In Days Gone By
The Shetland Times (2021)
Buy it here
In Days Gone By, Charlie Simpson’s latest book is a newly published collection of essays that Charlie has written over the years and published in the Shetland Times newspaper. Across 20 pieces, Charlie covers much of 20th-century life in Shetland, from salt herring and wartime sinkings to developing the islands’ infrastructure and services.
We all have Christmas traditions – those things that we insist on doing, just to add to the Christmas "to-do" list. I'm no baker, but every year I like to make gingerbread, oatcakes and mince pies. I've shared my oatcake recipe before, and this year I thought I'd share my recipe for gingerbread.
I've no idea where this recipe came from, it's handwritten in my recipe book so is likely plagiarised from someone beyond me! Anyway, it's tried and tested, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Christmas in Shetland is something I’m asked about time and time again. What does Christmas in Shetland look like? What traditions do you have? What do you eat, and so on. And, to be honest – it looks a lot like Christmas all over the world, and certainly throughout the UK. We have the John Lewis advert, Wham, Buble and the great hunking turkey on the day.
We’ve lost so many of our Christmas traditions over the years, and I’ve sat agonising over how to sugar coat this and make it sound less like an accusation or something that blame can be assigned to. The truth is, it’s modernisation, and it happens the world over. Small island communities may feel it more acutely because so many of our traditions are still bound up within living memory – or are still practised by some. Change comes nonetheless, and there’s no stopping it.
With Christmas just around the corner, I wanted to share a selection of fantastic Shetland gift ideas with you. I always try to support local businesses as much as possible and try to buy unique, one of a kind gifts.
Over 100 years have passed since the guns of the First World War fell silent over the battlefields of Europe. This week, I always think about the terrible loss of life – in both the First War and all wars.
I wrote extensively about the First World War after making it a personal mission during the centenary years to research and remember those who fought for King and country during that bloody war.
In the past, I’ve shared; a family story and a recipe for Trench Cake, a tragic and harrowing story of one Shetland soldier, killed at Arras, and a three-part series that looked at the role of women in the war who kept their minds and hands busy as they knitted woollen garments for troops overseas.
This year, to mark Remembrance Day and pay homage to those who gave so much for our freedoms, I thought I would share a book review of a recent publication based in Shetland and focused on the First World War period.
St Kilda is a weather-beaten archipelago off the west coast of Scotland, some 40 miles from the Outer Hebrides. The cluster of islands sits alone in the vast expanse of the unforgiving North Atlantic. As Britain’s most remote point, it feels like the final frontier, a wild and foreboding place that looms from the horizon, echoing noisily with the sound of hundreds of thousands of seabirds. This is the land of the seabird. Yet until 1930, it was home to a population of resilient islanders who had occupied the islands for some 2,000 years. Evidence of the lives they carved out on this remote outpost of the British Isles are scattered all over the islands today.
For visitors to Shetland, there are usually several requirements on their wish lists, including; scenery, wildlife and archaeology. The following walk is a fantastic way to explore all three of these on a moderate three-mile walk.
For this walk, we walked to the Burraness Broch on the island of Yell. Yell is just a short hop across Yell Sound on the modern inter-island ferry. The crossing takes about 15 minutes, and passengers can stand on the upper deck, enjoying panoramic views across the sound, past the uninhabited islands of Bigga and Samphrey. Yell itself is around 17 miles long and seven miles wide, boasting large expanses of uninterrupted moorland, stunning beaches and breathtaking coastal walks.
You know that feeling, as the days start to change and the seasons begin to switch, it feels as though we’re falling into autumn at freefall speed. That’s when I anxiously try to squeeze in as much as possible, squeezing those last drops out of summer as if I were squeezing a lemon.
August is a month that makes me uneasy; it feels like the best of the summer has passed. The flowers are spent and shrivelled on their once-proud stems, the colours in the landscape begin to mute, and the sun that hung suspended in an eternal summer sky through June and July drifts lower in the sky as the day slowly gives way to night once more.
Yet, real poetry comes with August and an urgency to tick off all those things you wanted to do in summer. June and July are like a high-octane ride, but August forces us to slow down and we appreciate the little things in nature so much more, as we know they are drawing to a close for another year, to return again on the wind, in another season.
Still, my mind begins to wander into the months ahead, towards autumn and winter, and as I blow the dust from the candles that have been left unlit since spring, and fill the basket with fire kindling once more, I reflect on the summer’s adventures.
The following walk stopped me in my tracks as I considered the tragic loss of life that took place on a lonely and remote hillside in the heart of Yell, Shetland’s largest North Isle.
A few months ago, during the school’s May long weekend, we headed north to the most northerly island of Unst to stay at Noosthamar – a picturesque self-catering holiday home overlooking the sandy shores of Burrafirth.
Unst is a two-ferry hop from Mainland Shetland and has a community of about 650 people. Getting to Unst is easy on the inter-island ferries that serve the isles and are operated by the Shetland Islands Council.
At the start of the school summer holidays, I compiled a summer holiday bucket list, basically a list of things that I’d like to do with the bairns over the seven-and-a-half week school break. Now, here we are, almost at the end of the holidays, and we’ve ticked off hardly any of the things on this list. Granted, we did have two weeks on Harris where we ticked off their bucket-list experiences, but that said, the holidays are passing quickly, and before we know it, it’ll be back to 9 am starts and early bedtimes once more.
One of the experiences on the bucket list was a rock pooling session at Leebitten, Sandwick. This is arguably one of the best spots to explore rock pools in Shetland, and rock pooling is great fun for both children and adults alike as you’re never quite sure what you might find. RSPB Shetland often do rockpooling sessions, and it’s worth keeping an eye on their Facebook page for more information about these days.
Hello from Laurie
Hello, and welcome to my blog. I hope that you find what you're looking for - whether you're planning that perfect holiday or maybe you're from Shetland and looking for some 'home' inspiration. Hopefully, there is something here for everyone.