Monthly Archives: April 2012

Migration to Nordicblackbird’s NEW Blog

Migration 2 New Blog

Dear friend and reader,
As from today, is migrating to a new blog – come and join in the new adventure! Nordicblackbird’s New Blog …


WEEL, the adventure was brief, as the blog provider deleted it after a few months. They put the months of May and June in limbo… Lost in the cyber-ether.

I shall endeavour to recap those moments in a later entry 🙂

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Filed under 2012, 60N, Arcania, celebration, colours, geopoetics, spirit, spring, writing

adventures from hill 2 shore

windows’ stories

April never deceives. From hill to shore, my two weeks of freedom have opened single track roads around the island.

Photo courtesy of R. Dornås

Last Monday, I shared a slice of Sumburgh & Compass Head with a young lady from Bergen, whom I met on a coach on the previous Saturday… We befriended and, in no time, we spent Monday  between tarmac, mud and laughters! The view from Compass Head is fabulous. We spoke the magic of our respective worlds, conservation and drivers’ tricks… We exchanged e-addresses, and Bergen lies on the other side of the North Sea – all I need to do is look eastward. More connection with our Scandinavian neighbours & friends 🙂 …And talking of Norge, I felt far too happy to hear from my Norskie connection: NYBAKK returns to my side of this wild North Sea next month, just in time for Norway’s Constitution Day. We have something special in store for celebrating our bond with our Nordic heritage – the grand opening of Scalloway’s brand new Museum. Scalloway, toute une histoire! 

And this morning, looking through a window that was not mine, I woke up under a dusting of snow that melted at sheer speed of light – this arctic blue in which we bathe is still raging. However, my window was amazing.

I spent the last precious hours with my Serpentine Clan in a fantastic setting – Voxter Centre, just off the settlement of Brae, a little north of my 60N latitude. And what a slice of life!
We gathered in the old manse and invested each room with 
pleasure and passion. It is a magic place, for it harbours comfort and joie de vivre – it has a walled garden, in which trees turn into gallions for all kinds of pirates! …A plantation to please the eye and warm the heart by the hearth after dark. Our little troupe made it home for the weekend. Effortlessly, since freak snow showers never stopped us. 

Actors’ delight 

we spoke, we wrote, we played and read…

From Jonathan’s little family of adventurers to the keenest Thespian, Voxter – that translates as  a good place for growing – offered a playground and a home. In between two workshops, some of us dared to venture out to the wood and, closer to the porch, the walled garden. Jane, The Matriarch,  gathered dead  wood for a perfect log fire and fed the hearth with passion. Then, she led part of her clan within the dry stone walls where the world’s safe for them to play  in harmony with their whole world.

And as the day drew to a close, Louise and Wendy had concocted us a dinner fit for a night of role-play, entitled “The Brie, The Bullet & The Black Cat” – a game of murder mystery.

We were given a few hours to turn into our characters. One after the other, we reconvened to a table that reeled to the sombre 1940s. Inspector Jacque LeClue would make us question our motives… 
As each clue was revealed, we grew nervous, dismayed or afraid. All would be revealed in due time. Actors’ magic – we spanned our lounge into 1940’s Casablanca. The night ended in the retiring room, by the log fire. Joy or horror, I discovered my character to be the naughty one – the murderer, or at least, one of two. For a nano-second, repulsion filled my heart… I did not expect it. Together with my (then) unknown accomplice, I had to hide the deed. Confusion filled the room – and then, shock, horror! Hahha, for a first time, the game was fun. Just by the hearth, we laughed and played charades till late.

From hill to shore,
my fortnight of adventures is coming to an end. And left Voxter & friends with a great sense of happiness – happiness for such great moments that I will treasure forever. The drive through da Lang Kames was magnificent, as Nordic sun refracted on snow-dusted hillsides. But pushed the door of my dear hut to be re-united with window panes dear to my heart.

Thank you, dear friends, for such a great string of adventures!

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Filed under 2012, 60N, Arcania, celebration, colours, fire, geopoetics, home, images, island, life, north, project, shetland, spirit, spring, writing

land of extremes

Iced fisherworld

The further north you go, the icier the island. I did not want to believe it, but, I left home in a glorious sun. By the time I reached my friend’s crofthouse on the eastern headland, the sun had already vanished. Cold rain was threatening as we picked up A at her home at the T-junction… Heavens began to darken and by the time we travelled along da Lang Kames – this corridor of gales fashioned by the last great ice age, which ridges (the very meaning of “kames”) are eroded by the long labour of the elements – trillions of snowflakes wandered as free as poltergeists… Surreal, we thought, and then we retracted the very thought, since we all knew spring on the island feels and behaves as wild as it wants. Yesterday was a classic example. Today confirmed how volatile the sky can turn.

Ronas Hill, on approach to Urafirth

Eshaness, the edge of the (dormant) super volcano, was to be our destination. On our way there, blotches of snow littered the vast peatlands from Brae to Urafirth. Ronas appeared a gignatic whale before our eyes. The rounded giant took my heart back to Glen Etive for a second, as we stopped the car for a moment. The road twists and turns so frequently it does only leaves one speed choice to any driver. The many lochans,  on each side of the single track road,  were scanned with care, although I did not expect to discover a lone rain goose (red-throated diver) so early in the season. As lunchtime loomed on the horizon, we relished the idea of a nice hot plate at Breiwick en route to the edge of our world, only to find the café closed on arrival… The view onto the Drongs, or Dragon’s teeth, leave an iconic memory in your heart. Surprised though undefeated, we turned round and drove southbound, as unknown to me till we reached Tangwick, P had to deliver a fire extinguisher to a friend of her’s. Lunch would wait a little longer, as P proposed we take a loop to Haylor, on the shores of one of the most impressive mini-fjords, Ronas Voe. 

And the magic began again.

I love that road in any season. Lushness of summer, bleakness, eeriness of winter,  though majestic at all times. The old fisherman’s booth by the pinkish beach remains a magnet to any visitor,. I call it a gem well hidden inside the treasure chest.  By that time, cold rain overrode wet snow showers and we pushed it to the very shore. Closer to the old bod and boat. P once parked her caravan just by the beach in some past summer. I guessed the place would always turn very popular due to its sheer beauty. The old stony pier caught my eye. So many fishermen must have landed on the shores of this deep voe to download their cargo of herring and other fruits from the North Atlantic. Tens, if not hundreds of hands must have toiled to gut and pack the very fish into barrels filled with flesh and salt… The local folk from the parish must have traded wool, knitted socks, shawls, hats and gansies (jumpers) for basic commodities (bread, butter or alcohol – if not anything slightly illegal!) Today, the stones remain silent and mussel farming has changed the face of the long & narrow inlet of water.

And where did we have lunch, you may wonder? Well, we ended up inside the warmth and comfort of The Mid Brae Inn in the settlement of Brae. Although we arrived late, we were not refused a table and delicious food. Highly recommended to anyone eager to explore the northern parts of the island, together with Frankie’s Fish & Chips, Busta House and The St Magnus Bay Hotel in Hillswick, should you be unfortunate enough to find the Breiwick Café “closed”. 

Rain might have washed off icicles, 
it is a day to relish and treasure 🙂


Filed under 2012, 60N, Arcania, atlantic, boats, celebration, geopoetics, home, images, island, north, spirit, white, writing

once upon a big sky

…how many words for snow?

Up to four seasons in one day we can enjoy on the island. April feels capricious. If I can start to remember what an after 6 p.m. sun can feel, a sudden U-turn to Svalbard (without the polar bears) still surprises the most astute and tolerant mind… So is our fate in the Far-far North. The forecast hardly changed since the past week. I looked at my flowering redcurrant shrubs and thought, argh, weel…

In an effort to break the spell, I played Kate’s 50 Words For Snow, though in vain. Since Saturday, a determined sky began to spit flurries that warned us of more to come. I pit-stopped at the main country shop in the southern part of the island to get basic necessities (including those precious firelighters) as part of my effort to spot an early Northern Wheatear around Spiggie. The bird having been reported on Fair Isle, I took my chances. However, I came home without our felines’ favourite food…  (NOT the bird.) Peewit looked at me with disdain. Baboo walked away through the flap and Tystie nearly broke a lamp! 
With snow forecast, I can’t afford to mess around. Second shopping spree in the town to return home with a jute bag filled with delights, fit for felines and our own needs 🙂

Then north wind began to gust around the walls of our Shetland Hut. N/NNE, as time went by and our hearth began to work on a constant basis once more. From those directions, it really feels cold! My other half later joked about Yule time… “Why not set up the tree again and bake mince pies?” I laughed in the face of whiteness! Snowflakes flew in diagonal and by this morning, we opened our door to a mini-version of Svalbard, or mini-mini Canada, not so unusual for April after all, though still slightly disheartening at first sight. Sparrows still sing during snow showers, though blackbirds vanish from their pedestal and wonder if they won’t lose out on courtisanes… 

first view this morning

 Although I expected flurries, I did not imagine so much would stay overnight… Snow does not stick long enough to the ground after the equinox. Still tucked in my fleecy blanket with two hot water bottles at my feet, I did not really feel like getting up at 0830 – especially since I am free from timetables! So I lingered in bed a little. All three cats did not make any fracas on the other side of the door. White, white, white, white!

No snowday disrupted the winter term (oh, barely a February weekend) and, gosh, now it’s arrived!

White out, psycho-hail, twisting, ankle-breaker, blackbird’s Braille, drifting, avalanche… Stellar tundra, crème bouffant, Hunter’s dream, hooded wet, terror blizzard, vanilla swarm, sorbet de luge, as  through the lips of Stephen Fry. 

Let me hear your 50 words for snooooowwwwwwwww! 

My world had vanished once again under late winter’s white blanket. This morning’s Shetland Times did not read too encouraging either…

the other side of the coin in one day

Trillions of snowflakes melting at the speed of light!
Just by magic, as a bitter NE began to sweep away snow shower clouds, a more dignified spring-like blue filled our afternoon  sky.

This time, white light filling our world!
The garden still bears a few remnants from this morning’s  capricious sky – with scarfs around trees and shrubs, blotches of crystals dispersed and and there in the shade… But nothing serious. The cats’ passage looks safe from grass level. 

From Arctic spell to spring Technicolour!

I love the island. Its light changes all the time. Now time to listen to Good Evening, Shetland, just in time for the weather forecast 🙂

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Filed under 2012, 60N, celebration, colours, earth, geopoetics, home, images, island, life, north, spring, white, winter, writing

sun stories

6 o’clock sun

Burn, burn, burn, burn! With the advent of the Vernal Equinox, a constant battle takes place between sun and fog.  Incessant duel between earth, air and sea. And yet, every time our star turns victorious, a beaten fog retreats, burnt out… The very first encounter took place last Sunday, as a defeated Haar allowed us to enjoy a very first evening of light till a lazy sunset and dusk. I never tire of those honey skies all around us. 

Latest sightings

Emerging from a cold and damp winter, I nearly forgot how an after 6 o’clock sun felt like. Quendale  & Brake looked so serene in light blue. A quick run around that shallow Loch of Spiggie remains a must in early spring, and it did not fail to amaze us.

Yes, geese, Goldeneyes, Long-Tailed ducks and other seasonal wildfowl – including Whooper Swan, Red-breasted Merganser, Northern Lapwing, Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck, Moorhen, shalder and a grey heron  – dwell on its edge. But somebody spotted the very first Bonxie of 2012 yesterday. So summer’s definitely on its way! All seabirds need fresh water to wash off seaspray off their feathers, as salt burns the very fabric of plumage, keratin.  Damaged feathers will only make life difficult to a seabird, just as it does to our local population of otters. Any creature that feeds from our maritime world needs fresh water for survival. 

Pirate spirit, moi?

Not many of us like bonxies on the island. Although they were once highly hailed by crofters as the liberators from the Erne – and the last pair of eagles were last seen in 1911 – great skuas have since replaced the then “evil” eagle, and has been associated with more modern & economic folk tales. They are amazing flyers and fishermen, when our sea feels generous. Moorland nesters, their varied food diet ensures survival. Furthermore, many of us also forget that bird colonies would be plagued with disease during summer, for they act as muckrakers, cleaning off ledges with ill, injured or dead seabirds. Every creature has a function on our planet, or they simply do NOT exist. People need to accept this simple fact. As a species, we may have placed ourselves at the very top of the food web, however, financial greed can lead some of us to abuse of our homeworld’s generosity and/or deplete the resources that are so vital to our healthy planet. The animal kingdom needs our help more than ever! Let’s be reasonable and the laws of the karma will be favourable to the future generations.

Back to sun stories

Longer evenings enable us to wander around the island till a later dusk, especially in the unusual clement climate we’ve experienced till yesterday! Folk walk around, go to the beach and tidy up their gardens.
On the first of our British Summer Time season, we ended up on my favourite sandbridge and marvelled at a pale blue world.

The surf was gentle at our feet and my other half showed an amazing mollusc he found partly uncovered at the edge of the Atlantic: Arctica Islandica . Amazing find! 
As the sun dipped below our horizon, the edge of our world turns blue… 

The other end of day, I caught a bloodshot sun through the lens of my pocket camera, as we do not see very often. Our northern sky was filled with a uniform of grey but then, an unusual glowing red sun appeared amidst clouds from the front and I stopped the car to admire such spectacle. I trust other folk stopped on a passing place… It was awesome.

And as we are now reverting to a much more typical early spring spell for our latitude, I can only hope that this arctic moment will not last too long, and be kind to our much precocious spring. Our grass needs a first cut and birds begin to nest. It is no April fool.
Looking forward to the return of our closest flamboyant star :-).


Filed under 2012, 60N, atlantic, birds, celebration, colours, earth, geopoetics, home, images, island, north, shetland, spring, world, writing