For most of our adult lives, Our Lass and I have lived inland, a long way inland. In fact, just about as far as you can be inland in the UK. We did have occasional trips to the coast, but these were, for us, major expeditions. Up early, back late, with a minimum of 6 hours driving for the day. So not something that can be planned around the unpredictability of whale-watching.
Since we began holidaying in Orkney and, belatedly, living here, we have been harbouring the hope that now... now, we can react to random and chance sightings of cetaceans. The trouble is, we'd either be at work, or on the wrong island, or at the wrong end of the right island, or simply on a trip to the Scottish mainland. For example, two months into our Orcadian adventure, we'd just spent a long, tiring day moving into the house we would call home, when a text message came through alerting us to an Orca sighting. Our choice was to go and take the chance that we would be there in time (and miss the evening meal in a local eatery which we'd been looking forward to all day) or say "Next time" and allow our weary selves to relax with some good food. Manna and mañana won that particular battle.
And so it went on. Shout after shout went begging, owing to circumstances or availability, until it became a standing joke. You could almost set your watch by how soon the Orca would appear if we headed south on holiday, and then disappeared again as we returned north.
As this was usually the same time of year, for 2018 I cleverly booked a holiday a month later. This cunning plan did have one small flaw though... a niece decided to arrange her wedding for the Orca dates, so I was foiled once more.
Then, just over a week ago, a small pod of three male Orcas was sighted in Scapa Flow and, oddly for these whales in our waters, they've hung around for a good while (9 days and counting). Shouts came and went via text message and social media, until by the end of the week I could bear it no longer. I dropped what I was doing (midway through cleaning a fridge freezer) and hightailed it to the reported location, only to discover that I was too late. Again.
Yesterday, I was under the weather. And there was lots of weather to be under. Not for Orkney the soaring temperatures further south, we barely made double figures Celsius and then subtracted a bit for windchill. By mid afternoon, it had also begun to rain, but I was watching social media for Orca updates, so was handily placed to notice the words 'Echnaloch Bay' and '3 minutes ago'. Another bout of drop everything (Our Lass - the lawnmower, me - my computer), saw us hurriedly bundle waterproofs and optics into the car and head off over the Churchill Barriers towards the bay.
The grey sea was a little choppy with a northerly breeze, but the low clouds and rain couldn't dampen our mood at the prospect ahead. We parked the car as neatly and safely as adrenaline would allow and clambered along the path on the south side of Glimps Holm. From this low vantage point we could look across Echnaloch Bay towards Burray, and held our breath in anticipation.