My cherished hand-knitted Fair Isle gloves, guaranteed to block an Atlantic gale or February frosts. Not knitted by me, sadly (I intend to conquer my knitting phobia at some point), but by an anonymous Shetland lady. I bought them several years ago in the Scalloway museum in Shetland, a small museum mingling articles from Shetland life, Fair Isle knitwear for sale, and a section on the Shetland Bus, the World War 2 resistance link between Shetland and occupied Norway.

Fair Isle lies between Orkney and Shetland. As the island's website says, it's also the name of one of the sea areas in the BBC Shipping Forecast, very often with gale warnings given out. Although the Fair Isle sea area isn't named in Seamus Heaney's poem, 'The Shipping Forecast', I always think of the island when I read the poem or listen to the forecast on the radio.

"Dogger. Rockall. Malin, Irish Sea:
Green swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux
Conjured by that strong gale-warning voice.
Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.
Midnight and closedown. Sirens of the tundra,
Of eel-road, seal road, keel road, whale road, raise
Their wind-compounded keen behind the baize
And drive the trawlers to the lee of Wicklow.
L'Etoile, Le Guiliemot, La Belle Helene
Nursed their bright names this morning in the bay
That toiled like mortar. It was marvellous
And actual, I said out loud, 'A haven,'
The word deepening, clearing, like the sky
Elsewhere on Minches, Cromarty, The Faroes."

I love the radio Shipping Forecast, deeply and helplessly. My children think I'm mad. If I am, so is a good segment of the British population, described by The Independent newspaper as 'that which enjoys the life of the mind.' If you want to read more about the Shipping Forecast and its appeal, try this article from The Independent. You may be able to listen to it on the BBC website.

Fair Isle gloves-Atlantic gales-Shipping Forecast. The life of the (wandering) mind.


  1. Your gloves are really beautiful , an artist knitted them !

  2. Love your gloves. I could sure them over here!
    Have you watched As Time Goes By? You remind me of Mrs Bale! :-)

  3. I received Fair Isle gloves for Christmas and Oh,MY, I love them! Mine were knitted by Agnes, at Thistle and Broome. Just the best things ever.

    And, like you, I do love the shipping forecast. Like Mrs. Bale, too.

  4. I have been to the Scalloway Museum! It was great. I visited with the lovely volunteers and learned about the Shetland Bus (amazing) and got the key to the castle and got to explore it all by myself on a dark,stormy rainy day. I had a blast! Great gloves, I have tried to knit my own, but the best I can do right now are mittens:)

  5. The gloves are beautiful and the history is so great. I enjoy the various PBS series that we have over here that belong to your whole area. I have learned a lot of geography from you and a friend I have in England. Really enjoyed the poem. We are having light snow today again so the gloves seemed fitting to see this morning.

  6. The gloves look really beautiful and the information about its history is really an eye opener.

  7. The gloves are lovely, as is the poem. It has the ring and rhythm of some forecasts I have heard, but in more weather-stricken places other than here in the desert.


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