Shetland Life editorial, October 2013
Slow. Slow. Quick, quicker, slow.
And stop, probably without giving any indication that you’re about to, because your brake lights are broken or you’re towing a trailer which doesn’t, indeed never had brake lights. Or brakes. Or proper wheels, seeing as these ones came off an old lorry you found rotting in a field in the South Mainland and only turn when you use three cans of WD40 on each axle. Which you do at the beginning and end of the sailing season as you need to get the boat into and out of the water.
Number plates? No need. Felt tip marker pen scrawled on a piece of cardboard will do fine. And as for the ‘proper’ Ifor Williams stock trailer you use for sheep, house moves, fetching peats and removing large quantities of stone chips and road grit from council stockpiles under cover of darkness, well. The electrics failed on that a long time ago, and hanging a couple of hurricane lanterns from the back with skein of twisted wool seems to work just fine...
But let’s not get sidetracked by Shetland trailer culture. Even though it is vastly amusing that there is now a ‘trailer test’ young drivers have to sit before they get a chance to demolish the rear light clusters of the Hi-Lux when reversing a horsebox-load of inebriated Up HellyAa guizers into the hall car park.
I wish to discuss driving, generally.
It’s appalling. And it has worsened, of late, as traffic on our wondrously pothole-less roads has increased due to the arrival of Evil Soothmoothers in droves.
And how evil they are, coming here, drinking our beer, vomiting on our pavements, trying unsuccessfully to steal our women, criticising our golliwog industry and making loud gutteral noises in bars. Away with them, I say, send them and their tiger-striped Dazzle Ship accommodation barges off into the misty befuddlement of the Orcades, or worse, Wick. We don’t want their money or their genetic material! Do we? Of course, speaking as soothmoother myself, albeit one of many years standing, sitting and yes, driving, I may be slightly biased.
Although come to think of it, the blame for bad driving has be evenly apportioned, in my experience. Local idiots who think pick-up trucks are Formula One cars. Dawdling tourists in Star Kias who slow down every time they see an attractive fencepost. Even more dawdlesome local ancients, peering through the steering wheel at 10mph, saving their sidelight bulbs from ‘wear’ by never switching them on until it’s pitch dark. Crazed oil and gas executives running late in their Range Rovers, overtaking on blind bends, tailgating hapless commuters and hitting 120 on the Tingwall Straight. And don’t even mention the Whalsay fishing skippers in their Rolls Royces, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bugatti Veyrons. I have no idea how they get some of those cars up the linkspan onto the ferry without ripping their underparts off. The cars, that is.
(Incidentally, has the Tingwall Straight sunk? I don’t remember that blind dip when I arrived here a quarter of a century ago?)
Who else is on our roads? Bad-tempered bus drivers, and those trucks being driven at ludicrous speeds, festooned with unnecessary and blinding fairy lights , transporting important consignments of caviar and Champagne to Total management at Sullom Voe. The days of the tarted-up Vauxhall Nova are long gone, but we still have nedmobiles , lowered Japanese saloons with sound systems blasting out One Direction and Calvin Harris so loudly they have to keep the windows slightly open or they’d blow the windscreens out.
Then there are the drunks. Hugging the verge, driving oh-so-carefully, veering towards and then away from approaching headlights, slowing down when other cars appear, slamming their brakes when the giant rabbits appear. Be ruthless. Seriously, please phone the police if you see one. Save them from themselves. They don’t need a fatality on their conscience.
Obviously, you’ll pull over before using your mobile...
Finally I have three tips, for everyone who chauffeurs/chauffeuses themselves or others around our islands. And here they are, maker of them what you will.
(1) There is a blanket 60 mph limit on Shetland. If you drive faster than that you are are breaking the law. No, I’m not joking.
(2) Vans owned by building firms are not exempt from this limit.
(3) Neither am I, even though I now own an elderly Mercedes 300TE with sport gearbox and a kickdown which is capable of sending it into temporary orbit.
(4) All trailers should have working lights, brakes and not be made out of old safety handrails and water pipes. Unless of course you’re in the People’s Republic of Northmavine, where the law is quite, quite different. Obviously.