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

Posts tagged ‘Sketch’

A Torridon House Renewal.

Middle of the night and back from a pretty amazing day. It started off as usual, a sunday morning shift at the Inn with discussions about whether it was going to be busy, were all the visitors on the way south, will we have day trippers? But in the back of my mind was will I be in Torridon for a party? The reason behind this was an invite for Judith to attend a sort of opening day at Torridon House. The House has recently been bought and renovated by Felix and Sarah. The renovations are still on going but I am jumping ahead. Felix had turned up in Applecross on Shooglenifty night and obviously enjoyed himself and again made it down to the Inn with the next session of the Lochcarron musicians. it was then he invited Judith up to Torridon over New Year. Not one to miss out on some music I immediately offered to drive. To cut a long tooing and froing short, on Saturday some friends of Felix came down to the Inn and had some lunch and through chatting to them we discovered the “party” was on Sunday not Saturday as first intimated. Saturday would not have worked as we would have been too busy to go. I still thought there was little chance as staff were still thin on the ground but Caroline intervened and told the Boss she was to go. As Sketch or at least some members were reputed to be there I was delighted with this turn of events and happily drove north about two o’clock. This despite a busy bar and I tried to take as many orders to ease the conscience in leaving other people to do your work.

The day turned into one of those experiences that one will possibly never forget. We walked in as Felix was giving a speech on the steps of the front hall, a warm welcoming speech which was followed by a Buddhist ceremony.


A ceremony that was to create a new beginning and to cleanse the building of some of its unpleasant past (hope I have this right). To walk into this when we both had feelings wondering if we should be here immediately put us at ease. The makeshift sign on the way in helped.


We were quickly chatting to people we knew, Hughie, Morag, Sheila, Les, Clare and Jo, Jan, Nigel among many locals and then Herbert, Katerina, Peter and many others I never found their names, and that did not matter. I even got my New Year dancing in, bought my new Sketch album met Ali Levak yet again and heard some brilliant tunes.


Heard Felix and Sarah on guitar and fiddle play a tune they have written called the Mam, Glenelg’s Bealach, and felt Felix’s emotion talking about leaving Glenelg.


Heard this tune at the Inn when they were over and knew it was special then. Community, people and connections were the themes and feelings of the day expressed in music and chat and that for me was a strange and wonderful combination. Here we were in an Estate House which over the years has had a bad history connected to it on how its occupants had treated its people in the past, then we had an eastern spiritual experience followed by a desire and vision of  integrating community, music and arts with “The Big House”. A turning round of history, breathing an old decaying emblem of the past into a new form of community future. Idealistic vision but why not, better than its previous history, in particular a Colonel McBarnet who denied the tenants the right to keep any cattle or sheep, of a decaying establishment, a beautiful but dead part of the Highlands. The size of the Estate, the lands around the House means that land reform legislation would not affect positive ventures like this and the community members I spoke to were happy and enthusiastic in their praise of what was happening. A studio was already being used at the back of the House, outlying cottages were to be renovated to raise funds for more renovations and fund the project and a recording/composing and teaching music studio is planned.

Into the evening and as everyone was leaving and we were about to head home with plans to call in to visit so the Boss did not arrive during Inn hours, she was invited to stay for dinner.


Well, as driver, that meant me too and the table was set as the conversations continued. Everything from the spiritual to fishing and reminiscing, turns out the lady of the House has a retired fisherman and diver as a Dad.


Names such as Jimmy Philp, Dave Hardy and Ally Clam came up in the chats, blasts from the past from days in Kyle. Times when the scallop diving industry was slightly more Wild West than now with all its regulations and safety measures. Tales of nights in cells and Drams in the Field alongside Katerina talking about France, Canada and Buddhism meant the evening passed rapidly and so it was home over the Pass to the sounds of Sketch and a soundly sleeping guest.

Today, slipping back into some sort of routine, I was up at the Turbine House to pick up wood from the dryer. For whatever reason it was shut down so down to phone and make sure I was not going to blow it up with a restart. All went well and changed the mode to automatic restart. It shuts down reacting to any disturbance of power and as it is still being run in the restart is better being manual. Keeps Dougal occupied and the power saw came out in the afternoon and the sticking problem cleared up, been changing the sharpening angle and no idea if that was the solution but powered through the last of the pine and started chopping. Harsh east wind blowing all day but there was a classic west coast sunset


around 3.30/4 pm


so took the dogs down to the shore.


Eilidh easing back into a bit of exercise. In the quiet of the evening it is hard to believe this time yesterday we were surrounded by Germans, Austrians, French and Americans in a fine Big House. Don’t often use these words together but an open mind keeps one healthy. So throw in Mexico and South Africa and we have had a cosmopolitan Christmas and New Year. One little correction about Hogmanay and fortunately did not cause offence but our tweaking guy was not a transvestite but a Drag Queen, and a very good one. Suspect it was the first time Son No3 played some tunes on the pipes for one.

Weather Break.

The day and a half showed off where I live at its best. Little bit later start on Saturday morning due to getting home from Sketch around half two. Although I wanted to go it was still quite a thought and the weather was not the best, but the music was immense. Slightly worrying when I am recognising the sons and daughters of guys I was in school with but no intention of missing out on some good music. Little bit sticky on coming back over the Hill but with Sketch playing on the Ipod all went well. I tend to use little things to get me to places. In this case it was Mel sharing my last post saying Sketch and honey, a good combo. Good call.


Forecast not too accurate going by the fresh southerly in the morning and it was debatable whether I was going to go out and then stay out.


Looking across the Sound towards the Cullin it did look quite cold and a wee bit too fresh.


While I was putting a fleet together I did not think I was going to stay out but the views were spot on as the weather did brighten up slowly and the breeze dropped.



Greg came along and did a bit of stacking, getting it right by the third fleet. To be honest the first two were not that bad. Good conversation throughout the day and always good to think problems from a slightly different angle. “Space and control” was an interesting thread and very relevant to life here as across many other situations. It is the control side of the issues that bother me the most. Managed to get 200 creels up for a few langoustine and squat tails for the Inn. Kept a very dirty fleet on board for a wash next week. According to the expected weather, should have plenty of time to sort it out.


The day improved as we went along and a couple of stops on the way up the road were necessary. Following a chat with Mike at the Inn had to google Clisham to find out where it was as he reckoned I was taking  a shot of it in the sun….now know it is in Harris.


Bonfire and fireworks went well apart from the “empty” box that was thrown onto the bonfire that still had a second tier of fireworks to go off and off they went which resulted in a bit of ducking and diving.

Going along from Milton the row of chimneys on the Street caught the eye so it was another stop to take a snap. Not many fires on on the Street now. Thirty years ago when we came here the majority of chimneys would have smoke coming from them.


Busy evening with a fair old variety of customers, from the birthday boy of Toscaig,the guys over from Skye, Ullapool, and south. Sunday we had Venezuela, Portugal and Spain in. Still waiting for the end of the season. Ardelve was represented in the form of the Macleod family. Rosie and Morris, whose father was on the same ring net boat as my own Dad in the 60s up to ’71, the Mary Ann, was over with Lewis and Lee. Lewis heading off to New Zealand for an extended holiday which may be very extended. With Calum heading in that direction, possible Wester Ross meets up in NZ. Of course wester Ross is already out there. On the way along Milton to the shift in the morning had to stop again but for good reason.


So all that was left was to head home on the bike after a light lunch and catch up with a wee snooze surrounded by Dougal and Co. Alison comes back from Dumfries tonight and its Homeland on the telly. Tomorrow it may be off to Strathcarron to hear the next stage of the Stromeferry Bypass saga.

Honey and Wood

Lots to think about and process with all the discussions I have had over the last evening or so. I was nailed down to give my view on the “Independence” debate and it really does make you think and also speak respectfully about who you think you are and where you belong and even explain to some one what it is to be “Scottish”. Generally the “pub conversations” are healthy and are two-way as you can quickly walk away if it takes a dive and chat to more interesting people.

Sometimes when I talk to people I am not in a position to say what I really think to what I am hearing and let some pretty heavy racism/stereotyping go unpunished. It is not as though I am going to change any one’s opinion.  Yesterday I was some one’s company in the afternoon and I have never heard so many stereo types in such a short time. Felt like having a shower after, find the only way to deal with this is either ignore it or make fun of it. Evening at the Inn was far more thought-provoking although when I mentioned what I was talking about to another table, an hour later I was pulled up as I had set them off on their own discussion. It brought to mind when I came in at six, looking around the bar my first thought was no wonder people like coming here it is just like some one’s front room.

Anyway yesterday morning showed a little more than a dusting on the Cullin but still windy,


not gales but too fresh and the same went for today as well. Looking at the forecast for next week it is looking pretty shoddy from the west and south-west. Dougal and Co will get lots of exercise. The bike can be used as a wee cheat when you cannot be bothered going for a walk, going around the long way to the shop on the bike is almost like being on a scooter. As usual the dogs love it although the sheep are nervous.


One of these years I am going to be doing wood at the right time of year. A little short of time in drying the wood before it ends on the stove. The beech is stacked off to the side and will stay there until next year. Once the larch is dried from being out in the rain it will be ready for burning a lot sooner. So this batch is all blocked and just needs to be chopped and stacked.


It is not too bad a setting to do this and even into the evening.


Always think of the title of one of Jim Hunter’s albums when this moon shows it’s face. Fingernail Moon. It is a slightly fatter fingernail, more a cuticle but still beautiful.


Always like breaking up the day and fed the bees in the afternoon, this way you do not get fed up stuck on the one job. Been a couple of weeks since I had last been there and was surprised that there was another full frame I could take out.


Proud of my little workers. Even today they were out flying although not sure if there is much about for them. Although I may be corrected but I think this will be the first honey produced in Camusterrach in over 40 years. I love being part of the living heritage of a place as my uncle, Robert, would have been the last to keep bees in the Schoolhouse garden. Just a nice thought. Hoping to have enough next year to either purchase or at least use a separator. Note to self, must order garlic and oxalic acid, to plant and check on varroa. Undecided even now but may head to Inverinate to see Sketch, weather and fishing, are part of the decision.


Although there has been a bit of snow about and seen some cracking pictures of snow-covered mountains on social media, there has not been much in these parts. A smattering on the Bealach but not enough to cause any travelling difficulties. Weather at sea has not been the best over the last couple of days, not stormy but fresh enough for me not to worry too much about going out. In fact, cycling along the loch side today I was half thinking I “should” have gone out as it looked fairly quiet in between a squall driven day. But settled myself with thoughts that seemed to come right on top of each other. First the Inn have lovely fresh langoustine on the menu, then I thought I have n’t really any debt at the moment and then I remembered the last couple of days I have been out it was hard graft and I want to continue to enjoy fishing so if I keep going out on these days that enjoyment will fade. What am I going out for if the first two thoughts are true? At the Inn before I knew it and a cup of tea before going to gather some winter wood.

Reading the other day that the 1st of november is Samhain in the old Celtic calendar, The Day of the Dead. This is when the spirits of those gone before walk the road of life with the living. Such a strong Celtic, oral traditional feel to this and is in keeping with safeguarding the memories of our forebears. The Applecross Heritage Centre is a fine place for this. This has replaced the visiting of houses by the men of before. I remember, but did not appreciate it at the time the folk that used to visit my Seanair’s house in Toscaig, Kenny,Danny and the Donalds and Duncans of whom there one or two.

On the way to the wood, passing the Big House there were three imperious stags sitting on the front lawn.


They were fairly unconcerned and only moved as I got a wee bit too close for their comfort.


They were obviously in too good shape for any one to take a pot shot at and they are now safe for another year any way.


Back on the bike for home, via the shop, and as there was another squall passing through, stopped for a craic in Ali’s kitchen. Talking about this and that and that. Mainly about that which has to be sorted out next week. Going through Camusteel the sheep heading along the shore made me smile and stop for a shot. Who says they don’t act like sheep, it’s only when humans do this there is usually trouble in the air.


Straight back out for a Dougal walk as they had been in most of the morning and


as usual the weather puts up so many views and changes in light that these walks although not very long in distance take a fair bit of time.


Throughout the last couple of days there has been only one piece of music on the computer and that has been the soon to be released A Northerly Land by Iain Copeland iaincopeland.com/a-northerly-land/. Fabulous music with some brilliant poetry from George Gunn.

On a curious wee note I have noticed over the past couple of days how emails can be easily misread or misinterpreted, I suppose that goes for what I write here. Often people say that they read between the lines, a curious expression in itself. That is always going to be the case if you put something out there. Probably talked about this before and it is the same at the Inn you always remember the negative comment. And again like the Inn the support one gets far outweighs the daft stuff. Talking of the Inn, it was Kylesku Hotel’s night out and they were busy celebrating a successful season. They looked a happy, together team, Paul’s last night as another family leaves having done Applecross, reluctantly I have to say. Regulars Steve and Di are back for yet another year. They were telling me that they started coming here in 1990 and there have been huge changes and people since that time. There is a whole post there. Catriona from Kenmore was in too and I am hoping to get a history of Uags and the Crowlins from her. A Northerly Land is back on and I think it is off to Inverinate on Friday to hear Sketch. The only thing I am short off is time.

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