I lay in bed, only half-awake, as a wave of city-sound creeps through the open window. I reach over for a book, when the music reaches my ears. It is feint and distant, almost hanging in space. It is the national anthem, close, yet from the farthest corner of the world. The music is sad almost, like there was some hidden message, as if music were nothing but a jar inside our head, brimming with the past.
Then the memories start. That scene from ‘Chariots of Fire'. Sam Masabini alone in his hotel room, sitting on a bed. The national anthem floats through the open window. Masabini's life is over and all his ambitions are behind him. I strain to catch the closing bars, until some forgotten chapter of my life reaches up and snags me like a hook. The memories flood over me for hours, until a shaft of afternoon sun touches the book. The Isle of Skye pours out, like an uncorked vat; not the island itself, but what remains after you leave, the loneliness, the desolation, the endless rain, the mist, land and sea fighting for supremacy. Suddenly I'm gripped by a feverish urge to return, on the night train, to re-live my first glimpse of the highlands, through the greasy train window, watching dawn break over the rainy station.
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