You’ve all seen the BBC’s “Shetland” now. People mumbling in impenetrable accents (mostly Glaswegian, to be fair, you hear very little genuine Shetland on that show). It’s bleak, grim, grey and miserable. And it was, from time to time. The long winter months, and there were far more of them than you have in England, could really drag by.
The BBC were really very unlucky. They had one of the worst summers on record to film their series. If it wasn’t foggy it was raining. But it was mostly foggy.
But I’m not here to moan – or gloat – about the weather. Yes, I’ve not had a winter this mild since I spent a Christmas in Zimbabwe. Yes, we’ve not had snow, massively disruptive wind and rain whilst Shetland’s been battered to within an inch of it’s life.
No, I’m having a moan about geography.
It’s still a bit of a novelty to be able to drive for more than half an hour before running out of land – my commute to work has changed from 7 minutes (on a slow day) from one side of the island to the other to an hour if I’m lucky to cover 40 miles on what appear to be pretty good roads. So a brief compare and contrast of some of the distances we’ve got to cover now compared to then:
Supermarkets. Okay, we’ve now got a veritable plethora of choice but our nearest is still Tesco. On Shetland that would take us about 5 minutes to get there and about an hour longer to do the shop as you stop and chat to your neighbors, work colleagues, friends from archery or that writing class you took years ago. Now, Tesco is still 5 minutes away but I come out of it strangely unfulfilled by the experience – all I’ve done is shopped! I’ve not found out about the next archery tournament, or that there’s a gymnastics fundraiser the weekend after next. And, to give Lerwick’s Tesco it’s dues, the Lerwick store is head and shoulders above any of the local Tescos. It didn’t have to be, it’s got a very captive audience up there, but comparing stock of the things we were used to buying, it’s a better store by far. But it is definitely cheaper to shop down here and the luxury of home delivery by a range of suppliers is a novelty I’m not giving up!
Leisure centres. Shetland has an over-abundance of these. 9 of them, in fact, for a population of around 23,000 people. It is overkill but they’re very good and they’re cheap. It’s probably twice as expensive for the family to go swimming now. Travel-time? 5 minutes on Shetland, 10 down here.
Cinema. Yes, Shetland’s got a cinema. It’s a 2-screen affair, very comfortable, great bar and a cracking concert venue. And it was, yes, about 5 minutes from home. Now I’m guessing there’s going to be a small cinema in Stamford, haven’t found it yet. I’ve read some astonishingly bad things about the standards of the cinema in Peterborough, so we’ve avoided that one. Nearest cinema is about an hour, hour and a half away. And if you’re taking a family of 7 to see a movie, they should really provide seats for when they tell you the price.
Airport. Half an hour from home to Sumburgh. From there you could fly to anywhere. Providing your definition of “Anywhere” was Kirkwall, Inverness, Glasgow, Aberdeen or Edinburgh. Now it’s a 2-3 hour drive to Gatwick, or Birmingham, so the choice is better and the range of destinations a tad bigger but it’s costing in petrol and parking what it used to cost us to fly from Sumburgh to Edinburgh.
So, yes. Just because you can drive for more than half an hour before running out of land seems to mean that you’ve got to if you want to do anything.
Ah, well. You win some, you lose some.