Senscot Bulletin: 16-02-2007

Dear members and friends,

Letter awaits my return from Spain: “You have been found to have a raised PSA blood test and in order to further confirm or exclude prostate cancer a day care admission has been arranged for you to have a biopsy performed on Wednesday 21st February. The test involves the examination of your prostate with an ultrasound probe so that biopsies can be taken with a fine needle.” The big ‘C’ word chaps my door.
 John Mortimer, the writer, interviewed on radio on Tuesday. In his 80s – in a wheelchair – sight failing – but a great appetite for life. “Our life is just a short interlude between two eternities about which we know nothing. We can view this human experience as tragic or funny. I choose to see life as basically comic.” When I think of being upended with a probe sticking out my rear end I have to agree with him.
 Old friend phones for a chat – tell her about my biopsy – good sensible support – wishes me luck. Tells me they’re off to Portugal next week – eight couples, for golf at the Penina course – “That’s one Henry Cotton designed,” I say, “I’d love to see it.” “Let’s do lunch when I’m back,” she says. “I can tell you about it.” “And I can tell you about my cancer,” I say, laughing. She hesitates – then laughs too. You’ve got to laugh.

One of the areas my work touches is the field of children’s mental health – several friends have been telling me for years how we are failing our children. For the UK to be placed 21st out of 21 in UNICEF’s survey of children’s well-being in the world’s wealthiest nations is a matter for deep shame – a moral reprimand for the way we live. What has caused us to back off from our children and fail to define their ‘place’ – the secure place they need to grow up healthy and happy? Is it guilt that so many families are ‘broken’? In Spain, where I spend a lot of time, families are still strong – children are treated as precious – but are expected to behave. I believe that as a society we’ve lost authority because we no longer believe in the values we live by – and our children sense this moral vacuum.

An announcement is expected shortly on what Gordon Brown is going to do with the estimated £400m in unclaimed bank accounts. If it isn’t robbed for other government priorities (Olympics) it will be used to create a new social investment bank – specifically to get money to third sector initiatives in our poorest communities. Existing lenders to the social sector claim that there isn’t a shortage of money – but a shortage of good businesses to lend to. One thing’s sure – investment is not reaching where it’s most needed. Good synopsis of what the new bank wants to do.

I’ve just read the advert for the new chief executive of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA). Neither the ad not the accompanying letter from Sandra Forsyth (Chair of GHA) makes any mention of secondary stage transfer. In 2002 Glasgow tenants voted to transfer their homes to GHA on the explicit understanding that they would be passed down to locally-owned Associations. Successive Scottish Executive ministers have given unequivocal commitments that this would happen. Yet four years later – not a single transfer has happened. This is the single biggest scandal of this Labour administration.  Sign up here to support the local people leading campaign.  

Everywhere I go these days, folk are discussing the issue about whether Catholic adoption agencies should be free to refuse same-sex couples. I’ve found this a difficult one to think through – how to reconcile the right of the state to govern and the right of minorities to live according to their conscience. I found Stephen Maxwell’s piece in Third Force News very helpful – he argues that not all rights are of equal weight, and points up a solution. Read it yourself:

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs and events and we’ll post them on our site. See This week: 

JOBS: 35 vacancies, incl. posts with: Community Woodlands Association, Quit and Save, North Glasgow Community Food Initiative, Routes to Work South, Blake Stevenson, Scottish Renewables, Enable, Move On, SPARC Community Arts.

EVENTS:18 events, incl. Age Discrimination – Legal Position & Practical Solutions, Feb 27 and March 5; More than Recycling, CRNS Conference, Perth, March 14; Supporting Social Enterprise in a Rural Setting, Dunkeld, March 27; Critical Connections: Education for Social Change, Edinburgh, 24-25 May.

Social enterprises are being urged to secure their place at this year’s national S2S trade fair, as places are going quickly:

Donations towards production costs of the bulletin continue to come in. If your contribution is £25 or more, you can go on the register of Senscot company members – as an individual only. Just let us know. Company member subscriptions are renewable annually. You can donate online at or send a cheque (and address so we can send you a receipt) payable to Senscot, 54 Manor Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7EH

The 4th International Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace is now in full swing and will run to 11 March.  It is a credit to its organisers that this event goes from strength to strength.  I’m going to hear Jean Vanier on 1st March:

I enjoyed this article about CAN – the community action network – which has transformed itself from ailing to flourishing. Read about the very impressive ‘Breakthrough’ programme – Scotland need equivalent.

This week’s bulletin profiles a Social Firm specialising in catering services. Formed in 2003, Candies Cuisine offers training, volunteering and employment opportunities for people with disabilities and disadvantaged individuals in Clackmannanshire. Activities cover four different areas of operation: Training at Kilncraigs, Meals on Wheels, Falcon Catering Contract and Outside Catering. It is a Company Limited by Guarantee, and the Board consists of local people. As Candies has grown it’s been able to increasingly meet its social aims. It has recently appointed a Trainee Social Enterprise Manager and is now actively recruiting new volunteers and a paid employee. For info’, see

The life of man on earth, my lord, in comparison with the vast stretches of time about which we know nothing, seems to me to resemble the flight of a sparrow, who enters through a window of the great hall warmed by a blazing fire laid in the centre of it, where you feast with your councillors and liegemen, while outside the tempests and snows of winter rage. And the bird swiftly sweeps through the great hall and goes out the other side, and after this brief respite from winter, he goes back into winter and is lost from your eyes. Such is the brief life of man, of which we know neither what goes before nor what comes after.

The Venerable Bede (672-735).

That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures.

Best wishes.

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Laurence’s book, ‘You’ve Got To Laugh’ is available at Word Power, 43 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. See: