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Letters / Breaking the habit

I’m glad that the Bressay ferry waiting room is being talked about again, as it’s something that’s been concerning me for some time (Gatherings in Lerwick ferry waiting room a ‘concern’; Shetland News 22 February 2022).

Sitting in the car waiting for the 15:30 or 16:10 Bressay ferry, the comings and goings to the waiting room remind me of the Life of Brian sketch where about 100 legionnaires somehow squeeze into the terrorists’ tiny house, and then all troop back out again, having found a spoon.

It’s spectacular how so many people can be squeezed into such a small space, and I swear more come out than ever go in.

I don’t know what the answer is. Certainly at that time of day mainland parents are using it as a convenient drop off and pick up place for their kids, with no intention of travelling to the island – you see this a lot.

Providing somewhere else dry and warm, maybe in the main car park in town, would help. At the end of the day though, it’s about breaking the habit for the kids.

I remember spending all my Saturdays as a lad riding up and down in the lifts in Rackhams’ department store in Birmingham city centre.

If someone had suggested laying on a youth club for me and my mates as an alternative, we’d have told them to go and boil their heads, or something worse, even though we knew we were annoying people – in fact annoying people was one of the best things about it – we just liked going up and down in the lifts.

I guess it feels a bit dangerous for the kids to gather in the waiting room, and a bit ad hoc and controlling, and kids love that.

The trouble is that it’s a necessity for people travelling to Bressay on foot in bad weather to have somewhere to shelter.

During the pandemic you wouldn’t see me in that tiny, unventilated space at any time, knowing what might have just preceded me, however bad the weather is. It’s not safe, simple as that.

So medium term I’m thinking about the kind of sheltered outdoor smoking area you see in pub beer gardens.

They aren’t comfortable, and they certainly aren’t warm, but they will offer 15 minutes partial protection from the worst of the elements.

It’s a pretty rubbish solution, but other than lurching towards a surveillance state in Shetland, which no-one I hope wants, I’m at a loss for any better.

Rob Jones