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

Posts tagged ‘politics’

A Tractor with no Wheels

Quiet couple of days although still managed a couple of pleasant shifts at the Inn, a bit of seaweed gathering and a fuel delivery from our cheery oil tanker man, Kenny. A brief excursion out on the boat to haul a few creels to check how bad the fishing still is and it was. Hauled 150 creels for very few prawns and went back in to do some work on the moorings. Changed a bridle and saw that I need new chain for next year, good to have this done as today’s forecast was right in that there was a gale coming into the moorings for most of the day. Can rest a little easier knowing things are in not too bad shape. Although pretty dull there was some bonny light south over the Crowlins and Skye.


Passing Milton loch I almost always stop now to have a wee look at the swans, love hearing them call to each other and the way they gracefully move away from you, just in case.


Yesterday while dropping off a couple of things in Milton I noticed there is a Baxter Project under way…..aiming to become a two tractor family.


While it is quieter at the Inn you end up chatting  more than what you would call working. A couple of things not on the menu board, you tell the customers and all they have is what is not on the board. Must be the description of venison loin in a red wine jus served with new potatoes and vegetables. The monk fish in that day was served in a lemon and herb butter also with potatoes and vegetables. No wonder they take their time in choosing when you add in the bog standard, rump of lamb, lobsters, duck breast, seafood linguine, it goes on and on. Got to know a couple from Dundee quite well, good chatter and interesting talking to an agronomist for a wee change. Inevitable this week of all weeks politics seems top of a lot of conversations. Quite an art, still to be learnt, to chat about next years referendum without becoming too involved in the topic. I have taken a lot of time and read and still read a lot of information about the subject. A lot of what I feel is emotion and I have always thought about Scotland as an entity, more than a region, and why not, a country. Status quo is not usually a very attractive proposition. As in many areas in life, whether at a local or regional level it is time for a little thinking out of the box. It was not that long ago I was in Sleat and saw a pretty impressive operation in how to manage a forest and it seemed aspirational. Cannot help comparing it to back home where the figures are so different no one seems to be able to turn over the profit and employment which Sleat Community Trust are doing. Reading posts, streams, papers the reality is no one can predict much into the future, although everyone is trying, as that is the only way to justify their positions. It would be nice to have more of a say in one’s own destiny. There was plenty of opinion locally that told us that taking over the Filling Station was not going to work….four years of hassle  and I took another fuel delivery today with just short of 500,000 litres  of fuel sold and we keep on going.

Not too much excitement today, just a trip up to see the delivery of fuel,


a not very interesting job for Dougal and Co,


the seaweed gathering was much more interesting. As I went up in the van I had to put a load of weed in the back to justify the trip. It is quite hard being green. So with the minutes done all that remains is to finish a Scottish quiz for Saint Andrews night at the Inn. May or may not be used, depending on how many people out and enthusiasm. Curry night at the Walled Garden means less guys at the Inn. Keeping the political theme going I came across a great quote from a slightly surprising source, the Pope. Every Friday we get an email from Lawrence, who sends out the Senscot bulletin www.senscot.net/view_bull.php?viewid=16359 and usually has something pertinent to say this time it was quoting the new Pope who seems to have a different take on things,“The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule”. Good to balance Boris’ view that greed is good.


Feeling a little bit bruised but never bowed.

Firstly I would like to thank all the folk who have expressed their support for me as a person. Most folk I am acquainted with or friends with know that I do not seek the attention I have received over the last two or three weeks. My grandfather was given a croft in Toscaig over  100 years ago, he was welcomed into this community and from what I have heard about his life he returned that many times over. Although I know I fall far short of this in many aspects of my life that is what I aspire to, simply to be kind to others. The debate I had when starting a blog with Sam was great but the full implications have hit home recently. I do not regret anything I have written and, as said before, these are my views. Having just read an article in the WHFP I felt the familiar feeling of “oh no what now”. But having re read it the only thing that was missing and is important was the end of my reply to the question did I agree with Brian Wilson’s article the previous week. I quoted from a letter written by John Wills and ended by saying the enquiry had to be directed to the Trust as I could not answer it. I have picked up a lot of different comments and arguments over the past three weeks and most are very emotional. I had a very interesting conversation this morning with some one who is reading about this aspect of decision-making and had an interesting way of saying that most decisions we make are emotional and we then spend an enormous amount of time and intellect trying to justify them. The one thing I have never defended at anytime is the status quo because I do not think it is sustainable. There have been huge changes over the past 30 years that I have lived here. On the positive side there is a community pier, a community hall, healthy heritage centre and many other groups but against that you look at the school role of 8, an ageing population alongside a falling population, crisis campaigns to re install our PO and keep our medical services. Most people who live here love this place and regard it as the Sanctuary,some who have lived here all their lives may not desire the changes that have taken place since growing up here and many who have come in see Applecross as a Sanctuary from the outside world and may not want anything to change from when they first came, all perfectly understandable. The fact of the matter is Applecross is not and never has been divorced from the outside world. In the past the change has come slower due to its isolation. Possibly one of the problems in recent times has been the speeding up of communication systems and globalisation has opened up the area so much to visitors who appreciate the peninsula and are welcomed in as an important part of the economy. But part of the process I see is the increasing vulnerability of communities such as Applecross due to events outside our control. Climate change, food and fuel poverty but there are many people living here who believe that we have the solutions within this community and that is why the Community Company is working with the Trust in trying to secure a viable wood supply for the community. I accept the fact that the Trust has been set up with objectives which involve culture, heritage and the environment and trustees draw a distinct line between that and the social and economic needs of the community. I have argued with the Trustees that this is a false demarcation and there has to be a coming together of all these objectives.Sustainable development is in the remit of the Community Company and needs more support from the Trust. I do not think you can isolate the culture of this place from the economic and social needs of the people, maybe this is the root of our problems. I think this is the only criticism of the Trust that I have voiced.

On a practical point I have asked the link to my blog to be removed from the Community Company website. This blog has never been the spoken word of the Company and was fairly safe up until this political turn of events and it also keeps me free to express my views about life, fishing and community in the NW of Scotland, and I thought …….but so glad of the SEA course and the guys who were on it as it keeps me with a sense of realism.

I am not fearful of any campaign whether inside or outside Applecross and find the whole subject of land and land reform fascinating and I know this will not go away. There are many rumours, maybe even a petition to sign, and lots of opinions swirling around and I actually think this a good sign that the community is alive and kicking. This is what happened when the Community company was formed and since then we have a Community run Filling Station, just about to refurbish the Toilets and set up a pilot Community Broadband system, with the Hydro scheme making progress and looking at Toscaig pier and the surgery grounds, all for the benefit of the community and whatever happens this will continue. Very slowly the Community Company is increasing its capacity with more people actively joining in, the latest example being the sub committee to roll out the broadband throughout the rest of the community.

And you know, life goes on, with the fishing still holding up, a lovely day on the water on Tuesday with another hoped for tomorrow. It is good to get out there to get a proper perspective on things. Even living in such a beautiful place like this we do seem to complicate our lives so much but a day at sea seems to settle things down. It is a pity that it is raining hard today or I would be out watching my bees going about their business.Lovely black bees who seem to have settled into their new home. They are feeding well having scoffed 4 kilo of sugar since arriving in Applecross.

Not so good news on the hen front and I have admit temporary defeat at the hands of the pine marten. We were woken up to the screams of one of our remaining 3 and although rushing out at 2 am was unable to save her. Found lots of spraints around the house has meant that we have a pine marten that is practically resident with us. The remaining 2 have been taken down to the hen care home in Toscaig where hopefully they will have a happy life in amongst their new mates.

Speaking of which Aron, the ice cream man, is now finding it hard to keep up with demand at the Inn. Thetubs of ice cream are disappearing as fast as they are being made and are receiving as much praise as other excellent dishes. Had  milk chocolate and apple and bramble scoops last night for my “staff drink”. Sublime.

Fishing politics,meeting people and Thai massage

Taking Dougal and family out this morning,where it is warm, still and sunny, watching the swallows dip and dive and listening to the cuckoo there is not anything more to ask for.This extra ordinary busy spell is continuing today with a trip to Edinburgh to meet with Marine Scotland about Inshore Fisheries politics. Both Kenny from Shieldaig and I were not going to go as yet again we have seen any progress halted by budget cuts. Our Excellent co-ordinator has had her contract terminated and the Inshore Fisheries Group is now a bit rudderless. I have had two phone calls trying to persuade me to go down and I have succumbed with little expectation but also with the knowledge if I do not go then I cannot moan about no action taken to save our fisheries. The only bright spot is that this meeting is the first where the mobile sector have been excluded and we can have a genuine meeting without having to defend our fishing practices from the ludicrous claims of that sector. It is going to be a long two days but Judith, last night, let me off my shift on wednesday evening so no rush back. A call into Glasgow to pick up the boys”stuff and then through to Linlithgow with a really good mate has been arranged and the Applecross ready meal has been prepared.Yesterday’s prawn and squat tails peeled and a Thai paste from the Inn to exchange for an overnight stay.

The routine of fishing and working at the Inn continues and although tiring is very fulfilling. The weather is settled and fishing is poor but it is a joy to be on the water. I love looking around and seeing what is going on, the changing light, sea birds and what comes up in the creels. Just catching enough to keep the prawns on the menu board with squats of course. I cannot say it often enough how satisfying to see people eat and enjoy food that you have a part of providing and it sparks of many meaningful conversations. For customers who are just in for a passing meal once you ask where they are from it opens up a conversation that can go anywhere. Two couples were in from New England and in a previous life I stayed there for a month while hitching from Boston to Vancouver. The connection is made and you talk about what a beautiful place they come from and compare it to Applecross. Sometimes you go to a different level and afterwards you just feel good having made a connection to very pleasant people and ,if I am not mistaken, they go on with something ,even a little spiritual, from a special place. The guests who stay for a couple of days you can get to know a little better and if they are interested find out about your working life and the place where you live. Speaking to two sisters who every year get together to do a bit of walking and it was Applecross this year, they were from Bath and Nottingham and one was a picture restorer travelling to London every week from Bath. Different world but still full of interest. I find the balance of fishing with your own thoughts and music a perfect balance to the rush of the Inn. The defining character of the Inn at the moment is the astonishment of the customers as to how it happens so efficiently even with my mistakes. I have lost count of the number of people that have come up to me in the last three weeks and said that they have just had their best meal in their lives, whether it be halibut, sirloin steak, scallops or ,of course, prawns and squats. To be part of this, I consider myself very fortunate. Judith came back from the annual hotel awards in Glasgow with another honor to add to a huge list and this time it was a personal one.’Dame of Hospitality’ of the year.

In amongst all this mayhem I took time out to try a Thai massage in Shieldaig to try and alleviate my ongoing pains in the head. Great two hours although I have to say extremely painful as I have been overdue treatment. It involved some very sore reflexology but even if there is some placebo effect it seems to be working as the painkiller intake has dropped of dramatically. Trying to go back this friday for another session as Sarah was very impressed with how tight my neck and back muscles are. Thirty years of fishing, hauling creels has left a legacy. On the way over the Hill took a photo of the remaining snow scenes. The road was blocked with snow the previous morning.

Yesterday coming up on the creels of the first fleet in deep water were some sea pens with their symbiotic starfish attached. This is a sign the sea bed is in good health and not ravaged by the trawl. They stand upright in the mud and catch drifting food in the form of plankton in their tendrils.

On the way home I passed two of the boys out in their kayaks enjoying an Applecross break. There are not many places where you are coming home from your work and this situation occurs.

Off to fill the ipod with music and the van with diesel from our Filling station for the trip south.

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