My first impression of Whalsay? Waves. Not the waves crashing over the Hendras bow as she bobbed her way across the sea towards my new home; nor the waves of nerves as I contemplated starting my PhD fieldwork, But the waves from passing cars.
The occupants of EVERY car waved as I drove past. I am familiar waves to give thanks or to greet a friend, but waves from every car?! “Everybody waves in Whalsay” a friend explained. Neighbours would wave extravagantly, sometimes winding down the window for a chat, strangers a simple raise of their hand, others an almost imperceptible lift of a finger. People here wave, say hello and pop round for tea.
After many years (reluctantly) living in a city, where at times it felt that smiling in the street was perceived as overly familiar, this is a refreshing change. So I wave, and each day I recognize more people in the passing cars as I begin to settle into island life.