Archive for the ‘film’ Category

I’ve made a film!


No, it’s not a remake of the wickerman, rather it’s a tribute to the Shetland tradition of guizing in straw costumes as seen through the eyes of a photography student and juxtaposed with archive sound recordings from one who remembers the now extinct custom.

You can read a little of the background of this project here, but basically the ethnologist in me was fired up to research Skeklers, but instead of satisfying my need for knowledge, I am still scratching my head.

The guizer – dressed in straw and ribbons, with blinded face and disguised voice – was first mentioned in Samuel Hibbert’s, Description of The Shetland Islands in 1822, but even then the tradition was described as something which was dying out.

Any evidence of skekling is fragmentary, occurring only in visitor accounts and almost each one (found mainly in the mid-late 19th Century) states that the custom was only just clinging on. Here is one such visitor account from the 1850s, which describes the skeklers in their full glory!

“The kitchen was full of beings, whose appearance, being so unearthly, shook the gravity of my muscles and forced a cold sweat to ooze from every pore in my body…

…[they] stood like statues. One was far above the rest  and of gigantic dimensions. eyes, mouth, or noses they had none, nor at least a trace of their countenance. 

They kept up an incessant grunt — a noise partly resembling a swine or turkey cock. Their outer garments were as white as snow ans consisted of petticoats below and shirts on the outside with sleeves and collars. They were veiled and their headdresses or caps were about 18 inches in height and made of straw twisted and plaited.  each cap terminated in three or four cones of a crescent shape. all pointing backwards and downwards with bunches of ribbons of every colour raying from the points of the cones.”

Once a common sight at Halloween and Christmas and New Year guizing, the skekler was also an honoured guest at the Shetland Wedding, where a group of characters – the ‘fragments’ tell us they had names such as Scudler, Gentleman, Fool & Judas – would enter the celebration and dance with the bride, blessing the union. Again, they were dressed in straw, with their faces and voices disguised.

It is shame that the accounts of skekling only cover a finite period of time and over what seems to have been its demise. There is photographic evidence from the early 20th century of boys in Fetlar, who are dressed head to foot in straw. I wonder if the custom was passed on to the children in an attempt to keep it alive, much in the same way that the Papa Stour Sword Dance was taught to the boys on the Island in the 50’s/60’s to ensure that there were people to carry on the tradition, when the island suffered from depopulation.

Still, I don’t feel like I drew the short straw on this occasion (boom, boom!) I have been thoroughly captivated by the Skekler, much in the same way Gemma, the photographer in the film, has. It is nice to see someone from outside a tradition come in and look at it with new eyes and I hope she has the opportunity to bring her exhibition up to Shetland.

Clutching at Straws has been entered into Hansel of Film 2012, a short film festival which is travelling from Shetland to Southampton (and back) as part of the London 2012 Olympics celebrations.


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Happiness is…

Here are the things that are just jingling my joy at the moment…


This year I discovered Drops range of wools and The Wool Shed. I am in love with the squidgy Andes and Nepal ranges (65% wool, 35% Alpaca!) and the ladies who run The Wool Shed in Aberdeenshire are so unbelievably helpful. Drops are having a discount running until 31st December too!



…The frozen grass crunching under Jeremy’s paws…

… Declan O’Rourke… such a lovely voice and a great guitarist



Lemon drizzle cake! One of the easiest things to bake ever and sooo mouth puckering good with a cup of coffee.





…Just the best film ever to get you into the Christmas spirit! I recently watched the colour version, which I was highly dubious about, but it is even more magical, if that’s possible.


Laughing at…

…Jeremy’s propensity to sleep wherever she darn well pleases.

…and her “get out of my face” look…



…currently revisiting The Tales of The City, by Armistead Maupin. I have read and re-read these books over the last 15 years and now enjoying them on my iPod!


Ah! Christmas is but around the corner. Not sure how Christnassy I feel yet…maybe I need to stick on George Bailey again. I hope happiness and joy is blooming all around.


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oh dear, its happened again! Time has gotten away from me, lots has been going on and I”ve not made time to blog!

where to start….

Well at the end of last month was the Proclaimers Gig. It was a great gig, but it was the company that made it!

Me, Mirln, Jam and Jam’s bro accompanied each other after going out for an impromptu meal at the chinese.

Jam’s bro’s wife and wee bebe came for the meal too and there was much hilarity with chopsticks as my tempura prawn took a somersalt and nosedive out of the soysauce onto the carpet!

It was lovely to have a night out together, i think we all needed it:  Mirln’s had more than a time of it, Jam’s been under the weather of late and I certainly needed a night out with my girls (and boy!). We boogied good style and went away singing!



Last weekend was the book AND film festival…yes! two festivals to negociate at the same time and in the midst of catching shows and writing reviews i also went for colour therapy at the Bressay Spa.

I won a prize voucher in a raffle ages ago and then forgot all about it,  it was only amid a particularly blue day that i remembered about it and – given my fettle – i thought i’d go for some energy healing!

I don’t know much about colour therapy, apart from some knowledge of colour me beautiful, but it was really interesting.  Afterwards I felt all centred and tingly! however it wasn’t very long lasting!

I’m not sure why the PTB (powers that be) decided to run the two festivals on the same weekend, I was exhausted trying to get and see the few events i wanted to see – anyone trying to be really cultured and see it all would have needed a week off to get over it! But that aside it was very enjoyable…really enjoyed Kevin MacNeill (writer of The Stornoway Way) and his event with local poet Gordon Dargie and saw a great Scottish road movie….yes! Scottish Road Movie….called The Inheritance which was very dark and edgy and full of spectacular scottish scenery.

After all the review writing I was looking forward to taking it a bit easier this week…my stress levels been through the roof…(so much for being aligned)…but this, alas, was not the case either as I had to go to Aberdeen on Tuesday night for a outpatients appointment on wednesday.

The consolation was that it was blooming lovely in Aberdeen, the weather was unseasonably warm and i managed to get a bit of shopping done into the bargain!

and there truly is no rest for the wicked…Scottish Water are over in Bressay today, but not for the public meeting they promised us…oh no! for another useless open day, trotting out the same old spin and no new information and not giving the community the opportunity for debate on this topic that they so desire.

No-one wants to go to one of these dripfeed, divide and rule things…especially when they’re over on a week day afternoon and only gave the community three days notice! I did toy with the idea of just putting up a plain sign saying “public meeting” and dreamt of the flummoxed SW employees faces as the entire island trooped in! Oh well! MSP and councillors are hopefully on the case for us!

I am planning on having a quiet weekend of me-time this weekend and catch up on the christmas knitting pile so can you keep your fingers crossed that nothing too stressful befalls?

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