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shewhomust

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Scalloway [Jun. 19th, 2019|09:36 am]
shewhomust
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We were slow getting started on Monday, and what with one thing and another it was after three in the afternoon by the time we reached Scalloway. I think of Scalloway as Shetland's second town - until 1708 it was the islands' capital - but the internet calls it a village (population about 900 in the 2011 census). Its main claim to fame is as the base of the Shetland bus wartime operation linking Shetland and occupied Norway. D. and [personal profile] valydiarosada went to the museum to learn more about this, while [personal profile] durham_rambler and I explored the castle, and then set off to walk the waterfront art trail:

Scalloway waterfront


Scalloway seemed brighter, smarter than I remembered. This tells you as much about my memory as about the town: I didn't remember that row of brightly painted houses, but Flickr tells me I have photographed them before, ten years ago. The boutique hotel looks new, but maybe it's just a redesign. The art trail, though, is described as "another step in the regeneration of Scalloway's historic Waterfront," so maybe something is afoot. The artworks themselves weren't special; my favourite would be Jo Redman's squabbling tirricks (arctic terns) at the far end - indeed, well beyond the end - of the trail, at the terminal for the Foula ferry.

By now D. and [personal profile] valydiarosada had caught up with us, and drove us on a tour of the islands linked to Scalloway by bridges: it must have been the end of the working day, because there was a constant stream of traffic along the single track roads, but people were generous about pulling in to passing places, we took it gently, the sun shone and the views were stupendous.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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St Ninian's Isle [Jun. 17th, 2019|10:36 am]
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Yesterday morning here at Sandwick was hazy but bright, and we set off to visit St Ninian's Isle, a little way south of here and off the west coast of Mainland - that is, across the long peninsula that is south Mainland. As soon as we wre up on the main north-south road, we were in low cloud, as if someone had unrolled a sheet of cotton wool across the landscape. This was worrying, not so much for our expedition as because [personal profile] valydiarosada was due to join us on an afternoon flight, and fog might disrupt her journey.

We persevered over the spine of Mainland and down to the sea, where the sun was still shining gently. St Ninian's Isle is connected to Mainland by a tombolo, a long beach of fine pale sand (I decline to enter into arguments about whether this means it isn't really an island):

On the tombolo


We scrambled up the sandy track onto the island, and here,for comparison, is how that sequence of islets looks from above (like the neck and head of a recumbent dragon, I thought):

Dragon's head


The mist is visible, too, over the distant mainland, and as the morning went on it came closer. We wandered around the edge of the island, following paths that were sometimes closer to the edge than we would have liked. Those of us with distance vision (and binoculars) looked at birds; those of us without peered at flowers: great drifts of thrift! squill! one tiny boggy patch of purple butterwort! a few scraggy orchids... On a clear day, allegedly, you can see Foula, but even today there were ever-changing arrangements of rocky inlets and islands, sheep and dry stone walls shaggy with lichen. Eventually, by our separate ways, we all came to the ruined chapel, the sun emerged once more and we sat on the seat and enjoyed these things until we were ready to return to the car and (after a detour to the Spiggie Hotel, which appeared to be completely abandoned) home to lunch.

Air travel being what it is, [personal profile] valydiarosada's flight into Glasgow was delayed, and we were briefly anxious that the plane for Shetland would not be deterred by fog, but that she would miss it. It waited for her, though, and she arrived only a little later than scheduled. Now our party is complete, and we all dined together.

I woke this morning to heavy rain, but that has stopped, and been replaced by boisterous winds. D. has gone for a walk down to Hoswick, as I did on Saturday evening. Time to make plans for today.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Down south [Jun. 15th, 2019|08:57 pm]
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We are spending our second week in Shetland in the south of Mainland, the main island - very close to the 60° line. From our 1912 converted church we have moved to a new (it isn't on our OS map, based on a survey in the 1980s), light and airy house. We have a balcony, with a view down to the sea, but the view isn't as clear as it might be, because we are have a garden and are surrounded by trees. They are quite small trees, but this is still very strange.

We had time for a last visit to the Old Haa on our way to the ferry, then it was back to Mainland, and a circuitous route to Lerwick to allow us to lunch at the Cake Fridge Café in Aith. There was reestit mutton and tattie soup - and cake, course! Fig, Shetland honey and macadamia chocolate cake, in my case.

We provisioned at the Co-op in Lerwick, then made our way to our new home, and I had time for a short walk before cooking dinner, just down to the sea at Hoswick. Picture of the day is from Hoswick, though it's not a sea view:

Hoswick Gospel Hall


This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Shetland tweed, craft gin and a walk on the beach [Jun. 14th, 2019|10:24 pm]
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Two days of hiding from the weather, mostly: Wednesday on Yell was grey and windy, yesterday on Unst was grey and wet. Today was brighter, and this makes more difference than I ever imagine, but even the grey days are not as depressing as they sound.

A whistle-stop tour of the north of Yell took us to the Gloup memorial, erected for the centenary of the disastrous storm in 1881 in which ten fishing boats and 58 lives were lost. Now it seems unbelievable that so many people could ever have lived here, but even at the height of the herring boom, it must have been devastating. Our next stop was at the point where a path led down to the golden sands of Breckon. We were tempted, and followed it far enough to admire the view - which also exposed us to the wind, and we retreated. I took the opportunity to admire the abandoned farm:

Bright stripes


For the full Shetland scene, you'd need to be able to see the sheep, which is hidden by the corner of the shed: but I know it's there, which is the main thing.

Further adventuresCollapse )

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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A sunny day in the Garden of Shetland [Jun. 12th, 2019|04:18 pm]
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Yesterday was brighter, and we took the ferry to Fetlar, nicknamed "the garden of Shetland" because it is so fertile. Certainly, a first impression is that it is gentler territory than the adjacent islands, more green grassland than brow peat moors. The sunshine added to this, of course. At times, I almost felt as if I were in Orkney:

The old sixareen


More about FetlarCollapse )

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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The Old Haa and the haunted house [Jun. 11th, 2019|06:35 pm]
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Yesterday's Plan A was that if the morning was fine, we would island-hop north to Unst. Since it was raining gently but steadily, we did something else instead.

Something else...Collapse )

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Two short walks and an excursion [Jun. 9th, 2019|08:26 pm]
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It rained overnight, and we thought it would carry on for the next couple of days, but this morning was dry if not, at first, bright, and we decided to risk a short walk. The road that had brought us to Varda runs out past the next farm, where a kink in the long sea inlet called the Whale Firth creates a small beach. This looked promising on the map, but when we got to the end of the road, we were less tempted by the scramble down to the beach than by a grassy lane that ran along the hillside:

The Whale Firth


That's the view looking back, north along the Whale Firth: beyond the stacks at the end is the Atlantic. Cut for length, and picturesCollapse )

This was enough excitement for one day. We called at the shop in Mid Yell to buy some milk, we decided that Shetland's most haunted house could wait, we had a late lunch and a quiet afternoon with books.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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On Yell, without a teapot [Jun. 8th, 2019|05:07 pm]
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Despite warnings of bad weather, that we were running just ahead of both wind and rain, we had a very comfortable crossing. I'm glad A. had warned us that the on board restaurant is no more, because the self-service option is more fuss and less relaxing. Despite which, we enjoyed our steak and chips, and were amused by the raspberry sorbet, which had been kept too chilled for too long, so that you could get a spoon into it, and had to pick up each scoop in turn and nibble it (this was worth doing). After dinner we relaxed with a book each and watched the summer sunlight gradually disappear:

Travelling hopefully


We sailed into Lerwick this morning in dazzling sunshine, but by the time we had disembarked it was overcast and grey, and the hills of Bressay over the water wore a shawl of cloud. The wind is getting up, too. [personal profile] durham_rambler keeps up with the news from home, and reports that rain has been heavy enough to cause cancellation of Durham regatta, and the new Seaham food festival. So who knows what the coming days will bring? But we had an easy crossing, and we have packed plenty of books.

We spent the morning in Lerwick, trying to shop, with mixed results. We are self-catering, and I was hoping for shops which would allow us to stock up on local produce: [personal profile] cmcmck will know what I mean if I say I hoped for the equivalent of Argo's Bakery, but didn't find it. But [personal profile] durham_rambler managed to get his watch strap replaced, and when we gave in and went to the Co-op, we found not only bread from a Shetland bakery, but also a copy of today's Guardian - and it was only just midday!

Lunch was scallops and chips for me, mussels for him, at Frankie's in Brae, Britain's most northerly fish and chip shop (but then Shetland is littered with Britain's most northerly this, that and the other). I am not persuaded that battering and deep-frying is the best way to cook scallops: they were good, and it was worth a try, but I've done that now. Then north again, to the drive-on ferry that brought us to Yell, to Varda, the converted church which is our home for the coming week.

We have started to unpack, and we are beginning to find things. Once I had put in the fridge those things which needed to be refrigerated, my next task was to make a pot of tea, and I had packed, as a holiday treat, a pack of loose tea which was part of our birthday gift from the GirlBear. Much to my surprise, I couldn't find a teapot - or a tea strainer, come to that - and have had to use the cafetiere. The tea doesn't taste noticeably of coffee, so I'd call that a result. Meanwhile, [personal profile] durham_rambler is on a mission to get the television to work. The owner is aware of the problem, and is waiting for someone to come out from Mainland, but [personal profile] durham_rambler is not discouraged. And I think it's about time I joined him in the rather nice sitting room upstairs, with its splendid views ...

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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On board the MV Hrossey [Jun. 7th, 2019|06:31 pm]
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Still in harbour in Aberdeen, but we are in the bar, I have wifi and a glass of cold pinot grigio, and soon we will set sail for Lerwick. The passenger announcement is promising "a relatively comfortable crossing."

We were awake bright and early, to mixed news: Labour had won the Peterborough by-election, and Doctor John had died.

Last-minute packing of last minute things: an overnight bag, the contents of the fridge, medication... I realised somewhere along the road that I had not packed the open jar of cherry curd: well, that will be something to look forward to on our return. More seriously, I can't find my phone: this doesn't count as forgetting to pack it, and it's not impossible that it may turn up in the car, or in a pocket somewhere. I'm philosophical about the possibility that I may have to replace it: it is very basic, and I have begun to wonder how long I could get away with it. But I'm in no hurry to upgrade, and I haven't given up hope.

We drove north up the A68, through soft green hills. I spotted one - just one! - poppy field, somewhere in Northumberland. Across the border at Carter Bar, and lunch at Main Street Trading in St Boswells: tomato soup, coffee and border tart (highly recommended) but without buying any books. Saint Boswell, or Boisil, was a monk at Melrose and taught Cuthbert, according to Bede.

More scenery further north, but I slept through much of it. It wasn't until we reached the port at Aberdeen, and were directed to do a u-turn on the approach road and wait to be called to join the queue, that I realised that this is not necessarily a sign of heavier than usual traffic: we have never taken the car on the ferry from Aberdeen before. Taken the car to Shetland, yes, taken the ferry from Aberdeen as a foot passenger, yes, but car from Aberdeen is a first. The process was quite laborious, but we have survived.

Time to go and investigate dinner: in another first, they seem to have done away with the rather good restaurant, so it's self-service, but the menu looks fine.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Remember me when I am gone away [Jun. 2nd, 2019|09:09 pm]
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In March we received a letter from an old friend. After a handwritten greeting it continued:
I am very sorry to say that this letter will bring you sad news...

I am very sorry to tell you that on 21 March 2019 I went to the Dignitas clinic where I died peacefully and painlessly in my sleep...


We had remained more or less in touch (though credit for the 'more' goes to him), and knew that he was suffering from Parkinson's disease. But I thought of this as a long-term problem, not knowing that he was also suffering from dystonia (a very unusual combination, apparently. "I have been described as 'fascinating' and 'complicated' by two of the top neurologists in England," says his letter. "This is not good.")

Yesterday we went to Manchester for his memorial. [personal profile] durham_rambler considered offering to speak, and decided against: we couldn't think of any tidy anecdotes to pass on. Was this the right decision? I don't know. As it turned out, although there were several reminiscences from school friends, and tributes from colleagues, no-one spoke about the time we had been closest, when we had been volunteers together in a Welfare Rights group (long ago, before this was a professional field) and he had moved from postgraduate mathematics to study law - and when he had met his (now ex-) wife. Who was also present, so it's not as if this history was lost, just that no-one chose to speak about it.

Instead we had tales of family holidays and gardening and muddy walks, poems (Christina Rossetti, by request) and music. Several people remarked that they had learned of new aspects of someone they knew well; yet much of what I heard sparked memories of things I had known, but forgotten. Which is what you want from a memorial, isn't it?

There were two pieces of music. One was Loudon Wainwright's New Paint, carefully chosen to be as little inappropriate as you could ask of Loudon Wainwright. This was the other:



This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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