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

Posts tagged ‘wood’

Mr Chisholm Accompanies One

Walking back from the Inn on a dark and damp Friday night, I realised that distance and time can be measured in music, especially if you are listening to one of the Duncan Chisholm Trilogy. In this case it was Affric, An Ribhinn Donn get you under way, followed by the cascading Big Archie and before you know it before Night in That Land comes on. It was a perfect way to come home after a very, very enjoyable evening.

The lead up to the show earlier could have been more relaxed as it has turned out to be a very busy week. A gentle start as still recovering from the lurgie on Monday but was out in the evening, initially at the Inn, but ended up at the Community Hall, for a meeting about Out of Hours in Applecross. Only being lightly involved in local politics and finding that hard enough I do not envy those at either Highland or National level. In this case we heard how times have changed and we no longer have as good a supply of GPs as we would like and those new do not have the 24/7 commitment to coverage that those in the past had in the Dr Findlay’s days. Mind you there is probably less alcoholism now as in the old days. We can consider ourselves so very fortunate in our current Situation. Even the managers were suggesting we have as good a service as any where round the Highlands. But Doctors need time off and the cover is going to be still locum but is also going to be a mix of paramedics and nurse practitioners. This has already happened and there seems to be little concerns in the community. The ambulance service were also present and first responders are back on the menu. We were going down this route before but was stalled due to an unresponsive SAS, but that has now been solved and the Health Care Assoc is going to take this on. The defribs are now in town and hope to be in position in the next month or so. Being Applecross it is not one or two but six are going t be installed round the Community, monies all raised within the Community itself. Certainly impressed the managers.

Tuesday saw the CC meeting take place, constructive and frustrating at the same time. Knowing we have little powers and can only keep telling the authorities about the state of the Bealach. However there does seem to be a bit of action, partly as a result of photos of the deterioration of the road that we send in. Newspapers are always looking for angles on the NC500 and when you talk to a journalist giving two sides you leave yourself wide open to editing, but it turned out to be fairly balanced. Some people on the following Facebook steam say exactly the opposite of what you want to put across. Everyone, in my view is welcome, but it is going to put an undoubted strain on our infrastructure. Many communities would wish our problems

Wednesday and my fishing career has restarted.

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I had been out to the Varuna on Tuesday afternoon to link up my new batteries and fire her up for the first time this year. Bit suspicious that I have a dead cell in the system so isolate the lighting bank as a reserve. The batteries are new because of one of those little mishaps, perfectly avoidable, but happen anyway and end up with you poorer and with a sore head from hitting it against a wall. Had two ashore, fully charged and back in the van when I was asked to nip over the Hill to pick up a couple of Internet boys from the train. Remembered the batteries in the back, the slidey floor and the insecure back door. The van is not quite a Teuchter wagon but is heading there. I actually stopped, but the hand brake never held so went round the next bend. Big mistake as two £100 batteries shot out the back door and lay smashed on the Bealach. Did not stop hitting the steering wheel until after Kishorn. Fishing went surprisingly well with only one out of the five fouled up. I have realised this week how much I have missed the sea with all its magic,

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colours

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and life.

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Dozen  kilos and a few squats means the year is under way, langoustines and squats now back on, well appreciated on Thursday evening by the regulars, five squat lobster in garlic starters with Isla having chips and salad with hers. Fine food for a young un. These squats were caught on the way back from Rona,

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was there with Sean trying to link up the Applenet but did not go all to plan as a bit of kit was forgotten. Shows up how the stretched capacity of the community does break at times. If we had two people involved then a phone call back to Applecross, an instruction for some one on the computer and all would have been sorted. Still some work done

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and may be finished through a phone call. This was exactly the chat I had with an MSP who stayed at the Inn on Wednesday evening. Our community capacity is being stretched so thinly, but soldiering on we will continue. Good to chat to a Chair of one of the Committees that have an over view of rural life. You can still give him the difficulties of survival over here even if he is at the opposite end of the spectrum with your political views. Working at the Inn has taught the ability to accept the many faces of human nature and not react adversely. I was being watched by the regulars who were imaging newspaper headlines the next day involving front of house in fracas with landowner

So we are up to Friday and third day in  row we are off to sea. Bit of a breeze but just a little more than gentle. Again good run with another five up with only one foul and it had been lifted by a neighbour possibly exacerbating the work. Due a wash so took it closer to home. Friday evening was earmarked for a movie showing and to be frank I was not enthusiastic, it being a hard few days and managing to squeeze in a short sharp migraine on Thursday night. However well worth the effort as Postcards from Applecross was a cracking video taking in different aspects around the community. Nick, Stephen and lately Angelica have put together a series of  short videos lasting an hour showing the variety of occupations and life styles on the peninsula.They ranged from the croft to the sea taking in the Inn, wool dyeing, ice-cream making and photography on the way. I found it very touchingly simple, getting to the soul of the community, but not branding it in a tourist sort of way. Regular visitors to the Inn will love a glimpse into how people live in order to stay here. The beauty of the place is shown in the photography of Jack’s, Angelica and Nick, who sadly passed away last year. Had a lot of time for Nick who fell in love with our wee place and he came out on the boat for a day, becoming colder than he had ever been in his life. He was a quiet gentle man and with an eye to his surrounds.

Footnote to the evening; I walked up to the Hall and soon after leaving the house a car passed and then stopped to give me a lift as Fiona saw there were no dogs being walked. Chatting away I was slightly taken aback as we scooted past the Hall. Fiona then commented that she was going up to the Bay as she was slightly early, methinks this is a little unusual but okay. She then mentions she is heading out to dinner and not to the Hall. So half way round Milton Loch we screech to a stop as we both assumed we were heading for different destinations. Me to work and her to the Hall instead of where we were really going…me to the Hall and her to Gordon and Val’s.

Back to Mr Chisholm and this afternoon on the wood run. I had moved onto Cannich and it took all of that album plus the tracks up to the third , Lorient Mornings of  Farrar, to load up what felt like a 3/4 ton of wood,

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shifting it 50 metres to the van. It was heavy going but with his beautiful, haunting fiddling playing, the graft on a driech day was minimal. Dougal and Eilidh were in their own world but never far from all the ditches.

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Back to the Wood.

Difficult to believe we live in such a beautiful world tonight. It is hard to imagine, from a privileged position, what drives some people to kill and destroy others they do not know. Wandering about collecting more wood, coming across some beautiful fungi,

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light on the remaining wood,

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then after the dogs back in the van a wander down to the shore amongst the oyster catchers and turn stones,

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seems so far from the violence around the world.

Stayed Healthy and Gathered Wood.

Just dogs and wood this week. Had an option to go fishing on a calm Friday but turned it down to go wood gathering with the dogs.

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Does not seem to matter what season it is they amuse themselves endlessly in the undergrowth.

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As ever there are many tons of wood lying about Applecross and keeping an eye on seasoned wood, making sure no one else has plans, means you stay away from the coal man for another year. It also means you get a fair bit of exercise to compensate for not going out on the water. Came across some old beech wood with some beautiful marling,

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warped and twisted on the ground for more than a couple of years. If caught earlier would have been good to see it worked.

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Made it to the wood on Saturday only by dint on taking the right course on Friday evening. Around 9pm it crossed my mind to go out and join in the Boatyard Christmas End of Year Bash. Decided against it and was so relieved I had when I called in to the Inn on Saturday morning. The recovery was still underway and seeing an appearance just before eleven was so glad not to have been involved the night before. A scrambled eggs and salmon aided this recovery. The next appearance, only time was going to heal, the daylight was causing a problem here. Last to appear was in fine fettle and had a pint of Kronenberg for breakfast…..he was definitely delaying the inevitable. I was almost having a hangover watching from the sidelines. A good night seemed to be had by all at the Inn, maybe next year………

 

Lateral North Goes to Venice.

Been asked to do a wee story of the Applecross Community Company so far for Lateral North https://www.facebook.com/lateralnorth/?fref=ts.

Applecross is a peninsula on the North West coast of Scotland with a small and spread out population of approximately 220 people. From the east you travel over the highest Pass in Scotland.

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This story all began in 2008 when our Filling Station was under threat of closure so the Community formed a Company under the 2003 Land Reform Act Scotland which then proceeded to refurbish and run the Applecross Filling Station

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on a volunteer basis, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the Scottish Rural Development programme and the Community.

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Since then the Company has taken over, refurbished

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and run the local toilets. This was funded by LEADER, Highland Council and HIE and local contributions.

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The Community Broadband scheme was next,

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funding to set up the system was provided by Investing in Ideas, Village SOS and Community Broadband Scotland. This has proved challenging both to set up and maintain

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and we are hoping to connect via radio link to fibre optic backhaul in the near future.

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Funding from Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund enabled the Company to welcome the Internationally renowned Flensberg University into the Community,

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hold a Conference on renewable energy,

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and hold numerous workshops from wood fuel

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to showcasing electric cars.

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As result Applecross has become greener with, for example, the installation of several wood fuel stoves burning local wood supplies.

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Last year we formed a Community Benefit Society, AppleJuice, which carried out the building of a Community Hydro Scheme,

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HighlandEco, the contractors built the scheme while we ran a Share Issue to raise £803,700 to pay for it.

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The scheme is capable of producing 90 kWs from run of river. Jamie here putting the finishing touches to the soft ware programs

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and Mick showing the school children the workings of the turbine.

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And Dougal checking the Pipeline.

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This has been the most challenging of all, taking the Community Company around 7 years to plan and develop before Apple Juice funded and built it. It was completed in December 2015 and will provide a future income for the Community to invest in projects to increase capacity and sustainable growth. Working well.

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Worth celebrating as some of the team did.

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My Applecrcross.

Just back from a fairly intensive training four hours at the Hall for current and future directors of the Community Company. This is drawing to an end a week of life in Applecross, such a variety of occupations, walks,

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jobs and thoughts in a rural existence. Maybe because I am used to criticism and have grown a thicker skin as I have got older the anonymous letters and notices posted around the community have affected me less than they would have twenty years ago. Using the term anonymous is not quite correct but my rule of never mentioning names when talking about the negative stays in place. The only thing I would say further is my lack of understanding concerning campaigns of destruction.

However we are where we are and this is my Applecross, a place where there is no better dog walks,

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no better scenery to enjoy,

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no better Inn to work at, no better occupation(fishing) to be fortunate and fit to do and no better bunch of people (with the very few dark exceptions) to know. The weather in the north-west this week was pretty atrocious up till Friday. There was a steady strong to gale force wind blowing from the south with a fair bit of rain

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to help the Hydro through a good week.

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The weather improved as the week went on, stayed windy but dried up, meaning a tidy up of wood

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and planting of tatties commenced,

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even a painting of buoys.

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Reminds me that the result of a gear conflict consultation has been published. Slightly incredulous of the conclusion. The static gear men have to make sure their gear is properly marked with buoys of a certain size and computer chipped. Marine Compliance then come along, scan the buoys, if they are not chipped they haul the gear take it ashore, discard the catch. This from people who refuse to prosecute trawlers who tow away our creels. The local creel men are disgusted by the lack of support we are getting from the government for one of the most sustainable ways to fish these waters.

I digress, my Applecross continues with a couple of shifts at the Inn, one really busy and the next, Thursday evening almost dead, but came across a couple from Finisterre who turned up with old camper van trouble, a leaky hose below their radiator. After a look I phoned the expert and as it turned out Ewen was passing on the way to work at the Yard and end result were a very grateful couple who enjoyed plates of langoustine and a music session in Camusteel before heading happily back over the Hill with good opinions of our community. Wednesday evening was very busy and one of the groups, a six, were expected in for 7.30pm but turned up after eight, a good excuse as you can see.

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We had seen the engine going by with flashing lights and got the news of a car fire…very impressive and luckily no one hurt. Fished all day on Friday but leave that for tomorrow.

Almost forgot but I kept my 100% voting record since I was first eligible to vote in the late 70s. Was really pleased to see Andy and John elected as they will be fine MSPs representing their constituents. No Polling Notice to take photo off as it was retrieved just as I arrived having been blown half way up the tree.

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“Ill Fares the Land”

Friday and the intention was to go out and haul some creels but a wee check up on the forecast put some doubt in the mind. There is not too much pressure on at the moment to keep the market happy so an increasing southerly after a poor night’s sleep meant that a bit of wood gathering was on the cards.

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One of the things I love about Applecross is you can immerse yourself in the busy hurley burly of the Applecross Inn or you can wander five minutes away and been in complete solitude.

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Just you and the dogs out of sight and out of mind of the rest of the busy world. Mind you there is always some watching.

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It is similar to the front of house weekend and then single-handed going to sea amongst the sea birds and langoustines. Sometimes when you are gathering the wood you can forget what you are doing and the carrying of the branches just seems to happen. A neat new pile has now made its way home ready for a chop for next winter’s fire. Trying to be Scandinavian and have the winter fuel sorted by the end of the spring.

On Saturday it was back to sea and again not for very long. The catch is holding up well although the composition has changed dramatically. The large and extra-large langoustines have decided they are not coming out any more and the creels are full of smaller ones. They are still of a decent size and good for the Inn. The smaller of the No3 size that we land are tailed and sold at the Inn in 1/2 pint jugs of tails. A popular starter that people share before tucking into the serious main meals. So it was only four fleets of creels hauled and we headed back in with around 35 kilos of langoustines and a few squat lobster tails. I know it is going to get so much harder to keep up with supply as the summer wears on so am going to enjoy this wee spell. The van went through to Inverness during the day as we are now down to a one vehicle family and unfortunately the camera went through with it. I was quite lost as I kept seeing photos through out the day and it made me realise how attached I have become to it. We have become so reliant on all types of technology and take for granted so much…listening to Hamish Napier’s The River, downloaded from iTunes and playing through the Mac. Last evening’s sunset was quite spectacular and I was fretting I did not take a snap of it but then again, so what, if that is all I have to moan about. And anyway this evening was not so bad.

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The last couple of shifts at the Inn have been pretty quiet, relatively so, people still waiting for tables but in the full knowledge one will come up in the next 15 minutes or so. Time to chat to customers instead of rushing around making sure their meals were correct and served. Always good to see familiar faces from over the Hill and a couple have turned up over the last two days. A story from Edinburgh days of a party in Clarendon Crescent. A visitor from the north stopped off for a party, had a snooze, woke up and wandered off up town not really knowing where Haymarket was at five in the morning. Saw a nurse heading up the road in front of him and tried asking for directions but only response was she sped up to keep ahead. Eventually she gave up and told him where to go. It was when he got back to the flat he was staying at he saw what the problem was. He glanced at the mirror and could not see his face for all the paint and makeup that everyone had fun painting on him while he was dozing. He reckons the nurse still remembers that night.

It has been a hard week being a politician and glad I have not got this hard-line party allegiance that so many have on social media. Whether one has so much money that you have to squirrel it away from being taxed and spending on the country’s infra structure or you sign contracts to build expensive schools that are so badly built that they fall down in ten years….. Party allegiance seems more important than “doing the right thing” these days. I seem to be more and more drawn to the ideas of the Green Party these days but to extricate ourselves from the way we live to something more sustainable is becoming harder to achieve. Always read the weekly missive from Laurence and the Senscot brief, so often getting quotes from such a well read source that chime with my own instincts. He quotes from a book by Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land.

“We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them. The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not inherent in the human condition. Much of what appears ‘natural’ today dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth creation, the cult of privatization and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric which accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless growth. We cannot go on living like this.”

In my ignorance my only contact with “Ill Fares the Land” was the film mainly set in Applecross about the evacuation of St Kilda. Curiosity has led me to find out, to my shame, that the original quote comes from Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village.

“Ill fares the land, to hastening ill a prey, where wealth accumulates, and men decay.” All relevant in my life and work as the snap in the last post of what I thought may have been a turbot shows. I have been told it was a Dover Sole and another example of fish moving north in our climatic changing waters. This was certainly not the first I have caught. We should become a little less party orientated and concentrate on how to live within our environment. And finishing with the camera back and the peaceful side of Applecross, before going to the Inn today I took a wander down the road

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and enjoyed the stillness of the morning.

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Accompanied of course.

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Fairly big tides just now

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as evidenced in the afternoon on the Bay.

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Modern Day Eviction,Hydro and Hangover.

To go back a couple of days now that the hangover has slowly faded and a little of the euphoria of the Hydro switch on has dissipated. Monday afternoon, a quick visit to the after Turbine House

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to see the weekends progress

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before making our way down the road to Perthshire and to talk about land reform to some Germans on a fact-finding visit. We went down to Tom’s the night before and had a very pleasant evening augmented by the arrival of Andrew from Coulston Mains. When I think about land reform it is always about people and/or communities. How they are affected by landowners who are usually absent and their actions are usually based around money rather than humanity. I have read and seen a fair bit about Andrew so knew the background of his eviction. But the hearing the story direct and quietly spoken almost left me open-mouthed. How we allow such a system to legally treat people the way he has been treated beggars belief but I bet there is a huge majority in this country who have never heard of Andrew. A tenant farmer who has worked a farm over twenty-two years from an almost derelict condition to one that is very viable and now has to leave as the laird has the law on his side. Not only that but with little or no compensation for half a life time of work put into the ground. Improvements to the soil and buildings count for nothing when the laird wants the subsidy for himself. So now three families are evicted and the farm will be run by a local contractor who has no incentive other than to sow and crop.

Next morning before the Germans arrived Tom took us on a tour of the neighbourhood. We went with Andrew and it was interesting to hear a farmer talk about what he was seeing. Basically good farm land going to ruin as it was not being cultivated. Broken and blocked drains and spectacularly ruined farm houses and steadings that were left to fall down, Tom’s father’s farm in this case.

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All done at the whim or advantage to the laird. From Tom’s window he can see five derelict farms. As he is well read Andrew has done a fair bit of research about the history of Coulston Mains and finds an exact recurrence of his own situation in 1882 when a farmer is evicted at the end of his lease and the laird reaps the rewards of his hard work. You can see why there is a demand for an absolute right to buy coming from tenant farmers and how there is such strong opposition from the establishment. I could see the German delegation were a little taken aback when we told our stories of how both individuals and communities are held back by such practises. How EU subsidies just keep the establishment in their positions, handing out monies for nothing, purely ownership of land. Also interesting to hear how certain legal firms unpick the legislation piece by piece to nullify attempts for any sort of reform. Like the fishing industry the main players want to keep everything they have and lobby to that effect. There are some very obvious exceptions but they are few and far between.

Wednesday was coarse, no other word for it. The weather gradually wound itself up to a full gale and the rain was torrential.

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The morning mission was to gather a bit of wood to take to the Turbine House just as back up as the weather may put off the planned visit by the SSE boys on Thursday. If for any reason the connection did not go ahead the heating bank would have been switched on and we would have a very efficient wood drying shed.

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As I was loading up the van with the wood and feeling wet, cold and wondering why on earth I was doing this, one of our retired GPs trotted by on his morning run.  Thankfully as  you know we did not need this operation but it made me gather some wood already prepared and dropped some off at the site. Found Jamie hard at work on yet another program for the system.

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One is a safety system that if there is a failure at the Turbine House there is a shutoff  that warns any cavers of any rush off water coming down the river instead of the pipe and allows them time to come back out before the water rises too much. I have found this build so interesting, all the different scenarios involving hydraulics, generation, deflector plates, control units but still from a layman’s point of view.

Then it was a shower to warm up and clean the mud off before nipping down the road to bail the dinghy and take the engine off for safety. Up the road to the Inn and a relatively quiet shift until I sat down with the Hydro boys and a wee dram of Bruichladdich. Earlier the cork had popped off champagne style and I decided to make sure it was okay to drink. Sat with the boys with the dram and after they went was thinking about home when it started to go down hill. A young couple had turned up earlier and booked a room, had lots of food and went away for a wee kip. Turned back out about eightish, had a little more food and were quite happy sitting on Table 7. Then he offered to buy me a dram and I said ok and then it led another and another…………And then it was early morning. Interesting couple as we found out that he is a singer song writer, the One Direction connection, and she worked for Nick Jones. A connection with the Inn, he owns Babington House, as Rob and Son No1 have worked there, but that is another story. A good ceilidh was had and they were very grounded 27 year olds considering they were living a life so far removed from ours it could be another planet.

And then it was a very, very bad hangover.

 

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