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

Posts tagged ‘sea birds’

So Much…..

Siting at the menu table after 4 hours work and just before it all kicks off again you wonder how on earth she runs this place the way she does. I have only been here for the weekend, granted I have also been fishing and washing creels and trying to sort a breakdown in the last couple of days, but running the Applecross Inn takes a phenomenal effort. When things are running okay it is busy, food, accommodation, drink and people all coming in and going out the door. The Dream Machine outside is also ploughing on with haddock, Aron’s ice-cream and coffee all going south as fast as it is being made or fried. As well as all this the roof needs done, the cold store gets put outside to make way for more space in the Prep room, new gas boilers and constant repairs for accommodation. For me, without all the extra stuff, this morning from just after eight it was checking out residents, taking booking for accommodation and meals for anytime this summer, bottling up the bar, cutting lemons, changing the menu board, ordering soft drinks and answering random requests from the phone, redirecting customers to the Walled Garden for breakfasts, sorting the float out for the Dream Machine and finally getting the crashed till system up and running again. Twelve o’clock now so the day starts. That plus another twelve staff, cooking, serving breakfast, servicing rooms, prepping, preparing salads…..

(The above was written in the heat of the battle just before twelve last Sunday, cannot believe that it is ten days since last post). Having said that, looking back on the photos there has been a lot packed in. The weather has been immense over the past while, to the extent of having three fires in Applecross in 24 hours. The first one in Toscaig had about ten residents and holiday makers beating out a fire across from the old homestead. The following day I called in one that started on the Coast Road, across the Bay. The opinion was that this was started by a passing car throwing a cigarette out. The Fire Brigade came from over the Hill as well as our beaters. If this had not been tackled, judging by the flames seen across from the Inn, this one had the potential to race up the Hillside behind Cruary. While the Brigade were in another one was called in at the Campsite and seems this was caused by wood worm dust coming down on an extractor fan, over heating, setting off what could have been a serious fire at the Steading. Pure coincidence/luck that the fire men were in Applecross and were diverted from across the Bay. Story is that another ten minutes and there would have been serious damage.

The week has been taken up with some long days, combining the fishing and the Inn. This is what I have been telling myself during the winter that I work the whole year during the summer months and should not feel so bad during the winter wind down. Yesterday, for example, I was up at 6.30am, fishing till around 3.30pm, landed the langoustine and squat tails, a half hour on the couch and shower before going up to the Inn till just before midnight. Finding the Inn very rewarding these days, meeting lots of folk, both regular and new arrivals. The weather makes such a difference to people’s moods and on week’s like these no wonder so many people come for a “get away from it all” holiday. And there are some who get that bit more, speaking to Ian last night and we were talking about the essence of the place, a spiritual peace. The bubble of the Inn can be left behind by walking in any direction for ten minutes and you enter a place of peaceful serenity. At a meeting last week I asked some one to describe the character of Applecross, he could not which I found a little disturbing as he is tasked with conserving it. But more of that later. I love being surrounded by people’s contentedness, happiness, pleasure of visiting such a beautiful part of the world and you try to covey to them what it is like to live here. Despite being hectic, busy, sometimes not enough time to stop and look around, the conversations you have with people like the Walkers or Ian, who obviously connect with the place, reinforce the feeling of pure joy of living in Applecross. Very occasionally there is a spare room available due to late cancellations and one such was filled on Sunday. I showed them the room and left smiling at how excited she was by the room the view and the promise of good food, a Hungarian who had just come of the ferry from one of the Western Isles having the holiday that they will never forget. You meet the world and their dogs at the Inn, so far not a Trump voter in sight, and there are a large number of Americans on the move.

The fishing had taken a bit of a dip last week but seems to have recovered somewhat on the last couple of hauls, catching enough to keep both Inns supplied. This morning there was an early start to get some langoustines over to the east coast with a regular carrier who was heading back with an empty lorry. The sights and sounds on the fishing trips are as varied as ever, some soaring and graceful,

some that jar, who is watching who,

traffic as other marine users ply their trade and make their up the Inner Sound,

natures intriguing creatures,

this being a Rhizostoma octopus floating by, I stopped to take a couple of shots but as the tide was flowing found it quite hard to manoeuvre, but pleased with the effect of the exhaust discharge on the water over it

and just the views of all the different goings on

and weather

fill one up.

Even the blackbacks have a certain beauty.

Still time for Dougal and Co to go for a wander on the mornings I do not go to sea. The advantage of being single-handed was I had time to recover on Monday morning before going out to haul two hundred creels in the afternoon to keep the Inn going. A walk is as good as a rest.

The trips home on the bike from the Inn are as good an example of the contrasts that Applecross throws up. Serving a hundred and fifty folk followed by a serene cycle home in the moonlight.

The rest of today , although the plans have not been set out properly yet, involve most of the rest of the day off with just a stop off at Aird to pick up a half ton of bait for the creels on the way home. The plan is to head north to Ullapool, eventually for a spot of music, possibly an art gallery visit and a dog walk thrown in. And it seems the weather is holding out so looking forward to a busy day off. Again so much has been going on so will try and catch up over the weekend as there was another film crew on board the Varuna and two more Consultation Meetings plus a missed CC Meeting due to tired head. Onwards. Duncan Chisholm on the stereo certainly setting us up for the rest of the day.

 

 

The Spring Winter Battle.

Was going to post this a little earlier today but Dougal was looking a little sad

so brought that part of the day forward. He is now suitably filthy after a wee trip down to Toscaig where he went digging for rodents and tried to consume some afterbirths. The walk always includes other activities such as the wood gathering and the odd shore retrieval. Last winter I was alerted to some salmon farm floats coming ashore just out from Cruary. Had my eye on them and planned a salvage with the Varuna on a high tide and north wind. One however came a floating into the Bay and is now in the garden to be used as a raised bed after having the top cut off and the polystyrene disposed off. Garden is very unkempt but my excuse is I am waiting for the dandelions to seed as there are no end of bees and other pollinators on them.

It being Spring there are signs of growth everywhere.

Where does one start with all the political turn arounds, swings both local and national. Another election which closely follows our local Highland Council elections. I probably would have done anyway but certain that my number 1 vote is going to Topher Dawson, who resides in the west just up the coast, is standing for the Green Party and so far has been the only candidate to visit Applecross. He is a very self-effacing chap who has visited 15 community councils and not once asked for anyone to vote for him. (One of those weird co-incidences has just occurred, a second candidate, Biz, has just been to the door with a leaflet!!) Topher, as well as attending our CC, came up the next day to the Hydro Scheme and up to the Head where he gave me a hand in cleaning the screen, this can be seen in his election leaflet. Then we have Andy Wightman contesting a defamation case in the courts and having to crowd fund for his appeal. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/awdefamation This is an appeal that we have contributed to, on two counts, if he goes broke as a result he loses his seat and would be a great lose to the Scottish Parliament, and we need people like him to speak up and out for the many issues that affect us all locally. And finally our neighbouring country has decided to call yet another election, but new UK immigration laws are already having an effect in the Highlands as is seen in Lagan. A family who emigrated to Scotland from Canada in 2008, were running a local shop and coffee shop, are being deported despite petitions, letters, MPs protesting. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-39657447?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_scotland_news&ns_source=twitter&ns_linkname=scotland People wonder why we want to have our own country, well not deporting residents who are part of a rural community and not having our MSPs taken through court by directors from a company based in an offshore tax haven would be a start. The local news just broken today is that the Kishorn Yard is now going to be used for building a floating offshore wind farm. Two hundred jobs for a worthwhile cause and all appears well locally. Hopefully it will fit in well with the local economy providing orders and employment for existing local businesses. I am sure there will be unintended consequences in the future but we will wait and see. http://www.kishornport.co.uk/2017/04/floating-wind-farm-to-create-up-to-200-jobs-at-kishorn-port/

The season is well underway although it appears that there is still a battle going on between Winter and Spring. Winter is forecast to win back some more time at the start of next week, but there are days, like today, when the bees are loading up with pollen.

We are caught a bit in the middle of it as we are not getting to sea as much as we would like to. Last week and again earlier this week the catches have not been too bad and for the most part the Inns I supply have them on the menus. The gear mending and washing season is already upon us and yesterday I was along-side the Pier loading up creels that have been clogging up the jetty for the last few months. A bit more activity around the Pier and had to wait while other users landed scallops and the Marine Scotland boat which is working on salmon smolt research.

Cleaned, baited and stacked on board for tomorrow. Getting a little busier on the water

although I am as far west as I have been for quite some time. The bonxies are arriving in ever-increasing numbers

and one or two are looking particularly bright

with a variant of colours on their feathers.

The Inn is busy but apart from Good Friday, when it was off the scale with 534 meals served throughout the day, it has been manageable. The Dream Machine also in operation would have put the figure over 650. I do not work Fridays but the rest of the shifts have been busy enough. Only when people like the Truckers come in from Sheildaig for their weekly band practice do you realise how busy it is. You are just doing the normal job of finding tables for people to sit at and eat the great food. They just shake there heads at how busy it all is. Last week and it could only happen in Applecross Inn but when you have to deal with a booking for seven that was not written down, you take emergency action. Hopefully Geoff and Maureen did not mind too much when I moved their table, yes their table, with their half eaten meal on it to make way for the seven. Knowing the regular customers really well has its benefits as I would not have done that with 99% of the other visitors to the Inn. The Good Friday session was topped off with a three coming in at 10.15pm and looking at the menu.They were told it was all over but checked the fryers were still on they asked if they could have their own chicken nuggets cooked. Okay was the reluctant reply so out one went to come back with nuggets and drumsticks. the kitchen staff duly obliged and as a wee something arranged the drumsticks very artistically in lines like a rack of lamb. Was looking good until the next request was can we make it a takeaway. There is no real answer to this and so off they went, more happy Applecross customers, the Inn caters for all. Last night was a little different as there were lots of twos coming in and we have a limited supply of tables for two. The Boss was getting a well-earned rest so I was on the mix and match. Managed four tables and it gives extra pleasure seeing two couples leaves the table and saying sincere Cheerios outside with handshakes and hugs. Three hours before they had never met. Some people prefer not to share and if they are prepared to wait just a little longer then that is perfectly okay as well. Good food is not exclusive to the Inn and when convenience food is needed to assuage a fierce hunger there is nothing better than hot fried langoustine tails in sea salt and wild garlic leaves from the garden.

The brown bread should be home-baked but the day is not long enough.

To finish I managed a trip to Inverness with langoustines for the Loch Ness Inn and coming back through Glen Torridon on a wood scouting mission by our local tree surgeon, the view looking down on Loch Maree is often worth the stop. One of the iconic views in Scotland.

Missing

Just finished a fairly busy shift at the Inn but heart not in it with the news from Plockton. One of our community of fishermen is missing with the boat being found across the loch. A heavy feeling and cannot help imagining the scenario. Will never know but that does not stop the mind playing out the final scene. Tonight we did not have a table ready for a booking and they could not understand why, another trio went away because they were made unwelcome……..they came back and that was repaired but putting everything into perspective I feel so sad. It was only this week that Walter, who was staying round the coast, had gone to Plockton, met with Bruce, and came back with my nickname and a “how are you doing”. Not only do you never expect it to happen to you but you do not expect it to happen to fishermen you know. There are many communities but the one I belong to, despite our ups and downs and disagreements, is a special one and if you lose a member it stops you in your tracks and does make you think that bit deeper. I often have to fend off comments of why are you not out today?. Luckily I have got to that stage in life where I do not have to justify whether I go out or not. Thoughts with the family, it must be a hundred times worse for them. Still a very faint hope that I may be assuming the worst but three days of searching the shoreline around Loch Kishorn has not produced anything positive. (Now a week later and I am afraid we have to bow to the inevitable)

Maybe todays driech weather adds a little to the mood but thoughts that Spring had arrived have dissipated a little. Fresh breeze blowing mostly from the west making fishing non existent and hard work when we get out. The catches have tailed off a little meaning that more fleets of creels have to be hauled to keep the supply going. Unfortunately we are a little out of sync with the numbers of people who have descended on Applecross. Even in the poor weather langoustine and scallops are the popular dishes. Creel caught always get mentioned as many people have not experienced the firm flesh of the creel caught as opposed to the trawled variety. But Spring has arrived between the showers and the snow forecasts

and some days at sea have been spectacular in their clarity.

The other days you just get through.

It is often at sea I see the arrivals and departures as indications of a change in the seasons. When you see buds appearing often there may be snow following. When you cycle home from the Inn on a Sunday evening and you see the three whooper swans take off in line head south and then wheel off to the north flying over Milton to disappear to the north up the Glen then you know Spring has arrived. A truly awesome sight as you see them at the start of a journey that will take them hundreds of miles north for the Summer. Now we have six more on the Loch, one assumes they are ones from further south who are resting for a few days before heading north.

One swallow does not make a Summer but two bonxies make a Spring.

No grass cutting till the dandelions are away as the bees are flying on the odd days of warm sunshine.

We had a week of fantastic sunsets, possibly two weeks ago, time flys, every one different.

Last Wednesday was a day of contrasts. early start to get my bulkhead filter changed and land langoustines for the Inn before taking out a couple of boys from Deep South who wanted to film for a pilot show about outdoor/wild activities and it seems, through a contact, I fitted the bill. All was going well until trying to get the filter back together. I have had trouble in the past with this but after a couple of hours, gave up, sacrificed a washer and it all came together making sure everything wa sealed up as it was downline from the fuel pump so would draw air if not. Knackered with the effort in a cramped space but was just on time for the boys and a decreasing north westerly. Have to be careful with passengers assessing how assimilated they are to the work space and Rufus and Steve did not have their sea legs. The day gradually improved and they seemed happy with what they filmed. They tried a drone flight but was aborted as on the way up it hit one of the buoys on the cat rail, adroitly caught by Steve before disappearing down under. Unfortunately my battery was flat so no photos of the film crew. Ashore in time for a shift at the Inn and the visitors have arrived. There is little time to make much contact now as the numbers mean that you are just trying to find them a table to eat a meal before the next wave comes in.

Saturday and Sunday shifts were a bit like that but still the welcome must be maintained or there is little point in being there. I think that there could hardly be a worse place to work if you did not want to. Having said that when you are a little under pressure some one says something or orders something that is either misheard/misconstrued or just plain wrong you have to keep smiling and back stage there are plenty people to laugh at you as can be seen when little Missy from Aussie land appears with a “mistake” on a plate.

We have attracted a group of Polish residents from London….they drive up every third or forth weekend, the group getting bigger and bigger, Sunday lunch found them colouring in the kiddies drawing books while waiting for lunch, different but then this is the Inn.

Even dealing with the numbers there is nowhere else one would want to be.

“Nothing has changed in Applecross since “The Bloody Project””

Typical, just when you want to have a wee chat with a Welsh man you can’t find one anywhere. A lovely shift at the Inn today and while the rain belted down, the fire was on and the food was as good as anywhere in the Highlands, so said the customers, and as you know they are always right. Working my way back and yet another funeral attended, this time on Saturday. Jessie, having passed away earlier, brought memories back from years gone by. Many a visit of a weekend coming from the Inn and stopping off for a late night dram with Angus and Jessie on the way home. Usual chat about fishing from Angus, he first went to sea on the Truelove with my own Dad and I think stayed at sea his whole life. Jessie kept our glasses full and maybe tried to keep us in better shape for the short drive home in the early hours with offers of tea/coffee while Angus gave another rendition of the beautiful Eilidh.. Happy memories. After the internment I went down to the shore to give the dogs a run out and run they did.

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This was after watching the rescue of an Inverness taxi of the now not so immaculate verge at the entrance to the VT.  The afternoon was taken up with rugby and as a Scotland supporter found myself in the unusual position of being relatively relaxed during the final ten minutes of the match, having a cushion of two scores ahead. Kept the volume down for Eilidh and she only became concerned hearing me crossing the room when Scotland scored their last try. On Friday evening I was in two minds whether to go out to yet another meeting, this time a continuance of the Trust led “community” consultation. Decided that it was better to go in order to appreciate things first hand. I have spoken to a number of people who were at the meeting since and there is quite frankly a lot of head scratching going on in the community. No one is saying that consulting about the aspirations of the community is a bad thing but honestly spending 45 minutes discussing the minutiae of the process that has been slumbering on for over a year now had people wondering why they had given up their Friday evening. We still have not even finalised setting up a steering group to set up a Forum, which seems to be a direction we are going come hell or High Water. Interestingly if you have a contrary opinion of direction or of outcomes then you are shown to be against the process. There is a very fine line to be walked by the numerous people in the community who are unhappy with the process. One puts one hand up to be part of a process you can hardly be enthusiastic about as if you don’t you are painted into an anti corner. I believe this whole process depends on one factor and only one. Have the Trustees of the Applecross Trust had a change of mind or direction in running the Applecross Estate that is inclusive or is this just a tick box exercise to counter new Community Powers that will enable us to strengthen our capacity showing that the Trust by its actions and obstruction is working against the sustainable development of the Community. We have heard about “The Shared Vision” ad nauseam but it is only “shared” one way. There has not been one iota from the Trust. I have to agree to a certain extent that the running of the Trust is entirely the duty and work of the Trustees but when it becomes a barrier to the survival of the community I live in that is when I have to quell a certain amount of anger, anger I found reciprocated in conversations the following day. Several questions were asked directly of the Trust and several opinions offered from the floor that showed a level of scepticism regarding any change of direction from the Trustees. I specifically asked for any examples of evidence of a change of heart and received absolutely nothing positive in the response. In fact I was told that a couple of people were worried by my reaction to the answer or lack off offered. I no longer react in such a way any more that would cause any discomfort to the room and still wait for any sign of any change of direction from the Trustees. On Saturday I was given the quote of the decade. “Nothing in Applecross has changed since “The Bloody Project”” A “talk shop” changes nothing here, it will keep open communications, but only if we have at least one Trustee on the Forum and even that has been resisted so far. It is a “shared vision” after all. So next Friday and the next and the next and the next we are as a community supposed to turn up to the Hall to form a Forum which may or may not be constituted, have no powers or objectives other than to discuss. One really annoying part to all this process is that any disagreement is used against the Community to show up its divisions. A tactic that is used all the way up to National Politics level these days. I can easily disagree with many members of our community but am actually finding that I am coming across far more agreement than division. It was quite revealing that a member of the community suggested that the Trustees should take part in a “quiz” about Applecross and see the extent of their knowledge of the community that is so affected by their decisions on running the Trust. I will leave you a quote from this year’s accounts, late by the way but not important for some, stating that the Trustees are maintaining the traditional enterprises,buildings and infrastructure of the Estate “as a place of inspiration for the general public and THOSE WHO LIVE AND WORK THERE”.

Extraordinarily who should be staying in Applecross this weekend but Graeme Macrae Burnet, the author of The Bloody Project. For the few of you who do not know this is a novel about a murder in Applecross in the 19th century and accurately putting forward a sense of what residents had to put up with from The Big House. It made the Man Booker Prize shortlist and Graeme was in town with German publisher and journalists to promote the publication of the Bloody Project in German. They had a great time and left extolling the warmth of the welcome from the Inn, the food and the Applecross experience. It is not all sweetness and light here, as last week, watching from the Inn some visitors being admonished by a resident on their driving. Always gets me going as I think the least we can do is welcome those wishing to visit….it is traditional hospitality. We had a bit of banter when they came in and it turns out they were from Tyrone and were not in the least phased by the rudeness, their words, of an individual after spending 40 years living in a war zone. They left after a proper welcome.

A little break in the weather meant the langoustines and squats are on the menu with more prospects this week. Another funeral planned next week with a busy day thrown in but with weather settling down mid-week we should keep the visitors well fed. There is still always time to appreciate the beauty of the place both on the sea,

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shore,

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the rivers

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and streams,

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the company,

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wild life

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and scenery

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watching other people work to keep the community going,

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and this makes things so much better.

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I am fighting for the place where I live, many may not agree with a lot of what I say but generally I have not found any other alternative for this community. Leave you with these stats I stated on Friday night. 8 primary school children, 10 people in their 20s and 40% of the population over 60 years of age. If the Trustees are going to engage with the community they are going to have help solve our housing crisis instead of putting up more and different reasons why we cannot have more affordable housing in Applecross and far more people living here.

Mr Chisholm Accompanies One

Walking back from the Inn on a dark and damp Friday night, I realised that distance and time can be measured in music, especially if you are listening to one of the Duncan Chisholm Trilogy. In this case it was Affric, An Ribhinn Donn get you under way, followed by the cascading Big Archie and before you know it before Night in That Land comes on. It was a perfect way to come home after a very, very enjoyable evening.

The lead up to the show earlier could have been more relaxed as it has turned out to be a very busy week. A gentle start as still recovering from the lurgie on Monday but was out in the evening, initially at the Inn, but ended up at the Community Hall, for a meeting about Out of Hours in Applecross. Only being lightly involved in local politics and finding that hard enough I do not envy those at either Highland or National level. In this case we heard how times have changed and we no longer have as good a supply of GPs as we would like and those new do not have the 24/7 commitment to coverage that those in the past had in the Dr Findlay’s days. Mind you there is probably less alcoholism now as in the old days. We can consider ourselves so very fortunate in our current Situation. Even the managers were suggesting we have as good a service as any where round the Highlands. But Doctors need time off and the cover is going to be still locum but is also going to be a mix of paramedics and nurse practitioners. This has already happened and there seems to be little concerns in the community. The ambulance service were also present and first responders are back on the menu. We were going down this route before but was stalled due to an unresponsive SAS, but that has now been solved and the Health Care Assoc is going to take this on. The defribs are now in town and hope to be in position in the next month or so. Being Applecross it is not one or two but six are going t be installed round the Community, monies all raised within the Community itself. Certainly impressed the managers.

Tuesday saw the CC meeting take place, constructive and frustrating at the same time. Knowing we have little powers and can only keep telling the authorities about the state of the Bealach. However there does seem to be a bit of action, partly as a result of photos of the deterioration of the road that we send in. Newspapers are always looking for angles on the NC500 and when you talk to a journalist giving two sides you leave yourself wide open to editing, but it turned out to be fairly balanced. Some people on the following Facebook steam say exactly the opposite of what you want to put across. Everyone, in my view is welcome, but it is going to put an undoubted strain on our infrastructure. Many communities would wish our problems

Wednesday and my fishing career has restarted.

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I had been out to the Varuna on Tuesday afternoon to link up my new batteries and fire her up for the first time this year. Bit suspicious that I have a dead cell in the system so isolate the lighting bank as a reserve. The batteries are new because of one of those little mishaps, perfectly avoidable, but happen anyway and end up with you poorer and with a sore head from hitting it against a wall. Had two ashore, fully charged and back in the van when I was asked to nip over the Hill to pick up a couple of Internet boys from the train. Remembered the batteries in the back, the slidey floor and the insecure back door. The van is not quite a Teuchter wagon but is heading there. I actually stopped, but the hand brake never held so went round the next bend. Big mistake as two £100 batteries shot out the back door and lay smashed on the Bealach. Did not stop hitting the steering wheel until after Kishorn. Fishing went surprisingly well with only one out of the five fouled up. I have realised this week how much I have missed the sea with all its magic,

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colours

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and life.

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Dozen  kilos and a few squats means the year is under way, langoustines and squats now back on, well appreciated on Thursday evening by the regulars, five squat lobster in garlic starters with Isla having chips and salad with hers. Fine food for a young un. These squats were caught on the way back from Rona,

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was there with Sean trying to link up the Applenet but did not go all to plan as a bit of kit was forgotten. Shows up how the stretched capacity of the community does break at times. If we had two people involved then a phone call back to Applecross, an instruction for some one on the computer and all would have been sorted. Still some work done

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and may be finished through a phone call. This was exactly the chat I had with an MSP who stayed at the Inn on Wednesday evening. Our community capacity is being stretched so thinly, but soldiering on we will continue. Good to chat to a Chair of one of the Committees that have an over view of rural life. You can still give him the difficulties of survival over here even if he is at the opposite end of the spectrum with your political views. Working at the Inn has taught the ability to accept the many faces of human nature and not react adversely. I was being watched by the regulars who were imaging newspaper headlines the next day involving front of house in fracas with landowner

So we are up to Friday and third day in  row we are off to sea. Bit of a breeze but just a little more than gentle. Again good run with another five up with only one foul and it had been lifted by a neighbour possibly exacerbating the work. Due a wash so took it closer to home. Friday evening was earmarked for a movie showing and to be frank I was not enthusiastic, it being a hard few days and managing to squeeze in a short sharp migraine on Thursday night. However well worth the effort as Postcards from Applecross was a cracking video taking in different aspects around the community. Nick, Stephen and lately Angelica have put together a series of  short videos lasting an hour showing the variety of occupations and life styles on the peninsula.They ranged from the croft to the sea taking in the Inn, wool dyeing, ice-cream making and photography on the way. I found it very touchingly simple, getting to the soul of the community, but not branding it in a tourist sort of way. Regular visitors to the Inn will love a glimpse into how people live in order to stay here. The beauty of the place is shown in the photography of Jack’s, Angelica and Nick, who sadly passed away last year. Had a lot of time for Nick who fell in love with our wee place and he came out on the boat for a day, becoming colder than he had ever been in his life. He was a quiet gentle man and with an eye to his surrounds.

Footnote to the evening; I walked up to the Hall and soon after leaving the house a car passed and then stopped to give me a lift as Fiona saw there were no dogs being walked. Chatting away I was slightly taken aback as we scooted past the Hall. Fiona then commented that she was going up to the Bay as she was slightly early, methinks this is a little unusual but okay. She then mentions she is heading out to dinner and not to the Hall. So half way round Milton Loch we screech to a stop as we both assumed we were heading for different destinations. Me to work and her to the Hall instead of where we were really going…me to the Hall and her to Gordon and Val’s.

Back to Mr Chisholm and this afternoon on the wood run. I had moved onto Cannich and it took all of that album plus the tracks up to the third , Lorient Mornings of  Farrar, to load up what felt like a 3/4 ton of wood,

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shifting it 50 metres to the van. It was heavy going but with his beautiful, haunting fiddling playing, the graft on a driech day was minimal. Dougal and Eilidh were in their own world but never far from all the ditches.

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Winter Fuel.

Getting used to the quieter house now as everyone departs to carry on their own lives. Father-in-law away before New Year to be replaced by Son No4 and Rachel, while Son No3 stays on till last Saturday. Only just gets the bus at the Inn as it drove off as he was opening the door outside the schoolhouse. Not a lot to report. Still shore bound and still not finding too much energy to be doing too much.The light box is on and it is pretty dreich outside.  Having said that on Friday looking west most of the day it looked as though Skye was enjoying a much better day.

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The light to the south-west was unusual

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but captivating and stopped the wood chopping for a while. This last one taken by No3.

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The Inn is very quiet just now and have to be honest I am finding it hard to adjust to the quiet times. There are far more staff on out front than previous years and at times more staff than customers. On Saturday after chatting to the cavers, who are carrying out a fairly extensive potholing exploration of the limestone caverns around the Alt Breugach river and a couple of other regulars, I headed for home to watch the Glasgow game on telly. I am not into crosswords and there would have to be no one coming in to be able to concentrate on more serious paperwork so I get a wee bit bored waiting and watching the clock tick by.

However the balance to this is that you never know who comes in the door. Thursday evening I regretted finding out what the family did, who were sitting at the Big Table, until just as they were leaving. Turns out he was the Edinburgh Book Festival Director and a wee conversation ensued about Kirsty Logan and short stories and my trip down to Charlotte Square. It’s these meetings that keep me from giving it a break over the winter, like yesterday chatting to the retired GP from North Yorkshire. You build up a sense in how far you can go with banter about retired GPs as we have many in Applecross. But then all is well when Felix, Sarah and family come in.

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Once the welcome, food and chat are done and dusted they got the fiddles

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and guitar

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out and an afternoon of very fine tunes and songs was had.

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The warmth you receive from them and many other customers visiting the Inn is the fuel I need to get through the winter and I suppose at the Inn in Applecross there is no better place to top up. The walk through the Estate and round the Bay with the ever-present oystercatchers and Dougal and Eilidh also get us closer to the spring when life break out again.

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Cheeky Cormorant.

In amongst the tooing and froing of being on the water and at the Inn over the last week, I had a wee companion with me for a couple of days.

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Would say he was a little forward even a bit cheeky in demanding his fish.

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Cormorants haven’t a loud call, more a croak but quite an insistent one when he puts his mind to it.

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He managed two days of feeding alongside the Varuna, getting his fill of pout,

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grabbing the fish,

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diving down to swallow it out of reach of the gulls. On the way in on Friday he reckoned he did not have enough and followed me

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in for most of the way across the Sound.

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He was not as agile as the gulls as he could not swoop down on the fish so lost out on those ones.

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They are good at grabbing the fish straight from the creels as they come up on the lines, diving down before they broach the surface.

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