With the temperature dipping below freezing, the thought of fire surely passed through the minds of guizers as hundreds descended on the Anderson High School on Tuesday.
The games hall was packed for the guizers’ vocal exercise and a refresher course on Up-Helly-A’ etiquette (“Whit you’re meant ta dae”).
When all the guizers had amassed, the Lerwick Brass Band soon fired up and the truly committed 17 men in black trooped in to sit at the red and raven-bannered table.
Big chief Mark Evans, after some trouble grappling with the mic, thanked everyone for coming. He said his squad had completely finished their suit and were fairly looking forward to Sunday for the photos and then to Tuesday.
“Da boys is good an’ dir buzzin,” the new jarl intimated.
Tributes were paid to Up-Helly-A’ stalwarts, Aly Watson and ex-jarl Harry Jamieson, who had passed on. The collection would be for the Junior Up-Helly-A’ Association and the Dim Riv.
Next it was time for ex-jarl Stan “the Man” Manson. Time for running through the sacred songs was punctuated by thoughts from Manson. The handover of the mic was seamless and the Manson’s mic technique faultless.
He first tried to shame the senior guizers for their singing efforts on previous occasions. He wanted them to “gie it laldee!” whatever that is. He was adamant “you can do better”.
Manson thought the juniors’ singing was amazing in comparison with those present. His “flitin” continued… it was bad manners, whatever the weather, not to wear your Up-Helly-A’ suits in the procession.
It was indeed a call for hardy Vikings. “Pit dem on! We dunna want boiler suits an’ junk!”
That is unfortunate as I know of at least one squad that legitimately has a boiler suit. I think he meant all-weather protective clothing.
The oh so familiar songs done, it was time for the collection, and a voice from the back shouted: “Got your washers wi you?”
The chief marshal, ex-jarl Neil “Penguin” Robertson, laid down advice on behaviour. He didn’t want the collecting of torches to “git oot o’ kilter”.
And he explained that telling the marshals the wrong squad number might seem funny, but it was not.
The route amendment of last year, going down a section of Union Street, was to be kept, so it’s goodbye to Prince Alfred Street.
As for the throwing of torches, the head of the galley was to be avoided, because of photo opportunities later. Anyone hitting it could be banned from the festival.
Jarl Evans quipped in: “Dat’s naethin compared ta whit Linda wid dae ta you.” Linda is of course, Mrs Jarl.
The usual instructions for the halls were given. Dance in each hall and keep your mask on “fur a peerie while” were two. No smoke machines at the ro-ro terminal as the reek closes down the whole of the systems in the building.
We also learned that the bowls hall at the Clickimin will play host to the TA folk again.
Neil reminded us that behaviour was not “carte blanche” – freedom to do anything you want. Boys o’ Bressay! French at the mass meeting must be a first.
A good roar was asked for the jarl and his squad, as they move up the ranks.
Moving on to any other competent business, Neil on a lighter note explained that he had “Penguin awareness day” when he was jarl. This year, the Tuesday was tin can day, January is T month and Sunday beer can appreciation day. These were references to Evans’ partiality to a certain “bevvy” in a particular container.
The draw for the procession positions was made and the assembled quickly departed into the night, many no doubt to get some practice in on how to get festive.
Meanwhile the weather prediction for Up-Helly-A’ by one forecaster is said to be milder and breezy with showers.