Friday, 10 February 2017

Up Helly Aa and beyond.

January is generally dull, wet and often foggy but in Shetland we have plenty of things to brighten the days.

Apart from the Aurora's which can happen anytime (see- or Shetland Aurora Hunter (face page) which will lift any gloom, its also the start of Up Helly Aa season.

Scalloway is the first venue and this started on Friday 13 January, but it was snowy and icy so we missed out.

Then the last Tuesday in January (31) is the biggest Up Helly Aa  held in Lerwick. which turned out to be very bad weather. Some of those in the squads had to hold onto the person in front as they couldn't see very far with the driving rain and sparks flying towards them.

As we moved into February we had more gales with some properties suffering damage and then today we had the first snow of the winter. the gales also forced the cancellation of a couple of ferries, which meant that Tesco has less and less food on the shelves.

I don't mind snow if you can get about and i was fortunate that most heavy snow arrived just as i got from work

The skies have been superb this winter, lots of colour and drama

Winter is far from boring, besides the fantastic skies, Up Helly Aa, Aurora, star filled skies, superb wildlife and great music nights its a time for planning. I am preparing another intermediate photography course - this time 6 sessions on Night Sky Photography, which i will be delivering later in the year for Shetland Adult Education.

There are a few places left on the Beginners and Intermediate photography courses in Scalloway in Spring - see Shetland adult Education website for further details

Also i have been preparing various talks for the WI, Women Guild, RVS and Shetland Photography club and another one for our visit to Sheffield, again on Shetland.

don't forget to visit (Canvas Prints) and also send me a request to join a Facebook page - Shetland Aurora Hunter

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Friday, 6 January 2017

Second Christmas day in Shetland

We survived Storm Barbara and Conor together with a few severe Gales, but several houses close by sustained damage mostly slates off but next doors also had there shed roof ripped off and some landed in the middle of the road

Looking at the houses across the field a couple have lost several slates and these have ended up in our garden and next doors. Several years ago the Hurricanes got so bad that some slates flew through windows and embedded themselves in the living room walls. Thank goodness no one was injured, that shows the power of the wind

Some people also lost power for four / five hours on Christmas day including our friends who ended up cooking Christmas dinner for 18 more or less in the microwave (They had a generator that managed the TV and lights)

Our cancelled Christmas eve meal at Sumburgh took place on New Years eve and we ended up with far better fireworks than London or Edinburgh as an Aurora display took place, many people watched this on Shetland webcam 3

We only managed to get out once in perfect weather then it was back to gales again, you have to make the most of any decent weather. We decided to walk along the coast just south of Sumburgh hotel, one we have not done for a long time (Hence photos)

The Julian Calender which is used by the people of Foula enabled us to celebrate a second Christmas day today, our cat Furbie was well impressed as he had more Chicken. In Unst a while ago, Baltasound and Uyeasound both had different Christmas's and they are only 5 miles apart

Next week we start Up Helly Aa, the first will take place in Scalloway on 13 January with the big one in Lerwick Tuesday 31 January (worth watching on , There will not be any postponement due to the weather

see more photos at

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Monday, 26 December 2016

Uncovered by a storm

Storm Barbara (90 mph) forced the cancellation of the visit by Father Christmas to the south mainland villages by helicopter. 

Bressay was hit by lightening with many home loosing power and with the ferries out of action it was hours before it was restored. Over 100 homes without power in Tingwall and a further 30 up at Sullom again due to lightening strikes

Today Storm Conor hit and this was even stronger at 105 mph (recorded at Scatness) so we haven't been out much. The roof on the next door's shed was ripped off and the rest was vibrating badly, lucky this was at then end of the storm.

You could feel the vibration through our house and see the windows flexing as the wind thumped against the building. We do feel safe as these Norwegian houses are very well built,  but newer wooden houses may not be up to the same construction specifications.

All the photos here are from Jarlshof, covering 4,000 years of human settlement. First the Neolithic period at 2700 BC remaining occupied until 1600 AD

With oval Bronze age houses and Iron age broch and wheelhouses, Norse longhouses , Medieval farmsteads to the Lairds House dating from 1500 , it is one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe

It was ideally positioned next to the sea in the south mainland but remained hidden until a storm, like today, in the early 19 century uncovered the site.

Excavations started in 1925 and stopped in 1950

From Walter Scott 1821 Novel the Pirate

"Amid this desolation, the inhabitants of Jarlshof had contrived, by constant labour and attention, to keep in order a few roods of land, which had been enclosed as a garden, and which, sheltered by the walls of the house itself, from the relentless sea-blast, produced such vegetables as the climate could bring forth, or rather as the sea-gale would permit to grow; for these islands experience even less of the rigour of cold than is encountered on the mainland of Scotland; but, unsheltered by a wall of some sort of other, it is scarce possible to raise even the most ordinary culinary vegetables; and as for shrubs or trees, they are entirely out of the question, such is the force of the sweeping sea-blast."

Don't forget to join us on our new facebook group page - `Shetland Aurora Hunter ' just send a request to join.

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Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas visitors

Well Christmas is almost here and Christmas eve we always enjoy the visit by Father Christmas. He flies in the Coast guard helicopter over Sandwick and other nearby villages.

                                      Coast guard HQ Sumburgh Airport
                                                                                                  Ready for take off
                                                                                                         Here he comes

 Father Christmas may however be side tracked, one pilot said a few years ago they has just set off to fly over the villages when an emergency call came in so they diverted to pick someone out of a sinking boat. You can just imagine Father Christmas being lowered onto the boat to save someone - no one would believe his rescue story. Don't think they will be over today with the gales


 We love to get out on a winters day when the sun is shinning, the landscape always takes on a nice warm colour especially with low light. This week however has been filled by heavy rain, gales and a visit from Storm Barbara yesterday with winds around 70 mph and very large hailstones. Today went out to car and nearly got blown away, very difficult to walk against the wind.

On Christmas day it is expected to be around 95 mph so i don't think we will be going out

                                 The plane now landing at ` Sumburgh Lighthouse'

We decided that due to ferry disruption we would go  to Tesco on Wednesday as we heard that things  were already running out, a good job we did as we only just managed to get all we needed, except for bread.

Have a great Christmas and thanks again for looking at this blog
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and come and join a new facebook group - `Shetland Aurora Hunter' - send me a request to join.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Brilliant winter days

The weather is still dominating the news with cancelled or delayed ferries and also last week a white van was blown off the road at Cunningsburgh, just 10 mins after i had passed the junction.

                                                                                         Fire starter at Scatness

                                                                           WW2 building Compass Head

In between we have had some great sunny days, still but very cold. Its at this time it just great to get out photographing. I took a group of photographers down to Scatness the other day and although it wasn't stormy enough for the photos we planned it was a good introduction in what to do when it blows.

The other day we ventured out to Burra in the late afternoon , it was very still and the first time we had managed to photograph Bridge End as the sun went down.

Everyone seems to like Shetland ponies and those in a close by field certainly wanted their photo taking, posing too close sometimes. With their long hair it was a surprise they could see where they were going.

Like everywhere in Shetland several people stopped to talk, its a very friendly place.

It seems everyone likes to see the Aurora or Mirrie Dancers as they are called in Shetland so i have set up a group facebook page (Shetland Aurora Hunter) please send me a request to join

As we move close to Christmas it seems it is a time for  numerous concerts, panto and music nights, we have never been out so much.

Much of our Christmas shopping is done online and we are thankful for Amazon especially as postage is free. Many Shetlanders head down to Aberdeen or further south to shop but it can be a bit rough on the ferry and you are never guaranteed getting back on time. We are looking forward to a visit from Father Christmas when he comes over Sandwick to wave to everyone from the coast guard helicopter on Christmas eve.

You still have time to buy a Shetland Canvas print from

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Weather changes

After a superb October we have now moved into the depths of winter. Dark nights arrive earlier but doesn 't bother us as its an opportunity to get outside and see the Milky Way or the aurora (see more at

The winds usually pick up to Storm force , occasionally Hurricane force . Bonfire night was affected, so in Sandwick it took place last night, which was completely still and a clear night

                                                                                                   A Selfie

The temperature has dropped and for the last few days it's been a question of scrapping the ice off the car windscreen in the morning. You have to be careful where you go out at night as the gritters stop around teatime. One problem here is that there are ditches at both sides of the road to drain off excess water coming down the hill, this doesn't allow any leeway if you skid.

We have had our new all weather tyres fitted recently so will be better off than those that don't, we have seen too many cars sliding into other cars or off the road, so you need to be as safe as possible.

The cold weather has now tested our new heating system (Electic storage heaters) which is good, far better than the air - air heating which is only ok for Spring / summer use. Bills have started to rise, in Shetland we have around 40% fuel poverty.

Its a lot more expensive here than down in England, with little choice of alternative systems. you could try oil, but that is very expensive or solid fuel but you get to a point where you don't want the hassle of cleaning the fire out.

Gas which is cheaper is not an alternative as there is no mains supply. We have bottle gas for cooking so at least we can make a drink if we get a power cut, which is more likely in winter.

Power cuts are less frequent than in years before we moved up, but still occur, however the engineers are out in all weathers including gales to ensure we get reconnected quickly

Don't forget you can still order a canvas in time for Christmas, see