Cruise Ships to Shetland…

…have become more abundant these last few years and are a meaningful source of income for Lerwick. Today, one of the behemoth-styled cruise ships came into Lerwick port, or rather anchored itself in the middle of Bressey Sound, because it was too large to dock anywhere else. As we drove into town this morning, the smoke-stack on this monster was higher than the houses on Hillhead, the highest hill of central Lerwick.

CruiseShipLerwick01Photo: Cruise ship arrives in Lerwick

I’m completely convinced that this method of touring has become popular and passenger rolls have increased with each sailing. For Shetland, and especially the small town merchants of Shetland’s largest city, they provide a full till of cash that is dumped by passengers anxious to buy native wares and services. If I’m not too wrong, this season will have brought in close to 50 cruise ships of various sizes and are very important for Shetland’s commerce. This particular cruise ship, the Costa Magica, had about 2000 passengers, or about 25% of the population of Lerwick.

CruiseShipWelcoming02Photo: Each passenger is welcomed to Shetland with traditional music and a warm handshake

One intriguing event that caught my eye, as I parked Jeppe on Victoria Pier parking lot, was how Shetland welcomed these passengers onshore and to Shetland. Since the ship was so large, a series of smaller boats worked in shuttle, transporting passengers between the main vessel and Albert Wharf. As the came onshore, Shetland had arranged for local musicians to play traditional music and a local personality to shake everyone’s hand and personally welcome them to Shetland. Great PR, isn’t it?

Seaways vs Airways
Due to recent air carrier price increases, loss of creature comforts on flights, intense and almost “paranoiac” complications with check-ins and security at airports and the ever-present “what-goes-up-could-come-down-unwantingly” sensation on monster airplanes, I personally feel that it would be positive to observe an increase in ocean travel.

CruiseShipLerwick02Photo: The ferry to Bressey is drawfed by the size of a modern and impersonal “monster” cruise ship

But, does everyone really want to pay for 4 story shopping malls, outdoor swimming pools, activity leaders, casino machines, unknown stand-up comedians and entertainers, elevators to huge restaurants and having to hold a small map in hand so as not to get lost on board? Does one really enjoy a 6-9 hour marathon run to see popular points of interest in a world famous city? Why not simple cruises that give more time to explore foreign ports and harbors in exciting new countries and less time wasting on the ship?

Is it the destination or the journey to it, that’s fun? Consider a smaller cruise ship with adequate and quality cabin arrangements, a library of excitingly good reads, intimate eating arrangements allowing passengers to discover each other, chess boards, water-color tutoring and hours of just relaxing in fold-up chairs watching the sea pass by and using binoculars to count the aquatic bird life during the day. One can easily imagine themselves being an Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, as these two hang over the railing, sharing a cigarette, a small scotch and talking about “love” on a moonlit ocean evening?

I would definitely be one of many that would choose a cruise with that theme, wouldn’t you?

SwedishYachtLerwick01Photo: An alternative method of ocean cruising from Sweden

Easter on Shetland…

…doesn’t seem that exciting. Scottish bank holidays, when stores, banks and other businesses are closed for a holiday, doesn’t include Easter on its list. Places are open this weekend.

But, Easter is a little special! Especially when it’s sunny and only a light breeze. People are out working in their gardens or some have started to prepare their boats for the coming summer. Lambing has started and small white miniature sheep on spinky, shaky little legs are being welcomed to this island. It’s an “easy” day, today, and even the seals are getting an early tan, as they sun bathe.

Wishing all our readers a HAPPY EASTER, plain and simple!

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    Photo: “Easter Seals” sun bathing on the Sandwick pier

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    Photo: Flower bed/garden outside the flat (Oh, No! Another flower picture!)

Jeppe’s Wintry Driving Tips…

…for British motorists! With the present snowy road conditions on the mainland, Jeppe wants to give some helpful hints for British drivers. Naturally, if you don’t have to drive, please don’t! Otherwise, here’s what Jeppe has to say…

jeppeinwinter01Photo: Jeppe waiting for an oncoming snowstorm. He’s not worried!

    1. BE PREPARED if you take yourself out on uncertain wintry roads. Prepare a thermos of tea/coffee, a couple of sandwiches, some fruit, sweets etc should you drive into the ditch and need to wait for help. Don’t forget to take a torch with fresh batteries. Remember, mobile phones may not always work, so don’t rely on these. Have an extra blanket in the car or even thermo coveralls. First aid kit! Small shovel! Flares! Matches and a small sack of firewood could be good to have for long waits or at night in isolated places. Sacks of sand/grit in the boot is a good idea! Just use common sense and be prepared for personal safety.
    2. NO SUMMER TIRES is a great rule! At best, good quality all-weather tires. In the Swedish arctic, we use studded tires with their own wheels that we put on our cars when road conditions require it. So, be smart and not lazy- take a grip on the problem of snowy roads. Snow chains for cars don’t take a lot of space and you should practice putting these on before you need to use them. Careful with driving too fast into slush piles…your front wheels may pull into traffic or off the road. When starting out, carefully test braking conditions on a straight un-crowded stretch of road. Then drive sensibly.
    3. MANUAL TRANSMISSION is smartest. Do starts veerrrry sloowwly and with feeling. Even second gear can help. With automatic transmissions, put in low and gentle with the gas. Should you start sliding, gently pump the brakes and look for a soft spot to land. Front wheel drive is good. Jeppe thinks 4×4 are best…but, he’s a little bias.
    4. BACK WHEEL drive…a few sand sacks in the boot just over the back wheels. Get some weight on those driving wheels.
    5. TRUCKERS- if you can, lift your back wheels slightly up and put more weight onto the power wheels. Buckets of sand/grit on your trailer to spread out on difficult places or on starts/ uphill can help. Almost reached your driving time limit? Be smart and take a nap or just pull over and enjoy life.
    6. COUNCIL ROAD PEOPLE…Salt just makes water out of snow. This freezes and requires more salt…freezes…more salt etc. You have to spend the time to plough slush and snow away; not just make it into water. Be better with ploughing and snow removal using correct plows and methods. This may mean 24 hour procedures. Use more sand/grit (with 10-15% salt to make it stick and not blow away) Take a course about roads and snow removal from geographical areas that know how to do it!
    7. BEST OF ALL, when it gets bad, take time to play and test snow and road conditions when you can. Not a bad idea to gain experience on oily test tracks etc. And…better late for appointments than dead.

….Here’s hoping some of the above will help. Stay safe out there!
Now, some wintry scenes from West Mainland, Shetland…
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Last Photo: Shetland’s “winter woolies”

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.

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

Språk.

I går kväll var vi och lyssnade på Lerwicks motsvarighet till Låtar och skrönor . Det blev en trevlig kväll där tre äldre gubbar berättade skrönor och två yngre förmågor spelade shetländska låtar på fiol och gitarr. Det som slog oss då var något som vi visserligen visste men inte riktigt hade tänkt på, att den shetländska engelskan har ett stort inslag av skandinaviska ord. Ordet hus hade vi redant observerat, man säger alltså hus och inte house. Nu lade vi märke till ännu flera ord,t ex ko, besman och sluss i betydelsen dammlucka. Det finns dessutom en alldeles egen dialekt/språk här som en del shetlänningar pratar sinsemellan, särskilt de äldre. Det verkar helt omöjligt att förstå men skulle kanske bli begripligt om man fick lyssna ordentligt i stället för att bara höra brottstycken då och då.

Snow Is Often Considered…

…a very beautiful thing, all white, crisp and somewhat romantic for most people. It brightens up the winter season and provides a variety of recreational opportunity. In Lapland, where winter only allows a few hours of twilight and the rest of the day is night, snow makes things lighter and the midwinter days easier to live with.

resize-of-winterforest02.jpgPhoto: Snow is mostly beautiful

But, for some living in a four season area of the world, snow only represents trouble and irritation and many in the U.S. become snowbirds and eliminate the problems snow causes by just leaving for southern areas and wait for it all to go away before returning home. Those first snowflakes mean drudgeries like shoveling snow, scraping icy windshields, icy walks and roads, wet clothing, cabin fever and, worst of all, just being cold!

I’ve seen these people driving their cars home from work in a wet snow flurry. Their knuckles turn white as the crouch down behind the steering wheel. Faces are tight and grey as they literally creep along at a snail’s pace convinced that the slightest false move will throw themselves into a ditch or smack their car into the mile long car parade in front of them. They get home, rushing into the house, and shake themselves off uttering how horrific life is with snow and vowing to never go outside again. They stare out a window, as the snow piles up outside, and contemplate how life during the winter is worse than hell itself. Why do they suffer?

The answer could very well be that these people have never learned to live with snow. They have acquired snow values and misunderstandings from parents or peer group and have never learned how to be friends with snow and, probably very often, they quickly shed this thought off by wimpingly saying…”I don’t wanna learn to be friends with snow”…which, really, is the basic problem. Not wanting to learn!

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The Saami have some 300 words in their language for snow and each represents different conditions of snow or snow conditions in relation to Saami work and life. Dry snow, wet snow, crusty snow, old snow, new snow, new snow on old snow, fresh snow, packed snow, snow on ice, snow with layers of ice, snow that can be walked on, snow that breaks through, drifting snow etc etc.

The best way to learn about snow is to play with it, doing this often. By playing with or in snow, one gains experience with the different types of snow and one can readily and enjoyably adapt to snowy conditions allowing more opportunities in being outdoors.

resize-of-snowsculpturing01-copy.jpgPhoto: Snow sculpturing is one form of playing in snow. Here, snow sculpturing in Kiruna, Sweden

The proper type of clothing, possibly lightweight, wind resistant, water repellent in combination with fleece or wool in different layers, can be chosen and used during outdoor activities. Take layers off when working hard and sweating and put them back on as you cool off. If you get chilly, start moving. Kick holes in the snow to keep feet warm. Move around until you feel comfortable.

Consider snow in all its forms and make games with it. Play! Start today and learn to re-adjust your attitude to this natural phenomenon. You will soon understand that snow has advantages as well as learning how to cope with the stuff and make life a lot easier and more fun.