South Mainland Notebook 02.10.09

Gulberwick meeting

Gulberwick Together is an association which was started in 2006 in order to encourage community spirit and enhance the life of those living in the area.

It is also concerned with history and the local environment, and works with relevant agencies to further Gulberwick’s social, economic and environmental needs. The overall aim is to make the settlement a pleasant place to be in and a desirable location in which to bring up a family.

The association is certainly succeeding in this. With its activities for both bairns and grown-ups, regular newsletter and promotion of local events, Gulberwick Together provides a blueprint for what community co-operation can achieve.

One of its recent initiatives involved sending a letter to every household in Gulberwick in order to find out what residents thought about the proposed improvements to the lower road. The result was a sizeable response and a range of useful comments on issues such as lighting, speeding and signage.

Another ongoing project is to achieve easier and safer access to tje Gulberwick beach by the construction of a brig over the burn at its south end.

Gulberwick Together will be meeting on Monday at 7pm in Gulberwick Hall.

Good year for Jarlshof

Visitor numbers have remained stable for Jarlshof this season, and people from as far afield as Chile, Australia and Japan have appreciated the archaeological site’s new interpretation boards.

During the winter a four-year project to lay new paths for the disabled will enter its last phase. The work should be completed by next spring.

Inspirational rural talk

If you are a fan of the Peanuts cartoons you will be familiar with Linus van Pelt.

With the permission of his creator the late Charles M. Schulz, Project Linus, which started in the USA in the 1990s, named itself after this character, whose defining trait is that he doggedly refuses to be parted from his beloved security blanket.

The volunteers who work for the project make up quilts and blankets and give them to individuals up to the age of 18 who are, for some reason such as bereavement, illness or trauma, in need of comfort. To date over a million have been distributed in the United States.

In 2000 the movement spread to the UK, and in April of this year it arrived in Shetland. The project co-ordinator is Vikki Macdonald and her fellow organiser is Quarff resident Polly Brodie, who will be giving a talk about what they do to Boddam SWRI.

Polly, who has been quilting since the 1970s, is originally from north-east England, where quilting is the indigenous craft. When she moved to Shetland she set up quilting classes and founded the Greenfield Quilters.

She will be showing some of the Project Linus quilts to rural members and explaining how they are made and what sort are required: although there is no set size, anything such as buttons, which could be a choking hazard, cannot be used.

People unable to make a quilt themselves can donate money and a quilt will be made on their behalf by one of the various organisations that have got involved. The completed items are then given anonymously to those in need. Age and sex are taken into account when it comes to deciding on colour and size.

“People always assume that finding a use for worn-out clothes was what gave rise to quilting, but that wasn’t the case until during the war,” says Polly, who is a mine of information on the topic. “That was when it became known as a poor people’s craft and fell out of favour in the UK.

“In fact, the early quilts would have been made out of the little bits of fabric left over from making new dresses. It was a rich person’s pastime and they often used materials such as silk and taffeta. We know from letters to her sister that Jane Austen was a keen quilter.”

Although the Project Linus quilts are things of beauty, psychological research suggests that an individual in distress can derive very real benefit and genuine comfort from a security blanket. There is also the uplifting effect of the cheerful colours and the knowledge that somebody cares.

“I’d rather not be donating them,” says Polly, who has seen several quilts distributed in Shetland this year. “If no quilts are needed no bairns are in distress, but we live in the real world.”

You do not need to be a member of the SWRI to attend Polly’s talk, at the Dunrossness Hall in Boddam on Monday at 7.30pm, but should you decide you wish to join afterwards they would be only too delighted to welcome you.

The Linus Project is eager for more volunteers. If anyone would like to get involved call Polly on (01595) 694343.

Fair Isle project

“I really like it here, there’s lots going on,” says Lisa Bracken, head teacher at Fair Isle Primary School.

That certainly was the case this summer when the school’s 10 pupils hosted an outer isles trip which brought four children to visit them from Foula, Skerries and Fetlar.

The Fair Isle pupils planned all the menus for the occasion, ordered the food themselves and even did the washing up. The bairns went on a guided wildlife walk, enjoyed poetry workshops and got to play the team games that their small numbers usually make impossible.

As the year wanes, though, visits from outwith are always at risk of being cancelled.

Mrs Bracken, who arrived in Fair Isle 18 months ago, cites the weather as one of the major challenges of the autumn and winter terms.

“The children learn to cope with disappointment,” she says. “They are very resilient.”

The bairns are also learning that the darker months are not without their consolations; their current project is to study autumn celebrations from around the world.

What we love about it

Seven Shetland South Vision meetings have now taken place, and the organisers have compiled an interim summary of the feedback, listing what folk love about living here and what improvements they would like to see.

The negatives are not being ignored, but it has been felt throughout that there is much to be gained from keeping the focus on the positive side, and viewing problems as challenges that need to be met.

So what do we love about South Mainland? Well firstly it seems we love talking about it. May’s discussion of economic development, transport and tourism was such a success that a future event on the same theme is planned with invited guests. Also praised were the local cottage industries, the transport links and the tourism sites, all of which folk would like to see developed.

As far as utilities and emergency services are concerned people are pleased by what is on offer, including the good airport facilities and responsive emergency services, but they would like better broadband and mobile phone signals and an upgrade of local fire stations. They also feel that the need for a second ambulance should be addressed.

The organisers were particularly pleased by the lively atmosphere of the Fair Isle meeting, and came away with the knowledge that the isle’s very community-minded residents are happy with their ferry service, although they would like to see improvements in air travel and better health facilities.

Their Mainland counterparts, in contrast, feel that they have a good overall health care service, but folk asked to see more measures put in place to enable them to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, and for improved access to the surgery.

There are five more meetings currently scheduled, so anyone who hasn’t yet made their feelings known on the issues that affect people’s lives in the south Mainland still has ample opportunity to do so.

Those who were planning on attending the meeting on leisure, recreation, culture and heritage at Virkie tomorrow should note, however, that it has now been moved to Saturday, November 7th. For further information phone (01950) 431439.

Bonny comes of age

Bonny, an Amazonian parrot who lives in Levenwick, celebrated her 21st birthday yesterday with a few close friends.

On the festive menu were cherry tomatoes, pecan nuts and her favourite food in the world, poppadums. She also enjoys courgettes, peanuts and fresh and dried chillies, but doesn’t like anything that makes her beak sticky.

Hatched in East Kent, Bonny is a much-travelled bird and has lived in France and Spain as well as England and now Shetland. She enjoys singing along with the dishwasher, preening and flicking water on people who vacuum under her cage.

Like many green Amazonian parrots she is not much of a talker, but she does imitate laughter and make conversation noises. Female parrots tend to prefer male human beings to females, and Bonny is no exception. She does, however, look forward to the arrival of the postlady and makes happy sounds when she sees her coming down the path.

At 21 Bonny is middle-aged. Her life expectancy is around 40, although 100-year-old parrots are not unknown.

Celebrations at Sandwick

These are exciting times for the pupils of Sandwick Junior High.

Tune into BBC Radio Scotland tomorrow to hear them on an edition of Take the Floor, which was recorded at the school last month, when 150 guests spent an evening celebrating Da Fustra’s 40th anniversary.

It was a wonderful occasion, and head teacher Stuart Clubb was particularly proud of the 25 pupils who, he says, “danced all night and helped to create a great atmosphere”. The presenter and crew were so pleased with how it went that they have promised to return soon.

Another anniversary is due to be celebrated at the school this coming week. To mark the 25 years since the opening of the “new” Sandwick Junior High there will be a concert on Tuesday, showcasing the school’s musical and dramatic talent.

On Wednesday an open evening from 6pm to 8.30pm will offer members of the community, along with former pupils and staff, a chance to tour the building and view a large photo archive. Tea, coffee and fancies will be on offer, and the school is hoping for a good turnout.

Youth club starts again

All young people in South Mainland from Primary 1 to Secondary 2 are welcome to register with Bigton Youth Club, which starts up again at Bigton Hall at 6.30pm this evening.

The activities include computer games, badminton and pool as well as just hanging out and chatting together. The children will also be putting forward suggestions for the year’s programme.

Up your energy efficiency

South Mainlanders should now have received home energy questionnaires from Energy Saving Scotland and Carbon Reduction Shetland.

A returned questionnaire will result in an individual Home Energy Report outlining savings you can make, sometimes amounting to as much as £300.

The organisations are also going to be running free advice surgeries at which they will be giving away energy efficient light bulbs, and you will be able to borrow energy meters. The first of these is at Cunningsburgh Hall on Tuesday, starting at 7.30pm. All are encouraged to come along.

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.