Julfirande.

Att fira jul utomlands är förenat med ett visst mått hemlängtan och ett något större mått funderande över hur göra det. Alltså fira jul utan att de välkända traditionerna omger en.

Julafton är ju bara dagen före JULDAGEN här,  jag jobbade halv dag och Jeppe fick sina rostfläckar ompysslade. På eftermiddagen bjöd vi våra hyresvärdar på glögg och pepparkakor och  julkänslan började  närma sig.

Skype-kontakt med alla därhemma, både bild och ljud, förstärkte känslan att det faktiskt är jul!

Efter det åt jag och Tim en julaftonsmiddag som inte saknade just något. Bordet dukades med inte bara skinka utan även sill och lax och annat gott.

Juldagen visade sig bli en vacker dag och vi bestämde oss för att fira den utomhus. Naturligtvis efter att ha fikat och öppnat julklappar på morgonen. Årets julklapp för oss var böcker åt Tim och 10-kort på spinning åt mig.

Efter att ha packat matsäck och stuvat in oss i Jeppe for vi till Quendale där det finns en 1.6 km lång strand som jag ännu inte utforskat. Solen sken, vindarna var för en gång skull milda och gradantalet kanske åtta plus.

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Vi strosade fram och tillbaka länge och väl, spanade efter säl och fick tyvärr syn på en död ungsäl som trutar och andra fåglar festat på.

Efter att vi festat på laxsmörgåsar och kaffe drog vi vidare mot en gammal Nato fästning  längst ner på en av Shetlands sydspetsar. Promenerade förbi betongruinen till fästning och fick Fitfull Head i sikte, där klipporna stupar brant ner i havet.

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Dessa små öar utslängda i havet har verkligen begåvats med ett fantastiskt landskap.

När solen började gå ner i havet och vi sett oss mätta på allt vände vi nosen hemåt. Bestämde oss för att undersöka om något matställe möjligen var öppet i Lerwick och “lo and behold” kinaresurangen var öppen och dessutom full med uppklädda julfirande matgäster. Trots att vi inte bokat bord och dessutom var något udda klädda bereddes vi plats i ett hörn.

Så vår juldag avslutades med stekt anka som sveptes in i tunna pannkakor med purjo, gurka och god sås. Tim som körde fick nöja sig med en delikat citronsorbet till efterrätt medan jag slog på stort och drack Irish Coffe.

Så blev vår juldag när “traditioner” som kyla och snö inte finns tillgängliga. En mycket trevlig dag och jag hoppas att även er juldag blev en fin sådan.

God fortsättning!

Have a Festive…

…season! According to my personal observations, this is the more common way of, for we who come from another English speaking culture, saying Merry Christmas on Shetland. Naturally, there are small signs that can be observed with the salutation, Merry Christmas, but the majority of written greetings use the word “festive” in it.

If I would open up the Shetland Times and glance over the advertisements from businesses, shops and council departments that announce Christmas closings and hours, I find the occasional “Merry Christmas and Happy New Years” embedded in the ads. Perhaps a British language tradition, but I feel this is slightly suspicious and originates from a dominating American influence. (Americans do have trouble feeling comfortable with other languages than their own, or…?) Ah…well!

But I became thrilled with seeing “Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year” sticking up among the advertisers. Christmas seems to mean festivities, or a fun and joyous occasion, and these words can be seen most everywhere. In newspapers, in stores, on signs…a shade more dominating than “merry” and I’ll admit, I sort of like that word. It’s wishing an actively joyous period or season, but is neutral and fits most everybody’s feelings.

Then, being from the “independent colonies of the British Empire” myself, “Merry” this and “Merry” that is a little worn to my ears and eyes. I enjoy seeing or hearing something different like “happy” and “festive”. A word that would be connected with, in this case “season”, naturally would be Holidays; like “Happy Holidays”, but to my way of thinking, this “holiday” is too connected with British vacations; “going on holiday”. And, thought I’m sure some Brits are off on “holiday” to New Zealand, Thailand or Spain, the “festive season” of the year sounds better to me.

But, however it is written or said, the hearts of those who use Christmas greetings are still one and the same. So, let me use my heart and wish everyone a Very Merry Festive Season Christmas and a Happy Prosperous New Year…from Shetland!

knittingchristmaslady01 Photo: A storefront window in Lerwick during the festive season

victoriapiervy002Photo: While Christmas shopping was going on, Victoria Pier guests gave their own festive season of lights

Bristvaror och julgranar.

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Så här såg  grönsakshyllan ut i vår annars så välfyllda Coop affär. Även andra hyllor gapade halvtomma. Oj, vad shetlänningarna julshoppar tänkte vi. Det tog oss en liten stund att lista ut att det inte var orsaken…

Det slog oss till slut, vi är ju på en ö och det hårda vädret har medfört flera  inställda färjeturer. Färjor som annars är fyllda av lastbilar och containrar med mat och andra förnödenheter.

Men orc-vindarna har mojnat och det är gott hopp om att färjan kan komma i morgon bitti, enligt sin vanliga tidtabell.

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På Coop kan man också köpa julgranar, små förkrymta tall-liknande gran-spret  insvepta i nät. Nej tack, inget för oss som ju är  bort- skämda grankonsumenter.

Så min Burra-björn Alistar fick några järnekskvistar med rött pynt att titta på. Faktiskt ett riktigt trevligt gransubstitut tycker både jag och han.

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Om ni pekar på denna bild ser ni hur charmigt Lerwicks centrum ser ut . Trots att julgranen har ett staket runt sig, varför vet vi inte riktigt.

Denna gran är den andra i ordningen, den första bröts rakt av på mitten i den förra stormen!

The Shortest Shetland Day…

…of the year and all one can write about is the weather. Must be the number one topic Shetlanders, and many more, can speak of, as the sun crosses over the islands on its lowest journey of the year.

And, yes, we did have sun today. Above 66° longitude, the day in northern Sweden is just a few hours of blue twilight before the sun tuckers out, sighs and quickly plunges deeper under the horizon. Had it even had the time to be faintly noticed by the frigid occupants of the north? Doubtful!

Yet, Shetland had clear skies this morning. The isles could wink upwards and easily break out a smile seeing that the sun was definitely in its sky. Not under the horizon. Not just a hair teasingly over the horizon. It was a good 15° or more over it and stoutly bragging its presence. The temperature was a blossoming +9° Celsius in places and the shortest day of Shetland started out beautifully…until about midday.

It was at this time that the angry, roaring and infamous Atlantic winds came in from the southeast. Like weather Orcs, the clouds streaked forward across the sky, occasionally consuming the sun and plowing out a path that the wind charged along, whipping up the ocean waves and spitting out froth in its wake.

Force 7. Then, force 8 followed with force 9. Around two in the afternoon, gusts of a possible force 10 sunk its teeth into the water due west of Hamnavoe. The waves smashed onto the outside barrier reef only to be spat across the land and waterfall downwards on the eastern bank, like a broad river of salty rapids, only to recruit again with the water in the boiling bay beyond. So quickly did the wind smash into Shetland today, that some said it was the worst of the season, as they gazed through west-facing windows in the shelter of their houses.

And, what do two north dwellers do? Do the stay home? Do they retain shelter in their “granny flat” and no brave the winds? No! They were no scared of the weather Orcs. They jumped into Jeppe and headed westwards to visit good friends and had an immensely fun day visiting Papil, giving small seasonal tidings and wishing a very Merry Christmas. A super day, as Shetlanders would describe it.

But, afterwards, when the winds were at their worst, what did our two north dwellers do? Did they frantically head back to the flat and its dry comfort? Absolutely not! They headed for their wonderful Meal Beach and went down to the shoreline, now completely covered with waves. Almost grasping for handholds, so as not to be blown backwards from the wind and swept across the mud of the hillsides or roll across the grassy fields (as one or two sheep had observantly done) they reached the frothy beach and… searched…for a piece… of weathered rope!

Because of the wind and the cutting rain, no photographic documentation can reveal the adventures these two north dwellers had on “shortest day of the year”. They almost giggled with glee. Good day! Great friends! And, unusually stormy afternoon winds to playfully go to the beach in! Ah, well…who would’ve thought?

PS- Five minutes ago as of this writing, we had thunder and lightning in the Shetland skies. Cool?

Talking about Shetland climate…
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Photo: Although not connected with the text, an example of a Shetland garden and it’s green state for December…
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…and the garden can still boast of a few roses still

A Potpourri of Shetland Events…

…since we’ve been without broadband for several weeks. This problem was self-inflicted and not due to any weather conditions.

Shetland Wool
Over the last several years, quality control has become an expected and commonplace routine for producers. Shetland wool goes through a rigid quality control in its own special way when, each year with local agriculture shows, inspections and grading of wool are carried out and the results exhibited for the public. But, afterwards, when the wool is going to be used to produce sweaters or the intricate Shetland shawls, how do these things get the seal of approval?

The best way found over the years is to have the knitters themselves gather together and judge knitted products. Each year, a solemn meeting is held in Shetland where knitters, through an organization called The Shetland Knitters, Spinners, Weavers and Dyers Guild, meet and take out their enlarging glasses to do a thorough inspection of sweaters, shawls and other hand-knitted products to judge if these are to the standards and expectations set up from hundreds of years of knitting.

So it was again this year. After each participating example is put under the enlarging glass and critically scrutinized by the guild, the public is then allowed to see for themselves the superb and awesome quality of knitted Shetland handcraft. This system of self-examination seems to strengthen knitting handcraft for generations to come.

Eco-Wool Producers
When confronted with a choice of “organic” or “non-organic” food and products, it is often a puzzle and search between an array of different symbols and markings describing different degrees of environmentally sound/unsound products. But, one thing that can be easy to identify with Shetland products is the almost total organic lifestyle Shetland has.

The last five months have shown that sheep, a base product of Shetland where for every Shetlander there are 13 sheep, peacefully roam the grassy crofts at will and eat grass that more or less is never plowed, seeded nor fertilized. So, the lambs that are sold or the wool fleece that one buys are free of any additives that would be expected for…hmmm…other parts of the European Union. You can probably trust that any Shetland home grown product is “chemical free” and you purchase a superb quality that would make…hmmm…Bryssels jealous.

Photo:Shetland Organic Producers’ Group exhibition at wool and knitting awards

One particular group that is representative for organically grown Shetland wool is Shetland Organic Producers’ Group and who have an official EU stamp of approval for their products and methods of production. This is great and I can highly recommend them. If you’re not “sheepish”, contact ’em and they probably can ship genuine organic Shetland wool or yarn to ya. If you’re a great knitter, why settle with something less than Shetland wool?

Personally, I cannot understand why Sweden, or any other Nordic country, would want to import other lamb meat than Shetland lamb; closer with shipping and organically raised. So, allow me to coin a new marketing phrase… Shetland croft products are organic…by nature! (Gotta get me a bumper sticker with this.)

Halloween in Shetland

Yes, All Saints Day came to Shetland. We loved it! The pumpkins were carved, sweets were in supply and small ghosts, goblins and other strange creatures or princesses came to our (former) place of domicile. There were no special times to do “Trick or Treating”. The night was beautifully…Halloweenish. It was “horridly” great fun. Judge yourself by these photos…

Photo: The Great Pumpkin of Shetland

Photo: Really scary visitors!

…and, a few more from Shetland…
Photo 1: Lerwick “Skyline” Pan

Photo 2: Lerwick Downtown- Market Cross Pan with snow

Photo 3:Lerwick looking east with Clickimin Leisure Center to right

Photo 4: A wintery Scalloway, Shetland

Photo 5: Northlink Ferries and Holmsgarth Ferry Terminal- Lerwick, Shetland

It May Appear…

…that we’ve been snowed-in since Halloween. Actually, we’ve been without broadband all of November and, although we have had a couple of days of gorgeous wintery Shetland weather, we will be up and running with new information and insights soon. Until then, enjoy the pictures…

Photo: Gulberwick looking eastwards towards Bressy

Photo: Walking a snowy Meal Beach