South Mainland Notes 11.09.09

A year on

A year ago this week, despite a vigorous campaign to save it, Levenwick Post Office was closed after more than a century. Part of Midway Stores, it had been run by the Irvine family since 1963, and when it ceased to exist there were fears there would be negative implications for the shop.

Twelve months on, however, the future is looking brighter. “The shop is doing better than I thought it would,” says James Irvine, co-owner with his brother John. Although both feel the lack of the wage that the post office brought them, the lovely summer has meant a brisk trade in ices and lots of visitors to the Levenwick campsite, and Midway Stores remains busy.

“I miss the post office,” says local resident Herbert Sinclair. “I think it’s a bad thing for a small community to lose. I used to get my pension here. Now I have to use a car or bus.” Nevertheless, he comes into the store most days and does all his shopping there, and he is relieved that Levenwick has kept its letter box.

So do the brothers continue to enjoy their work after all these years? “We’re still running the place, put it that way!” says James with a smile.

Talk for over 60s

The South Mainland Club for the over 60s run by the WRVS meets at Boddam Hall from 2-4pm on Tuesday. Everyone is welcome to attend, and if you do not have transport they will do their best to arrange it for you. At this month’s meeting Jean Marwick is giving a talk on Fair Trade. There will also be refreshments and chat.

For the past 30 years Jean has done voluntary work for organisations whose aim is to get an equitable deal for the developing world. She has spoken to numerous groups and always finds that folk are keen to find out more about Fair Trade. On Tuesday she will be talking about some of the countries that Fair Trade helps and what those countries produce. People will also have the opportunity to buy Fair Trade food and crafts.

The WRVS tries to provide entertainment at all its meetings, so if you have anything you can offer please get in touch. They are also looking for volunteers to run the club and to provide transport to and from the meetings. Contact them on (01595) 743915.

Sale of work and auction

For homemade cakes and candy, books, plants and a great deal more besides go to Bigton Hall tomorrow, where the South Mainland Cancer Support Group is holding a sale of work along with a raffle and tombola. There will also be an auction. That long lost Leonardo isn’t guaranteed, but items up for sale do include a very old shopping basket, called a helly basket, which used to be used for purchasing the weekend’s shopping from the grocery van that went round the settlements. The doors open at 6.30pm and the sale starts at 7pm. The hall is open from 2-4.30pm to receive donations.

Supper night

Lasagne, chicken strips, and sausage or fish suppers are on offer from 5-7.30pm at Ness Boating Club tomorrow. Phone in your orders from 3pm on (01950) 460712. The meals will be followed by a quiz at 8pm. Teams of up to four can enter at a cost of £2 per person.

History group meeting

The South Mainland History Group’s annual general meeting took place at Quendale Mill on Thursday, with 13 people attending. Despite a quiet start to the season, the number of visitors to the mill has remained stable this summer, and folk have greatly appreciated the helpful and well-informed custodians. Positive comments have come from all over the world, along with letters and donations of coins from countries not yet represented in the mill’s collection.

The History Group meets regularly throughout the year, and its project over the winter is a display for Hamefarin 2010. Secretary and treasurer Joyce Henderson was pleased to report that the mill continues to maintain its rating as a 3-Star Visitor Attraction.

Vision meeting

Health care professionals, local councillors and interested individuals attended the South Vision meeting on health and social care at Levenwick Hall on Saturday. The major demand users of the services made was quite simple: more of everything. The challenge, as the providers pointed out, was to deliver this in the face of what councillor Allison Duncan warned are likely to be “draconian” cuts in government funding.

Nevertheless, Christine Ferguson, head of community care for SIC and NHS Shetland, was distinctly upbeat about what can be achieved by good organisation, both in terms of quality of life and cutting avoidable spending.

For years Mrs Ferguson has been trying to ensure that folk in need of care receive it either in their own home or in the locality. Using a pyramidal diagram she illustrated the importance and efficacy of making this a priority, with people being referred upwards to more specialised treatment if necessary, but then quickly returned to their patch. “Home should be the direction of travel,” she said, “and all my efforts are going towards that.”

Mrs Ferguson outlined various initiatives which can facilitate this, one of the most interesting of which was anticipatory care. This involves having a plan in place for when a given individual with a long-term condition, such as asthma, has a health crisis. According to Mrs Ferguson this kind of condition tends to follow a predictable course. If professionals respond to the crisis with a strategy that has been agreed on in advance – rather than simply reacting to it when it occurs – it has been shown that hospital admissions can be decreased by an amazing 30-40 per cent.

Time and money can also be saved by using treatment rooms in already existing facilities for visiting services such as dentistry. As councillor Rick Nickerson pointed out, the ongoing population shift in South Mainland is likely to mean that resources will need to be reallocated and enhanced in the future.

An ageing population presents its own problems, but again an imaginative approach can make a big difference. There was talk of sheltered housing clusters in Levenwick, which help to concentrate specific care needs into a circumscribed locality. Technology also has much to offer, in the form of video conferences on health problems for instance. Happy people tend to be healthy people, and community halls and easy transport can contribute greatly to personal well being.

Care for the elderly emerged as a major concern, and individual issues to do with continuity of care and accessing it in the first place were discussed at some length. Communication is vital in these cases, and although practice does not always reflect principle, there was no doubt that the professionals understood the frustration that patients and carers sometimes experience when seeking a response to their situation. Mrs Ferguson likened the ideal scenario to a spider’s web: whatever your first point of contact, and whether or not it’s with the “right” person, a quick response should be forthcoming from somebody in a position to help. Constant feedback from the public and from health workers is vital to bring this about.

Naturally there were unresolved questions, and areas where the money just isn’t there to provide what people want. Despite the obvious dedication of the emergency services, the logistics of an ambulance service are complex in remote locations. Lack of manpower was blamed for there being no plan to extend surgery hours, and a discussion as to whether folk are best served by being registered with a GP near their work or near their home did not reach a definite conclusion. Nonetheless many good things were said about health care in South Mainland. The friendly GPs, the excellence of Levenwick Surgery, the availability of paid transport for care south, school nurse provision and health education were all praised.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing that came out of the South Vision meeting, however, was the fact that folk sat down together and had a frank and civilised discussion about issues that are relevant to us all. Even if the end result isn’t exactly what we wished for, at least it is clear that everybody involved is doing their best to work towards a similar goal. Orkney trip for under-12s Ness United’s excited under-12 footballers are keeping their fingers crossed for good weather, as both the A and the B team set off on the ferry for Orkney this evening. They are there for a weekend tournament against Orkney teams, but will also enjoy a Saturday night meal out and a reception organised by Orkney Youth Development Group on Sunday.

“As much as anything else it’s a chance for them to mix with other children and to learn social skills,” says coach Marshall Henderson. “For a lot of the team members a trip like this is their first time away from home, and their parents see a difference in them afterwards. Plenty of activity helps keep their minds off any homesickness. It’s a long time since we have taken such a young team away, and we hope to make it an annual event.”

Mr Henderson praised what he described as “the excellent support from parents”, which helps to make Ness United such a success. A beach clean-up and food sales at a recent tournament have helped to raise funds for the running of the club.

As for the prospect of him getting much sleep over the next two days? “I’m planning on taking Monday off,” Mr Henderson said.

Celebrating with style

Dunrossness Girls’ Brigade celebrated its 40th with a splendid meal on Saturday. Bigton Hall was festooned with decorations and there was a large cake. Some of the original members were there and Myra Fisher, the group’s founder, recalled the first ever meeting: “I didn’t expect that number of girls, but 56 turned up. We started in the manse but we had to move to Dunrossness school, where the group has been ever since.”

Cathy Feeny


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.