Last Lass Standing

June 10, 2018

Today is Sunday. Everything is closed. Said goodbye to our Israeli friends, Ayelet and Shelly. Said goodbye to Fiona. Taxi for Sumburgh has been set for 6:30am.

The day is spent at Hays Dock in Lerwick. New buildings dominate the shoreline here: Shetland’s museum and archives, the Mareel arts centre, the Nordhus and the Solarhus. The latter two structures are part of a new business park. Ecology married to economic need. At the dock, the low tide allows the visitor to fully enjoy the four and sixareens painted in cheerful colours. Once a common deep sea fishing vessel, the type is now used only for day fishing, as leisure craft or in rowing competitions.

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Shetland music and conversing voices ebb and flow from somewhere on the pier. Looking around, I don’t see anyone save a couple walking a dog in the distance. The sounds emerge from four receivers mounted on posts. An interpretation panel tells me that the windier it is, the shorter the sound clips become. Gale force conditions merge all voices together. An anemometer continuously feeds clips of more than 300 live readings from the Shetland archives to the receivers.

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On a calm day like today the voices are clear and crisp. Someone sings “You are my sunshine”. So, not all the music heard originated in Shetland. The receiver dishes are made out of Shetland serpentine, granite, and shell. Although I didn’t see it due to the simmer dim, a blue LED light illuminates clouds of Shetland wool at night in what must be an eerie sight in the fog. (Artist: Lulu Quinn; dish construction by Alan Hart.)

After a cuppa to warm up (it turns out that the Mareel arts centre is open – thankfully), I head back to Alder Lodge by Commercial Street. I must say goodbye to Lerwick harbour, the Bressay ferry, Bains beach – where sisters Mary and Sally had earlier threatened to go sea bathing on what seemed a Winter’s day  – and of course I must say farewell to DI Perez’s house, next door to the beach.

My time in the Shetland landscape has been mainly about the sea, the melting of silver blues and greys into turquoise and greens, the tongues of white surf tasting the side of a jagged cliff. Add to this the weathered faces and grey beards of the old boys who hang about the harbour, the rich sea life, the gentle curve of lapstrake construction and you pretty much have what draws me to this part of the world.

Back at Alder Lodge, I am the last lass standing from our felting group. I meet Stuart in the dining hall to settle up my account. My bag is packed for Orkney. My boarding pass  emailed.

There is nothing left to do but close the curtains and turn off the lights.