#RandomWednesday – Visitors descending once more.

Sumburgh Head. An unusual view of Sumburgh Hea...
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Last Christmas was massive fun.  My wife blogged about it over at the family blog.  We had a full house, one family to a bedroom, and loads of fun was had by all.  This weekend coming we’ve got my youngest’s Christening and another full house.  Kids will be sleeping in tents in the garden, mattresses on the floor in our bedroom, guests scattered between our house and the lighthouse down at Sumburgh head (top tip for visitors to Shetland, the lighthouses are all automated now so the accommodation has been refurbished and you can book it through http://www.shetlandlighthouse.com).  This time of year, the puffins are nesting at Sumburgh on the cliffs, it’s light all night and, touch wood, the weather will be good for our visitors.

The week before (probably should’ve done this sooner, I know) and we’re planning recipes, cakes, outings to far-flung islands.  As I write this, I’ve made the cake and it’s baking, the whole house smells of mixed spice and it’s lovely.  We have done some forward planning – I’ve been brewing beer and cider since the visitors drained the cellars at Christmas.  And a glass of white wine for the ladies.

So, for the rest of the week we’ll be heading to and from the airport to collect our visitors, herding cats kids and making the curries we’re going to be dining on this Sunday.  Breakfasts will be the usual huge affair – my dad’s a fan of the full English, including mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and black pudding.  The second one person in the house is having that little lot, everyone else thinks it’s a good idea!  Fortunately, he’s bringing in the black pudding supplies as Scotland goes completely overboard on the white pepper.  The Orkney stuff is good, but it’s not as good as the one dad brings up from Yorkshire.  It’s amazing how much black pudding the kids will eat!  Local kippers will be on offer, assuming our fish shops don’t run out.

Friday’s Unst day, Saturday afternoon’s the Nesting Regatta (the Gulberwick & Quarff Yoal team now have a time to beat!), Sunday’s the Christening and curry buffet.  If you’re up on your rowing, all the results are on the Bigton website.

The visitors are here with us all weekend, start leaving on Monday morning back to the mainland and normality.

Then we’ve only got 5 birthdays and a wedding and that’s June.

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Row, row, row your boat… #RandomWednesday

Here on Shetland, we have a class of boat.  The Yoal.  It takes 7 to crew – 6 with an oar each and 1 to shout instructions – and last week I became secretary of the Gulberwick and Quarff Yoal Club.  Last night was the first time this year our (y’see, I’ve been in the club a week and it’s already ‘our’) boat got into the water.

The Yoal in Action

There was a light wind down in Wester Quarff, blue skies, calm seas.  The boat seemed (to my untutored eye) to be in good form.  About 20 of us, men and women, turned up to put our backs to the oars.  Some of them have been doing this for years, most of them (like me) hadn’t done anything like this before.  Until recently, the smallest boat I’d spent most time on was a Northlink ferry.  I’ve been on boats about this size before, but they’ve usually had outboard motors and I’ve been wearing diving kit.  Last time I had to row anything was on the Zambezi river, white-water rafting!

Once we’d been given some basic instructions, reassured that everyone gets things wrong on their first time out and doubly reassured when the “experts” spent some time getting their oar properly mounted, we were off.  A short jaunt out and back.  And it’s complicated!  I was at the back on the right-hand side, looking forward to make sure my oar didn’t collide with the man in front whilst simultaneously working out where the sea level was so my oar actually went in and trying to avoid both punching the guy in front of me in the back and whacking my knees with the oar on the return stroke!  Aaaargh!

But despite the complications, the difference in rowing stroke between the boat on the water and the rowing machine in my bedroom, the team work, it was fantastic fun!  The men’s team – and GQYC hasn’t had a men’s team for over 10 years – meets for the first time on Thursday night.  Can’t wait!

Boat on the water