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Saturday 18 March 2023


St Ninian's Isle Beach, Shetland


Over the last few weeks, I've had messages asking why I haven't been 'blogging'? Its also pretty obvious that I have not been birding either, which has been very tough indeed. I've just about managed to type up the bird news each day, but little else. Sometimes you just can't say why, especially on a public blog, well now I can reveal why.

As I have mentioned on my blog more than once, its always been my dream to possibly move to Shetland, but knowing me, I didn't think I would actually ever take that enormous step – I'm generally not good at making big decisions. After all, I was born in Norfolk and I love Norfolk – I love the wildlife and the bird life here, the excitement of Spring and Autumn migration and you can't beat a good Norfolk 'twitch' with the banter from and with other lovely fellow birders. But sadly my beloved county is not the same anymore and yes things do change, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse and we are supposed to accept change, but I don't and I don't have to! So much of our coastline has been transformed by many colossal sized houses, far too many second homes, lost community, lost habitat and as you have heard me rant on about more than once, there are far too many people, dogs and traffic here now and the Summer increase in temperature over the last few years is insane and will only get worse – I simply can't tolerate this heat – I don't think I will have any issues with heat in Shetland! I need some space. I need to be able to hear birds singing without dogs barking and people shouting. I want to hear the sea crashing on the shore on an empty beach. I want to have some freedom. I want to live in a community, where neighbours chat to me every now and again and I them and help each other out when needed – I've only had one set of neighbours who fall into this category where I currently live and you know who you are! I want to be part of a community, like Norfolk once was. Shetland has all this and more!

The only things that have really been stopping me to relocate, was ensuring I felt emotionally stable enough, to make such a big move after my parent's deaths. They say you should never do anything big, when you are in an emotional state, so I waited. Time has moved on and its six years since father's died and almost five years since our dear mother's death. Sadly and frustratingly (for me), neither of my parents wanted to be marked with a gravestone or a place and so there is no 'proper' place for me to sit and think of them. This may sound odd to some of you, but if they had had gravestones in Holme churchyard, where they were married (and next door to where my beloved primary school was and all its fond memories), I would have found it far more difficult to leave here and probably wouldn't have been able to, but their ashes are scattered in an area close to the sea, so not so officially marked as I would have liked – but its not about what I wanted, its what they wanted and my sisters and I respected that. But, wherever I am, they will always be with me. Obviously I still miss my parent's terribly, there isn't a day that goes by when I don't think about them, but yes, I do feel emotionally stable enough to take this enormous step forwards, into a new and exciting chapter of my life.

The other reason I have hesitated is because of my sister Lucy in particular, whom I sure many of you have realised, is not a well person mentally – Lucy has become more reliant on her sisters since our mother died, whom she was especially close to, because of their shared love of classical music. But as Vivien and others have said, sometimes you need to do what you need to do for you. Lucy is only a phone call away as she is now and I really hope that she will have the mental strength to be able to visit and stay with me one day and of course I will be returning to Norfolk to visit her and of course Vivien and Ray.

My original plan was to sell my house first, move to Shetland and then attempt to get a job, which I would have had a pretty good chance with, even at my age, as care staff are always wanted as are hotel workers. But in January, this plan changed dramatically and unexpectedly!

Just before my birthday in late January, I was doing my regular browse on the Shetland NHS website, when I saw words that I couldn't quite believe! "Occupational Therapy Assistant" post!!! This is my job now! I had never seen a therapy assistant post advertised in Shetland, ever and because of this, I presumed they didn't have therapy assistants in such a small hospital?! But I was obviously wrong. The job advert read at the bottom "For an informal discussion, please contact......." So I did and spoke to a lovely sounding Occupational Therapist, who sounded positive and we had a fabulous discussion about the post. The reason the post had come up, was because the last TA (who had been in post for seven years!) had been seconded to another post and this post advertised (obviously) was also a seconded post until December 2023. The post is more hours than I do now, I currently work 22.5 hours over three days and this post is 28 hours over four days, that's fine with me, I only went part time a couple of years ago anyway and prior to that I did 37.5 hours, plus to be blunt, I could do with an extra day now, being as everything is so costly now.

I spent FOUR days applying for this post. I worked hard to ensure it was my best job application EVER! I wanted this job! My two references (I can say now!) were my Stroke Community Team Leader: Suzy B. and OT Hilary P.! Both of whom, must have given me lovely references and I thank you both enormously, more than you know and to both of you for all your assistance and advice re my application etc. On the 3rd February I was given an interview, which I just couldn't believe, it was both exciting and scary all at the same time!

Its almost as though it was meant to be. I had a day booked off for annual leave for Lucy's birthday on the 10th February and my sisters and I were booked for lunch at Mem's Kitchen. My interview date and time came through: 10.30am on Friday 10th February!!! I didn't even have to book a day off work! Also, I was expecting to travel to Shetland for the interview and I would have done, but I was told the interviews were being held over "TEAMS" (interview on line via my laptop!). Everything was going brilliantly!

Interview day was understandably scary, but I was extremely determined to keep my cool and not mess up! I was interviewed by two Occupational Therapists, including the lovely lady I had had the informal chat with, prior to being given my interview. When the interview finished, I arrived slightly late for Lucy's birthday lunch, but she didn't seem to mind. Vivien knew about my interview, but I knew I couldn't say anything to Lucy at any time, until and if I got the contract. It was a stressful weekend, waiting to hear. Had I been successful or not? It got to the end of Monday and I felt sure I had failed, surely I would have heard by now?

On Valentine's Day, Tuesday 14th February (which is why I posted so many heart emoji's on that day) I was phoned by one of the OT's who had interviewed me and she said "they were very impressed with my interview and that it was obvious I had a lot of experience for the post and that my stroke knowledge would be very useful" "We would like to offer you the post" I COULD HAVE CRIED WITH JOY!!! I felt so incredibly excited! After the phone call, I found it difficult to concentrate on anything! I felt so lucky that I had been successful and that I'm going to be doing the same job as I do now (more or less), but in SHETLAND!!! Dream come true!

The next stage was having to fill in and submit all the usual forms, including the usual NHS PVG check, ID, OH checks etc etc. This took a while, but not as long as I thought it would. I told Lucy on the 2nd March, when I kind of knew I was going to get the contract and she reacted far better than I thought, but then a few days later she wasn't. Currently now, she seems to be okish about it.

I received my job contract by email on Monday, 13th March! On Tuesday I went to work to hand my notice in and then told the entire team at our usual Wednesday morning meeting. I don't think any of my colleagues were that surprised to be honest – they have heard plenty of chat from me in the past about moving to Shetland! Gemma gave me a congratulatory hug, which then made me a little bit emotional. My last day here in the Stroke Team will be far more emotional than I want it be. I adore all my colleagues, there are some wonderful and interesting characters in my team! I have been with many of them for over 14 years! I still love my job and would have been here until the end, but Shetland has won me over!

Friends in Shetland, say you have to stick it for three Winters to know if you are able to stay here, after that you'll know!!! At least now, I will finally get to see Orcas, I have been so unlucky on my trips to Shetland and have never seen one. There are disadvantages and advantages to wherever you live, but right now, Shetland seems to tick all the boxes for me! The lack of trees, will be more of an issue for me than the weather. But there are trees there, just not as many! I think the Northern Lights, the stunning and dramatic light, cooler weather, seas, beaches and of course the birds, will more than make up for the number of trees, along with all of the wonderfully friendly Shetland folk I have met over the years. I would also like to thank in particular Hugh H., Paul B., Jill & Rob W. and Jacquie & Dave B., who have helped with advice re properties etc, whilst I have been planning my move – thank you all!

Because of annual leave owed, my last day in my job is only round the corner on Friday 31st March. Until yesterday, I had a start date in my new post of 1st May, but this more than probably will have to change now, by a few days to a week, as to my dismay yesterday afternoon, found out that the Shetland moving firm I have chosen, can not move me when I requested! This resulted in quite a stressful day, made more so, because of having to email my new boss, to say I probably couldn't start on the day we had agreed. I requested to leave around the 21st April, but they can't do that date as "very busy in April". So I have gone with the date they have given me and booked my one way ticket on the Northlink Ferry with my little green Skoda! Northlink ferries are awesome and so there will be no issue if I need to change the date. It looks like I will be arriving for part of the Spring migration too, an added bonus!

Whilst all this has been going on, yes there's more........

I have put my house up for sale!!! It went "live" this week and to my amazement eight people want to view the house!!! Six of them are viewing this Tuesday and two more the following Saturday! The house sale will obviously continue going through, with the usual 3-4 months to complete, after I have moved to Shetland and once sold, I will then be a cash buyer in Shetland for my new and forever home, hopefully with a sea view and a garden full of rare birds in October!

Meanwhile, I was very quick off the mark and even before I got an interview, had already contacted the accommodation team at the hospital in Shetland and with incredible timing and luck, bagged myself a very rare unfurnished NHS property to rent for six months!!! Initially I will be short of pennies, as I have no mortgage and not used to paying rent, but I worked out, that I could just about manage. The property doesn't have parking, its free for all on the street, as here, but I can live with that until I move! It has a shared garden with four other NHS houses, where I will have to keep my late mother's potted plants (very sentimental) – if this was anywhere else, I would be worried about them being stolen, but I feel pretty sure they will be OK in Shetland! The property is a short walk from the hospital in Lerwick, so I won't even have to get in the car – petrol saved! I purchased myself an insanely fabulous new and very long waterproof warm coat in a sale from Morston Sports in Holt the other day – made in Scotland and the style is called "The Crofter" – you couldn't make this up!

I have been insanely busy trying to clear a lifetime of possessions and this is proving a challenge to say the least! I have done so many charity shop runs to Norfolk Hospice and I am only donating to them, as they treated my mother with help and advice in her final weeks, my sisters and also me with bereavement support after she died, so everything I don't want, will go to them. Vivien and I had already donated tons of stuff from the family home to the Norfolk Hospice shop in Hunstanton, when we had to clear our family home out at Holme.

I'm pretty cross with myself for not clearing my house beforehand, I've been here long enough! But as Vivien correctly said "that's typical you, leaving everything to the last minute! Well not everything Vivien, but in this case, yes you are correct! I have already had Norfolk Hospice out to collect loads of crappy furniture I didn't want and have them booked again for furniture I am trying to sell, but may not sell! I am unpacking boxes currently, not packing! Unpacking boxes that have been unopened since I lived in Colchester, which was in the year 2000!!! I tackled my massive clothes and shoe collection first – I can't say, how many dustbin bags I have taken to the charity shop. I have visited the local dump so many times, totally fed up with that now. The garden is tidy, the sheds are empty, so outside is done, apart from a final tidy up.

Currently going through books, I had forgotten how many I had. I will be putting some of my bird books into the Ornithological Sale at KEYS, Aylsham on 12th April, but I won't be getting rid of ANY of my parent's bird and natural history books – they will always stay with me. My first Winter in Shetland will be spent digitising all my father's thousands of slides and his photographs and also getting his Autobiography typed up and published. I also want to get back to doing my art.

For those of you that are wondering, I'm intending to keep up with posting all the Norfolk bird news and there will also be a Shetland bird news post daily too – that's the plan, anyway! I will be arranging a possible meet up date with anyone that wants to, at either Titchwell or Cley end of the coast, before I head north, not decided yet and it will also depend on if I have packed in time!

I may decide that I have made a mistake and return to Norfolk one day, but I seriously hope that I have made the right decision. If I didn't feel pretty sure, I wouldn't be doing this, as the cost of moving to Shetland is on another level! I would have always been wondering and more than possibly regretting not moving to Shetland, if I hadn't fulfilled my dream. Life is far too short, not to take a risk at times, far too short. We are all here for only a nano second, when you think about the bigger picture. 😊

Meal Beach, West Burra, Shetland
 I can't wait to be part of the Shetland Community!


  1. Congratulations on making your dream come true. Although we have never met I read your blog every day to help with birding in Norfolk. Good luck & best wishes David

  2. Very best wishes Penny. We made a similar move as our previous home area had changed for the worse, and haven't regretted it for a minute. I'm sure you'll make a huge success of it. What an adventure!

  3. Amazing, brave and incredible - have the best time and I am sure I will see you in October :-) beautiful read x Simon

  4. GOOD LUCK for your future.

  5. Hi Penny You don’t know me but have followed your blog for some time. I’m thrilled to hear your news. It is a daunting yet exciting time and I wish you every success & happiness with your move. Look forward, not back, and know that you’ll always have regretted it if you didn’t give it a go. It may turn out to be the best decision you have ever made. Sometimes one has to take that jump, too many of us take the safe option & don’t.

  6. Good luck Penny hope it all goes well for you.

  7. How absolutely fabulous Penny. Many, many congratulations. xxx

  8. Penny - we’ve never met (I’m just a patch border in Dorset) but I do read your blogs occasionally…we’ll none of them come close to this one. What a wonderful story, beautifully told& completely brought a smile to my face this Saturday morning…go live your dream, good luck thanks for sharing

  9. Like many people Penny,I new your father when I was a young lad.(age 10)...And through that connection I've followed you on twitter,but never have had the pleasure of meeting you..Your posts are always read and appreciated though..So I simply wish you well in your new adventure in life..Go for it!! well and embrace what comes your way...

  10. Had a feeling this was coming after your Shetland holiday. Have followed your blog for a number of years and agree Norfolk has changed for the worse. Wish you every success and hope you'll be happy there

  11. Wonderful news Penny, congratulations. I hope it goes like a dream for you...

  12. Well done Penny. Like others I haven't met you in person but read your blog almost daily. My brother and his family lived on Unst for several years and were reluctant to leave as everyone was so friendly and he was welcomed into their community. Thank your for all of your shared information. Best wishes. Keith

  13. This is wonderful, have the best time and the nerves and odd sad day will I am sure be overtaken by the new wonders on your doorstep.

    Take care and enjoy your adventure, Alison Woodward

  14. Good luck in your new exciting venture. Hope it's everything you hope it to be. Enjoy the Orcas! You don't know me but I have seen you at Bird Fair many times. Look forward to hearing how you are getting on.

  15. Wishing you well on this awesome journey you are about to take. Good luck for the future and look forward to reading your blogs

  16. Hi Penny - Congratulations. Sounds like it's definitely meant to be. I'm not surprised. So pleased you'll be continuing the blog. My Mum and Dad loved Shetland. My Mum would love to have gone again but at 88, it's definitely too much travelling for her now. Good luck with the move, the job, finding your forever home and most importantly the bird watching.

  17. There is an important piece of advice which is 'Regret the things you do and not the things you don't.' Important because the biggest word in the English language is 'If.'
    Though I don't know you I am so happy you have found the strength to follow your dream and relegate the word If to an insignificance. Have a good life.

  18. Good Luck Penny, I visited Shetland last May and its a fabulous place, the wind though!! Hope it all works out how you want!!

  19. Great you are trying to live your best life! It’s very sad the way Norfolk is changing!

  20. Penny, I started reading your blog a couple of weeks before your father died, and have read it daily ever since. I am a regular visitor to Norfolk, and am probably one of the reasons you are leaving, as I rent someone's second home when I visit, and have a dog (on a lead). I once saw you at Cley, but was too shy to speak to you and tell you how much I have admired your honest writing, and envied your birding knowledge. I am so glad that you are taking on this fantastic adventure and look forward to reading all about it - best wishes, Susan D

  21. Hi Penny, I'm absolutely delighted that you are following your dream after dealing with your parents' passing. My Mum passed when I lived in Oxborough 20 years ago and I still miss her like crazy, Like so many others, I know your pain!
    I wish you so much happiness and peace for the future whilst thanking you for all the bird info you have passed on over the years.
    Never forget that Norfolk still has beautiful and relatively undiscovered/peaceful areas if you come inland a bit. On Friday I saw LSW, Goshawk and Dipper from a beautiful footpath adjacent to Stanta.
    Very best wishes,
    Mike, Swaffham.

  22. Wish you the very best of luck, Norfolk won't be the same without you. Funnily enough we are just debating about making the jump to Norfolk but trying to be brave about making the move.

  23. Wishing you every success in your new life ( and new job!) on Shetland.

  24. The very best of luck - sieze the day !

  25. Well done Penny hope your move fulfils your dreams. Careful on the slippery rocks though. Best wishes Richard Workington.

  26. My cousin was a doctor in Lerwick, and her husband a surgeon @ Gilbert Bain. The winters are a challenge, but you'll be OK in Lerwick. I'm an Orcadian and moved to England (at present Norfolk) for the soft climate.

  27. I have loved reading your blog for years, you have a lovely style of writing together with honesty and wit. It’s a brave move you are making but you will open a new exciting chapter. Your writing has been a comfort in times of stress for me and your experience of losing parents is valuable as I sadly lost my lovely Dad on Good Friday a few days ago so it’s very raw. Norfolk is losing out with you leaving, and I get some of your comments about how it is changing in a negative way but I’m afraid that is something that is not unique to Norfolk.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words at what is a very difficult time for you. My sincere condolences to you. These words won't mean anything now, but as time goes on, it does get easier, it really does and happy memories will always be with you.

  28. To everyone who has so kindly posted on this blog post, I am very touched with your kind words and good wishes, I am so sorry I have not had time to reply to all individually. Very Best Wishes Penny x

  29. Good luck with your journey north. Shetland’s been home for over 30 years now (I was born in the ‘sooth’) and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Island life has its challenges but the rewards more than make up for it. I’ve no doubt our paths will cross - I see we have some mutual acquaintances !!