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  • I was on the remote mountains of the Isle of Rum, working on a photography contract for our government's environment agency, SNH.

    Hard work, on big hills, in rough country. Only me, and deer, goats and eagles, and a sat phone to call in every two hours that I was still alive.

    And on this evening, with a long careful descent off the Rum Cuillin ridge ahead of me, back to Kinloch Castle, where I was staying.

    In the growing darkness of this December night, twilight glooming all around me, I could see a weather front sliding in from the west, its steely blue visage betraying it's intent. But I would be down by then. I hoped.

    The moon was half full, and cast a blue veil across the landscape. Bright enough that I needed no torch.

    Rum rock crumbling on a crag, held a hole, I tried to capture the moon through it. The moon was not cooperative. I was balancing on a steep edge, and decided down was best. Safely down though, not the other, unintended way. And as I put my pack back on I noticed a small ice finger in a hole at my feet.

    A small, thin sliver of weather-formed wonder, pointing west - towards the prevailing wind. The moonlight shone through it, luminous silver-blue. I set up my tripod, 30 seconds exposure, on slow film, with a small aperture. A long time. "A fortnight at f8" as we say in the highlands. And I pressed the timer and waited.

    And the in the silence between the sound of the shutter opening, and closing, in that half-minute, I heard music. The unmistakable sound of a melody. Low, gentle notes, but a tune. Somewhere near. Not far. Not loud music faintly from afar, but quiet music loud close by. We can all tell THAT difference. And it wafted around me, high notes, counterpoint to a lower cadence, a deeper thrumming that was familiar, yet only half-remembered.

    I followed the ice-finger's pointing, west, towards the advancing weather. And found a small stream. The splish-splash water darting to and fro had encased the hanging grasses in ice diamonds. Some were so heavy they stayed still, others light enough to feel the waterfall's liquid breath and move with it, as it thrummed into the orchestra pit it had carved itself over centuries.

    Each little jewel glockenspieling in the water-draught, clink clink clink clink clinkety-clink.

    Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
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