Shetland May 2010

"It’s going to be a bit lumpy today".  There are certain phrases that just aren’t good, and the lumpy phrase is way up there.  From the kitchen it suggests that the custard might not be up to scratch (not a phrase I hear at home, I should add), but not a real problem.  When the grinning skipper of the Good Shepherd IV says this standing on the pier at Grutness, it definitely falls into the problem category.

The Good Shepherd IV is the maritime lifeline that links Fair Isle with the rest of Shetland.  There is an air service too (at least when it isn’t foggy) but all the heavy cargo, and the more intrepid travellers, go via the Good Shepherd.   This Good Shepherd has been shuttling back and forwards between Fair Isle and Grutness harbour on the southern tip of Shetland for about 25 years.  It carries 12 passengers and up to one car (although that needs to be winched on) and pretty much all the supplies that the island needs.  The Good Shepherd was purpose built for the Fair Isle run, and is reputed to be able to cope with pretty much any weather that  the seas around Shetland can throw at it , I’m not sure that the same can be said of this group of passengers.  The skipper was true to his word on this trip - after 45 minutes I thought we were all going to die, and after 90 minutes I was pretty sure that death was the preferred option.

The trip on the Good Shepherd was the start of the second part of our Shetland trip for this summer.  We’d spent the first part of the trip house hunting (more about that roller-coaster in a later post), and  for the second  part of the trip we’d been joined by a group of knitters from Oxford, London and Edinburgh all of whom wanted to learn more about knitting on Shetland and Fair Isle.  There’ll be more about the knitting trip on my others half’s blog in due course.

The Fair Isle leg of the trip was based with Kathy Coull and provided lots of "craft-in-croft" experiences, and gave me time to walk round the island photographing the bird life and just enjoying being out in the fresh air (as well as trying my hand at spinning).

One of the most striking things about the trip was the weather, during the seven days that our friends from the south spent with us we saw no rain at all.  For these folks, most of whom were visiting Shetland for the first time, dry, warm, mostly-windless weather is ‘typical’ Shetland weather.  I suspect their subsequent visits might not be quite so benign.

On the Mainland part of the trip, we spent time around Nesting, Sumburgh and Lerwick  - as well as going over to Bressay and up to Hillswick and Eshaness, and to the woollen mill at Sandness.  It was good to finally get a chance to look at the wonderful new museum - our previous attempts to do so had got derailed by (i) its opening ceremony, and (ii) fog delays on a previous return from Fair Isle.

On the mainland we stayed at Heart Stones in Lerwick - a lovely flat really close to the Museum, and it will be very convenient for Mareel once it's finished.

As always it was good to be back above 60 degrees North - and a real joy to be back on Shetland.

I’ve added a few more photographs to my Shetland collection on Picasa - just click the thumbnail below.

Shetland May 2010