TEN years ago, my mother-in-law Silvana came to visit for the first time.

She’s from Brazil and had never been on a plane. She’s also very religious and there was a good deal of praying as the plane braved the sometimes-alarming air currents from Rio to the African mainland.

Her great grandfather had travelled the same route a century earlier but in the opposite direction, fleeing poverty in Italy for the promised bounty of inland rural Brazil. They’d prospered, but never strayed far.

Scotland was a revelation for her. And I loved seeing our wee country through the eyes of an outsider.

She couldn’t believe how orderly the traffic was and how everyone stops at the lights. She thought the range of produce in the supermarkets was dazzling.

She loved the fact that wherever she went complete strangers would strike up conversations. And she dropped her purse at one point and folk rushed to pick up and hand her the coins that had fallen out.

But the thing that amazed her most were the colours in our landscape.

We drove her round the grand terraces of Glasgow’s West End, along Loch Lomondside and on to Crieff and Loch Tay. We visited Falkland and St Andrew’s and drove past Stirling Castle in the gloaming.

“I’ve always wondered what Paradise would look like,” she told Juliano, “and this, I think, is how I imagine Paradise must be.”

Juliano smiled and looked at me – “I hope you appreciate living in Paradise,” he said.

Working from home this year has allowed me, someone with the least green of fingers, to learn a little about the grand old garden which surrounds my wee house. Planted in farmland at the turn of the 20th century, it is full of gnarled bushes and moss-covered trees.

The old lady for whom it was built lived until she was 100. And my aunt, who bought it in the 1980s, left it to me.

During lockdown, I downloaded one of those plant apps and have been learning to recognise ground elder, speedwell and Welsh poppies as we transform a stiff lawn into a pesticide-free wildflower meadow now humming with blissful-looking bees.

Scotland’s not Paradise. But in the early summer, its vistas must surely come close. And, as I write this on my terrace, listening to birdsong, I’m thankful for my blessings.

It’s been the grimmest of years. And many of us have lost loved ones.

I know how tough it’s been for so many constituents struggling to keep businesses and personal finances afloat.

I hear it every week at my surgeries and every day through my mailbag. But I know too how many of you take solace in the beauty of our surroundings.