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News > Alumni News > Alex Johnson Talks About His Life on Shetland and Writing His First Travel Book

Alex Johnson Talks About His Life on Shetland and Writing His First Travel Book

Alex Johnson (OI 2006-13) has had his first book published. He wrote A Long Weekend in Ulaanbaatar - a collection of stories and thoughts on his travels to various places - over lockdown.

Now living in Shetland, Alex has an interesting and varied back story. After leaving Ipswich School in 2013 and to satisfy his love of everything north of the border, he started studying History and Politcs at the University of Aberdeen. Soon he realised it wasn't for him and after a dead end job in a pub he learnt to drive and obtained his licence to drive buses and coaches. Alex said, "It will be no surprise to anyone who knew me at school that there was only one thing my life was destined to involve- buses - so I got a job with a company in Oxfordshire. After six weeks of pottering around the Thames Valley, I swapped the driving seat for an office. It was very much a dream come true, just after my nineteenth birthday, I had sixty-odd buses and a hundred-or-so drivers to coordinate, schedule and attempt to understand the workings of. The buses were easy!

After an enjoyable time, Alex went back to driving, this time he was given a brand new coach and travelled to all corners of the UK and Europe. From driving through the centre of Wellington Arch with outriders and bemused onlookers to doing laps of Zandvoort and Spa
he had some weird and wonderful experiences.

But there comes a point when one stretch of motorway begins to look disconcertingly like another, so when Covid hit and Alex found himself driving disgruntled passengers on late night rail replacement buses, he decided to move on. "To pass the dull days of lockdown, I wrote about my love of travelling. The last time anything I wrote was published would have been my final article for The Occasional back in 2013, so it’s great to finally have something in print with my name on after so long!" He commented.

Now living in Shetland Alex is the Operations Manager for the Islands’ main bus and coach company. He said, "The year-round wind and rain are worth enduring for the beauty presented on the occasional sunny day, the long-dark winter nights appeased by the Northern Lights. The sense of community renders any sense of remoteness null-and-void. When an under-sea telecoms cable split recently,
cutting off all our phone lines and internet connections nobody panicked, we enjoyed the silence. In the run up to Christmas, heavy snow cut our power supply- mine was off for five days, others’ for a week,everyone rallied round. Getting off the island is costly and time consuming, but knowing that when I do I can leave my front door unlocked and the car keys in the ignition in the airport car park make it all worthwhile."

Returning to the subject of his time at Ipswich School, Alex commented, "I spent five years’ worth of Thursday afternoons penning pieces for The Occasional and these were some of the best times I had at Ipswich. I knew then I wanted to carry on writing in some form, it just took a little while to figure out which form that was!  I’m now working on what will hopefully become a couple of future books and would love to explore some other forms of travel writing over the coming years. Whether that happens or not only time will tell but for now, I’ll carry on playing with buses and writing whilst admiring some pretty stunning views."

We look forward to seeing what Alex pens in the future.


Editor's Note - We received  a comment from Colin Nelson (OI 1956-68) noting his recollection of a different kind of 'Shetland Bus' - This was the title of a book by David Howarth on the WW2 supply of the Norwegian Resistance, and formed the study text for the 1964 'O' level English Literature test paper (at Ipswich School)! 

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