May 222015
 

PAUL LAWRIE & HARVEY SMITH004With thanks to Dave Macdermid.

Local organisation h-events has been appointed as the exclusive official hospitality agent for the inaugural Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play which will take place at Murcar Links this summer.

The prestigious European Tour event takes place between Thursday 30th July and Sunday 2nd August and, with a prize fund of €1 million, will feature 64 leading players on The Race to Dubai in a straight knockout match play contest.

Open winner Paul commented:

“h-events has been successfully delivering excellent hospitality and entertainment packages to the business community of Aberdeen and the north east of Scotland for many years. I’m delighted to have them as an Official Sales Partner of the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play because of their knowledge and experience of the marketplace.”

Harvey Smith, Managing Director at h-events, added:

“We are really pleased to be playing our part in what we believe will be a great event. Aberdeen is fast becoming an aspirational golfing destination and Paul Lawrie, ably supported by Saltire Energy, has done a brilliant job in attracting another major European Tour event to the Granite City.

“Following on from the very successful Scottish Open last year, the short stretch of North Sea courses from Royal Aberdeen to Murcar and on to Trump International ensures that Aberdeen and the north east of Scotland boasts some of the best courses anywhere in the United Kingdom.”

Further information and corporate enquiries can be made by telephoning 01330 826514 or by emailing joy@h-events.co.uk. www.h-events.co.uk .

Event website: www.paullawriematchplay.com
Facebook: Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play
Twitter: @PLMatchplay

 

Apr 102015
 

Thousands of spectators don fancy dress for the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens, but what does your costume say about you? With thanks to Eoin Smith, Tricker PR.

BoPeep and Sheep2

Bo Peep will have the most outgoing personality in their group of friends. The sheep go with the flow.

Watch any sporting event up and down the country and you will see hundreds of people arrive dressed up as fantastical creatures, fictional characters and terrifying ghouls with the aim of shedding their inhibitions and having a good time.
From 26 mile marathons and fun runs to premiership football and rugby sevens, wearing anything remotely normal is often actively discouraged.

In fact, fancy dress has become such a big part of sporting events that many fancy dress shops have clothing lines specifically for sport fans.

The Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens is renowned for its annual fancy dress themes and creative regulars working year round to find the best costume and out-do the competition. And with unlimited costume options available to the budding reveller – what does a costume say about its wearer?

Spacemen

Dressing as an astronaut or an alien is the perfect choice for someone with high aspirations in life.

They seek the respect of their peers by dressing up as genuine national heroes who are routinely blasted into space.

Quite often these dressers-up are likely to have been fans of Blue Peter as children, with tin foil, lampshades and even the odd scrap of sticky-back plastic making an appearance in their often-DIY costumes.

Little Bo Peep and her Sheep

Group costumes are always popular as they bring with them a sense of belonging and togetherness. With this particular group, there is a very clear leader: often Bo Peep will have the most outgoing personality in their group of friends, and the sheep will be those that are happy to go with the flow. Or, in the case of an all-male group, Bo Peep might just have been the one most eager to put on a dress.

Animals

Animals 2Dressing as an animal depicts your innermost desires and instincts, stripping your personality back to its most primal attributes.

A fierce jungle animal, like a lion or tiger, can reveal a feisty outgoing personality, ready to pounce on any opportunity presented.

Likewise, someone who dresses as a mouse or a rabbit is likely to be a bit quieter and more considered… or at least wants to appear to be!

Food

Some food costumes are designed to tie in to a particular brand while popular choices – like bananas and carrots – appear to promote a healthy eating regime. Whatever choice is made, the food costume is designed to show how quirky and individual the wearer is while in reality they can look more fast food than haute cuisine.

Superheroes

Everyone loves to be a hero, and with the rise of geek chic the superhero costume is definitely in fashion. Dressing like a comic book hero can be empowering – making the wearer feel like they have unlimited potential just waiting to be unleashed. But the superhero costume is a double edged sword – pick one too common and you might not be the only Spiderman at the games, pick one to obscure and you could end up as the Bananaman sitting on his own in the corner!

Historical Figures

Someone who likes to show off their intelligence might like to dress as an important figure from history. Dressing like one of humanity’s greatest thinkers is a sure-fire way of displaying just how cultured and learned you are – or at least how cultured and learned you think you are. And for those on a budget or in a rush, history provides a quick fancy dress fix – simply wrap a sheet around your body and you’re instantly transported back to Ancient Rome.

Rugby fan Gaby O’Leary loves to dress up for matches, and her Welsh daffodil costume has become well recognised at games across the UK – she even once zip-wired into Wembley Stadium wearing her rugby jersey and Daffodil head (under her crash helmet of course).

Gaby says,

“I really enjoy dressing up for rugby matches as there is a real sense of camaraderie before, during and after the match. There is always friendly banter with the opposition’s fans, and recognition and solidarity from people in similar costumes. I think that camaraderie also extends to fans who don’t dress up as the excitement and fun factor of the crazier outfits never fails to start a contagious smile amongst all rugby fans.

“It’s a really positive social aspect of attending rugby matches – even if your team loses!”

SpacemenWith a long tradition of fancy dress, the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens holds a fancy dress competition each year.

As an added bonus, the Melrose Sevens tournament last year commissioned its own tartan designed by Bordernet and produced by Lochcarron of Scotland.

Featuring a yellow and white stripe on a black background, the tartan colours are inspired by the Melrose Rugby Football Club strip and fans are encouraged to incorporate this into their costumes.

Douglas Hardie, Marketing Convenor of Melrose RFC, says,

“Each year we are astounded by the creativity and inventiveness of those who dress up, so we can’t wait to see the costume designs the fans will produce for our 125th tournament this April.”

The world’s oldest – and most famous – rugby sevens tournament, the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens, takes place for the 125th time on Saturday 11th April 2015. The home of rugby sevens, the game was founded in Melrose in 1883. Teams from across Scotland will compete on the pitch, alongside international teams, for the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens Ladies Centenary Trophy.

For more information on the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens visit www.melrose7s.com, like the tournament on Facebook at www.facebook.com/melrosesevens or follow updates on Twitter @melrosevens.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Apr 102015
 

By Duncan Harley.

Dolly_Parton_wins_Stars_in_their eyes 2105

Jennifer Shaw, as Dolly Parton, wins ‘Inverurie Stars in their Eyes 2015′ at Inverurie Town Hall.

As the dust settles on Inverurie Stars in their Eyes 2015, Dan Greavey and colleague Alison Sandison of  Right Here Productions put out a big thank you to everyone who helped out in any way whatsoever!

The acts, sponsors, bar staff, judges, technical, John the hall-keeper, the dancers and last but not least the audience members were, they said “magnificent” this year.

The Archie Foundation, the Junior Diabetes Research Fund, Westhill SensationAll and Gaitherin 2015 will all benefit to the combined tune of well over £2649-50.

Judges Callum Bell, Leigh Ryrie and and Keith Ross plus almost the entire studio audience voted Dolly Parton outright winner at the Easter Saturday sell out event. In the guise of 26 year old Jennifer Shaw, Dolly easily beat off stiff competition from the likes of Elvis and David Bowie.

As_the_bar_runs_dry_Bowie_mixes with the audienceThe Garioch’s very own genuine Elvis Presley (Stuart Faskin), Kintore’s favourite Jarvis Cocker (James Allan), Dyce born virtuoso Norah Jones (Cath McPherson), phantom singer Sarah Brightman (Valerie Chapman) and the unequivocal star man David Bowie (James Pritchard) – goodness that was a mouthful – simply weren’t up to the famously busty winners standard as Dolly’s 1974 country hit ‘Jolene’ almost literally brought the house down.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and as the raffle tickets ran out and the bar ran dry, a guid’ night was had by one and all.

At least that’s what they told me to write.

In truth of course this was a charity fundraiser like no other.

As last years winner Will Young (Jordon Abberly) said towards the end “And it feels like jealousy, and it feels like I can’t breathe, and I’m down on my knees, and it feels like jealousy, can I get my cheque now please?”

Inverurie’s very own Stars In Your Eyes Master of Ceremonies Mathew Kelly, known locally as Dan Greavey will be – ahem – “sending out the cheques shortly.”

Images and words © Duncan Harley

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Mar 272015
 
Eilidh Whiteford Strichen Park Photography Contest

Eilidh Whiteford at Strichen Community Park with (from l to r) runner-up Lee-ann McLean, winner Debbie Breese and contest organiser Arthur Will.

With thanks to Paul Robertson.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford was on hand at the weekend to present prizes to the winners of a special photography contest.

Strichen Community Park challenged amateur photographers to snap the park looking at its best. The contest was a runaway success with visitors from as far afield as Australia submitting photographs via the Park’s Facebook page.

Over 100 entries were submitted and on Saturday at the Park, the winners were revealed as Debbie Breese from New Aberdour for 1st and 3rd prizes, with Lee-ann McLean of Inverallochy scooping 2nd prize.

Eilidh Whiteford, who presented the prizes to the lucky winners, commented:

“The Strichen Community Park is one of the real beauty spots in Banff & Buchan and has been increasingly popular in recent years.”

“There were some beautiful shots of the Park through all the seasons and the winning entries were really quite special. What a fantastic advert for the Park and for the North-east.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Feb 052015
 

Rugby AAM Melrose7s2With Thanks to Janice Hopper.

On Saturday 11 April 2015 Aberdeen Grammar will take to the pitch for this year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens which transforms the picturesque Borders town of Melrose into a rugby Mecca. Having reached the semi-final in 2013 it’s hoped that Aberdeen can push into the finals in 2015 and take the trophy home to the Granite City.

The tournament will be televised by the BBC allowing sports enthusiasts to enjoy the fast action remotely but over 12,000 rugby fans will travel to Melrose from across the globe to personally experience the buzz and atmosphere of the live action.

Aberdeen Grammar will face stiff competition in the form of around 20 hungry Scottish teams, international teams from South Africa and Germany as well as last year’s winners, Glasgow Warriors.

Sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management is proud to back the world’s most prominent rugby Sevens contest for the fourth time. The tournament originated in Melrose over a century ago when local player Ned Haig, thinking up innovative ways to raise funds for his Melrose team, devised a shorter, faster rugby game played with seven men per side.

The popularity and passion for the sport has grown year on year transforming it into the global phenomenon it is today.

Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management says: 

“This year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens will be in the spotlight as it’s the historic 125th playing of the tournament.  Not only does the event attract high calibre players, both local and international, to the Greenyards grounds in Melrose, it also entertains and inspires visitors who travel miles to see the action unfold.

“Next year the sport makes its Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro so the players will be determined to hone their skills and put on a great show in preparation for this. Aberdeen Asset Management is honoured to be associated with a sport that is loved by Scots and is also set to take the Olympics by storm next summer 2016.”

The tournament offers excitement and entertainment both on and off the pitch making the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens an excellent experience for families, couples and any rugby fans who enjoy fast and slick sporting action. Tickets for the event cost from £10 for children, from £15 for senior citizens and from £20 for adults.

Family tickets are also newly introduced this year costing £50 for two adults and two children. All tickets are available at http://www.melrose7s.com.

The 125th playing of the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens takes place on the 11 April 2015.

The game of rugby Sevens was created in Melrose in 1883 and its popularity has spread to attract global interest and participation. Teams from across Scotland will compete against international teams in the Borders town of Melrose which takes on a carnival atmosphere for the duration of this key date in the sporting calendar.

To find out more about the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens visit http://www.melrose7s.com

Jan 232015
 
Johnnie Gamba action shot

Johnnie Gamba (13) in action.

With thanks to Janice Hopper, Tricker PR.

The members of every sports council know that investing in future talent is as important as supporting the current stars.  The Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens tournament annually inspires and nurtures young rugby trailblazers in the local vicinity and beyond.

This year the event kicks off on 11 April 2015 attracting quality rugby players from Melrose itself, Scottish teams (such as the Glasgow Warriors) and international teams (from South Africa and Germany) for young hopefuls to admire and emulate.

The event will also hold its 31st annual Junior Sports Clinic to spot and train the next generation of great rugby players.

Held on the morning of the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens tournament the sports clinic attracts over one hundred carefully selected youngsters from clubs and schools across Scotland who undergo concentrated training exercises and matches.

This year the clinic will again be led by Rob Moffat, a Scottish rugby union coach who was head coach at Edinburgh, and also spent time coaching with the Scotland A team, Glasgow and the Borders. He is assisted by a dozen coaches from all over Scotland so the youngsters who spend time at the clinic are truly accessing priceless professional experience.  One such young lad on the touch line is a local talent to keep an eye on.

Rufus McLean, Age – 14.

Plays for – Melrose Rugby Football Club Under 16s

“I’m looking forward to the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens 2015 because it’s exciting and thrilling to watch such a high standard of rugby.  I love watching the club I play for perform on their home ground against other quality teams.  Last year they brought down Glasgow and that was great to watch!  I also get to see international teams play which is a rare opportunity.

“It’s a different style of rugby to what I usually play but it’s such a strong calibre that it makes me want to perform like that. I watch the players in one-on-one situations and it gives me new ideas of how to act and react in certain situations, for example watching a really good tackle makes me want to try it out on the pitch.

“I was lucky enough to attend the Junior Sports Clinic last year and it would be an honour to be selected again this year.  It involved a morning dedicated to intense rugby training – we focussed on lots of drills, two-on-one scenarios and decision making.  It was useful to explore practical scenarios on the pitch. 

“I got into rugby in primary one when my dad signed me up for the Melrose team and I played every weekend – so it all started with my dad’s enthusiasm and developed from there.  I enjoy the fact it’s a very physical sport and you really get out there and active on the pitch, but it’s tactical too so I like that combination of action and tactics.  I also enjoy the camaraderie with my team-mates.  In my ideal world I’d like to try get into the Scotland development squad, if possible, but for now I’m enjoying watching the professionals in Melrose.”

One youngster who has made a longer journey to visit the hallowed Melrose grounds is Aberdonian Johnnie Gamba.

Johnnie Gamba, Age – 13

Plays for – Aberdeen Grammar Rugby Club Under 14s

“Last year was my first trip to the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens tournament and the atmosphere was so great that I can’t wait to go again this year.  Watching it right in front of me, rather than on television, was a totally different experience.  It was easier to pick up the set line moves to try out later on with my team in Aberdeen.  The level of play was really high and challenged me to up my game as I want to be on that pitch in the future.

“It was a privilege to attend the junior sports clinic where we were split into small groups to focus on intense rugby training.  We were taught quite advanced skills and it was a different style of coaching so it was refreshing to approach things differently. 

“Personally I enjoy rugby due to the nature of the sport, it’s a physical, contact sport and that suits my build and personality – I’d rather be out playing rugby than sat indoors.   When I’m older the ultimate honour would be to play for the British Lions.  It’s also a huge goal to play for a professional side in the future – Glasgow or Edinburgh if things go that far but I’ll really have to knuckle down to my training in the meantime.”

The 125th playing of the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens takes place on the 11 April 2015.

The game of rugby sevens was created in Melrose in 1883 and its popularity has spread to attract global interest and participation. Teams from across Scotland will compete against international teams in the Borders town of Melrose which takes on a carnival atmosphere for the duration of this key date in the sporting calendar.

To find out more about the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens visit http://www.melrose7s.com

Sep 052014
 

FergieRisesfeatLast week, following the launch in Glasgow and a media launch at Hampden of author Michael Grant’s ‘Fergie Rises: How Britain’s Greatest Manager Was Made In Aberdeen’, the books publishers, Aurum Press, kindly offered Voice two prize copies of the book.

David Innes, who reviewed the release for Aberdeen Voice was charged with the task of setting a question for readers to answer.

David asked:

“Which then player and future Dons manager accompanied Fergie to the harbour to welcome back The Red Navy from the ferryboat St Clair two days after the ECWC final in Gothenburg?”

Aberdeen Voice are delighted with the response, and glad to report that every single entrant to the competition gave the correct answer. It was of course Mark McGhee.

However, there are only two prizes, the two winners drawn are Ian Wright, Cove, and Alistair Duncan, Banchory. Thanks to all who entered and congratulations to the winners. Your details will be forwarded to Aurum press who will post your prize copies directly to you.

Aug 292014
 

FergieRisesBy David Innes.

Following last week’s launch in Glasgow and a media launch at Hampden, Michael Grant, author of Fergie Rises: How Britain’s Greatest Manager Was Made In Aberdeen, launched his book in the city where Sir Alex Ferguson first tasted real managerial success.

Michael was accompanied by heroes of the Fergie era, Neil Simpson and Neale Cooper. A respectable turnout at Aberdeen’s Waterstones saw Michael host a lively Q&A session where anecdotes and reminiscences delighted and informed those attending, some too young to have lived through the era.

The garrulous Cooper, in particular, was at his entertaining best, prompted by Simmie whose recollections were slightly less manic and animated, but no less warm.

What came across was that Sir Alex (‘We still call him ‘Boss’’, said Cooper), for all his snarling, strange logic and mind games, is still revered by those whose careers he founded. The reminiscences were affectionate and respectful and the gratitude heartfelt.

The author was delighted by the attendance and he and the ex-Dons were kept busy signing copies of the book, having commemorative photos taken with fans and buyers and chatting animatedly with those with particular memories of their own.

The publishers, Aurum Press, have kindly offered Voice two prize copies of Fergie Rises.

To enter the competition, just answer this:

Which then player and future Dons manager accompanied Fergie to the harbour to welcome back The Red Navy from the ferryboat St Clair two days after the ECWC final in Gothenburg?

Send your answer to competition@aberdeenvoice.com. Since the publisher has volunteered to mail the prizes directly to the winners, you’ll need to include your postal address with your entry. Good luck.

Aug 152014
 

Flag_of_the_Commonwealth_of_NationssqBy Dr Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff and Buchan.

It was with a tinge of sadness that I watched the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony earlier this week. The Games have brought Glasgow, and Scotland, into the world’s limelight in a way which no one could have anticipated.

Prince Imran of the Commonwealth Games Federation said it best when he described the games as “amazing”, and “the best games ever.”

The 2014 Commonwealth Games were, to use the Prince’s own words “pure, dead brilliant”. 1.2 million tickets were sold, and Scotland welcomed hundreds of thousands of tourists and visitors from near and far.

The event has been an unqualified success in every sense of the word; and our athletes – and organisers – have done Scotland proud.

Besides the excitement associated with the actual competition, however, there was another, hugely important element which set our games apart as something special. It was the fact that, over the course of the games, the charity drive by UNICEF managed to raise £5 million – a record breaking amount, which will help transform lives in poorer Commonwealth countries through sport and education.

Credit must be given to the notable Scottish actors and sporting heroes who helped publicise the event – and to everyone who contributed.

In the warm, euphoric afterglow of the games, however, it’s important to bear in mind what hasn’t changed. Scotland – and Glasgow in particular – still hosts some of the most deprived areas in Europe, and some of that UNICEF money will be targeted at some of our nation’s poorest communities too.

For me, one of the best aspects of the games was the involvement if such an inclusive and diverse range of athletes.

From 13 year old Erraid Davies from Shetland who won a bronze in the para-swimming to the  ‘more mature’ competitors who did us proud winning a whole raft of medals in the bowling, people of all ages were taking part in the games, showing us all that it’s not just the young and super-fit who can excel in sport.

The other great thing is that there has been a big investment in sport and recreation facilities across Scotland as part of the Commonwealth Games legacy project, including here in the North-east.

Too often in the past major sporting events have diverted resources away from grassroots sporting activities, but instead the Commonwealth Games has seen new investment in facilities to encourage more of us (myself included!) to get a bit more active.  The other great benefits of the Commonwealth Games have been in hundreds of new jobs, apprenticeships, and regeneration in the run up to the games, and the sharp increase in tourism over recent weeks.

Team Scotland excelled themselves to win more medals than ever before in front of a home crowd, surpassing even the most optimistic expectations, and the City of Glasgow delivered an event everyone in Scotland can be proud of.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Jun 252013
 

Alex Mitchell makes a welcome return to Voice, his insights inspired by his walks around the city and his musing on contemporary affairs.

January 22. Looked out the window this morning and thought, ‘Snaa’s all gone’, then switched on the radio to find that the roads are very hazardous 15-plus miles in all directions out of Aberdeen but especially in the rural hinterland.

One begins to wonder whether it is actually a feasible proposition to live in these inland places.

Winter conditions are obviously much more extreme and also persist much longer – they set in earlier and end later – than on the coast.

Everything is so much more time and trouble, takes so much longer – basic survival becomes the overarching preoccupation, crowding out other interests and concerns.

Even the summers in these inland locations are oppressive – just too hot, no cooling sea breezes, no access to the coast and dead, still air.

This, of course, is why humanity has always tended to cluster around seaports, river estuaries and coastal locations, quite apart from the business and employment opportunities associated with ports, the rivers and the sea – trade, commerce, import/export, fishing, boat and shipbuilding and transportation.

February 10. A Sunday afternoon spent in Union Terrace Gardens, assembling birds’ nesting boxes from kits with a view to building up the resident wildlife.

Cold, rain and sleet, but we were in a sheltered spot under the arches which support Union Terrace itself. Back to the Gardens the following Friday to see the fifteen birds’ nesting boxes, now varnished, being located high up on the trees by skilled personnel with a cherry-picker.

A much milder, Spring-like day, bright and sunny and clumps of snowdrops in evidence.

This is the kind of small-scale incremental improvement, largely undertaken by volunteers, which can transform our civic amenities at modest expense.

February 17. To Holburn Junction and west end of Union Street. Bell’s Hotel is in a very run-down state, the bar still open for business but otherwise closed up, the frontage ill-maintained with much vegetation and a large tree growing out of upper storeys.

Plans for redevelopment, extending the building back to Justice Mill Lane, seem to have stalled.

Further along, in the old Watt & Grant building, one of a clutch of gents’ outfitters, G*Raw, is having a closing-down sale, advertising 70% off. Aberdeen City Council has reluctantly granted planning permission for change of use to a bar/restaurant.

The long-established Austin Reed premises are in poor condition and are advertised for rent, but it is difficult to find tenants for any premises westward of the Music Hall – too far from the main centres of retail activity in St Nicholas Street, Union Bridge and the Union Square mega-mall.

Along Bon Accord Street and Langstane Place to Justice Mill Lane: the Radisson Park Inn hotel looks as tacky and out-of-place as ever, its paintwork and finishes deteriorating already. Similarly, the Travelodge at the other end of the IQ office building. Across Justice Mill Lane, the former Budz Bar premises, closed for refurbishment in 2007 and never reopened, are a major eyesore.

We have become so indoctrinated into regarding property as a wonderful can’t-fail asset and investment that it is difficult to accept that property can, in fact, be effectively worthless or even a net liability, costing more to service and maintain than it can ever earn in rent or other income.

The familiar pattern in the city centre has usually been that ground-floor premises can be let out for use as shops, bars, restaurants and fast-food outlets, but that upper floors are left unlet and unused.

 it is difficult, if not impossible, to force landlords to maintain unwanted buildings to an acceptable standard

Upstairs premises used to accommodate professionals such as dentists, tailors, solicitors, architects and accountants, but less so nowadays, perhaps because of the lack of modern facilities, car parking or uncongenial surroundings. The question would obviously arise as to whether it is possible to operate conventional business activity in a street or locality largely given over to pubs and bars.

Much the same would apply to the residential accommodation which used to prevail on the uppermost floors of these old buildings, where the means of exit in the event of fire might be a concern.

The private-sector solution to buildings which are expensive to maintain but which can be neither sold nor let out would be to demolish.

‘Listing’ and Conservation Area status operate to prevent such action, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to force landlords to maintain unwanted buildings to an acceptable standard; many proprietors simply cannot afford to do so, in the absence of any income stream.

Some may resort to deliberate fire-raising to remove a building regarded as a financial liability and money-pit. Derelict and empty buildings are quite likely to be set on fire anyway, by vandals, tramps and rough sleepers.

This is pretty much the position we had reached in relation to MarischalCollege some years ago. The building was impossibly expensive for its owners, the University of Aberdeen, to maintain to any acceptable standard, given that they had little use for it.

There was no serious prospect of sale or of finding a suitable tenant. The private-sector response would have been to demolish, but that was unacceptable to public opinion.

In the meantime, like much of Union Street and the city centre, Marischal College was deteriorating and quite likely to be set on fire and burn down. The only available solution was, in effect, to take the building into public ownership on the basis of a 175-year lease to Aberdeen City Council, since when it has been renovated and put to productive use.

The Council should be able to buy the buildings at modest expense – the landlords want out, after all

This seems to me to be the only workable solution to other such instances of ‘market failure’, where no private-sector solution is forthcoming or acceptable, such as the former Watt & Grant buildings on Union Street and the Victoria Buildings at the foot of Bridge Street, facing down Guild Street.

The Council should be able to buy the buildings at modest expense – the landlords want out, after all – and purchase and renovation costs might form the basis of a future TIF application, given the improving effect on the whole surrounding area which we have already seen happen to spectacular effect with Marischal College and Broad Street.

March 7. The Criterion Bar, Guild Street: a proposal to convert to a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

This used to be an iconic Aberdeen pub, occupying a prominent corner site opposite the railway and bus stations, and was an obvious port of call for many a thirsty traveller or football fan. It had an attractive Edwardian-style interior, featuring much carved wood and etched glass, apparently now largely destroyed.

The pub had been closed these last two years pending another proposal to convert to a Rice & Spice food store.

Whether or not a Sainsbury’s will be of greater utility or amenity than the long-established Criterion Bar remains to be seen.   There are two other bars nearby, Aitchie’s Lounge and the Lorne Bar in Trinity Lane, behind the Tivoli Theatre, and of course the Carmelite Hotel.

April 30. Sunny, but cold and windy. Parked the car at the Union Square mega-mall and walked up to M&S via the Green and Correction Wynd, Xmas gift voucher in pocket.

This is one of the first fine, sunny days for weeks, but the Green is completely empty at 2.30 on this weekday afternoon, with nobody going into or coming out of the various premises. Much the same absence of pedestrian footfall evident in Hadden Street.

The longer-term problem with the decline of M&S is that they have always been a mainstay and linchpin of the nation’s High Streets

Through the tunnel under Union Street and up Correction Wynd – an agreeable medieval ambience in the vicinity of the Mither Kirk, but again not a soul – not even a ghostly soul from the Ghaist-raw – to be seen. Along St Nicholas Lane, past the Prince of Wales, to M&S, which is advertising a sale, up to 70% off.

There is a glaring disconnect between M&S’s TV advertising and in-store displays, invariably featuring slender, snake-hipped young people, and the reality of the small numbers of mostly elderly customers trailing wearily around their overheated menswear department looking for a pair of trousers that might conceivably fit the larger person.

I settle for a pair of shoes I don’t really need or want – got to offload the gift voucher somehow.

The problem with having only elderly customers, especially elderly customers who don’t buy much, is that we oldies must sooner or later fall off the perch, and where will M&S, not to mention the Conservative and Unionist Party, or Aberdeen Journals, be left then?

The longer-term problem with the decline of M&S is that they have always been a mainstay and linchpin of the nation’s High Streets – a destination store, in fact – and if there is less and less reason to go back there, then the High Street and our town centres are even deader than we thought.

Walked back to the mega-mall via Correction Wynd and Carmelite Street. The rowan trees planted in enclosures alongside the Aberdeen Market in Hadden Street and in Carmelite Street and Rennie’s Wynd seem to be taking hold and coming on now, but the surrounding shrubs are being overwhelmed by faster-growing weeds.

Container gardening is a very labour-intensive business, as I am sure we all know, and ACC may not have the manpower to do it properly.

May 15. Mary Portas, self-styled Queen of Shops, is back on TV, now trying to work her dubious magic on the nation’s High Streets. She is in the Kentish seaside resort of Margate, being whiny and self-pitying when local traders refuse to let her into their public meeting on the not-unreasonable grounds that she had slandered the town on an earlier visit.

One might as well try to persuade people to take their holidays in Albania

Ms Portas had no real idea what to do about Margate and neither would I, Margate being the equivalent of a Lanarkshire mining town where the coal ran out decades ago.

At one stage Mary P is back in London, trying to persuade the throngs of mostly young people descending on Camden Market to spend their Saturday in Margate instead.

The point unintentionally made here is that people come to Camden because it offers something they want – the antiques and vintage fashion market, the surrounding specialist shops, the pubs, cafés and bars, the whole scene and ambience. People travel from Margate to Camden to experience this.

Nobody travels from Camden to Margate. One might as well try to persuade people to take their holidays in Albania.

The issue is partly one of scale.

A large community can support all kinds of special-interest activities because even just 1% of the population of London, or even of Bristol or Edinburgh, is still a lot of people, with considerable combined spending-power; but 1% of the population of, say, Banchory is only about fifty people, and 1% of the population of a village might be about five people.

Minority or special-interest activities which may well be viable business opportunities in a city or large town are unlikely to be so in a small town or village. A city will normally be able to support a university, possibly two universities, which are large employers in their own right and give rise to many spin-off activities.

Villages, on the other hand, are all too often unable to support as much as a primary school, a pub, a fish and chip shop or an Indian takeaway.

This lack of business opportunities, jobs or choice of employer means that small village communities are of little interest or use to anyone who has to earn a living, and even middle-class retirees tend to shun depressed and run-down places like Margate.

Salesmanship seems to be a fast-shrinking area of employment

Last year I wasted a day in Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, which really did seem like the Village Of The Damned, even on a sunny weekday. If a community is to remain viable it simply has to have an economic base of investment, enterprise and employment.

One of the most significant trends of our time is the gradual disappearance of secure and decently-remunerated jobs, such as allow people to lead an independent, adult existence, leave the parental home, get a place of their own and, in due course, finance the purchase of a house in a neighbourhood fit to raise a family in.

One might think of the hierarchy of staff who would be employed in a High Street bank back in the days of Dad’s Army, as compared with the skeleton staff of a modern bank, of which there are in any case far fewer than there used to be. Similarly, insurance offices and travel agents.

Salesmanship seems to be a fast-shrinking area of employment. When do we interact with a salesman/woman nowadays, except perhaps when buying a car?

The internet means that things we used to pay people to do we can now do for ourselves. This reduces the cost of living and makes poverty more bearable, but it also means fewer job opportunities and lower wages in many of such jobs as remain, for example, in journalism.

The recent council elections in England revealed a high degree of discontent in rural communities such as Boston, King’s Lynn and Wisbech to the effect that there are simply no decent jobs, or jobs that pay a living wage. The jobs there used to be on the land, in farming, have largely been mechanised out of existence.

The point was made that locally, the average wage has converged on the National Minimum Wage of about £6-7 per hour, whilst quite a few employers in practice contrive to pay even less than the Minimum Wage.

  I was a bit concerned, since it is not normally a good sign when whales and dolphins come up-river

Employee benefits such as pensions have been cut back and working conditions are deteriorating. People are caught by the twin pincers of falling wages and rising house prices. The average wage no longer finances the purchase of the average house, or indeed any house.

Such council housing as existed was sold off in the 1980s and the tied cottages occupied by farm workers are long gone.

Local discontent tends to target East European immigrants, but their impact is mixed.

They compete for certain kinds of work and housing, possibly driving wages down and rents up, but some industries – fruit-picking, fruit and veg processing and hotels – would not survive without immigrant labour, and their children sustain enrolment in local schools, many of which would otherwise close.

Immigration from Eastern Europe is probably one of the few dynamising elements of the Fenland economy, if the truth be told, and the same may also be true of much of Scotland.

June 4. The BBC’s Springwatch has highlighted the activities of the dolphins which congregate around the entrance to Aberdeen harbour. The first time I saw these creatures I was a bit concerned, since it is not normally a good sign when whales and dolphins come up-river, usually suggesting that they are lost and confused.

Dolphins and whales would normally avoid a noisy, heavily-trafficked locale such as the harbour entrance. The attraction for the Aberdeen dolphin pod is the confluence of fresh water coming down the River Dee and the salt water of the North Sea.

Salmon, returning up-river to breed, can only access the river of their birth via the narrow harbour entrance, and are thus easy pickings for the waiting dolphins. The Aberdeen dolphins were described as ‘large, fat, talkative, loud and they repeat themselves’.

They have evolved as larger animals to cope with the cold North Sea, acquiring an extra layer of blubber in the process.  They chatter a lot between themselves, loudly and repetitively, so as to be able to work as a team to trap the incoming salmon.

In effect, the dolphins are having to shout to make themselves heard against the background of submarine noise generated by ships moving in and out of the harbour. They have become a significant visitor attraction viewed from the Nigg car park and elsewhere.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.