Saturday, 30 January 2016

Gertrude arrived in Shetland

Well we never made it to Lerwick for Up Helly Aa on Monday as we both have colds and the weather was rainy and windy. The weather get worse and by Thursday we had a mix of weather  which is typical of Shetland.

Before I was ready to go to work a large thunderstorm struck Sandwick, with a lightening fork hitting Sand lodge at Sandsayre it cut the power to 1200 properties for a few hours. You have to give credit to the Hydro lads who appeared on the scene very quickly and worked in terrible conditions.

As I set off it began to hail and the roads became white but entering Cunningsburgh it turned to heavy snow, just up the road it was sunny, then at Quarff it snowed again. Not content just after that it rained very heavy before turning to sunshine as I entered Scalloway. All in a 12 mile trip.

I haven't mentioned the winds that hit on Friday, Storm Gertrude caused all schools and the college to be closed for the day.

It was higher winds than previously thought, upgraded to a Red warning,  Hurricane Force 12 , over 105 mph winds hitting Lerwick ,109 mph in Yell and 111 mph at Scatness  making driving conditions very difficult. I just missed a van being blown over a crash barrier and down the hill, luckily no one was injured, a few other high side vehicles also was blown over.

 I parked at my usual spot in Scalloway, coming out 4 hours later it took me several washes to clean the salt off the windscreen. I could also taste salt in the air and well as see it plastered all over the car.

As my work takes me in Scalloway it allows me to explore Shetland ancient capital- when the weather permits. One thing that you notice about Scalloway is that it has a lot of mature trees - very unusual for Shetland. This creates a magnet for any migratory birds and a number of interesting ones have turned up since we arrived in Shetland.

The other noticeable thing is the connection with the Shetland bus.  The excellent Shetland Bus memorial is a great attraction, as is the museum which is dedicated to telling the story and the continued links with friends in Norway.

Walking down the shore front Dinapore House stands out with its battlement like roof. Here the Shetland bus operations was carried out,. sending Norwegian fishing boats back to Norway with agents and supplies then bring back many Norwegians which needed to evade capture by the Germans

A short distance away is the pier where the fishing boats were repaired , the whole of Scalloway was kept a big secret throughout the World War 2 and  many interesting buildings remain. One is Scalloway Castle which stands near the harbour, here ammunition was stored .

At least I will have more time to discover its secrets, its far quieter than Lerwick with little traffic but it still has a number of interesting ships visiting, viewing is excellent with its horse shoe shaped bay

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Fire & Ice

The tension is mounting, as the count down begins to Up Helly Aa on Tuesday 26 January 2016. This is the biggest of the processions in Shetland. Scalloway Fire festival took place on Friday 8 January, the first of ten across Shetland.

                                                                                                                    Last year

Over the year work has taken place to build a new galley, the design kept top secret, only known to a few.  We know someone who was specially invited to look at the new Galley last Wednesday, but then was sworn to secrecy not being able to reveal any details until the night.

In addition the Guizer Jarl squad have been busy growing beards, the bigger the better. Costumes, shields, helmets and spears have also been made in the special design and will have cost a fortune.

This great event always takes place, no weather condition has yet led to a postponement, so rain, snow or Hurricane will not stop the procession or galley burning.

Last year the weather was perfect but this year they are already predicting rain. In recent years the only cancellation was back in 1965 when Winston Churchill died, prior to that 1940 - 1948 WW2.

For those travelling to Shetland especially for the event,  they will have to have booked  accommodation well up front, as many people from all over the world arrive to see this unique event. With cancelled ferries during to extreme winds and last week days of cancelled flights due to the snow, it can prove difficult to get to Shetland especially for last minute travelers.

The day for the Guizer squad starts around 6.30 with breakfast at Isleburgh and doesn't finish until 8 am the following morning with the survivors breakfast. With around 800+ Vikings processing, that's a lot of breakfasts to cook !

If you cannot make it to Shetland then watch it here on

                                                                                                  Scalloway Castle

Its been a period of very cold weather this week in Shetland, lots of ice with virtually all locks frozen and even parts of the sea. Getting around has been difficult and mid week the road up from Scalloway was nearly impassable around 10 pm.

The landscape looks so different under a white covering of snow and I was able to get over to Scalloway to photograph the castle, looking odd now, as the accommodation barge Bibby and the cruise liner Gemini had left due to the decline in the oil industry.

                                                                                                   Rainbow over Cunningsburgh

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Different ways

Living on a small island is always going to be challenging and you will have to take this into account if you are thinking of moving here.

                                                                                                Sunrise over Mousa

If you are into shopping then you will be disappointed, there are no large department stores, no indoor shopping areas of a decent size. We have Commercial Street where the few shop we do have are constantly changing. News that the long standing photography shop and more recent antiques shop are closing is no surprise. it doesn't help that most of the 40,000 people arriving by cruise ship spend little money - except in the charity shops.

Before coming to live here we found a fair number of people being ripped off with excessive postal charges but we have been lucky so far. Amazon and John Lewis deliver mostly free and have a big selection of items - that's the problem for the shops, not just in Shetland but everywhere, a lot more people are shopping online now.

                                                                                              Winters day in Sandwick

News that 600 jobs will be lost in the oil industry, may not come as a surprise with prices dropping all the time, but this will also affect the Shetland economy

In winter getting to and from Shetland can be more difficult, just take the other week. The ferry ran into a Force 9 gale and took 28 hours to arrive, around 5.5 hours was spent off Orkney where the ferry tried to tie up at the pier but ropes broke 4 times, they were unable to anchor as well, but they failed to hold so they went round in circles until they managed to dock mid afternoon.

                                                                                    Lower car park Sumburgh Head

In December 16 sailing out of 217 had to be cancelled and 44 delayed as well. If you think the plane may be better this has not been the case  as Aberdeen runway developed a hole in the runway due to heavy rain, they transferred to Inverness. Some Shetland people then took a taxi to Aberdeen but on four occasions the driver was told to turn round due to flooding and heavy snow but some how managed to get to their destination. the runway  has now been repaired

Living on an even smaller island like Foula may sound idyllic but you are along way from the mainland. After a year with power, the two houses in the south finally had power reconnected. But also over the Christmas period they didn't have any healthcare.

I watch the BBC1 programme drama on Shetland on Friday and found it much, much better than the other series. It was great to see the scenery and even though the old folks home was actually Sumburgh hotel the plot was well thought out.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Beach time

At this time of year you can expect the weather to be wintery, and finally the snow hit Shetland (well south mainland) on Thursday. Last weekend snow fell further north but it didn't affect us. People going to work caught the worst of it and four cars went off the road on the junction of Gulberwick - Scalloway at Black Gaet, due to icy conditions
Here as other places has less gritting due to cutbacks and it shows. By the time I ended up going to work the worst of the weather had passed.

Going back to last weekend I went over to Bigton and St Ninian isle, a favourite with so many people. The tombolo was covered by the sea, as it normally is at this time of year but the light was great. low down creating some nice effects with sea washed pebbles.

It is not normally the time of year you tend to go on beaches, but I like this season on the coast. When we lived in Sheffield, some 70 miles from the sea, we would often take a trip down to the north Norfolk coastline where normally in Summer it would be packed but in winter free-ish from humans.

Everyone is now talking about the Lerwick Up Helly Aa which takes place the last Tuesday in the month. Even though its a great spectacle, its more about the local people keeping up traditions. The Guizer Jarl has to wait 15 years before his name comes up to the top of the list.

Sunday, 10 January 2016


Last Sunday I thought Father Christmas had come back with a late present, with all the banging on the roof, walls, windows and door - but no it was a Force 10 Gale. We seem to have had a few over the past week and the forecast is for more to come. Gulberwick, just up the road recorded a gust at 69 mph. (although gusts are not counted in the following scale)

Several people have asked about what the Beaufort scale indicates, so here it is

Force        mph       Description
0               < 1            Calm

1               1- 3            Light Air

2               4-7             Light Breeze

3               8-12           Gentle Breeze

4              13- 18          Moderate Breeze

5              19- 24          Fresh Breeze

6              25- 31          Strong Breeze

7              32 - 38         Near Gale

8              39 - 46         Gale

9              47 - 54         Strong Gale

10            48 - 55         Storm

11            56 - 63         Violent Storm

12            64 +             Hurricane

This week gales have continued to hit with lots of rain and hail, with snow in the north mainland. Ferries have been cancelled again, meaning the shelves at Tesco have been empty. Even getting to Aberdeen by plane has been difficult with a hole appearing on the runway.

This week has seen the first fire festival of the year, this was held in Scalloway and a decent night, very similar to the one last year. It can be quiet dangerous with sparks flying all over the place. A couple of people came away with burnt coats while one women had  her hair set alight (that's hairspray for you)