This month Shetland Life are set to dive into the New Year feet first and we hope that you will join us for the ride. We go through the keyhole, taking a sneaky peek behind the scenes of Squad 43. And, with Up-Helly-A’ looming, we meet this year’s Jarl, John Nicolson, and discover how he became the fourth Nicolson Jarl – following in the footsteps of his father and brothers before him.
For those opting for better health and wellbeing in 2019, look out for our new columnist, Ali Grundon Robertson who this month focuses on consumerism. Finally, our new feature – in collaboration with RSPB Scotland – introduces a monthly Nature Calendar and examines the health benefits of a daily dose of fresh air, ensuring that you put your best foot forward into the New Year.
What are you waiting for? Look out for this month’s Shetland Life, in shops and online now!
When I told people I was moving to Shetland, I was issued with warnings aplenty about the “killer” long, dark nights. Being a solar-powered kind of person, I was genuinely worried as to whether or not I would cope.
Well, I’m still here. It would be disingenuous to say I love this time of year. I’m close to tears when my summer clothes go back in the trunk for another eight months, and I don’t get particularly excited at the thought of bobble-hats, cosying up by the fire or going through a tube of lip-salve per day.
What’s kept me going through the years is the buzz of night-time activity that starts in September and begins to reach a wild crescendo in January (need I say why?). Say what you like about the Shetland weather, but the Shetland winter what’s-on offerings are excellent.
My early winters here are a blur of drama festival preparation, night classes and the infrequent but always enjoyable evening at one of Lerwick’s fine hostelries. More recently, the Althing, adult ballet classes and an occasional “curry club” have pulled me through.
Looking ahead to the next few months, this autumn/winter looks like it’s going to be an absolute cracker. No sooner is Wool Week over than we have Taste of Shetland. Hot on its heels is the Shetland Fiddle and Accordion Festival. Then it’s not too long at all to wait until Wordplay…
So, whatever else winter might be, it’s unlikely to be boring.
It’s a privilege to be guest editor for this edition of Shetland Life.
I’ve written a lot of stuff for Shetland Life over the last couple of years, but not til right now did I fully appreciate how big a job it is to put it all together. I am genuinely in awe of our regular editor, Genevieve, and how she does this every month without breaking a sweat.
And this is the issue she left me with: Love and Relationships. Which is fairly apt, since ‘love and relationships’ is the only reason I’m in Shetland in the first place. If I hadn’t met a certain, beautiful Shetlander in a bar in Glasgow, and followed through on a promise to come and visit her for Hogmanay, I wouldn’t be writing this now. I’d probably not have set foot on Shetland at all, come to think of it.
I remember a close (Shetland) friend once asking me if people “really go on dates” down south. They explained that they had never been on a formal get-to-know-each-other date, as their relationships had been with people that they had already known on some level beforehand. In a place where you are quite probably familiar with 80 per cent of the people in your age group, that seems entirely possible.
I was told that often the way of winding up in a relationship was to ‘bag aff’ with someone, and once you had ‘bagged aff’ with that someone a number of times you would have seamlessly transitioned to being in a relationship.
It was a slightly mind boggling concept for me, like being told that all romantic matches are determined by the casting of sheep-bones under a waxing moon. To a Glaswegian such as myself, Shetland courtship seemed a strange and exotic thing.
This month, the Shetland Life writers have done a terrific job (as usual) of looking at love in the isles. Getting to grips with Shetland romance has been an absolutely fascinating experience; I hope it is as enjoyable to read as it has been to put together.
As an incomer to these islands I’ve found that this question can result in heated debate. Some folk believe that a Shetlander can be anyone who lives here; others maintain that your family needs to have been in Shetland for at least two generations before you can go making any such claims for yourself. Then of course, there are all kinds of Shetlander definitions in between these two poles.
It’s unrealistic to expect that this magazine will be able to give the subject of Shetland identity the comprehensive treatment it deserves (if you’re interested in reading more on this topic, I’d recommend Mary Malcolm’s 2012 dissertation Shetland Identity Today: is there such a thing?) but we hope that you find this an enjoyable and thought-provoking issue nonetheless. As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the features within these pages, so please keep in touch.
I’ve always felt sympathy for foreign nationals wishing to acquire British citizenship as they struggle to cram for an exam full of facts about UK politics, history and tradition. Recently, I found myself wishing I’d done a bit more cramming, as I attempted Bryan Peterson’s Shetland Citizenship test. After just scraping a pass (with a disappointing 68 per cent) I’ve resolved to work a lot harder with my Shetland studies. John G Graham’s The Shetland Dictionary will be number one on my summer reading list, that’s for sure. Just as well for me that Bryan’s citizenship test focuses on theory: if it were to include practical elements such as casting peats, knitting and baking bannocks then I’d be in danger of being deported.
By the time this issue is on sale, I’ll be on holiday, leaving the August issue in the very capable hands of our regular contributor, Alex Garrick-Wright. See you in September – wishing all of our readers and contributors a wonderful summer.