‘True West’ at The Citizens

True West is a play about two estranged brothers. Austin, the younger brother, is a smartly dressed Hollywood screenwriter trying to make his way in the world. Lee, the dishevelled older brother, is a thief who has spent time living in the desert looking for their father.

The two brothers are reunited for the first time in some years in their mother’s home: she has gone to Alaska on holiday and left Austin house-sitting. Austin is working hard on a new screenplay for which he has arranged a meeting with a producer named Saul. Austin’s concentration is disturbed by this domineering older brother’s continual questioning. There is an uneasy atmosphere in the kitchen as Lee’s menacing line of questioning on the subject of the security at their mother’s house and surrounding properties appears to suggest that he plans to burgle the neighbours’ houses.

In order to get Lee to leave the house, Austin reluctantly lends him his car keys. This allows Austin to meet with the producer without his brother being present. However, before the end of the meeting, Lee reappears in the kitchen with what seems to be a stolen TV. Much to Austin’s horror, Saul and Lee appear to hit it off and have soon arranged a golf date for the next day. Things turn from bad to worse for Austin when we learn that, whilst the producer has indicated that he likes his screenplay, it is indeed an idea by Lee which he is particularly keen on. It is suggested that Austin and Lee should work together to produce the screenplay based on Lee’s idea.

The whole play takes place in the mother’s kitchen/dining room, a large well kept room with late 1970s/early 1980’s decor. Between scenes the curtain comes to a close horizontally, as opposed to vertically, almost making the stage appear as a movie set behind a Hollywood movie screen clapper.

The brothers eventually agree to work together to produce the screenplay. As the second half progresses, every time the curtain opens we see the kitchen fall into deeper disarray as the brothers get drunker and drunker both appearing deeply unhappy with the course of events in the play. As the play draws to an end, we see the two brothers stand face to face as the lights fade and the curtain closes.

 True West is currently playing at The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. For more info please visit here http://citz.co.uk/whatson/info/true_west/

Children Should Be Seen and Heard

Frequently, in separation and divorce, the most heartache is caused over disputes regarding children and I am often asked whether or not the child’s view is taken into account about whom they want to stay with.  The Scottish legal system is among those jurisdictions that have taken on board the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, Article 12(2) “the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative.”

Opinion remains divided among parents and professionals as to whether it is in the child’s best interests to be involved in court proceedings and what form, consultation with the child should take. Some parents discuss the situation with the child in great detail, explaining the state of affairs and the available options. Other parents may believe their child is too young and avoid talking about the separation, not wanting to upset or confuse the child.

However, recent research has shown that children in Scotland are generally keen to have their views considered when parents are separating or divorcing. The Children ( Scotland) Act 1995 states that a court shall, taking into account the child’s age and maturity, so far as practicable give the child the opportunity to indicate whether he or she wishes to express a view, give him or her the chance to do so and give regard to that view.

So what mechanisms are there for giving children a voice in family law disputes? There are a number of methods of ascertaining children’s views.

  • The F9 Form. This form can be sent at any time during a case to a child who is the subject of a court action regarding contact. It is written in very simple terms and lets the child know about the action and allows them the opportunity to communicate their views with the Sheriff by completing and returning the form.
  • Court –ordered reports. A report may be ordered by the Sheriff. The extent of the report will be determined by the Sheriff. Normally it would cover the general circumstances of the case, the views of the child and the outcome of discussions with teachers, counsellors and other relevant parties.
  • Using a curator ad litem. A curator ad litem can be appointed by the court to assess the views of children and to make recommendations on their behalf. Their role differs from that of a solicitor in that they have to decide what is in the child’s best interest rather than acting upon instructions .The curator will meet with the child. However the views of the curator and that of the child might not coincide.
  • Evidence directly to the Sheriff. A Sheriff may request to speak with a child personally in Chambers. This is done in private and the parties often do not know what has been said to the Sheriff.
  • Representation by a solicitor. Children aged 12 or over have the right to instruct their own solicitors and thus become parties to the case in their own right.

If we can be of any assistance to you in resident or contact issues please contact Fiona Wayman – fhw@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Know Your Neighbour

Paul Neilly looks at the causes of neighbourhood disputes and offers solutions to prevent war erupting in your street.

In today’s society of the individual, the ideas and ethos of neighbourly harmony seem to be under an almost constant barrage of attack.

Neighbourhood disputes can arise in a multiplicity of circumstances.  Sadly, disagreement between those living in close proximity is becoming increasingly common.  Arguments can range from the late night music of a teenager’s “empty” to fully fledged wars of attrition over creeping hedgerows.

All over Scotland, householders are experiencing the same problems associated with living in a modern community.  Noise seems to be the nation’s number one bugbear but quarrels often ensue over simple things such as shared facilities, gardens and trees.  A barking dog could start a wrangle.   Difficulties of a more social nature based on families with young children and neighbours with personal problems are now, however, not unusual.  Harassment can be a particularly nasty form of bullying or aggravation.  Passive-aggressive behaviour such as neighbours spreading rumours or “annexing” shared garden ground can lead to simmering resentment.

So what can you do if you are in dispute with your neighbour?

Dispute, unsurprisingly, seems to arise when both co-operation and understanding are most needed.  By far the best approach in the first instance is dialogue, neighbour to neighbour.  If this does not work but there is still a chance of having some discussion on how to resolve the problem, mediation may be the optimal route.  This can be provided by specialised mediators who are often solicitors or other professionals.  Some local authorities provide a free neighbour dispute resolution service which can facilitate a successful outcome for all parties.

For noise-related issues, it is always preferable, initially, to approach neighbours with a polite notification of the problem.  Should this approach fail, the next step is to keep a diary that can be used as a point of reference for future action.  If the issue continues, contact the Environmental Health Department within your local Authority who should intervene on your behalf.

If the problem is not just noise-related you should contact us.

There are two common legal remedies.  The first is called an interdict: a court order that prohibits a neighbour from behaving in a certain way.  For an interdict to be successful, you have to demonstrate to the court that your neighbours’ conduct is persistent and unreasonable.  Keeping a log of incidents and taking photos where appropriate are important.

The second legal remedy is an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO).  An ASBO can stop an individual being in a certain place or acting in a particular manner.  Only the police, local authorities and housing associations can ask the court to grant an ASBO and it will only be granted where there is a public need for the order.

There are various simple ways to help defuse potentially volatile situations and the good news is you don’t have to wait for them to arise.  Getting to know your neighbours will help you to understand each other better, help create a sense of belonging and shared identity in your local area and establish common interests.  Whether or not you become firm friends (and many neighbours do), this can only make it easier to discuss problems at an early stage before resentment turns to hostility.

If a situation cannot be resolved directly with your neighbour or by mediation, it is imperative that legal advice is sought to ensure due process is followed in as painless and cost effective way as possible.  A solicitor can write a letter, offer advice and, should all else fail, commence legal proceedings.  Court action, however, is likely to sully neighbourly relations beyond the point of no return and in these circumstances, sadly, the next professional who can be of most assistance may well be an estate agent.

Magical Mystery Tour

On Friday 25th October 2013 our oldest member of staff celebrated 25 years of service with Mitchells Roberton and on Saturday 26th October 2013, Bob turned 84, so some of us planned a Mystery Tour for him in celebration of both occasions. He thought he was going for a wee walk and then for fish and chips with Margaret, Letitia and Julie. He was in for a surprise.

Both our Margarets, Letitia , myself , Morag and Julie, an ex employee ,were all to share in Bob’s day. Mark would have been there but was unwell and Harry had other arrangements.

Margaret and Letitia met Bob outside Buchanan Street underground at 9.00 am on Saturday whilst the rest of us waited behind the office in a mini bus with Julie as driver. On the pretext that Julie was picking them up at the ramp behind the office Margaret and Letitia walked round with Bob and there we all were ready for action. His face was a picture.

He had no idea where he was going. He thought it may have been Oban as he loves Oban but we were headed in the direction of Stirling so he thought it may be Stirling Castle.

Our first stop was Callander. I hadn’t been to Callander for many a long year and had forgotten how pleasant a small town it is with the Callander Crags , a visible part of the Highland Boundary Fault, rising to 343m at the cairn, dominating the town to the north  and Ben Ledi lying to the north west. The shops are fantastic so we did a little shopping and were treated to delicious ice cream by Bob.

Then we headed to our destination.  Bob loves boats, so we were taking him to Loch Venachar to see the  2013 Freshwater Sprint of the St Ayles Skiff. Fifteen skiffs were competing. The St Ayles Skiff boat kit has been designed by Jordan Boats since 2003.The kit design has been thought through from the outset to produce a beautiful and comparatively easy boat that can be built by people with little experience of boat building. The tools required are those found in most keen DIYers toolbox. It is, however, not a model kit that can be built in a few hours but would take four or five people, five or six months to build in their spare time.

After getting a little lost we found the sailing club at Loch Venachar where Julie excelled herself in managing to park the mini bus making endless manoeuvres to fit it in a space more suited for a bubble car.

Out we got to admire our location. Loch Venachar is a freshwater loch. It lies approximately 82 metres above sea level , is 6 kilometres long with a maximum depth of approximately 33 metres. The south shore is covered by woodland containing numerous forest tracks some leading over the hills to the Lake of Menteith.  The loch is well stocked with trout and pike. The weather was smiling upon us as was Bob.

He was so pleased being by the loch to watch the racing but there was more to come. We were on the shore watching a boat come in when Bob saw that one of the crew members was Euan whose practice Faulds Gibson and Kennedy merged with us in June 2007 and he used to be a consultant with Mitchells Roberton. Our trip to Loch Venachar was not as random as it may have first seemed. So a trip on the rowing boat Skelpie was quickly arranged. Bob, Morag, Julie and Margaret were to take part. I am not a water baby so I waited on terra firma. Sprightly Bob enthusiastically  took up his oar and off they went ,returning a good while later exhilarated  and surprisingly fresh.

Hot drinks and burgers were the order of the day. We then watched some more races. Sadly the Skelpie crew were not to win. The atmosphere in the Sailing Club was most welcoming. It seemed that the emphasis in the racing was to encourage newcomers  and developing rowers to come along by providing open categories that anyone could take part in. Newer clubs could view this as an accessible event but still more experienced rowers were able to race competitively.  By about 3.00 pm we were all cold and ready for some more and hot food. It had also started to rain.

Having said our goodbyes and by another amazing display of Jackie Stewart driving from Julie off we went to Aberfoyle for food which was delicious.

Then home in time for X factor. The day was  for Bob, but we all loved it and were happy he had a birthday we could share in. Roll on next year.