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

Posts tagged ‘music’

Landward in Applecross and Duncan in Sleat.

Tale of two days show a variety of life in rural Scotland. Friday morning saw us up at the Inn to meet up with the team over from Landward who were doing an article on the impact of the NC500 on the infrastructure around Applecross, in particular the Bealach.

Once camera was all loaded up

we headed up in the car chatting about the strain on the road caused by the huge increase of traffic. Laura, the director was in the accustomed place out of camera view but directing operations all the same.

Interesting seeing Anne’s reaction when she started watching the road edges. Actually, sitting in the passenger seat and going up the road it was shocking to see the rapid deterioration that is taking place. Personally there are going to be serious decisions that will have to be made very soon by Highland Council. On one hand the trumpet cannot be continually blown about how wonderful tourism is to the Highlands without a penny being spent on the infrastructure as it collapses around our ears. Not only is the Bealach breaking up but issues locally keep cropping up such as camper van chemical toilet disposal. Our LDO is in touch with both SEPA and Scottish Water about setting up such a unit as our Community run toilets are creaking under the strain of constant use and disposal. We have just had a groups of local ladies carrying out a voluntary deep clean of the toilets last month and despite the regular breaking of our donation box the toilets remain well run. New donation box is in the process of being installed which hopefully will end this sad problem. Fortunately for the Highland Council these issues are being solved at a local level by the Community Trading Company but roads are a different issue. The theme about the NC500 is that it has been welcomed in a lot of areas, particularly further north but here we have a feeling of being a little swamped by the numbers coming through. It is a good problem to have to deal with, but Highland Council have to step up or the Bealach is going to become a dangerous embarrassment and people in the rural parts of the Highlands who are already questioning exactly what the Highland Council does for anyone outside Inverness will have another example to point to. Fascinating to see the interaction between camera, direction and presentation. All in all it was an easy-going but professional morning with me trying to ignore the calm weather and the creel boats fishing just off the shore in the Bay. We finished up with some filming and more chat/interviews outside the Inn

before I went south and they stopped of for some fine lunch at the Inn. The program for anyone interested is going out on the 22nd of September, the first of the new series. It was not a bash the NC500 morning but a look at how an advertising campaign with little local(Applecross) consultation can have such an impact on our infrastructure.

I knew I was not going to go out on the water later as Duncan Chisholm and Co were playing in Sleat in the evening. We headed over the Hill at the back of five as Alison was meeting another deadline for an application for the Community Company. Made it with plenty of time and the music was simply sublime. I have a really strong connection with this man’s music. His tunes are phenomenal and you wander through the glens with him as his fiddle playing makes you forget all the things you should have done. His tunes feel ancient, as if they have been around for centuries, and I reckon they will be played for years to come. Hard to believe this all in the same day. Prior to Duncan

coming on stage we were entertained by Mischa Macpherson, Innes White and Ingrid Henderson, gaelic song and fiddle at their best. Duncan was ably supported by the wonderful playing of Jarlath on whistles and uillean pipes

and Ali on guitar.

Saturday was earmarked for fishing as I was on film duty the day before. I was slightly nervous of the weather as the forecast was giving a strongish breeze from the north and I was not looking forward to a heavy day’s work especially as I was in the Inn for the evening. As it turned out the morning was stunning with the sun shining around a few fluffy clouds

and the water still and serene.

Although the first fleet was not too impressive the next five were very pleasant to haul. Lovely creels coming up with lots of big langoustines,

one so big it could have made it as a lobster.

As I was hauling the last fleet I noticed a wee change in the temperature and looked to the north where there was a solid rain cloud coming down the Sound with accompanying white caps. By the time I got to the end of the fleet I was hanging onto the gunnel, tripping across the deck and tying lose equipment down. The decision was made for me on how many creels to haul for the day. Nice to know that the steam home was with the motion on my stern quarter

and all that was to be done then was to weigh and land the langoustines for the Inn and then start work all over again. Before it got a bit lumpy a few stone crabs are appearing as you put some of the creels on some rougher ground as the open mud fats are getting a little tired from the summer’s fishing effort.

I have no idea what these are but still they reproduce, maybe a mistake in this case as the eggs have little chance of survival.

As this was written over a couple of days and it is now Sunday evening after a twelve-hour shift, interspaced with a twenty-minute snooze to revive myself for the evening shift. Twelves, sixteens, sixes and eights were all seated amongst the residents and random walk ins. Regulars are appearing in numbers. People you get to know a little each time they come up. A crabbies and bike ride home after a music night from the Vans, a fine Australian couple, who are playing cracking self penned and cover version songs for the last three hours.

Applecross Games,…”Are you normally this busy?”

Seen off another Games Day and the Aftermath, although the Inn staff are still seeing to it now as there is still two hours of food serving to go as I start this post. I had an easy day yesterday by catching up on some sleep and cycling off down to Toscaig to case the croft for a bit of fencing. The outer fence of the north end of the croft has been down for a few years and that section has been deteriorating letting bracken and rushes take over. The deer and sheep quickly finished off the willow that had been growing inside the fence, but prioritising making some money meant that nothing was done to sort the problem. The plan this autumn is to have both sections of croft fenced and reintroduce a wild flower meadow below an orchard. It will have to be something that does not take a lot of time and animals on the croft is simply a no-no. By rights I should not still have my croft as I have not used it properly. Over the years I have maybe used it as an extended garden but little else. Now with a little more time and effort I intend some clearing, soil analysis, drainage and planting. See how it goes as I maybe using this posting as a bit of pressure to get things underway. Luckily I will have some good advice behind me from the Black Isle. That apart the day was quiet but aware of the busy part of the community as the Applecross Games were underway at the Campsite. I almost made it but could not find the energy and knew I needed that for the evening shift at the Inn. As ever Applecross is full of contrasts and the hurly burly of the Inn is so different from the peace and quiet just a half mile down the road at Milton.


Came up early and soon we were ordering, serving, arranging tables for the Coghills from Skye to the Carron Valley MCC. The couple of rooms that were full we found tables without any waiting. Sometimes you think how lucky things are to work out like that but it is so well organised that it always falls into place and it is no accident. There was no sign of the Boss so we decided that there was drink involved with her visit to the Field. Good team on meant there was no reason for her to worry about anything, just Billy appearing after ten (closed early for the staff to get a night out) for a pint or two only getting the one, bit miffed but it is one of the few nights for early closing. Home by 11.30pm and asleep not long after.

Today was approached with some trepidation as some staff have had a few the previous evening and it is one of the busiest days of the year. Began by getting some more langoustine ashore


and things were rapidly underway with the visitation by the Nicolls, all seventeen of them. Put them on two tables and it worked out pretty well as the young and older of the group split up fairly naturally. Biggest table bill I have done so far but they were so easy to look after and very appreciative of the service. The day slipped into a bit of relentless ordering of food and drink with hordes of people calling in before heading home or people passing through.


Noticeably more Chinese on the go and mainly attracted by the NC500. It was getting  a bit fraught by 4/5 o’clock they just kept coming in, luckily for us the weather held up is still holding off so the evening shift should not be too hard. The car park extension is taking place under the careful eye of Kenny.


He is doing a very fine job and Applecross is showing quite a few examples of his dexterity with his machine. Seems natural when working away at his job. Garden full and the bikers just keep on coming but you can see why.


While all this is going on Rob comes in to cook a BBQ for the Games helpers/organisers and some spread it was too.


I managed a small plate on the side just to sample of course. The lamb and monk fish kebabs, langoustine, squats were all top drawer.


That food could have graced any tables in any top restaurant in the country.


Meanwhile on the other tables the food just kept coming out. Isla and her mate had her eye on some langoustine tails, trying to look cute as she could but don’t think she managed one.


Things had quietened down a little by tea time, the band had struck up again and I was away down the road with some ice cream and a Crabbies to check the forecast for Cambridge, pack a couple of bags and plan for the next week.heading to Aberdeen tomorrow to take in a Blue Deal Workshop, organised by the NEF, before heading to The Cambridge Folk Festival. Christy Moore and Afro Celts are top of the list but the list is long and there will be surprises among the attractions of Imelda May, Baaba Maal, Mike McGoldrick, John McCusker, Blazin’ Fiddles, Imar, the list goes on and on, filled with brilliant musicians. So be off-line for a week or so but taking photos and meeting lots of friends again.

A post on fb coincided with a train of thought I have had over the last few weeks regarding how we live, politics and how we treat each other and the environment. In particular as we joined the Trident protest in Inverness, we watched the inevitable vote for the renewal of our weapons of mass destruction. jobs was rather a new and lame reason put forward for its renewal, but saw in the debate how party lines are more important than common sense although some Labour MPs just cannot vote for something so against their conscience. Came across the following tweet from Gary Lineker, not often see tweets from him but worth a mention and this diagram which say it so succinctly.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 23.03.42

“Don’t get Trident, never have. If it’s ever actually needed we’re all screwed anyway. Spend the money on something important.” Gary Linekar. Very disturbing that in our democracy our Leader states openly in Parliament that Human Rights and the Geneva Convention mean less to her than killing a 100,000 people in the so-called “Defense of our Nation” using illegal WMD. Sometimes up in the remote North West it is easier to envelope oneself in the busy day-to-day life of Applecross than contemplate huge issues such as building weapons that we cannot surely use in any circumstances with money we have not got and Climate Change. We are busily setting records of ice melt and high temperatures around the world which only merit a sentence in the News Bulletin but if some one walks into an office in parliament then headlines are written about Parliamentary privileges being broken. Life is more simple up here with just a few petty disturbances and on the whole you get what you see. Stick to sorting out the croft maybe not so simple.


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.

Musical Weekend.


Saturday evening was going so well with a fine ceilidh by the fire when John launched into “White Christmas”…….. He said he was practising for his care home tour. I know Judith has been here for over twenty-six years but……. Have to say the weather and lack of sea activity has got to me, function levels are very low. It is just as well Applecross has been served by some fine musicians over the last couple of days. Also got an I player BBC AlBa prog to look forward to. As I have bought most of the albums and seen most of the groups this year I do not mind who won what although not surprised that Ross Ainslie, Treacherous, Marie Campbell and RURA were among the winners.

Shooglenifty, who were playing on Friday evening, could have just as easily have won with The Untied Knot. They arrived on Thursday and met them at the Inn as they came out for a meal. Pleasant evening although no music despite having them and the Coast Road Truckers in for a pint. Did an extra shift to cover the anticipated pre Shoogles rush. Not too bad but had to contend with no water, a threatened power cut and a severe gale blowing outside. Weather may have cut the numbers down but there were enough there to see the second of our Aussies off. They had the crowd jumping by the end of the night. I really loved the night and a good way to see off a gale. Three in the afternoon saw me watching my dinghy literally dancing on her line. It really should have been tucked into the pier but thought there was more southerly in it than what came, a west south-west. By the time the wind gets up it is too late and if I tried to take her in she would most likely be smashed on the shore before I could get the engine started. This morning I was looking south with one eye closed but all was well with all the boats in their right place.

(Sunday afternoon) the music continues with Tarny guys, the Lochcarron contingent complimented by the Baron and his Mrs from Torridon. Grand mixture of fiddles, pipes, whistles , box accordions and guitars with fine vocals. Another winter’s day well spent. He was almost forgiven for the Christmas aberration, but he broke into that song again. Could have done with another Caledonia but majority rules and off I went home. I know it is just the time of year but could hardly keep my eyes open. I am just simulating the weather internally. Managed to stay awake for most of the Bridge and have a nightmare about Son No3 being radicalised. Now off down the road to Perthshire to meet some Germans and Lesley Riddoch about some land. Apart from having the Sons around if we could just roll on past Christmas and into the New Year and brighter days…Musical photos will have to wait.

Comeback Stalled but Rura Eases the Fretting

The come back has stalled somewhat as we are still waiting for the bell housing to arrive in the Highlands. Apart from moments of frustration I just have to get on with it. The weather has been quiet and settled which does not help the mood and am getting a little fed up with cutting, chopping and stacking wood. One advantage of the situation is that it is pleasant to hear the young voices of the community across the road on the play ground. Take a wee break to take some of the younger ones across the road. They are very traffic aware.

Tuesday evening there were four cars which made their way over the Plockton to hear Rura play some fine, fine music.


Good to see a whole table from Applecross but so easily could have gone on the bus if it was legal. Such a waste of a good asset, but so many people have tried to no avail to get it on the road. The music put on by Lochan and The School of Music was so worth the journey over the Hill. The sunset as we travelled along the Achmore road was spectacular and more so as we saw glimpses of it.


We were early so had time to catch the sun dipping down behind the south end of Skye


and a quick trip down to the back of Frithard was rewarding as the after light softened.



Knew the music well as most of it was from the last album, bought at Cambridge.



Made it up to the Pen stock and saw the concreting had all been poured


with the outlet pipe in place


and most of it buried.


The Share launch is progressing and an evening at the Hall is planned provisionally for the 17th of October. Lots of work going on behind the scenes to get it all in place, comprehensive business plans and worst possible scenarios for the Community has to be worked out to reassure investors of the safety of their investment. Both the investor and the community benefit as well as it being a green renewable resource.

The MoD have issued their consultation on Thursday and I am not sure what exactly we are consulting on. We now see the new map which Qinetic want to protect the new hydrophones and it is what we were told at Kyle. Little change and although I will put something down as part of the consultation I am not expecting any positive reaction. Such is life, feels like we are being squeezed in every direction. Maybe being broken down does not help the current mood. The shifts at the Inn continue and many regulars are coming in. By the end of the week you get to know who is in what house and expect them in the evening for their meal. A wedding this weekend has meant a little boost as things have dropped off somewhat.

(just a wee note from a very noisy bar) Came in just before six and it was already jumping. The pre wedding drinks party was well under way with the first 30/40 tippling away. There were very few other customers apart from  two groups of regulars. They were seen to with plaice, turbot and monk fish and enjoyed the fairly raucous night. The wedding crew got themselves together around 7.30 and started ordering lots of food and drink. I suppose I approach it the same way as I fish, if you sort of know what you are doing and stay calm, it all takes shape. Several top comments sent to the kitchen and they could not believe how organised we all are. It’s becoming a really good team again after a scrappy sort of summer with too few staff and too many coming and going. Managed to book a band for the share launch in the midst of it all. So hoping most who are invited will be able to come. In amongst it all the Hydro boys came down, an after dark finish for them and will mean another trip with Dougal and Eilidh to take a few shots of the progress. The Lego bricks are taking shape seemingly as well as the paneling coming off the concrete at the intake. The wedding group are pretty “well to do” but it always makes me smile when I see workies in as well and no one gives a toss. Sign of a good bar. Home now and pickup last nights ice cream. Forgot it so strawberry ripple and amoretti biscuit tonight.


500 Miles

Admit the last post was a bit rushed as I did not want to arrive at Mairi’s performance in a rush and feel flustered. First though one or two things that have happened over the week. As important as any was the dozen 9Q7Q9838   or so volunteers who helped tidy up and plant the Filling Station. 9Q7Q9838   One of the few beautiful days of the year and the Station is now looking good, 9Q7Q9843 pity it is experiencing problems with connections. We are still selling fuel. 9Q7Q9839 Seeking info in trying to reduce the breaks in operation. The weather has been good this week but now back to the regular, a northerly cold breeze and damp. Despite arriving back at half past two this morning tiredness has not been an issue today and pressure washing a fleet on the pier was easy work. Thursday evening has left some good memories both of the light outside, the late sun casting a shadow above Cruary, 9Q7Q9889 catching Clachan in her rays 9Q7Q9892 the soft late light on Milton, 9Q7Q9896 before settling down north of the Bay 9Q7Q9899 leaving the sole yachtsman in calm solitude. 9Q7Q9902 The craic with Ken was the start of a fine couple of days which is continuing although difficult to describe as it is almost indefinable. The journey south began yesterday around one and after a drop off the catch at the inn. As I was up at five 9Q7Q9906 and had hauled 300 creels 9Q7Q9908 so was a little tired, although it was calm, 9Q7Q9915 and had to stop three times for snoozes on the journey. Got the destination right first time 9Q7Q9920 although I was a little concerned when I parked up. Thinking about it, it may  just prejudice, it being in West Pilton , or at least close by, including Muirhouse. Names that conjure up a bit of deprivation and crime. 9Q7Q9919 Seeing a family at the side of the road unfortunately confirmed this as I watched a young Dad yelling at a wee urchin to stop him running across the road. The wee boy, about three or four would have fitted in a black and white 1930s photo. What struck me most was he did not register that his Dad was screaming at him, must have been so regular that it had no effect. Just felt sad at the passing scene. Inside the Arts Centre, and the atmosphere is completely different. Warm, welcoming and safe. I settle in before the main audience and soon we are under way. I found it enthralling and experienced a period of timeless bliss. I think one way to describe it was when you are reading a book that you become so engrossed in and you want to turn the page almost before you have finished reading the one before you.  An hour and whatever of pure enjoyment watching and listening to Mairi enact and play her musical journey to where she is now. I knew little of what I saw although it seemed as if I did, the Mexican escapade was good fun. And the man with the kind eyes. 9Q7Q9918 Discussion after was very structured and comments were invited on the performance. Cut short a little as the Centre had a fairly strict closing time, stricter than the Inn. So glad to have a quick chat with Mairi at the end before making my way back up the road. The plan was to stop, camp and catch up on a sleep before coming home by mid day. But I was so involved with Mairi’s performance that I was passing Kingussie before I began to feel a bit groggy. But with head full of thoughts dreams and feelings of good fortune, Achnasheen was soon in the rear. By taking little steps to Lochcarron, then Kishorn, the top of the Hill I was finally home by half two. I find these little dips into real life keeps you going especially when I left Applecross with Hydro complications, the Filling Station down again and a few tears at the Inn. All real but too much sometimes and it gets to you. The perfect antidote this time was Mairi’s performance, but it was more than that and that is going to remain a “mystery” as I can not explain the peace one enjoys from these events. Back home and because I am reflecting all the time, early up and washing creels, bit of pressure called on to fix the Filling Station again, this time with an audience of classic cars and bikes. Cracked it eventually but we have to get this connection sorted, as it is starting to cause concern. And then work which was fine for the two of us to work the floor fairly easily until eight when we were hit for six. At half eight we had two fours and a three waiting for tables. Beautiful day for weather, visitors and now some fine fiddle and guitar playing in the corner, this now being Sunday. The service has now finished and as usual the compliments were flying in to the kitchen. Langoustine, scallops, crab along side sea-trout, lobster and cod and that was just the fish were consumed with gusto by Americans, and Europeans alike. The only down side of the day is the troubles at the Filling Station. Got it going twice today and it has been reported to the technical dept for a look tomorrow and if it is our problem then we can go looking at our end. It is a happy bar tonight with people coming out to hear the music. A couple of boys, Cameron and Niel, who were at the School of Excellence in Plockton. They are a fine advert for the school and are accomplished players. Stayed long enough to hear a set from the Austrian bagpiper The Hydro saga continues unabated but there is not too much to say in detail at the moment. Some of the figures and projections are indeed puzzling me but important decisions have to be made informatively and quickly. So it has been a heady mixture of music people, food and Applecross over the last few days. Good strong conversations, connections strengthened  and these young boys are good, not stop playing for the last hour and now we getting more of the small pipes. A satisfying weekend for the soul.

Bonxies on a Bank Holiday

After being immersed in land reform for a couple of days energy has returned to far better levels and just as well. A fine couple of days with huge varieties of emotions, the emotional highs and connections have been the strongest I have felt for a long time. If I had written this yesterday I thought my blog would have been “Bonxies or People”


with the intention of writing that I preferred the bonxies.


To explain, I was up relatively early and after dog duties and a muesli breakfast, I was on the Varuna before eight. Unfortunately with all the thoughts of land reform since Wednesday I had completely forgotten about the fleet I had left on board. Into the pier to take it ashore and off out west. Still had many thoughts floating around about land reform and they were mainly about how power and wealth have become so influential. How do we go about dissipating it in such a way that people who live on the land take the important decisions around their own communities. Interesting that the idea of Human Rights are presented just now as the defence of those in power. Surely they were created to help the disadvantaged. Anyway I was not hanging about as the forecast was for an increasing southerly and I wanted to catch some prawns for the Bank Holiday weekend. Succeeded in that by hauling 300 creels in a freshening breeze, awkward and hard work. The Mayday coming over the radio from the Mallaig area does make you think that you are always at the mercy of nature and simple mechanical failure. Catch slightly better than expected and they did last through the weekend, chuffed to manage that. I had one or two more round the boat possibly due to the lack of fishing activity on the Sound.



Managed a snooze with the dogs in front of Netflix before making it up to the Inn. It was as expected although it went surprisingly well. Everyone did amazingly well at everything that needed to be done. Cannot describe how it all works, it seems to be a unit of which we are all part of and if you knocked out the individual components the unit would not work in the same way. Working at the Inn confirms my belief in movements like the Common Weal. We are far better together, in the true sense, not in the political slogan sense. Despite all this Did not have a true connection and felt more connected to my natural surrounds earlier in the day.

That all changed today and for several reasons and people. As our Company grows and learns how to deal with problems that emerge there are inevitably tensions and strains within the community and even the Company. Sometimes when we become so involved in running the broadband system, or the Filling Station we forget the people who take the strain in keeping these services going. We are not an anonymous identity like BT or SSE but live in the community where if the service provided fails we meet the people who want it sorted. And we all work as well. A phone call this morning followed by a return message means a lot. All this before a 14 hour shift at the Inn. At truely amazing experience although a bit concerned about the Boss’s fitness. Judith stayed behind the bar today and left us to “go for it”. And that is what we had to do. We had to deal with wave after wave of customers from eleven till well after food finished at nine. Food still going out at half past. Five highs amongst the floor staff after ten when we knew we had cracked it. Lost a bet of a pint with Steve as the M V Hampshire guys arrived a little before time. They do like their haddock and chips. 9/10 had them with a cod being the other although the cod was eyed a little enviously by some of the haddock eaters. Not a word about fracking passed our lips.

And at the end of the evening I had a wee reward. Earlier in the evening Garry came in with girlfriend Hannah. As Judith did not know Garry he is only classed as “well known” and not famous. I ‘ve bumped into Garry a couple of times over the years as has most of the Highlands and the rest of Scotland. Met Hannah for the first time and had a good banter going when they came in for their meal later. Very accommodating with tables and sharing at one stage Garry thought they were going to sit on separate tables and he was up for that, not so sure Hannah was. met up after everything had settled down and on the spur of the moment decided his offer of a drink was a good idea. A large bunnahabhain followed by a couple of hours of fine craic. Music, history, politics, land reform, a wee touch of the spiritual and yoga and just life in general. Time flew by and it was just what I needed at the end of the night. Not only that it seems Hannah has had a very interesting political past and always good to hear inside stories and opinions. Fond farewells and a quick bar clearance was followed by a thoughtful cycle home. Grand welcome from the dogs so wandered down the shore, time had wandered on to 1.30am, but in the company of nature’s sounds from the shore and Blair Douglas’s tunes, it was really timeless. Maybe the effect of a couple of malts had something to do with it but all was good despite the stresses around and about.

As well as all this going on  I had to make a few phone calls to organise tractors and tree surgeons for the morning ‘s events at the turbine house site. the first attempts to get the drilling rig in position failing due to the wet top soil. A 16 ton back axle did not help. The bonxies sometimes are easier to live with but they do have their scraps as well and are fiercely competitive so maybe are not that much different from us. Flying free does appeal sometimes.



Today was probably more stressful but more later.

Better Laws.

(early Sunday evening). Tiring but have to keep going as we are starting out on the last leg, the Oran Mor next for ALDOC and Songhoy again. Morning was the first laid back one as our outing was on for 2.30 at the O2. A series of five acts of which three were very good


and the other two were okay.


Had a bit of a weird experience on the way there. Just crossed the road in front of a marching band and did not like it at all.


Felt the aggression from them as they passed. Strident music with loud harsh drumming making a statement of who they were and almost daring me to look at them, of course the camera came out.I reckon I am passionate about a few things but they took the biscuit. The other downside is walking past the beggars, quiet, polite and looking pretty miserable. No doubt everyone has a story behind them and who knows but them, made me very uneasy and sad they could not enjoy what we were. The music was fine with three of the five very, very good and the other two good, but not to my taste. Busy place this town.


(Later) Just back from the Oran Mor and buzzing. Love writing these snippets when you still feel the music in you. Find of the weekend was ALDOC, a mix of Irish, New Zealand, Dutch and others, playing bass, electric and acoustic guitars, with flute, whistles, trumpet,drums and decks.


At one stage the could be described as rapping to a reggae beat but the flute was still prominent….simply fantastic.


Set too short but iTunes getting a visit tomorrow. Longish before stage set for Songhoy and we thought we had heard what they could do as they played last night. The venue, intimacy and crowd made for a special end to the weekend. Sometimes not knowing the language of the songs matter but not in this case, music is universal.


Even the subway not working did not matter, taxis ten a tenner. Banter on the way out was superb, he tries to stay clear of Sauchiehall Street, Saturday nights as the lads “after three pints of lager tops think they are King Kong”. His wee story of the Commonwealth Games. His neighbour, an elderly wifie was telling him she was watching the opening ceremony when she heard thunder and rushed to get the washing in. He could not understand it as weather great, worked out after she told him a couple of times that it was the fireworks she had heard…. she was watching them on telly but never twigged. It felt a short journey out. Bit of football on now and it just occurs to me that we have probably spent less on the whole weekend than we would have if we had gone to see overpaid superstars kicking a ball about a pitch for 90 mins. Poor comparison I know but makes think about priorities.

And home, it’s a long journey and a stop in at Birnam for a coffee and scone before Alison taking the van up the A9.


Roads clear, Treacherous playing on the iPod, and head full of memories of an epic weekend. Straight through to Applecross with a brief stop at the top of the Bealach for a view across the Sound.


Just a bit of House and a sleep. Busy in the other room as the tenders are in for the Hydro and lots of big, important and informed decisions to be made in amongst all this music. As we had stopped in Birnam on the way I sometimes stop and wonder how more people do not know about land issues, generally issues over legal rights and the like. I sat beside a tenant farmer who would not say where he was from, bit damming considering we have abolished Feudal Law. Outside Dundee we were told about a development which was objected to by all residents and CCs but went through at higher levels, the developer is based in the Isle of Man. It must be what the Africans on the ground feel when their land and resources are sold from under them by their own governments. Interesting to hear other people talking about the value of land and why as soon as you put planning permission on it does the value go through the roof. Housing a human right?….. it does say that in the laws we are supposed to be following, so many considerations that will be regarded as being less radical in the future. I often feel I am a little out there is what I believe in but am somewhat protected by my lack of desire on things. Collecting and selling holds nothing of importance as opposed to giving and helping . There is a structure and legal system to live within but when you read about how these laws come into being…….Why is it shooting a deer has become a right but cleverly the deer remains a wild animal so liabilities are nullified if the deer “causes” a car crash? Why can no one catch a wild salmon, a fish that has swam 4000 miles to Greenland and back, without paying a private individual extortionate amounts of money? Why do Sporting Estates have tax exemptions? The only reason I can think of is that those who make the laws actually benefit from them and they will argue to keep them the way they are. The way ahead is for the people to get together and make better laws in which the many benefit over the few. So three consultations to reply to in the next week or so, otherwise how can I continue to complain.


Land and Music, Universal Needs

(Very early Saturday morning). After nipping out to the boat for a few prawns for the Inn, a few jobs, quick dog walk and even quicker pack it was into the van by 1.30pm and down the road to Glesgow. Did it in fairly good time although messed about with the parking. Missed the car park and parked on the street, walked to the Royal Concert Hall for a stunning Fiddletree Concert. Beautiful music, found myself closing my eyes and kept imaging tumbling, flowing water across the Highland Hills. Not surprising as there was a mix of Cape Breton and Scottish fiddles, American cello with Irish harp. Brilliant mix and really loved Mairi singing “Smile or Cry”. Haunting powerful song, also liked the words put to the tune about what grew in Otis’ garden. Alison ended up sitting by a group of Cof S ministers and met some one who did not know where Applecross was. Left early as we were going to hear Shooglenifty and that was simply a beezer. As it was their twenty-fifth they had guests and they were special. The whole concert was stunning and it finished with a crescendo of Indian drumming. There was an encore with more drumming, Ross Ainslie and Angus, still on his feet, leading the rest of the guys. Just have n’t got the words and maybe a wee bit tired having walked around half of Glasgow to properly describe the joy of music. No photos as we ended up a little rushed in getting to the music but Shooglenifty’s fb page worth a visit. Finally got to the hotel around 1.00am, seemed to go on for ever, the hotel that is.


(Early Sunday morning). Well I was well content if tired last night tonight, Treacherous were absolutely out of this world. I cannot remember a night of music coming to such an epic finale.


A long day and we had planned to take the train to Birnam but NCP do not like vans in their car parks. That meant me sorting out a two-hour meter charge that cost £6, breakfast and then out onto the motorway and North to Birnam…….not before heading south on the M74 for a few miles in the direction of Carlisle. On the boat if going south and want to go north I turn the wheel to port and head north, bit different on these pesky motorways, but we got there in plenty of time. And then ensued a very informative and interesting day of views exchanged, new people met and bumping into acquaintances from other meetings. Very glad not to be a note taker, having volunteered if no one else would. Great conversations with people from Orkney to the Borders. Met “Gentle Otter”, some people you think you know even if you only have contact through social media, but so much better to meet in the real as opposed to the virtual world. Problems are the same the length and breadth of the country and sometimes I wonder if enough people are trying to tackle them. Phase of the day was “Scotland belongs to all of us and to none of us”. That sort of fits in with my lack of interest in things, it is about experiences and what you take with you. All I have bought this weekend is the Treacherous cd, and it is  pretty reasonable, the rest is memories. The strongest feeling I left Birnam with was the laws of the land are there to be followed and respected, and up till now have been mainly influenced by landed folk. If we want them changed then the people have to influence the lawmakers that change is necessary for the benefit of the many and not the few. It will not be a 70 page submission but there will be two going in from the Schoolhouse to the Scottish Govt this month and we are able to give instances where community comes a very bad second to the Establishment.Had to leave sharp to get back just in time for tonight’s extravaganza. Met up with other representatives from Dallas, Applecross, Ardelve, briefly, and pretty sure there were many other Highlanders in the RCH. Started with a fantastic lady from Cameroon, then The Micheal McGoldrick Band,


followed by some Malian blues from Songhoy.


A night of mixed emotions, I was rested at times and excited by the sounds. After three hours it was T.O.


These guys make me laugh with unadulterated pleasure.


Played a lot of the new album and, if possible, it may be even better than what has gone before. I thought of the Hydro as they were moving around the stage and wondered if there was any way you could store the energy they produced.


They looked so into their music it made everything so special although I did wonder if Ali Hutton was going to do himself an injury on the finale. The folk behind us provided lots of amusement for Alison as she was over hearing comments, not favourable of the night entertainment. They had not done their research and were at the wrong gig. One of them had switched off his hearing aid and they left before the end. What a weekend so far, the Festival Club will be jumping tonight but not jealous and now for sleeeeeep.

Kirsty Logan comes on Board.

Thursday evening was another lovely cycle home, although at a more sane time. Sunset had just taken place


and the moon was up over Milton Loch



and I got home for Nashville, first time for a few weeks…..and Deacon is back in the picture. Just realised that I have resisted Breaking Bad all week, pretty easy I suppose when it has either been work or too tired. A good week in all and Friday continued in that vein when I took the Varuna ashore for a wee clean up. Copper painted bottom has meant that I do not have to worry too much about the hull but noticing a drop of 3/4 knot decided to have a look.


Always good to check the anodes for replacing anyway. Turned out there was a big growth of mussels on the keel along with German Writing and barnacles on the rudder and propeller.


To get to this stage became strangely difficult. Coming across the Bay on the dingy I have to remember everything before setting off so the key for the shed was important as I wanted the pressure washer. So back I went, then the extension lead had made its way back to the Inn, so it was across the Bay. When I was retrieving the lead the fuel delivery came in, only 500 litres of UL left so got away with that one. And finally on the way back across the Bay I forgot to take the Lead with me. So three hours later after beaching the Varuna I began work. Washed a fleet and most of the hull and scrapped all the mussels and some of the Writing off, mended and reroped the majority of the fleet and landed some langoustine to the Inn. Home pretty knackered as being under the boat you use mussels you do not use for the rest of the year.

Saturday morning began with a minor sleep in but made it to the dingy before my guest arrived, writer Kirsty Logan. http://www.kirstylogan.com. To be perfectly honest I would have struggled to have gone out as the weather and forecast were not inviting. Finished off the fleet and got it shot off on the Middle Bank before hauling 200 pots. Sinister sight off to the West.


And we had a larger than usual complement of skuas around the boat probably due to the lack of other boats out.


Looking back on the day I don’t think we stopped talking all day. Similar lifestyles in that we both spend a lot of time on our own and seem comfortable with it. Kirsty was doing a bit of research in a new project and wanted to find out a bit of the practical side of creel fishing. Good sensible chat about the YES/No debate and is a waiver inching towards YES finding the constant negativity of the BT campaign. We stopped off on the way ashore to watch the seals, some staying on the rocks and others swimming over to tell us we were too close, one calling frantically. Ashore by 2pm but with a slight mishap. Took a couple of photos of some moss just below the tide zone, put the camera back in the back pack, zipped it up, swung it onto my back and plop the camera fell out of the broken zip into the water. Resting without hope in a box of rice and already ordered another second-hand camera. Have Jack’s but really wary of taking out to the boat as that is two in the water now. Managed not to let it affect me too much and after a snooze for ten minutes, power nap to some, the Inn beckoned.

A very busy shift but enough time to make contact with several people, some first timers and many who come back time after time. Pretty hectic hour around eight but every one content by 9.30pm having all been fed. Torrential rain had passed by the time I was on the cycle home after eleven. By the time I had left the Canadians paired with the couple from Fife were getting on like a house on fire. Reminded me of the Waterboys’ lyric I was listening to earlier in the day, “Started off in Fife and ended up in tears” one of the best lyrics of all time from A Bang On the Ear. This morning arriving tired at the Inn I heard that there were one or two absentees for breakfast, maybe doing the job too well for some people’s health. Weather back on and a steady/busy day and a long eight hours before sitting down for a very nice venison burger. Struggling to keep eyes open for the final but will give it a go. A break from the photos as the iPhoto does not recognise the new camera to download, but the good side is that 22 calendars have been sold in the first week with very little effort. Find that somewhat humbling but many thanks to those who have bought them.

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