Billy Sangster

Stuff out of my brain

On the Doorsteps - Part Two

Thought I’d try and get this one down before it became a distant memory.

Canvassing again, this time in Rothienorman. The night was going relatively well, YESes outstripping the NOs by a narrow amount. The difficult thing about these wee rural villages is that a lot of the houses only have names instead of numbers and they’re pretty far apart in some places. I got sent to a large bungalow about a hundred metres out a road towards the very edge of the village.

This house had quite a majestic looking driveway which was surrounded by well maintained borders of flower beds and immaculate grass.

When walking up to places like this, I can’t help but wonder what the reception will be; you often find that the people that live in these places, fancy residences with sometimes three cars in the driveway, are the ones most likely to believe the rhetoric and propaganda pedalled by the NO campaign, rendering them understandably (though wrongly, I feel) fearful for their mortgage and car loan repayments.

But then I never fail to be pleasantly surprised when they turn out to be enthusiastic YES supporters, though. After allowing me to mark them down as a “Ten YES”, eagerly accepting my offers of badges, stickers and posters in order to show their neighbours what their thoughts on the referendum are and more often than not doing all this with great pride.

So you just never really know.

Anyway, I found the door, which was around the back, a bit unusual but it gave me a chance to notice the beautiful flower beds which continued on from the front display. I knocked at the door and an elderly lady opened it. She scowled slightly on seeing me, but I don’t let that worry me, I’m totally used to it by now. I started my usual spiel, tackling her with the first (1 to 10) question. She laughed dismissively and told me to circle the two.

When you get a score as low as that it’s usually better just to quickly ask the second question, thank the person politely and get on to the next doorstep, which I did. She scowled and snorted again when I thanked her for her response and I turned to go, catching sight of her flowers again. I spun back around to her.

“By the way, I must say that your garden is by far the best one I’ve seen in the village tonight. You must have put a lot of work into it.”

She looked at me, her face softened and she cracked a tiny smile. I couldn’t help but notice how weary her features looked.

“Och well, he used to love his garden, but he canna manage it any more. He just stands and looks at it.”

“Looks at it?” I said, suddenly curious.

“Aye, alzheimers. He disna know who I am.”

“Ah…” I said. Her worried features and bitter attitude was starting to make sense. “Are you saying that you look after this garden all on your own?”

“Aye, well he canna do anything.” She looked somewhat deflated. “It shouldna really say, but sometimes I’m glad to get oot and away from it all.”

“Jings, that must be so hard. You should be proud of what you’ve managed here. And doubly proud of yourself of being able to do it as well as being what is more or less a full time carer.” I said. “See, I thought you’d be the kind of person that would be eager to keep the NHS the way it is, not privatised like the UK government would rather it would be.”

“Bloody waste of time,” she said, the bitterness returning to her voice. “The couldn’t give him a cure for it. What are we paying these taxes for?”

I decided not to pursue the matter of taxes versus National Insurance, nor to argue with her about her misunderstanding that there was even a cure for Alzheimers available. But I kept talking to her, because I realised that was what she needed. She had nobody to listen to her problems. Her husband of forty years treated her like a stranger, an enemy even sometimes and all she could to was go outside and work her fingers to the bone in her beautiful garden.

I stood chatting, listening mostly, with her for another ten minutes. Eventually I had to end the conversation and go and try to catch up with the rest of my YES pals, though I could quite easily have stayed there for an hour or so. I was very close to giving this wee old lady a “bosie” (cuddle) before I left, like you would your own granny. But instead I wished her good evening, good luck and continued good gardening.

That one will stay with me for a while.