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

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Odd Visitors to Shetland

With two Russian Bombers escorted away from British airspace near Shetland, it  came as no surprise that the Russian planned to sail a fleet of seven heavily armed warships close to Britain on the way to Syria.

It planned to practice bombing off the coast of northern Scotland and come within a mile of the UK limit as they journeyed through the English Channel

So HMS Richmond turned up in Lerwick ready to take action if required. Although to confuse the Russian according to the Royal Navy website it was still berthed in Portsmouth not actually in Shetland.

On a lighter note

It was interesting to hear about the North Isles awards, here is the criteria:

1. Unsung hero
2. Best Beard in the North Isles
3. Cheeriest Crofter
4. Funniest Person
5. Friendliest Islander
6. Most Caring
7. Best wearer of a Boilersuit
8. Nicest Ferry person
9. Best smile

This is for those living in Unst, Yell and Fetlar.

I love lamb, especially Shetland lamb and we normally get it direct from the local farmer. In the Shetland Times this week it came a bit of surprise to find that prices have tumbled to as little as 50 p per animal. Most going for £5 per animal but some small lambs 0.50 p.

This is making the native Shetland lamb flock unsustainable. How much are you paying for 4 lamb chops at the supermarket ? bet it is more than £5.

Better news on the Shetland fish front with news that Shetland landed more fish than England, Wales and Ireland combined. Over 72, 000 tonnes of fish and shellfish worth £61 million were landed here in 2015.

This represent over a 1/4 of all fish landed in Scotland. Interestingly the EU catch (including UK) landed 450,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish worth around £300 million all caught within Shetland waters. Hopefully leaving the EU will generate a massive boost to the Shetland fishing industry creating more jobs- that's providing the government doesn't barter it away.

We have now moved into a cold period after a brilliant October. Cold winds from the north in the last few days have resulted in the heating going up. We don't have too many options in Shetland, no gas so electricity at a higher cost than England has to heat our homes.

We hope that the new Quantum and other storage heaters are better than the Air- Air heating which was a disaster, hardly providing enough heating in winter. We have left these in for light summer use. The smell of peat is now in the air although its not an option for us.

To see more photos please go to

Next week , 7 November I will be giving an illustrated talk to the WI Boddam Group on Sheffield & Peak District and on the 17 November an illustrated talk on Night Lights to the RVS social group at Hoswick.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Birthday surprise

It has been a very busy month so far, mostly to do with Diane's birthday. the first Saturday in October I was busy organising a surprise birthday party and had to collect a cake especially made by someone in Lerwick then a quick call in Tesco for a few things.

During the afternoon i started to prepare the food ,unknown at the time to Diane. if fact i only told her about an hour before friends started to arrive. A quick change before we greeted guests, most of those invited came over for a great night.

                                                                                               A few of our friends

On Sunday it was always going to be a left over day, the food still tasting good. After numerous Skype conversations we headed out to catch the Aurora which unfortunately had gone past its best but it is always enjoyable to see it ( .

Diane's birthday arrived on Monday and although i was teaching a photography course in Lerwick we had a good afternoon down in the Ness where the weather was extremely good for this time of year.

In the evening we went to the Sumburgh Hotel for a meal, a place we have been coming to for 30 years. An excellent meal as usual and a very crowded eating area with numerous birders coming in for a 'peck' at the food.


Later in the week it was down to music with the Shetland fiddlers on Wednesday at Islesburgh then the Accordion and fiddle festival Thursday and Friday both late nights but superb music both at Bigton and Gulberwick.

Then last Saturday night we stayed at Sumburgh Hotel as well has having a great meal - thanks to Diane's Sister Wendy and Dave.

In between we spent an afternoon in Lerwick and saw the last Cruise ship for the season - the Marco Polo, its been a good year for visitors. Everyone is looking forward to seeing big reductions in the cost of ferries from Shetland - Aberdeen but this will not happen before 2018 when the contract is up for renewal.

Some will have come as a result of the Shetland Drama series which has just been nominated for a BAFTA and is up for four awards- this will be back on TV next year which will delight the 5.8 million viewers.

A recent study of the Shetland dialect has suggested that this will disappear in the next 30 years, we really love the accent especially the Whalsay one with a fairly remote population. It suggests that since 1970 when the oil boom occurred many English and Scots arrived which started to dilute the local accent. I am sure this is true but without the influx of people many communities would have folded years ago, this would include Papa Stour, Fetlar, Foula and Unst.

We don't normally get power cuts so the one last Sunday night which affected the whole of Shetland was unusual, it was quickly rectified and we had power back on 15 mins later. One thing that has been bad recently is our internet connection which has been very poor, it's still a lot better than some areas, especially out in the west of Shetland.

With so much oil extraction around Shetland it was only a question of time before another oil spill occurred. This time oil escaped from the Clair field about 40 miles west of Eashness , no action was taken as experts said it moved NE away from Shetland with the weather breaking up the oil.

While it may not get washed up on our shores you have to fear for marine life. Lots of whales and Dolphins have been seen around Shetland and some will be in the area of the oil spill, so we might see some whales washed up and seabirds who spend winter out at sea. for more Shetland photos.