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

Posts tagged ‘Strathpeffer Pavilion’

Living Well

Starting this in the Inn, busy and noisy, but coming to the end of  the night, it being quarter past eleven. Strange evening as at 8.15 the chefs were waiting for an order and at ten past nine they were cooking for twenty, starters and mains, humour could have been better but such is life. Been an interesting few days with two on the water Thurs/Fri,


getting through most of the gear before the forecast wind started increasing on Friday. Thursday evening saw the Hebridean Princess steam south through the lowering sun.


On the way to the boat caught sight of the roof lined with pigeons waiting for feeding time. Do not think they would survive at Arnish.


Fueled up the Auk


before leaving on a beautiful morning.


Happy to go in as the Treacherous Orchestra were beckoning,laying in the Strathpeffer Pavillion later in the evening. Even coming in a couple of fleets early, was pushed for time as getting the bus, landing the Inn’s langoustine, cooking the squat lobster curry, and eating it of course, it was time to head east. Although it was a standard day at sea, routinely going through the gear, there comes along these moments when you are in the zone. That is the only way to describe it. Going across to the Main Bank after setting up the boat for hauling, I looked up and in the morning sun saw a porpoise lazily moving south through the water. As it came up the sun glinted on her wet back, before she disappeared for a few second only to come up glinting again. She looked so peaceful making her way down the south. Then looking around I caught sight of a skua silently gliding close to the water, wings spread and still. Felt as though everything was quiet and you were part of nature’s privilege. The sound of the engine faded for a few moments and all was well. Over the years I have been fortunate to have maybe half a dozen of them and they usually are to do with the weather/scenery, or the more unusual sights of large dolphin pods or whales. Frame of mind helps and every thing drops away. Great to experience as it happens and not to remember it as an event that felt good.

Enough of the warble, The Treacherous Orchestra were amazing as usual, opening with Superfly, indeed finishing with Superfly, playing the brilliant Easter island among others  and amongst others a couple of sets from their soon to be released album. They were preceded by a fine local band The Elephant Sessions, best way to describe them, traditional with lots of bass. Sounded great and their cd was playing on the bus all the way home. Struggle to keep the eyes open for the way back and heard the shipping forecast as we topped the Hill in the dark. All who went enjoyed the night.


No respite as today I went off to Sleat for a Community Broadband meeting to discuss the way ahead for west coast back haul. Not really much to say other than it was a fascinating four hours learning about the potential and problems for the future . How communities are going to deal with state aid, back haul, increasing speed and capacity. Basically doing the work that the commercial companies do not think it is worth their while doing, how to train within the communities to make them more resilient dealing with problems that are going to arise in the future and to keep an eye on future developments. Politics are never far away and not too much detail at the moment. Often come across this when the motives and aims are totally submerged in the machinations of the western way of thinking. The simple fact of Ubuntu seems so distant but is the underlying thrust behind all the people attending these meetings but it is starkly apparent that it is the last motivation on the mind of commerce. Speaking to a couple over from Lochcarron in the evening and they know and are impressed about what is going on with Applenet and they were contacted through the Achmore initiative. Despite all the difficulties the communities are getting on with it and through meetings like these are getting together to plan a more cohesive approach. Hard work to keep a handle on it all but did feel it was very educational and again, despite the problems, very positive. Email sent to the Scottish Government did eventually receive and most of the reply was a wee lesson on what state aid was. I thought they knew I knew but that was the reply and not a good one. I am not having a success with the email outcome. Rick Stein did not even bother to reply to the berried prawn one and now you get bland replies from your own government, you do despair at times. A stop off at the Co-op in Broadford


taking Dougal out and he was in the mood for a photo shoot.


He had been attending the meeting, staying in the car for the boring bits.


Evening was busy and disjointed but all ended well and was home and tucked up after a soothing ice cream selection from the Fifth Element ice cream maker. Sunday morning now, beautiful weather and another busy day ahead. The season is well under way and the hours and events are flying by. The Alba na Mara appeared in the Bay. She is Marine Scotland’s fishery research vessel. Assuming she is doing a burrow count to check on langoustine stocks.


Now almost nine in the evening and a lovely one it is. There are so many light changes over the day.




Stayed on a bit longer at the Inn today as staff shortages were muted, but it was not too busy so saw it until eight. Pleasant evening with all the customers and a couple of good chats with one couple who told Judith that she thought Gerald Butler was modelling his image on me, and no, she did not have a guide dog. I had to disappear into the prep room laughing. Bob “Peg” was over and spent a bit of time outside with him. Chatting about this and that when he told me that he saw Halcyon at Carbost, a new band including John and Adam from Treacherous, a bit too clubby for him to like it straight away but thought there was potential. Anyway he bailed out at half one and saw Adam next morning loading the car. Disappointed that they were not staying for a few tunes that night but playing in Aviemore, so he mentions this to Angus, the pub owner. That evening they are in Aviemore seeing Halcyon again and the next day Angus is snow boarding and Bob is on top of Cairngorm enjoying a beautiful day like today. A lot of people who are running about making lots of money, buying things, will not have a story like that to tell. We do not makes a lot of money up this way but I think we live well in many other ways. Had to stop to watch the post sunset light over Skye.


Inspiration in the Rain.

Driving west of Achnasheen in the lashing rain at 10.30 last night on my way home from Ullapool the old head was brimming full of conflicting thoughts having just come from Ullapool via Inverness. Often think of Angus Macrae of North Strome saying very eloquently about how he wanted to see lights in the dark glens keeping him company for the way home. Fourteen hours earlier the day started as usual with Dougal and Co heading out for their first jaunt of the day and a quick breakie. Unbeknown to them it was going to be a longish day for them as Alison was away to Arisaig to a little gathering of LDO guys who are going to talk about what sounds like boring things such as di minimis rules on grant funding. These items sound boring but are going to be critical in the ongoing work within our communities. For me and the Dougal crew it was off to Inverness and an IFG meeting at Great Glen House. Set off in good time but came across a wee problem in that the van coming down had a bit of a brake problem, alright for me but not for the van as, although missing me, ended up securely in the ditch.


To cut an everyday saga short half an hour later they were pulled out and everyone’s day continued. Not a cross word was said and all were just concerned with sorting out the accident. Slightly hairy moment when the van shot out across the road and up the opposite bank. Only in the ditch for half an hour, good Applecross help.


Ended up being twenty minutes late for the meeting but it was fairly interesting despite itself. There is still a feeling that we are not being listened to very well….the opening up of the west coast grounds to squid trawling and this strange hardship fund that is only designed to compensate poor trawler men for not catching enough prawns this year are two very bad examples of badly thought through policy from above. As often happens the chat over the lunch sandwiches elicit the most interest for me. Brief chat with Richard but longer one with Nick and Beth about data collection and luckily it turned out that Beth’s phd was done on nephrops in Torridon and we had a good chat about the survival of returned berried langoustine. If I was told by the scientists that it was a pointless exercise I would be so disappointed but would have to change my practise. Fortunately for me there is no known science that tells me by returning the berried female is detrimental to the returned one or the fishery as a whole.

After a wander about the buildings with Dougal,


a look across to the south of the growing town,


a trip to the Dog shop and Wholefoods, it was back on the road to The Strathpeffer Pavilion.  On the way into Strathpeffer I had to stop as a field, with no apparent reason to me, had hundreds, possibly thousands of birds landing and taking off on the land.




Important purchase of two tickets for the Treacherous Orchestra gig on the 25th of April. Bit strange as I do not what I am going to do this afternoon, dogs check out the Pavilion http//strathpefferpavilion.org/ grounds, a chat and catch up with Andrea, a lovely bowl of  potato and leek soup and up to Ullapool. Mid afternoon in the Highlands means the lights are on early.


Stopped in at Leckmelm but no lights on. Plenty of time for a fish and chips sitting on a bench across from the pier on a windy and cool november evening in Ullapool. This is living the real sensations of life up here.


The mutts got plenty of exercise and had a good night-time tour of the wee town, little surprised how many houses had no lights on. Lots of reasons, I am sure, but hope second houses was not one of them.

So to the Ceilidh Place and Lesley Riddoch. www.lesleyriddoch.com/blossom-book-tour.html Huge amount of informative chat and ideas about the Scottish nation, how we seem to view ourselves, how for some reason we listen to people who tell us we cannot do it ourselves. Many comparisons looking across to the Scandinavian countries and looking at energy or banking whether it be Norway or Germany. 41 energy companies in Germany and in Sweden the price of energy went down due to the 2008 crash, obviously because there was lots of spare capacity about, but in our energy rich country what happens….the opposite. We do have a lot to learn from other people and countries and have to cast off the “it won’t work here attitude”. Interesting statistic from Norway when they passed a law giving landowning Norwegian men a vote in 1814, 45% qualified. In 1832 the same happened in Britain and 5% qualified. We have suffered inequality for centuries. I do not have the mindset of wanting more so do not understand it but those who have vast lands and wealth their whole existence seems to be occupied in either growing or at least keeping it. A little of this came out at the IFG meeting when one of the organisation representatives became quite shirty when it was suggested that a more equal share of a quota was suggested. It was the “hard work” ethic that was introduced and the example of some one wanting a croft you do not go to the big farmer and take some of his farm for the crofter. Looking at it another way what he was really arguing for is the farmer to have more than his needs while the potential crofter is to have nothing. How we address this growing problem in our society is going to be crucial, but we either accept the present situation or look at way to redress the imbalance. These imbalances were created with the full backing of changes in the law in the past by those who directly benefited, maybe now it is to be redressed. An interesting example Lesley put forward was the impoverishment of the quality of the land over centuries of overgrazing and told us about a small project carried out by Ron Greer and Derek Pretswell www.andywightman.com/?p=3291. But more importantly was the project that involved planting of 100,00 hectares that would now be a community asset and Dunkeld, Birnam and surrounding area would be carbon neutral. Failed because they did not have the right “qualifications” for the project. Their Loch Garry project counted for nothing despite them taking land that was sour and turning it into a rich soil structure now supporting lots of wild life habitat. Planting lupins was one of the keys in returning nitrogen back to the depleted soil. Met a teacher who is involved with the Ullapool St Ayles skiff and a great chat about the community aspects of this. It will happen here.

Struggled to leave as I knew, as usual, there would be good craic after and would have to use one’s brain in keeping up a banter with these guys. So after many offers of Highland hospitality from Jean, the offer of a room to a flask of coffee for the journey home, had to be turned down and I made my escape, but not before meeting Noel outside and having a chat about fishing, SCFF www.scottishcreelfishermansfederation.co.uk/ and MPAs before turning down yet more offers of a place to crash.

So there I was driving through the rain with everything in overdrive, not the van as I followed a police car for twenty odd miles at a respectable distance and speed. Inspired, but knowing the huge problems of community work, realising that no matter what you do you will always be criticised, but aware that you are fortunate to know  some amazingly kind and considerate people. This with the Finlay Macdonald Band on the Ipod made for a “short” journey home.

And that is how I finished my day with a brief political/land /nation discussion, the good fortune we have to live in such a place amongst wonderful people. So important never to lose sight of this amongst all the hassles and carp of daily life.

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