Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Summer in Shetland

So I guess I am trying to put myself in your position...You may or ( much more likely) may not - have been to Shetland before. And you are thinking "what goes on up there?"..."will I not feel completely isolated?"..."will I be accepted, coming up from south?"..."I am going to be so far away from my family..".

Well, allow me to speak a little more, speaking as someone who had all these thoughts (and more!) moving up here.

I am from the Inverness area originally, went to university in Dundee, then Newcastle for my junior doctor jobs, then headed to New Zealand for eighteen months. Whilst out there, I heard about the Rural Track program and thought "oo..sounds interesting" and, quite literally, just went for it! I had never been to Shetland before, so what made me choose Shetland in particular? - Well, for one thing it certainly was geographically remote, and the slightly more mad side of me just thought "what's the worst that's going to happen?" (the answer being that I wouldn't enjoy it for whatever reason, and transfer to another GP training programme. No big deal). Any other influencing factors? - My father had partially grown up in Shetland, and visited it subsequently through his own work, and was able to advise me about how strong and involving a community there was here. And being from the Highlands, I knew that I enjoyed living in rural environments. Equally, I had never lived on an island before, and this really appealed as a new challenge. Whilst it wasn't mountainous, I knew that there was dramatic seascape scenery and beautiful wild spaces and beaches. And then there was the live music scene. Being a traditional fiddle player, this did have a bit of an influence! Equally though, Shetland caters for a wide range of music styles - not just traditional. Jazz, heavy metal, classical to name but a few.

So, to be honest, yes - I took a bit of a chance. And I have never looked back. You could call it luck/ destiny/ fate...But whatever you call it, the fact of the matter remains that sometimes in life, we do make decisions not knowing quite where they will lead, and sometimes the random decisions we take actually turn out to be the best ones!!

I do appreciate, for those of you reading this with significant others and/ or family, that you have a lot more to consider when applying for jobs. If you are at all interested in coming to live in Shetland, then please get in touch - our Managers are keen to think about how we can make moving to Shetland more sustainable. Clearly, a huge part of this is in thinking about how we cater for partners and families.

Shetlanders are extremely welcoming of folk moving up from south (affectionately known as "soothmoothers"). We have a very cosmopolitan community. And - trust me - there is a LOT going on up here! There are excellent sports amenities (not just in Lerwick, but in the other mainland and island communities), fantastic roads for cycling, lots of sports clubs that can be joined...Not to mention the various community and charity events that take place here. One of these which cannot escape mention are the Sunday Teas, which take place in various village halls across Shetland, raising money for charity. A rather civilised way to spend a Sunday afternoon before/ after a good walk!

Winter here is, yes, slightly longer than it is further south - but there is plenty going on to keep you busy! Mainly in the form of the various Viking fire festivals which take place over the winter months.
And to be honest, the winter months bring about the stark contrast in weather: wild wintry gales (not every day but not infrequent!) compared to soft and long summery evenings. It is actually very invigorating!

In terms of travel home, yes a bit more effort and forward-planning is required, and yes - it is more expensive. Extra travel costs are helped by a few things: Air Discount Scheme (up to 40% off flight fares as a resident); Northlink ferries residents' discount; Rural Living Allowance. There is a daily sailing Lerwick to Aberdeen (overnight) and multiple flights/ day between Sumburgh and Aberdeen/ Edinburgh/ Glasgow/ Inverness. Oh - and Bergen in the summer!

One of the things I have really enjoyed about living in Shetland, is the opportunity to get involved in events which I am less likely to have living in a bigger community: speaking on radio; getting involved with HM Coastguard Search and Rescue; participating in Shetland's charity version of Strictly Come Dancing; the opportunity to play with The Scottish Ensemble at a summer workshop...

In view of all the above, it is difficult to find yourself feeling isolated here - as long as you are willing to get involved in community life.

I thought I'd leave you with a few photos of summer antics here in Shetland. One of my favourite activities is sea swimming and coasteering: plenty of both on offer up here!

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