Monthly Archives: January 2011

How to educate your dragon

That last Tuesday of January

usually rhymes with high spirit throughout the islands’ capital. Friend and now retired line manager, Dorothy Nickerson, reminded me earlier on this afternoon how she remembered a buzz  culminating inside the walls of our high school alone, as young Vikings made their way to Lerwick’s frenzy of fire sparked off by men marching with axes & shields throughout the day and with torches that same evening… Tuesday’s sunrise was later felt as an omen, as our skies glowed as if the whole of our galaxy had foreseen what would happen tonight on this grain of rock here on Earth.

da peerie galley
mirrors its big sister one that is being burnt at the centre of the payground situated in King Erik Street. Its first sighting in the front carpark of the Anderson High School  generates many smiles of exhilaration. Parents of the members of the school’s Junior Jarl Squad flock on the steps of the school’s main entrance. Pride and excitement reverberate through each other’s eyes. This peerie galley is traditionally awaiting destiny inside the compound of the Islesburgh Community Centre, itself formally an academic establishment built in 1902. Lerwick Junior Up-Helly-Aa 2011
                                                                                                                         shiny helmets for a special day 
The boys are shining in their gear and wear it with such amour-propre, they will mirror the senior Jarl Squad for the rest of the festivities. Meantime, their day of freedom and merryment begin at home, before the eyes of their own school.
Like their elders, they brandish axes and sing the Up-Helly-Aa song… Their self-esteem balloons up further as they are wished the best of day by their  broadly smiling head teacher. The Anderson High School is proud of them.
The atmosphere turns electric, as they march through corridors with sheer audacity until breaktime, when they will join in the parade across the town.
 And what about that red, red rose?
As the town prepared for fire and non-stop merryment over two days & nights, some favoured toasting to Scotland’s National Bard, as the galley went down in smoke… 
Since Burn’s birthday coincided with this year’s Lerwick Up-Helly-Aa, my poet’s heart favoured a toast to the haggis in the warmth of our hearth. Though I paused for a  thought for our Junior Vikings, who followed in their elders’ footsteps…
That final Tuesday of January felt like dew on that red, red rose.

sky of fire,
shiny shields in faux fur –
but then again, a red, red rose.
 Haiku fae 60N



Filed under 60N, celebration, festival, fire, geopoetics, haiku, images, island, writing

Winter adventure on the island

Moments of pleasures

To many folk coming to do their weekend shopping in Lerwick, Victoria Pier, adjacent to the Small Boat Harbour, rhymes with carpark & familiar trawlers from Shetland, Banff or Peterhead most of the year. 
To the explorer-yachtsman (or cruise liner)-visitor, it may feel like the starting point of some delectable adventure. This focal point, officially open in 1886 as the main landing area for fishermen and wealthy visitors traveling on steamers, hosts (during the high season) memorable events – marquis and booths, erected around Johnsmas (Summer Solstice), celebrate A Flavour of Shetland and renewed bonds with Norway through (notably) the Lerwick-Bergen Race… Victoria Pier welcomes the world to the island’s pictoresque (and only) urban centre.  Small cruise liners tie themselves to its bollards – tenders from much bigger cruise ships whizz through the Bressay Sound to bring their hords of passengers to our shore. Excursion coaches’ drivers and Tourist Guides wait with a smile… 
The “Bay of mud” turns a beehive! Visitors to Lerwick Harbour

During the winter months, STGA Accredited  Green Badge Tourist Guides prepare for the next high season through an elaborate educational programme. With an ever-increasing number of cruise liners pit-stopping in our Venice of The North,  a new class of guides are training for 2011, as some 58 cruise ships already line up on paper, together with The Tall Ships Races back in Lerwick… The Tall Ships Races 2011

Yesterday morning, Victoria Pier basked in generous winter sun. Saturday shoppers flocked to “Da Street” (the main commercial artery) whilst we began an adventure. Down to Sumburgh we went on our minibus! Wilson was at the wheel, Lawrence & Catriona, at the microphone, whilst our cohort of guide trainees held to clipboards and pens on their final demo tour. Deborah and I sat at the back. As we crossed the 60th Parallel, our nordic sun powered our smiles. Mr Tulloch delighted us with his expertise & experience at the mic’ down to Grutness map via Fladdabister and Bigton  before he handled me the device for a demo tour at Sumburgh Head.  

My love for this headland and nature reserve has not waned away from my wardening time within the RSPB, au contraire – as a matter of fact, it glows like the sun. Our trainees already felt it last May in the presence of our seabirds during a first demonstration tour. Yesterday felt no different. Our winter wildlife bathed in light. Guiding is fun in all seasons!
Lunch at the Sumburgh Hotel… Early afternoon at Jarlshof.

Jarlshof, that name invented by Sir Walter Scott for the purpose of a novel, remains one of the best places in Britain to walk through time, from the Late New Stone Age to the late 17th century of our era. I never tire of its stones! Whilst Lawrence began the site tour, Deborah ended it with passion. Jarlshof

By the time we returned to our minibus, the sun glittered on Atlantic and Horse Island.

Guiding, training or mentoring rekindle taste for adventures. Yes, we are blessed to live and share this magical environment. I am eager to reach our Vernal Equinox and see how our trainees progress toward their final assessment. Our nordic garden never fails to foster our inspiration.


Filed under 60N, atlantic, images, island, lerwick, winter, writing

January, fire power

return of the light

“Day-night… Day-night… Day-night!”
As trivial as it may appear to the visitor to our shore, the most noticeable sign towards the Vernal Equinox remains our return towards light.
At fixed times in the day, 0800 and 1600, we no longer endure darkness. And if our British Met Office provides us with acurate information, we are currently re-gaining 2 minutes of light at each sunrise and each sunset… Heart-warming.

Today, I took two photographs from my school bus on the way home.

...And saw a fire-breathing dragon, as we made our way to the 60th Parallel…
As if our sky was whispering us some omen.  Such sight made me smile!
return of the sun
It is now rather well known some islanders go to great lengths to celebrate an old ritual – that of the return of the sun. Between mid-January and April, torches illuminate our nights under a name some may find odd or exotic: Up-Helly-Aa. It is not one single fire festival, but a season of torch-lit processions, longship burning and merryment behind the closed doors of our halls!
A bit like in the Beowulf movie, though minus the curse. Each procession is led by a squad disguised in full Viking gear – led by a Guizer Jarl, that is a notorious Viking Chief or hero carefully chosen by the selected squad leader. Each autumn, carefully chosen boatbuilders and craftsmen meet inside a galley (longship/boat) shed and spend many evenings building a replica Viking longship they will set on fire with their torches in the depth of winter. Teams of seamstresses elaborate the squads’ costumes and a Proclamation Bill appears on the morning of the celebration at around 0600.

fire power
It is also well-known men like to play with fire, since they invented it.
This year’s season of fire festivals kicked off last weekend in Scalloway, the island’s ancient capital. Islanders’ tradition. The Lerwick one always follows on the final Tuesday of the month. The Jarl will be given freedom of merryment in the town and will visit a myriad of places prior to the evening procession. A Junior Jarl squad procession also mirrors its senior one. It departs from the Anderson High School and da boys will burn their peerie (small) galley near the burning site of the senior one at Islesburgh.

Each replica Viking longship has a dragonhead.
…We, or some of us, would appear to like dragons and fire on the island.


Filed under 2011, 60N, boats, celebration, festival, fire, geopoetics, home, images, island, lerwick, north, spirit, writing

New year, new decade, wind of change

reconnected with our world

Light has disappeared once again, as I settle at the keyboard. Final hours of a fortnight of freedom melt away like ice to a generous sun.
I shall treasure Yule and Hogmanay 2010. Happy moments shared with loved onesPrecious time of reconnection.
Fun in the sand and at table!
2011 began with soothing light in our boreal sky. Gentle start to the new decade!

With new years come resolutions.

Hmmm, my very first one sounds easy – finish off the Yuletide goodies still stocked in the larder! As fingers dip into that final box of chocolates, the second one demands effort: getting back to fitness… Dumbells and other toys await my determination! Needless to say, the countdown to this summer’s Pan-Highland adventure has begun and I intend to give my best. Fun through full steam if I am not mistaken ;0)

Tomorrow also signals a new academic term.

Back to sleepy smiles or gazes at the bus stop – other familiar eyes and voices… Corridors and classrooms! I take each new day as an adventure. Such resolution remains a recurring one, since moments are precious. 

my favourite haiku from this new decade
time of joyous deliverance –
new tide & oars.
Haiku fae 60N

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Filed under 2011, 60N, Arcania, haiku, images, project, writing