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A trip home!

Published: 5th June 2020

A Constant Longing by Helga Mora

I was surprised when I was asked recently why Shetland means so much to me. I thought it was an odd thing to ask given the depth of feeling I have for my heritage but the person asking the question had no way of knowing that.

I answered along the lines of “Well, my mum is a Shetlander, my dad adored Shetland, I have family who I am very close to who live there and I’ve been going there all my life!” He seemed satisfied with my answer... but I have pondered further what draws me back to Shetland and the feelings I have when I think of her.

Apart from the stark beauty, I love the isolation...and the wind...and buildings, and the culture, the oatcakes and the feeling I have when I’m there. I realise that I probably see Shetland through the rose-tinted glasses of someone who revels in New Zealand summers and doesn’t have to scrape ice off the windscreen or spend months of the year in the almost-dark... but my trips back to Shetland have always brought much joy. After the trip I took with Mum to Shetland in April of 2018, I yearned for more time with my people there so decided another trip was required. I spent ten glorious days there in late November/early December.

From my arrival in Edinburgh, I flew direct to Sumburgh where my aunt Thomasina was waiting for me. It was a glorious day: blue sky, blue sea. I was staying in Scalloway, so each morning I headed off around to Port Arthur and beyond to see the Shetland ponies. I’d follow the line of the old dyke up to the cairn on Gallow Hill and soak up the view before heading back down to the village.

During my time in Shetland I headed out west and enjoyed a “Soup Lunch’ with my uncle in a church hall in Walls. Each Friday the pews are pushed to the side and the church is transformed into a cafe for the locals, the workmen passing by and the young mums who pop in after collecting their children from nursery school. Reestit Mutton Soup. Bannocks. Cake. Conversations. Time with my Uncle Magnie. A trip to the cemetery at Sandness where my great great grandparents are buried ... and with a view out to Papa Stour. A trip into Lerwick to see the Christmas Tree lights being turned on at Market Cross where Santa arrived with a large group of vikings!!

Thomasina and I spent a lovely afternoon down at St Ninian’s Isle, attended a fiddle concert at the Clickimin Centre with our cousin Jasmine and visited a cousin in Aith who is still living in the croft house where he has lived for almost 70 years...and where other members of our family lived before him.

We spent evenings looking through hundreds of family photographs, drank lots of tea ... and talked and talked and talked. I spent time with my cousins, a morning on my Uncle Jamie’s boat and another morning in his workshop. Precious moments.

I started a “NEXT TIME I’M IN SHETLAND” list before I hopped on the plane bound for Orkney: Papa Stour, Foula, trips to Yell, Unst and Fair Isle, more time with family. It’s a place that keeps calling me to return...so I will!