Getting off the ferry was a jolly sight easier than boarding and we were off before we knew it. I thought the ferry for Bressay might run from the same place, but could see no one to ask so headed back towards the check in for commercial vehicles. No-one was there to ask so we tried further on up, but still no-one around anywhere. Eventually I spotted a delivery driver who said it was a much smaller ferry and further on up the shore. The man who directed me was just getting in his van, and could see I was hesitant so he drove slowly and pulled in where I needed to go. How kind. I found out later it was the first of many Shetland kindnesses I was to experience during my stay.
I had timed it to perfection, and the ferry was loading within a couple of minutes of me pulling in. Everyone was really friendly and interested in Thebus. The guy taking the money stuck his head in the door for a quick admire, he was amazed that such a big bus was being driven by such a Perrie Wifey – I think that's an old dialect term for small woman, at least I hope that is what it means!. Its a really short crossing so we were there in a flash. I asked about the Up Helly Aa that night but as he was working on the ferry on Saturday he wasn't going and when I asked about somewhere to park he said to use the hall carpark, and though I was a bit doubtful he said I would be in no-one's way.
Just off the ferry was the Up Helly Aa Galley so I stopped to take some photos (which I seem to have lost – boo! It was really nice). - Hooray - found them again, and here they are!
A local was also taking photos at the same time, and when I asked the way to the hall he kindly said to follow him. When I pulled in I was feeling very dubious as I guessed there would be lots of folk and cars there on the night, and it was suggested that I parked up by the old harbour, which was only a short distance, and checking with the house next to the old harbour they said I would be out of everyone's way there.
So I parked up directly opposite the Kirk which stands a field below the school and schoolhouse. One of the locals told me there were only four children attending this year, and they were all due to move up this autumn, and then the school would close. The end of a chapter in the islands history. It was a big building probably Victorian, and I would think built when the herring fishing industry would have been at its height, and the island thronging with children, I read somewhere that the population of the island rose to ten thousand during the catching and curing season - I think there are around three hundred inhabitants at present.
Once parked up it felt so comfortable there that now only did I stay the whole of the day and the night but quite a lot of the following day before feeling I really should explore the island. But on the old harbour down by the sea sitting in the sunshine and looking across at the port of Lerwick it was lovely. Mid morning saw a lot of activity up at the hall, and as the Jarl and his Squad were due to muster there I thought I would go up for a look.
Everyone was in the hall waiting for things to start, and there was a band already playing up on the stage.
Suddenly the doors flung open and with a lot of roaring and cheering and Up Helly Aaing the squad came in all quite literally, dressed to kill! Not only did they have steel helmets but they had real, thick, heavy and sharp steel axes, even the little children had their own axe. The axes were waved around a lot as well. It was great fun and everyone enjoyed it. There was a speech but not too long, and then lots and lots and lots of cheering and roaring and Up Helly Aaing again, then some singing and more marching and roaring, and lots more cheering and Up Helly Aaing,
Then they all got arranged for a group photo
After it was over some of the younger men went off for a beer or two next door, whilst some of the older Viking raiders stopped for a cup of tea and piece of cake.
The Up Helly Aa proper was to be in the evening so all the Vikings piled into a bus and were driven off. I popped back to Thebus having made a note that the muster was at nine, and that the evening's entertainments went on till about one thirty the following morning.
I wasn't sure what to expect but got changed into something warm but in layers so I would be okay for an evening in a heated hall. The day which had been most pleasant and sunny had turned, and there was now an icy cold wind, and driving rain. My attire included several layers of thermals, a pretty jumper, thick cord trousers and cardigan, another cardigan, a puffa jacket, and on top of it all a waterproof cape and hood. Plus I had wrapped a tartan scarf round my head and knotted it at the throat.
I expected to be warm enough. I was wrong!.
It was around eightish but there were quite a few cars up at the hall, and I had seen the busload of Vikings pass, so thought I would just pop up to see how things were progressing. And having unloaded the scooter from the Wretched Rack earlier in the day in preparation I was ready to go.
When I arrived everyone was there and nearly ready for the off.......
The Boat itself is quite old, and doesnt get burnt, but a goes in the parade,
then a switch is made in the dark at the end of the procession and a look-a-like burnt in its stead.
A good way of doing it I think
This was the Yarl, who is elected each year
then chooses his band of followers,
who are marching and Up Helly Aaing in the background
Lerwick from Bressay Old Habour
When the sun shines on Shetland the sky is a the clearest Artic blue and the seas reflect it with deepest sapphire
If I hadn't taken these photos I would swear they had been doctored to make it all bluer