Thursday, 3 September 2009

On to Shetland

Saturday August 22nd saw the arrival in Shetland of the Vautreys (by ferry) and the Gambles (by air). When we met up we were taken to see the crofters' cottage which is kept as a museum to show how many people on Shetland used to live. It's well worth a visit, and we (I) discovered that genuine Fair Isle sweaters are knitted without a seam. I was more interested in this than you might have imagined, as my mum was a great knitter.

On Sunday, while Richard travelled North, I stayed towards the Southern end of the island and took services in Lerwick (morning), Westerskeld (afternoon) and Walls (evening. Each was different and each was well attended.

I discovered at Westerskeld that the all-age service had been advertised on Radio Shetland, as had the fact that a tea would be available afterwards. It was explained to me that the refreshments are a particularly important part of Methodist life on the island, as people have often travelled many miles to an event.

Certainly, good food featured at many of the events I attended and always seemed to be much appreciated.

On the Wednesday, Liz and I flew (with the help of a small 8 seater plane and a pilot) to Fair Isle, where we were hosted by our minister there, John best, and his wife Betty. 64 people live on the island, 12 of whom are related to the Bests. It's a very beautiful place, with amazing views. We visited the school, the 2 churches (Church of Scotland and Methodist), a museum, the village shop and an old lighthouse.

Wherever we went we kept meeting the same people, who seem to have developed multi-tasking into an art form. For example, we first met John's daughter ion the village shop, which she runs. But later we met her as one of the people loading the luggage on the plane home. And then she disappeared, only to turn up again driving the fire engine to the end of the runway! It takes a special kind of person to live on Fair Isle, and a visit to the island makes you think (or at least made me think) what of the many things I take for granted are the real necessities of life?

Visiting the Methodist chapel on Fair Isle was a very special experience. It seems so remote, and when you come close to it you find you are surrounded by the most amazing views on all sides (as well as quite a few sheep!)

Entering the chapel is quite a surprise, as the pews are blue and the use of colour on the walls and in stain glass windows and pulpit fall is very striking.

Back on Shetland, we had time to travel round seeing many of the sights. We also tried to get used to the distinctive language spoken there.

This sign, for instance, was the first time I'd come across the phrase 'Dunna chuck bruck'. Having discovered the phrase, I'm now looking for appropriate opportunities to introduce it into conversations or meetings. So far I've had little success, but I shall continue to work on it.

My last words regarding the Shetland visit, would be ones of thanks to all those who made us so welcome, and to the District Chair, Jeremy and his wife, Sheila, who spared no efforts in making sure we were well looked after.

On our last full day, Jeremy took us to St Ninian's Isle, a very significant place in the spiritual history of Shetland and yet another spectacularly beautiful place to visit, reflect, and give thanks.

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