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.
With the dark nights of winter receding ever further into memory, the long-awaited Shetland summer is finally here. For many of us this means a couple of months of intense activity: an almost manic desire to soak up every last ray of sunlight on offer, even if it means abandoning the recommended eight hours of sleep for a couple of months.
What to do and where to go? Although Shetland has its (justifiably) renowned beauty spots, there are many more slightly off-the-beaten-track places that are deserving of a visit. Places where you can walk, go for a wild swim, set up camp or just take a picnic and enjoy the sunset.
One of the great things about compiling this particular issue has been perusing readers’ suggestions for Shetland “bests”. Such lists can be highly subjective and are often influenced by one’s personal memories – but this is what makes them so special. I hope that locals and visitors alike will find seasonal inspiration here.
Things are not just picking up weather-wise: da Street seems to have a new lease of life, with a number of exciting new enterprises appearing (or set to appear in the near future). The pop-up Taste of Shetland shop is a particularly welcome addition, and it’s great to hear that it’s being so well-supported by the local community. Now all we need is a beer garden in a light, sheltered location (potential entrepreneurs please take note: this is a definite gap in the market).
Have we missed anything out of our “Best of Shetland” issue? Do you disagree with any of our selected highlights? Don’t forget to keep in touch with us via social media or email:
This is the 450th issue of Shetland Life. Since 1981, our magazine has been celebrating the Shetland community: its talented people, fascinating culture and rich history – and we’re still going strong.
We’ve been delighted by some of the feedback the magazine has received in the last few months: in addition to the positive comments we’ve heard from our loyal readers, we also won a national award in November last year. Does this mean we’re resting on our laurels? Certainly not! In order to mark 450 issues of Shetland Life magazine, we’re launching a new-
look magazine this month and gifting a free issue with every copy of The Shetland Times. We hope you’ll agree that our magazine is fresher, more contemporary and easier on the eye than it’s ever been before – while remaining just as full of life as ever.
We always welcome any feedback from our readers old and new, so please post your comments on Facebook, or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve made quite a few changes: you’ll notice we’ve introduced a variety of new features in our front and back pages. This month, our themed section in the middle pages showcases Shetland photography at its very best. We’ve devoted plenty space to interviews with leading local photographers and we hope you’ll enjoy looking at their exquisite work.
The way we work has evolved too. Our brand new editorial team is made up of Shetland’s most dynamic reporting talent to ensure wide-reaching and comprehensive coverage of the stories you’ll want to read about.
I’d like to thank all the contributors who’ve had a hand in shaping this issue, but I’m particularly thankful for the hard work and creativity of our designer Kenneth Shearer, who has made this magazine the thing of beauty you are now holding in your hands. We hope you enjoy it.
This magazine has featured many amazing women in its time, but this particular issue has pulled out all the stops to celebrate International Women’s Day, on the eighth of this month.
Thank you to all of our readers who nominated inspirational women for this month’s lead feature. It was great to read the reasons behind your choices, and to get as many of the nominees together as possible for our fun photo shoot with local photographer Leanne Macleod. It will come as no surprise to Shetlanders that there are such dynamic women in our midst, but this seemed like an especially good time to celebrate these islands’ strong tradition of female empowerment.
This tradition can be traced right back to Shetland folklore. Where other representations of females may centre on the young and virginal maidens, the Shetland “sea midder” provides an altogether feistier female archetype. You can read more about this archetypal Shetland woman in Alex Garrick-Wright’s article.
Marsali Taylor pays tribute to key woman in the Shetland suffrage movement – Christina Jamieson and Harriet Atherton Leask are just two of the pioneering women whose contributions are explored. Continuing the historical theme, John Coutts shares some photographs of well-known Shetland woman from the 1960s.
In addition to our nominated women, we feature many more fantastic females within our pages. Poet Christine De Luca, artist Gail Harvey and baker Katja Stuebiger offer further examples of the diversity of female talent and determination here in Shetland.
Recent months have seen heated debate over the gender pay gap. It seemed timely to interview Heather Gordon, empowerment coach who has been visiting Shetland to lead training sessions for female council workers. What challenges do females continue to face in the Shetland workplace? This is the question we asked three local women: you can read their answers in the magazine.
For many of us, the most inspirational woman in our lives will be our own mother. If you’re looking to show your mum some love this month, make sure you check out some of our Mother’s Day gift ideas – we’ve been out and about sourcing local gifts to suit every budget. If you really want to make your mum something really special, follow Helen Robertson’s instructions and make her a beautiful petal brooch. If you’re a mother (or a mother-to-be) , why not treat yourself to some time out and follow local yoga teacher Lana Hodge’s step-by-step yoga sequences?
All these tales of inspiration and innovation can leave you feeling tired, so you might want to take a break with some short fiction. Finally, we have a thoroughly entertaining short story by Bruce Eunson The Shetland Mount Rushmore.
Our mystery male columnist the “Filskit Faider” wonders if these gendered celebrations run the risk of being a little exclusive. We hope that our male readers will enjoy this magazine Just as much as our female readers.
If you’ve enjoyed this issue, wait till you see next month’s. We’ve something extra-special up our sleeve for you. Until then!