21 September 2009--Sideways rain on the window as we get up, bright sun as I shower, more rain at breakfast,
then more sun. Nothing too unusual in this part of the world--I think of it as Repetitive Squall Syndrome--but I'm not in
the best spirits, and the iffy weather adds to my malaise as we dither about what to do with the day.
"To be honest," I tell Ron, "I really don't feel like doing anything today. You're going to have to kick my butt if there's something you want to do."
Ron shrugs and says, "Nothing wrong with a down day." I'm relieved to have permission to take the day off...no big deal when I'm on my own, but I hate to waste someone else's time. Ron is the easiest traveling companion imaginable--he shrugs off my nonsense as if it were a passing cloud, and never adds any of his own.
The one thing we do have planned for the day is laundry. We stuff our dirty clothes into a sack and drive over to the laundry, behind the Tesco. And since Clickimin Broch [US] is virtually across the street from there, we walk over for a look. It's an impressive broch, contained within an outer ring fort, a feature which is unique, as far as I know. Its little loch was apparently tidal at one time, the broch sitting on a small island. The Historic Scotland signboard informs us that it was "restored" in the 19th century--their quotes, giving the impression that they rather wish it hadn't been done. The standards of archeology have changed considerably, and I've seen regrettable "restorations" all over Scotland. It's hard not to wonder, though, what the 22nd century archeologist will think of what's being done now.
We head back to the B&B, already having achieved more than we'd set out to. We take some lazy time--Ron does some reading, and I work on photos. The weather continues with its peaks and valleys--when it's sunny, I feel a little guilty for wasting the day, and when the squalls blow through, I feel better. Early in the afternoon, Ron strolls into town to do some shopping, returning with some Shetland knitwear for his extraordinarily tolerant girlfriend. Midafternoon, the sky clouds over altogether, and I'm quite happy. We go to pick up the laundry, and then decide to go see the Shetland Museum, in its spacious new building down on the waterfront. The exhibits cover the history of the archipelago, from tectonic shift through to the rapid social shifts of the 20th century. We spend two hours, right up to closing, picking over the parts that particularly interest us--could certainly have stayed longer. Very impressive, well worth a rainy day or two. Plenty of them hereabouts.
Not bad for a down day.
We have a couple of pints in Captain Flint's (named after a pirate in R L Stevenson's Treasure Island), the only place in town with cask ale, from the Valhalla Brewery in Unst. It's a handsome enough place, if a bit clichéd with the nautical theme; but it seems to be the rock'n'roll bar in town. Okay for us old fogeys late in the afternoon. Amusing enough to listen to piped-in pop tunes considerably older than the staff. Dinner is at Monty's Bistro. It's very good, but the young locals who wait on us are incongruously casually dressed, and their trained attentiveness doesn't quite hide their natural apathy. We've noticed a lot of eastern Europeans waiting tables in the hotels--is employment that high, or are the local youth so hopeless? A matter of goals, I suppose. The foreign workers are earning far more than they could at home, and are saving to set themselves up when they return. Local kids with any ambition simply leave Shetland for work or university in Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Aberdeen. The grass is always greener....