As we move into the New Year, it’s difficult not to feel as though we’ve been short-changed. We all liked to imagine that 2021 would be like hitting the reset and bring a fresh start, a line in the sand of sorts. Yet, we are still fighting the same struggles we were in 2020, and coronavirus is still an ever-present threat to the world.
Travel looks like it may well remain hampered into 2021 as restrictions continue and nations race to get mass-vaccinations rolled out as our health systems, as ever, bear the brunt of the coronavirus fallout.
I’ve received many emails looking to book tours for 2021 and, at present, my diary remains closed as the situation continues to change and develop on almost a daily basis. That’s not to say things won’t improve as the year wears on, but for now, I believe we are best to wait, dream and plan.
Sea swimming is a growing trend here with more and more people taking to the water and uploading their shivering selfies on social media. This year saw more people than ever embark on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day swims throughout Shetland, both with and without wetsuits for protection.
Sea swimming has many benefits and, for the hardy, the thrill of swimming in no more than a swimsuit is hard to beat. Immersion in cold water boosts the immune system, makes you feel euphoric – a natural high if you like. It is also said to improve circulation, reduce stress and improve mental health, so what’s not to like (other than the initial shock of cold water!).
Growing up in Shetland, we were in the sea all the time in the summer and we never had wetsuits, they weren’t readily available and were certainly not affordable. It was cold, and we were never in very long before we came, teeth chattering, up the beach in search of a warm towel and sandy sandwiches.
This blog is earlier in the week than usual but, let’s face it, who wants to read my blog on Christmas Day! – big thanks to you if you do!
To celebrate the 12 days of Christmas I thought I would share some of my blog archives with you. So, over the 12 days of Christmas, I will share a new (old) blog every day from the archive. It occurred to me that I’ve been writing a fortnightly blog for almost three years and there are many that you may have missed, not had time to read or you may be new to the blog so I hope this will give you a chance to read back and discover more.
I hope these will give you a deeper insight into life here and some holiday inspiration for when it’s safe to travel again.
It was funny going through all the old blogs, and amazing that there were a few I forgot I’d actually written. I’ve picked out a few of my favourites, your favourites, and ones that I hope will help with holiday planning (for when it's safe to do so again).
For those who don’t want to wait for a new instalment every day, I’ve summarised them below and I will share them on Facebook and Instagram throughout the 12 days of Christmas.
Folklore was a huge part of Shetland’s society and culture in pre-modern times. Many of the folktales have been written down and, although many have now been forgotten, they can still be found in books and literature.
The dramatic coastline and moorland expanses have given rise to a rich and deep-rooted culture of folklore, superstition and deeply-embedded traditions.
In the past, education, literature and access to news was limited, even within the isles. Travel for pleasure was almost unheard of, and a venture out into the neighbouring parish or district was a novelty. Friends and neighbours, particularly in winter, would gather together beside the fireside and share stories and tales of the past to occupy the long winter nights. This series of blogs will explore some of these stories.
This week, as we transition into December, I wanted to share something a bit different on the blog, and I wanted to tell you about a fantastic day out I had recently with Mike Finnie of Red Houss Shetland.
It pains me to say it, but with Christmas approaching, we’re all looking for that extra special gift, idea or experience and Mike’s jewellery making workshops make a fantastic gift. Choosing presents can be so tricky as we all have so much already, and it’s often hard not to buy things that are just adding to the layers of ‘stuff’ people already own. I like to try and choose unusual gifts; ones that support local businesses and are unique and meaningful.
There is nothing better than coming back from the beach with sandy pockets, burgeoning with gifts from the sea but, as with everything, we must collect responsibly and always ask, ‘how will my actions impact the natural world around me?’ We are all magpies; we search for treasure, scouring the shoreline for a glittering shell or a salt-encrusted sea-worn pebble. And that’s fine, as long as we do so responsibly.
Shetland’s shores are a veritable treasure trove where the discerning eye can pick out sea glass, precious stones, shells and, most highly-coveted of all, the elusive grottie buckie (cowrie shell), thought to bring luck and prosperity to the finder. It’s supposed to be good luck to carry one in your purse, so that’s precisely what sits in mine; alongside the loose change and crumpled receipts.
Tomorrow is hallowe’en, that time of the year when bairns go guising (trick or treating) brandishing neepy lanterns – not pumpkins, although we do carve these too. Anyone who has tried to carve out a neep (turnip) will know how much of a labour of love this is!
Hallowe’en is held on the eve of All Hallows’ Day, a Christian celebration dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows). The celebrations are punctuated with spooky tales and stories of ghosts, ghouls and paranormal activity.
Shetland is no stranger to ghostly tales; in fact, I spoke a lot about this on this week’s podcast with Alexa Fitzgibbon.
This week, I thought I would share a few ghost stories with you; so draw up a chair, dim the lights and pull a blanket around your shoulders because things might get a little spooky …
A fire pit made using stones from historic buildings at Fethaland. Photo: David Murray
This blog is a little reminder, and hopefully a helpful guide to accessing the outdoors safely and responsibly in Shetland. I first published this in the Shetland Times, our weekly newspaper, to raise awareness amongst locals. The message remains important to everyone visiting Shetland, particularly those who hope to access some of our many beauty spots.
People are being urged to get-to-know the Scottish Outdoor Access Code before heading into the countryside after what has been described as “a crazy summer” by one westside crofter.
Shetland’s top beauty spots have seen more traffic than Piccadilly Circus this summer as locals, lifted from lockdown, took the opportunity to visit places such as Westerwick, Fethaland, Muckle Roe’s scenic area and Uyea.
The Burn of Valayre, Delting, Shetland.
It strikes me that despite having children, I’ve never really written about things to see and do with them, so in this blog, I’ll share a short walk to do with kids. Many of the trails that I write about are long and involve carrying tired legs for a part, or all, of the way – great if you want to build muscle, not so great if you want to relax and soak in the scenery.
Here in Shetland, we are just heading into the second week of the October holidays, where more and more, as parents, we begin to run out of ideas for things to do to occupy our little monkeys. Hopefully this blog will give you a new idea and inspire you to pack a picnic and head out for a few much-needed hours outside.
Over one hundred years have passed since the First World War was declared. Much of the coverage is often focused on the courage and bravery of the men who fought for King and country. The following is the final part of a three-piece research piece which I wrote a few years ago for the Wool Week Journal. It highlights the knitting that Shetland women did to aid the war effort. This essay will consider the economic impact of war on the knitwear industry in Shetland and conclude the last of these three in-depth pieces. If you missed part one and two, you can read them in my previous two blog posts.
Shetland women, as we discovered last week, made comfort packages containing non-perishable food items, tobacco, and clothing – especially knitted garments such as socks, scarves, balaclavas, cardigans and gloves.
Thomas Manson, the editor of the Shetland News, said that 'in this work, the women of Shetland set a magnificent example' determined 'to do all they could to make the lot of the sailors and soldiers more comfortable.'
A little about Laurie
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.