So how on Earth did we come to be lugging drainpipe and old curtains to Shetland, and why was Mum wrapped around a lamp-post in Lerwick?
Some time ago, I won a ferry ride for two plus car to Shetland, through a prize draw associated with the annual Beach Clean-up. (Thanks to Northlink Ferries and the East Grampian Coastal Partnership) Yippee! Mum and I hadn’t been to Shetland for years, so it was a really nice treat…the only caveat on this enterprise being that the trip had to be taken before March 2008. Given our winter weather, it seemed vaguely sensible to take it sooner rather than later, and as my friend Tracey was heading up that way to deliver a teacher training course on school grounds (something we’re both involved in) it made a kind of sense to tie it in and give her a hand. So we booked a self-catering apartment in Lerwick, and all three of us headed north in early November, the car laden down with all the gear for the course (this is where the drainpipe and curtains comes in).
Now I have to say, the weather in November isn’t always kind. We’d been watching the forecast for several days before we went, and it was holding true to form, so we were quite relieved that the Wednesday ferry was scheduled to sail as normal. We duly checked in and boarded, and soon found our cabins. It’s a reassuringly large ferry, very clean and polished, with friendly staff, and is very comfortable; the trip takes around 12 hours overnight, so we headed for the restaurant for dinner, before the trip really began.
We watched the lights of Aberdeen fade behind us, went over the details of the course we were delivering in the morning, and, as the ship began to rock and roll in the worsening weather, headed for our cabins.
There’s a very good reason why the bunks on our old friend ‘Leader’ run fore and aft. In a bunk that runs from side to side, (as on the ferry), as the ship rolls, you slide. First towards your head, and then towards your feet. Gentle rolling from side to side is OK, sliding up and down until your head hits the bulkhead is less entertaining. Sleep was a long time coming…..
Overnight the weather got gradually worse. As daylight broke through the window on Thursday morning, we were relieved to see the island of Bressay, and a choppy sea in the approaches to Lerwick harbour.
We rolled thankfully ashore, and went to sight out the terrain – we couldn’t get into the apartment until lunchtime (Mum’s task, to check in and set up camp) and Tracey and I were due to be at school until about 3 pm. So we unloaded our cargo of drainpipes, curtains and other stuff at school, dropped Mum down at the centre of town and went back to work. As the day went on, we saw the weather deteriorate rapidly as blizzards whipped through, and the walls of the school hut we were in flexed dramatically. We had to reduce the amount of actual outdoor activity we were originally planning, in case we lost a teacher or two over the nearest horizon. The southbound ferry was cancelled, all the inter-island ferries tied up, and Shetland battened down in the teeth of a storm-force wind.
Meanwhile, Mum had discovered the local museum , and had spent a happy couple of hours wandering around. On emerging, she found waves breaking over the seafront, and by the time she got to the road, had to cling desperately to a lamp-post to prevent herself being blown over. Fortunately, a nice local lady (thank you whoever you are!) in a 4x4 stopped, rescued her, and gave her a lift to the apartment, where we all met up later, to swap tales of wind and weather.
I can thoroughly recommend the place we stayed. Warm, comfortable, and with all the bits and pieces we needed. Plus a nosy neighbour, who visited each day to see if we had any spare food.
On Friday, Tracey and I went back to school to deliver another day’s training, followed by her departure – on the fortunately reinstated ferry – back to Aberdeen, family, and the joys of moving house. Mum and I stayed on over the weekend to rediscover Shetland, which will be the subject of the next entry in this blog.
Watch this space.