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

Posts tagged ‘Referendum’

“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


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


and hall so filled up.


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.


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.


John Finnie, MSP,


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,


stopped in before staff Darren


and Lydia called in for a lift up.9Q7Q7126

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


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.


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.

Forlorn and Heart-broken.

After two hours sleep it is back to it. There is  a lot to think about today. Looking back on the last few weeks one of my main aims was to pursue my hopes through the ballot box without losing any friends and acquaintances. Time will tell if this is true. I know that I have lost a little connection with one or two people through postings or tweets but such is life. What I will say is I have rarely experienced the feelings and emotions that I had while working last night at the Inn. I called in at the Polling Station to cast my vote, to hope instead of fear, to put we before I, to live in a sustainable environment and economy. It was n’t about nationalism, or separation for me. It was n’t about who said what to whom in whatever debate. It was n’t about what expert said whatever about the currency, NATO, EU, personal pension plans or whatever else was used to worry people who just want to survive. It was about something bigger, an ideal, a better way to live our lives within our environment. A belief that the way we live is unsustainable and we have to change our greed for need. I have read much over the past six months and been inspired by the incisive thoughts of many people and groups who have provided a different way of looking at life. I have been in the company of inspirational people, read their tweets and posts, watched them on television and thought they spoke for me. As I write this I am going to make it one of my ambitions to try to make some sort of contact with these inspiring people. I feel so down hearted at the moment the only light I see is to keep believing in the better world  of community. I sincerely hope that people like Lesley Riddoch, Derek Bateman, Gerry Hassan, Jean Urquhart, Jeanne Freeman, Ian McWhirter, Jim Hunter, Andy Wightman, Alastair MacIntosh, and many others, groups like RIC, The Jimmy Reid Foundation, The Common Weal, WomenforIndy stay to the fore. There may be a celebration of “the union” just now but when does £1.4 trillion debt and rising in one of the wealthiest countries in the world become too much to handle. Corporate power allowed to burgeon and use services paid by the working population without contributing anything to the taxation pot. Quantitative Easing, another word for printing money does not make our inherent problems go away. We have become used to living well beyond our means and I do genuinely fear for the future. I feel hurt and sad that most people look to their own circumstances when they vote and work out how they will individually gain or lose rather than see the common good for what it is. We edged towards the common good in the last few months but last night were afraid to take the plunge and experience the immense and sometimes intoxicating rush you get when I becomes We. I wish those well who voted No yesterday, probably as many reasons to vote No as Yes, but there we go. Over the years I have grown to love this place, the community and my life as a fisherman and all the other bits and pieces I do and every day of my life there is risk, maybe even fear. As a fisherman I have always hoped and I think that is where I will get my strength from. Taken a risk in writing this so soon and it hurts, it hurts badly but that will ease and I will have a good malt today to raise a toast to those fearless and good people who voted for a better way of living.

Years ago, yesterday I went out fishing to catch prawns and mainly squats for the Do in Inverness which the Inn is cooking for. An interesting day and one I would normally have not stayed out in as it was dark and misty.Lovely ethereal morning looking across to Ardhu


and out to the Sound over Norman’s dinghy.


Did not really register the fog bank until I was on board and steaming north, but suddenly we were in it and actually I had to pick and choose the fleets I hauled as it was easy enough to find them with the help of the GPS some were close to other boats gear and when shooting back you are liable to go foul on their gear if not put back exactly . Only saw the Boy Ryan and that had to be close up.


As I came across to the Applecross side of the Sound it cleared up now and again. Landed prawns with my head full of Indy thoughts and home, showered and posted a thought on fb before on my bike to carrying out one of the most important task for my country. Son No1 was just leaving and asked him to take a shot of me at the gate.


On the way up the road going past Milton Loch looking west was special.


It was emotions of the highest degree and found it hard to communicate with anyone for the first half hour of my shift. But apart from a couple of customers it was a shift that flew past and was exhilarating in the extreme. Had wonderful conversations about hope and the future, full of expectations and taking responsibility, conversations that included Germans, Americans and English bikers, all were hoping they were witnessing an event that could shape world politics. The food fantastic as usual with the Texans enjoying a seafood platter in the dinning room while the bikers


got tore into some slightly bigger langoustine.


It was n’t a naive hope but one that was going to shake the entrenched Establishment to its core. The Glasgow girls were excited, regulars, to be in Applecross but missing out on the George Square party. Surprised by a local Yes declaration and also by an undecided going Yes. The shift was interspersed with lots of humour and banter and only had to be careful around a couple of guests, one in particular who had thirty years service in the forces behind him, very adamant and humorless in his view of the world. And how others see you….I was brought up in a Presbyterian home with no Christmas celebration so have never become attached to this Festival and this is fairly well-known locally. So when Joe wandered up to me and said “Ali this is what ordinary people feel like on Christmas Eve.” Burst of laughter and said it all. Unfortunately it feels like the middle of January now with the long winter ahead. The big question of the evening was Applecross Ices a Maybe Yes or Maybe No. I know but do you?


But already after a few consoling hugs at the Inn and a couple of conversations with equally devastated Yes voters and a look at Twitter we have to emerge stronger and “Keep the Faith”. Although I do not really care about party politics I suspect that Labour in Scotland will be in trouble. The other emerging stat is that the older folk voted to keep their security and the younger voters voted for Hope. Less access to Social Media for the older generation possibly meant they were not able to counter the bias of Mainstream Media about pension security and general fear. I do have an advantage in that I have been fishing for over thirty-five years and know all about risk. I have always had an inherent hope over risk, the weather will improve, the catch will be better, I will arrive back on the moorings safely. Voting NO does not increase anyone’s certainty about anything. We have been sold a Dud and not quite enough people realised that but succumbed to their own fears (I think). One certain casualty of the campaign, no more BBC News, Ch4 for me and Social Media for my sources. No more introspective pondering as does not achieve anything. I feel nothing but pride for my tiny involvement in a Movement that at times felt momentous.

Life goes on and looking after a Hotel tonight and fishing tomorrow followed up by another shift in the evening. Will still be feeling raw so hope no one says anything too silly. So goodbye flag but just for a while, you will be back out sometime in the near future.


Dougal is a Yes

A very kind neighbour dropped off a YES sign for a photo shoot and Dougal immediately got involved.


From Bees to Boris.

It has been a quiet few days in that the weather has been pretty poor. It was good to get the extra fleets up on Friday as the weather broke over the weekend and stayed that way up till now. Hoping to be back on the water tomorrow, back permitting. A potter about day on Saturday which included a wander down to the shop with Dougal.


There seems to be a burst of colour showing how well the heather is doing this year and any break in the showers and wind the bees are out collecting.


The evening we were up at the Inn as usual and it was a steady night, less silly busy than usual and the Boss took some time off leaving us to do the front of house ourselves. Good mix of Europeans and home-grown and all happy with one or two comments expressing best meal. Always good to pass on to the kitchen. Couple of late arrivals from the Hostel, Germans from Frankfurt, deliberately took the bus so they would speak to people. They had an interesting take on learning language in that they reckon that we have more time concentrating on other stuff rather than spending time learning some one else’s language. I am always in awe of the effort people make to learn my language and have promised myself that this winter I am going to make an effort, however small, in order to interact a little. They got me talking about the Referendum and in a good way, just explaining the logic of how it is going to pan out. With Son No4 home as well the discussions are raging at home and it is great to hear articulate reasons put forward. Defence, economics and the rest are getting the full works. Something I got into only when we went to war in the Falklands in the early 80s. Good these discussions are taking place with an air of respect and no one is falling out but using words rather than fists to support their arguments. Bit different from some the bigotry expressed by some supporters I have seen on twitter this last week. Fascinating programme on just now about how people may vote and suggests that people who are risk averse tend to vote No. Great chats with the boys about how the brain works and scans showing parts of the brain reacting to liberal ideas. Feel lucky.

Sunday was a long day at the Inn, inundated by Italianos from Florence and was broken by a trip to Shieldaig, a taxi run for three cyclists,


two of whom were booked into the Inn. Geordie, a Spanish cyclist, had joined them and it was a bit of a squash on the way back. Interesting chat speaking to a lady working for Boris in London and a teacher in Hackney. Love hearing other people’s perspective and there’s on Scotland was genuinely positive and they had a lot to say about the welcome they had received around the country. Also a wee insight into how Boris “works” with planning. That, and a couple who were travelling around the country having sold up in Amsterdam and he was reading “The Poor Had no Lawyers”, so the obvious conversation followed. Would like to get it sourced but read last week that 70/80% of land ownership in Scotland is based on the profits of slavery. I guess that may be a bit high but even if it was 10%, nothing to be proud off. Just missed a spectacular shaft of light over the Sound. By the time I got the camera out it had gone but still not so bad.


Wind continues yesterday from the North so it was a trip out to the boat to bring ashore the rest of the prawns for the Inn and as it was up in the van I was duty bound to fill it with wood on the way back.


Power saw on the beach and the tree is now home unfortunately I must have weakened my back as I could not move this afternoon after leaning into the back of the van for something and moved the wrong way. In retrospect should have cut them into smaller logs. Painful but may be okay tomorrow as I recognise the muscle that has been stretched. Compensate by using stomach muscles to protect the damaged back muscle and a visit to Sarah is on the cards for Friday. May be painful. It was shaping up to be productive day, working on buoys


and a tidy up but came to an abrupt stop. IMG_0989Had a laugh at break time when Teacher came out to ring the bell for the end of the break but the wee ones had n’t quite got the hang of it and carried on playing across the road. There was quite a lot of bell ringing to get them to come back to the classroom. Son No3 looks as though he is heading off tomorrow fit and healthy and according to the Doc one of the most tested patients she has come across. He has three pages of twenty tests per page to his name. Seems an unknown infection and no long-term damage so off to a dive in Scapa Flo and next term.

Selfies are Out.

Monday evening; Wednesday turned out to be windy, strong wind from the south so good to have a recovery day from the propeller dive. Was out in the evening at the Inn and busy but nothing untoward, Thursday was a long one when out fishing and followed up by closing up at the Inn. These are testing days as no matter how tired you are you have to cover it for the customers. Weather seems to have settled down


and there was a stunning sunset and I took off on the bike to take a few snaps along at Milton Pier


and the fence line as it goes down to the shore.


Timed it for the American friends coming from Mike and Helen’s. They have been coming over for years and you can tell what time of year it is when Eleanor, Stewart and Baba arrive along with various friends and family.


Friday was another beautiful calm day at sea and the squats almost overwhelmed me today.


Every minute I was not hauling and shooting back creels I was tailing mountains of squat lobsters. A few more small prawns on the ground as well as the squats so happy with catch. Day did start with a bit of a panic as I was catching a few minutes of Breaking Bad before heading down to the dinghy to get the Loch Ness prawns ready for transport, look d out the window and there was the transporter wondering where I was. Mix up on the times. Fastest I moved all day but they left only fifteen minutes late. Evening was spent in the company of aforesaid Americans and if I said fours hours passed as one that sums up the evening. Great food, company and conversation. Even had a little referendum talk, more and more of that lately and I am sure it will increase as the date comes nearer. Speaking to a lovely English family over the week and their attitude is they would be sad to “see us go”, but I just do not see it that way…..we aint going anywhere, that is just a perception. Saturday evening spent a half with a couple of Yessers from Aberdeen, involved in the oil industry where the general feeling is No. One in particular wanted away from his work but used a term I had never heard before he was trapped by the “golden handcuffs”. There are worse things I am sure but wealth and living a life style does trap people into not making the life decisions they want. Took a chance that the Friday fishing would last through the weekend and chopped wood instead of going fishing. The garden is looking not too bad and with the new policy of it looking after itself, seems to work. The hydrangeas are cuttings I took from Kyle and are a wee reminder of my Mum. Not sure how long she will be around as she took a fairly major turn last Friday.


Made it till Sunday evening with the prawns and left some very large prawns by the roadside for pickup on Monday morning to see the Inn through the day while I caught some more regular size. It just keeps on going. Took a couple of photos for a blog I have been asked to write for Volt Bikes. Euan took the one of me on the bike


and really do not like being in the picture. Selfies are definitely out.


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.


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