Homesickness appears to be an incurable ailment. It's quarter of a century (and far more than half my lifetime) since I lived in Shetland but it will always be where I'm from and looks like it will always be where I think of as home - it's not as if I have any illusions about island life, or if I'm even sure that it would still be for me (though give me the chance and I'd go back in a flash to try it out at least). The end of January always makes me want to head north (a desire that probably wouldn't survive first contact with the weather) mostly because of Up-Helly-Aa, although this year impressive Aurora displays are added to the siren call (I don't want to infringe anybody's copyright but have a look at some of the pictures and videos here at Burra Bears).
Up-Helly-Aa is a big deal (I think it might be the biggest fire festival in Europe) and although there are several burnings all across Shetland now the big one takes place in Lerwick on the last Tuesday of every January. When I was a child it was a hugely exciting day partly because school closed half day on the Tuesday and everything closed on Wednesday so that people could recover (this is still the case). Shetland is a small place, really large crowds are rare so the best part of a thousand men marching through town with flaming torches has quite an impact. It really is a sight to see and judging by the palpable excitement on my facebook page it's still as big (if not bigger) deal than ever. Excellent pictures here.
It probably doesn't help that I'm currently reading Mairi Hedderwick's 'Shetland Rambles' - set in midsummer which is even more beguiling (there's a promise of sun and reasonable warmth). I had to put it to one side to finish a book group read but will have more to say about this one very soon. Also it's cold which makes me hanker after new knitwear, my favourite jumper is now over a decade old and has finally reached a point where repairs are ineffective. It's a long way to go for a jumper but there would be gloves and a scarf too... My Porch went to Hawaii for his island fix, arguably my parents didn't do me any favours imprinting Shetland on me - now if only I could bring myself to believe that.