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The Working Life of Linda Fabiani MSP
24th May 2006


Week Beginning Monday 15th May 2006

What’s it called? Cumbernauld! And that’s where I was on Monday 15th – Baird Memorial Primary School in Condorrat. It was through the parliament’s Education Outreach Service that myself and cross-party colleagues enjoyed a presentation from Primary 7 pupils on the need for local sports facilities, and answered their questions on how parliamentary processes could be used to air their views. As always I loved every minute of it – and the cheesecake served at the end.

During the session one of the youngsters asked me whether I ever got really nervous in the Chamber, and I told them “a wee bit, sometimes”, but nothing like as nervous as I was that day because of what I had to face that afternoon. You see, the one thing in my life that really sent the nervous system into overdrive was in fact my driving test (4 times it took me to get through it), and for some masochistic reason I had agreed (a moment of madness) to sit a ‘DriveCheck’ Assessment for the Institute of Advanced Motorists. You see, the Institute is trying to raise awareness of the value of advanced driving skills – web reference for the Forth Valley Group is www.forthvalleyiam.org.uk.

So off I set to meet Angus Maciver, Observer, to take me through my paces. He did very much put me at my ease and it wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought it would be. My Driving Assessment Report sheet wasn’t as bad as I feared either: It assesses various aspects of driving performance and marks them against whether you would pass an Advanced Standard Driving Test – I wouldn’t (there is an 8 week training course though) on any of the criteria, but didn’t disgrace myself too badly. The things I was marked down on were, I understand from Angus, generally standard for most of us who have been driving for a long time – not using the mirrors enough, sloppy habits when steering and overbraking. It certainly has made me more aware. My worst thing though was ‘hazardous loose items in the car’ – yes, far too many shoes lying about! I don’t observe ahead enough either, and what really annoyed me was when both my partner Duncan and Calum guessed immediately that this would be a criticism – I hate it when they’re right! I’ve got a wee Assessment Certificate though – they haven’t; they’re in blissful ignorance of their own driving shortcomings!


Just as well my sense of direction wasn't assessed - then I would have failed miserably

Monday night and meeting in Busby with a joint-churches’ Group which has been doing a lot of work in Malawi for years now. This was facilitated by a lady in East Kilbride who had heard that I was out there recently. One of the issues that we discussed was that so many folk in Scotland – individually and on a group basis – are involved with Malawi and I was pleased to be able to tell them that one of the strands of the parliament’s Malawi initiative was to compile a database that would make us all aware who was doing what. The Kwenderana Group have been working for years supporting a school and sending out supplies. So much good and dedicated work goes on that we never hear about.

More on Malawi on Tuesday morning when the Westminster Foundation for Democracy rep came up to Edinburgh to talk through with me the SNP proposals for further work there. Pete Wishart MP and I hope to go back to Malawi during summer recess.

Apart from a quick meeting on the Parliament’s Art Strategy, the rest of Tuesday was spent ploughing through emails and letters – I can’t believe how quickly this year is going in, with weeks flying by and my feeling that I can never get to the bottom of the various piles on the desk, and on the table, and on the floor … … More constituents having problems with the Tax Credit scheme, and another issue that has been coming up lately is that of folk being bothered by marketing telephone calls, even when they’re ‘ex-directory’ or have given instruction that they wish no more.

Dashed down to Kilmarnock as soon as I could on Wednesday as it was the day before the Council by-election – back there on Thursday and a glorious victory for Helen Coffey and the SNP. Danny’s legacy secured. Everyone involved worked so hard in his memory – he would have expected (and in fact demanded!) no less.

Before I headed off to Kilmarnock on Thursday I attended a Reception in Edinburgh given by the Swiss Consulate who are opening up a permanent office in Scotland. Good news for Scotland when the international community recognises us in such a way. I went with Fiona Hyslop and the first person I noticed was a lady who looked very familiar. I was racking my brains as to when I’d met her before and had just decided that she must be a Consul or Consul’s spouse when she was introduced to the company – Ursula Andress! No wonder she looked familiar – I’ll tell you what though, it was her 70th birthday and she looked absolutely fabulous, with a beautiful smile.

Working at home in Strathaven on Friday morning and set off for Glasgow in the afternoon to meet up with the staff of the Bridges Programme and learn about the work they do in trying to secure employment for refugees once they have been given leave to remain in our country. Hard work, but extremely rewarding, and a highly committed team. I left with loads of information to ‘mug up’ on – I learned so much.

And so to Saturday, and two birthday parties to go to – one for a two year old, and the other for a fifty year old pal (I’m next I think!). Before that though, through to Forth Valley College to attend Falkirk Community Education’s Big Celebration Day; a day-long event celebrating the achievements of adult learners. Falkirk Council has a big commitment to ‘lifelong learning’, and with the help of volunteer tutors the results are great. I heard one tale of an elderly gentleman who found the confidence to ask for help in reading and now can read his newspaper every day and order seeds from his gardening catalogue, and of a woman around my own age who after years of hiding her lack of reading and writing skills from her family saw the Council’s publicity materials and decided to have a go. This particular lady summed it up for me when she said “I realised after all these years that I’m not stupid – I just needed a wee bit of extra help”.  We all need a wee bit of extra help sometimes, and actually when we get the courage to ask for it most folk are willing to give it.

Finally for this week, I was feeling a wee bit down the other day, and someone sent me this photo of her grandchild – instant happiness! So, if you’re in need of a boost just have a look at the sheer joy of life on this wee one’s face!

Linda Fabiani
24.5.06

Email Linda at Linda.fabiani.msp@scottish.parliament.uk


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