Jun 142013
 

Tally Ho! instead of the usual news round up, diary, and definitions, I wanted to cheer everyone up with a little fairy tale. Definitions and normal services to resume shortly. By Suzanne Kelly.

The Beautiful Princess

There once was a beautiful princess; all around her marvelled at her great beauty. Was she as kind, good and honest as her looks implied? Alas! Not so much.

Proud of her great beauty, she entered a beauty pageant to find the fairest face in the land, and naturally, she won, for she was the most beautiful maid in all the highlands. The fame this brought her went straight to her head.

A rich and powerful tyrant saw her beauty and decided she might be of use to him. One of his sons had heard of her great beauty too, and said “Dad can you get me one of those?”

Now all the kingdoms of the earth knew the tyrant loved and coveted money, but he also loved the thing he could not buy – beauty. Cursed (by many), he had about him the look and manners of an angry, podgy, balding ogre. In hushed tones the people hinted that he was indeed descended from an ogress. A long, long time ago, he married a beautiful woman, but as she aged, he cast her off.

He then married a younger, prettier maiden, and when she too aged, he likewise cast her out, only to marry a younger maiden still. (His children were thought of as being part ogre as well; their lusts for shooting the rare wild beasts was unbridled and terrifying to see). Thus, the tyrant had serious image problems, and something had to be done.

“Come and work for me,” the tyrant wrote to the princess; “It does not matter that you have no work experience, I could still find your talents very useful indeed.” He whisked her off to his far away kingdom, where in his palace of pink marble he plied her with gold and jewels. She was truly enchanted, for the thing she loved nearly as much as her dear face was wealth.

And so the princess went to work for the tyrant.

The tyrant was most pleased, and thought to himself:

“As the princess is loved – not only by the townsfolk, but also by a local storyteller prince, so shall these facts benefit my purse as I build my empire. With her in the mix, I am verily quids in.”

Now the princess knew all about the tyrant, but the lure of a job which would give her money to buy pretty things proved too strong to resist. She did like shiny, new pretty things.  She also had found a new love in the arms of the handsome storyteller prince.

unbeknownst to her, a small wrinkle appeared on her perfect brow

Now her storyteller prince had previously found love as she herself had, but alas, things change. The prince found the lustre had worn off his old bride, and seeing the lovely princess, he cast off his wife. For the beautiful princess and her prince to be joined, she had to do a bit of casting off as well, and she sent her ex a packin’.

Fearing the peasants would think her less lovely, she wed her storyteller prince in secret, for her handsome prince was none other than the very storyteller who the tyrant wanted to sing his praises. This was some coincidence indeedy.

“Alas – the people who now love me for my great beauty and modesty might not understand my marrying my prince. They might – wrongly of course – think that we are in it for the money, and his storytelling skills, so useful to my tyrant benefactor combined with my earnings  from the tyrant are bang out of order.”

As she worried for a second, unbeknownst to her, a small wrinkle appeared on her perfect brow.

She worked hard to keep her lovely looks; she consulted a wizard, who made odd potions out of deadly botchulism poison, and administered these to the fair princess’ face. She had mud wraps and beauty treatments. All was well with her world.

All was not so well where the tyrant king was building.

At his bidding, the lovely princess had the trees and plants swept aside. The animals were chased out of their homes (if they were lucky), and a great course of golf was laid on the seashore. The older folks shook their heads in dismay and disbelief. Those people who lived close to this course of golf were treated poorly as well.

Warlocks disguised as house-hunters appeared on the peasant’s cottage doors, asking to buy their homes for a pittance. The tyrant’s men hounded and persecuted them, halting the resident peasants as they went about their business. A , honest storyteller visiting the peasants was clapped in irons and thrown in a dungeon – all at the say-so of the tyrant’s forces.

Walls of earth were built around the poor cottager-dwellers’ homes.

The only happy people were those who sought to suck up to the tyrant, and verily the princess was first in the line of these.

“Tear down that house on the hill, for it is ugly!” he roared

Whether she was too self-involved to care about the animals and people, or whether she was too thick to know what the cruel realities of the course of golf were was the subject of debate in the taverns. Either way, the princess was not coming out of it in a good light at all. But she was oblivious.

The princess found herself happy and contented. She had her shiny things, and pretty clothes. She had her new clubhouse by the sea too, where she reigned. But somehow – it all seemed temporary.

One day the tyrant came to ask her to do some work.

“Tear down that house on the hill, for it is ugly!” he roared. “Build a wall of earth so I need not look at that ugly peasant’s cottage when I am here by the sea! he decreed! 

“Plant the youngest, fairest trees on the sandy bund so that I may nevermore see the peasants, and they may nevermore see the sea!”

Verily, even the muted colours of the shore, sand and gentle grasses and plants were not to his liking.

“Paint each blade of grass a turquoise blue, for that pleases my eye more than the colour that Mother Nature has given them.”

The princess dutifully obeyed –some say she obeyed with a bit too much pleasure.

The trees were planted. Alas! They could not thrive in sand, as any fool knows. But the princess merely saw their ageing, ill condition and had the woodsman cut them down, and replace them with new ones.

Mother Nature had watched all of these activities with waxing wrath. And she wasn’t having it:

“As you have profited from the ageing of another maiden, as you have treated the peasants, the landscape and even these poor trees, which never had a chance to live – all for your own profit and vanity, so it shall be with you one of these days, you b”£$(UT 2!”

Mother Nature was well and truly pissed off.

Verily, the towns folk did talk amongst themselves:

“Is she really the fairest in the land if she is fair of face, but not of deed?”

They asked such questions in whispers. Then one day it came to pass that the jig was up.

There was just a touch more harshness in the tyrant’s voice than usual

Despite marrying in secret, the story was now out – and all the folk knew the princess married the very man who could keep the tyrant sweet, and whose stories the tyrant relied on to boost his ego and profits, which of course helped keep the princess on a nice little earner too.

Time went past.

The ugly tyrant would visit now and then. One such day he said to the princess:

“What the F*!£$%!!!@?? are those F*)($%&^ing ugly trees doing on that bund? They look old and tired, and are in serious need of replacing!”

There was just a touch more harshness in the tyrant’s voice than usual. Smiling outwardly to the tyrant, the princess heaved a sigh as he finally flew away on his great silver jet.

When he left, a twitch struck her eye, and the wrinkle on her fair brow appeared once more. Despite several layers of St Tropez tanning spray, she seemed somehow pale.

As time passed, the storyteller prince started going to balls without the princess; he started to work a little later at the office.

Came the day the princess was buying more designer clothes. “Madame will need another size up, I fear”, said the shopkeeper “but don’t worry, this designer just cuts the sizes very small”, the shopkeeper lied, fingers crossed behind her back.

As the princess looked at her reflection in the glass, she paused for a moment. Was that a shadow or a wrinkle on her brow? Was that extra build of up tanning spray under her eyes, or dark circles? Was that a touch of silver in her hair peeping through? Had the lines on her lovely throat deepened? “I’ll need a fortnight at Champney’s at least”, the worried princess thought.

For a second, she thought – which in itself was notable.

She thought of the wives of the tyrant, cast aside once they bloom of youth had departed them. She thought of the previous consort to her own prince, now consigned to the scrap heap. She thought of the peasants, walled behind mounds of earth to conceal their poverty from the tyrant.

She thought of the scores and scores of trees she ordered planted, knowing they would not live, and after drying in the hostile climate would be thrown aside, their lives inconsequential. All these had to be replaced or hidden to hide their lack of beauty and youth.

The thought never reached a conclusion, for her mobile phone had started to ring. She could see it was the tyrant calling her. She took another look at her reflection.

She was not smiling now.

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Aug 032012
 

On Friday August 3rd 2012, Scottish Artist David McCue brings two controversial paintings to the general release premiere of Anthony Baxter’s You’ve Been Trumped in the Angelika Film Centre, New York.  From Montrose Pictures.

The portraits, “Red Money” and ‘No More Trump Lies’ will be on show for the fi­rst time in the U.S. They form part of a series of paintings and artefacts that examine and expose the power of a wealthy minority to shape, influence and ultimately destroy the environment and culture of a small traditional community half way across the world.

Originally shown in Menie on 4 July 2008, as earth-moving equipment was moved in to begin work on Trump’s controversial golf development, the works of art reflect the clashing perspectives of Trump International Golf Links and the local residents at Menie. They explore environmental and related social issues raised by the development: the irreversible destruction of a traditional ­fishing community and the bulldozing of a site of global scientifi­c significance.

Red Money“, shows Trump in stark business attire against a background wall of American dollars that are visible through Trump’s face, hands and body. This painting has been chosen as the ‘face’ of Anthony’s award-winning film. It was also featured in the San Francisco Chronicle as the front page of its Arts and Culture section and is currently being used as a full front page on the Apple Itunes fi­lm trailer.

No More Trump Lies’, in contrast, is a depiction of salmon fi­sher and quarryman Michael Forbes who denied Trump the land he was eager to purchase for a hotel. The colours in this painting are the antithesis of those in “Red Money” and the emphasis is on greens, blues and earth tones connecting Michael to the heritage of the land and sea he is adamant about protecting. A cautious, suspicious and apprehensive glance to the left of canvas, matched with his casual attire and eccentric hat project dignified defiance and determination. The red collar of his jacket is like the red rag to a bull (Trump) who wants but has been refused what Michael rightfully owns. Michael’s con­fident, masculine body language suggests he’ll ­fight to the end.

Notably the controversy has sparked a wide range of artistic responses across many genres, including a ‘crazy golf’ sculpture, also by Artist David McCue, music written and performed by Karine Palwart, poetry, photography and a ‘spitting image’ puppet, rather than the conventional protests of political activism.

The timing of the presentation in New York is signifi­cant. The artworks are irrevocably linked to You’ve Been Trumped and bringing the paintings to New York creates an equilibrium between their original setting and the close proximity to Trump Tower. This reinforces the concept that this is not a parochial issue, but a global confrontation between the power of wealth and the value of our culture and heritage.

Donald Trump has just inaugurated his golf course in a flurry of disinterest and umbrellas, with Scotland’s First Minister being notable by his absence. The local communities have held their ground but are still being harassed. Meanwhile, Trump has suspended the major part of the project – the part that would create any benefi­t for Scotland – citing the potential creation of a wind farm, visible from the golf course, as the reason, and implying that Scotland is incapable of making environmental or political decisions for itself.

David McCue is delighted to have been invited to present his paintings at the fi­lm’s premiere and is looking forward to experiencing New Yorkers’ reactions to the fi­lm and art works. He will be available for questions and discussion of the paintings at the opening night on 3rd August and selected screenings scheduled till the 9th of August.

Mar 302012
 

Midway between that referendum and the forthcoming council elections,  Old Susannah takes a look at the nature, effect and effectiveness  of propaganda. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho! The weather in Aberdeen has been glorious; half of the town seems to have been at the beach or Torrymelinos this past Sunday; even the dolphins showed up to add to a beautiful spring day. I just finished reading Adam Ardrey’s book ‘Finding Merlin’, which I review elsewhere in Aberdeen Voice.

Ardrey makes some interesting observations in this book. Between this and a thread on Facebook where a city employee set out to defend the City’s publication ‘Our Green Times’ which uses (whether deliberately or not) several propaganda techniques, Old Susannah has been thinking about ways in which people are being manipulated by those in power.

Ardrey’s book and other works show that what little we think we know today about Merlin and Arthur had been deliberately garbled by the propaganda arm of the young Christian church. There was a huge power struggle between the existing druidic tradition (where education was prized, men and women were largely equal) and the new Christian movement.

The church needed to seize power and to instil fear and respect in the populace in order to survive and become supreme. The old ways favoured a system of meritocracy for choosing kings; the church used politics and propaganda, and chose to favour hereditary government. The church could not allow any alternative religion or opposition of any kind to exist.

So the druid Merlin was referred to as a madman and a conjurer in Christian-controlled texts of the times, and non-Christians were lumped into one group called ‘pagans’ and ‘heathens’.

The Christian church’s use of propaganda was skilful, and it pretty much ensured druidic tradition was purged from the records. Only in coded form or in ridicule would the church allow its opponents to be referred to at all. The new religion’s propaganda was sometimes brutal, sometimes subtle – but in the end it won.

Thank goodness today people come to positions of power and influence because of their abilities and not because of money and connections. Take Donald Trump for instance (please – just take him), or some of our amazingly-gifted local politicians and ACSEF members.

They don’t rely on connections, money or propaganda; we love them for everything they’ve done to us – sorry,  ‘for us’. We can rely on our governments to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Sure we can.

Just look at the fantastic Phase 2 consultation for the tree planting.

No one objected to the scheme! Result! Of course no one knew at the time there would be a deer cull and most of the trees (89,000 plus) would be plunked on Tullos Hill (as the info had been deliberately withheld), but there you go. And surely no one in power would use ridicule to discredit or suppress vocal opponents?

  we are constantly being bombarded with subtle propaganda tactics, which can be quite effective

It’s not as if the work of weapons expert Hans Blix was in any way devalued when he said that Iraq did not have secret stashes of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ (this expression, ‘WMD; is itself an example of creating a propaganda phrase which caught on).

Dr. Kelly (RIP), the government advisor, was labelled a ‘Walter Mitty type’ by government mandarins for his courageous stand against the propaganda that led to the Iraq Invasion. Dr Kelly paid for his principles with his life. In fact the whole case for this bloody war was based on a dossier that was ‘sexed up’ – i.e. blatantly amended and turned into propaganda. This was done by the top propagandists of our times: Blair and Campbell.

But we are constantly being bombarded with subtle propaganda tactics, which can be quite effective. Believe it or not, this even happens here in Aberdeen! Perhaps our kindly, benevolent government just wants to help us by digesting facts for us, skipping the ones that might upset us, and painting a rosy picture for us to swallow without question. Quite nice of them, really.

One person, however, wants to analyse the secrets of the propagandist and ruin the party.
See: http://history.howstuffworks.com/historians/propaganda1.htm

Time (finally) to get on with some propaganda-based definitions…

Fear: (noun) state of alarm or terror. In propaganda terms, ‘fear’ is deliberately employed to influence people’s thoughts and actions.

Surely no one would ever employ fear as a propaganda weapon against the good people of Aberdeen? Well, there was the little matter of fear-based propaganda over the gardens: build them or no companies will come to Aberdeen to set up shop was the message that pretty A3 colour flyer and the BIG partnership put about.

Of course BiG is really, really subtle when it comes to propaganda, as we’ve seen recently. While you got this message in a Technicolor brochure, your employer may well have been writing to you to say you should vote for the web. The combined message was: ‘Worried about money? Then you better support the web and we’ll all be rich and have jobs.’

Fear was used on us – and it was used by the secretive group Vote for the City Gardens Project which was accountable to no one – but which certainly put out a nice quantity of propaganda. Old Susannah has copies of the lovely A3 colour leaflet, and is considering whether to frame them or recycle as a cat tray liner. I’ll get back to you on my decision.

Here’s a decision which I have made.

According to my sources, some of those who participated in and/or financed and/or were connected to the secretive ‘Vote for the City Gardens Project’ included:

Stewart Milne (no introduction needed)
Mary Martin (of the Douglas Hotel)
Sandy Clark
Mike Wilson
Colin Manson
Tommy Dreelan

I am sure these modest heroes who helped voters choose sides won’t mind my mentioning them now. However, if any of those named above writes to deny any involvement with VFTCGP, then I will be more than happy to remove their name from my list and issue an apology. If any other VFTCGP supporters or financers who wish to step up to receive the grateful public’s thanks, then please do get in touch. But on with our definitions.

Stop Government Propaganda Now: (noun) American legislation supported by GW Bush (really) which sought to make it a criminal offense for government to influence media to push particular stories, skew the truth, or to hide information.

Has anything like that happened in Aberdeen? Would the local media allow itself to be used? Would local media favour its higher-spending advertisers? Hmmm.

But the city government has its own periodicals including ‘Our Green Times’. The supporter of this periodical who was flying its flag on Facebook quite rightly pointed out that the thing costs time and money to create (taxpayer money mind).

Old Susannah was in an interesting Facebook thread with a city employee who is involved in the publication of Aberdeen City’s PR ‘newspaper’, ‘Our Green Times. Consciously or not, the person who made these posts used several more types of tools straight out of the ‘Propaganda For Dummies’ handbook. The first was:

Name-calling: (noun) Propaganda tool which seeks to both deflect attention away from any actual issues, and create a negative stereotype to brand groups of people with. Name-calling can become widely used (the word ‘CHAV’ being a good example), or it can be something subtle.

The Facebook defender of Aberdeen City’s publication, ‘Our Green Times’ somehow came up with a category of people he called ‘campaigners’, and the implication was made that campaigners were failing to see all the good things going on in the city, and focused on the negative.

Gee. ‘Campaigners’ – the word evokes right-on, aggressive militants with placards, if not extremists. Yet when it comes to issues such as Union Terrace Gardens, the Tullos Hill situation, and the swingeing budget cuts, there is no wider cross-section of ‘campaigners’ to be found. I call them ‘people’ myself. But he’s tried to establish that there is a negative group of people, and they are to be lumped together and called ‘campaigners’ for criticising the city.

Card-stacking: (noun)to present only information which makes a positive public impression – and in so doing gives the impression – whether deliberate or otherwise – that there are no negative issues.

This is in many ways the most serious form of propaganda weapon. In the words of the author of the article published in ‘how stuff works’ in the above link:-

“… the bad stuff is left out entirely. …. this type of propaganda technique presents a lopsided and unrealistic viewpoint that is dangerously deceptive.”

Sorry, but the above description fits exactly with what ‘Our Green Times’ does. In its pages there are no deer culls, no high pollution figures for Wellington Road, and no urban sprawl issues.

By now the Facebook discussion thread was growing by leaps and bounds. Another poster asked our man from ‘Our Green Times’ about several environmental issues. The reply that came back? ‘FFS’. (Old Susannah is told this is a rather rude expression, but I certainly have no idea what it means and no intention of defining it).

Yet another poster showed up to defend ‘Our Green Times;’ she ridiculed the guy who’d asked the questions.

Ridicule: (noun) to belittle by poking fun at something or someone; in propaganda terms, this is an old standby favourite. If you can get your opponent laughed at, then you are on your way.

Old Susannah will put her hand up: I have actually believed one or two people in power in our fair city deserving of a bit of ridicule; some readers may have seen small traces of this in previous columns. Historically, the English literally belittled Napoleon – he was jokingly called a small man. Truth was, he was taller than Nelson.

Old Susannah could go on about other propaganda tools such as ‘transfer’ and ‘Greenwash’ (to pretend to be greener than you are to win acceptance ), but you get the idea.

We were blitzed with propaganda over the City Garden Project, and in the run up to the May elections, we will be bombarded with yet more. I’d just like to suggest strongly to everyone to take on board that these techniques exist, and to be alert for when they are used on you.

By all means apply the same criteria to everything you read in The Aberdeen Voice too.

The Voice will take articles and writing from anyone on any subject, so long as it meets legal requirements for publication. The Voice has no agenda of its own; it has printed items on both sides of issues such as the Menie Golf Course and the AWPR. It has no advertisers to keep happy, only readers to hopefully inform, entertain, and amuse.

Mar 012012
 

Why is Donald Trump still a GlobalScot? asks Andy Wightman as he examines the Trumps’ current anti-wind energy stance and the aims and rules of GlobalScot status.

Donald Trump Jr arrived in Scotland on 28th February to further his father’s campaign against wind energy in Scotland.
His father has claimed in a letter to Alex Salmond that “foreign energy companies will destroy your country and economy” and that Mr Salmond “will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history.”

 He goes on to say: 

“I have authorised my staff to allocate a substantial amount of money to launch an international campaign to fight your plan to surround Scotland’s coast with many thousands of wind turbines.”

One report suggests that he has allocated £10m to the campaign.

Mr Trump has also threatened to bring a lawsuit against the Scottish Government which would, he argues, delay the proposed European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre off the Aberdeenshire coast, and against which he has railed previously.

Now, renewable energy forms a major part of the Scottish Government’s economic strategy – as outlined in their Routemap for Renewable Energy in Scotland. Trump Sr has stated quite clearly that he intends to do all he can to frustrate this through an international multi-million pound campaign and by legal actions designed to delay an important experimental project. Trump Jr has arrived to carry out his father’s instructions and oversee the beginnings of this onslaught.

All of which is rather interesting in the context of a Scottish Government initiative to encourage international entrepreneurs’ support for Scotland’s economic future.

The GlobalScot network is a project of Scottish Development International (SDI) consisting of 746:

“successful executives located throughout the world. GlobalScots all have strong connections with Scotland. Each of them has a strong desire to see Scotland succeed in the global business arena”.

Currently, SDI is:

“not looking to grow the membership significantly – however we are currently looking to identify prospective members in the following sectors”. 

This list includes Renewable Energy, Offshore Wind, and Marine Energy.

No prizes for guessing what Ian Wood, Donald Trump, Stewart Milne, Brian Soutar and George Sorial have in common. Correct. They are all GlobalScots.

In April 2006, First Minister Jack McConnell invited Donald Trump Sr to become a GlobalScot. Donald Trump accepted the personal invitation and Mr McConnell stated:

“Donald has shown me a real passion for Scotland. He is a globally recognised figure who can help us to promote Scotland. I am delighted that he has taken up my offer. This is a good bit of business for all concerned.”

Membership of GlobalScot is: 

“by invitation only, personal and non-transferable.”

The published full list of members is interesting in that Trump Sr is not on the list. Has he resigned? However, Trump Jr is named. When was he invited? Surely he didn’t take over from his dad – as membership is non-transferable?

And where did George Sorial come from? Who invited him?

In Jack McConnell’s letter of invitation to Trump Sr, he wrote:

“I should welcome your participation in the GlobalScot programme because I believe that your experience, knowledge and skills can make a tangible impact on our economic development efforts.”

Which brings me to conclude with the title of this piece.

Why is Donald Trump still a GlobalScot?

Given that both Donald Trumps are funding an international campaign against Scotland’s economic interests and threatening lawsuits to frustrate important projects, it is surely inconceivable that Scottish Development International will now retain Trump as a member.

If they do not act, then the First Minister should, without delay, instruct SDI to withdraw Donald Trump’s and George Sorial’s membership of the GlobalScot network.

Jan 272012
 

Maggie Craig’s writing catalogue includes highly-rated and very readable insights into the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion and Red Clydeside. It was only natural then, when David Innes and Maggie met that a political discussion would ensue.

You’re obviously a radical, given the content and viewpoint of the Jacobite and Red Clydeside books.

I think the worst thing that happened to Britain was Margaret Thatcher. Someone tried to tell me that she had a human side. I said that I didn’t want to talk about Margaret Thatcher as we would fall out if we did.

I wouldn’t wish ill on anyone, but that’s one grave I would dance on because she skewed Britain. I’m not at all anti-English and I hate the Scottish nationalism that is, because that’s a divide and conquer thing.

I remember when she was in power and I was a tourist guide taking German visitors around and they would often say, “I really admire your Mrs Thatcher”, and I’d think, “I’m working, I must be careful here”, but I knew I was tired when I said, “We wouldn’t have had beggars in the street like we do now before Margaret Thatcher”. If you’ve got beggars in the street, there’s something seriously wrong with your society.

I was in Aberdeen for the book signing at Waterstones in October. It was about 6 o’ clock and I’d parked up Huntly Street way and I passed the Cyrenians where there was a crowd of mainly men. I thought, “It’s a soup kitchen! Here in the oil capital of Europe there are people queuing up for a bowl of soup”. You wonder if there shouldn’t be a levy on the oil companies – they haven’t really done much for Aberdeen, have they? They haven’t really left any sort of cultural development behind them.

I think people don’t realise that they themselves have power. Maybe the one blessing of the financial crisis is that people who have been turned into consumers may think again. Shopping centres are the new cathedrals, and it’s almost become like ‘Brave New World’ where people just have to get the latest model of phone. It used to be that you just worked and didn’t have the money to buy the goods you produced, but now we’ve got this circle where you can buy all these goods; but do we need them all?

There’s nothing wrong with honest trade. We need oil to keep our houses powered. I don’t want to go back to candles, to that simple greeny thing. I think I’m quite anti-green and that there’s quite a Fascist strand in a lot of green thought. I went to see the Trump development.

I know people don’t like him and his ways, but I was quite impressed by the people telling us what they were going to do. I thought, “That means I can get down to those dunes where I couldn’t get down before when Menie was a shooting estate”. I’m horrified too, by how we’re being forced to accept windfarms, industrialising the countryside. It’s just people making a buck, little to do with greenness.

  I believed in that and now it’s been destroyed. Now it’s been shown to be brutal

I suppose there have been entrepreneurs who have had social consciences but then they claw their way over everyone else. I don’t know the full story of Andrew Carnegie, but I don’t suppose he was lily-white as he made his way up the greasy pole.

I do think there is a ‘zeitgeist’ thing going on, where people are saying that we ought to think about society and community. I slightly despair of the anti-capitalist protestors because they don’t seem to know what they want, what they’re in favour of. It seems a bit vague and woolly. Someone said it was irrelevant that they went to Starbucks to buy their coffee, but to me that’s an issue.

My dad was a member of the Scottish-USSR Friendship Society based in Belmont Street in Glasgow’s west end, and we would meet people from the USSR, who were probably carefully selected, and here on holiday, and they would talk about Robert Burns. Then Prague happened and things went downhill after that. I was about 17 and it felt personal. I thought, “I believed in that and now it’s been destroyed. Now it’s been shown to be brutal.”

The Communist experiment failed. You think about the Russian people, “How much more can they suffer?” because a strong man like Putin always seems to emerge in Russia and just take the country and use it. You wonder, “Is old-fashioned socialism really the answer?” but capitalism stinks, so maybe I’m as bad as the anti-capitalist protestors and don’t know what is the middle ground and what we should be doing. I’m not sure how we can use the old left and right thing any more.

I’m coming round to thinking that everybody should get some sort of a basic wage, but that’s too radical isn’t it?

There’s this dichotomy with the Scottish left. There’s a nationalism and a pride in Scottishness, but there’s also the feeling that the workers don’t have a country – but they do. The workers of Germany, for example, have lots of reasons to be proud of Germany and their own culture.

The Labour Party has moved too far away from its roots and has become perceived as an anti-Scottish party. I think Johann Lamont has a helluva mountain to climb to persuade people that they’re not. I like Alex Salmond. I think he’s very sharp operator, like when he swooped down on to the lawn at Prestonfield House in the helicopter. Someone had produced a poster with Alex Salmond as Che Guevara, “El Presidente” and you can see how that could be dangerous, so I’m angry with the Labour Party for being useless, for taking their eye off the ball.

I think people who are working class kids made good felt that the Labour Party was saying to them that they had to pay higher taxes. But they’d only just clawed their way up to a better situation, so there was to be no help to get your kids to university, that you had to do it all yourself. There’s a problem there in that the politicians themselves were in quite comfortable positions, but they were almost preaching.

I think it’s been advanced before, but I’m coming round to thinking that everybody should get some sort of a basic wage, but that’s too radical isn’t it? It would also give you buying power which would help the economy. If you’re making widgets, someone’s got to be buying them.

I was talking to a woman earlier who said that she couldn’t afford to work and look after her children so she decided to give up work. I wondered when we’d got to the stage where a woman looking after her children was considered not to be contributing to society. It disturbs me that you’re expected to be out there doing some god-awful job rather than being with your kids.

Although Maggie’s only lived in the North East for 20 years, she still sometimes feels like an ‘inabootcomer’. In the concluding part of our chat, she talks about this corner of the planet, and drops a hint that she may find inspiration to write about North East Scotland.

Dec 092011
 

Old Susannah reviews the news of Aberdeen’s who’s who for you, blow by blow. 


A chilly wind blows through town today; it is almost as if the very heavens are in sympathy with Mr Milne, who has lost his £1.7 million pound battle in the Supreme Court.

Who’d have thought it possible? It’s not as if Mr Milne is used to having any losses. So – what’s been going on this week?

The answer is Blowin in the Wind.

Wind Damage: (compound noun) damage to person, property or land caused by extremes in atmospheric wind speed.

The winds have knocked down our brand new City Holiday lights as well, which don’t seem quite so vibrant even if they were briefly very dynamic as they crashed to the ground.  Don’t you worry – I am sure that the City has these brand new lights fully insured.

I don’t know if our ever-dwindling Common Good fund bore the cost of these fabulous lights (I feel better looking at them and bet you do, too), but I know it was money well spent.  Then again, it could have been bought from BiD money, the wonderful scheme wherein some city centre shops voted to stump up money to clean up our high street.

Who could have ever guessed that a gust of wind could show up in the Northeast of Scotland in December, and that giant balls might not have been the best thing to hang over the heads of our pedestrians?  I would say it is a massive  ‘balls up’, but sadly, the balls are going down.  I shall think on these lights fondly, as I  realise this was the best possible expenditure the City could have made.

(I will put out of my mind the story that a  homeless person may have died from exposure on our beach.  The city can’t pay for everything, you know).

Blown off Course: (phrase) To have a person or thing forced off of its course  by adverse wind conditions.

Also because of the wind, there is one less bird of prey at the Scottish Parliament.  A peregrine falcon was being exercised, and a gust of wind blew it off course; it was lost.  Some pigeon fancier who lived very nearby took his trusty gun and blasted this annoying falcon out of the skies.  I guess we’d best re-prioritise and start protecting our endangered pigeons.

Mr Hutchison, of Newmills, Fife, was found guilty of maliciously shooting and killing a working falcon with a .22 air rifle.  Nice work!

Under the Wind: (phrase) to be in a place protected from the wind

And where in Aberdeen can one (in normal circumstances) avoid strong winds?  Why in the sheltering Denburn Valley of course, otherwise known as Union Terrace Gardens.  It is currently a valley, but we are told it must be raised to the level of the rest of Union Street.  It’s this valley that is the cause of all of our woes.  Nit-picking people might ask what will this fantastic public square be like with gale force winds blowing across its flat street-level surface.

I think it might just get a little windy.  Still, we will all be sheltering under the glass worm.  Even if the drawings of this glass thing show that it is open at the bottom and sides, there is no reason to think it won’t be a really cozy place to enjoy your frappucino.  I might not be that comfortable on the monorail John Stewart proposes when the winds blow 90 mph, but I’ll certainly be on it as often as I can otherwise.

Gusts: (noun) short,  strong bursts of wind.

Old Susannah was  on the road to and from Peterhead today, and thought it was a bit windy.  How wonderful – for who loves wind more than the rich and famous?  Rock stars, actors and actresses, millionaires – these people of course love the winds of north Scotland in winter.  With Mr Trump soon to open the universe’s greatest golf course, the jet-setting rich will be queuing up for a place in the holiday homes in the winter months.

I can just imagine Brad and Angelina walking hand-in-hand on the shore in the kind of weather we’re having right now. These resort visitors will be very important gusts indeed.

Hello! Magazine will have to open a branch office in Aberdeen once Donald’s up and running.  Just as well he fixed those previously moving sand dunes!  They might have moved!  With Don jun (junior Donald Trump – a child or clone I think) on hand this week to see things through, we’ll be rolling in dosh and created jobs before you know it. There is only one obstacle left to conquer.

Windmills: (noun) devices  for capturing energy from wind and harnessing it for practical purposes.

We will not have  these important VIPS if we also go ahead and build windmills that they might  actually have to look at while they stroll the no-longer-moving sand dunes in  February.  As the 90 mile per hour wind howls in their faces as they attempt to golf before the sun goes down at 4pm, the last thing we want to do is make them look at windmills.  These offshore Satanic mills must be stopped at all costs.  The offshore wind turbines must not go ahead – but is there someone up to the job?

Blowhard: (noun) a person who boasts or brags in an irritating fashion.  A loud, brash, showy individual.

I know Donald Trump has a very large staff  working round the clock on his successful developments.  I only hope there is somewhere hidden in the Donald Trump organisation someone who  is a blowhard who can stand up against the windfarm plans.  If anyone with any experience of the Donald Trump organisation can think of  anyone in it who can be a bit of an obnoxious, aggressive irritating blowhard, please get in touch.

Blowing hot and cold: (phrase) to have contradictory characteristics

You could have been forgiven for thinking Mr Milne had some nerve taking us to the Supreme Court.  It would be unkind to suggest such a thing.
Person or persons unknown in Aberdeen City Council sold him land at a discount for a fraction of its cost, and he agreed to share any profit.  It’s not Stew’s fault i selling this land (worth £5.6 million which cost him all of £375,000) meant his legal costs were over £500,000.  It must have been complex, selling land from your left hand to your right hand – the companies involved were Milne entities.  Why exactly he had to sell from one part of his empire to another is a business matter we couldn’t possibly understand.  It might look as if he wanted to avoid sharing profit with Aberdeen City, but I am sure that was the furthest thing from his mind.

Our City council tells us it always gets value for money.  Fantastic. Our city council sold Milne land for some 5,225,000 less than it was worth.  Our city council cannot possibly afford a referendum on whether or not to build a giant worm and/or monolith where we have the Denburn Valley.

I could be wrong, but on the odd occasion I think ACC just might blow hot and cold.

Putting the Wind up: (phrase) to make nervous or upset.

Attention councillors:  the elections are in May.  This may put the wind up some of you.  You know who you are.  Gerry Brough is getting the wind up as well – he wants the garden project underway before the elections.  I don’t think so Ger.  Some council officers might want to start clearing their desks (and no doubt shredding documents) soon, too.

Next week:  Part 1 of  ‘An Aberdeen Christmas Carol’ (with apologies to Charles Dickens).  Unfortunately I am at a loss as to what local  I can possibly cast as a mean, domineering, money-loving megalomaniac.  No doubt something will come to me, touch wood.

 

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 162011
 

Old Susannah watches the latest developments in the ‘Deen and the wider world and feels like a deer caught in headlights. Here is this week’slook at what’s happening where and who’s doing what to whom. By Suzanne Kelly.

It’s been another one of those weeks in Aberdeen. Campaigners launched an advertisement in the Evening Express highlighting the Tullos Hill Roe Deer situation ( link ). It also seems that our raptor population – golden eagles, red kites and so on – are still being poisoned left, right and centre.
Every spare bit of greenbelt land is up for development to the highest bidder here in the City and Shire, and things look rather grim on the environment front whever you turn. What do overdevelopment, the deer cull and bird poisonings have in common? The people behind them are more interested in money than our environment.

These little issues have not stopped our intrepid Kate Dean from welcoming a European delegation for a ‘Periurban Parks’ conference this week. 

Kate is slated (as ever) to give a welcome speech and explain how wonderfully well Aberdeen manages its parks and land.  I could not miss such a conference, and if you’re reading this on Friday morning 16/9, I will be sitting at said conference hanging on every word.  Who knows?  I might even have a few choice words of my own for the attendees.  But what to wear…? 

A bit of good news though – it looks as if some form of Referendum on the future of Union Terrace Gardens will take place.  As Aileen Malone  promised this referendum, we should not be surprised that it is coming about – she is a woman true to her word.  If she says we’re having a referendum, then we’re having a referendum.  If she says we’re going to start shooting deer in October on Tullos Hill, then we’re going to kill (sorry ‘manage’) deer.  Fantastic.

Finally, Old Susannah was dolphin and whale watching last Saturday morning with Ian Hay as part of Techfest’s rich programme. 

Do have a look at the other activities on offer at Techfest. Then on Sunday I had a fantastic outing with ‘Contact the Elderly’.  We all went to Crathes Castle, where the National Trust supplied a very generous afternoon tea.  Some of these elderly people are a bit confused:  they mistakenly think that once upon a time the City was accountable to its electorate, that the streets were clean, and green spaces were valued.  If only.
Anyway, they were a great bunch, and by the end of it they were fine, but I was exhausted.

Here are a few observations on recent developments regarding police and thieves….

Aberdeen Police:

I’ve got to say, I usually get good service from our local  police. Two weeks ago some maniac and his grandchildren decided to have a  family outing.  This took the form of going to the mouth of the harbour and setting fire to as many things they could get their hands on – next to a beautiful patch of wildflowers (including orchids).
For some crazy reason, I objected to this, but they were sticking to their right to burn stuff.  The police and fire services somehow saw things my way, and dealt with the situation quickly.  Thanks.

You may recall an Evening Express story about a dog-walker coming across a man in combat fatigues with a gun on Tullos Hill (he must have looked very macho indeed – I am most impressed!).  

The police answered my questions about this very quickly – but in truth they themselves haven’t much information.  I wondered if it wasn’t gull-shooting Mervyn New, enjoying a weekend away from shooting things at his workplace.  Anyway, the Council insist the gunman wasn’t there to blast  (sorry, I mean ‘manage’) our deer just yet.

Exactly how (and indeed why) someone gets permission to run around with shotguns to kill ‘vermin’ (that’s birds and small animals to you and me) is still a mystery to me, but I’m looking into it.

Aberdeenshire Police

If you’ve seen the documentary ‘you’ve been trumped!’, you  might recall a tiny, minor scene in which Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney are arrested.  Quite right, too. 

They had clearly broken the law and deserved to be arrested, as earlier that day they had gone to speak to the estate managers overseeing the creation of the ‘world’s greatest golf course’ (now taking bookings from £150 a round- see you there!).  

The poor policemen must have been very intimidated by Baxter and Phinney; their aggressive use of words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ coupled with their undoubted martial arts skills and video camera would have frightened all but Stallone or Swarzenegger.  As caught on film, in mid sentence the police wisely jumped the pair and thrust them into a squadcar.  Only kind of language these people understand, or so I’m told.

Did they need a SWAT team?  Were MI6 and helicopters called?

My curiosity got the better of me, and I wrote to Aberdeenshire Police to find out more.  How did they usually deal with such dangerous men? How did the arrest come about?  Did they need a SWAT team?  Were MI6 and helicopters called?  

I also asked why their DNA was stored, who decided to give them a caution rather than charge them (which stopped them having their day in court – obviously saving the taxpayer money if doing nothing for justice), and why they weren’t directly told when the charges were eventually dropped? 

The shire police told me  the answers are exempt from disclosure as:

“the requested information relates to the alleged commission of a criminal offence by two identifiable individuals.  Such information is classed as sensitive personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998.”

You might think the police would want to explain the thinking behind arresting two journalists on the say-so of a rich landowner’s hired help.  You might think it possible for Grampian’s finest to explain the rationale behind the arrests without leaking any personal details (after all, it’s all on film anyway).  But you’d be wrong.

I’d also asked police what their policy is for policing the Menie Estate (which if you look at the film seems to have more cops cruising it than you’d see on Miami Vice).  This is what they said:-

“…in Spring 2009, following the announcement of a number of strategic economic and infrastructure developments, Grampian Police established a short life Critical Incident Preparation Group (CIPG) with a remit to coordinate the prepared phase of ‘critical incidents”  (Note:  if someone can explain this to me, please get in touch).

“From this, a generic, local strategy, relevant to Menie Estate and other similar developments was developed.  This has been determined as; Maximise safety; minimise disruption; facilitate lawful protest; deter, detect, detain and report those responsible for unlawful behaviour.”  

(Again, can someone help me make sense of this?  Thanks!)

For openers’ it’s great the safety and disruption of the existing residents has been so well handled! (There have been lawful, peaceful protests, so no complaints there).

However, I’m thinking about this ‘deter, detect, detain’ business relating to ‘unlawful behaviour.’ How can you deter unlawful behaviour before it happens without undermining freedom?  Answers on a postcard, thanks.  I’ll put the kettle on.

Note:

– if you happen to see Anthony ‘Big Tony’ Baxter or Richard ‘Baby Face’ Phinney, just call the police.  Do not approach these men, as they are armed with numerous International documentary awards.

A United Scotland Police Force?:

Regarding the fire I reported; the police had to call me back and I described where the generational arsonists were in detail so they could find them (although the giant plume of smoke was a bit of a giveaway). 

If I’d had to explain to a phone operator in Glasgow which part of Greyhope Road I was on about, the harbour and its remaining vegetation would be ashes.  For many reasons, I am not comfortable with this united police service idea. 

For one thing, it would cost Stewart Milne a much bigger whack to get a sponsorship deal to have his logo on police cars across Scotland.  But we do have to save money and cut corners.  Schools, hospitals, fire, police, services to the old and disabled are so last year.  We need more buildings, statues, roads, car parks and shopping malls.  The Government isn’t a charity you know.

Thieves:

Caution!  There are thieves about.  No, not just the usual people robbing off-licenses and bookies.  Aberdeen City Council has another new campaign, and is very kindly warning us that there are scams doing the rounds.

There are fake lottery prize letters, fake inheritance scams, and so on.  Some scams are small; some are huge.  And here is perhaps the biggest one in the area at present…

In a huge swindle, local businesses are targeted by letter.  They are asked to participate in an ‘Economic Impact Survey’.  This survey is run by people who will stop at nothing to get their own way and seize property .  It is Union Terrace Gardens these mercenaries want – and they want
to get the consumer ultimately to pay for having their own park taken away from them.

Here is how this remarkable swindle works.

First, tell local businesses they were ‘specially chosen’ to be in a survey. Win their confidence and they’ll be eating out of your hand.  The so-called ‘survey’ is about 5 potential options for the city centre.  Get the businesses to agree with you, and agree to hand over Union Terrace Gardens for a building project.  As Edinburgh residents know, city centre projects are a great bet.

But who will ultimately pay for turning the gardens into whatever it is Woody and Stew want?

  your vote against changing the gardens got turned into the opposite vote.

The consumer, of course.  If the business rates are going to rise from their very low, generous current levels, then the retailer/shopkeeper will have to get that extra money from somewhere.

That somewhere is in increased prices to you and me.

Of course there is not one single shred of evidence to prove that changing the gardens (i.e: putting in a car park and ‘cosmopolitan cafe culture’ ) will bring any economic benefits at all.  But with charismatic business people leading the way, the scam seems legitimate to the gullible.

Here’s one catch:  the survey results will be completely confidential: only the people who want the gardens turned into something other than what they are will ever see the results!  And obviously the survey is only for businesses – we can’t have the average person involved in this deal, can we?

You may recall a related scam some months back.  The public were allowed to vote on changing the gardens or not.  If you voted online, there was a tiny glitch (an accident?) wherein your vote against changing the gardens got turned into the opposite vote. Result!  Obviously the results of this new survey – to be seen only by the committee who want to change the gardens – will have no such glitch and will be completely above board.

Theft prevention:

Thankfully, one of our elected officials is on the case to make sure you and I aren’t ‘ripped off’.  

In the course of the City Council’s debate over the Union Terrace Gardens referendum earlier this week, one brave man stood up and said the referendum might cost a quarter of a million pounds.  He argued that the taxpayer should not have to shell out for this.  What a champion!  After all, we have statues, portraits of the Lord Provost, ‘civic cars’, Lord Provost clothing allowances and so forth that we need to pay for.

If only John Stewart – for it was he – had been able to stand up when our tax money went to paying for the initial consultation.  This consultation included an expensive colour brochure on heavy paper which clearly showed a giant concrete square with one or two trees in pots.  This was why some people misunderstood the initial consultation and thought it was going to deliver a giant concrete square with one or two trees in pots.

Never mind, John’s on the case now and will save us money.  I suggest we watch him crusade in the coming months to safeguard our city’s budget.

Next week – more of the same and a report from the Periurban  Conference.

Jul 052011
 

Old Susannah tries to get her head around the Council’s secrecy and finds them much more transparent than they had thought they were.  By Suzanne Kelly.

Firstly, I trust we are all excited about the discovery of a giant wombat’s fossil in Australia!

This lumbering, hulking, ungainly creature could not move with the times, and so faded into history. Its great big head only had a pea-sized brain which was useful only for more primitive functioning. It spent its time hoarding nuts and drinking at its favourite watering holes.

Any relation to Councillors K ♦♦♦ D♦♦♦ or N♦♦♦ F ♦♦♦♦♦♦ is curiously coincidental.

While I may have spent most  of this past week enjoying the sun as well as well as a pleasant afternoon or  two in Brewdog, I’ve not been oblivious to the things that the City Council,  local institutions and mainstream press want me to be oblivious to.  While I enjoyed champagne and plenty of Pimms  with my friends ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ and ♦♦♦♦♦♦  in the great outdoors, I’ve been informed of a few developments.

Despite the summer sun, there are shadowy  figures behind the scenes, keeping secrets, denying facts, and trying (with  little success) to keep people and stories quiet – some innocent, some not so  innocent.

‘No news is good news’ – so  the saying goes, but whoever came up with this particular phrase probably had  too much of Brewdog’s ‘Sink The Bismarck’ ultra-strong beer.  Here in Aberdeen ‘no news’ seems to mean the local,  mainstream press have decided to play things down.  So – listen very carefully, I will say this  only once…

Redacted: (adjective) – obscured,  covered up, deleted, censored.

Some months ago, I attended a special meeting of Torry Community Council at which  the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens presented their case, and a very nice lady  named Jan represented ACC (Gordon McIntosh  had been invited, but was having dinner instead).  Jan told us how everything was going to be  wonderful, and how the entire matter was going to be handled ‘in a transparent  manner’.

In fact, she used the word  ‘transparent’ half a dozen times.  I left the meeting with a warm, fuzzy feeling that if something were going on about  the gardens, it would all be transparent.  What a relief.

How very strange it was  then to open up a P&J this week and find our new Council Leader McCaig asking why the minutes of one of the Garden-related groups (and there are many  I can assure you) has been redacted.  Over the weekend I’d emailed him asking why the text had been redacted; he’s not slow off the mark, our Mr McCaig.

But what group is this redacting its papers?  It’s the City Gardens Project Monitoring  Group.  What do they do?  According to the City’s website,

“The role of the Project Monitoring Group is to oversee the City Garden project’s progress and ensure that Council’s interests, and  that of the majority of Aberdeen citizens, are protected as the project
progresses”.

I take it that makes it  quite clear why they must act in secret. It’s not a question of whether or not something will be done with the gardens – they are overseeing progress.  So – the Council’s interests are not the same  as the interests of Aberdeen citizens (minority or majority).  In all my years I never would have guessed  that.  Perhaps they should have redacted  this mission statement as well.

Who is in this group?  Who attends the meetings?  If you go to the city’s website, you can  download the minutes and reports – where you will see that all the names of  attendees have been blacked out, or in council-speak ‘redacted’, together with  lots of text.

The City was trying to keep this top secret information a closely guarded secret.  Perhaps the Monitoring Group is made up of  MI6, the CIA, Lord Lucan and Spiderman?  Whoever it is, I bet they have a dual identity, a good cover story – and probably a costume with a cape.  I hear they all meet at midnight and each have limos with blacked-out windows.

 From now on I hear that anyone in a Council committee which discusses  Union Terrace Gardens will sign the Official Secrets Act, be security-vetted,  be given a cover identity and undergo survival and torture training.

Mr McCaig has no  recollection of agreeing to this group’s identity being protected, and he wants  some answers.  Let’s hope he gets  them.  Why on earth would this be secret, and what do they wish to hide?  Answers  on a postcard please (preferably in a secret code).

Alas for our poor Council:  their secrets are out.  That nice Danny Law over at STV has announced that a simple bit of cutting and pasting reveals all.  Visit STV for further information.

http://local.stv.tv/aberdeen/news/261573-council-blunder-means-concealed-minutes-from-union-terrace-gardens-meetings-can-still-be-read/

You might also want to visit the (excellent) blogspot Other Aberdeen:-
http://otheraberdeen.blogspot.com/

It’s hard to imagine that  the City didn’t give due care and attention to this life-or-death matter of who’s going to meetings and what they are saying about our gardens.  I am stunned.  From now on I hear that anyone in a Council committee which discusses  Union Terrace Gardens will sign the Official Secrets Act, be security-vetted,  be given a cover identity and undergo survival and torture training.

For my part, one of my trusted sources told me how to spy at the hidden text a while ago, and I was sworn to secrecy – which I kept.  My secret hope was that the Council would continue to keep thinking it had successfully blacked out text that could actually be read.  We could have been onto a winner with this one.

My sympathies to the Garden Monitoring Group at this unfortunate point in time, and in particular to one of those in the group:  our very own old friend, Ms Aileen HoMalone.  Not only is the debacle an embarrassment in itself, but my very own spies tell me that since the balance of power shift, this and other committees will be re-arranged over the summer, shedding a few LibDems in favour of SNP councillors along the way.

Gag:
1.  noun – a joke or stunt designed to cause laughter or possibly embarrassment.
2.  Verb – to make another remain silent via coercion or force. 

A gag can  be a stupid remark, like John Stewart’s saying Aberdeen needs a monorail, or a  stunt — like holding a design competition for ‘transforming’ a cherished  garden into a car park/mall.  On the more  sinister side of the coin, this week both Aberdeen City Council and Robert  Gordon University stand accused of gagging their staff.

Now, obviously the opinion  of staff at ACC is held in the highest esteem by management, and at an institution of higher learning such as RGU, nothing can be held more important  than the right to free expression and intellectual debate.  There is absolutely nothing ‘Big Brother’  about Aberdeen City Council rounding up four of its less-than-grateful staff as  it did this week to tell them off.

What had the four done?  They said mean things about the City and their bosses on something called ‘Facebook’, which apparently all the young people are using.  I hope these four ingrates have apologised for having opinions.  I do know that they have been issued with a set of guidelines as to what they can or can’t say.  Sounds like a great move.

In fact, back when the cuts were being  proposed in 2008, the City very wisely told its staff that they should in no way protest against the City’s school and service closures.  Many of them did so anyway.  You might think such people are brave in standing up for education and health services, but you must remember, when you take a job for the City, you lose all your human rights.  Fair trade, I’d say.

I hope these four people are at home right  now, reading their new behaviour guidelines and composing letters of apology.  I’d certainly hate to think they’d be sending  me copies of the city’s newest Kafkaesque policies.  Or even worse – they might be creating anonymous Facebook identities so they can continue to keep us posted with City developments and dark doings.

As to that bastion of higher education, Robert Gordon University: they are also gagging for it.  You may have seen the news that RGU want the Trade Unions to go away and stop bothering them. 

This institution of higher learning has announced that since the unions are now ‘smaller’, they shouldn’t have to recognise them at all. Quite right.  Just because the University has shed a few jobs and has a few less people, there is no reason the unions should have shrunk as well.  Staff and educators alike are overjoyed by this move on RGU’s part, as they won’t have to go to any more tedious union meetings.

The staff won’t publicly say how happy they are, because RGU is, according to STV “accused of ‘gagging’ staff as dozens protest over de-recognition decision”.  I know staff who have been asked to take on more work with no pay, who have had pensions cut, and who work weekends with no extra money to show for it.  I’m sure union representation is the furthest thing from their minds.

RGU wanted the whole episode to be treated as Top Secret:  staff were told not to discuss these special Trump security arrangements

It might be worth mentioning that RGU held its staff’s safety particularly important during Donald Trump’s visit for his honorary degree.  RGU management were so concerned about the safety of its people who would be in the same building as ‘the Donald’ that they let Trump’s private security people search bags, set up security checks, and made sure no one left the building until the great man himself had gone.

Some people say that their mobile phones were looked at, and they weren’t allowed to take any photos (which would have been the first thing on my mind), but this remains unconfirmed.

Those who did get in touch told me that RGU wanted the whole episode to be treated as Top Secret:  staff were told not to discuss these special Trump security arrangements.  I would be happy for the RGU administration to confirm or deny that private, American security was given power over its staff.

Maybe they could have done what Robert Gordon’s College did, and simply lock any bothersome people up in cupboards (congratulations to Ms Michie for winning her case against the College where she was indeed locked in a cupboard.  I await news of the dismissal of the person who did this, but it hasn’t appeared yet).

News Blackout: (modern English phrase) – to deliberately ignore or censor news events. (See also ‘P&J’)

The local press simply  don’t have the time and space to tell you the entire goings on.  The P&J may have covered the story of the City Council’s ‘redacting’ text (see below), as Cllr McCaig came forward with the story.

However, if you put ‘Robert Gordon University’ into the Press & Journal’s online search feature, you’ll see a collection of innocent PR stories about boat races and an RGU student appearing in something called ‘Glee’ (whatever that is).  No RGU bashing in the P&J; they don’t want to upset that nice Mr Wood and his friends.  No word of gagging staff or staff being kettled by American private scurity.

You might also search the P&J website for the story of guitar hero Richard Thompson’s honorary degree from Aberdeen University granted  on the 5th July (congratulations by the way). 

I’ll give you that Richard Thompson is no Donald Trump (who got his degree from Ian Wood’s RGU for services to money).  Thompson has only enjoyed a successful international musical career since the 1960s, released award-winning albums, and made a particularly important collection, ‘1000 years of popular music’.  I doubt the man even has his own jet.

Don’t bother searching for news of his honorary degree award in the local rags – it’s not there.

Just as Anthony Baxter never got any newspaper coverage for his documentary ‘you’ve been trumped’ about Trump and the Menie Estate (it was held over twice and had unprecedented demand at the Belmont), the local press are making life easier for us by deciding what’s newsworthy and what isn’t.

I for one am far more interested in petty burglaries, minor football matches and cute baby photo competitions than the workings of secrecy in local government and the schemes of our local millionaires.

It is the editors at the local papers who decide what goes in (or possibly a few of the city’s richercitizens), not the reporters.

At least we don’t have a ‘News of the World’ situation.  Several newspapers stand accused of hacking mobile phone conversations – of murder victims and their families. Potential evidence has been lost and Milly Dowler’s family wrongly believed she might still have been alive since her voicemail was being accessed.  If you can think of anything lower than this, don’t let me know.

PS – the Murdoch Empire isclosing the News of the World after Sunday!  Result!  However, Murdoch is looking to take over BskyB completely.  If you somehow think this might lead to a  monopoly over news coverage, speak now.

RGU, millionaires, the  future of our Gardens, quangos, dodgy deals, secret deer cull plans:  somewhere the truth is out there.  Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it. 

Speaking of holding your breath, I’d best go  close the windows.  The wind must have changed, and the scent drifting through my open windows in Torry is decidedly not roses and violets.   Old Susannah is off for a short but much needed holiday.  I am going to turn 50 on ♦♦♦♦♦♦ and will fly to  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ on ♦♦♦♦♦ and will stay with ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ where I hope very much to see ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦My best wishes to ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦.

Mar 042011
 

Dough, or deer. That’s the Council’s dilemma. Old Susannah muses on an extraordinary response from our elected representatives.

I’m afraid it’s another long introduction this week.

There seems to be a little confusion about what our City Council has been up to lately, so let me leap to its defence as usual, and try to dispel some misunderstandings. Peacocks and Deer seem to be in the firing line – deservedly so of course. Firstly, we had a potential grant to house Peacock Visual Arts in UTG, and Peacock put itself into ACSEF’s hands. ACSEF somehow turned this plan around and the Sir Ian Wood car park/street level UTG scheme was favoured over the Peacock plan.

It seems Sir Ian’s plans then took a chunk of the Peacock money, and the Peacock plan was overtaken by the UTG car park/shops plan. Grant money, hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, was spent on a splendidly-unbiased consultation persuading us that we need parking more than trees. Obviously, the consultation was ignored for not reaching the desired conclusion.

The City was allegedly told by Scottish Enterprise that the grant money had to be used towards a cunning plan of some sort or other, and as the City wisely didn’t want to rush into anything, it has instead cleverly handed back £1.2 million to COSLA. I might be confused, since Scottish Enterprise had a hand in helping Peacock, had a hand in helping Sir Ian’s scheme, and had a member on ACSEF who would have known all about grant deadlines – or should have known. I’ll work that out eventually. Still, what’s £1.2 million to us anyway? And thus the Peacock was carved up.

At the same time as Aberdeen City Council lost £1.2 million by killing off the Peacock, we were going to keep a £200k grant by killing the deer on Tullos Hill to prevent them eating. I’m sure that’s clear, but just in case it’s not, we are getting £200K to plant trees in a scheme called A Tree for Every Citizen

COUNCILLOR AILEEN MALONE, PLEASE NOTE THIS IS NOT CALLED ‘ALMOST ONE TREE FOR EVERY CITIZEN’.

Alternatives such as planting elsewhere, waiting until fencing could be afforded to separate tree from deer, keeping the deer safe in a fenced area and using plastic to protect the saplings so that the deer couldn’t eat them would be too expensive. We have to keep saving money like we always do, or we wouldn’t have enough money left for consultations and hospitality. It seems like the councillors involved are now passing the buck.

So the deer were going to be shot and killed, or culled if you are of a sensitive disposition and it sounds much better. They’re tame deer, mind, who are sometimes handfed, although the pesky beasts keep breeding and eating, and don’t seem to have taken notice that we’ve encroached on their land.

By killing the deer now, you see, the trees will grow. When the trees are grown, then we have a habitat suitable for squirrels and, er….deer. This sounds like we are keeping a close eye on finances, acting humanely and doing business in an honest fashion.

The P&J is becoming increasingly critical of the Council, a most welcome trend

I was going to tell them where to put their saplings when, all of a sudden, Wednesday’s Evening Express announced that the deer can live. Perhaps the city councillors got a bit squeamish at the thought of killing all those beautiful votes they hope to see next spring?

Whatever the motive was for sparing the deer, it seemed briefly that the City had listened to the people. The moon was blue and lightning struck twice.

I personally was ready to fawn over the councillors.

Well, I should have known better. The current version of the story appeared in the P&J on Thursday morning. Its headline accurately reflected the Council’s current position – animal lovers, stump up £225,000 for fencing or we kill the deer. The P&J is becoming increasingly critical of the Council, a most welcome trend

The Council explained it had no spare money for fencing, and Councillor Aileen Malone helpfully told the P&J that only ‘about one’ person from Aberdeen had written to her protesting against the cull; the rest were from out of town. Obviously, people in different countries have no business being interested in animal rights issues. I hope any interfering ‘outsiders’ who troubled our Ms Malone will write to apologise, acknowledging that animals in Aberdeen are only the concern of Aberdonians. Honestly!

Poor Ms Malone was apparently so shocked to get any e-mail at all that she lost the ability to count. ‘About one’ is the phrase she used to describe the number of e-mails received from Aberdeen people wanting to save the deer. Readers, I will confess that as Old Susannah sent her an e-mail around February 22, including my home address, asking for the cull to be abandoned, I am that solitary person who constitutes the ‘almost one’ person who wrote to her. I like to think of myself as a whole person – but will bow to Ms Malone’s superior grasp of numeracy.

I would ask that if anyone else thinks they wrote to the Council protesting against the cull, they check that they actually did write. If so, tell Ms Malone – and be sure not to bother this busy woman unless you live in Aberdeen!

Anyone who insists on being addressed as ‘Doctor’ who is not a medical doctor runs the risk of looking like a jumped-up, insecure, power-hungry, title-fixated, inflated, self-important nonentity

Finally, I am looking at a report from the Council dated 25 May 2010 which spells out the benefits of the ‘Tree’ scheme.

It will be carried out in such a way as to ‘… value and enjoy our built and natural environment and protect it and enhance it for future generations…’ Obviously not for future generations of animals mind, and if we get rid of the deer, so much more room for us to enjoy the great outdoors.

This proposal also explains how important it is to get the community involved  – not to listen to them, just get them involved – and says that Tullos School children can help plant the trees. I personally think it would be much more educational if the children could help kill the deer as well; this would be a great lesson indeed.

And on to this week’s dictionary corner….

Are you feeling well? The following definitions come with a warning that they may cause queasiness in the reader and headaches for the champions of good health and responsibility at Grampian National Health Trust. For the record, my grandmother was a nurse as was her sister, back in the day when wards were spotless, patients were cared for, even listened to, and hospital staff were seen as the most important part of a healthcare delivery service. Yes, that was a very long time ago indeed.

Doctor: (noun)  title given to an individual awarded a doctorate by a university; a professional in the healing arts; eg a physician, dentist or veterinarian who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practise.

The title ‘Doctor’ is applicable to anyone who has successfully obtained a doctoral degree from a recognised, accredited university. The use of the title ‘Doctor’ as in ‘Dr Marcus Welby’ is most often only limited to doctors of medicine, although in universities it may be used to address any holder of a doctorate.

Anyone who, say, donates tons of money or is a wealthy tycoon with a wig, can wind up with an honorary doctorate, but would probably not insist on being addressed as ‘Doctor’. ‘Dr Donald Trump’ for instance, would sound just a wee bit naff.  Anyone who insists on being addressed as ‘Doctor’ who is not a medical doctor runs the risk of looking like a jumped-up, insecure, power-hungry, title-fixated, inflated, self-important nonentity. That is why nobody at, say, the Council, and involved in planning for instance, would insist on being referred to as ‘Doctor’. Now let’s look at the health of our medical sector.

Maggots: (noun – plural) type of insect; soft-bodied legless larvae from for instance the fly family

In superstitious medieval times, wounds and illnesses were often treated using leeches and other bloodsucking creatures (but not councillors as far as I know) to suck away excess blood. As it turns out, the use of leeches does have some medical value – they take out dead tissue and possibly promote healing.

This made her ill, made her extremely upset, and had nothing to do with what was actually going on with her health

How extremely far-sighted then, of Grampian NHS to be using maggots. Well, they had maggots in ARI back in 2009. It seems they were found in an operating theatre area or two in the not very clean ventilation system. You might think this shows a scandalous lack of concern for hygiene, but I am sure it was a well-intentioned experiment in healing.

Consent: (verb) To agree to a condition or set of conditions, to affirm assent.

When you go to hospital, if you are not in possession of your mental faculties or cannot speak, then you are unable to give consent when required. Recently, a woman in her 70s found herself having a stroke whilst in the care of Grampian NHS.

What apparently happened was rather than realise that a stroke was the problem, the (dis)orderlies treating her decided that as a tube had come out of her arm, the best thing to do with this conscious, communicating woman was to hold her down. This took three of them and she was apparently bruised, but you know how strong these old women are. As she pleaded against any injection, they gave her an anti-psychotic medication. This made her ill, made her extremely upset, and had nothing to do with what was actually going on with her health.

You can’t expect someone in a hospital to know all the rules of course, and the patient’s wishes should not be as important as what the staff feel they should do. About a year after this charming incident, I read in the news that she was given an apology. I am sure any one of us would have been more than satisfied with that.

Hospital parking: (noun) a place to leave a motor vehicle where the price charged for doing so can be astronomical.

If you can’t afford the taxi fare to a hospital for non-emergency treatment, if you don’t have the hours to spend when you’re ill taking a number 12 bus from the town centre to a hospital – forget it on a weekend – then please arrange to be ill when you have sufficient £££s to spend on hospital parking.

If you have a sick relative – a child or older person perhaps – who is in long-term care, either ask them to chip in for the parking or taxi money, or ask them to be ill after you’ve saved up enough to be able to afford to go to the hospital. Planning ahead makes everything so much easier to afford.

A note on mental health – anyone who is experiencing an episode of depression or suicidal feelings should be treated immediately at an NHS location of their choice. A man died last month – a man who had expressed a need for immediate help, as had members of his family, but he had not gone through the proper channels when thoughts of suicide overtook him and the NHS turned him away. So, members of Grampian NHS Board, who exactly is responsible for this tragedy? Please feel free to explain it to me as I don’t understand it.