Dec 092011
 

After experiencing one of the mildest Novembers on record, winter has taken a hold of the region with a vengeance, with forecasters predicting worse still to come. Voice’s Stephen Davy Osborne reports.

Rewind 12 months and you would find the region hidden under several feet of snow, with salt stockpiles dwindling.

So far this year however, December has yet to see a heavy snow fall within the city. Instead, Aberdeen and the Shire have been battered by severe gales, with wind speeds reaching up to 160mph in the highlands.
A number of homes have also been left without power as a result.

But in true local spirit, residents of the North-East haven’t let this storm get them down, and have taken it deep into their hearts; affectionately endorsing the renaming of “Hurricane Bawbag”, which now even has its very own entry on Wikipedia.

Grampian Police have put out weather warnings to motorists on a number of highland roads, and have even closed the snow gates between Cockbridge and Tomintoul leading to the Lecht Ski Centre. A similar situation can be found on the A93 Braemar to Cairnwell Road, which is also closed due to drifting snow.

The A939 between Ballater and Corgarff, and the A96 from Inverurie to Elgin have been left open, but given an advisory “pass with care” status.

Interestingly though, Aberdeen’s main thoroughfare, Union Street was not included on this list, despite a very dangerous large obstruction. A section of the much-hyped brand new Christmas lights was blown from its moorings on either side of the street and came crashing down onto the busy main street between Natwest and the Filling Station towards the west end of the granite mile.

Miraculously nobody was injured in the freak incident, although traffic was disrupted while police cleared the debris of the mangled metal lights structure.

One on-looker was very pleased to note however that local bus services continued to run, even manoeuvring around the obstruction to get to the bus stops, so as not to cause further disruption to passengers.

Whoever said that the Christmas spirit was not alive amongst Aberdeen’s public transport system?

The bad weather is expected to continue into the weekend and the start of next week, with blizzards forecasted as the cold weather sets in once again.

Dec 012011
 

Old Susannah looks back at the week that was, who said what to whom about what, and wonders what Saint Andrew would have made of it all.

Happy St Andrew’s Day! Old Suz is having haggis and whisky, or ‘swishky’ as the man at the next table is calling it. St Andrew’s Day reminds us of our national identity, more on that later. I read that Aberdeen is climbing up the list of ‘best places to live in the world’ and has reached the dazzling height of No. 52.

Well done everyone! And that’s before we get our glowing stadium at Loirston or our giant glass worm. We’ll be number 51 in the world before you know it.  Apparently factors like our low crime level feed into how the ratings are calculated. Congratulations to us all for living in this desirable paradise.

These statistics may or may not include the small minority of people who aren’t rolling in dosh like most of us are. The statistics on crime may or may not be being ‘massaged’ – after all, the top brass get nice bonuses if the crime levels are low. How could I think such a thing? Well, the newspapers this week may have something to do with it.

We’ve had a charming man just sent to prison; he kicked a four-year-old child in the head. Fair enough, they had been having an argument apparently.  You know what these toddlers can be like.

Another similar humanitarian’s gone down for 3 years for robbing children of their pocket money and jewellery, threatening to ‘slash’ some of them. The fact the victims were boys, girls and an autistic person just show that this particular thief was running his business in a non-discriminatory way.  He should be congratulated really. To be even more inclusive, this particular robber tried putting on a ‘Scouse’ accent.

Perhaps his career is inspiring to young people – a nine year old’s been caught stealing a car as well.  You’re never too young to learn.  I wonder if he at least brought a child safety seat on the job with him?

We’ve had older people robbed, conned and abused. Yes, in our 21st Century world, Aberdeen is the 52nd best place to live.  I’d say ‘safe as houses’, but we’ve had burglaries and fire-raising in the news as well.  Still, statistics don’t lie, and if there are experts who say we’re no. 52 in the planet, who are we to question it.

I heard something about some disruptive elements holding something called a ‘strike’. I just hope this won’t affect our place in the world quality standing. I can’t for the life of me see why anyone in such a highly-ranked city would have any reasons for unhappiness, although frozen salaries, cut pensions, closed schools, closed recreational facilities, cut school lessons, cut services and cuts to care homes might play a small role.

Someone should look into this.  Maybe if we just all looked at the brand new festive lights on Union Street, the rest of it wouldn’t matter so much.

That nice Mr Jeremy Clarkson had a solution for these ‘striking’ workers – he apparently said on air that he’d have them all shot in front of their families.  He thinks they get great pensions.  Please be a bit patient and don’t judge Mr Clarkson too harshly.  He’s got to work for a living, and probably only has a modest pension to look forward to.

It is not like him to be intolerant of other people, and as it’s the season of good will (or is it the season of ‘buy one get one free’ – I can never remember), let’s let Jeremy off the hook. We should be more tolerant, like he is.

Perhaps it’s time for some definitions.

Nationalism: (noun), The belief that a person or thing’s national origin is its most important and most defining characteristic.

Incidents of racism and nationalism are on the rise – not just in the UK at large, but here in 52nd best city, Aberdeen. Still, it’s important to remember just how important a person’s nationality is. If Donald Trump hadn’t reminded us that he has a granny from Skye, we might not have given his development the wink and the nod.

Pretty soon we’ll have the number one golf course in the world near the 52nd greatest city: it will be like paradise on earth. Believe it or not, on my mother’s side I can trace my direct ancestry all the way back to King Duncan, King Alexander and St Margaret of Scotland.

Armed with this information, I intend to ask Alex Salmond to give me privileges as well.  Maybe someone will even sell me some land in Westhills for a fraction of its value. National origin is where it’s at.

Of course if someone’s not Scottish, it’s OK to discriminate against them and you can always tell someone’s national origin by looking at them.

We know what a pure Scottish person looks like because of their Scottish characteristics. These Scottish traits come from the Egyptian princess Scota (for whom the country may be named). They also come from the Phoenicians who sailed here, the Celts who came here and the Vikings, Danes, and Norsemen who raided now and then. These pure Scottish traits also come from the Picts, and the Romans (whatever they may have done for us).

Later on continental settlers from travellers and sailors to kings and queens came from the continent. St Colomba came from Ireland, and the movement of people between Ireland and Scotland was massive. So yes – be proud you’re Scottish. After all, it’s not like a Scot is some kind of foreigner or something.

We could learn a lot from that nice lady on Youtube who had a wee bit of a go at foreigners coming over here to live.  It’s only been going on for three and a half thousand years or more as far as I can tell.  The lady in question is now helping the police with their enquiries.

St Andrew, for those who didn’t know, came from Galilee, and was Jewish-born convert to Christianity.  He had this crazy idea of preaching his religion (something to do with ‘turning the other cheek’, loving one another, and so on) to people in every country he could manage to travel to.

He travelled extensively in Europe and is also revered in half a dozen countries and the Greek Orthodox Church.  No doubt he’d be proud of the nationalism that seems to be taking hold of a few people here.  What he’d say to the giant worm or the monolith plans for Union Terrace Gardens is another matter.

Aberdeen Citizens Party: (noun) A facebook site with some 35 friends.

A wide range of rather strong opinions can be found on this site.  The Citizens Party is against Halal slaughter of animals (so am I).  It is all for capital punishment, and says that since 80 percent of people (really?) want the death penalty brought back it should be done.  I guess if a few innocent people get killed like happens in the USA, then the families can be given some kind of compensation payment. Fair enough.

This page is apparently run by one Patrick Wight; I’m told he has some form of hilarious act wherein he pretends to be a camp homosexual hairdresser named ‘Patrice’.  I really must catch that some time (perhaps around the time I want to define ‘tolerance’ more fully).

Old Susannah was surprised to read this on the Citizens page:

“Lets hope that a campaign of direct action can save Union Terrace Gardens and prevent the environmental damage which is to be inflicted upon it by Ian Wood and his yes men. The right to protest peacefully is a fundamental part of our society. We tend to forget that many of the human rights we cherish today are a direct result of protests by ordinary people who were prepared to go onto the streets ..”

I of course don’t want anything to stand in the way of Stewart getting his much-needed parking spaces, and Ian getting his eventual statue.  However, I found the above just a little bit of a contradiction to what a Patrick Wight wrote to Aberdeen Voice:-

“Message:
Not affiliated to any political party?
Your having a fcuken (sic) laugh!
Your promoting the day of action rally by the political left and the unions who want to wreck economic recovery and cause public misery across Britain.”

So – a protest is fine, but not a day of action rally by the unions.  I can’t quite work out why we have unions anyway, since we’re number 52 in the world.  It might have had something to do with workers in the past not having great rights (or any rights).  It might have something to do with the infamous New York City sweatshop fire in the Triangle building–  all the workers had been locked in and none escaped the fire.

But that was then and this is now.  Public sector workers have ‘gilt edged’ pensions; Jeremy Clarkson said so.  Let’s all get behind the Aberdeen Citizens Party and protest against the gardens, but complain about unions having a day of protest.  Makes sense to me.

Next week:  more definitions, including ‘slacktivist’ – someone who likes the idea of supporting a cause, as long as it doesn’t mean doing anything much.

Sep 152011
 

By Richard Pelling.

In Town Without My Car Day takes place every September in cities across Europe (and beyond) is an event designed to promote awareness of alternatives to the car for accessing city centres and serves to promote sustainable transport that can help reduce pollution in the urban environment.  It forms an element of European Mobility Week – but will we see In Town Without My Car Day in Aberdeen this year? NO.

http://www.mobilityweek.eu/-Introduction-to-EMW-

‘What about Getabout’s Belmont Bike Festival ?’,  you say – well; few would consider that an ITWMC Day and the sorry tale of how this event came to be held onBelmont Street serves to highlight Aberdeen City Council’s commitment to sustainable transport and the environment.
http://www.get-about.com/news_full.asp?id=167&curpage=&search=clear&section=news

For background, lets consider Report EPI/11/140

http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=13852&txtonly=1

This was presented at the Aberdeen City Council Enterprise, Planning & Infrastructure (EP&I) Committee Meeting on 24th May 2011, which suggested thatAberdeen host an ITWMC event in 2011 and requested that Union Terrace be the venue :

“Union Terrace remains the optimum location given the nature of the space required, the potential to use Union Terrace Gardens for some elements, the visibility of the event and the significant footfall that will be attracted and the fact that the Council already has special event temporary traffic management measures in place for the regular closing of Union Terrace for the International Street Market, and members of the public and transport operators are familiar with such diversions.”

Sounds great – Union Terrace is, of course, regularly closed for the commercial streetmarket that runs Friday – Sunday, so there should surely be no issues with closing it to hold this important one day environmental event and the proximity of Union Terrace Gardens gives extra space for say, cycling demonstrations, discussions of the visionary proposals for a Denburn Woonerf etc.
http://otheraberdeen.blogspot.com/2011/04/woonerf-for-denburn-valley-proposal.html

Union Terrace is also ideal as it is itself part of National Cycle Route 1 which in addition to being a popular commuter route in town, runs all the way from Dover to John o’ Groats (then on to Orkney and Shetland via the ferry). Sounds like it should be a done deal, but, EPI/11/140 goes on to say :

“Should the Committee feel that the impact on the road network and the travelling public will be such that they cannot support such an event on Union Terrace, officers will instead initiate proceedings to hold a smaller-scale event on Belmont Street on Saturday 17th September (although September 24th is the preferred date for the event, Belmont Street is hosting the Aberdeen Country Fair that day).”

So if the optimum location at Union Terrace – which can be shut on a weekday and all weekend for the street market – can’t be used the event will be held on Belmont Street … but not on the ideal date as that street is already closed for a regular street market then.

In fact, not only is Belmont Street already pedestrian-dominated (so it’s hardly a major concession to close it for a day), the council’s website notes that Belmont Street will beclosed at regular intervals throughout 2011 – indeed 24th September, 29th October, 26th November, 3rd, 10th, 17th & 24th December are already listed (no mention of 17th September yet though ??).

This point is noted in the original report which states :

“Although this would not strictly qualify as an In Town Without My Car Day event, as it would take place on a predominantly pedestrianised street, and would be of a significantly lesser scale, the space available should be such that some of the proposed attractions could still take place and the event should still be visible enough to attract a large number of visitors.”

Yes indeed, having the event on Belmont Streetwould not constitute a true ITWMC event.

In fact, looking at Section 4 of EPI/11/140 we see just how little commitment to the event there is. In Section 4.1 we read

“the closure of Union Terrace will involve the temporary rerouting of motor vehicles”

Well yes, isn’t that the whole point of closing off a street FOR ONE DAY a year?

“Public transport operators have been consulted on this proposal and they have significant concerns, stating the location is inopportune because of the disruption this will cause to bus services”

Disruption? That’s rich coming from First Aberdeen – look how they just closed the Bridge of Don Park & Ride site from 5th – 10th September. On another note, do you think bus operators want people to get into the habit of cycling into town?

(4.2) “The closure of Belmont Street would have minimal impact on traffic movements as vehicular access to Belmont Street is restricted and no public transport services use the street”.

(5.6) “… Closing the road on a weekend day should also limit any inconvenience to commuters and businesses.”

The minutes  of the EP & I Meeting of 24th May 2011,record that the committee resolved:

 “to support Aberdeen City’s participation in the European Mobility Week and In Town Without My Car Day 2011” – though evidently just as long as it didn’t inconvenience them too much! They also resolved to “instruct officers to initiate proceedings to close Belmont Street for a smaller scale event on Saturday, 17 September, and that the Head of Planning and Sustainable Development clarify whether this would still meet the requirements for participation in the European Mobility Week and In Town Without My Car Day 2011“. 
 http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=15637

So we end up with the Belmont Bike festival.

I hope the event is a great success but think it could have been so much more. Keeping cars off what is an effectively pedestrianised street for a few hours on a Saturday really sums up Aberdeen City Councils level of commitment to the whole notion of cycling as a form of urban transport.