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Kilts, tuxedos and badgers

The following blog article first appeared in 'Mediation Matters! - Issue five'. Mediation Matters! is the quarterly newsletter of the University of Strathclyde Mediation Clinic where I am a lead mediator and a recent board member. The Mediation Clinic provides a free mediation service in which experienced practitioners work alongside trainee mediators to help people resolve disputes without going to court or tribunal.

In high school I won an award for ‘charitable giving’ when I organised a sponsored silence in honour of Children in Need, encouraging a dozen or so of my peers to refrain from speaking for a day. As an adult, it occurs to me that I received this award not for the amount of money raised (certainly less than £100), but instead I was being celebrated for providing the stressed and fatigued state schoolteachers with a day of relative calm. This was my last brush with adoration, having not been gifted an award since that day at 15 years of age, or indeed been invited to watch others deliver overly-long speeches at their own glitzy celebrations. That was, of course, until Friday the 29th of September 2023 when I was invited by Pauline and Charlie to join their table at the 20th Scottish Legal Awards at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. I like to think this is because I have been a tremendous asset to the Mediation Clinic over the past year, but I have my suspicions it has more to do with my perceived lack of sociability making me available to attend on a Friday night, and the event being held less than a mile from my home. Either way, it was nice to be invited. It was an especially nice event to be invited to due to the Clinic’s nomination for the Community Contribution Award, a prize the Clinic has been very fortunate to either win or receive a highly commended nod in the past few years. Surely if you're going to win one of these glitzy prizes this is the one to win, given the air of altruism that comes with it. 

A quick sojourn to the pub before the event saw me introduced to Alastair and his lovely wife Anne, both dressed beautifully for the occasion, but a special shoutout to Alastair’s red tartan troosers. In the cosy confines of the pub, I was also reunited with Pauline, Patrick, Andrew, and James who is just beginning his second year on the MSc and regaled us with his fascinating former work in China – I recommend you buy him a pint and grill him on this at some point! Speaking of stories of past lives, Patrick was asked no less than five-thousand times during the evening “Why did you move from South Africa to Arran?!” and I watched with humour as his initial generosity of spirit to tell the story waned through the evening. Patrick transitioned from storyteller to book-seller through the course of the evening, directing people to his wife’s book, With Sunshine Comes Shadow, (available on Amazon) to tell the story in a deeper more thoughtful way than could be gleaned over a pint and loud music. In all seriousness, it looks like a fascinating and bittersweet read that would answer that question and more. A notable absence from the event was our Director himself, Charlie Irvine, who could not be in attendance due to having to submit his thesis a few days later. Whilst he was deeply missed there were several comments made, I shan’t share by whom for I don’t want to out myself before my dissertation mark is back, that really, as the head of a University course he shouldn’t leave things to the last minute, and he should have been prepared weeks ago! But I wouldn’t have the guts to say that out loud, or indeed in writing…

It was then time to walk down Morrison Street to the venue, a veritable catwalk of formality as we swished down the road in our kilts, dresses and tuxedos. At the venue, which was filled with a bevy of model-like lawyers in beautiful outfits, I was introduced to Carol and Elaine whom I had not met before, and though I wasn’t able to speak with them as much as I would have liked, seemed very lovely. Our group was then completed by Eunice, who also just having completed her dissertation, was ready to enjoy a nice relaxed night out! Conversation flowed nicely over dinner which was Scottish smoked salmon (****), slow cooked beef (***) and honey crème brûlée (*****). I discovered that Pauline has worked for Strathclyde for 33 years(!), Andrew has holidayed in the same place every year for about as long, Eunice has a YouTube channel dedicated to conflict resolution, Anne and Alastair’s daughter is doing amazing things in community theatre down in London, Patrick supports any British rugby team over his native South Africa and James was deeply upset by this fact, remarking, "Even England!!!". Sadly, I learned very little about Carol and Elaine as I was on the opposite side of the table and didn’t make the effort I should have. However, they seemed to have a great time entertaining and being entertained by Alastair, Anne, Patrick, and James. Then, having fed on good food and good banter, it was time for the award ceremony. 

The real reason we had all dragged ourselves away from Netflix, pyjamas and takeaways, had begun, hosted in genuinely amusing fashion by radio DJ Des Clarke, whose use of vulgar language contrasted nicely with the formality of the occasion. We didn’t have long to wait either, as the Community Contribution award was up first. With 11 phenomenal nominees, the odds were not necessarily in our favour. However, due to the outstanding calibre of the nominees, the judges had decided that two organisations deserved the win, and we were delighted when the first name read out…was ours! We had won the first award of the evening, and Andrew, Alastair, and Pauline took the stage to accept the award, have their photo taken with the host, and enjoy their few minutes of fame. As they returned to the table, we all took turns to have our photo taken with the slab-like award, a heavy brick, potentially a good murder weapon for an updated version of Cluedo, and take a little bit of the credit for ourselves/our LinkedIn profile. The award ceremony went on for another hour and it was nice to see how genuinely people seemed to be excited about being nominated and/or winning. It challenged my attention span to sit through the whole thing, a consequence of our win being announced first, but I managed it without too much fuss as it was a fairly well-paced event. However, a sign perhaps that the LLM/MSc could play a valuable role in bringing in new fresh energy to the Mediation Clinic was evidenced by the fact that the majority (perhaps all?) of us left the venue for our beds as soon as the awards concluded, choosing to skip the music and drinks that would follow. 

                                                        This award is heavier than it looks

The highlight of the night though was surprisingly not from the event itself but occurred on the journey home, as I, a non-drinker, drove Andrew and Patrick back and we spotted a badger in the middle of the road! (alive, I may add). This was the first badger sighting for me and completely overshadowed the win, for which I do not apologise. All that is left to say is a huge congratulations to all the students, staff, Board members, lead, and assistant mediators at the Mediation Clinic whose hard work and time made the win possible. We all get to share a little in the victory of the night and I’m sure if you’d like to get your photo taken with the monolithic slab of an award, Pauline can facilitate that!


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