The overnight ferry from Aberdeen is the last stage of the journey north. Despite the fact that I am travelling from one part of the UK to another, there is a distinctly different feel – a sense of finality - to boarding a ferry and heading to a group of Islands some 100 miles north of the UK mainland. Mainland has a specific meaning here in Shetland – it refers to the main Island of Shetland and has nothing to do with GB or even Scotland.
A Fellow Traveller
Bagage for six months
There is a palpable sense of identity in Shetland. For a start there is the very strong Viking (and earlier) heritage but even today there are strong cultural links with Norway and the Nordic countries. Last year the Scalloway museum was opened by the Prime Minister – the Norwegian Prime Minister. No part of Shetland is further than 3 miles from the sea and the sea affects everyone’s life. Islands and islanders develop distinctive attitudes defined by the sea as their boundary. Within which there is a curious mix of the same as the rest of the UK and yet there are pronounced differences.
Whenever we view something as being the same or different its important to understand “as compared to what”. Often we don’t make this specific and thus the implied comparison often leaves ambiguity as to what we are comparing with what. Its back to perspectives and whether we chose to see similarities or differences as compared to what . . . It is sometimes helpful to make our comparisons more useful by introducing a specific frame of reference. So it is as meaningless to describe yourself as financially rich as it is poor. Describing yourself as financially poor as compared to say Richard Branson is as valid as describing yourself as financially rich as compared to an unemployed homeless person. Both are true but both engender different feelings and attitudes. If you aspiration is to make money then the former might spur you on but if you want to count your blessings then the later might make you grateful for what you have. Sometimes people say to me what bad luck it was to need hip replacements but I usually retort how fortunate I am to live in a time when, and a place where, something can be done about it. I vividly remember struggling to do a group exercise at Headley Court and was on the point of giving up in frustration until I noticed the soldier 2 ranks in front of me completing the exercise on artificial legs. I gave myself a severe talking to!
I have never arrived in Port Stanley by sea but the sea front and feel of Lerwick is akin to Port Stanley. (A description of minimal use to most people!) There is the frontier feeling of an isolated community; there is the dominance of the waterfront and port, with ships and docks being the life blood of the islands, not just in immediate employment and wealth but also in the gateway for all that enters or leaves. Lerwick combines an old town under the guns of Fort Charlotte with a modern and sprawling dock where fish are landed and processed, oils support vessels recoup and reequip and ferries come and go. Soon it will be my home but for now it’s Scalloway where I have taken up residence on board Swan. so here she is:
Swan LK243 my new home. . .
The view from the front door (main hatch)