Roll back the years to 2010, and I called into Mull for a few days during a manic tour around Scotland with friends, that took in the Highlands, Skye and the Uists. I left Mull with some wonderful images of otters, but also a face-full of midge bites, and an appetite for birds of prey on the island that wasn't quenched.
When I returned the following year, for a week's holiday with my dad, and friends, I fell for Mull's charms. Eagles everywhere, otters and all manner of wildlife to point either my camera or binoculars at.
Since then I've wanted to move to the island but initially couldn't because of work, then when I changed career to become a full time wildlife photographer, Dad fell ill with cancer, and I put my plans on hold to ensure I was there for him, to make sure he could concentrate on getting better, and not worry about the logistics of getting to and from appointments.
Each year though, I would visit Mull either for a holiday or for running tours or workshops, and each time I left, I would feel sick that it would be perhaps months before I could return. And after each trip, I would be gushing about what I had seen, and how beautiful the island was. It was clear that someone else was taking notice, and in 2016, one of my older brothers, Rob, suggested he'd too like to move to this "Mull" place, as it sounded wonderful.
Early in 2017, Rob accompanied Dad and me to Mull, where we stayed in Tobermory for a week. I have to admit that I thought Rob might find the island a bit quiet, but he, like me, loved the feel of the place, the views and wildlife, and the trip convinced him that Mull was where he wanted to be too.
Late summer in 2018 was the last time Dad came along with me to Mull. His cancer had returned, and he had suffered a major heart attack late in 2017. He simply couldn't put up with the long drive up, saying his back was agony. The fortnight on Mull was as usual, fabulous, with some of the best light and weather I've experienced for the trips out with Mull Charters, an absolute favourite event for Dad (and me, of course).
One of the things Dad drilled into us during his twilight years was to make the most of life, and enjoy it while you're able to. He was fortunate to remain fit and active right to the end, and said numerous times how much he'd enjoyed his life; not believing he could have asked for anything more.
When he sadly passed away in 2019, the tie that had held me to the Midlands was cut, and together, Rob and I began to look at suitable properties on Mull.
I'm not sure we could have timed the idea for a worse period. The Covid 19 pandemic struck, and in conjunction with our oldest brother Rich, we tried to sell three houses to make the move. Dad's house went through first, with Rich handling the estate. Rob's house was pretty much sold during the summer, but problems down the chain meant it was delayed for months.
My house thankfully sold quickly, and I ended up moving in with Rob for a few weeks prior to the festive season at the end of 2020. We had hoped to have moved to Mull, to a house we'd had an offer accepted on in Tobermory well before Christmas, but our Scottish solicitor was struggling to get things nailed down, as the seller's solicitors were proving impossible to deal with.
Over a weekend just before Christmas Day, we went from the idea of moving to Tobermory in January 2021, to losing the house (seller couldn't move out in time so pulled out of the deal with us), and us looking at either renting somewhere in the Midlands, or perhaps risking a long-term holiday rental on Mull.
That was when we took another look at properties, and found the house we ended up buying. Not in Tobermory, but up the road in a small village called Dervaig. It was clearly vacant from the images online, and after a tense period of tendering an offer, we had one accepted. Then thanks to the brilliant work by our solicitor (Shaws Law), we were set to move mid January 2021, pandemic-permitting.
As I type this now, I'm still self-isolating here in the house with my brother Rob, and his dog, Arnold. Neither of us are showing any symptoms of the virus, but we're making sure we minimise the risk of spreading anything, by adhering to the recommended self-isolation period of ten days (beginning when the removals team left).
The house is far better than I could have hoped for, and the garden is beautiful. Plus we're surrounded by stunning views of wooded hillsides, a river, a reed bed and marsh and a tidal loch, plus views of distant hills.
It's a dream move for us, one that has taken years to achieve. I wish Dad was still here to be able to visit and share the joy of it, but I'm sure he'd appreciated what we have done, and be happy for us.
For me, it means I can offer workshops throughout the year on Mull, for otters, eagles and raptors, and puffins (during the summer months). And because the Highlands are much closer, I can perhaps look at adding workshops up there for other times of the year too.
Please keep an eye on my social media posts for updates on what I am seeing, and I'll be adding more posts to my Birding Blog now too.