by Mike MacKenzie
It is wonderful to be striding out in Argyll under the clear light of an early spring sky. The air has still a hint of winter and the breeze is just fresh enough to invigorate. Colours are washed out after the long dark days and everything has a threadbare bedraggled look but better times lie just around the corner. People have hope in their eyes.
I am on the campaign trail, canvassing and knocking every door. There was a time, barely remembered now, when knocking strange doors struck terror in my heart but that is long gone. Now each door brings an opportunity to meet an old friend or someone new.
It is not often in this fast and furious life that we have time for each other any longer; time to appreciate other human beings, time to blether and time to care. I relish this time.
I was nurtured with the idea of Highland hospitality. The door should be open to friends and family and strangers alike. Today on this fine day every door opens. Almost every face has a smile. Perhaps I was just lucky. People welcomed me as they welcomed that first hint of spring.
And what people. I thought all the characters were gone but I was wrong. First was a man who earns his whisky cutting slate, perhaps the last in Scotland, with a dram in his hand at 10a.m. and one for me too if I required it. Then it was into a workshop to watch furniture being made by an old Tory, not well, but with determination. Next was tea in a manse taken with old world civility and a sermon from the minister.
I met a farmer in a huge Japanese tractor, cursing the climate, both political and meteorological. I met a fisherman with a shrewd eye on the future and of independent mind and heart. I met a lady artist of seventy five years, still young and painting to change the world.
There were some who disagreed with me as is their right. They were generous in their disagreement. Only one old biddy wrapped in too much money was impolite. Life must have disappointed her. Most sense a change in the air, a scent of something better in the breeze. Most are open to this, to a change of course and a new future for this wee country of ours.
They are the best of people those who choose to live in Argyll. We all have that in common. We could choose easier places but there is something here of worth that we cling to.Â For me it is the interaction of the land and the people. We change it and it changes us as we thrash out the compromise of our existence.Â
In a world entranced by the sound bite we do not take the time to talk; to really talk and to explain and perhaps persuade. Persuasion is the basic building block of democracy. Discussion and debate are often too constrained by time to convince.
Time is a merciless master but we must master time and make the time to talk.