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I’m lost in my own head. It’s been nearly two days since I saw another human. I’ve taken to watching beetles when I stop walking. London feels a long way away. 

Hours pass and I don’t notice. Things that impact upon me: hunger, heat, noise. Those three things are the only way into my world.

Suddenly the valley walls around me begin to sing. I wonder if I have finally gone crazy. Birds scatter from the crevices in the sandstone; one rock looks like a human skull, and the flying beasts emerging out of it are disconcerting. The sound though is beautiful - a human voice projecting out from the natural theatre the stone. Then an instrumental break; a flute solo. A chirpy tune starts up, high notes trilling their way back down the valley. I’ve lost interest in beetles now.

On the hilltop I see a figure; at first a silhouette, then features. It is a young man, sitting sidesaddle on a donkey. To the left side of his face he holds a metal tube and his eyes are closes as he concentrates. This is the source of my wilderness concert. 

The pace of the shepherd is slow. He plays his own soundtrack as he rides towards me, a Biblical flock of goats leading the vanguard. With the timing of a true professional he finishes his tune and jumps off to shake my hand. I tell him in bad Arabic that his playing was beautiful. He sidesteps the compliment. It all comes from the shababa, he says - his instrument. We drink tea and he plays some more. I try: I used to play the tin whistle pretty well. I try a jig on the shababa and embarrass myself. More tea is poured to cover the moment.

The pot empties and the piper leaves. I forgot to ask his name. He jumps back aside his donkey and begins to sing once more. A few minutes pass and he’s gone, over the far hillside. The echoes of his song slowly leave the valley in his wake.

I’m back where I was. Back to the beetles, and onwards down the valley.

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