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

Posts tagged ‘social enterprise’

More SEA.

Back home and easing through the day keeping a destressing headache at bay but catching up a little on what should be done using what was learnt over the last few days. Good time to reflect and try to consolidate as well. Thursday, with the usual start of taking Dougal and Eilidh for a we stretch and then the standard “Gamekeepers Breakfast” with out haggis, one has to draw the line somewhere, we all settled down to presenting the Challenge. This was to suggest a way for Lochbroom to develop further and to earn them some money. Our group went for the big picture and involved affordable housing, forest purchase and retail centre. I like the movement and purpose in the picture.

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All singing dancing but only if everything worked. Our plan had many assumptions. Was there a forest for sale being the big one. Everyone contributed at all levels but it depended on purchase and a lot more local knowledge. The broadband did not help so we never managed to put a screen presentation together. Possibly visuals and the scale of what we were proposing did not help our cause but the other guys zeroed in on a waste product difficult to get rid off and converted it into a use making money in the process. They made firelighters out of wax and sawdust, lighting a fire in the process and they rightly won. Mixed feelings and felt we “did good” but they were better. Disappointment lasted minutes and a farewells and yet another lunch followed

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where I pigged out on two desserts.

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Looking back it is always the people who make the most impact and the comments and compliments we shared with each other. Did help that Coul House is dog friendly and everyone in the group were serious dog lovers. Dougal and Eilidh were constantly asked for, talked to and petted. They were constantly excited as every time they were around they were either going out or coming in and they were surrounded by people. Issues we all have were shared in confidence and help offered and most if not all of us went away inspired. It does not appear to be just another course and is skilfully put together and even this being the second time on it there have been many benefits and insights to be investigated. Seeing a lot less of Wallander, certainly in the short-term. There was good news all around. A new job taking over a cafe, funding success in the theatre world and good fund-raising news in the renewable sector, one close to our hearts, the hydro scheme just down the road. The speakers brought in were spot on as well even the second time around and I did manage to stay awake and again always informative to find out what is happening behind the scenes. You always have trachles to sort out locally while presenting a positive image for the public, not a deception but not everyone wants to know about the negativity you have to go through to achieve community ideals. Very little time to look out the window.

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So feeling light and sugar rich due to doubling up on the amazing last sweet from the Could House kitchen it was back west to home. Not before going to Skye, catching up with a happy but unknowing mother, giving blood and hoping it wasn’t too sugar rich giving some one diabetes, finally home and straight into a nice wee shift at the Inn. Usual spread of people, local builders, retirees from North Berwick, honeymooners, and americans. Not to mention the farmer from Granton. His wife was highly amused at me guessing he was a farmer. I am going to get it wrong one of these days and will end up with a smack. Slept well with no dreams but good memories.

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So much going on on a National level but nice to see The National for sale in Applecross and sold out. Willingly gave my copy away as I am back over the Hill and have access to another. Post this in Ullapool or even Leckmelm.

Now posting this from the Gallery Cafe in Ullapool immersed in Scottish politics and fascinating.

SEA with people at the Core.

Wednesday night at Coul House

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and coming to the end of another Social Enterprise Academy (SEA) course. Hard to describe without jumbling up the whole three and a half days into an out pouring of enthusiasm and even inspiration. Should not say even but I came on the course not too sure this time. I really enjoyed and got so much out of the course at Sal Mor Ostaig and was willing to give it another go. I was suffering a bit of cabin fever and was quite into meeting some new people. Not the best reason for going on a course but was quite relieved that it was not fully subscribed so had not stopped anyone going on it. That seems such a long time ago. At the start of the course there was a fair bit of repetition.of the previous one so feeling was reinforced. Now no doubt great decision, action learning sets a challenge, a trip up to Lochbroom  Woodfuels,

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some one to one coaching and tomorrow finishing off with a presentation to Lochbroom before yet another fabulous lunch, blood donning and a shift at the Inn. It just has not slowed down this winter at all. On the way back we had to stop the bus to take a snap of the still water above Lael.

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Back to here and arrived in time for lunch on Monday and the standard for food was set…… Very high and that has continued to the extent that after this weekend in Ullapool the diet has got to be strict. Split into two groups and from then on pretty intense time, listening to guest speakers, and forming friendships amongst the work. I have very little in common with the rest of the group in a work place sense. Although I do not know what every ones business is it appears most are based on the north-east and east side of the country and involved mainly in theatre, and training sectors. Great group though and very personable, easy to get on with but pretty competitive. I am surprised how little completion I feel now. Even a couple of years ago I would be up for “winning” the presentation tomorrow. All that matters is that we do well and every one feels involved. Tuesday saw the arrival of Dougal and Eilidh, dropped off by Alison on the way to the CES AGM further south. We had already checked that it was dog friendly and as the owners had two it was Okay. And a big hit they have been as everyone has one or two of their own. Attention has not been lacking and the rooms have been up to their standard. In fact it is a beautiful Hotel, an old hunting lodge, complete win rhododendrons.

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So food, company, course have all been spot on. Took a box of papers to sort through in the evenings but that never happened, not that I could not be bothered but purely a time thing. Today’s coaching session was startling. Originally was not that bothered about even having one but my name was put down in a relatively random manner. I turned up five minutes late and eased into the session but it was quite a session and even when not expecting much more than a pleasant chat it was quite revelatory and has given me quite a bit to work with. Dipped into a bit of yoga and the response was Buddhist which turned out to hit the spot. Just a saying that was told to the tutor that has stayed with him and he passed onto me. Nothing mystical or spacey but arrowing in and so perspective. Out of time and it feels a little rude writing away with the headphones on by the fire but also in good company. But so much more. The dog walking was quite important as it gave a little time to process all the info and Dougal and Eilidh’s company is always good. Weather was stunning with cold crisp mornings and low lying mists.

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Views although not west coast are very special.9Q7Q7502

Lovely woods at the back of the House.

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Above the Mists of Contin.

While I was at a Social Enterprise Academy course at Contin I was taken up the slopes several times by Dougal and Eilidh.

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Lovely weather and views and a good way to find a little relaxing on a pretty intensive course.

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Knitting on the Ferry.

Seeing too many people off just now, they do seem to come in little bunches ,these funerals. Today Lena was interred at Clachan and it was the end of an era. As Roddy said in his eulogy she represented a different time. The world is different but on the Street there would have been people spending the time of day sitting on the sea wall, Margaret Mackinnon, or Murdo, Peerie, Stumpy, Barbara, all names from the past brought back to life today through a fine eulogy. It was wistful without being sentimental. Loved the story of Lena, being a top-notch knitter, was knitting a jumper for Roddy as he was home for a visit from Tasmania, she had not quite finished it so she went with Roddy on the Toscaig to Kyle ferry, knitting away and by the time she had got to Kyle, sure enough, she had finished it and Roddy had his jumper for Australia. And on part of the same theme speaking to Roddy Butcher in the Inn after he mentioned that it would take him an hour and a half to get down the Street, and “no stone would be left unturned”. Reminded me of our first outing after we arrived in Applecross, a big wedding at the Drumossie Hotel, a favourite venue for west coast weddings. A tradition, almost lost, when any one from the floor was invited to say a few words. Kenny, also a butcher, stood up and talked about the groom’s mum. He said that they would sort out all the problems in Camusteel, then Applecross, then the country and would even tackle the world problems. This would take a while and then she would buy some meat, a different time right enough.

On the way up to Clachan the Swans were feeding well

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and although it was bright it was bitterly cold. north wind does not go well with Clachan burials. Quick mess around at the Filling Station as it was down once again. Struggled a wee bit to shut it down and then reboot which needed a manual poll as well. But left it working and here is hoping.  Afternoon was taken up with getting some prawns for the Inn tonight. So decided to kill two birds with one stone and go down the road on the bike and trailer with the dogs. Out to the Varuna, a check over, pick up the prawns and back ashore. It is nice to see the loyalty shown by the pooches on the shore. A bit of howling as I went out to the boat and expectant relief as I came back to the shore. Then it was to the Inn for an evening shift. Quite busy with the fire end of the Inn full up and all eating well. The prawns disappeared on the night along with scallops, seafood linguine, just the usual fare at the Inn.

From then on it was into a Company Board meeting which lasted through till quarter to eleven but it was all positive items, the toilets reopening, the Flensburg visit, possible renewable energy system for the Hall, lots of admin and an AGM planned for next month. Refusing to upload photos so nothing of the row of cute dogs waiting on the shore, the tractors at the Inn and the Bike Trial scene on the Street in the twenties. Sometime soon though and it now 7.30am and Inverness and Glasgow beckon.

Dougal visits Sleat.

A fine day for a trip to Sleat,www.facebook.com/SleatCommunityTrust so Dougal thought any way. He had decided he wanted to go and see a community run forest and to see if we could learn any lessons from this operation. So it was on the bike and Dougal alongside where we headed to the Inn to pick up a lift from Judith. A quick stop on the other side of the Hill

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and another at the Waterside

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before arriving on time at Armadale where we were well looked after by Angus, Calum and Chris at the Sleat Community Trust. A lovely quiet day better for fishing but I can always do that again and visiting Sleat as a group does not come around too often. There were twelve of us from here and I think they were slightly surprised by the numbers. We were given a background history of the Trust and the purchase of the forest by Angus, a lot of which I have learned over the years but still interesting to pick up on the dedication over a long period of time of a group who see the potential of a vision and can do something about it. Problems such as de minimus were shared. We are about to go into a period that will restrict us applying for grant aid as Sleat are just coming out of theirs. They have to wait until next year to install their broadband because of these fairly ridiculous rules that are supposed to apply to competition. Where is the competition? Chris then gave a fascinating insight on the actual workings and future plans of the forest while not hiding the problems from us. Lots of facts and figures with the main thrust of the project showing that money can be made from trees, wood fuel and create an amenity and all at the same time. Very impressive is the long-term forestry plan that stretches up to two generations ahead where replanting is already taking place and there is no anticipated gap in supply through out the period. They have secured supply and are seeing demand rise which is over coming the chicken and egg situation where you cannot encourage people to convert to wood burning with out them knowing if they can find the wood to burn. The replanting has both amenity and wood fuel in mind.

After lunch it was out on to the Tormore Forest to see the practicalities of managing a community forest. This was Dougal’s part of the day. We first saw the chipped wood, at least the tarpaulin covering the chips,

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a fairly rudimentary process which is being improved with the building of a new shed. Not a project without its hassles.

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Far more expensive than first predicted and the eighteen feet dig for the foundations did not help. The end result, storing the chips inside and leasing another part to a local wood fuel supplier, will be worth the effort.While up there the big sky catches the eye. You do not need to go to Montana to see it, just come to the west.

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We had an over view of the felling

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and on the way back down met one of the six lorries that are allowed out each day through Ardvasar.

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They come through with deflated tyres to spread the load to ease the pressure on the road surface. From here we headed down to visit The College, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, to see their wood chip boiler and hopper

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which takes around a thousand tons of wood chip a year and when it is running properly operates at around half the cost of their gas boiler. Yet again the sky is wonderful.

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And at the end of the visit it was down to the kitchen and round the back where we were shown Big Hannah, the college composter,

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and very impressive it was with lots of ideas of the whole trip coming back to Applecross. The tonnage of food converted to compost was extremely impressive and if 50 odd tonnes can be kept in Applecross and turned to compost then a scheme well worth looking at. Implementing them will take a lot of patience and many obstacles will be in the way. As Sleat were buying their forest they had to deal with how to get the wood out, disease, wind blow and poor growth but they are doing it. Spoke to one of the group this morning and it was quite exiting looking back on the day. She was inspired as well as realising the patience involved in getting the projects of the ground, as Angus said, six years is probably the average time, and there is no guarantee as their attempts at putting up a turbine showed.

From Sleat the day’s journey took me to Broadford and to see the Old Dear, always strikes me that she looks more child like than old women. I have mentioned this circle before and it comes to mind that once she looked over me and now, looking so small in her chair I look over her. I hasten to add that is all I do and not very often but safe in the knowledge that she so well looked after and loved by the staff of An Arcasaid. I will never know if she knew I had visited her or what her thoughts were. Helen leaned over and told her I was there but no reaction. All okay as one has to accept situations beyond your control or comprehension.

And next, although I have passed it on numerous occasions, I called in to Lower Breakish to visit Ruaraidh and Tanya. Would have liked to see it during the day but there is only so many hours of daylight and it had been a packed day.Meandered through soup and sandwich, three hours of chat about life and politics and met Sean, the kayaker, from Achmore. Interconnected world as they are tree planters who have been down on the Tormore replanting some of the broad leaves on last year’s clear felled area. Interesting that, if planting so soon after a clear fell, the saplings have to be treated with cypermetherin to prevent the weevil attacking the young trees. By clear felling the weevil that was living in the tops of the felled pine, nests and lays eggs in the stumps and there is a huge upsurge in the next couple of years and they love the bark of the saplings. There would have to be a gap of five years to wait for this cycle to die back. And some people think forestry is sticking a few trees in the ground and walking away to come back in forty years to harvest the crop. So after a long and varied day it was home, calling into the Inn for a couple of scoops of ice cream to round of a well spent day.

Applecrosslife Meets Endoftheroad

Every now and again you have a day that looking back on it seems almost as though it did not happen, but this morning the body says it did. But Wednesday first, spent the day buzzing about on the bike, Pier, shop, Estate office, Inn, with mixed results. Washed a fleet of creels

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and had a good evening shift although at this time of year finding people seats are slightly harder as dinners are slower to move, which is fair enough.

Yesterday was a day, when not going fishing was a no brainer, and such a right decision. If I had gone fishing then it would have been enjoyable, made a little money but maybe not too remarkable. Instead I was at the Pier where I took on board a couple of day trippers, Jill and Kenny

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along with George and Sean plus bikes and headed off to Raasay for a Community adventure.

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Always good to see others plying an honest trade on the water.

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With a fleet of creels on board that was shot on the way over we made it over to tie up alongside the new pier by about elevenish, seeing Simon safely anchored in Churchton Bay,

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and after making sure of directions, Sean and I headed off up to Arnish on the bikes. Not before seeing the Raasay House activities in full swing.http://www.raasay-house.co.uk/

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Directions were asked from the Postie who turns out to be Barbara, Paul’s http://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/ partner and our destination. Small world which got even smaller when I stopped off at the water plant construction where there are three new turbines.

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Got chatting to Hughie Mackay whose partner is Joan and who was LDO in Raasay but only for a short time. He just said it “was too close to home”. Made me think even more that our Board, including me, should have defended our LDO,Alison from the attacks she has to suffer. Sometimes the niceties of living in small communities prevent you from saying what you really think of some unpleasant people. Also tells me that although under huge amount of stress she is still battling on. Today it the AGM of the HSCHT. Also chatted about the Applecross/Raasay connections of old. His family was the Maclennans from Fearnmore. Connections that we are now remaking, there is nothing new. Contentious issue for some people but not for me, I think these turbines can be beautiful and useful. People complain that renewable energy is so expensive but if we stop and think how expensive fossil fuels are in the long run they may turn out to be very, very cheap. Environmental damage is not costed in to our fossil fuel consumption and our legacy is our children have to clean up our mess. I watch with disbelief some of the objections to the Coigach Turbine planning application. This is a community who over the years have battled to get a valuable renewable resource up and running to regenerate a community. When it is built it will be worth going to see it and knowing what it is for and where the money is going would be inspirational for many other fragile communities to do the same in their patch whether, hydro or wind. A far different cry from the millions of pounds of subsides that disappear into corporate and land holders pockets. These hard-fought for community projects are worth the pain of development for the communities involved and hopeful will help them to sustainably regenerate into the future. More power to places like the Coigach in their efforts.

Back to yesterday, cycling north was simply wonderful.

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Just by chance when I uploaded this picture ,was it the view of Portree,or the cow but no, when you look closely in the hills above the town there stands a lovely wind turbine.I had been up here before by car but biking it was so different, views and time to think were cleansing although at the north end,

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all I was thinking off was the impossibly steep hills on the way back!!

A wee story told by a relative of Calum’s wife that in no way is meant to be disrespectful both in the telling and retelling. Calum died very suddenly while working on a drystane wall at his house. The only way that his widow could get him in to the house was to lift him on to his wheel barrow and take him inside. I wonder if that is the same wheel barrow.

Arrived at Paul’s in good condition due to the electric bike and Paul arrived not long after, having given Simon a lift up to the top with the cabinet. He loaded me up with a few bits and bobs and I set off up following the cable to the top.

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Could not help thinking of Paul and helpers paying out the 1080 metres of cable for us. I am utterly grateful for all his efforts. Hard graft. By the time I got to the top to meet up with Simon of Hebnethttp://www.tegola.org.uk/hebnet/ I was knackered. While I was there Simon took a couple of calls,

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the first from Paul asking if the power was connected ok and it was, this being the north end of Raasay I saw Paul strategically standing on the rear end of his ATV parked only where he knew he would get a connection, the second was from Ian, later ferry but all sorted at Portree. Slick operation in the wilds.

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But the beauty of the place is wonderful.

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The only downside to the day was the tight schedule as I was working at 6pm. So leaving Simon drilling into the rock,

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meeting up with Paul it was slightly hairy getting a lift down the hill. Back down as Ian, from Rhum, arrived from the AROS centre having finished the installation there. It was going to take an hour to set up the three dishes before taking them up so it was back on the bikes leaving three good men to finish the installation. Only regret was not being able to stay and help more, just being around people like Simon, Ian and Paul is uplifting. Found out the hard way that not having a fully charged battery on the bike makes for a broken man syndrome. By the time I got out of Arnish and made it to the top of the many hills back on the West side I was broken. But an hour and a half after leaving we were back at the boat just half an hour behind schedule. Bikes loaded, quicker than some people, but better safe than sorry,

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coming back on board on the lower tide. and away we went, glass calm and easy to spot the two dolphin pods, one breaking away to come and play briefly with us,

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talk about a special day. Good to see some feeding on the bait balls on the way home.

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Before I headed up the road, an all too brief chat with Grieg and yet another photo.

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Parachuted into work a half hour behind schedule, but even tonight felt wonderful as this is another community I enjoy. Lots of twenty-minute/half hour conversations about broadband, community, the  indefinable specialness of Applecross, otters, fishing, local politics, land reform, all with people I regard as friends, whether I see them again or not. Last night they belonged to Applecross but came from Chicago, Germany, America, Milton, and all over Scotland and England.

Stopped to read Maggie Cunningham’s lovely tribute to her mother-in-law, Alice Byrne, in the WHFP and poignant memories of a way of life going by. I have happy memories of going down to Station Road and always being made welcome at Alice’s being on the same class as Phyllis, also no longer with us. If we still remember those good people they will always be alive. Maggie talked about Alice being in the centre of things telling the tale of the crofter finally going to London but glad to get back home to “the centre of things”. I know what she means. And although I am off to Lombardy today for a week my heart will always be at the centre of things. Had a wee chat in the Inn about how it is important to always look and see how others do things in their communities, always things to learn. The comment came back that not only is it important it is crucial so I am off.

Nothing Much.

Hit a little wall today when I decided “No”. Just a little too tired to head out to sea and the weather was not very inviting. First things first and it was back to bed for an hour, solid sleep so obviously needed. Then it was off up to Carnoch Wood with Dougal and Co and a pleasant wee walk through an atmospheric old wood.

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Unfortunately on the way back down the road Eilidh decided she would have “a go” at a tourist’s dog, very embarrassing and unpleasant for the tourist, but I know it looks far worse than it is as she never makes contact. Dougal, never one to miss out on anything, comes bounding along to join in. All over in seconds but me with scratches and twisted ankle from hauling Eilidh away. Back down the road to pick up some prawns for The Loch Ness Inn and while I was boxing them up at the Inn I was informed the Filling Station was down. A reboot and a really good chat about community work and sustainable fishing during my wetstock dip and getting it going again. Although it is the last reason why you do community “stuff” it is always feels good to get encouragement from people who really appreciate a service you play a part in providing. The reboot was successful first time and away we went for another snooze but not before having the dogs out for a wee stroll. Noticed it’s the devil’s bit scabious that are showing now in huge numbers and also covered in some sort of flies. It is so-called as it’s roots end abruptly as if bitten off by the devil, obvious I suppose..

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In the evening got a phone call saying there were a couple of ladies in distress with their camper van teetering over a bank at Toscaig pier. By the time I arrived all was under control as Billy and DJ had the towrope attached and all it needed was a pull on the side pillar to make sure it  did not cope as it was pulled off the bank. No idea how they managed to get the van where they did and thought it a wee bit insensitive to take a photo. But result was two very happy and relieved ladies. Never stuck in Applecross, although that may not be a bad thing!! Having said that Mark, Around Britain, does seem to be still stuck here although his Scooter is mended but still needs to make its way back.

As always, these days housing is an issue in rural parts and Applecross is no different. Being in Toscaig always reminds me of how I am now here. The crofters at the turn of last century gave a croft to Finlay Macleod, my grandfather, for him to establish himself and raise a family in the hamlet. Times have changed but generosity of spirit and possessions do not. They are timeless. I really enjoy the fact that his house has been renovated and is lived in now, means that it is still alive as is the house down by the pier, although slightly more controversial. The shore base for the scallop farm had become very underused and I complied with a request for an affordable house site. I always try to do things on trust but sometimes this does not work out. The house was half built and then sold on for lots of dosh. But, for me, that is always going to be Greg’s problem. He was not big spirited enough to pass on the favour he received but decided to cash it in. The house is now lived in for 6 months of the year and is an addition to the housing stock of Applecross and who knows in the future…..  There seems to be a new positive mood going by a report of a meeting held last week in Toscaig where all sorts of possibilities were discussed regarding Doctor’s accommodation and the potential of resuming some grazing land for house sites. This is taking place with the worrying back drop of a continuing decline in the school roll. Splitting my croft to allow some one to establish themselves in the community was the reason the meeting was held but as it is an ongoing situation I do not want to prejudice anything until all is resolved, but good to hear very positive comments about it all.

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I always think it is slightly crazy that initiatives are taken by people who rent land/crofts on a 70,000 acre Estate while there are 70,000 acres…… This is all taking place with a sort of mad background. Reading an article in the Guardian about “special” mortgages for people wanting to buy second homes for investment. Specifically geared for tax avoidance but with no consideration of what effect this has on the communities they buy in. It is a complicated issue and every case is individual but when the surveys say that once you have more than 20% second home ownership in a community then that community is then struggling to retain its services and the population ages, school rolls decline and the essence of the place struggles to maintain a presence. We are up to 50%. Rather than criticize any one with a second home, there are a hundred different reasons for having one, I find it more fulfilling in trying to alleviate the problem in practical ways. The ethics of the lenders have to be called into question as it is only the bottom line that is their criteria. More and more you see the system skewed towards people who have money enabling them to make more. House prices to local wage ratios will be driven completely out of sight for the local working population, I suppose they are already. I find links every where I look when I think of a problem and tonight I was listening to a speech given by Bill Shankley to his players about how they should feel privileged to play for the club and more importantly the fans, a community based speech. All we hear about from the 70s/80s is how bad the country was run etc but behind it there seems to have been a stronger sense of community and that has been driven down by this cult of the driven, achieving, individual and the sooner it re emerges the stronger our fragile communities will be. Some people who come here to live take their high expectations with them and expect the same instant service they have become used to in their previous lives. When these are not met by “local” services a few get a little too grumpy and you do question why they have come to live here. There is nothing more satisfying than investing in your own community…. that’s enough me thinks I better get back to work tomorrow and think less.

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