Category: The Craic

Rising Tide

I heard about an exciting new programme from the Scottish Government in December. I’ve bemoaned the lack of affordable housing in the Highlands on my blog (here), it was whist researching relocation to an island off the mainland of Scotland I came across the new ‘Islands Programme’ and thought these (apparently) well funded folks might be able to offer incredibly well-timed support and practical advice;

…the £25.8 million Islands Programme, established to support the implementation of the National Islands Plan. This is a landmark strategy to improve the quality of life for island communities with 13 objectives, and over 100 specific measures to address: population decline.

I wrote citing difficulties establishing myself in the Highlands: up against security of tenure, lack of commercial property to rent. I wrote expressing intention to invest in a place and build my business. etc. etc. I wrote asking for practical advice: is there a fund I can apply to, what might the requirements be for young people – like me – who want to live on an island, can individuals apply / businesses? How can I take part? The headlines put out by their PR department read: “want to be paid to move to a Scottish Island”, tell me more.

No response was ever offered. The website of the department is now offline: islandsteam.scot – how disappointing.

‘Toxic’ Fish Farms

I made a reference to ‘Toxic’ fish farms in an earlier post. I thought I’d expand a little; thousands of fish in a cage does not make for a happy fish. It doesn’t matter if that cage is in a tank on land (where they should be) or situated in a picturesque Scottish Loch (where they currently are).

Fish in these cages/pens get diseases, the fish “farmers” (quotes indicate my raised eyebrow as farming equals husbandry) employ large amounts of chemicals to control such things as sea lice and other diseases. Talk to any fish farm employee (after a few) in any pub around here and they’ll tell you what happens when the dosage goes wrong; tonnes of dead fish. Literally tonnes. Eight tonnes was disposed of a few months ago according to a loud mouth employee in my local. I think he was trying to impress us with that number. Incinerated, according to him, by means of a contract with an Energy Company.

Some reading for you relating to toxic chemicals in Scottish Fish Farms:
theferret.scot/16-toxic-chemicals-scottish-fish-farmers
For more news you can follow: facebook.com/issf.org.uk

Anyway, it appears the chemicals used at the concentrations mentioned on those webpages is toxic. I refer to these toxic fish farms as such; toxic. I put a stress on the word toxic and those who were lucky enough to know Chris Main of Glenelg might want to apply that man’s own idiosyncratic accent to the phrase; miserable fucking fish farm jobbie.

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Scottish Highlands: Dewildered & Depopulated

I met some university professors at the end of the summer on a tour of Scotland’s nature reserves. They’d read a lot of academic papers regarding how well this country was doing; reintroducing this and replanting that. Apparently Scotland is ahead of the game and fiercely proud of its re-wilding successes on the world stage. Sadly, what the professor of Wildlife Ecology at Oregon State University actually found here on his visit to the Highlands was, he described to me, a ‘dessert’. Aghast, he pointed out the gap between what he had read in academic literature and what was found in reality. The professors mean to come back with a group of students next year to analyse the disparity. Im hoping to help out.

I was embarrassed but I know it to be true, Scotland has been dewildered, I’ve been lucky enough to see real wilderness stretching from horizon-to-horizon abroad, I’ve seem managed forests too, you know life in balance when you see it. If we are to be honest, rural Scotland is quite a lot of: monoculture, sheep here, sheep there, sheep everywhere, empty villages (not counting the holiday houses), miserable toxic fish farms… this country’s natural state is in a bad way and hearing from the professors that our academics are proudly describing (questionable) successes is a little worrying. I think they must be dewildered!

As for the inhabitants: in a previous post I highlighted a recent report which contained the horrifying statistic: 80% of people in Lochalsh and Skye describe difficulty in finding a house in this part of the Highlands.

More bad news: in December Highland Council warned of the “significant risk” parts of the Highlands are being “drained” of people. Here’s the news article from the BBC. This again is obvious to anyone living in these parts.

When a representative from Highland Council visited Glenelg to speak at our Community Council (where I currently live) I made the point that the enormous increase in short-term lets (Air B&Bs etc.) must be the major factor, must be having a HUGE impact on the number of private rentals (long term lets) in the Highlands. The Council’s man completely refused to engage with my point. This once again is obvious to anyone living in these parts.

It is now my belief that this will be the fate of the Highlands. It’ll be: The Cheviot, The Stag and the Short Term Let.

More on that next time.

Lochalsh Community Survey / Action Plan

I spent a good while trying to track down this document, created by a community group in Kyle of Lochalsh. It represents the many concerns of people in this part of the Highlands in the 2020s. As you will see, people were most concerned about housing.

“The Lochalsh Collaboration was set up in May 2019 to consult the community on its priorities, write a community action plan based on those priorities and then work with partners to take action. Lochalsh Collaboration is made up of representatives of the seven community councils and community trusts in Lochalsh… etc.” – Survey Report Introduction

 

Downloads

Here’s the Summary PDF. Also the complete Survey Report PDF and I have an archive of the Action Plan PDF too.

I hope no one minds me sharing this. thought it might be valuable to others in the future, respect to those who put the hours in.

 

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Hardy Brothers of Alnwick – List of Fishing Rods

‘Principle Rivers of Scotland’, via world-of-art-prints.com

I’ve been looking into buying my first split cane fishing rod. During the research I found this handy list (down the back of the internet’s sofa). Thought it worth sharing as its not currently available elsewhere.

It lists a number of fishing rods produced between 1885-1984 by Hardy of Alnwick. Maybe this will be helpful to someone out there.

Download the PDF list here. Or continue to This Page to view the list in your browser. I’m afraid I don’t know the original source of this list, I cannot vouch for its integrity. Though the rod I am keen to own ‘The Fairy Rod’ is correctly listed along with some others I have seen listed online.

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Skye Ferry BBQ & Fundraiser

On behalf of my fellow trustees of the Glenachulish Preservation Trust I would like to invite everyone to a fundraising BBQ on September 25th at 1PM.

At the Christopher Main Shore Station, The Original Glenelg-Skye Ferry.

Where the National Transport Trust will unveil a ‘Red Wheel’ in recognition of the importance of the Kylerhea Narrows crossing and the last manually operated turntable ferry IN THE WORLD – the M.V. Glenachulish. You’ll also have the opportunity to see our new information boards describing the history of the crossing and the importance of the Skye Ferry. Designed (with love) by yours truly!

Introduction

Part of my first iBlog from twenty years ago.

Hello. It has been a while. I’m sitting at my screen waiting for files to migrate to a new server. Snow is falling outside and its covered the garden and the fields immediately opposite, a few hungry sheep are staring in the front. I can’t do ‘work’ as everything is metaphorically up in the air. What a good opportunity, I thought, to reinstate my blog. My name is Callum and I’m an internet user like you.

I made my first webpage using Microsoft FrontPage in 1998 with help from our formidable music teacher Mr. Carr. He was the first real life computer geek I ever met and although I had an inkling that I might like meddling with the internet he was instrumental in actually showing me how to log-on and get with it. I was 12 years old and it was during our School‘s ‘three day event’ when classmates could opt for mountaineering, horse riding, extra rugby or an educative trip that I chose to sit in front of a computer screen. Mr. Carr gave us a basic introduction to FrontPage’s WYSIWYG interface and then in a very hands-off way, let us get to it. He quietly sat behind a bank of monitors and punched away at the keyboard, no doubt updating the school’s website, offering limited design advise from time-to-time and outlining the process of publishing to a server. At the end of 72 hours I had published my first webpage online. The webpage was #ca0000 red and had a visit counter, that’s all I remember.

It was that summer that our family upgraded from a Macintosh IIGS to an internet-ready windows desktop. It was shaped like a stumpy, beige rocket. I cried real tears in the computer shop as they also stocked the brand new iMac in its delicious semi-transparent flavours, the sales person advised my parents’ that Apple was obsolete, where is he now? Nevertheless I was obviously very lucky that my parents splashed out on a multimedia PC, built in speakers, CD-ROM and wonderful dial-up capability. Wonderfully annoying dial-up; I can still hear my mother screaming from down the stairs, finding time-and-time-again the line engaged as I’d logged-on to update Encarta, download 4MB film trailers or surf altavista.com. I would continue to update my website too, picking up a little CSS and HTML along the way for the next five years. With my second paycheque I would buy a (already a modern classic) Bondi Blue iMac. My introduction to blogging was in 2003 with the software iBlog, later WordPress and the wonderful Kubrick theme by the ever helpful Michael Heilemann. His own blog was an inspiration and seemed to lead me into an internet of nice folk, people who cared and shared (mainly code and star wars). I sat in my bedroom in Aberdeenshire behind a bank of monitors, still living with my parents, published a plugin for WordPress (Starred Review), wrote film reviews and posted hundreds of photographs of me and my pals doing silly things. Now I feel nostalgic. 

Back to today, migration complete. I’ve been using SSH to connect to my old host via FTP and despite occasional network outages today in the frozen Highlands of Scotland it has been a success. Back to work. I’ll just write a quick introduction here. The snowing has ceased here, its a winter wonderland outside. Across on Skye I can almost distinguish the mountains behind more incoming white.

With this new iteration of my weblog I intend to write in a personal way about where my real life intersects with things I do here at the computer. The title of my previous blog was Meta Comment, expect more of the same. Here I’ll occasionally dump some code, link to something I think is clever, share some photography (which I create but ironically never print) and talk about myself. Welcome to my website.