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Virtual, Coffee, Cake and the Craic on the North Coast 500

Nigg Hall photo by Debbie Ross

You would expect living in a rural location that working from home, meeting over the internet and generally making use of all things virtual would be long established. The reality is in fact very far from that.

My old working patch; relatively recently renamed the North Coast 500, was ripe for encouraging home working you would think. However, I was one of a very few workers years ago whose house became their main working office. HQ was in fact in Inverness but my far seeing organisation encouraged its employees to home work and travel out from there. For me it was great. In fact I was stationed central to almost everywhere I needed to be. Happy to travel to Caithness, Sutherland, Wester Ross, or Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. An occasional trip to Skye was not unheard of either.

Meeting up on line though, well that was another thing completely. It just wasn’t done, despite the fact it could have been. Very few organisations seemed to be willing or able to really engage with this, despite the distances between us all. Maybe people just liked a quick trip up to the Highlands or a couple of days out of the office. I don’t know but not many were prepared to invest or actually consider moving meetings, training and other everyday jobs on to the internet. We all moseyed around using computers for producing documents, files and other useful boring things like shopping occasionally.

How ironic it has taken a world pandemic for people to actually move onto the World Wide Web in a significant way. Unfortunately I too have moved on which means rather than having updated my skills previously, I am now having to familiarise myself with new phrases such as ‘Zoom Meetings’ and ‘whiteboard working’ and ‘Vscene workshops’. If it was just the words I could probably deal with that as language evolves all the time but I am expected to know how to use all these different programmes and to run said workshop, virtual visits and discussion and meetings.

My technical skills before were pushed to know perhaps about a quarter of the settings on my camera and even less of what my phone could do. That’s why you have children that is one of their great specialities, keeping up with technology and helping everyone else with theirs. Suddenly I have to be my own expert.

My latest little adventure though takes place this coming weekend. I am taking part in a virtual Book Fair. Each year in September Debbie Ross organises a book fair to help raise funds for their community hall. Being a listed building it is a costly thing to maintain. The book fair helps to bring in much needed funds to help in this small community and when I say small here, I mean a population somewhere in the hundreds.

These old halls are fast becoming a disappearing feature in lots of areas as young modern ones take their place. It will be interesting to see how long they last. Probably, I would expect not nearly as long as these old stone built ones. Anyway that is a topic for another day.

I have no idea how this virtual Book event will work. For the participating authors and booksellers we can no longer meet our readers face to face, nor do we get the opportunity to slurp the soup laid on for us. This event more than anything gave us the chance to experience the three C’s that is Coffee, Cake and the Craic (the catching up of news). It will be interesting to see how many people visit us on line or engage with us or our writing. If it is a success will we all hop on line next year? I am hoping not. It is not often we get a change to meet up with readers or engage in discussions with them. Nor it has to be said do we get the opportunity to sample Debbie’s home baking.

If you have the chance and are even a wee bit interested then why not come along and meet us online at

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