News from the North
I’m writing this on the train on my way south. We came out from Shetland on the Northlink overnight. It was a bit lumpy around Fair Isle, but my usual cure for seasickness – taking super strength pills and lying flat on the bunk – worked again.
This was another good trip. We met Barbara Ford and her group of US mystery lovers in Aberdeen and travelled with them on the ferry. Then I spent a day and a night with them in Shetland. We did the fantastic new museum, a tour of the island and dinner at Monty’s. The group went on to be entertained by a traditional fiddle band. Not everything went quite to schedule – we’d planned lunch at the Lunna House, where the Shetland bus was organised during the war. The ‘bus’ was a group of small fishing boats, which crossed the North Sea to take agents into Norway and bring out members of the resistance. But the owner was having a roof crisis and fixed up for us to go to the Pier Head in Voe instead. At least that gave the group the chance to experience an authentic Shetland bar!
Tim and I moved on to Whalsay for a week then. Whalsay is where the third Shetland book will be set and I wanted to spend some time there. It’s not so much about doing research as getting a feel for the place. Walsay speech is impenetrable even for other Shetlanders and I’d never do the dialogue in dialect, but it’s about having the voice in your head so at least you can get the rhythm right.
We stayed in a low white washed croft near the north of the island. There was a pile of peat outside which would have kept us warm for the rest of the winter, a neighbour had left us dinner in the fridge and some of his own eggs on the table. Whalsay’s known for being a friendly isle – you notice as soon as you get onto the ferry from Laxo that everyone waves and smiles at you.
I managed to get lots of writing done there. I set up my laptop on the kitchen table. There were none of the usual distractions: no phone calls, no emails, no kids. Only a view of gannets diving and Tim coming in from a morning’s birding to make tea.
Now we’re on our way home. Later this week I’ll be in Harrogate to meet up with another group of US mystery readers, this time from the Smithsonian Institute. And plans are already under way to launch WHITE NIGHTS in London in April. We’re hoping to bring a little bit of Shetland to the south. Hope you can join us there.