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

Posts tagged ‘shinty’

Dougal is not SAD.

While at the toilets on Monday, as one is these days, had a chat about this and that with a passing local and touched on a rural issue that is very rarely spoken about but crops up occasionally, one of isolation or loneliness in country areas. Living in remote parts, I think, takes a lot more skill than in the town or cities, although I am sure one deals with a different sets of problems there. I have had  very busy people comment that they sometimes feel very lonely and on the surface you think how on earth could that be. But I have always thought there is a huge difference in having a friend or two as opposed to many acquaintances. Probably at this time of year with the weather so poor and the days so short then these conversations strike home harder. Here when you have a very limited number of people to choose from the social skills you have to develop to get on with people of different persuasions and views have to be far greater than, say, in town when you would cross the street given the choice. Also when in the same company one tends to assume you know the people better than you do so are surprised when some one comes out with a “lonely” statement. Little bit aware of it as I reckon on a little SAD myself. Dead easy to hide but you know you are not nearly as tolerant as normal and have to walk away rather than get too involved in other people’s grumps and problems. Dougal does not appear to have any bad weather influences, off on a 6 hour jaunt on Monday evening, being returned home at 2.30 in the morning by Kenny G. Very interested in some moles that are along the school fence and generally enjoying life.


Another short painting session at the toilets and it’s is just about there with mirror, toilet roll holders up and gloss appearing on some of the wood work.Another windy day


although glimpses of sun made the beechwood look fresh.


Little bit of wood chopping and again today, a bit of cutting and chopping. Weather continues to be pretty awful although today was not as bad….not good for a single-handed wee boat. Forecast for another howler tonight. It does get into to your head and I think this will be my last winter with out the Light. There have been blinks of light,



spectacular in some cases



and the last two episodes of Borgen to see so it is not all bad.

Nipped up to the Heritage Centre for Gordon to scan a couple of photos for me I had found that coincided with the Focus in last weeks WHFP. They show my uncle Kenny Gollan with a couple of his teams based at Balmacara House


and were taken just before the formation of the Kinlochshiel shinty club in 1958. These were taken in 1952. I am assuming that they were both taken in the same year as Kenny is wearing the tie and suit. Do not know any of the guys but they would be around 80 if still around. Intrigued by the screen saver on Gordon’s computer showing, among others, my Dad looking as though he had just joined Applecross Primary School making it approximately 1922.


Carers…..just the best

Realised how hard it is to be a trades man in Applecross, not that I have any pretensions in that direction. Went up to the toilets on Wednesday morning to do a bit more of the finishing off and ended up chatting to passersby more than actually working at what I should have been doing. Lovely start to the day


when taking the dogs out and came across my first living puffballs.


Having said that it is a pleasant way to spend the day and I did get a fair bit done in the afternoon. We have installed a solar panel so there will be hot water for the first time at the toilets.


Managed a beach clean seaside of Darren’s new wall and got a quarter load of wood for the growing stack at the back of the house. More and more wood sheds are being built around the community with the obvious conclusion that wood is becoming the priority fuel here. Weather still poor with a window predicted for Thursday, but a trip to Inverness had been planned and sure enough it was still windy in the morning as I set off. A bad winter has not arrived for most people but here it is well under way. For a fisherman wind and lots of it is a bad winter and that is what we have so far. Bad winter ashore is cold and lots of snow for most people but that usually means it is quiet at sea. Cannot do anything about it as the old folk would say and the next three days have a couple of storms coming in again with the second one on Sunday looks pretty nippy.

Thursday morning I almost stopped on the dual carriageway coming to the Kessock Bridge as the sun was shining full blast on the town and again on the way down to Dingwall where there was a magnificent rainbow over the Firth but on both occasions may have picked up points on the licence and points in this case do not mean prizes. In Applecross there would have been a couple of photos to show. Pace of life out there is just wrong. Rattled through a few things and bought my first gluten-free muesli…have to mix it as it consists of buckwheat, rye and millet. Did not pick everything up as I tried to get to the biosphere meeting at Achnasheen in reasonable time. Met an Applecross resident at the Garden Centre who told me he thought a biosphere was a big glass bubble…..hmmmmm. After being at the meeting for an hour or so I reckon I would have been better off finishing what I should have done in Inverness. Lets say setting up a biosphere in Wester Ross has one or two hurdles to overcome….the main one is to explain to people what it is, what are the benefits, and who is going to run it. If it is volunteers they are after it is going to be a big ask. Relatively easy to get volunteers for something tangible, broadband, public toilets, Filling station, but for a “concept ” of something that may be beneficial…..remain to be convinced. Sustainable tourism seems to be a newish buzz word and not really sure if it is sustainable as it is so reliant on such a big carbon footprint. Dougal turned up in Achnasheen getting a lift through with Alison, met up with a local spaniel who told him where to go,did a quick tour of the Station,


and came back with me.


Today was a wee dip into the past with a few connections along the way. Went to An Arcasaid to see my now very elderly mother,95 next time round in February, and have Christmas dinner with the residents.


I have to admit that I was mildly apprehensive but as it turned out there was absolutely no cause. It was a wonderful two hours or so and very engaging. Absolutely everything that my mum needs to live has to get done for her. It is hard to describe my feeling for the women looking after my mother without sounding smarmy but they are simply amazing. The way they care for her is special and genuine and quite simply they love her and look after her so well. Our value system is so so wrong when so many of these people are paid not much above minimum wage while administrators, legislators, money gamblers and movers and commission takers earn fortunes. I suppose it is the difference between value and price. looking at the staff they get an obvious value out of what they do. Chatting about this and that and always get the feeling that many people are so impressed with what is going on here on a community level.  Met Lorraine who has not long started there


and turns out I was in school with her and reminisced about former school companions/classmates. Love these dips into times gone by. The elderly folks were then entertained by some Portree pupils, some fiddle and some Cold Play, it did not seem to matter. When I arrived back home I saw the focus was about girls now ladies I had known in school and noticed my uncle Kenny got a mention in “Sandy” Macrae’s biography as the shinty mad chap from Balmacara House school. Yesterday I came across Kenny standing beside young shinty players, one of whom may be Sandy…how strange would that be. Going to have to investigate further. Noticed going through Lochcarron the yacht that was blown across the loch and ended up on the Attadale shore.


Not in the right place but safe from the next run of storms predicted on Landward tonight.

Yet another Funeral,the Pantomime and a Brioche.

As well as the beautiful mornings we had at the start of the week the sunsets were spectacular as well.


It is so beautiful when the sun goes down behind the Cullin at this time of year. There is a totally different kind of light on the Sound.


On Wednesday after a few jobs it was off to Balmacara to see off my aunt Eilidh who was my mum’s sister-in law and from Plockton herself. The weather was fairly unpleasant and after the internment it was off to the Plockton Inn where a small gathering of cousins met up. It is always good to catch up with relatives you have not seen for a few years and reminisce about growing up in Plockton, messing about on the water,playing football,cricket…yes we do that in the Highlands and going to church of course. As my granny’s house was the stopping off point for all the travelling FP ministers who preached at the communions held in the communities across the highlands. These communions were held annually and began on the thursday and went on till monday morning, with lots of time in church which was not the best appreciated by us young kids. Strong shinty influence from the Abriachan part of the family and had a reminisce about playing shinty in San Fransisco in 1980 and joking we were the fore- runners of the 4 teams that are over there now. Trail blazing again…. So not many left of that generation of our family, my mum and 2 aunts.

When you go out of Applecross word gets around and you do what is natural here, that is picking things up and dropping stuff off. Half a hind was loaded up to be dropped off in Lochcarron, then the phone rings so it was a stop of in Kishorn to drop off some money and to pick up picture frames. At Plockton Catherine came up to me at the hotel and asked if it was ok to take a couple of kegs af Plockton Bay ale back to the Inn. Really like this part of living here and some people who come to live here are always very grateful for these favours and want to pay you for them. They take a while to understand that it just goes around and you do not have to do a “favour” back but you do one for some else and it just goes round and keeps a community together. I know I owe so many people but if you keep it going it always comes back and it great and rewarding when it comes from an unexpected source.

Yesterday was time out with a visit to our primary school pantomime and to be frank the kids were brilliant. Obviously a lot of work went in to it against all circumstances of colds,flus and only one managed dress rehearsal. You would never have known. There was a big girl, called Marion who keeps repeating primary 7, She is the one wielding the axe.


The scenery and background work, lighting and sound were all great, one amusing aside was the official film crew took the wrong attachment to his tripod and the start of the opening scene was drowned out by the sound of packing tape being wrapped around the camera to try to keep it steady on its base.


The other major event of the day was the eagerly anticipated launch of the Coast Road Trucker’s first album, Rolling. Well the box of 150 CDs arrived as we were standing out the back of the Inn, so it was a fairly low-key event. On sale at Nanny’s today, I believe and it is good.The Inn in the evening was busy with the VT coming down for their Christmas dinner, a couple of residents and a trial run for tonight’s Brioche which was quite extra ordinary.Had some myself at the end of shift, unfortunate for Aron, as he had a piece booked if any was left over. But he was “content” to watch me eat mine. So many chefs,so many things to eat…what a place this is at the moment. So the solstice has passed as I write this and the days will begin to stretch out, always remember a neighbour who stayed beside us in Toscaig and every June 21st would comment “the nights are drawing in now”, a slightly gloomier way of looking at the world. Of all the politics and ups and downs over the past year was met with this attitude I would be in a spot of bother by now. Maybe its a just a part of growing older but when people who disagree with you personalise an argument you don’t take umbrage as much as you used to and as many people have said recently when some one goes down that path they have very little of import to say.

Aron’s homemade ice cream and lots of good fun.

The last three evenings were spent at the Inn and it is still busy but with the high level of compliments on the food and atmosphere it is little wonder people keep coming. On all the nights we had people waiting for tables but no-one minded as they saw the quality of the food being served as they waited their turn. Over the summer having learnt a lot from the master you see that some people do not want to share a table, some want to eat in the bar, residents have priority, as it’s a bar people should be allowed to relax over a drink after their meal no matter how busy and you do not get wound up by anything. It is so different from the scared fisherman in April working front of house. But and it is a big but I have had one of the best teachers and I have another big advantage… I love working there. Where else do you cater for a wedding party at one end of the bar, Hazel, sister, mum and dad with strong connections to Applecross in particular Cruary and Toscaig. The rest of the bar is full of people on holiday or night out. Hazel’s grandfather used to work for the Estate and granny,living in Toscaig knew some of our boys growing up there. One of the wedding friends was a bit taken aback when I said I thought she was from Lewis (for me not a hard accent to recognise) and asked how on earth I knew that to which the response was the same way I know some-one who comes from America. Bit of amusement. Lovely day for the wedding on Saturday and another busy night. I love the range of conversations Brian, Steph and friends over from Shieldaig meant there was some sailing and Olympics, as Brian was just back from Weymouth, crewing on the Seaflower. Then you are deep in a discussion with Andrea about fishing politics and community responses to local fishing problems. We seem to on the point of forming a Federation of static gear men that will cover the whole of the Scottish coastline. This should give us a stronger political voice and counteract some of the disinformation that can emanate from the larger more established fishing sectors. Nice to see the couple from Elgin and the Black Isle who were over on the third anniversary of their honeymoon sitting in the same seat they were in three years ago. Talking to the guys from Vancouver of my trip out there three years ago with Mike,chatting to people from Germany, Paris and Amsterdam as well as having a good shinty banter with the head ghillie of the river Beauly. Coming from Kiltarlity we both know of relations and friends across the Highlands. So many people come from this area,Dingwall,Inverness and even further on a day trip which includes Sunday lunch at the Inn. Can’t forget the drama speaker from Washington D.C. who came in late on Saturday evening to devour a magnificent seafood platter. saw the Bealach na Ba in the National Geographic and decided to head this way before going to his conference in Edinburgh today. The Geordie ,now living in Kilmarnock, could not have been more complimentary about his food, it would have been hard not to as he had Halibut, Langoustine and Scallops on his plate. And this is just three shifts!!!

On top of this I am really excited about a new range of ice creams that have just gone onto the dessert menu. Aron has been making these over the past couple of months and only have been sold by word of mouth and only when you remember to mention to customers. Asked Judith if it was ok to put on the board and of course it was. Aron’s homemade ice creams, I suspect, will be a feature going by staff and first customer reactions last night. The range is wide and varied , from Kraken rum and raisin, rhubarb and stem ginger,black cherry and golden syrup to name but a few. I have tried them all and find then very easy to sell. This ticks all my boxes, a guy who moves from one end of the country to Applecross because he and his partner want to, keeps his passion in food going and may eventually find a niche that may take him places never envisaged. I think this could be an Applecross product that will be talked about in the same way our venison, langoustine, squat lobsters and crab are enthused about. I know now what Sarah meant when she was a little dismissive of my enthusiasm about Mackies honeycomb ice cream a couple of weeks ago in the shop. Looking at the photo I am almost heading back up the road for some more. As I don’t have a staff drink I think it will now have to be a couple of scoops of Aron’s

Almost forgot, Azerbaijan arrived on Saturday, taking the total to 69 visiting.

Work,Learning,Music and good People

Very busy and varied week which started with a trip to the Loch Ness Inn to bring their staff back to Applecross for a night out. The trip back involved a stop off at Rogie Falls for a little treasure hunt which ended up with every one getting a slug of baileys.Then it was off to The Waterside, Judy’s sister’s cafe in Lochcarron. An Irish coffee later and it was back to the Inn in the Community bus. Worked until about 11pm before heading home for a well earned rest. Tuesday and it was away to Sabhal Mor in Sleat where we took part in the third of six two day sections of our social enterprise course. I think it is a combination of us all getting to know each other and a relaxing into the course. We all have to do a presentation about a given subject and I have to say I was very fortunate in that it was a comfortable subject. Covey’s 7 Habits are about sorting yourself out and then being able to interact successfully with other people on a business and personal level. The evening in the pub is just as important for the course where as you trust more you tend to share your problems with other people with whom you build up a confident two-way relationship. Although I often feel a bit out of my depth I do seem to hold my own being passionate about the things we talk about. Extremely nervous about my presentation but got through it because I really liked the subject and the guys I was speaking to were very understanding. I thought the 20 minutes I spoke for was actually 5 mins so must have gone into some zone. Picked up a new tag when speaking to some-one about the success of Kinlochshiel shinty team. They are very professional in their approach to the game now and so are their players partners who now call themselves SWAGs…….Shinty Wives And Girlfriends. Back home on wednesday to another shift in the pub and to be met with Mark’s jubilation at his Iranian visiter to the Inn. I reckon I trumped him today with Norway and Kenya though. The competition now stands at 29 countries which have visited the Inn. I keep thinking how extra-ordinary this is. Weather has improved dramatically and a couple of days fishing ensued. the weather was fantastic with the fishing not bad so contentment is the order of the day. Friday evening saw us off to the Celtic Connections Festival weekend at Broadford. Friday night saw us booking into a great friend’s place at Erbusaig and then heading to the Big Top, slightly later than planned but met with brilliant music especially provided by Raul Malo, The Michael Mcgoldrick Band and the Deadly Gentlemen. Saturday saw us in Raasay where Alison had a good catch up with one of her friends on Raasay House Communtiy Company while I took Dougal and family to Hallaig,a cleared township on the east of the island. I find it very atmospheric and going there transports you back in time almost hearing the life that used to go on there.Although many people do not like the gorse it is great for bees and is one of the early sources of food for them. The last few days of bright dry weather has brought it out. in full bloom.The walling is a bit different over here in that they seem to stand the top stones on end. A beautiful craft that lasts for many decades. I have been twice on this path and its ancient mosses always catch the eye, some up to two feet in height.It was back to the festival in the evening after a visit to my mum at An Arcasiad where she is being well looked after as she enters the later stages of Alzheimer’s at the grand old age of 93. The evening programn of The Civil Wars, Daimh, Roseanne Cash and Niteworks was second to none.The Civil Wars were a cracking harmony duo who rattled of a series of very beautiful songs,they were followed by the scottish group, Daimh who had several guests including Karen Matheson.For me the highlight was listening to the glorious Roseanne Cash and watching her obviously enjoy singing to an appreciative crowd.She was also very complimentary about scotland, its people and music.

After listening to Motherless Child,I’m Moving On,Take These Chains and Heartaches By The Number among many more it was off back to Dave’s.Another shift at the Inn,a walk home via Robert and Marion’s croft and an evening’s reflections of lovely people,interesting conversations, brilliant music, fantastic weather and scenery,and work that satisfies the soul and body the thought that I am very fortunate does cross my mind.

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