Jeppe Has Come Home!

In a recent blog, I explained how Jeppe the Jeep was re-registering to a U.K. vehicle; re-becoming a British road subject again. Refreshing memories, Jeppe was first registered into the British system and grew up in London. After tooling around this exciting city, and coming into Swedish ownership, Jeppe was an export/import item and became Swedish. Here, he handled the traffic of southern Sweden and tasted the Stockholm asphalt until his owner decided to let him go.

With our adventure plans, I purchased Jeppe and off we went to the excitement and challenges of new adventures, first in Lapland and later through Norway, the ferries and finally putting his paws on Shetland turf…uh…roads. But, foreign cars can only be kept foreign for 6 months within a 12 month period in the U.K. Jeepe was looking forward to “coming home” again! (Is there a Hamefarin for older Jeep Cherokee’s?)

jeppebritish03 “Now I’m Swedish…”

U.K. Vehicle Importation
The process requires a dedicated amount of determination to shuffle through the bureaucracy and put up with U.K. paperwork. The government department that deals with importing a vehicle is the DVLA. They take care of all procedures and are similar to those expected from Sweden’s “Vägverket”.

The basic requirements are …basic. The vehicle must show British insurance coverage for at the least “Third Party, Fire & Theft”. Comparatively, this is a sort of “halvförsäkring”. Then, a vehicle must be U.K. MOT approved, which Jeepe became after a little touch-up welding on his body. A paper from the HM Customs & Revenues must be filled in for importing vehicles. If the car is older than 10 years, customs and taxes don’t have to be paid. Finally, there is a barrage of papers to be filled in. All of these papers, with the exception of insurance, MOT and customs, can be had in a package from a DVLA office.

After filling in every necessary detail, and most likely several hours of knocking your head on the kitchen table, the vehicle registration application can be sent in. Now comes the tricky parts.

jeppebritish02“…and now I’m not!”

If the vehicle is coming from the EC and was not earlier registered in the U.K., a registration fee of £55 must be paid, together with the yearly road tax. Road tax for Jeepe, being an older car and not engaged with the new CO2 emission rates, was £185 per year. This is paid via a postal check, which costs £10 to be made out. The whole letter must be sent through registered mail, of which it takes two special registered mail envelopes costing 2 x £5 = £10. Earlier, you shelled out £53 for the MOT and, if there was complications and the vehicle had to be re-checked within the 10 working day limitation, it could be another £20 or so more.

Why 2 registered envelopes?

The DVLA requires ALL papers including ALL documents concerning the vehicle to be sent in original condition. No copies are allowed! Just originals! Together with the postal check (for those with a calculator on your desktop, you can add up the costs) you must supply DVLA with identification proving you are who you profess to be. If you don’t happen to have a U.K. paper driver’s license or similar ID, you submit your passport…in original, together with a bank statement or utility bill as proof of address.

That’s why the two registered envelopes. The whole application with papers and ID must be with registered mail, and the return of such, to safeguard not getting lost along the way. Remember…the passport…in original!

The process is fairly quick, I must say. Including mail transport, it was only 4 working days until I received the official papers. In these, is the approval of registration letter, the paid road tax decal, for the inside of the front windscreen, and an official document stating what the car’s plate number is. Actual license plates can be bought over the counter at any approved garage or parts store (£22) with the correct document and ID.

jbautoparts01Photo: British registration numbers, or license plates, can be bought over the counter at approved stores. Here- J&B Autoparts, Lerwick

britishvehiclelicense01Photo: Freshly made U.K. license plates

Back to Jeppe
Jeppe is a very happy Jeep, now! Not only did his carer do a good job with the paperwork but, since he was a British road subject before, he got his old plate number back! Isn’t that cool? Well, Jeppe thought so!

So, if you want to import a used motor vehicle from the EC to the U.K., this blog may give some pointers and good advice. At least, Jeppe hopes so. Jeppe has come home and is a happy Jeep…even if he’s limited!

Welcome back Jeppe!

jeppebritish01“Lawdy, Lawdy…I’s lookin’ gooood!”

Jeppe Is Safety Checked…

…in order to turn him back into being a British resident. Jeppe originally was British in his earlier life, while cruising the streets of London. A Swedish family had owned him, while they temporarily worked in the U.K. capital for several years, and then brought him to Sweden and registered Swedish. Because of changing circumstances, the family decided to sell Jeppe and that’s when we became owners. We needed Jeppe for our adventures on Shetland.

jeppemot_01Photo: Jeppe gets a lift at the MOT station in Lerwick, Shetland

British vehicle laws allow EU visitors to have their vehicles on English soil for maximum 6 months in a 12 month period. Jeppe now has to be “reborn” to a British subject again. To do this is a minor wall of bureaucratic procedures to contend with. Besides filling in registration papers and a custom declaration, for importing vehicles to Great Britain, Jeppe must be safety checked and approved for this country’s regulations and demands.

So, this blog could cover Christmas time or New Years or there of. Instead, Jeppe has been to MOT inspection, which is basically similar to “bil besiktning” in Sweden, or safety checked.

Jeppe had a time just before Christmas. He did not pass! Apparently, two rust hole had come about underneath him and these had to be welded. So, they holes were quality welded by the fabulous Burra Motor Repairs and a new time was to be made. Unfortunately, Christmas and the festive season put a stop to Jeppe’s anxious ambitions for approval and it wasn’t until Jan. 5 that Jeppe received his approved MOT certificate.

jeppemot_02Photo: Two rust holes stopped Jeppe’s immediate MOT approval and a welding job was needed.

Now, he’s waiting to receive confirmation of British car insurance and then he’ll send in a package of papers and forms, all must be original and not copies, to the DVLA offices in Aberdeen. Hopefully, this will go quickly and we’ll keep everyone informed about Jeppe’s British return.

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

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…

Photo: Although not connected with the text, an example of a Shetland garden and it’s green state for December…
…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

Shetland Weather Update…

…again! Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it. These last two weeks have been windy with gale to strong gale force winds and with a climax of “hurricane” winds. I could say, “Finally. Some decent Shetland weather.”

Photo: A tired little harbor seal resting from stormy seas

Surprisingly similar to mountain storms, there are some affects that are different. Several weeks ago, while on a very windy walk, we found a harbour seal lying on Bannaminn Beach. It was alive, but taken, and our first thoughts were that it was hurt; perhaps dying. We spoke with a local resident and, with the question of what should be done, he just said to leave it alone. We took the advice and continued.

The next morning, we went back to the beach expecting to find a seal cadaver near the water’s edge. We didn’t find it and supposed it was washed backed out to sea. But, we met the man and he explained that the seal took itself back out in the water soon after we had left it. It probably was just up on the beach to rest from the frothy windswept waters.

Since then, we’ve noticed the odd seal bobbing in high waves near beaches when it was very windy and the sea smashed against the shores. This last weekend was not exception. As we took walks, we saw the occasional seal in the surf. Just amazing how seals have adapted so well to bad weather and high waves and almost seem to have fun with this.

Photo: Playing tag with the waves at St. Ninians Beach

But, Shetland had heavy winds this last weekend. Seals or no seals, the waves were impressing and winds blew a body around as they pleased. These last few days, Shetland’s harbors have been full of safety seeking ships and boats sitting patiently for the winds to blow over and to return to their work. The winds created problems with a short power outage and boats have needed assistance. Vehicles had difficulties with staying on the roads. (see- Shetland News)

The wind has now died down to a normalcy. The weather is recruiting new surprises and it is expected to snow tonight. Ah…a new Shetland experience! (see- Shetland Weather Forecast)

Photo 1: Eshaness shoreline on Tuesday, as winds become angrier.

Photo 2: A Shetland pony asking us how we’re doing with the winds.

Photo 3: Ships finding shelter in the harbor at Symbister, Whalsay

Another Shetland Beach…

…that gives a long lasting impression to the islands is found at Quendale. On the southern mainland coastline, and not at all far from Sumburgh Airport, this gem of sandy beach stretches over an English mile (1.6 km) across the Bay of Quendale and is easliy accessed, not by the footpaths from A 970 nor the village of Hestingott, but via a short distance south of the quaint Quendale Mill Musuem.

Photo: The Quendale Beach stretches a mile along the bay

Historically, Quendale Beach wasn’t always as it looks like today. Over two hundred years ago, there is documentation of a sandy Sahara-like landscape that progressively fingered itself more and more inland each year. Due to the southerly Shetland winds, the sand covered good pasture land, making this area useless. There are accounts of how this “desert” was ruining the Quendale Kirk and its nearby graveyard. But, more about this later.

Apparently, the lairds at the time realized that, if nothing was to be done about the problem, they would have less and less land for pasture for their sheep. Greedily, they had grass planted and tended to for years in a successful attempt with stopping the sand from going further and saving precious pasturage for themselves.

Photo: Before planting grass, Quendale Beach stretched inland giving an impression of a desert

Today, the area behind Quendale Beach still show the scars of sand dunes, now covered with grass, and gives a small reflection to how the area may have been like years ago. The beach is delightful and this, as well as the Quendale Mill Museum, is a recommended place to visit when in Shetland.

Photo: Quendale Beach

How Does Shetland Salmon…

…get to my plate? A question not many of us have, as we may be seated in front of a plate of “Grilled Salmon with Hot Cheese Roulade”, “Char-broiled Salmon Steaks” or a classic “Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict. Still, having lived a landlocked life, it’s a question I’ve had in my head the many times I picked a plastic-wrapped piece of pink salmon meat out from the grocery cooler and toss it into my shopping cart.

Shetland salmon farm in North Atlantic waters

Shetland salmon farm in North Atlantic waters

The world’s wild salmon supply has been slowly depreciating through the years and has necessitated an increase in salmon farming. Already in the 1960’s, salmon farming was being introduced as a new form of rural business with new employment opportunities in Scotland and saw its potential grow in the mid-eighties. Parallel to this, and most recently, salmon was being hailed as a food high in vitamins and proteins and has become a recommended food for better health.

The fish first hatch as eggs, then grow to smolts in a freshwater environment the first 10-15 months. Later, they are placed in saltwater cages another 12-18 months to grow to a desirable harvesting weight of 3-4 kg. According to the Scottish Agriculture College, Scotland produces over 130,000 tons of salmon every year at a value of an estimated £300 million.

The Shetland Salmon Farming Association started in the mid 1980’s. Statistics show a membership of 46 salmon farms and 6 smolt hatcheries directly employing over 370 people. In 2003, Shetland farms produced over 59,000 tons of salmon at a value over £90 million.

Photo: Shetland salmon awaiting harvesting in saltwater cages

A Practical Experience

But, How does salmon really get to my plate? Recently, I had a first-hand educational opportunity to meet the people, see the work involved and understand some risks taken with harvesting salmon in the North Atlantic waters of Shetland. Together with a good friend, I headed out for a “something entirely different” adventure and found out how life as a salmon farmer can really be.

After an early 25 minute boat ride, the crew came to a barge with some 10 salmon cages. The barge was like a floating factory with its own electricity, powered by diesel generators, several silos full of many tons of fish food, dressing room, kitchen and all the equipment necessary to lift, haul or repair in a self-sustainable working atmosphere. Outside the windows were the fish cages, each covered with a thin netting to keep the birds from getting in. The barge had a modern computerized feeding center.

Photo:Underwater TV monitors reveal how the fish react during feeding

Using boats for short transportation rounds, the crew prepared for a harvesting this day. One man stayed inside the barge to direct and control feeding the cages through fingers of polyethylene pipes, floating out to each cage, and to keep a safe eye over the crew working outside.

Harvesting required the crew to stretch out a skimming net in the cage collecting some of the 54,000 fish. This net is a Shetland invention and allows a natural selectivity of sizes. With this done, the harvesting ship came and, with an large hose, sucked fish into its hold, passing a computerized counter which immediately weighed, counted and tallied this information on a computer. This way, the harvester knew how many and how heavy his load would be in order to fulfill the previously agreed sales contract. In our case this day, we had to skim the cage twice to deliver the needed amount.

Photo: A special Shetland net is used for a natural selection of fish

What I learned was that, while fish are harvested, they are introduced into colder water. The ocean water had a temperature of approx. +12C but, by putting them into +5C water, the fish move around less and are easier to handle later at the fish factory. I also learned that “consumer shelf-life” for fish, starts at the moment of harvesting. So it is imperative that fish are taken to the factory, cleaned, packed and distributed as quickly as possible for consumers (me) to get them as fresh as consumer laws allow.

Everyone in the crew must have a food and hygiene certification, since they are handling a consumable foodstuff. The fish must sustain a high consumer quality. Therefore, fish farming is constantly finger sensitive to disease and parasite control and this adds a greater responsibility on the shoulders of the crew and harvester. An example of this was when crew members immediately walked through a disinfecting bath before boarding the boat in the morning.

Then, I experienced and understood the risks involved for the crew. Immediately before leaving shore, life jackets and wet weather clothing were downed and kept on. With this particular cage, the crew worked on two polyethylene pipes about 80 cm apart and, with only one mistake, could slip into the ocean. I can personally guarantee that walking on this made me very very nervous. Especially knowing that the water was cold, 30 meters deep and risk of getting caught in netting seemed apparent.

Photo: A piece of kelp, poor boots or a wrong step working hurriedly can quickly put a worker into the sea

Fish feeding must be done daily and in all weather. One of the crew warned of the weather conditions. Once, when he was working another cage, a large ocean swell came from behind and hit him waist high. He held onto the cage for dear life so as not to be swept away. Thinking of the notorious Shetland gales, these men were becoming my saltwater heroes.

Summarizing, I learned a lot about how my salmon gets to my plate. I thoroughly enjoyed being with the crew that day and I have gained great respect for them working cages, the risks they take and their unique knowledge and experience. My experience was so positive and the crew members so Shetland friendly that I could think of going back and helping another day. An experience that will be considered every time I buy salmon at the groceries!

Photo: As I hang onto the cage, the harvester ship sails away with its load

Ocean Garbage…

…is a fact that inlanders hardly are aware of. Possibly, when visiting a coastline during vacation, through a television program or the isolated article in the local newspaper, people living away from salty shores may get a small insight of all the refuse and waste that exists in the oceans. It wasn’t until I started walking the shores along Shetland that the variety and amount of floating scrap became apparent, and I earlier wouldn’t or couldn’t conceive how the world is polluting the seas until coming to this tiny group of Atlantic islands.

And, the garbage is very real! While taking walks along a nearby part of Shetland’s shores, the beachcomber comes out in me. Eyes pointed downwards, I search the deposits of freshly washed up kelp for some special seashell, piece of wood, hunk of amber or rare maritime artifact but, after a short time, realize that a large percentage of beached debris is manmade polyethylene.

The garbage becomes more apparent as I glance higher up along the beach or shore, where many years of accumulated crap can be found. It’s mind-boggling with the ropes and netting material, plastic containers and water bottles that are pushed on shore or slowly disappearing into the sands. One distressing thought is the seals, dolphins or birds that can, and do, get tangled into this junk.

Occasionally, I can consider who’s to blame for this mess. It isn’t Shetland’s fault that somebody else’s garbage blows up on its shoreline! It’s hardly the fault of the people visiting the beaches, though in some cases the odd soda can or forgotten shoe can be had. And, can one really blame the ships or fishing vessels out to sea, when fighting heavy winds as their fishing nets are torn away or loose equipment wash overboard?

If I remember right, about three times more garbage is thrown into the seas than the amount of fish taken. And, there is so much debate about EU fishing quotas and so little said about keeping the ocean clean…? It just seems baffling. Where are the champions for keeping our oceans clean?
Photo:Meal Beach

In an attempt to suggest something positive, I want to highlight that Shetland sets aside time and money to clean-up its shores. Each year, residents are invited to participate in a road and shore clean-up and literally hundreds take time to handpick scrap off of the beaches etc. The council provides and allocates funds for pick-up and hauling of the collected garbage.

I think this is commendable! Both the council and especially the volunteers need to be patted on their backs for this great effort. Unfortunately, the crap keeps blowing in from the seas at a regular pace and almost defeats the purpose.

Think, if more and more of us would refuse using non-degradable polyethylene where possible? One idea that I try to practice, is to pick-up some beach scrap and carry it home for disposal each time I go for a walk. Think if everyone did this as they visit Shetland’s shoreline? Could be a great habit and good idea?