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  • I met them in a high coire. Two tired hikers. In Coire Mhic Fhearchair, to be precise. In the late evening. Summer.

    If you are in the mountains it is good to be precise. Otherwise you may be imprecise, and over there out of sight, in imprecision, lies steeper ground where one may fall. I know that because I've been there.

    But only once.

    Coire Mhic Fhearchair hangs high above the surrounding countryside, and has views to die for. But in the mountains I try to avoid this saying, given the finality that, of necessity it brings with it.

    And in this coire, at it's heart, is a small loch. Gathering all the moisture from the surrounding hills. Impressive hills and crags. The water runs from the loch off the lip of the coire and tumbles madly for the glen below, racing down down down.

    It was still brightish, the sky, although late. Summer light. This far north 'night' in summer consists only of two letters 'nt' the rest erased until they return in autumn, when the days shorten again.

    "What are you doing?" they asked, surprised to see another person this late, this high and remote.
    I told them. Photographing. On contract. Yes I'm lucky. So very very fortunate that people will pay me to be here. Although I am happy to be here unpaid too. Of course.

    "And you?" I asked.

    "A week long trip through the Torridonian giants, from the coast at Diabeg, across to Lochcarron, taking in Beinn Eighe, Liathach, and more".

    I was impressed. These are old hills, sandstone hills; lets be accurate here: pre-cambrian sandstone, and from the formation of their basic structure some 3000 million years ago, to their uplift 1000 million years ago, they have sat here, eroding. The oldest rock in our country.

    "And where are you going tonight?" I asked, the light breeze wafting up from the land below, over the coirie lip to the large rock slab we were standing on, and tickling us.
    "Nowhere. But here, on this rock. Where the breeze is."

    I knew why. They knew why.

    Midges.

    Summer is midge season. Being out in them can be less than fun.

    But I had been here for hours and hours and hours and a breeze had been absent. This was an odd puff that we now felt, that must have got lost on the way to somewhere else, separated from its brethern. And would soon realise it was alone, and leave us.

    With the midges.

    And so as I pitched my tripod to record a burbling stream, they pitched their tent.

    Behind me I could hear the purposeful clink of stuff, carried on the breeze. Then the noise of their encampment tasks faded. With the breeze. And was replaced by curses, mutterings, boots walking quickly on flat rock echoing, with more curses. I worked on. Far around the loch away from them, grand sweeping panoramas of rock and water filling my eye and camera.

    Then a thicksweet aroma tickled my senses. Something faint but remembered, but unfamiliar here so high and remote. I worked back again, the light shifting and changing, as the clouds wisped around the crags.

    The campers came in view again, a thick fug of smoke just rising from the mouth of one.

    "Do you want a smoke?" he asked. Offering me the thick fat joint. And squashing a midgehorde with the back of his hand against his forehead.

    "Naw, thanks anyway, I've got to walk back out of here tonight, and I need my feet for that."

    I sat with them awhile, the jointaroma wafting off, vertically in the absence of breeze. They blew the smoke at each other, through an advancing battalion of midges, shook their heads in a billow of jointsmoke, rubbed fingers through their hair, and fluttered their eyelashes. The midgeinfantry retreated, only briefly though. Then regrouped and sent in another wave.

    "We knew the midges would be bad" said one "so we took a load of dope to smoke." clapping his hands together to make a midgehandshape.

    "Hmm" I asked intrigued "Does it keep midges off?"

    Exhaling a long smoky breath over and around his companion he continued "Nah, does nothing to stop them at all. But it certainly helps to take your mind off them. After two joints you don't give a shit about them any more."

    And so I left them, sat on a table of rock, 100 million years of history beneath them.

    And one midge for each of those years above them.

    Probably stoned.

    Dancing.
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