I was about 11-12 years old, on summer holiday in the Norfolk Broads with my mum, dad, 2 sisters and a cousin. I was one of the youngest children.
It was early afternoon on a clear and sunny late summer’s day. We’d moored our hired long boat in a very quiet area next to fields and grassland. There were no pubs and no other tourists around.
This was an unusual holiday for our family. We’d never hired a boat before, or been anywhere so ‘cut-off’ from the world. We usually stayed in busy seaside resorts.
I wandered off alone to explore the expanse of flat open fields, which were criss-crossed with hedgerows and ditches. I came to an opening in the hedgerow by an old wooden country stile and I stopped.
It was then I heard the most beautiful music; it seemed to come and go on the breeze. It was so sweet, so beautiful, I could hardly breathe.
I remember it as a circular tune — plaintive yet joyful. It could have been a flute or a pipe. No accompaniment, just ethereal, otherworldly music that faded in and out on the air.
It was so wonderful to hear, tears squeezed out of my eyes and ran down my face. I remember moving my head about, afraid to lose the sound, desperate to catch it on the breeze if it faded.
I thought ‘No-one will ever believe how lovely this is’.
How I could never explain.
Even as I regretted missing a moment of the music, I wanted to share the experience with my sisters and cousin, so we could remember it together.
I ran back to the boat, and after some frantic persuasion I hurried them along with me.
When we got back to the stile I begged them to stand quietly and listen. But they started mucking about – my younger boy cousin was bored within 2 minutes and started a silly game with my middle sister. They were pushing each other, which led to raucous laughter, more horseplay and raised voices.
The ‘spell’ — or whatever it was –was broken.
We never heard a thing.
My older sister shrugged and said it was probably someone playing music that I overheard.
But there was no one moored in that vast empty landscape but us. Our family back at the boat were not playing music (and certainly wouldn’t be interested in listening to ‘weird folk music’).
As we headed back to the boat I dawdled behind. I felt like crying.
By trying to share something magic, I had lost it.
Since then, I’ve had a sense that the music was meant just for me.
Maybe no-one else would have even heard it.
But to share joy is in my nature.
I went back to the hedgerow later, alone, just before it got dark. But I never heard the music again.