The only way to approach the small Knoydart village community of Inverie, just east of Mallaig is by boat – unless you fancy a lengthy ramble over the hills to the east – I didn’t.
Yes, I know it’s called ‘Walk a …’
Anyway, it’s my game….and I’ll take my ball home.
I was on the boat on my way to get the low down on this island-like community from Tommy the postman and the ranger.
We were still hundreds of metres from the shore – watching out for seals, dolphins, otters, the Loch Ness monster and the like when there, skimming above the water was a great big bumblebee.
She was making a beeline towards Eigg – several miles away. Surviving though she was, she just didn’t belong there.
Destined for failure…ditto.
Plucky ? Brave? Neither really. What was she doing?
During my couple of days off I’d taken the opportunity to catch up on a bit of the Apprentice where we get to watch Britain’s finest business folk pit their wits against each other.
For me it seems to boil down to buying things cheaply from unsuspecting victims – then selling them for as big a profit as possible to similar folk.
I won’t pretend to understand the subtle nuances of business – suffice to say is I don’t really get it.
I met a chap sporting some fine yellow wellies while I was waiting for Tommy to materialise on the Knoydart pier.
He introduced himself as an evil capitalist. Sure, I thought, let’s go with this. It wasn’t really what I was expecting from an inhabitant of the hydro-powered, bought the land back from the succession of lairds, Eigg-like community.
He went on to tell me that he felt that the folk of Eigg had received too much money from the public purse by way of grants and suchlike.
Fine – we’re all entitled to an opinion – he explained that, given the opportunity, we could all stand on our own two feet without outside assistance. He told me he’d retired from the family business, leaving his son to take the reins.
What was that? He made his fortune making and selling coasters and badges.
Imagine, a bumblebee at sea meeting the Apprentice.
The only difference I could make out between this guy and the Eigg islanders receiving grants was that where they receive money from the public purse, he receives money from the public’s purses.
Same folk – same money…
Since arriving in the community several years ago, he has started an alternative ferry business to the long established one I’d arrived on – the Bruce Watt ferry.
Where the world at large might call this healthy competition – in such a small community, to me at any rate, it felt like unnecessary conflict.
I met up with Tommy a while later with a big smile and a happy handshake.
He was soon to embark on his postie duties at the time so I joined him in the tea room while he lunched prior to the deliveries/ sortings.
As ever, I fired hundreds of questions at him about the nature of such a small community, the committees that are responsible for the infinite tasks required to keep this world running.
He had to get back to work – and I still wanted more….
Thankfully he invited me round for tea if I walked the 7 miles to his house on the north side of the peninsula.
Dandy – I get to take in a bit more coast, I get more stories and I get fed…what’s not to like?
I’d put my tent up at the campsite they call Longbeach – with the distinctly un-Scottish weather and the beauty of the surroundings – this is probably the finest campsite in the world ever.
I walked sans trailer and rucksack – Tommy told me if I got to his house before him I should just let myself in and help myself to the facilities.
I’ve got to say I could get used to this open door policy to life.
The walk to the tiny hamlet of Airor was lovely with views of Eigg, Rum to the west and Skye to the north.
Unaccustomed as I am to this early summer weather, I’d taken no water with me to drink – I felt a little sorry for myself as I clattered into Tommy’s home – a beautiful, highly windowed wooden house with views over to Skye.
I sat on the decking out front and enjoyed the company of his conversational chicken who, I later found out, provides Tommy with an egg every day.
Tommy came back with his friend, Roisin, a smiling zoology student. They were linked through the many festivals that go on up here in these parts.
As Tommy cooked we chatted about this entertaining glue that attaches folk from Knoydart with folk from Eigg, with folk from the Black Isle with…
What felt like separate tightly knit communities now appeared to be a much larger community of communities.
Rousin told me a bit about her studies – but also about a trip to Trinidad she was taking in a few weeks. She was going to research a number of animals over there including the leatherback turtles and the giant fruit bats.
Tommy told me a bit about the folk of Knoydart and their er, individual ways.
The thing that stood out for me though was this…
He was aware that so many folk had come to this small highland community to escape people and yet this is a place where you have to encounter and talk and share with people every day.
He smiled as he told me about his life in London where he could be perfectly anonymous every day – living as a Knoydartian (made up word) anonymity really wasn’t a choice.
Maybe there’s an optimum size for a gaggle of humans?
Talking to yellow wellied capitalist man I really felt like a bumblebee out at sea – I felt like in the wider world of the UK – the economy – business – I didn’t really belong.
And yet, the more I look, the more I do.
There’s a big sign above Tommy’s kitchen that says ‘I chose this!’ as part of a mix up everyone’s songs on an iPod nano and take responsibility for their tune by waving a sign over their head party.
It works just as well as a statement of his contentment at his way of life.
Venison and roast veg with great company – a little jaunt out back to see the tadpoles , the automatic, reacts to light chicken coup closer and sitting out front watching the sun set over the Cuillins..granted, while I was being devoured by midges, what a great way to spend an evening.
The lumps from their bites on my arms spell out ‘Don’t just sit there and let insects bite you, you arse,’ in Braille.
Amongst the many stories of folk, Tommy told me the tale of the photographer and his partner who were set to climb the hills to the west of Knoydart to the world outside. She with her training shoes – thankfully she listened to our ranger’s hot tip to buy some boots before going up and over – he with his unfeasibly heavy bag. He handed it over to Tommy to see if there were any non-essentials that could be removed.
Being keen on photography, he declined any suggestions to leave any of his 12 tonnes of kit.
However….when Tommy took the bayonet from the photographer’s bag with a questioning look he was met with…’You know where I’m going…I could meet anyone out there…I need something to defend myself with…’
After 3 days in the hills the photographer and his partner had walked a total of 16 miles and got a taxi back to their hotel…,completely unmolested.
Tommy and Roisin saw me off with big hugs and you’re welcome back any time sentiments.
I wonder what became of that bumblebee?
Walk a mile