We’re about to leave Cunningsburgh. But before we do we’ll be taking a look at some traditional Shetland knitwear. We noticed a sign to ‘Barbara Isbister, Knitwear Designer’ on the way here and have promised ourselves something knitted to take home. It’s fun to bring something home from your travels. We’ve already purchased a beautiful, atmospheric lithograph of the Ring of Brodgar from Kirkwall on Orkney, although on this occasion we haven’t acquired any objects for the naff shelves. [See: ‘The Ghastly Gathering’].
We trundle round to Barbara’s house. It’s inauspicious, a small, semi-detached, pebble-dashed bungalow. We ring the bell, although the front door is open. Barbara invites us in. She’s a tall, mature lady. We walk through a living room and into what must be her work studio. This is a chaotic home, spools of yarn, half-knitted or completed woollen garments and knitting paraphernalia piled up on every available surface. Barbara is clearly an artist! We look through a rack and through knitted items on a table, selecting a traditional jumper for Husband and some hats for the grand-offspring.
We take our leave and head off to Lerwick, which we’ve left until this last day to explore. Parking is easy in the large, quayside car park. It’s a working port, more fishing boat than leisure. A jumble of shops and cafes ranges along the front, with more gift and knitwear stores than other towns, presumably catering for cruise ships, which I gather do stop here in non-pandemic times.
But today it’s quiet, as everywhere else and we can walk down the centre of the narrow, slabbed streets without worrying too much about traffic. Away from the centre, on the seafront street I search for Jimmy Perez’ house. I downloaded several Ann Cleeves books before we came and have seen a couple of the televised versions of her Shetland detective novels. There is nothing to indicate which grey, stone, waterside cottage is his- but then of course he isn’t real and is not deserving of a blue plaque. I narrow it down to two possibilities. Perhaps you, reader, can enlighten me?
We have lunch, then wander up to what was a fort and up around the back of town. Up behind the centre there are large, sprawling estates as well as Tesco- the largest supermarket we’ve seen since the Scottish mainland. There isn’t much more to Lerwick, although the couple of streets nearest the port are attractive and characterful.
Back at the car park we meet and chat with a young man who also has a van, one he’s meaning to convert. He’s moved to Shetland from Cambridge and his mother is a Shetlander. ‘How are the winters?’ I ask him and he shrugs. ‘People have hobbies’ he tells me. It’s hard to imagine the long, hard winter nights on a day like this.
Our ferry to Aberdeen leaves at 5pm and it’s with reluctance that we go to join the check-in queue further round at the ferry departure point. We’re waved on by a kilt-wearing, pony-tailed port worker then we’re rumbling up the ramp and into the ferry. As the ship departs there’s time for one more look at Shetland, bathed in afternoon sunshine, then we’re off back to the mainland and a long haul home.
Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook