Welcome back to everyone who has returned to my blog and thanks for all the encouraging words and messages. Also, just a 'hello' to any new followers, it’s so good to have you here.
We're now entering September, the time of year when the big jumpers are broken out, along with winter boots, and the hats and scarves which were hastily stuffed away in drawers and cupboards at the first whiff of Spring. At this time, Instagram is filled with beautiful, seasonal pictures of crisp, autumnal leaves and steaming mugs of tea. Autumn is a time of reflection (and at the risk of sounding like the minister again, I'll continue), the summer is winding down, the harvest is complete and the nights are drawing in as people begin to reflect on the year that's been and think forward to the year ahead (already filling in my 2019 diary and taking bookings I wonder where the year went, and I'm sure many of you feel the same).
Having recently launched the blog, I've done a lot of research into the kind of business I’d like to grow. It has also raised many questions about how others will perceive this and ultimately, me. This critique and soul-searching has been an invaluable (if painful) process. It has given me a clear purpose and has helped highlight the direction I'd like to take and the message I want to send out, and why.
Much of what has inspired me recently has come from the work of Kayte Ferris, a Creative Business Coach and Marketing Mentor over @simpleandseason. Her ethos of slow-living, sustainability and 'seeking simplicity' is incredibly refreshing. In a world filled with mass-marketing and quite frankly, bollocks, her approach is soulful, honest and real. This is what I aspire towards. I want Shetland with Laurie to be authentic, to be real, rather than batch-processed and impersonal.
Simplicity in nature.
In today’s fast paced society, we are bombarded with information, news, opinions, gossip and mindless nonsense. It’s a constant attack on the body’s emotional response system and it can leave us feeling jaded and frustrated with the world around us. Recently I've been trying to re-evaluate my own life and knock out what doesn't work or makes me unhappy and focus on the aspects which are true and bring joy. Everyone should do this, it should be mandatory, kinda like a Spring clean of the mind.
In order to avoid becoming totally caught up in the guff of everyday life I decided to make changes so that I could appreciate what was around me, to see clearly, to view the world through the eyes of a child again (or try to) and yes, I still spend 90% of my free time scrolling through Instagram but it’s creative, right? For me it’s about taking a moment to stop, and appreciate the now. It’s the bird call in summer, the seasonal changes in spring and autumn, the mackerel skies and most importantly, it's watching your children grow. It's about enjoying all of those things without work pressures playing on the mind and the mundane 9-5 invading your private thoughts, those things don't matter in the grand scheme of things. They shouldn't dictate our lives or govern how we live.
Taking a moment to enjoy the moment!
So we did, we had picnics, and they didn't have to take all day or involve much planning. A perfectly good picnic can be enjoyed in most places, even in your own back garden. All that matters is that you've made the time for the adventure, you don't have to trek for miles to find something amazing, it can be on your doorstep all along. And for parents, who face the nightly witching hour (that dreaded hour before bed) this is the perfect time to set off on an adventure because if they fall asleep on the way home then you've saved yourself another job! Other than a few boxsets and the odd '24 hours in A&E' (yup, sucker for a medical documentary), watched in the last hour before bed, we don't watch much tv, meaning that I get a good three hours extra time to work in the evening, when the house is (usually) quiet. This helps get a lot more work done. Oh, and I gave up Facebook in January which is something I haven't for one moment regretted (sorry Zuckerberg), in some ways that was the most positive change I made.
All these things have been really useful in making time management more manageable and in helping ensure that the work-life balance feels more, 'balanced'. The most important thing I've learnt in 'seeking simplicity' is that no matter how daunting, you have to be true to yourself, always and just take a moment to stop, and let your senses guide you.
Finding beauty in nature.
A still evening at Aith skimming stones in the water.
We recently spent a few nights in Fetlar, endearingly known as 'the Garden of Shetland'. In anticipation of the schools going back, and trying to make the most of the time we had left of the holidays we booked the Aithbank Camping Böd, former home of storyteller Jeemsie Laurenson. The weather was glorious and Fetlar shone, like a glistening jewel in the North Sea, giving us the best it had to offer.
In this, the second (belated) part of this blog, I will outline a few of the things we found on our travels through the 'Garden of Shetland' and what we discovered along the way, and if you missed the first Blog entry you can look back and catch up!
Walk 2 - Aith beach and the Viking Boat burial coastal walk (to shake down the dinner)
Views from Aith beach.
From the beach we headed west along the impressive coastline, through golden fields which shone against the low, setting August sun. The bairns ran free, bare legs jumping from knowe to knowe with hair shining in the sun and echoing the colours of the landscape. It all felt very 'earth-motherish' until they started fighting and shergin' through over-tiredness.
Lena enjoying the sunshine and the freedom.
We then followed the coast, in search of the Viking boat burial. Reputed to be the final resting place of a Viking man who had washed ashore during a storm, the crew were all washed away and this one remaining man asked that upon his death, he be buried with his boat and treasure. When he died, his wishes were honoured and he was given a Viking boat burial. Time Team excavated the site (often referred to as the Giant's Grave) in 2002 and they discovered a great number of iron nails but no skeletal remains were uncovered.
Walk 3 - Airstrip to Haltadans stone circle (this took a moment as we stopped for a picnic but the walk itself was short and could be achieved there and back within an hour).
For this walk we headed inland, leaving the coast behind us, into the hills and the land of the mythical trows and njuggels. We parked at the now disused airstrip, built in 1972 the gravel runway is now only used for emergencies and training purposes.
Haltadans, believed to date to the Bronze Age, is a circle of thirty-eight stones with two positioned upright in the centre of the ring. This was our mission, to find it, and making our way north from the airstrip beyond Skutes water, across the boggy moorland we saw a number of Skootie Alans (Arctic Skuas) with their distinctive pointed tail feathers. I wondered if the loch took its name from these birds or was it some other obscure etymological explanation? Haltadans, or the Fairy Ring, wasn't that easy to find, with heather covering many of the stones it was difficult to pick them out in the blanket moor landscape. The OS map was handy to have on hand and thankfully Skootie Alans are much less aggressive than their larger cousin, the Bonxie (Great Skua) which made our passage easier. Despite this, we found the circle (eventually) and after some head-scratching, agreed that this was the spot of the famous 'fairy ring'.
Haltadans stone circle dating to the Bronze Age, often referred to as the Fairy Ring.
This unassuming stone circle has a number of folklore stories associated with it. One suggestion is that the circle represents a fiddler and his wife (the central stones) and the surrounding stones are trows (trolls) who, whilst dancing, were startled and turned to stone with the rising sun. Trows, popular in Shetland folklore were said to be a cheerful and mischievous race who had a great love of fiddle music. The name Haltadans, according to etymologist Jakob Jakobsen referred to the fact that in Shetland folklore and tradition, trows and fairies were often said to limp when they danced and the expression "to had (hold) a haltadans" or "to rush about noisily" was still an expression used in Fetlar and Yell, noted, by Jakobsen when he published his place-names book (1936). Further evidence of this fiddling idea can be found on the OS map of the area which notes the Fiddler's Crus cairn just a short distance NW of the circle.
Quite possibly the perfect picnic spot? A plantiecrub in the hills.
A few other points of interest:
There are many more fantastic walks to take on Fetlar, and certainly plenty for the walker without young children. The coastline offers an ever-changing panorama and more information can be found in Peter Guy's, 'Walking the Coastline of Shetland: The Island of Fetlar (No. 3)'.
Houses and Haa's
One thing that struck me immediately was that there are many grand historic houses in Fetlar. Once supporting a large population, the fertile island boasted some of Shetland's grandest homes, and some remarkable characters too! In Part One of this blog I looked at Smithfield Haa and the round-house at Gruting, and below a few more are outlined, although this is not an exhaustive list.
Brough Lodge, home of Sir Arthur Nicolson.
Brough Lodge is a very unusual house, and unlike anything else built in Shetland. It was built in 1820 by landowner Sir Arthur Nicolson of Lochend (who we heard about in Part One). This striking building was designed and built in a Georgian Gothic style, in stark contrast to the Haa of Smithfield for example (Part One) which was built at a similar time (1815). Brough Lodge had everything a grand house of that time 'should'. It boasted, among others, a drawing room, library, butler's pantry and a counting room (where the landlord dealt with the rents from the island), and it also had an astronomical observatory (obviously). The house was last inhabited in the 1970s. Sir Arthur was an eccentric man, who also built the round house 'his folly' at Gruting (again, discussed in Part One).
Leagarth House, built in 1901 by Sir William Watson Cheyne. Photo: © Fetlar Interpretive Centre
The young William Watson Cheyne, at Edinburgh University, an enthusiastic student to Lord Lister's became his House Surgeon, helping to develop an antiseptic solution to keep bacteria out of wounds. This really was pioneering work at the time and research which we are still grateful for today. The Fetlar Interpretive Centre has excellent displays on Sir William Watson Cheyne and opening hours are available on their website here.
Tresta is a place to note for its beauty and is situated in the heart of the island. The area is dominated by the spectacular beach with Papil water behind. When we went initially, the beach was narrow and rocky, but arriving in the early evening, a few hours later the beautiful sandy shores were revealed, offering a large expanse of beach with the spectacular cliffs of Lamb Hoga to the west. Nearby is the Kirk which was built in 1790 and has memorials to both the Nicolson's and Cheynes as well as several graves from the Second World War.
The Fetlar flit-boat at Ugasta.
One of the saddest sights for me, was the old Fetlar flit-boat at the Ugasta pier, just a stone's throw away from Brough Lodge. It lay in its noost above the high-water mark, still tied to the winch, as it was when it was hauled up for the last time.
The old Fetlar flit-boat at Ugasta pier.
Flit-boats were common in Shetland before the extensive road system was introduced, and sixerns (six-oared) like this were a common sight around Shetland shores, ferrying people, passengers and mail throughout the islands.
I found it quite poignant to see the knot, still holding the boat in place to the winch, secured against weather and tide, and I wondered whether the hands tying her up that last time knew that this would be her final resting place?
And on that note of reflection (it is a Sunday after all), I think I've said enough. Fetlar was a real treat and there is so much more to see, do and discover. I hope that this has given you a taste of the island and a reason to visit.
Hello, and welcome to my blog. I hope that you find what you're looking for, whether you are planning that perfect holiday or maybe you're from Shetland and looking for some inspiration. Hopefully, there is something here for everyone.