The Long Road To Shetland


Orkney & Shetland Map[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=
via google maps

I used to travel frequently around Scotland. It was the best job I ever had. The Scottish people are lovely, for the most part, and the scenery sublime. I remember driving one winter morning from Inverness down to Perth. The temperature had got to -11C when the water in the washer bottle froze. Every 10 minutes or so I had to stop in a lay-by, gather up a handful of snow and use that to clear the windscreen. But, oh, the view. The sun rising over the Cairngorm mountains to the east turned the landscape a delicate rosy pink against a duck egg blue sky. And I was being paid to be there.

Every couple of months or so I would spend a week ‘up north’, joining the company’s Regional Manager for a tour of our clients. He was a broad Glaswegian with a heart of gold and a dry sense of humour; we did have some laughs. On one especially memorable trip we were due to head out to the Shetland Islands, 150 miles north east of the mainland. It was to be a two hour drive across Scotland to get to an hotel near the airport, ready for the early morning flight. But, before that, there was The Match.

Now, my colleague was your original dyed in the wool Scottish football fan. In Glasgow there are two principal teams and rivalry runs deep. Every time we passed the Temple of Ibrox, which seemed a necessity irrespective of the direction of travel, we had to raise our hands prayer like and then bow in homage.

On this particular night it was an international ‘friendly’ and Scotland were playing Norway. No way were we starting out on our journey until he’d seen the game. Jimmy (we’ll call him that) had gathered some chums together in a bar and ordered a round of beer. Yours truly, interested in neither football nor beer, sat in a corner with a book. And an orange juice. Because you can guess who had been elected to drive. Well, it was only 90 minutes to wait, right? Wrong. Many pints may have been consumed but at the whistle not a single ball had hit the back of the net. Extra time. And more beer. And still the score line remained unchanged. Jimmy was outraged.

I tried to make light of it. “It could have been worse.”
“You could have lost.”
“We should have won.”

He fell asleep almost as soon as we got in the car, much to my quiet relief. But, it didn’t last long.

“Stop the car, I need a wee..”

We were passing through a small town and I drove round every part of it, some roads more than once, until we found the small squat building at the back of the public car park. Nor was that the end of it. By the time we reached Aberdeen I had the dubious distinction of knowing the location of every gents’ convenience on the A96.

It was 11.30 p.m. before we reached the hotel. The rooms had been booked for me by an administrator back in the office but it wasn’t the place I normally stayed. It wouldn’t be long before I found out why. As I pulled up the car Jimmy jumped out. “I need a wee… now!” He disappeared into what looked like the entrance to a sports club adjacent to where we had parked. Leaning back against the driver’s head rest I tried to relax after the journey.

Jimmy was away too long. Just as this thought began to gain traction the passenger door was flung open and he landed heavily on the seat, slamming the door shut behind him and depressing the button to lock it.

“A bloke just came after me with a GOLF CLUB, just for me wearing a SUIT! Accused me of being English. ENGLISH!! For pity’s sake, do I SOUND English?”
“Not exactly..”
“We’re not staying here. It’s gang warfare in there!”

I looked beyond the sports club to the hotel. It didn’t seem so bad. But Jimmy had read my thoughts. “NO WAY!”

We called the place that I usually book. “I’m sorry Madam. There’s an oil conference in town. You’ll struggle to find anywhere tonight.” The next two hotels on my mental list gave the same message. The phone rang. It was Mike. On hearing our plight he volunteered to check out some places too. And in the meantime we’d start driving back out of town, where the chances of finding a couple of vacant rooms might improve.

Half an hour later, still nothing. I‘d tried even the really posh places. Given the circumstances I thought I might be able to swing it on the expenses. And then, on a hillside in the middle of nowhere, Jimmy spotted the dark hulk of a building with a single neon sign.

“What do you think?”
“What alternative do we have?”

I pulled off the road. As we approached the building its fuchsia pink neon ‘E’ started to blink.. and then went out:


Just like something out of Psycho.
(to be continued..)

2017-10-24T19:32:43+00:00August 25th, 2015|Tags: |


  1. Denise August 25, 2015 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    Oooooh….sitting on the edge of my tenterhook….! Agog!

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 10:44 am - Reply

      I needed a post that I could compose mostly offline. We’re still struggling with internet. BT have failed yet again and Mike’s mobile broadband thingy keeps going down too. Apparently it doesn’t work in the rain. Excuse me? This is Devon. Rendering it about as much use as the proverbial chocolate teapot.

  2. Julieanne August 25, 2015 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Argh – what happened next? On the edge of my seat. When’s the next installment?

    Ironic them playing Norway and your on the road to Shetland, which was part of Norway for some time 🙂

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 10:47 am - Reply

      That’s interesting, I didn’t know that. The islands are almost nearer Norway than Scotland.

  3. annincumbria August 25, 2015 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Ok but when

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 10:48 am - Reply


  4. kate@barnhouse August 25, 2015 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Part 2 soon please?

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 10:49 am - Reply

      I originally wrote it as one post, but it got too long so I divided it into two. 🙂

      • Annie Cholewa August 26, 2015 at 10:57 am - Reply

        Oh you tease, you!

        • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:44 am - Reply


      • kate@barnhouse August 26, 2015 at 3:27 pm - Reply

        What a brilliant ploy, Jessica! Also an ingenious way to by-pass internet trouble – you have us all hanging by a thread to learn what happened next, I have various scenarios in mind, can’t wait to see how it all panned out.

        • Jessica August 27, 2015 at 6:43 pm - Reply

          Internet situation has been hopeless today. Will try and put part 2 up tomorrow.

  5. Vera August 25, 2015 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Oh well written….you have me thirsting to know what happens next!

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 10:50 am - Reply

      Thanks Vera. You won’t guess how it ends up. Guaranteed.

  6. Alison August 25, 2015 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Oh, great story-telling! My mum was born in Glasgow, so although I’m American, I have a Scottish heritage. I’m intrigued by your title, hoping you get to Shetland eventually. I’ve just started reading Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series. My husband (who’s English) tells the tale of a co-worker who was married to a Scotsman. They were once waiting in line in Glasgow for a train, and her husband turned to her and said quietly “Watch this.” He then yelled out “Hey Ho Hey, Jimmy!” And nearly every man in the terminal turned to him.

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 10:54 am - Reply

      I always wondered about the ‘Bonney Lassie’! Yes, we did get there eventually. It’s quite a place and a day’s business trip in no way does it justice. I want to go back one day with a lot more time on my hands. I loved your story 🙂

  7. frayed at the edge August 25, 2015 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed your tale, and I’m looking forward to the next instalment!

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 10:55 am - Reply

      Thanks Anne. Hope you’re feeling better today.

  8. ginaferrari August 25, 2015 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    On Tenterhooks… Can’t wait for the next instalment!

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:00 am - Reply

      Thanks Gina. Enjoy the sun!

  9. Helen August 25, 2015 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    Great read, I would love to travel round Scotland one day.

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:02 am - Reply

      Thanks Helen. We considered moving there and did some serious house hunting. In the end opted for Devon thinking the weather would be better. Ha!

  10. CJ August 25, 2015 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    Eek, I’d have been tempted to ditch him I think. I shall look forward to seeing how it all turned out! CJ xx

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:06 am - Reply

      No, I couldn’t have done that. Safety in numbers..

  11. Brian Skeys August 25, 2015 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    Oh dear, just getting to the interesting part and the internet……………….

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:07 am - Reply

      Brian, just…. don’t! Mike is climbing the hill in search of mobile signal as we speak..

  12. mattb325 August 25, 2015 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Great start to the story! Can’t wait for the next chapter 🙂

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:08 am - Reply

      Thanks Matt.

  13. snowbird August 25, 2015 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    How fascinating! Looking forward to hearing how it all worked out….was laughing here a lot!xxx

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:10 am - Reply

      What I love about these life experiences is that you can always laugh about it.. afterwards!

  14. John August 25, 2015 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    Yes part 2 soon?

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:21 am - Reply


  15. jannaschreier August 26, 2015 at 12:50 am - Reply

    Oh, you’ve brought back some memories, Jessica. My (almost) first job out of university was at the McVities factory in Glasgow, immediately opposite Celtic Park as a matter of fact (and yes, blue and green were banned in the factory!). However, before you got to do your chosen role, all graduates had to do 6 months in the sales force. I dreaded it. Me, doing sales? But it was one of the most fun times of my life. At 21, I was given a brand new company car and ‘Scotland’. I could go anywhere I liked, as long as I sold plenty of biscuits and crisps. Well, that wasn’t a huge struggle in the 90s in Scotland. I had day trips to Fife and down to the beach at Ayr and everyone warmly received me (despite being English), every sentence ending ‘hen’. Great times. Can’t wait to hear more about your Scottish adventures!

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:26 am - Reply

      I really loved working in Scotland, met some great characters. A job like that for me was the best of both worlds, big company support but being out on the road all day was just what my independent spirit craved. We sound very alike Janna.

  16. Kris P August 26, 2015 at 1:13 am - Reply

    Job or not, I’d have been sorely tempted to leave Jimmy to find his own accommodations. I anxiously await part 2.

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:28 am - Reply

      Tempting, very tempting!

  17. Charlie@Seattle Trekker August 26, 2015 at 6:22 am - Reply

    You are a superb storyteller…More adventures, please.

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:31 am - Reply

      Thanks Charlie.

  18. Rosemary August 26, 2015 at 7:49 am - Reply

    Having lived in and just outside Glasgow for 5 years I have no problem picturing your tale. My husband went to one match at Ibrox just for the experience, and vowed that he would never return, in fact he has never been to a football match since.

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:41 am - Reply

      On another memorable occasion I did get to see Newcastle v Sunderland. It was a great atmosphere, but we were in hospitality where it felt quite safe. We just had another glass of wine while the police moved the crowds on! Emotions do run very high.

  19. Sarah Shoesmith August 26, 2015 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Great read! You clearly have the patience of a saint. Looking forward to the next instalment!

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:43 am - Reply

      That is one thing I most definitely lack! These days anyway. Must be getting older that does it.

  20. Annie Cholewa August 26, 2015 at 11:00 am - Reply

    I’ve been on an enforced absence from the interwebs. Love that on my return you’re in full (cracking) story-telling mode. For a moment there I’d thought you were headed for Shetland right now and I was going to be horribly envious.

    • Jessica August 26, 2015 at 11:48 am - Reply

      I am so behind with posts now I didn’t know you were having trouble too. Currently I have internet access for perhaps a couple of hours a day. Provided it isn’t raining. No plans to go anywhere right now and feeling it. I’m so ready for a holiday but after this summer it needs to be somewhere warm and dry!

  21. woolythymes August 26, 2015 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    c’mon….c’mon…..don’t keep us hanging like this!!!!!

    • Jessica August 27, 2015 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      I’ve just got back online after another 12 hours without internet. I’ll get cracking missus.. 😉

  22. homeslip August 26, 2015 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    I’d been saving this … And to think we did all this travelling sans mobile device, sans laptop and with just a decent car, spare petrol and a hazard warning triangle. My travels were almost always to the ports and terminals too, my linguistic abilities were well honed shall we say. As I didn’t go out drinking and rarely paid for dinner I felt quite justified staying in the very best hotels. Gosh I sound like someone I most definitely wasn’t! Don’t keep us in suspense too long…

    • Jessica August 27, 2015 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Spending so many nights away from home I went through a phase of trying to relieve the boredom by staying at hotels that were a bit different. It was fab until I bit off way more than I could chew by booking into a Scottish haunted castle (story starts here). It was back to eurobland, with open arms, for several weeks after that!

  23. Mrs GH. August 26, 2015 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    Aaah, what a good tale, I enjoyed that! Looking forward to part two.

    I remember something of a similar ilk on the A9 with my husband a few years ago near Aviemore….

    • Jessica August 27, 2015 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      They must be scattered all around Scotland. And England come to that. Lovely part of the world up there though.

  24. Beth @ PlantPostings August 26, 2015 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    Wow, great story! I remember many winter days and nights with those cold, snowy conditions–but not fondly. Here, -11C is pretty normal for most of the winter. The days and nights at -26C to -29C (-15F to -20F) are the ones that make me ask why I live in this Godforsaken place in winter! But the rest of the year is so pleasant. Your colleague is quite the character! I can’t wait to read about Part II!

    • Jessica August 27, 2015 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      We spent some time in Scotland over the winter of 2009/10 and the temperatures were down at a similar level. It changes your perspective a bit. When we were out and about in -5C it felt positively springlike!

  25. Joanne August 26, 2015 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    Looking forward to part two x

    • Jessica August 27, 2015 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      Thanks Joanne. Hope you’re well, I’ll catch up soon.

  26. Sue Garrett August 27, 2015 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Don’t have a shower

    • Jessica August 27, 2015 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      You’ve read Part 2!

  27. Cathy August 29, 2015 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    Great story telling, as always… 🙂

    • Jessica August 29, 2015 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks Cathy.

  28. casa mariposa August 30, 2015 at 10:23 pm - Reply

    I hope you checked the mattress for bed bugs!

    • Jessica August 31, 2015 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      I didn’t go anywhere near the mattress.. I don’t think it would have helped my comfort level one bit.

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