Well that’s that then. In 24 hours I’ll be on the boat steaming (metaphorically speaking) south from Lerwick to Aberdeen. From there we start the trek to our new home near Peterborough.
I’m sat amongst the remnants of the house, no curtains, no lamps, a small TV in the background and the smell of fresh paint and carpet cleaner pervading everything. I’ve got a glass of Highland Park by my right hand – Shetland’s Blackwoods Distillery never did get off the ground, they’d have an 8 year old single malt by now if they had, so I’m drinking as close as I can get.
From my home here I’ve watched the Northern lights turn the sky to magic. I’ve watched gannets diving for fish in the bay, orcas, seals and dolphins frolic in the water a few dozen yards away – not at the same time, they’ve been well spread out over the past 10 years.
Gulberwick has been a fantastic place to live. Just fantastic. Just across the field is the play park and village hall, around the corner are the children’s friends, over the hill is Lerwick. As a village, it’s a strange one. No pub, no shop, no post office. Only the hall and the kirk actually make it a village. That and 2 groups of people who work bloody hard to keep it alive.
On the one hand, there’s the Gulberwick Hall Committee. Volunteers all, they man the bar, maintain the hall, work hard with an events calendar that keeps the hall going all year round. But that’s just the hall. The wider village has another group with it’s interest at heart…
Gulberwick Together, another bunch of volunteers, has tried it’s hardest over the years I’ve been involved to provide entertainments and events to bring Gulberwick, well, together as a community. Picnics on the beach (indoors if wet, thanks to the hall), sports and activities weeks giving residents the chance to experience fencing, karate, baking, mountain biking and more. Everyone who’s been to one of these events has had fun and left with more friends than they started.
But the last time we tried to organise an activities week, one where I was due to pass on some of my curry-cooking experience, we got no-one. Every single event that had been proposed was cancelled due to lack of interest. Too busy. Other commitments. Oh, is that this weekend? I will.
Gulberwick is not Together as a community. Effectively, having no centre, no focus, no pub, shop or post office, it’s just a big suburb of Lerwick. It’s the desirable bit where people live who work in Lerwick (no employers to speak of in Gulberwick) move to when they don’t want to live in the beating heart of the big smoke, keeping the temptations of Lerwick a comfortable few miles away. It’s turning into somewhere people sleep and keep their stuff.
As a place, it’s going to survive. If the economy on Shetland keeps going, Lerwick will expand through inevitable centralisation of services and facilities and Gulberwick really will become that suburb. It will be joined to Lerwick by clusters of housing, lovingly designed either to stand out like a sore thumb through colours so bright they wouldn’t be seen dead on Balamory, or so grey they hide in the mist and cloud. You can never tell what the planners here are going to decide on.
Whatever happens, I won’t be here to see it. I consider myself fortunate to have lived here, lucky to have met the people I’ve met, helped the people I’ve helped. I wish everyone in Gulberwick, and Shetland, all the very best for the future. Those friends I’ve made, I’ll keep in touch with. But for now, so long. And thanks for all the fish.