I was looking forward to meeting some of the local ladies and I was not disappointed – they were a lovely lot, and very kind and welcoming. The cafe itself is a splendid building, beautifully equipped and with the most wonderful view of The Drongs, three strangely shaped rocks standing some way off shore of the rocky and very beautiful coastline. I asked what drongs, meant and though no one seemed sure, it I would bet it means teeth, and if it doesn't it should, as that is what the rocks look like - three knarled and worn old teeth
The ladies of the circle were all busy making fascinating craftwork, and being in Shetland a lot of it involved knitting. Someone was telling me that until the seventies knitting was a compulsory school subject for both girls and boys. The Fairisle patterns are knitted over the whole of Shetland, but I am hoping to be able to get to the actual Fair Isle later on as I travel south. The ferry boat is too small to take Thebus and only travels one day a week, and as the ferry man told me – 'that's weather conditions permitting' - so I am looking into whether anyone is prepared to welcome a Great Dane into their lives for a week, or possibly longer!
I was given a lovely cup of tea and big slice of delicious home made cheesecake and afterwards some of the ladies came up for a look around Thebus. Amazingly one of the circle was on an extended holiday up here in Shetland and came from the next village from where I lived. The other ladies of the circle couldn’t get over the fact that we had never met, as they would know every person within a two mile radius, and probably much further away than that.
Next morning didn’t dawn as bright as I had hoped, but I did take a few photos of the view from the campsite, which was a good job as the day deteriorated rather than improved. There was no internet connection from my mifi, but I could see that BT internet was available, and in desperation bought 5x1 days worth. What a swizz! I paid for it at two in the afternoon and by four it had faded in strength to such an extent as to be unusable, just coming back on stream as I was about to go to bed at just gone midnight. It worked again the following morning but once again come mid afternoon was useless. I have emailed BT but what is the betting I get no sense from them at all. In my experience they are ineffectively organised and totally disinterested in their customers, but we will see*. When I did get a connection at gone midnight I emailed them expressing my dissatisfaction and received an automated response. - I suppose that counts as 'Responding to all complaints withing 24hour' or some such nonsense, they must think we are all fools, and I suppose we probably are. All we British do is moan and queue – and I wouldn't have it any other way :-)
Before I started my travels I had a regularly recurring problems with the BT phone lines at my house. I do not have a technical turn of mind, but it was such an ongoing nuisance over the twenty five years I was there that I almost became quite expert. The problems were not helped by the fact that I had the last but one phone on the phone line, and the line was 'piggy-backed' from the main exchange to a sub-exchange. I have no idea what that means, I just know that is the terminology. The result was that when anything went wrong, the line at the sub-exchange needed to be physically switched off and switched on again (that electrical engineers favourite fix) Of course BT with all their supposedly advanced testing equipment would never take my word for that, and always insisted that as the line tested fine and it was my little phone exchange that was at fault, and they would regularly say they that – yes, they had sent someone to check at the exchange - when they jolly well hadn't. So I used to drive to the two unmanned stations and seal over the locks with red masking tape and attach a message saying 'BT engineer please phone this number urgently' and put my mobile number on. So of course I knew if anyone had actually visited to do anything. It was amazing how many times they insisted work had been done when it hadn't.
Orange and EE are doing no better for me up here in Shetland, and if it wasn’t for the free wi-fi at the ferry terminals I would not have been able to upload anything at all to the journal throughout the whole of March!
So once the rubbishy BT service – paid for by the 24 hours, and only working from midnight to just gone lunchtime – was petering out I decided it was time for Thebus Phoebe and Me to go to school. Though, as I had been told I MUST see the Eshaness Lighthouse before I left I felt I had to go. The rocks up there are the ones that get on all the tourist brochures, and it was spectacular, but too wet to get out. I put the camera out through the window and the lens was instantly covered with raindrops. So all the pictures I took are not worth showing you. On the way up there it had not set in quite so badly and there was a well worked peat bank which I thought was interesting. I spoke to some locals and a lot of the crofts have their own peat bank, but you can also rent the right to cut from local farmers.
And also a fascinating off shore rock formation called the Dore Holm
Having visted the lighthouse at Eshaness I retraced our route and passed the two new council houses recently built at Braewick, although it took the council a full thirty five years to deliver on their promis they certianly look a good place to live.
Apparently one of the locals who had their name down for one, hoping to get married and move in has since married, produced and family and are now grandparents. I said to him 'Its a good job you dint say lets wait unitl we have house before we marry'!
I stopped at a shop and garage workshop to check I was on the right road and get some more supplies, The pull in was not really steep, but even so the Wretched Rack caught on the way in. I will really have to do something about it. It is such a nightmare to use that I have only acutally got the scooter out twice to use, which is annoying as that is the whole point of having it with me.
We got to the school just before the end of the children's lunch-break, so they all had time to meet Phoebe. I think she found it all a little overwhelming with all these little high-pitched people round her, but once a lot of stroking was involved she seemed to settle to it. Then the entire school trooped out for a guided tour of Thebus. And this is a school photo - of all seven of them!
I put Thebus through his paces for them, working the automatic levelling system, and putting out both the slides, and they thought he was just great. One of the boys asked if you could take them into supermarket carparks for the shopping, and as we had already been to Lidl I said yes, so he is going to save his money and get one when he passes his test.
After the children were back in class we had a natter about the TV series Shetland which is showing at present, and I was asking which bits of Shetland had been shown. Surprisingly they had featured one of the things on my list to see – the largest Pelagic Trawler in the UK - and in case you are not in the fishing industry that means fish which swim in shoals like herring and mackerel. I had read about The Altaire and thought it worth a visit. It had appeared in the denouement of the murderer the night before, and was only a short distance away, so definitely not to be missed.
View of the Coastline from Braewick Cafe
The Drongs off to the right of cliffs shown above
The Dore Holm
See the ruined Planti-crubs in the foreground
You can see what a grey misty day it was, and the rain really set in before too long but look at the wave crashing up the base of the rock Imagine it in a storm. I suppose that was how The Drongs were formed
To get a feeling of the scale look at the sheep on the shore in the foreground
Two Shetland Council Houses
The Altaire, the largest trawler in the UK is harboured at an old Norwegian whaling station at Ronnas Voe
People who haven’t studied sheep closely seem unaware of their character as a species, and think they are vapid, fluffy nothingnesses. But having kept and watched sheep living their own sheepy lives I can assure you this is not the case. Many years ago on one of my seven-of-a-lifetime holidays - and by that I don't mean they were 'holidays of a lifetime' I mean in my lifetime I have had seven holidays – I travelled to the Caribbean Island of Antigua. At the local market I watched a ewe with its lamb. She was rather ineffectively trying to hide behind the column of a lamp-post, and she and the nearest native trader had their eye on each other, and the look in the ewe's eyes was both fierce and cunning. Suddenly the trader was distracted by a customer. The sheep instantly darted out and grabbed a large onion and rushed off with the trader in hot pursuit waving her arms and yelling furiously.
My destination for the night was the Delting Sailing Marina. The have all year round pitches with electric hook up and water, plus a shower and toilet block, and your payment gives you free membership of the Marina Clubhouse and Bar for your stay. You can park up right in front of the wall directly facing the marina, but I tucked Thebus at the back against the banks of the marina. Partly as it does give a some shelter from the wind, though that was dropping a little, but mainly because this weekend is the final Up Helly Aa of 2014, and the boat burning is actually done at the marina here. I thought if I stayed on the Wednesday and Thursday they maybe would allow me to stay on for the Friday, then I would be in a really good spot for seeing it all whatever the weather, and no distance to walk either. I phoned and they kindly said that would be fine.
I was absolutley right about BT - I never even got the courtesty of a reply other than the standard thing saying my email had been received and would be replied to in due course. BT haven't changed in all my lifetime, with their totally disinterested stance regarding their customers.
On the way back we passed these fearless sheep, eating seaweed at the mouth of a wide fast flowing river just where it enters the sea. The photo doesn’t really show how fearless they are. I wouldn’t have dreamt of going out into it myself.