I’m just back from a week away with Anne and about to get started on the March markets. A very relaxed week got my memories flowing so here is part two of The Passion And The Fury.
Let’s see, where I had got to? My Eureka moment in France and my wife swearing support to the idea (all be it there were a few raised eyebrows to begin with!). That was in July 1998. Thankfully my daughters were too young to remember the full extent of the obsession but its testament to my wife’s patience that our marriage survived this all consuming path I was on. I returned from that first family holiday abroad with a decent tan, some great memories and the fire inside me that was growing by the day. I was young and impatient and I wanted everything to start there and then. Boy was in for a shock; the farming laddie was about to meet red tape and bureaucracy!
I decided that the best way to start was to set about asking what other farmers thought about the idea. Me on my own, in the High Street, with a stall would not a market make – no matter how loud I could shout! Now, in centuries gone by Perth was a thriving market town; it was Scotland’s major centre point for trade with roads radiating off in all directions. Scottish Farmers would gather to sell their produce and wares and there are records as early as the Middle Ages that show weekly markets and trade. But that would mean nothing to the modern farmer! I couldn’t find any records of farmers selling directly to the public for nigh on a century. I would have been as well campaigning for the return of the horse and plough!
But I could see it… I could see that French Market with a Scottish soul. I had painted the picture in my head; market stalls all set out in rows around the city square. Perfect. When I started calling with the idea I got what could only be described as a non-committal / sceptical response. A few, “Aye, you set it up laddie, we’ll be right behind you” but more of “Hhmmm, you think that’ll work dae ye? I’m no sae sure”. Funnily, I can see looking back that this was not the best I could have hoped for but at the time I took it as a green light and convinced myself that my own enthusiasm would be contagious and their reserved / sceptical approach would soon be overcome with my determination and belief.
With a faltering support behind me the next step was Perth & Kinross Council. To be honest I wasn’t really sure what it was they were going to do for me but I had enough savvy to know that if they weren’t involved it would never work. My inexperience led me thus: “There are a couple of farmers who have something or other to do with the council… I’ve seen them in the paper quite a lot. I think they might be councillors. I’ll phone them.”
Here’s a wee aside that shows you how it could have gone. One of the men I approached owned a butchery business as well as a farm. When I explained my idea and why I thought it would work he tried to persuade me to talk to the farming community and convince them to sell him their lamb and beef. He would then apply to the council, put a van in the city centre and sell it from there. You know the next bit… This wasn’t my vision and I said “thanks but no thanks”.
My next call was to a councillor; better luck here thought I. I explained my idea, he said he thought it was great and would come back to me. And so I waited. Nothing. I phoned him several times after this. Each one was the same as the last. He told me it was a great idea and he’d be in touch; I waited; nothing happened. I was rapidly turning into this man’s stalker and becoming increasingly frustrated and more and more impatient. Why would he not call me back?!
I feel I need to explain something here. My wife has always supported me in every mad cap, nuts and as-it-turns-out-not-so-nuts idea that I come up with. There have been a few – at age 30 I had my first mid-life crisis and decided I needed to change something before it was too late. The change? I was going to be an actor! That’s a different blog. I lay the scene because I need you all to understand Anne’s patience and support in the whole thing.
So picture my wife, listening every night to my frustration reaching a boiling point and watching every day as I stared at the phone willing it to ring. “We’re going out. I need to show you something in town.” she said one afternoon. Walking through Perth High Street, happy that we were once again behaving like a normal young married couple, she turned to ask me something. She tells this better than me; but apparently she’s mid-sentence when I take off. She turned to see me tearing up the High Street chasing the afore-mentioned Councillor. Chasing / accosting… what’s a little word choice between friends!?
“What seems to be taking so long?” asked I; brow furrowed like a ploughed field. He was somewhat bemused. We had chatted on the phone but had never actually met and, unlike him, my photo had never appeared in a paper! But he knew my name and when he finally worked out that this young guy demanding answers in the middle of the High Street was his phone stalker he gave me the name and telephone number of one Mr Ken McDonald.
Without realising it I had just learned my first lesson in politics; don’t wait. You need make things happen yourself. And for me this meant getting involved with the council directly.