The Guinness Book of Records states that I have carried out “the longest continuous vigil hunting for the Loch Ness Monster.” Others call me the world champion at looking for something that’s not there. Personally, I view it as an act of patience. However you describe it, my world record currently stands at thirty-two years, two months and a couple of days. I spend my days watching and waiting, full time, summer and winter, for one good glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster.
There is an energy that pours off the Loch. I feel it enter my chest and almost lift me
My mission these past three decades has been to film one of these animals and also to bring any evidence that I find to the general public’s attention. It’s a slow job. Over the years I have only had one possible surface sighting of something that I consider to be unexplained, which I freely admit is not a particularly successful tally. However, in the meantime, I have been responsible for publicising numerous possible sightings that others have had.
I live in an ex-mobile library van parked on Dores Beach on the Loch. The view from my bed was recently voted the sixth-best landscape view in Britain. From here, I can watch roughly 90 percent of the Loch’s surface.
My obsession with this mystery began at age seven on a family holiday here in 1970. I became gripped by the possibility of a monster inhabiting these waters. More childhood holidays to the Highlands followed. I read everything I could find on the subject. To me, it was obvious that the world was overlooking the discovery of a small population of very large aquatic creatures.
On leaving school and starting work, I would occasionally find myself with a two-week holiday in which I had no particular place to go. So, rucksack on my back, I would take the overnight National Express bus 600 miles up to Inverness. From here I would hitch out to the Loch and pitch my tent at my favorite vantage point. With a camping stool, transistor radio, my granddad’s second world war binoculars and two whole weeks to solve this mystery, how hard could it be? Plenty of time.
There is an energy that pours off the Loch. I feel it enter my chest and almost lift me. It’s the hunt, the chase, the possibilities. A ripple over there, the wind pushing down unexpectedly on the surface over here. Wait! What’s that? A boat’s wake this time, but give it a few more minutes, hours, days… decades, one of these days it’s going to be Nessie.
After each summer expedition, the exhilaration would last well into the fall. If it were not for a complete career change in the late 1980s, I would still be that happy part-time Nessie hunter to this day. My girlfriend and I had bought a house, the future was looking clear. Everything was normal.
Then my father retired from the police and set up a one-man business installing domestic burglar alarms around Bournemouth. Before I knew it, I’d quit the creative career and joined my father in HomeGuard Alarms — dad’s army. Instant mistake. Every day a different house, a fresh glimpse into how different people had shaped their lives. A large proportion were retired, happy to chat over a cup of tea at lunchtime. So often I would return to their lofts to pull in more wires for sensors and bells with their casual words ringing in my ears,
“Oh, see you young man, I wish when I was your age I had…” They would tell me of their dreams of youth and how they’d let those dreams slip through their fingers — how if they just had their time again… I had a voice on each shoulder: “Settle down, Steve, this job’s not so bad, you will make good money, get married, raise yourself a family.” And in the other ear, “Make your life an adventure! Follow your heart! Go and find that blooming monster!”
I had one fear greater than any other: how would I feel when I reached their ripe old age if I stuck with the security of a life of normality because of the fear of taking that one first step into the unknown? It took eighteen months to sell the house. The day my half of the check went through, I sat down with my parents:
“I’m quitting this business.”
“Ah yes, we saw that coming.”
“Oh, and I’m going to go and find the Loch Ness monster.”
My mother turned to my father.
“Told you,” she said.
Every day since, I have known that I made the right decision. I have dedicated over half my life so far to a quest that I have always loved. That seven-year-old me would be proud of me — the ninety-year-old me will still be proud. Regrets? None.
This article was originally published on Spectator Life.