We are already being advised to brace ourselves for “Blue Monday” aka the 18th January…
We are already being advised to brace ourselves for “Blue Monday” aka the 18th January, the day which the pundits have designated as being officially the most depressing of the year. Why? The nights will still be long, spring will seem an eternity away, our carefully made New Year resolutions will, by then, already have been broken, and our bank balances (hammered after the Christmas spendathon) will be urgently in need of a boost.
Shetland, however, is one place where the January blues don’t seem to hit quite so hard. It’s not easy to feel glum amidst all the Up-Helly-A’ cheer. If you’re directly involved in preparing for the festival, the whole month will fly past in a happy blur; even if you’re just a spectator on the night, anticipating the magnificent fiery spectacle will give you a much-needed lift. And if Up-Helly-A’ isn’t your bag, you can still admire the many fine beards on display and know that with each local Up-Helly-A’ festival we edge ever closer to spring time.
This month’s Shetland Life has plenty to offer the Up-Helly-A’ enthusiast, beginning with an interview with this year’s Guizer Jarl, Lyall Gair. It was a real pleasure to meet Lyall and be a fly on the wall for an “in the hot seat” interview with his niece and nephew. If you’re wondering what the Jarl’s favourite dinner is, or what his wrestling name would be, look no further than this magazine. The Shetland Life team would like to thank Lyall very much for taking time out of his busy schedule to help us, and we wish him and his squad all the very best for the big day.
John Coutts has kindly shared some wonderful photographs of Up-Helly-A’s in the 1960s. It was great fun talking to some of the characters from these old photographs: listening to their recollections of times past and finding out about their lives now.
Of course, Up-Helly-A’ is not just about men and beards. Jeff Merrifield speaks to Lesley Simpson, the first female Guizer Jarl of the South Mainland Up-Helly-A’ (SMUHA). He finds out about her life and the music which inspires her in “Tracks of my life”.
Up-Helly-A’ simply could not happen without the army of women who organise the night-long entertainment in the halls. Hostess Emma Williamson (née Knight) shares some entertaining stories of goings-ons at the Ro-ro. She also dishes out some practical fashion advice for those attending a hall this year.
We were delighted to have Alexa Fitzgibbon on board this month as our featured photographer. In addition to supplying the marvellous images for our cover and lead feature, Alexa provides a fascinating glimpse into Up-Helly-A’ from a socio-anthropological perspective.
It’s not all about Up-Helly-A’ – this issue is crammed with lots of other great content. We are very pleased to announce a new bi- monthly column from the gardeners at COPE. We also have a crafting activity from Ana Arnett, Chris Percival’s reflections on winning last year’s Cooking Challenge and Chris Cope on the success of local band, Trookers.
So, if Up-Helly-A’ isn’t enough to shake off your winter blues, Shetland Life should keep you smiling until February. See you then!