One of the things I like about living in the north of Scotland is the peace. As the day closes and the night comes in, one can hear the cry of the oyster-catchers, the flinging whistle of the swallows, the rustle of the rabbits in the undergrowth. The most alarming sounds are occasional gunshots from the deep woods, and the frankly terrifying cry of the owls as they mercilessly slaughter small mammals.

Two nights ago, the deep quiet of our little village was shattered by the roar and hum of a low helicopter, hovering hardly higher than the Wellingtonias, with searchlights beaming down like something from a science-fiction epic.

The friend whose filly shares my field sat bolt upright at three in the morning, on account of the fact that her house was shaking from stem to stern. The friend, with no idea what was going on, raced down to the field in her pyjamas, intent on checking the herd. They have dealt with fireworks and people out lamping, but low-flying choppers was a whole new story. Miracles that they are, the three girls were standing calm but alert against the slope of the wooded hill, with my red mare in protective stance at the head of her little band. The friend, not thinking that clearly at 3am, then noticed that the helicopter appeared to be following her. Paranoia struck. If the police were on the track of a deranged serial killer, as seemed by now perfectly certain, what would they make of her, in gumboots and pyjamas and bed-hair, no doubt looking like the most intense sociopath?

Eventually, the chopper veered off. Down in the village there were police with sniffer dogs and divers out by the river and around the loch. As dawn broke, a huge manhunt was revealed to be underway.

I, of course, slept through the whole thing. When morning came, and I heard the lurid drama repeated – the entire village could talk of nothing else – I decided that it must be some terrible terrorist threat on the Queen, what with Balmoral being not far away. (I am oddly protective of the Queen in my middle age. I have become like one of those Gor bless you ma’am taxi drivers.)

In fact, the real story turned out to be much less dramatic and much more sad. An old lady with Alzheimer’s had wandered out in the night and got herself lost on the hill. Thanks to the great efforts of the searchers, she was safely found, and the ending was a happy one.

But it did make me think of the conspiracy theorists in America. I follow American politics keenly, and since the gun control debate has been raging there, all the extreme paranoiacs have come out of the woodwork. There is an actual idea, deeply held in certain peculiar quarters, that the government really is out to get the good citizens of the United States. Either that, or the New World Order is coming. Whichever it is, the proponents of these beliefs insist that this is why they must, must, must hold onto their guns. Because otherwise how can they shoot down the black helicopters when they come?

Luckily, our helicopter was not black, but benign. I shall not have to start stocking up on canned goods or train Stanley the Dog to attack government agents. The drama passes; the quiet returns; and once again the only evening sound is of the wildlife in the woods.