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

Posts tagged ‘Treacherous Orchestra’

Fishing,Inn,Music,Hydro and “Oh Dearie Me”

Saturday morning and a fresh breezy day from the south. One washing out drying another underway, three days fishing, a couple of shifts at the Inn, a trip to Ullapool to hear some of the best music Scotland has to offer, some Hydro investigating and an “Oh Dearie Me” moment.

Fishing began on Tuesday and the weather held most of the week, a mixture of sunny

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and grey

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but mostly calm apart from finishing off on Thursday afternoon when a fresh southerly sprang up and it was a bumpy steam home. The last fleet of the day was a little up and down but luckily I left the best till last. The fishing has taken a bit of a dive and catching and putting back the berried langoustine is starting to hurt. That last fleet is an example of just keeping going despite the catch being poor. I probably caught as much in that fleet as I caught in the previous five.

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But that is fishing and although in general terms pot fishing is the most routine of all you do come across many surprises. And of course as long as you pick the weather it is always a pleasure being on the water. Friday, I decided not to go out and that gives an indication of how poor the catch has become, as the weather was fine. Thought that only two days since hauling the creels I would be hauling on the day would not be enough for a decent amount of langoustine to be in the creels. Be out of langoustine at the inn this weekend as I sent off a few kilos to Loch Ness Inn early on Friday. But hopefully it will all start again next week. The choice is to land the berried females and I cannot do that now. Maybe it is good to do without now and again. Fine days

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and nice to head back to the moorings knowing that is another good effort under the belt.

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The Inn has been a little quieter this week, although still very busy. I was at the Inn last night due the previous night’s music, and sorting out where everyone was to sit is still stressful with plenty on the list, remembering the residents, larger tables booked and then a five and eight wander in looking for something to eat. You work out a wee seating plan for the evening and usually it is not even close. You change the plan several times in your head and pretend you know what you are doing. When a couple decide they do not want to share they have to wait a little longer, the fact they do not want to share usually means they are a little prickly anyway, get a little bothered that they have to wait longer. All you can do is just chat away to them. Finding accommodation for a couple who come down later to eat, they are so appreciative of the help they get when they come to Applecross. It is a fundamental of living here, so whether you own an Estate, shoot on one, work on a harbour on the North East of England, a nurse or retired GP living in Guernsey, you make them all welcome and hope they enjoy the Applecross welcome. In the passing Davie alerted me to an unusual light over to the west. Only just caught the halos below the sunburst.

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Working last night was a wee penance for taking Thursday evening off to go up to Ullapool to hear some stunning music from Ali Hutton

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and Ross Ainslie

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alongside Owen Sinclair. Accompanied by Canadians and the odd Aussie in the Boss’s car we arrived early due to me thinking that it started at 7.30pm. 8.30pm start meant a couple of pints at the Ceilidh Place and me nipping down for a few chips and a wander round the harbour. Music was immense, front row seats watching masters at work with whistles, pipes, guitars and a couple of fine songs from Gordon. Enjoyed by all and good to meet up with the Pankhursts who Ross reckons have been to more Treacherous gigs than he has, and he plays with them!! A long drive but the music was so worth it and the banter was up there as well. Andrea, on the sound, seems an important part of the deal, and photos taken at the end,

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all a bit chaotic as people were leaving and chatting.

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Back by 1.00am and although up early to get the langoustine away on the lorry a relaxed day on Friday. Keeping an eye on the Hydro as the website is not showing power output at the moment so we have to go up to see all is well. The spear valve does not seem to be operating as well as it could be so power is a little restricted. Probably simple resetting of head levels or such like. Going up to the Head to check the screen is always a pleasure with the weather favourable. Bit of green on it and a quick clean

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and shift a couple of stones which rolled up against the gate which keeps the flow going before making my way back down. But not before dipping feet into the pool and taking time out,

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relaxing in one of the beautiful parts of the world.

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I like the fact that all one sees is a small dam, a track and a shed when green energy and money for the community is produced in idyllic surrounds.

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The “Oh Dearie Me” moment I have to say caught me a little by surprise and involves the MRD500. I thought having to break into the music room because there was no key available to use the community sound system for the ceilidh, replacing the door with no cost to anyone bar the volunteers who put everything back together, was the end of the matter. But no, a letter appeared addressed to the Community Council questioning my “integrity” to hold public office. Had to leave the room for 5 minutes while the others discussed me. I can only view this latest with humour and disbelief that people can spend so much effort to write so much rubbish. Skimming the letter, I was almost calling the police myself to be taken away in handcuffs, such was the dire awfulness of my actions. But enough this a positive, beautiful and fulfilling place to live and as one of the fellow councillors said afterwards it becomes easier to ignore personal vendettas the more ridiculous they become, just have to guard against the constant pecking away at ones contribution to the community.

 

 

Scottish Music in Good Hands.

We arrived in plenty of time, even if the League of Highland Gentlemen had turned up. Result being that Skipinnish

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kicked off our musical evening in fine style with their new singer Norrie Mciver. Have not seen or heard them for a wee while and was pleasantly surprised.

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They got the crowd going with some breakneck piping and Runrig songs as well as their own. Perfect warm up to the RURA set,

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some said not so good without Adam Holmes but I thought they were excellent. Extraordinary bodhran playing.

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The weather was not too hot as the showers started mid evening but the stage and tent were dry if a little cold by the end of the night. The weather was spectacular on the mainland

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and the trip to Portree was worth it just for the views over the Hill.

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Prefer the snow cover to be lighter as you see the rock feature.

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Into Niteworks and, as a Niteworks virgin, was not too sure but they were the best warm up to Treacherous. Liked the combination of driving computer beats with the mix of fiddle, pipes and gaelic voice.

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All these bands are taking traditional music on their own journeys, sure some do not go for it but I find they cleanse the soul and take you places away from the everyday stresses of rural living.

Treacherous were their usual exuberant selves with Ali dancing about the stage, Ross giving it laldy on the whistles and pipes, while the box

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and fiddlers and banjo

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completed the front line up.

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They are a complete band and are showmen as well. Almost got a smile from Adam towards the end. Maybe because the dry ice had cleared somewhat.

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Very slight downside was the over exuberance of some of the younger set which gave the security some concerns and Ali telling them to behave. Drink related rather than animosity. Certainly noticeable the amounts of drink consumed and that does seem to be the case for west coast festivals but the music still outshone, even the girl who asked for a climb on my shoulders, a very brief one as frowned on by security, was more intoxicated by the music than the alcohol. Back home and tucked up by 1.30am after a very fine visit to Skye and meeting up with a few Festival regulars thrown in.

The Conachers of Dunkeld and Sydney.

(Tuesday) Gentle shift this evening and feeling a little less stressed out having dived into some book work last night. May well be paying some fines but at least it is underway and setting up some systems where I intend never to lose sleep over it again. Silly really as I know I can do it but keep putting it off. Only New Years Resolution this year. Catch up and keep up. Quiet as it is we still did around twenty meals. The “maintenance” is still on going at Sand and the Hydro boys are back in town. Good news is the turbine was producing 90kw today for a while but they have to come back as a couple of parts are not compatible, so it is back down to the 50. No sign of it drying up yet despite the little rain we have had in the last couple of weeks.

(Friday) Weather has definitely improved and on Sunday it was a peaceful morning across the Bay

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and the Milton whooper swans were quietly feeding on the bottom grass of the loch.

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There was entertainment on in the evening, meeting a lot of people due to working through the week these days. Previously I missed them through just working the Sunday lunch shift. Good food, music and chat. Hopefully Treacherous Orchestra have another couple of fans. Only down side is the after effects on the Monday. Not terribly worried as the day was not for fishing, nor yesterday, but today was fine and peaceful although there was still the remains of a northerly swell in the morning. Fine day

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although cold with a dollop of snow on the hills.

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A few langoustines about on Wednesday and a fleet full of squat lobsters meant I had sweet chilli squats for tea after the shift. One of the few meals I have from what I catch and do not cook myself. Back on the boat the afternoon saw me taking a bit of time out feeding the small gulls

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and cormorants.

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They were good company watching them diving

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and wheeling in the air,

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chasing the pout I was throwing them, sad I know, but nice to be in the same environment as them and not doing too much damage to it. Been a couple of whale entanglements recently, some being freed but sadly an orca washed up dead on Tiree having been entangled on creel gear, either in use or ghost creels. Our activities on land and at sea are starting to cause havoc with our sea life, plastics and PCBs being major causes. Thinking about going over to leaded rope to at least cut down bottom foul ups. We do not get many cetaceans our way, possibly as a result of the MoD sonar activity, but I have had four encounters over the thirty odd years at sea, two bad ones and they were ones on the seabed.

So onto Thursday evening at the Inn where it was supposed to be quiet so I could do some paper work. Walking in I sort of knew it would not happen like that. A couple were on the Big Table by the fire and had booked on speck, the Conachers from Sydney. They and the scattering of local bods were on good form but the fire was low and it was cold. Caroline with a couple of gins Francis with her Sauvignon and Mark with a crofters and dram along with the Connachers meant it was a rather frivolous start to the evening shift. But good craic was had throughout the evening and the Conachers story was fascinating. Around the turn of the 20th century the family were based in Dunkeld, his great-grandfather being a keeper to the Duke of Athol (my assumption). Things hit the fan when his son Robert got the Dukes daughter “with child”. A big no-no in them days, so money changed hands and Robert and his brother made their way out to Australia. This saved me asking the Aussie question about voluntary or forced emigration concerning their predecessors. His brother did not survive more than six weeks but after serving in the WW1 Robert obviously established his family resulting in this return visit from Sydney. Another part of the tale is the great-grandfather became Baron Baillie of Dunkeld, a title conveyed by the Duke and was an ex officio, justice of the peace type role. The following is from a site I looked up.http://www.visitdunkeld.com/dunkeld-decline.htm

“In the reign of Charles II. Dunkeld received an offer which it declined. This was to raise its status to that of a Royal Burgh. The offer was renewed by Queen Anne and accepted, but although a Charter granting the appointment of 3 Bailes, a Dean of Guild, a Treasurer and 10 Common Council men, besides other privileges, was prepared, it was never carried into effect. Dunkeld is now only a Burgh in Barony under His Grace the Duke of Athol, the jurisdiction being conducted by a Baron-Bailie, appointed by his superior. The Baron-Ballie is ex-officio a Justice of the Peace and a Commissioner of Supply. Holders of this office during a long period were Messrs Conacher and Jack, the latter dying in 1906. The present holder of the office is Baron-Baile Watson, Deans’ Cross, who succeeded the late Mr Kenneth MacDonald.”

It is these little ceilidhs at the Inn that I work for, dipping into the history of a family, just being part of some one’s oral history and it is so relevant in todays land reform movement. That power the establishment still hold over the ordinary people and exercised in different ways in the modern age if any one steps out of line or in this case above themselves.

Our own wee run of people no longer with us stretches to the Big House with the news that Mrs Wills, Richard’s mother has passed away suddenly. Not having the stats but I am sure there are more deaths at this time of year, I suppose weather,short days and a general weakening of the body contributes.

 

 

Edinburgh, Treacherous Orchestra and the Snow Aussies.

Well how times change. Went to get the post on Saturday afternoon hoping there were not too many late investors as we did not want disappointed people. However it was not bad as they were mostly filled in forms of previously received BACs and cheques. Two days ago we were hoping the opposite and on Wednesday the dam broke and the river flowed our way. I was away on Wednesday evening and managed to briefly pick up on a continuation of the flow on Thursday from a slightly stressed tweet saying it was all over bar a double-check on how much was in the total. By this time I was in Edinburgh at a Social Finance Conference/Workshop, originally booked for a leaflet and investor push to have our target reached. Dai, the day before, took all the pressure off. Thought about not going down, but this becomes all-consuming and a wee break was needed to remain sane. You end up being unpleasant if the pressure becomes too much and end up saying things you regret later. At least when you know you are at that stage you can modify reactions.

So after work it was down the A9 at a steady pace to reach the West End of Edinburgh in plenty of time to find the Roxburghe Hotel and join in a day of Social Banking/Finance. Opened by John Swinney and followed by a series of interesting and humorous speakers from Australia, Holland and Germany. A workshop in the afternoon where we talked about Community Shares. A really interesting share issue about fair trade footballs, hand sewn, from Pakistan and then was asked to say a few things about our share issue as we had three or four minutes left. Met Kelly who was taking the workshop and I had only known previously through emails. Applecross makes itself known to so many people and in so many places. Only down side is I did not display my expensive parking ticket properly and ended up with a nasty fine. Times like these I know I am a Teuchter.

Inverness was the next stop and a few trips around town as usual after several kips on the way up the road. Made sure I was north before the weather closed in. Driving along Ness bank saw the tribute lit up on the bridge.

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Was supposed to meet Alison at Eden Court for a night of Treacherous Orchestra but suspected she would not get away from the computer and the Hydro Share Issue and that was the case. Only found the message when I got home as The Court wi-fi was not behaving, it is better at home. The music was top of the tree as expected,

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probably one of the best concerts of live music I have been to and I am starting to notch up a few. Good to meet up with Jacky and Mark before the music started.

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Good to know the music and they played the Grind album with a few of the old favourites and by the end of the night had the crowd jumping.

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Innes

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even tried a bit of crowd surfing and made it back onto the stage unharmed.  Mind you with three arms and two fiddles…..In fact he was very gently put down and it was the School of Excellence and Applecross contingent that were involved with this delicate manoeuvre. One of the attributes I love about Treacherous is that they so obviously into what they do

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and most of the time are either laughing

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or grinning their heads off while still producing some excellent sounds.

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I was a little surprised at the room and the closeness of the gig and nipped out for the camera at half time. Just took a few snaps as did not want to lose contact with the music. Did not get any of the posed shots but happy with the ones I took. And they were jumping at the end as well.

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John, thanking the crowd mentioned a few places where everyone came from to hear them, and of course Applecross got a mention. I do take a lot of pride in the achievements of this community from getting Innes back onto the stage safe to raising over three-quarters of a million to own its own Hydro Scheme. And the forecast meant I was quickly out the door and heading west (Treacherous on the iPod for the journey as it is now) Flurries of snow above Dingwall and the Brahn as well as Achnasheen but decided on the Hill. We locals just do not like the Coast Road especially being on the road for a couple of days. However just going round the corner, starting the long climb up to the hair pins I was thinking the Coast Road would be a very satisfying drive to end the journey. I passed the last tracks of cars and, unbelievably a motorcycle track, and slid my way to the top. Speaking to Peter, the plough, next morning he said he was impressed with my tyre tracks. Took the whole of the road to get up and over. fortunate that most of the snow was on the Kishorn side so not sliding down. Home safe by 1.00am

Saturday was another recovery day and a day that I need to refocus on my own business and try to disengage a little from the Hydro and the like. Still to be around, but needs must. Thinking along these lines as the weather was not too bad, a bit of a run in the sea from the North, but still could have and maybe should have gone fishing. Instead a trip up the road

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to make a phone call and ended up on the Bealach again with the van full of Aussies and dogs. Dougal and Eilidh

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used to the snow but for Taneil

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and Mel it was a first.

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How different we all are. Twenty three and this was their first experience of the white stuff we see every year. Come to think of it I have not been in 40c of heat so just a bit of role reversal. That and looking through photos before making up the road for work made up the day. Although we are still a bit over staffed with the Boss being away it was a fine shift. Plenty of time to speak to all the guests, Nairn, Edinburgh, Skye to name but a few. Sometimes there is little effort needed as they pair up themselves and all you need to do is see they get their food and drink and leave them to it. Honeymoon couple from Kishorn over, had to spend their first night eating at the Inn, a privilege to serve.

Finally although I am not sure it has truly sunk in but the total, amended up due to the circumstances surrounding the contract, has been reached and with ease. While walking with Dougal and Eilidh yesterday morning a thought stuck me about the difference between hope and belief. I think belief is a very strong ideal and can lead you down a long wrong road, just look at the world around us, while hope was the feeling I unconsciously used to get through the high stress levels. For me it has been stressful and for Alison, doubly so. But the planning and effort that she has put into the marketing of the Community Share Issue has been second to none. Taken its toll a bit and now she is off down the road to speak at the Rural Parliament in Musselbourgh and in the exalted company of the FM Nicola Sturgeon. Applecross is once again making itself known for all the right reasons. None of this could happen if we did not have the support of most of the community and the establishments who allowed access to their customers, the contractors HighlandEco, and all our contacts who helped us on Social Media through sharing and retweeting the Applecross message. Also the mainstream media, local and national press and broadcasters decided we had a story to tell and let us tell it through their outlets. Can only thank every one involved and appreciate all the comments coming in. Now to commissioning the Hydro and we need a decent forecast for the next two weeks, decent in that no named storms coming our way. So again thanks for helping us achieve this

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Still Summer in Cambridge.

Very briefly you think what is happening back home, but it is brief. This Festival is so good, intimate if you can say that when 14000 people are wandering about listening to some cracking music. 9Q7Q0515 Yesterday morning was busy and we did not have to move from the Main Stage till after two as Irish band, Goitse, got us off to a flying start. The name is an informal Irish greeting “come here” and we did. Beautiful combination of bodhran, fiddle and song was a fine wake up. 9Q7Q0541 The Festival was starting earlier each day. Then a blue grass band all singing and playing with the one Mike, old time. Their harmonies , lovely to hear, and you knew the blurb was right when they said their influences were Bill Munroe and the Carter Family. They were from Pensylvania and called The Stray Birds. 9Q7Q0549 And finally for this session Show of Hands, who I know from a cd of Andy’s, and were brilliant musical protest song singers. Cynically sarcastic view on the greed of the few is probably the best way to put it. In a sort of surreal way you are still aware of the world still turning outside the Festival site and put into song and sung by the Show of Hands confirm you are not alone in how you view the world. 9Q7Q0550 Had to take a break 9Q7Q0523 and a couple of hours in the afternoon meant loins girded and back into it. The hours spent at the camp base were at times chaotic but everything was immaculate the next morning for another go at it all. Nick, who was a one time resident of Applecross was there in spirit but not in body this year. Although he is a long term participant he decided to take a break but his last years escapade was mentioned a few times. He was in touch after his last visit saying how much he enjoyed seeing this band, but it was politely pointed out that it was the only one he saw due to a certain over indulgence on his part. Cambridge has many different effects on the body and soul.  Gentle start of blues with Alvin, sitting outside listening rather than watching at the side of Stage 2, before a racous half hour with some Quebec boys, a three piece called De Temps Antan, at the Club Tent. Stood at the back and listened as they were seated but what a sound they produced of Quebecois. 9Q7Q0555 Then onto experiencing  a highlight listening to Rhiannon Giddens of Chocolate Drops. We were gobsmacked as she included everything from Odetta, Patsey Cline to a Puirt a Beul sung so fast and yes in Gaelic. 9Q7Q0557 We all were simply captivated and her hour was rapid. No over runs at Cambridge with everyone starting and finishing on time. The sound team were pretty stunning in getting all the sound checks done in allotted times. Almost dazed some of us took a little food break  while Joan Baez played her set. Listened from a distance and after some food and now the ever present Crabbies we wandered in to catch the last of the set, singing Imagine with the rest of the crowd. And then Treacherous, 9Q7Q0571 this crazy adrenaline fuelled band from our parts. 9Q7Q0565 A dozen guys playing stunning traditional instruments to a jumping crowd. 9Q7Q0560 As well as repetitive and building rythmns coupled with a light show the whole is a piece of musical theatre that enters your being. 9Q7Q0568 Just before the end of Baez noticed some one on the way out to get ready for Treacherous and it was a regular of theirs, Jacky who was here with Mark. Finally met some one I knew, this is the Inverness syndrome, always bumping into some you know. Maybe it is the Scottish community mentality.  Back to the stage, the fifty five years legs were twenty again. 9Q7Q0574 Down at the front and bouncing with the rest of a packed audience. 9Q7Q0564 Music takes you places, so ends an exhausting day in fine music and great company again.

Land and Music, Universal Needs

(Very early Saturday morning). After nipping out to the boat for a few prawns for the Inn, a few jobs, quick dog walk and even quicker pack it was into the van by 1.30pm and down the road to Glesgow. Did it in fairly good time although messed about with the parking. Missed the car park and parked on the street, walked to the Royal Concert Hall for a stunning Fiddletree Concert. Beautiful music, found myself closing my eyes and kept imaging tumbling, flowing water across the Highland Hills. Not surprising as there was a mix of Cape Breton and Scottish fiddles, American cello with Irish harp. Brilliant mix and really loved Mairi singing “Smile or Cry”. Haunting powerful song, also liked the words put to the tune about what grew in Otis’ garden. Alison ended up sitting by a group of Cof S ministers and met some one who did not know where Applecross was. Left early as we were going to hear Shooglenifty and that was simply a beezer. As it was their twenty-fifth they had guests and they were special. The whole concert was stunning and it finished with a crescendo of Indian drumming. There was an encore with more drumming, Ross Ainslie and Angus, still on his feet, leading the rest of the guys. Just have n’t got the words and maybe a wee bit tired having walked around half of Glasgow to properly describe the joy of music. No photos as we ended up a little rushed in getting to the music but Shooglenifty’s fb page worth a visit. Finally got to the hotel around 1.00am, seemed to go on for ever, the hotel that is.

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(Early Sunday morning). Well I was well content if tired last night tonight, Treacherous were absolutely out of this world. I cannot remember a night of music coming to such an epic finale.

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A long day and we had planned to take the train to Birnam but NCP do not like vans in their car parks. That meant me sorting out a two-hour meter charge that cost £6, breakfast and then out onto the motorway and North to Birnam…….not before heading south on the M74 for a few miles in the direction of Carlisle. On the boat if going south and want to go north I turn the wheel to port and head north, bit different on these pesky motorways, but we got there in plenty of time. And then ensued a very informative and interesting day of views exchanged, new people met and bumping into acquaintances from other meetings. Very glad not to be a note taker, having volunteered if no one else would. Great conversations with people from Orkney to the Borders. Met “Gentle Otter”, some people you think you know even if you only have contact through social media, but so much better to meet in the real as opposed to the virtual world. Problems are the same the length and breadth of the country and sometimes I wonder if enough people are trying to tackle them. Phase of the day was “Scotland belongs to all of us and to none of us”. That sort of fits in with my lack of interest in things, it is about experiences and what you take with you. All I have bought this weekend is the Treacherous cd, and it is  pretty reasonable, the rest is memories. The strongest feeling I left Birnam with was the laws of the land are there to be followed and respected, and up till now have been mainly influenced by landed folk. If we want them changed then the people have to influence the lawmakers that change is necessary for the benefit of the many and not the few. It will not be a 70 page submission but there will be two going in from the Schoolhouse to the Scottish Govt this month and we are able to give instances where community comes a very bad second to the Establishment.Had to leave sharp to get back just in time for tonight’s extravaganza. Met up with other representatives from Dallas, Applecross, Ardelve, briefly, and pretty sure there were many other Highlanders in the RCH. Started with a fantastic lady from Cameroon, then The Micheal McGoldrick Band,

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followed by some Malian blues from Songhoy.

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A night of mixed emotions, I was rested at times and excited by the sounds. After three hours it was T.O.

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These guys make me laugh with unadulterated pleasure.

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Played a lot of the new album and, if possible, it may be even better than what has gone before. I thought of the Hydro as they were moving around the stage and wondered if there was any way you could store the energy they produced.

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They looked so into their music it made everything so special although I did wonder if Ali Hutton was going to do himself an injury on the finale. The folk behind us provided lots of amusement for Alison as she was over hearing comments, not favourable of the night entertainment. They had not done their research and were at the wrong gig. One of them had switched off his hearing aid and they left before the end. What a weekend so far, the Festival Club will be jumping tonight but not jealous and now for sleeeeeep.

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,

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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.

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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.

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Fueled up the Auk

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before leaving on a beautiful morning.

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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.

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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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

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a look across to the south of the growing town,

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Migraine just a Memory.

On the way up to the inn on Wednesday looking north to the “Blind Sound” with the northerly breeze blowing, bright sunshine and a haze appearing across the water stopped for a photo and time out.

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Through the Gap you can see the cliffs of Staffin and further off the Harris hills. Later, after taking Aron a lift home on the way back up the road the Chamain was looking so peaceful and this was at 10.45pm.

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Dougal thinks he is tucked in for the night on the couch after collecting his seven ticks for the day.

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Yesterday things ground to a halt, well they did not start as I woke up with a migraine well under way. Without going on too much about them they stop everything although this one was not too bad to cope with as I had missed the start of it and was comatose for about 6/8 hours yesterday while it was under way. Another added bonus was that I was only sick twice…so a good migraine but work out of the question and fretting over missing out on a beautiful day on the west.

The contrast this morning was complete, as at seven taking the dogs out for a wander over their domain,a listen to a Mhairi Campbell/Dave Francis composition, and then down to the pier for a day’s fishing on the Sound.

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Most of the fleet was away at the same time this morning apart from the consistently early Kingfisher.

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As expected the northerly breeze was up quite early and it was hard work but balanced against yesterdays fiasco it was a good to be alive day. Managed 400 pots up as I was trying to keep the Inn going for the weekend. I know they do not mean it but it is a little off-putting hearing some visitors complaining that they had travelled 400+ miles for the langoustine and why are they not on the menu. Explaining to them it is not a super market aisle that we go down and buy them off the shelf can be taken the wrong way. I think it is just symptomatic the way people live now. If they want something they just go out and buy it, and if they can’t, they don’t understand why not. My day was cut short, as I started hauling my last fleet of the day, a hydraulic pipe burst so it was away in with a few more prawns than expected. The weekend should be sorted at the Inn and we have some hanging in reserve over the side of the Varuna. Funny little moment occurred when hauling a fleet at Sand noticed bait not as I had left it and jumped to what turned out to be the wrong conclusion….some pirate was hauling my gear. Easily solved when I called Billy at Sand to see if they could track any new boats in the area. Hardly finished conversation when another boat called up, a little sheepish saying it was probably him as he was hauling another boat’s gear by arrangement and realised half way through the fleet that it was the wrong one. We have a good community of fishermen and it is good to know that there are no rogues at the creels and there has n’t been over the years I have been fishing….other methods of catching prawns has it fair share and just about to a man none live locally. It was around here a butter fish came up in a creel. Always good to say the fish I take photos of and do not keep to eat go back alive over the side. We do not do discards working the creels.

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So left the Inn and some happy chefs cooking off langoustine, tails and squat tails. Alison is over in Skye at the Community Land gathering and will be meeting up with like-minded guys and networking, as one does. It is always good to get out to keep one’s perspective. The LRRG’s interim report has had a bit of an all round panning in the press and at Edinburgh. It just seems to concentrating purely on community ownership of land and there are so many more issues to be addressed than this. But it seems the prediction is that any reforms remain untouched until after the 2014 Referendum so as not to rock any establishment boats.

Who would have thought that Jeremy Vine would be mentioning Treacherous Orchestra on his prog, but that was the case today. Been listening to two fabulous new albums this week, Adam Sutherland’s Squall and Hugh Lawrie’s Did n’t it Rain. That as well as watching Nashville there is a little burst of good new music about just now.

The Day after Applestock.

Made it up to the Garden around half three and had a wander around.

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Good ambience and lots of chat and things going on as well as the music. Margaret doing her spinning and always with something interesting to say,

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Timed it well as I heard Jamie Hilton’s session and really enjoyed it. Great blusey voice and guitar.

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After leaving the Walled Garden it was down to the Inn before the hordes arrived. It was quiet for a while but plenty to do with the final arrangements for setting the bar up for the evening. As it got busier the Inn packed out but it still flowed and we had our own little session going with Kenny Rankin on guitar his mate on melodeon, all British champ it seems, and they were joined by a seriously accomplished bodhran player. His own melodeon was in for repair and he was cheesed off with the one he had…you would not have noticed. Good atmosphere although not quite connected to it. It was more a case of hanging in and thinking about the bar at the marquee. The Treacherous came in for something to eat and took their orders with a bit of banter which included Innes Watson wanting a veg stir fry. We almost always do variations but on this case son no 1 was on the plating ,busy and was not in the mood for compromise. Asked for an explanation for what a stir fry was wanted, so went back out to see Innes….back to the kitchen where I made the mistake of saying it was for Innes Watson, “That doesn’t help” came the reply. In the end we decided that Innes would have a veg linguine without the linguine. West coasters are not easily impressed it seems, although it does run in the family.

The bar at the Treacherous, opened by Becca Fox, ran well, great crowd, music out of this world. Missed a fair bit of Becca but what I saw was pretty spectacular, cracking voice and I have listened to her at the Inn, the only person I have heard doing an Adele cover just about as good as Adele.

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We could not help but let the rhythms, melodies and virtuoso playing affect your mood and Marion and I especially just rocked through evening. We kept smiling and just shaking our heads at the intensity of the music….just brilliant. It was both time lost and gained, if that makes any sense. Somewhere I was so happy to be. I love this photo of John on the box, looks like a slightly sinister Victorian guy in some back street some where deep south. Of course could not be further from the truth.

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Pretty tired but still high and home quite early leaving the stalwarts to head to the bonfire on the beach, reminiscent of the Seafood and Music Festivals of old. For me it is really heart warming to see the next,well half, generation getting together to create something like this weekend. That is some thing  that is fundamental to the Community Company. you try to do what you can to sustain and help your own community while not preventing but helping the future generations to do likewise and I think we saw that this weekend.

Unfortunately woke up this morning with a stonker of a head and only got rid of it by consuming too many milligrams of paracetamol. Made it to work and sorted out most of the left overs from the van before taking it back to Ardheslaig in the late afternoon. Busy old shift, more relentless rather than full on, weather being wonderful and warm many ate outside and it was mainly light lunches. Lots of humour today and there was a definite left over high from the night before. I love it when you walk past and hear snippets of conversations like,”What did he say to you? “your bosoms are bouncing””.or “You should have seen the size of his gantry”. Loved it when I heard The Treacherous being described as a ceilidh band!!! The one that summed up the night before was Mark telling me that he will never forget the image ,when he asked me for a vodka, I was at the optics and pouring, hearing and feeling the tunes, the whole unit of optics were bouncing along with us.

There was a fair bit of emotion as well as were visited by Matthew who had left Applecross in circumstances no one could have wished for.

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His coming back was wonderful and he so much enjoyed his visit bringing back so many painful memories for a few of us but good ones as well and we had a few chats amongst ourselves which were very healing. He had followed his younger brother Fergus up and now we await Connor and possibly even their Dad!! At work sweetest moment was chatting to a lady from Montreal about Applecross and she had several very direct questions that led us through the First Settlers, the monastic times to the Clearances, where and why the houses are built where they are and so on. She seemed to enjoy the chat and as she left she said,” I have not read anything in the guide books about you but you know my heart found you.” I took that to mean Applecross and so many other people have with this lady summing it up in one succinct sentence. Internet was playing up last night and it was almost impossible to upload so had to leave it till this morning.

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