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26 May, 2017
At Xmas in TK Maxx – on impulse I purchased a double mirror – true image on one side, 10x magnification on the reverse; don’t get one! – it exaggerates every blemish on your face – I look grotesque.  In a similar manner, there’s a prism in my mind which activates without warning – and which accentuates all the negatives in my world; it’s like falling down a trapdoor into a dark place.  I habitually used alcohol to lift these moods – now I just stay down; they seldom last more than a few days.             Over the years I’ve come to realise that the only light which enters the dark place comes from love; either a memory – or some gracious loving behaviour in the present; those moments when we touch each other – the most powerful we’ll ever know.  The only real regret I have is that I so often failed my friends – allowed other ‘big things’ to edge them out; if only, at the time, I’d been more aware how much I cared about certain people – been able to tell them.             The last time I saw my dad alive was in 1988 in Italy; he was the age I am now though much diminished by a stroke; died within 18 months. He didn’t have much religion; instead a keen sense – and stoic acceptance – of life’s inherent absurdity; his self-effacing smile conveyed sardonic humour.  As we were parting he got a bit upset – then quickly his trademark smile – determined, courageous; and I remember, at that moment, I nearly said I loved him. - Read full bulletin

19 May, 2017
When I was adolescent, a schoolmaster told me I had ‘an unusual ability to get the job done’.  The ‘action man’ version of myself which gradually emerged was not entirely comfortable – certainly bold and inventive - but also wild and profligate; the power of making things happen in the ‘public world’ was seductive.  We constantly meet people – who in spite of all their talk – you just know nothing’s going to happen here; I’ve always sought to understand the essential qualities of people who 'just do it'. If you’ve ever attended a gathering of psychotherapists – attuned to our inner world – you may have observed their determination to consider every possible perspective – resulting in decision paralysis.  Do certain personality types choose certain professions?  Is ‘making things happen’ a personality type? Someone who has taught creative writing for ten years - said this week that the most telling quality for a writer is a capacity to summon the energy.  Is 'making things happen' simply a function of energy?             One of the blessings of old age is that interest in doing stuff in the public world wanes.  Wednesday, sitting in a chair in sunshine – planting out sweet peas – suddenly joined by a very agitated woman of my age.  ‘I’ve seen a cuckoo’ she says – she’s overwhelmed; ‘Gosh’ I say, ‘a cuckoo’.  Truth is, I wouldn’t recognise a cuckoo – so, unlike this lady, I don't cherish my yearly 'first sighting' – but I envy her and that’s where I’m trying to go: events in the ‘public world’ yielding place to nature’s seasonal miracles. - Read full bulletin

12 May, 2017
Ever since I can remember, there’s been a rebel voice in my head which says –‘logic is misleading – things are not as they seem’.  For this reason, I’m probably less bothered than most by the present political turbulence; the voice says: ‘This is the just the way it is – old systems die and are replaced by new ones.’  In general, my personal philosophy moves towards a taoist ‘doing not doing’; increasingly I include the option – ‘what would happen if I do nothing?’ Current weather has me in the garden most days – an obscure prompting, ‘that if I could once understand the common clay of earth, I should understand everything’. Presently trying to outwit 'convolvulus arvensis' (field bindweed) – an aggressive twining/smothering weed which has invaded and conquered my flowerbeds.  This challenge illustrates for me the classic Buddhist dilemma – patient, non-violent co-existence or chemical weed killers – which I hate.             My front garden overlooks the ‘common green’ of our hamlet – a neighbour’s boy, one year old Joseph, offers a regular distraction from my garden labours.  Assisting his early efforts to walk – I’m enchanted by a solemnity in his eyes which can only be ‘astonishment at the universe’; the smallness of the hand gripping my finger is almost scary – supernatural; aware again of an unfathomable respect for young children – for the ‘wonder’ they feel.  The gravity of this wee face, more touching than any humility, I regard as one of the bonds that holds the cosmos together; gives me great hope for all things. - Read full bulletin

05 May, 2017
  On Sunday mornings, I usually look in on Andrew Marr, Andrew Neil, then Scottish political commentators – newspapers and radio – my weekly immersion. I also visit human interest tidbits like the Observer ‘This Much I Know’ interview – this week Michael Heseltine, who thinks that signing article 50 is the worst decision Britain has made since the war. I once spent an hour in Heseltine’s company (eight of us in a meeting of the Millennium Commission) and was impressed; clearly a Tory patrician, but with the confident independence of a successful business entrepreneur – straight talking. In the Observer interview, he says something which resonates: “The garden has been my therapy – no matter what happened in my political life, I can be potting-out some seedlings and all is forgotten.”                  I’m sure the power of gardening comes from our direct contact with nature - ‘soil and the soul’; its calming effect is particularly welcome in these unsettled times: is Trump really going to start another Korean war? Can Scotland really remain the domain of right-wing Tories? Ken Loach told the Herald last week that a Tory Brexit would push Scotland out of the union. This likelihood is obvious to most neutral observers (not subjected to Ruth Davidson) – prior to her elevation to PM, even Theresa May agreed. By the time you read this on Friday, they’ll be counting the votes in Scotland’s local elections; this means a whole week to consider the results - while it’s expected to be warm enough to pot out seedlings – my sweet peas out at last. - Read full bulletin

28 April, 2017
              Many restaurants on the Costa del Sol have a ‘pop up’ element; typically a secured ‘pod’ – of kitchen, toilets, furniture etc. – which miraculously becomes a fully-fledged, alfresco restaurant; some impressive transformations - but metaphor for an aspect of costa life – flash, transitory, provisional. I avoid such places in favour of those serving local people all the year round.  As important as the food for me are the people – whither they smile and share a craic.  I look for good faces – goodwill – honest food.             I brought Cormac McCarthy’s ‘All the Pretty Horses’ on holiday with me – quickly captivated again by its gloomy, lyrical magic; he renders some of the dialogue in simple, untranslated Spanish – which caught the holiday mood.  I love this novel at so many levels: its evocation of a vanished American age: its morality: the passing of childhood and innocence: it’s simple celebration of horses and the rugged outdoor life…  But as I write I’m thinking of McCarthy’s awareness of the power and significance of normal human courtesy; this passage illustrates.             The hero of Pretty Horses, John Grady, hitches a lift on a flatbed truck with some farmworkers: “who nodded and spoke to him with great circumspection and courtesy… and for a long time after he would evoke the recollection of those smiles and reflect upon the goodwill which provoked them – for it had power to protect and confer honour and strengthen resolve and it had power to heal men and to bring them to safety long after all the other resources are exhausted.”  This passage stays with me: la cortesia. - Read full bulletin


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