the Volt Ebike was left for its annual make over. Time flies when one realises that I bought it over a year ago, although I have only used it properly for about 6/7 months of that time. Going to be interesting to see how I cope with a north-west winter. Last winter’s six months of horizontal rain was not tackled with any enthusiasm. This year so far so good and after the overhaul it genuinely feels like a new bike. Haircut, Highland Wholefoods and winter fishing clothes from Blacks were all sorted in rapid order and the trip out to Farr was under way in good time. Last and only time I was out here was to learn about bees from Neil and Alison Spence. This event had been moved from the Spectrum Centre in Inverness to Farr due to the unprecedented pressure of numbers. Evident as the car park

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and hall so filled up.

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All on time as well….west coast time is always at least 15 minutes behind, or if it is a Dance about an hour before it finishes before people turn up.

Settled in and pleased to see an Applecross connection in the form of Nessa who spent some time over our way and Roddy who wandered over to share sympathies over political events. Even before events kicked off just sitting there in a room of over two hundred liked minded people was a wee buzz and as Lesley said when she spoke first we all need these meetings to keep energy levels high, a battery top up. Always inspiring to hear Lesley Riddoch speak and she was constantly stopped by spontaneous applause. And yes she did mention the Nordic nations. One really fascinating point was the development of Norway’s nationality and how for a time they had full autonomy over their own affairs bar defence and foreign policy before gaining full Independence. Now the aim is Home Rule with just that in mind. And of course Land Reform, pointing out the tax advantages of having a Sporting Estate as a plaything and emphasising that our land distribution is ludicrous and unique in Europe. It being so “unBritish” to cap or limit anyone or thing. Ownership of land has to be one thing to be capped, whole tracks of land and people living on it should not be held to the whims of one person. A recent bad example of this being Radcliffe of Ineos/Grangemouth holding the nation to ransom and ends up with public funds and licence to frack in the Central Belt. Speaking to Brian this morning from Shieldaig and such a different picture where land has been released for housing the school less than ten years ago was under threat but now is thriving, such a simple way of “repopulating the Highlands” and why not. Many houses can be built without destroying the Highlands unique attractions and giving its soul back. There are still long stretches on the way home where you do not see a light from the road. Surprised myself and asked Lesley if I could take a photo and she obliged and chuffed with the result.

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Next up was Robin from Common Weal and he amazes me in how he can talk so fast, without notes and pack so much enthusiasm, information and inspiration into so short a time. Interesting to hear the political outcomes and strategies of recent upheavals. I do not think any one has much of a clue what is going to happen next. The one thing is for certain the Referendum has only started a movement and not finished it. Robin’s analogy, from a French film , I think, was off a man/woman, stepping off the pavement and on the way down does he fall or fly and that depends on how much effort goes into his progress. He says it feels like we have stepped of the pavement. The austerity measures are affecting the poorest sections of society and you can feel his passionate anger against tis effect on whole sections of the community. After his session he is still enthusing.

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John Finnie, MSP,

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who moved from SNP to Independent to joining the Green party finished the first section off with a list of reasons why he has moved in this direction. Trident, NATO, pointless wars, useless and subsidised nuclear power. Read recently that nuclear power has produced £156 billion of power, cost £200 billion to build and will cost £100 billion to clean up and some people complain above renewable subsidy. A theme throughout the afternoon was the disenfranchisement of local government right down to community council level. Many areas have no Councils now and at home we have not had an election for the last two nominations. On going are the LRRG proposals, the Community Empowerment Bill and the Smith Commission, put in my wee submission but as it had to be costed will probably be ignored, so no one can say nothing is happening in this part of the world. And hardly a mention of other parties, nothing negative, only a response to a direct question to which Robin MacAlpine asserted that SLAB’s umbilical cord to its guaranteed support was being severed. What I liked about the afternoon was the range of ideas and actions various people were taking themselves and suggesting for both individual and community levels. Liked the call to resurrect the Highland Land League. John’s saying from old, “Enough is as good as a feast” is an apt summing up of how we should live. Local food, local energy, local industry, common sense proposals discussed.  All was excellently organised by Fabio, Isla and Ariane.

Away sharp to pick up the bike and home. A shift at the Inn, slightly disjointed, dropping into service already under way but not busy and slowly got into the swing as much as one could after such a different scene in the afternoon. Stayed on as staff wanted to head up to the Walled Garden, occasional caller such as Darren,

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stopped in before staff Darren

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and Lydia called in for a lift up.9Q7Q7126

The night ended in some fine music from John and Lorna.

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His renditions of Green Fields and Caledonia were fine and emotional, music at its best. Uptil now have not really picked up on the song Applecross Bay, written by a McCalman (I hope), sensing the layout of Applecross resulting from the Clearances. 3,000 living here in the middle of the 1800s, now 250 maximum. But hearing the background to a fine song gives it even more resonance. Also heard the Common Weal event at Bogbain Farm went very well and Applecross was represented there as well. Would have loved to have been there but one has to select sometimes.

Today a long a very pleasant shift, busy enough with lots of very appreciative and generous people, music throughout the afternoon and good food and residents into the evening.

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Requested another rendition of Caledonia to see me through and it seemed to work. So onto the bike and home around eight. It really is like having just bought a new bike, so Dougal and Eilidh got a wee walk down the Craig Darroch in the moonlight to finish off the day.

“Good Luck for Tomorrow”

Starting to feel slightly manic and there are two days before we know if we are going to be part of the newest country in the world. Seems Friday around breakfast time is when we hear. Coming home this afternoon from the fishing there is now no doubt the aspirations of the Macleod household with Alison adding a couple of flags to the gate to go alongside the Yes board on the wall.

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Anyway back to the story which has been slightly mixed over the past few days. On Saturday Gerry’s Duathlon went okay judging by the evening at the Inn. Maybe just leave a few stats, 302 pints of real ale, 477 food orders plus between 50 and 60 fish and chips sold outside. I arrived at sixish and ended up behind the bar. They had already arrived and the Boss and Crissy were out front and it is hard to dive in an already tight and planned operation. never mind three behind the bar were serving all night with little break.

Sunday again was busy, not too bad but we are one or two staff down and the season is far from over so kept going over the lunch period. Not a lot to report apart from the arrival of the helicopter from the MV Itasca.

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Not a new boat, built in 1961, but still out of my range. Think she would be a bit awkward for hauling creels anyway. She was up in Ullapool end of last week and had headed south but came back for lunch. Coming for lunch by chopper does not impress me with my attempted green credentials but it caused a bit of a stir I suppose. Could not help noticing the contrast when the chopper took off against the backdrop of the Clachan Manse, old and new.

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Towards the end of the shift the old head kicked in again and bothered me all day on Monday, just a painful nuisance that stops you enjoying life for a day or so. Still was not right yesterday morning but made out and felt so much better for it. The Inn had enough prawns but was under a little pressure to make sure the supply was sorted out for this weekend. Robert is chaffing at a charity function in the Inverness area for Marie Curie Cancer Care. Suspect there will be a large amount of money raised and as a contribution if there is a Yes vote they will getting their prawns for free, if No they pay 50%. Not insubstantial number of prawns going so just as well the fishing is still just holding up.

Out again this morning and although there was a wee breeze from the North early afternoon the weather has remained stunning

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and is probably the best September

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I can remember for lack of wind and warmth.

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Morning sun catching Camusterrach.

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And of course Ardhu.

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Interesting traffic passed on Tuesday slowly making her way down the Sound.

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Today at slightly different speed passing and couple of toots on the way past.

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Lovely bit of coral came up on one of the creels yesterday

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As well as prawns there is a batch of squats going to this function and hopefully most of them were caught today. If not there is tomorrow. Always good to head for home and now see the flag as part of the boat.

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Last night as I am way behind in reading my emails a meeting of the ACC was announced for 8.30pm Minutes of the last meeting, mine to do, had to be very rapidly prepared and at that time there was little chance of me getting to the meeting as I was still hung over but decided to get on the bike and head out. So glad I did.W We had a very productive and positive meeting, two and a bit hours long but well worth it. IPS progressing, Community Broadband report and going well along with toilets functioning okay. The new Filling Station coming the week after the vote. Had to stop on the way up to the meeting for a last photo of the evening.

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Earlier was spectacular.

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and there was something a little different.

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Sleep came fast last night and will again tonight.

All the chat today has been about tomorrow and it cannot come quickly enough now. All the discussions, chat, arguments have taken place. Tomorrow it is the cross in the box. I like listening to the positive podcasts of Lesley Riddoch and this week the tour around the country continues, meeting after meeting. The energy these guys have is phenomenal. Loved the way that this network has evolved and how every one has helped each other, looked after each other and the excitement has grown as the opinion polls have closed. I have started to listen to John Beattie over the last couple of weeks and sorry not sooner. The most reasonable and balanced over view of the Referendum I have come across on MSM. Had an amusing experience listening to the psychology  of how we are going to vote. Seems when we listen to “experts” the independent thinking part of our brain shuts down. Unfortunately a study on experts predicting the future whether in medicine or economics does not show them up in good light. In fact very bad light, so all these postings, tweets I have read and retweeted do not mean much. When you look back what economists predicted 2008, or politicians for that matter. The same ones who are saying we should not try some thing different. I have come to the conclusion that they do not know any more than I do and that is very little. I do believe in a community, in saying We instead of I, I believe in “all of us first” and taking responsibility for our own actions, mistakes, ambitions and vision. The worldis watching us avidly, is seeing something amazing, people who are telling the Establishment enough is enough. There is widespread panic already amongst the corridors of power, they no longer know how to deal with people having a say in their own lives. Neo liberals have got used to 30/40% turnouts and complaining about disengagement. Well we are engaged as todays and tonight’s conversations at the Inn and everywhere else back up. Several people going home tomorrow to vote, its brilliant. And the most telling aspect of it all is all these Europeans telling us go for it. In fact the chat with regular visiting Belgians will stick with me and her closing comment was “Good luck tomorrow”

Inspiration in the Rain.

Driving west of Achnasheen in the lashing rain at 10.30 last night on my way home from Ullapool the old head was brimming full of conflicting thoughts having just come from Ullapool via Inverness. Often think of Angus Macrae of North Strome saying very eloquently about how he wanted to see lights in the dark glens keeping him company for the way home. Fourteen hours earlier the day started as usual with Dougal and Co heading out for their first jaunt of the day and a quick breakie. Unbeknown to them it was going to be a longish day for them as Alison was away to Arisaig to a little gathering of LDO guys who are going to talk about what sounds like boring things such as di minimis rules on grant funding. These items sound boring but are going to be critical in the ongoing work within our communities. For me and the Dougal crew it was off to Inverness and an IFG meeting at Great Glen House. Set off in good time but came across a wee problem in that the van coming down had a bit of a brake problem, alright for me but not for the van as, although missing me, ended up securely in the ditch.

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To cut an everyday saga short half an hour later they were pulled out and everyone’s day continued. Not a cross word was said and all were just concerned with sorting out the accident. Slightly hairy moment when the van shot out across the road and up the opposite bank. Only in the ditch for half an hour, good Applecross help.

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Ended up being twenty minutes late for the meeting but it was fairly interesting despite itself. There is still a feeling that we are not being listened to very well….the opening up of the west coast grounds to squid trawling and this strange hardship fund that is only designed to compensate poor trawler men for not catching enough prawns this year are two very bad examples of badly thought through policy from above. As often happens the chat over the lunch sandwiches elicit the most interest for me. Brief chat with Richard but longer one with Nick and Beth about data collection and luckily it turned out that Beth’s phd was done on nephrops in Torridon and we had a good chat about the survival of returned berried langoustine. If I was told by the scientists that it was a pointless exercise I would be so disappointed but would have to change my practise. Fortunately for me there is no known science that tells me by returning the berried female is detrimental to the returned one or the fishery as a whole.

After a wander about the buildings with Dougal,

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a look across to the south of the growing town,

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a trip to the Dog shop and Wholefoods, it was back on the road to The Strathpeffer Pavilion.  On the way into Strathpeffer I had to stop as a field, with no apparent reason to me, had hundreds, possibly thousands of birds landing and taking off on the land.

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Important purchase of two tickets for the Treacherous Orchestra gig on the 25th of April. Bit strange as I do not what I am going to do this afternoon, dogs check out the Pavilion http//strathpefferpavilion.org/ grounds, a chat and catch up with Andrea, a lovely bowl of  potato and leek soup and up to Ullapool. Mid afternoon in the Highlands means the lights are on early.

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Stopped in at Leckmelm but no lights on. Plenty of time for a fish and chips sitting on a bench across from the pier on a windy and cool november evening in Ullapool. This is living the real sensations of life up here.

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The mutts got plenty of exercise and had a good night-time tour of the wee town, little surprised how many houses had no lights on. Lots of reasons, I am sure, but hope second houses was not one of them.

So to the Ceilidh Place and Lesley Riddoch. www.lesleyriddoch.com/blossom-book-tour.html Huge amount of informative chat and ideas about the Scottish nation, how we seem to view ourselves, how for some reason we listen to people who tell us we cannot do it ourselves. Many comparisons looking across to the Scandinavian countries and looking at energy or banking whether it be Norway or Germany. 41 energy companies in Germany and in Sweden the price of energy went down due to the 2008 crash, obviously because there was lots of spare capacity about, but in our energy rich country what happens….the opposite. We do have a lot to learn from other people and countries and have to cast off the “it won’t work here attitude”. Interesting statistic from Norway when they passed a law giving landowning Norwegian men a vote in 1814, 45% qualified. In 1832 the same happened in Britain and 5% qualified. We have suffered inequality for centuries. I do not have the mindset of wanting more so do not understand it but those who have vast lands and wealth their whole existence seems to be occupied in either growing or at least keeping it. A little of this came out at the IFG meeting when one of the organisation representatives became quite shirty when it was suggested that a more equal share of a quota was suggested. It was the “hard work” ethic that was introduced and the example of some one wanting a croft you do not go to the big farmer and take some of his farm for the crofter. Looking at it another way what he was really arguing for is the farmer to have more than his needs while the potential crofter is to have nothing. How we address this growing problem in our society is going to be crucial, but we either accept the present situation or look at way to redress the imbalance. These imbalances were created with the full backing of changes in the law in the past by those who directly benefited, maybe now it is to be redressed. An interesting example Lesley put forward was the impoverishment of the quality of the land over centuries of overgrazing and told us about a small project carried out by Ron Greer and Derek Pretswell www.andywightman.com/?p=3291. But more importantly was the project that involved planting of 100,00 hectares that would now be a community asset and Dunkeld, Birnam and surrounding area would be carbon neutral. Failed because they did not have the right “qualifications” for the project. Their Loch Garry project counted for nothing despite them taking land that was sour and turning it into a rich soil structure now supporting lots of wild life habitat. Planting lupins was one of the keys in returning nitrogen back to the depleted soil. Met a teacher who is involved with the Ullapool St Ayles skiff and a great chat about the community aspects of this. It will happen here.

Struggled to leave as I knew, as usual, there would be good craic after and would have to use one’s brain in keeping up a banter with these guys. So after many offers of Highland hospitality from Jean, the offer of a room to a flask of coffee for the journey home, had to be turned down and I made my escape, but not before meeting Noel outside and having a chat about fishing, SCFF www.scottishcreelfishermansfederation.co.uk/ and MPAs before turning down yet more offers of a place to crash.

So there I was driving through the rain with everything in overdrive, not the van as I followed a police car for twenty odd miles at a respectable distance and speed. Inspired, but knowing the huge problems of community work, realising that no matter what you do you will always be criticised, but aware that you are fortunate to know  some amazingly kind and considerate people. This with the Finlay Macdonald Band on the Ipod made for a “short” journey home.

And that is how I finished my day with a brief political/land /nation discussion, the good fortune we have to live in such a place amongst wonderful people. So important never to lose sight of this amongst all the hassles and carp of daily life.

A Bit Gloomy.

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Went off to Strathcarron Monday morning to catch up with the Strome Bypass saga. Was late due to the weather, kept pulling over and watching the ever changing rays coming through the clouds.

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It was fairly interesting although things began to wilt by lunchtime. It was universal and I was quite surprised at that as there were many professional meeting goers there. There is a long and fairly tedious process that the Highland Council have to go through if they go on to seek funding from some other source. they have to go through all possible options and put them up against agreed objectives and whittle them down to options that will be costed and then built…..maybe. During the meeting I could not help recalling a conversation with Morris over the weekend when he mentioned he was in the Faroes and said the infra structure even there was vastly superior to ours and when I was in Norway up in the Lofotens, they built bridges to communities that were smaller than Broadford. Also in Lombardy where we went through tunnels in very sparsely populated mountainsides. For a rich little country we do not do the infra structure very well. I do like the option over the Strome Narrows, but I hasten to add I do not live there or the detail has not been set down on paper yet. For Applecross it is the best option and the west would be so much closer, at least until we start going by sea again. The journey over the Hill took far longer than normal as I had to stop taking a wee photo round the next corner.

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Although windy, the light was playing its usual tricks.

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On the way past noticed a new wood store at the Smithy…definite signs things are changing here, using more of our natural resources, not in quite the same scale as Lombardy but getting there.

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Yesterday, another dark day with bright spells between the squalls. Lightened up the day with a look at the Celtic Connections line up and probably will go down on two consecutive weekends as some of the music is ace. Also discovered that Lesley Riddoch is speaking at the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool and it will be up there on Friday, albeit after an IFG meeting in Inverness. So Dougal and Co will be well-travelled that day as Alison is off down to Arisaig and Jill and Kenny will be in Dumfries. Dougal takes his family to Inverness and Ullapool could be a post on its own. With the miserable weather on the go and purely coincidentally I thought the Highland cattle next door were not looking their happiest, knee-deep in glaur. Sure enough in one of my frequent trips out the gate to get another barrow load of chopped wood there were two out on the road. They had pushed over a strainer and got out through the gate.

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Clever beasts and to be frank the two of the four that were out on the road looked well up for a jaunt. Felt a little sorry for them putting them back into the “field” although they are Highland cattle and they may used to it.

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Hard enough being a fisherman….crofter/fisherman looking out the window just now, a step too far for me. In many ways it shows the slow break down in the crofting system where it is now individuals becoming small holders rather than townships coming together on several occasions throughout the year to help the township in shared tasks. There was never a golden age but I do remember back in the 60s/70s the fank gatherings were, although hard work, happy community gatherings where genuine laughter was heard.

Last night it was a quiet Community Council meeting, a little gloomy again, started with a no crime in the area report but notice that there are plans to close Lochcarron, Kyle and Dunvegan police stations. Maybe get the crime report more active. With a brief chat about the pier, establishing as the CC guy on the ALPS Management Group that opinions are far too diverse in the community to offer any cohesive advice to the best solution. Sounds like a cop-out. Then on to a strangish discussion about an issue that has been rumbling on in the community for over a year, our community bus is off the road, easy to get it back on the road in a technical sense but is turning out to be very difficult to achieve. Another letter and prospect of another meeting and hopefully……. It is approaching the end game with several people trying all sorts of ways to resolve the problem. It is not really a conflict but more a brick wall. Frustrating in the extreme and very hard to write about it.

Another very relevant local problem that has reared its head is di minimis totals that the community companies have to deal with. What this means basically is this is a method to prevent State Aid distorting the competitive markets. We came across it when receiving funding for from CBS to set up the community broadband network in Applecross. Who in their wisdom decided we were in competition with is beyond us. It is not as though BT are going to supply us with anything more than the half meg we have already. It does seem just an easy option for those to say that it is di minimis rather than sit down and work out the actualities. Read a cracking email from this morning that puts the problem really well.  It detailed a local supply that barely goes outside the immediate area and the funding could be declared di minimis due to another company doing the same trade in another country with no intention of supplying this locality.What we seem to be missing at the moment are people in positions who are looking at rural problems and actively finding positive ways around those issues that arise due to unintended consequences. The problem with di minimis is there is a cap of 200,000 euros which lasts over three years and that can and is a severe restriction on some communities development while in no way affecting any competition rules in the outside world. Interestingly public funding for a nuclear power plant can find its way around this while it looks as though our anchor community organisations may be caught up in it. How silly is that, How on earth, by helping our communities, do we impinge on the competitive world.

Interruptions this morning were Dougal, the Mobile Library

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and a group phone call/skype from the guys running the Travelling Tales project. On the bike in a very wet gale to the Inn later for the evening shift. Even Dougal is not greatly keen on a day like this. So now minute writing and a vitamin D capsule should see me through to work.

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