Thursday, 31 December 2015


Well we hope you all had a good festive period, we knew it was officially Christmas when Father Christmas flew past Sandwick in his helicopter, great to see again.

This time of year is always going to be about the weather. The festive period has not been so good for the folk in Cumbria, Yorkshire and Southern Scotland who have been flooded out, some three times. More rain is expected into the new year so for them a Christmas to forget

It was a worrying time on Foula, water again but this time the water supply had been cut to a number of families on the south end of the island and no one could get across to fix it due to the bad weather, however this was sorted out on Boxing day. Elsewhere on Tuesday, winds reached Force 11 with power cables down causing power cuts to over 550 homes mainly in Unst, Walls and also in Sandwick.

For those living in Shetland 20 years ago I suspect they will remember a heavy snow fall on Christmas day, 30 foot snow drifts, all the roads blocked for days, no electricity - so no heating for the majority of people  as we have no gas supply. The old folk suffered more than others with a number of people admitted to hospital. The coastguard helicopter this time was out all the time helping out, while a number of small boats ferried food north and south.

Storm Frank started to hit Shetland on Monday - Wednesday, this storm from the south east ripped into the isles causing big waves in Lerwick, some roads closed as a result. On Tuesday the weather on the west as calm and sunny while the storm raged on the east.  We listened mid week to extensive flooding in Scotland and England, at least we didn't have that to contend with. Its terrible when this happens, even in places where more flood defences have been constructed

A brief gap in the weather allowed me to spend sometime over at St Ninian's Isle, with the sun dipping the Coast Guard helicopter flew over. A few people took this time to work off the Christmas lunch, but mostly it was quiet.

So far no snow in Shetland as it has been very mild but usually February is the worst month. I will be starting a new job at the beginning of January so I hope there is no disruption on the roads.

Anyway stay safe and have a good new year if you can, I will be back with more early next year and thanks again for looking at my blog. Why not have a look at my other blogs:

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Massive praise

It could only happen in Shetland - On Out Skerries the school only has one pupil and he is lonely, word on facebook got round and now he has received 5,000 Christmas cards and presents. On the children theme, NHS Shetland has received donations of over £5,000 towards toys for Christmas. Shetland folk are so generous with time and money - so its a massive praise to all.

Shetland recorded its highest winter temperature ever on Saturday with nearly 13 degrees recorded. At least its keeping the snow away , so we now have Gales, hail. heavy rain and cloud until Christmas. At least we missed the thunder and Lightening which covered a large area from 50 miles west of Shetland - Norway

We have had a number of Christmas meals all of which have been excellent, normally at this time of year the standards drop and its often better to have one after Christmas. On Christmas eve, we have another meal booked down at Sumburgh Hotel, always a good venue.

                                                                                                        Sumburgh Hotel

The postie has been very busy delivering cards and presents, they have a job finding where places are, either they need to know the person who lives in the house or the cottage name, both difficult and Sat Nav does not cut it here. Sat Nav is best to find where the road is in thick fog or where the snow has covered the road making it difficult knowing where the road ends and the ditches begin.

Tesco has been very busy and it was difficult finding a parking space the other day, some people managed to get their shopping done with Tesco Direct and have it delivered to their home for a £1 which is great for those living on Out Skerries, Unst, Fetlar and so on. Sometime it doesn't work well, the local news reported that someone in the Isle of Wight ordered three items as Christmas presents, one turned up and the other two ended up here in Shetland over 700 miles away.

                                                                           Fair Isle

We are so glad we no longer live in a big city, in Sheffield we had Meadowhall, bad enough any day but at Christmas it can hold 110, 000 people and car parking can be a problem. Down at Bluewater near Dartford people had to wait 6 hours to get out of the carpark, that last minute Christmas shopping for you. In Shetland we don't have such `distractions' and have to plan well up front. We delivered some of our presents when we went to Sheffield in September, now that has saved Santa a trip.

We have been getting in the Christmas mood for a week or so now, having recently been to a Nativity play, carol concert, Christmas services at Church, Christmas meals and even saw Santa arriving in a Lifeboat at Living Lerwick festival. Last year Santa even flew over our house in the coastguard helicopter waving at everyone- where else could this happen.

It was good to hear that Shetland has again come out as one of the best place to live in Scotland- well we knew that all ready, that why we are here.

                                                                                                                    It's me

Lerwick is quiet now most of the Gas and oil workers have left the island, they will not be back until February, only the accommodation barges are a reminder of there presence.

I will leave you with some Shetland Christmas lights, have a great Christmas and New year.

                                                        see more at my other blog -

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Going Home

As the gas plant at Sullom Voe comes to and end of the construction phase, the workforce will start to reduce. You can already see the effect as this week the Gemini - accommodation ship, which was based in Scalloway for over a year, departed south for a refit in Turkey

It was good to see the Gemini lit up during the winter months but now people might look towards the sky, and the northern lights. This week the RVS took a large number of Old folk north to Brae and the Moorfield hotel, this was all down to an invitation by Total who provided the whole event. A great gesture to the Shetland community.

Lerwick Harbour has been quiet this week with only a few fishing boats tied up, but on Thursday the Norwegian training vessel- `Stratsraad Lehmkuhl' arrived bring in 90 Cadets from the Norwegian Naval Academy.

We have been impressed with Westside Electrical which responded to our request for a quote for installing storage heaters, coming over a couple of days later.

The weather is now firmly in winter mode with lots of gales, hail, heavy rain and a bit of snow, temperatures however have increased a bit, but even so added heat will be very welcome. This is no where near as bad as Scotland and NW England where floods have been bad, the worst situation in years

Talking to a friend this week, we found out that our heating problems were small compared to his. His house is out on the west coast, an old property, which has rain coming through in a number of places, the only heat is by a solid fuel burner. To make matters worse, he has had eye problems and not been back for over a year ! dread the think what the condition is like now.

Many Shetlanders have been asked to take part in a survey to find out about fuel poverty. Here we are restricted to either solid fuel, electric , oil or Air to Air all far dearer than gas. The rate we pay for electric is also higher than the rest of the country. This also goes for Petrol, Ferry prices and the general cost of living.

As Christmas is soon to be on us , you realise what choice you have regarding presents. Its no wonder that Amazon makes such profits, but at least we get free delivery. John Lewis is another one that can be recommended but many others charge extra to the normal cost of postage.

The local shop can provide you with unusual presents such as Shetland fudge, Shetland jumpers and Knitwear, lots of great art and photographs and a good number of new books just released. I have two on my Christmas list - Shetland Otters and a photo guide to the Geology of Shetland.

Will it be good or bad, Scotland is due to set its own rate of tax on the 6 April 2016, but we will know what this is in the draft budget on 16 December 2015. Hope its a reduction, could do with an extra bit in my pocket.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Winter weather

Well the winter arrived this week, with a slight snow covering last Saturday and only one degree, very cold.  You could tell this going to happen, the previous night we had been down to Dunrossness hall to watch a variety concert and on the way back hit a patch of ice and loss control just for a brief second or two.

Down in Sheffield they had alot more snow to contend with and freezing temperatures as well. This week I downloaded a weather app to my Kindle, which gives me the most accurate forecast so far in Shetland, it provides some very detailed information and even compares this year to last.

We enjoyed last Sunday, it was dry and still but cold so we headed down to Spiggie and met up with Nat Hall, Paul Bloomer and Paul Harvey all out for an afternoon birding. Later in the day it became  busy, by Shetland standards, with cars coming and going on a regular basis, many people never getting out of their cars. The light was just perfect for photography

                                                                                   Hills to west of Spiggie

From Monday on the temperature increased but it became very wet, the sheep in our field looked very miserable huddled together next to the wall which provided little in the way of comfort.

Its always good to look forward to something special during the longer dark days, for me its the thought of a clear, still night to get some night sky photography done. Its been very difficult as the weather has been against us over the past few months. Its always a bad sign when someone buys some new equipment, its guaranteed to cloud over and be wet for several weeks, so with Christmas arriving quickly it doesn't bode well.

                                                                                             Ice at Spiggie

The photography courses I am running for Shetland Adult Education are really going well, with some very good photographers, we are soon to cover Night Sky and Low Light photography, both of which interest me too. For those that are interested, the next stage of the Intermediate Photography starts on the 18 January when we cover- Wildlife, Landscapes, Close up, Urban, in Door Portraits and Urban photography. the next beginners starts next year in April.

It good to know that Shetland has now been included in the latest UNESCO Global awards for its Geopoarks. I went to a talk last week by Robina Barton who gave an excellent illustrated talk on the geology of Shetland. Must get more into this, Eshaness for instance is a volcanic site where you can still seen the cap that was blown off together with layers of volcanic dust.

This changeable weather certainly highlights the cold spots in the house. We have had a joiner round to sort out drafty windows, hopefully if the parts are in Shetland we should have this done in next few days, but if not they will have to be ordered from down south.

The air - air heating system is also inadequate as it only warms parts of the house. With no gas on Shetland (except bottled) its either electric or oil, both costly. We are looking into this to find a solution, the new electric storage heaters may be the next step, another costly exercise.

                                                    all the above Spiggie Loch
Yesterday managed to get out for an hour to photograph the Rufus Turtle Dove that turned up at Scalloway (see for photos, later heavy rain came back in. Today has been even worse with gales, hail, snow and heavy rain. Should get better later in week hopefully.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


This week it was dominated by storms, especially on Thursday night / Friday. Storms had been predicted at Force 10 for Shetland and as a result many things were cancelled, schools and the college closed as well as the Lunch club for the elderly.

The winds really hit with a bang on Thursday night with 80+mph recorded at Sumburgh. Ferries made an early start for second time in the week while the north bound ferry only travelled as far as Orkney. The sea is not a place to be, although i did see a fishing boat battling the high waves.

Thursday night also brought over 40 lightening strikes and this resulted in over 1000 homes and business in the central mainland loosing power for a number of hours. On Friday the winds eased but many hail storms brought white roads.

Saturday brought more gales  so we went up to Eshaness, a place where i have always wanted to go in stormy weather. First stop was  to look at the Drongs, it was very difficult trying to open the car door as the strong winds smashed against it.

Over at Stenness where the sea was rushing into Dor holm, although on this occasion spray was not going over the top. Out to the west large waves crashed on rocks which was dramatic. A number of other cars came to this point for a brief look.

Next up to the cliffs at Eshaness for more spectacular scenes, more dramatic than the last with higher waves. It was difficult to stand steady as winds hit me. Again a number of cars arrived but few got out to get a better view. By this time the rain and hail came lashing down, but at least the camera was dry as i was using a protective waterproof cover.

Sunday was still, sunny and dry up to teatime before the winds and rain returned, and again Monday night. The prediction for the end of the week is for snow. I don't mind this if i am not working but driving in Shetland can be hazardous with ditches beside most roads and ice on certain stretches. We will just see what comes.

Tesco's as usual have had no veg or fruit and on Friday, good job we went early on Thursday. Even the flights got cancelled for a few days due to fog.

Monday, 9 November 2015


Its good to hear that a large number of cruise liners are booked in to visit Shetland next year. Over 51,000 visitors will come on 70 liners which include two massive ships, the Azura followed by the Celebrity Silhouette on the 14 August.

The weather is not why people come to Shetland, take this last week it has been gloomy, low thick cloud, lots of dense fog, some showers but little wind. Its been odd that the night temperature has been 1 degree warmer than the day.

                                                                                                          Sumburgh Head

These days the gloomy weather can last for weeks, well 6 days so far and the forecast is more to come. Some people suffer because of this, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), when they can see no light at the end of the tunnel and people have special indoor lights to combat this.

The fog on Thursday and Friday have affected flights in and out of Sumburgh and Scatsta with only a couple of flights leaving. People won't be too please if they had transfer to the ferry, with high seas expected

                                                                                    Looking north to Fitfull Head

The weather has not stopped us from going out and we have had some lovely walks on the beach. When we used to travel to the east coast of England it tended to be more in winter when less people were about. In Shetland its very easy to have a beach all to yourself at any time of year.

A survey taking place in Shetland aims to find out what fuel poverty is in Shetland, Scottish figures show this to be around 43% of the population, but a more accurate figure is needed. This time of year you need lights on earlier and also crank up the heating. With no gas on Shetland most people are on electricity or Oil, both more costly.


It must be very tough being a fisherman in Shetland at this time of year. Visiting Lerwick you always see trawlers going in and out of the harbour in all weathers. Shetlanders have always been the best sailors in the UK with many spending the wars in the Royal or Merchant Navy.

This week many Pelagic fishermen have been complaining that not enough is being done to stop Faroese fishing boats from coming into Shetland's 12 mile protected limit and catching Mackerel. The Faroese fishing vessels caught 10 x more mackerel in 2014 than 2009. If they are found breaking the rules they could face prosecution and fines up to £50,000 + the value of the illegal catch.
I saw what appeared to be a Faroese fishing boat very close inshore around Sumburgh Head a few days ago.

                                                                                                Lerwick Fishing Boat

On Sunday the first real winds of the winter arrived with force 9 gales, the ferry left in the morning to avoid the worst of the bad weather.

                                                                           Gales incoming. Sandwick / Hoswick