Home » Fiction & Literature » J.A. Skinner » SCOTLAND ZEN and the art of SOCIAL WORK

August 15 , 2010



The story takes place in a village in Lanarkshire, Scotland, called Carfin. This is a unique place as it has a large Catholic population, a replica Lourdes grotto, an Islamic Mosque, a greyhound racing track, and a small Lithuanian community.

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Mags (Margaret O’Hara) is a twenty eight year old single Mother of three children. She is emotionally strong and capable, and has a sense of humour that sees her through most situations. She has a close relationship with her brother and sister, and tries hard to keep things on an even keel with her Mother. She has a romance with her sister’s social worker which is fraught with doubts, and she has a reasonable fear that there is Huntington’s Chorea (sometimes called Huntington’s disease) in her family history, but it has been kept a secret.
As this is a hereditary condition with an onset in the middle years, sufferers often have their own children, and have passed on the gene, before they show any signs of the disease. If people were aware of their family history and the odds of having the damaged gene, they might wish to put off having their family till later, but Catholic teaching does not allow contraception, so there is a real dilemma for the religiously inclined.
Tommy is a social worker in the nearest town of Motherwell, he is single, knows the family through Mags’ sister Kate, and has a romance with Mags. He finds it difficult to make decisions in his own life, but has to make life and death decisions at work.
Mary Coyle, Mags’ Mother is a middle aged respectable member of the local community, early widowed and lives alone. She has kept secrets, family and personal, for years and finds it hard to give emotional love to her children unless they behave as she wants them to. She realises that the truth has to come out in the end.
Mickey is Mags’ brother he gets involved with an Asian doctor who already has an arranged marriage planned. He is gay but has kept this a secret from some of his family.
Harry Wang is a Scottish/Chinese social work manager who tortures the English language with inaccurate clichés.
The story opens with the death of an Uncle and the funeral. It describes Mags, her children and her relationship with her ex-husband. Kate is the older sister and she and her husband are going through an assessment to be adoptive parents. Tommy the social worker is preparing the assessment.
Mickey, the younger brother, is gay and has a relationship with a Pakistani Doctor whose nephew is in school with Mags’ oldest child, John.
Mary Coyle (Mags Mother) drifted into marriage just after the war and made the best of her life, with a few mistakes here and there. She has knowledge of the family illness, and another big secret, but has delayed telling her children.
Twins become available for adoption and there is great excitement in the family, at the same time Mickey’s romance goes wrong because he discovers that the Doctor has an arranged marriage planned.
Mags tries to root out the truth about the Huntington’s Chorea from other family members and comes up against a lot of avoidance.. Issues of religious differences and hatred and a divided education system are also highlighted as they play a big part in Scottish culture.
There are many more characters that play minor but colourful parts in the story. It is told in a fast paced style, and takes place over only about seven weeks. The mood is humorous and emotional with plausible characters.

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