cars, trains and pumpkins

Bertie (previously known as Loofah due to the first four digits of his number plate LOO4) finally rolled his wheels for the very last time and left Susie without a car.  A replacement was found, but it (name yet to be discovered) was in Gateshead and Susie was in Leeds.  So she she hopped on the train to Durham for a few hours R&R (and freezer scoping) at home, pumpkin carving, slushy movie watching and a new car!

We’ve never been hugely into Halloween, and  my own personal interests tend towards Samhain (I will be drumming around my fire pit tonight) but it is hard not to be seduced into buying at least one pumpkin.  I read somewhere I think, that cutting the base of the pumpkin rather than the top reduces rot and consequently makes the carved fruit last longer.  I have absolutely no idea if this is true or indeed why it should be true … but I tried it nonetheless.  Susie and spent ages on Pinterest checking out the carvings created by knife wielders far more deft than we and instead plumped for the simple but, we felt, striking.

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Now to work out what to do with the ghost’s innards.  Stuart is no fan of pumpkin and I knew better than to try an tempt him with pumpkin soup of any variety.  But I do know my daughter and she is partial to a sweet pie.  So whilst they went to pick up the  new wheels I made pumpkin pie.  I make no claim to this being my own recipe, it comes from my well thumbed copy of The All American Cookbook by Martha Lomask.

  • 2 medium eggs
  • 225 ml milk
  • 400g cooked pumpkin flesh*
  • 125g sugar (I used a mix of demerara and golden caster)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmet
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp melted butter (I forgot this and it was fine 🙂 )

*since I had scraped the flesh out of the pumpkin I couldn’t roast it so I added about 250ml of water and simmered gently for 20 minutes and then drained and squeezed out as  much water as I could.  From one medium pumpkin I got 700g of cooked flesh.

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  1. Line a 23cm pie tin with sweet shortcrust pastry.  If you can remember the butter (!)  brush it over the base of the pastry case.
  2. Whisk milk and pumpkin flesh together.  Then add the remaining ingredients and continue to whisk.  I shoved the whole lot in my magimix and it came out perfectly well.
  3. Pour into pastry case.

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4. Bake at 200C for 40-45 minutes until a knife in the centre of the pie comes out    clean.

5. Eat.

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The remains of the pie went back to Leeds with Susie in the as yet unnamed car with a second pumpkin for carving tonight.

Finally, the seeds.  Stuart, who as I  mentioned is not greatly enamoured of pumpkin flesh, thinks these are the best bits.  I usually struggle to remove the flesh from the seeds but heard a brilliant tip on the radio this week.  Put them in a salad spinner.  It worked a dream.

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Dry, place on a heavy roasting dish.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning of your choice, I used ginger, cinnamon, salt and pepper)  Place in a hot oven for five minutes.  Don’t burn your fingers trying to get them out of the roasting dish …

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Happy Halloween

Love Gillie x

scanner, bears and hats – MRI Appeal Shetland

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Gorgeous isn’t it?  This is currently on my needles and I can’t wait to try it on and show it off.    But I am even more excited about telling people where the pattern came from.  Read on.

F9A2BF8D-061A-473D-B955-E1E27E5BD00EMeet the two Billys.  You may never have heard of them, but they, along with the eponymous Harriet of the cowl above,  are two of the leading lights behind a huge army of knitters who are edging closer to changing the medical face of living on the Shetland Islands.  Here they are at Loch Ness Knit Fest with patterns and products for the Shetland MRI appeal.

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Three million three hundred and forty six thousand MRI scans are performed in the UK each year.  Of these precisely none are performed on the Shetland Islands because the nearest MRI Scanner is over 200 miles away in Aberdeen, an overnight ferry trip or a flight away.  For the 675 people on Shetland who require an MRI scan this is considerably more complicated than even a three or four hour drive to your nearest MRI scanner and can be further complicated by weather that cancels flights and ferries and the time involved (two overnight ferries and possibly a stay in Aberdeen requires three days off work, complicated childcare arrangements and so on) even before the cost of the transport itself and the possible need for somebody to accompany the patient.  An MRI scan is not just a hospital appointment, it can be a complex and expensive logistical operation.

In July 2018 NHS Shetland launched a £2m appeal for an MRI scanner for the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick.  The savings made in patient travel will be used to staff the scanner which will be in a stand alone unit at the hospital.  You can read the full details, follow the appeal and donate here.  So where do the two Billys fit in?

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(photo credit:  MRI Maakers Shetland)

Meet Harriet Middleton, Billy the human’s (as opposed to Billy the Bear) mother.  Harriet, like many Shetlanders, is an expert knitter and collected up some of her yarn scraps and designed and produced a beanie hat (or toorie as regular readers will know is the Shetland term) which she began to sell at craft fairs, Sunday teas  and anywhere she could persuade people to let her put up a stall.

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The hat sold like the hot cakes at the Sunday Teas.  Eventually it became clear that even super-fast knitter Harriet couldn’t keep up with demand on her own and so she started a Maakin and Yaakin (doesn’t that sound so much better than Knit and Knitter?!) group where people could come along with their own yarn scraps and knit more hats.

Like the proverbial Topsy the hat grew and grew and became

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Gloves, fingered or fingerless.

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Mittens

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A headband.  And finally, the cowl that is currently sitting on my needles.  It rapidly became clear that the patterns themselves could become fundraisers, Jameieson & Smith and Jameisons both put wool packs together and soon knitters all over the world were proudly wearing their MRI Maakers knitwear. Patterns are available from shops across Shetland and the rest of Scotland (Wool for Ewe) and even in the USA (The Woolly Thistle, Northfield Yarns,  The Spinnning Room) as well as directly from the MRI Scanner appeal website.  Some of the patterns are even available in Norwegian!  If you are a LYS or knitting group you can purchase patterns in bundles of 25.

73413128_2095205527455846_6312859235080208384_oBilly Two was created for the appeal by Burra Bears.  Here he is with Billy Middleton on his way to Loch Ness Knit Fest.     He even has his own Instagram Account where  you can follow his busy life.

So how successful has Harriet’s knitting project been in helping to reach the appeal target?  Are you sitting down?

……  by the end of Loch Ness Knit Fest the MRI Maakers fundraising total stands at £62,000.  Pretty darn good eh?!

Finally, you may have noticed that there is a festive season approaching, can  you knit a bauble?

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Patterns are available for free here or the sheep pattern is on Ravelry here.  Send  your completed baubles to Jamiesons of Shetland where they will be displayed over Christmas and then sold to raise funds for the appeal.  Personally I think we can knit enough baubles to cover all of Commercial Street, not just Jamiesons …..

Lets get knitting.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

carpaccio, halibut, creme brûlée and bears

Inverness has changed a lot since I was a child and one of the greatest improvements is The Rocpool Restaurant.  I don’t think anyone will disagree with the observation that eating out in the Highlands during the sixties and seventies was more of a miss than a hit affair.  Tinned tomato soup was usually the safest option for dinners in draughty castles where the staff were understandably as miserable as the customers.

Stephen has changed all that and The Rocpool is quite my favourite restaurant anywhere, not just Inverness.  We have tried and failed to work out how many meals we have enjoyed there, but suffice to say Eloise was about three the first time she ate there.  This was her on Saturday.

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That rather tasty cocktail’s name now escapes me, it was essentially gin and bramble puree, here is a close up of it in all its deliciousness.

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Neither Bea nor Susie were able to join us, so we very kindly sent them some pictures of our meal.  I’m not sure quite how much they appreciated our generosity, I could feel the breath of the green-eyed monsters sitting on their shoulders!

As usual the choice was difficult.  Eloise was really struggling and opened the bartering process with some subtle hints about what other people might want to order.  Scotch fillet of beef carpaccio with crisp fried artichokes, fresh greens and shaved manchego cheese with gremolata was my opening gambit and I can confirm, was an excellent choice.

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After our recent visit to Shetland and Stuart’s fish bothering exploits it seemed only reasonable to try the Shetland halibut with curry spiced cauliflower, spaghetti of courgettes with roasted pine nuts, golden sultanas and brown shrimp with hot buttered new potatoes.

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It did not disappoint.  For me the choice of pudding was a no-brainer.  It had to be the excellent creme brûlée,  thick vanillary cream with a satisfying spoon bashable top.

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This was the one course where Eloise had no difficulty at all.  She can recite the full Lemon meringue pie entry on the menu from memory (including the bit about the 10 minute wait!).

We had worked up our appetite with the traditional Bear Walk.  Its real name is Raven’s Rock Gorge.  But Bear Walk makes more sense to us.

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We have been walking here since the girls were tiny and have taken a photograph at least once every year.  The bear seems smaller now even to me!

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And last week with Poppy on only her second Bear Walk.

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Sadly the storms of a few winters back have heaved out the pine trees and it is no longer possible to walk the full circular path, instead you have to do one walk to the view point and another to the Bear.

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We did venture quite a long way back from the viewpoint but eventually had to concede defeat.

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It was excellent mushrooming though and we came back with plenty of oyster and hedgehog mushrooms and spotted a few chanterelles.

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Eloise fortunately did not repeat the great dunking of 2009!

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Autumnal glory.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

oodles of colour

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Don’t you just want to dive in?  Delicious Batt from Sealy MacWheely  This was just a tiny fraction of the colour explosion that is Loch Ness Knit Fest .

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Not everything comes in skeins or balls.  Sometime you need to buy a socking great cone from Kincraig Fabrics.

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We were practically queuing up to photograph this wonderful top and take down the name of the pattern (Sashiko btw).  Discovering new patterns, yarns and designers is part of the fun.  Everywhere you turn there is another piece of stunning knitwear.

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Time for a break maybe? The Singleton

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A friend from closer to home.  Love Handyed from Stanhope.

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The lovely Claire from Cookston Crafts holding the yarn that will (eventually) the Ranunuculus.  I do love a burst of colour!

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The burst of colour that is Katie from Sealy MacWheeley     She did explain the construction of the jumper but she lost me after the instruction to block the Japanese lacework and pick up the bust stitches!  It is pretty impressive and I will look it up as I rather fancy having a go …. goodness knows when!

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The guilds that provide advice, helping hands, support, tea and sympathy and everything else required to introduce weaving, spinning and dyeing to the uninitiated.

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If you didn’t dive in at the beginning, feel free now!

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And finally.  This is the face of the future of knitting.  And she is a jolly good Roadside Beanie model too.

Maybe I’ll see you at Loch Ness Knit Fest next year.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

puppies, trains and slip, slip knit …

It ain’t over yet …. !

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Poppy unpacking her toys as fast as I try to pack them.  I have rather tortured memories of packing to go on holiday with three toddlers and this was a momentary throwback upon which I would have been happy to pass.

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Eventually I managed to pack everything (well not quite, I forgot our coffee cups and my water bottle …) and once again there appeared to be some fishing in the offing.

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And we were finally ready for the off.

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A casual observer would think that we were preparing for a fishing trip.  A more experienced knitter would understand that this was the luggage required for a knitting festival.  One dog and plenty of fishing paraphernalia is all that is required to occupy and distract the non-knitter.

Shetland Wool Week was a wonderful experience, not just the yarn, not just the classes, not just camaraderie, but the island, the people, the scenery, the air, the light, the craic.  I didn’t expect to be able to follow that up with a long weekend in Inverness at Loch Ness KnitFest.  But never underestimate a Scottish fisherman with the opportunity to head home for a weekend and bother a few fish at the same time!

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Poppy is a seasoned rail traveller, a quick hop to Newcastle on the Transpennine Express, and then a more leisurely ride up to Inverness.

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Initially Poppy was happy to help with the yarn holding for the Susan Crawford Twageos Tam.

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But after a while all that adoration from the LNER crew was a bit overwhelming and she was happy to nod off.

Up bright eyed and bushy tailed and who should I meet at the door but Anne Stevens Frost.  Known to many as the podcaster  I thought I knew how, although known to Stuart as the knitting wife of his new Shetland fishing buddy.

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Note the knitwear!

First up class wise was Brioche with John Glen aka The Beardy Cheil.

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This was the last chance saloon for me as far as Brioche was concerned.  If John couldn’t make me and brioche see eye to eye then I was prepared to walk on by.  And forego the chance of ever creating a thing of beauty such as this.

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Or even this.

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Reader, forget the croissants, it’s brioche all the way now.  Very similar to Fisherman’s Rib (the method is slightly different although the result is pretty much the same) brioche is a wonderful soft squishy rib.  Increasing and decreasing is not subtle but, particularly when using two different coloured yarns, produces beautiful zig zags, waves and tree like designs.

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The afternoon was all about the tippy toes.

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I suffer from second sock syndrome.  I have yet to resort to chopping off the legs of family and friends, but I do struggle with starting the second sock. The joy of finishing sock one is immediately dampened by the need to start sock two.  So signing up for Deborah Gray’s Two Socks at a Time workshop was a no brainer.  Well the signing  up was…

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The set up was a tad fiddly…

But once we got going it was all smiles.  The advantage of toe up socks is that you can try them on as you go along, both socks will be the same size (assuming you want them to be), there is no risk of playing yarn chicken (will I have enough to make it to the toe?) and you can really play around with the toe design, creating an asymetric toe that is in line with the shape of the foot, or perhaps a separate big toe for socks to wear with flip flops if that rocks your boat.

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This method is also good for any pair of circular knitted items.  Sleeves, mittens, gloves.  I imagine somewhere there is a hardy soul with giant circular needles who has tried to knit two jumpers at the same time, but that won’t be me!

It may be a while before I am knocking out a pair like this.

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But practice makes perfect, and now I am going to leave you and get on with a spot of practice!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

shetland sunday tea

I live in a small village in the north east of England where baking is competitive sport played at Olympic level.  I am on the coffee morning rota and when I’m on duty I have some serious baking anxiety.  It has to be easy to bake in bulk, easy to cut up, not require any obscure ingredients or complex baking techniques, not messy to eat, and finally pretty foolproof – I cannot start again at 9am on Wednesday morning!  For those who find themselves in a similar fix I usually go for Lemon Drizzle Cake, Brownies, Date flapjacks or chocolate fridge cake (a million variations).img_6571.jpg

There are some one-off events where the ante is upped, soup recipe induced paranoia anyone?  But I digress.  Back to baking.

For anyone who has not visited Shetland let me introduce you to Sunday Tea.  This is not merely tea that happens to be held on a Sunday it is an Event with a capital E.  Usually fundraising events, they are held in community halls and comprise bountiful cakes and savouries, tea (of course!), often music and crafts for sale.  For the small price of a ticket you can spend an afternoon of pure bliss eating, shopping and tapping your toes to the music.

First obtain a copy of The Shetland Times,  consult the small adverts for the listings of this week’s Sunday Teas and plan your day.

I went to my first Sunday tea last week at Brae in the northern mainland.  Stuart’s eyes practically popped out of his head as he surveyed the bakes on offer, this man was in business and he disappeared at high speed towards the rolls and sandwiches, planning his savouries whilst eyeing up the cakes at the other end of the enormous table.

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Meanwhile I headed into the knitting display.

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Tam

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When I finish my tam I have a vintage cardigan pattern waiting (and the wool already from Jamieson and Smith)  it is this to which I aspire.

These lacework pieces are things of true beauty and if you could only touch the whisper that is the wool you too would weep with joy.

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A simple short row becomes a shawl that is almost alive.

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Weaving the landscape into pieces of art.

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Back in the hall the teas are going down well.

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Even the World’s Fastest Knitter, the wonderful Hazel Tindall  puts down her needles and mucks in.

The band is getting toes tapping across the hall.

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Eventually we had to tear ourselves away and head down to the harbour to take the ferry home.  But my first Sunday Tea will stay with me …. until my next one in June!

Love Gillie x

views of shetland

Contrary to the evidence shown in this blog over the past few days there is actually a lot more to Shetland than wool and knitting.  I saw only a fraction of it (which is why we are planning to return in June … as well as Wool Week 2020) but here is a taste of the non-woolly beautiful world that is Shetland.

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The view from Da Peerie Hoose as I stood outside in my pjs with my cup of tea and appreciated the magical morning light.

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Channerwick south of Sandwick.

 

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Birthday dinner at The String.  Cannot recommend it highly enough though you will have to book (even if you aren’t there during Wool Week!)  Live music upstairs to round off the evening.  I started with scallops and belly pork.

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Followed by Shetland halibut

And rounded off with one of the best cheese plates I have seen in a long while.  Proper homemade oatcakes and a chutney good enough to eat on its own.

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Memorial in Scalloway to the men who died on the Shetland Bus bringing agents and supplies in and out of occupied Norway during WWII.

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Boat carving in the Delting Galley Shed.  The Delting Up Helly Aa began  in 1970 as a Senior School Festival and is now a huge festival including the communities of Voe, Mossbank, Muckle Roe and Vidlin.

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The bill heads are attached to the ceiling but the sunlight streaming through the skylights  made it impossible to photograph them.  Here are some of the stunning shields.

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Blue on blue.  Small boat in Hay’s Dock outside the Shetland Museum and archives.

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Waiting for a plane to land at Sumburgh airport in the south of the Mainland.

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And here it comes

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This is the view just to my left …  note the beginning of the runway!

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Looking down at the rocks below The Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.

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While pretty northerly, the title of the most northern lighthouse in the UK belongs to Muckle Flugga lighthouse.  The fishing up there is quite good too.  This is Stuart’s 40lb cod.

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View of TM Adie & Sons in Voe,  for over a century one of the largest employers in the north east mainland of Shetland.  Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay wore jumpers woven by Addie when they scaled Everest in 1953.

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And finally, thank you to NorthLink Ferries for making the journey there and back so pleasant (even if everyone else did look a little green the following morning!)

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See you in June Shetland.

Love Gillie x