There is a theory in these parts that not all Vikings were the same. After they sailed from Scandinavia to where we now call Scotland 1,200 years ago, it is said that, by the time some of them reached the Shetland Isles, some of them were a bit green round the gills. Yeah, they were a tad seasick.
It is also thought that the namby-pamby Vikings who were a bit Moby Dick insisted on getting off at Lerwick while the real wild men of the longships carried on southwards to go berserk in places like the den of iniquity that is Stromness or even to the pleasure paradise back then that now has adopted the name Carloway.
Whatever the truth of it, that’s what I’ve heard. In fact, it was a councillor who told me that yarn in the butchers last Saturday. I mention that because having read in the paper that a bunch of hairy Vikings were coming down from Shetland to invade Stornoway, my wife was all agog. The Jarl Vikings from Up Helly Aa were heading for our shores. Ooer, missus.
Since seeing Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier in the film The Long Ships, Mrs X has always come over all unnecessary at the mere thought of smelly, uncouth men from the north turning up and taking what isn’t theres – a bit like the hunters from Ness who go to Sulasgeir for the gugas – but with bells on.
“Why haven’t you got a horny helmet to do something scary with,” she snapped at me. Even though it was late, I had to go for it then while she was in the mood. Although the owner of the Engebret Filling Station is Norwegian, he was out of Viking headwear.
My beloved then went looking for Councillor Charlie Nicolson and offered to take a photo of his tattoo. I had no idea he had an inky patch. You can’t even see it when he’s in short sleeves. Apparently, Charlie was so pleased she going to capture his tattoo for posterity that he gave her a pass so she could see the invasion of the Hairy Harrys at Cuddy Point.
An atmosphere of expectant scariness descended on the slipway as a faint clattering of sinister-sounding metal on metal could be heard out in the harbour. Then the lights glinted on some of the most well-polished helmets this side of the fjords as out of the mist the swarthy Nordic warriors emerged. Not a longship in sight. Just a load of shortships. One was an inflatable dinghy. Hey, these budget cuts are even affecting pillagers. Tough times indeed.
It was clear that Mrs X had got terribly carried away with the legendary reputations of the Vikings and she seemed to be playing the part of a distressed Hebridean maiden perhaps too well. She sort of half-swooned and said: “What are you going to do to me? Please don’t carry me off into the trees in the castle grounds as it is so dark and scary and I don’t want to be alone with such big, powerful men. The path is just up there, by the way.”
Then the largest and meanest looking Viking with the biggest horns stepped ashore amid a loud clanking and creaking of body armour. He was going to roar. “Well, thank you so much,” he simpered to her instead. “That was very entertaining. Well done to you. Now where’s the tea tent?”
If she expected to be pounced on and dragged by the hair halfway up Gallows Hill by wild men intent only on pillaging and, er, rampaging, she was sorely disappointed. This bunch of swarthy types from Zetland turned out to be a fine body of charming chaps with impeccable manners and, as far as she could discern, a most unexpectedly exemplary standard of personal hygiene.
Bitterly disenchanted, she had to concentrate on taking photos of Charlie’s tattoo. She told me she took snaps of it from the turrets at the top of Lews Castle. Blimey, it must be massive if she could see it from up there.
However, the climb to the top took its toll on her body. There are a lot of steps. She was painful in places where she didn’t know she had places. Then on Saturday night, despite her aching bones, she dragged me and a couple of her mates out for a drink. As usual after a couple of Drambuies, her mouth stopped working properly. She couldn’t pronounce anything right. It was like she was lisping.
Then, who did we bump into but the very same Vikings, still in jingly-jangly body armour. One of them was called Brian, or was it Kevin? Anyway, after a few bevvies he was really getting into the role of a Viking and he told her not to call him by his first name. In fact, he thought he was a God.
“I’m Thor,” he roared loudly outside the Criterion Bar. Mrs X wasn’t impressed. She said: “You’re thor? Lithen buthter, I’m tho thor I can hardly thit down.”