Sunday, July 17, 2005

Shetland Postcard 1

Day one in Shetland is now officially over! We landed here at 8am this morning and have been on the go ever since. We are staying in a wonderful little bungalow, overlooking the voe, in Voe! It is comfortable, whilst not extravagant and house the most wonderful shower which looks more like a pod, circa 1970, and so I feel all retro as I shower. Indeed a picture of said Pod (minus me!) shall appear tomorrow methinks! The day its’ self was sluggish and slow as we were all tired, but at the same time wonderful. Compared to the enforced hustle and bustle of London life it provides great pleasure to be slowly driven through the countryside, at a slow speed, without reprimand upon reaching destination at whatever time. Indeed the whole way of life is different. Like many island communities, the Shetlands are undergoing a series of great changes. The fishing industry that has employed thousands over time is dwindling, crafting is dying out and oil is beginning to dry up. Therefore the three main sources of income on these islands, over time, have to change. This struggle is shown all around, but in particular in Unst (the most northerly isle of Shetland, therefore Britain) where the removal of the Royal Air Force base has decimated a small island community that was so dependant on that custom and trade generated. This was not just for profit, but also the diversity of residents at the RAF base meant a whole load of community resources like Schools, post offices (e.t.c) have had to face new challenges as the numbers of users plummets off. This feel has changed though, above was what I detected on my last visit here (over 3 years ago), there is a new set of commerce and small business growing and it is visible. It has been greatly helped by the inter-island games that had just ended as we arrived. Indeed on the boat we got off, there were queues of bizzies waiting to sail back to the mainland of Scotland, including one – a globalised protestor! These had left there impact everywhere with lil’ Shetland flags on the majority of cars and shop windows. There is a feel of buoyancy in the air which envigours me, compared to the more doom and gloom which greeted me last time. That said, I have only been here a day and places such as Unst shan’t be visited till Dad preachers there a week on Sunday. Yet it would be folly to end on a questionable note, after such an enjoyable day. The day ended with a visit to a local event that celebrated the release of a documentary celebrating the life of Tam Anderson, one of Shetlands’ greatest ever musicians. He lived from 1912 to 1991 and spent the majority of his adult life touring Shetland as an insurance salesman, picking up folk tunes along the way! He was a teacher that inspired many great musicians, including the wonderful Catriona MacDonald, and also he pioneered the re-education of the Shetland young folk of their folk musical heritage in a move to steer them away from the mainland (Celtic inspired) Scottish folk music to their own (Scandinavian inspired) Shetland fiddle and folk music. It was a magical evening, with a DVD that evoked so many emotions towards these wonderful isles. The event was held in a church hall and all around there would be a murmur of approval as another local face sang the praises of Tam. If one wonders why he was so great, let me summate: Pupils included Ally Bain and Catriona MacDonald and he had recordings of over 700 folk tunes played by the people he met by the time he died. A wonderful man indeed who gave the gift of indigenous culture and music back to the isles from which it sprang, a gift so truly special that the words “thank you” can never be enough. Well, it is late and I better head to bed. But before I go, a stat or two about my reading! That’s right, I have brought enough books to build a small fortress and hope/pray/shall get through them all! Read so far 1) Loudmouth by Pamela Stevenson. The follow-up to the best-selling “Billy” book, both of which document the life of Billy Connerly from his wife’s’ perspective as a physcologist. It is a cracking read, but I did wonder at points (in particular in reference to Billy’s’ tenderness and her feelings in India) as to what the aim of the books is. She comes across as rather a stroppish young lady with a keen sense of humour but also to willing to explain away simple actions with a deep reference to B’s past. Almost as though to say, he sneezes so loud to enable his head to get rid of the demons about his past life as an X. Expect more, though this time I am reading a book on the Scottish Episcopal Church in the Shetland islands between 1790 and 1860, a thrilling read so far which is chock-a-bloc with social history, a passion of mine. Take Care Y’All John

1 comment:

  1. Can I claim any Scottish blood now some 4 generations away from my grandfather Asa Sinclair born in Scotland 4/4/1801?

    I enjoyed reading your story about the Shetlands and must admit my ignorance about many things Scottish! We have many Socts here in the colonies mostly in North Carolina where my wife's Clark family claim their Scottish ties. But...they have not jumped the big pond where I have finding my gggrandfather Asa. Hummm.

    We are big on celebrating our Scottish history with "Scottish Highland Games" all over the US of A. We went to one outside Charlotte, NC back in April, "the Loch Norman Higland Games". We missed the largest one here in the Southeast just two weeks back, "Grandfather Mountain Highland Games", in Boone or Linville, North Carolina.

    We look forward to our games each year with vacation time scheduled around these events. Karen and I try to make 3 or more games each year ending with "Stone Mountain Highland Games" outside Atlanta, Georgia in October.

    I share the above in letting you know where our interest in your writing about the Shetlands lies. Will save your site as a bookmark and look forward to reading other narratives....Jeff

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