May 172013
 

Oil and Glass was opened in Torry in May 2012 when it was chosen as a winning business in Aberdeen City Council’s Retail Rocks scheme. After a very successful first year, Shelagh Swanson, the studio’s owner and artist in residence, has taken on the retail unit in her own right. Included in her plans to expand the business is the development of additional studio spaces for artists.

To celebrate the studio’s first birthday, Shelagh will be undertaking a marathon painting and glassmaking session from 1000 on 23 May until the same time the following day.

Other artists, working in a variety of media, will be joining Shelagh in creating work, to be sold by silent auction to raise funds for their chosen charity, Momentum Aberdeen Brain Injury Services.

The public will be able to pop in at any time during the event to watch the artists at work and follow progress.

Finished creations will initially be made available for bid via the Oil and Glass Facebook page, but the culmination will be a silent auction at the birthday party on Saturday 25 May from 1900-2200, when all the artwork made will be exhibited.

During Shelagh’s marathon, Hidden Aberdeen Tours will be providing free storytelling sessions Tales of Old Torry from 1500 to 1700, and Terror Tales of Old Torry between 2300 and 0100 – not for the faint hearted!

Shelagh decided to support Momentum Aberdeen Brain Injury Services when the lovely Rhian Johns, who has been helped enormously by the charity, was taken to the studio by her mum Iris to commission a painting.

Rhian’s story is featured on the studio’s webpage where there’s also a preview of a further fundraising event, Top Hats and Tiaras Grand Ball, due to take place at the Hilton Treetops on September 14.

Rhian and Iris will be joining Shelagh in the studio during part of the event and will be available for photographs.

Oil and Glass
64 Victoria Road
Torry
Aberdeen
AB11 9DS

Tel: 01224 905134

Email: shelagh@oilandglass.co.uk
Web: www.oilandglass.co.uk
Twitter: @oilandglass
Facebook: www.facebook.com/oilandglass

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Jan 272012
 

Aberdeen Youth Council’s former head Sean Press resigned because of ‘a conflict of interest’, citing his involvement with ACSEF the ‘pro-business and development body [which] is fully supportive of the City Garden Project’ per the Press & Journal.  Now Aberdeen City Youth Council, the official voice of young people in the city, has spoken out against the proposed development of Union Terrace Gardens, describing the plans as “unwanted” and “potentially devastating to young people”.

17 year-old office-bearer, Kenneth Watt, comments on the decision:
“It’s not normal for the Youth Council to speak out against the Council like we are doing. However, the decisions made have the potential to be devastating to our generation, and generations to come and we are genuinely worried about the prospect of the City Gardens Project going ahead.”

As a result, the group has registered to submit 300 words in the voter registration pack.

The group also criticised the City Council in its involvement of young people in the decision-making process, after they discovered that only 113 young people from just two schools were consulted with. In the Youth Council’s own consultation 98% of 14-25 year-olds were in favour of retaining the Gardens.

The financial security of the City Gardens Project (CGP) concerns the Youth Council. The Aberdeen City Youth Council (ACYC) are worried by the lack of a plan to cover the possible failure of the risky Tax Increment Funding scheme. After multiple requests for detailed financial information from councillors on the monitoring board were ignored, the group became very apprehensive over the CGP’s feasibility.

Kenneth Watt, an office-bearer in the ACYC says that:

“Young People have been hit hard by spending cuts to key services already; the prospect of facing more in the future is a risk the Council can’t afford to take.”

“Young people need to be listened to and have their questions answered. We’re the ones that will have to foot the bill when the £96million loan can’t be repaid.”

One of the main sufferers of cuts to public services is Aberdeen’s youth. Northfield has the highest rate of child poverty in the north-east of Scotland and the Council cannot commit to such a financially unstable project when they are closing key services to the youth in many areas.

“It is ridiculous for the Council to commit to a £96million loan when vital community services – such as the Mastrick Young People’s Project – are being cut left, right and centre.”

It was claimed that the CGP would reduce crime rates in the city, which young people are frequently blamed for. Both final designs for the CGP have direct access from Belmont Street and Union Street, home to many pubs and clubs. A £170million project of this nature will not cure the violence and crime that Aberdeen faces.

“Voters need to think seriously about the long-term aspect of the City Gardens Project and the financial burden it could easily leave for generations of Aberdonians to come.”

“Union Terrace Gardens is a space that is unique to our city. Our parents have loved the Gardens, we love the Gardens, and – if retained – our children will love the Gardens too.”

 

Jan 192012
 

By Mike Shepherd.

The final design for the City Garden Project was picked this week.  The proposed plan is to replace Union Terrace Gardens with a futuristic design of curving walkways and grass called the “Granite Web”.
The announcement stoked up even more controversy as it appears that the design was not the first choice amongst those that voted in the exhibition in October last year.

Favoured was the “Winter Garden”, the design with the big greenhouse resembling a giant glass worm.

A letter in the Scotsman gave a typical response to this ‘consultation’:

Pointless poll. Of the six designs submitted for the development of Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens, one emerged as the clear favourite during a protracted public consultation in which the Aberdeen electorate took part.

Yet a panel of judges has selected one of the other designs, and the Aberdeen public is apparently to be given the choice between this one or nothing. What is the point of holding a public consultation and treating the result as if it didn’t exist?

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen
http://www.scotsman.com/news/letters/letter_pointless_poll_1_2061360

It is not the first time that a consultation on the fate of Union Terrace Gardens has been ignored. A public consultation run in 2010 saw a majority of the public rejecting the scheme.

The design itself is also controversial. John Glenday, the editor of the magazine for Scottish architects the Urban Realm, commented:

“Diller Scofidio & Renfro’s ‘granite web’ of interconnected walkways has been sold as a vision of the future for Aberdeen. However the seductive sixties sci-fi vision presented may be out of date before the journey from concept to reality has even begun. In their submission the architects have spun a tale of making Aberdeen “throb” again but the history of elevated walkways and underpasses, as anyone who has ever traversed any concrete New Town will attest, is often dystopian.

“Health and Safety officials are also likely to have a field day with the walkways and platforms as presented, inevitably leading to a compromised design with fencing, signage and other clutter once the demands of building regulations are met.”
http://www.scotsman.com/news/cartoon/analysisagrandschemebutitmayjustbealittletoolate

Others have been more  sceptical. It has been variously likened to a Teletubbies TV set, a skatepark and even  ‘Mounthooly Roundabout on steroids’. The City Garden Project have however reached for their dictionaries to praise the ‘vision’, with press releases abounding with words such as ‘transformative’, ‘vibrant’ and ‘dazzling’. Despite the hype there are very few facts being presented. We still do not know how much it will cost or how long it will take to build.

In another development, Aberdeen City Council are to hold a special council meeting next Wednesday to discuss the City Garden Project.
http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=18252

The report for the meeting asks councillors to approve the final City Garden Project design , expects the private sector to commit at least £70 million towards the project and discusses some of the land ownership issues.

There is no discussion in the report as to what happens if the City Garden Project goes into massive cost over-run. In 2009 the then Chief Executive, Sue Bruce,  decreed the private sector would be responsible for any cost over-run. Since then, no procedure has been discussed on ensuring agreement about this. In my opinion, Aberdeen City council are being grossly negligent here.

Councillors are effectively being asked to approve the final City Garden Project design ahead of February’s public referendum.

Yet the report mentions that:

ACGT has produced initial draft proposals in respect of the likely uses of any internal and external space to be created by the proposed development and are currently redrafting these proposals to reflect the space provision within the design recently selected by the Design Competition Jury.”

It is difficult to see how councillors can approve a project when there is no clear statement as to what the scheme is going to be used for.

The requests to councillors to spend up to £300,000 on legal costs from Council funds will be very controversial. We have been repeatedly told that the City Garden Project will have no impact on Council budgets, yet this is clearly not the case here. Some will ask how such costs can be justified when services and amenities are being drastically cut elsewhere.

Polling cards for the referendum are to be issued to Aberdeen residents on or around the 16th February. We will be asked for a third time – what do we want our city centre to look like?

The public are being treated with disrespect on this issue. Nevertheless, Aberdonians should ensure that they vote in the referendum.  This one counts.

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.

 

Nov 142011
 

Old Susannah pays her respects, but is unable to maintain her silence as she takes a look around what has been happening in our vibrant and dynamic city and beyond.

Things continue to be vibrant and dynamic this week in the Granite City.  On Friday 11 November some 4o-plus people gathered for a minute’s silence to mark those who fell in war.  Robert Martin who works nearby in Golden Square told me he first started coming to Union Terrace Gardens for the traditional minute of silence a few years back.
“What better, more peaceful place is there in the heart of the City to have the minute of silence,” he commented.

A gardener tried to tell the group they should be at the war memorial instead – he could not understand that we were all happier in the Denburn Valley.

For the record, this was not a celebration of nationalism, or glorification of war; it was a gesture of respect for those who lost their lives in war.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just stop killing each other, and sort out economic and social problems another way?  Maybe that day will still come.

Then there was the enjoyable opening night at Peacock for its winter exhibition.  The 400 or so works are on show until 23 December and  are all for sale.  Alicia Bruce is offering small prints of her iconic photo portraits from the Menie Estate which had such a good reception when she exhibited at Peacock.  There are abstracts, portraits, beautiful drawings, and even one or two offerings of mine.

A quick word about litter.

During the week I asked an older man who’d dropped litter to please pick it up.  He explained (with some interesting vocabulary words which I must look up) that ‘he didn’t know me’, ‘he didn’t have to’ and ‘I could not make him.’  It was a very impressive display indeed.

Days later I was at Sainsbury’s Berryden, and groups of students (probably just over 20 people in total) had stopped by the store to get their lunch.  They had wrappers, bags, papers, serviettes, bottles and so on.  And as I waited for a bus, I saw each and every student put their trash in the trashcan near the bus stop.

I am pretty sure they were from St Machar.  My appreciation to them and the other people who do the right thing.  It’s not difficult, it’s not brain surgery.  It does however make a huge difference.

But whatever you were doing this week, everyone’s thoughts were with one brave man who is fighting a valiant struggle of his own.  Yes, Stewart Milne’s case went to the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The Press & Journal had no room for this story on the day, due to the breaking news that geothermal energy exists.  This astonishing front page special even had a picture of a volcano to illustrate it.  I had personally expected a story about a cow with a ladder on its neck, but the geothermal story did the trick, and between it and the massive ads for Milne Homes, no room remained for the little matter of our City being called to the Supreme Court.

Then, Friday, the P&J did run with a story on Milne, which leads neatly to a little definition or two.

Negotiate: (verb, Eng) to settle a conflict or disagreement by compromise.

Those of us who read the Press & Journal story will have felt sorry for Stewart Milne.  He claimed the matter could have been settled had Aberdeen City council accepted his offer of negotiation.

According to the P&J, Stewart Milne Group claimed:

“We have offered to go to independent arbitration on several occasions over a long period of time,”

Usually negotiations happen when both sides have a valid argument or case to make.  To refresh everyone’s memory, the City sold land at Westhill to Mr M for far less than it was worth – the City’s clever business plan was not to sell the land on the open market, but sell directly to Milne (I am sure there was a great reason).

He got a great price on the understanding the City would eventually get any sale profit.  In a really clever and not at all dodgy-looking business manoeuvre, the land moved from one arm of the vast Milne empire to the next, at a cost around £500k –apparently more than what the 11 acres cost in the first place.  This was perfectly normal, and could have happened to anyone.  Quite truthfully, Milne then indicated that there was no profit to share.

This giant poster in no way looks like a desperate advertising ploy, but it does paper over some cracks nicely.

The City and subsequent courts have disagreed with Mr Milne’s logic (shocking!), and rather than enter ‘negotiation’ over the £1.7 million under dispute, the City decided to see the case all the way through.  Milne could have accepted the last court’s verdict, but he appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.  If you’ve only got £60 million, then you’ve got to hold onto every penny these days.

The trial was televised, and although Old Susannah is no legal expert, it didn’t look all that great for Stew.

Now we just have to wait for the outcome – at which point no doubt everyone’s favourite football club owner will immediately give Aberdeen the £1.7 million it is owed, plus court costs.  I think an apology is also due, and hope the City are drafting one to Mr Milne for taking things this far.

This expensive litigation obviously in no way impacts on the role Mr Milne plays in ACSEF, the City and Shire’s invention which is helping us out of economic chaos.  Aside from the bang-up job ACSEF has done so far for our city’s shops, it’s created a brilliant logo for itself, and now has a great big vibrant, dynamic mural at McCombie Court.  This giant poster in no way looks like a desperate advertising ploy, but it does paper over some cracks nicely.

In light of Stewart’s logic concerning negotiation, the next time you get mugged or have your wallet snatched, don’t go to the law.  Just find out who’s got your money and negotiate to get some of it back.  Sorted.

Reading this story about how Stew wanted to negotiate, I wonder if I’m not having déjà vu.  This sense comes from the P&J article some time back, when Milne and everyone’s favourite forum, ACSEF, were taking over Peacock Visual Art’s project and turning it into the great City Garden Scheme.

Just before the final, decisive and divisive voting on the project took place, ACSEF / Milne said that Peacock had been offered some kind of 11th hour alternative, but were unwilling to strike a deal.  Of course if you read the full story, you would have eventually discovered Peacock said ‘we were never contacted about any deal.’

I hope in future any Peacock person, Aberdeen City legal rep, etc. will just ‘negotiate’ when Stewart wants something – it will save the taxpayer lots of money to just go along with him from the start.

In fact, when I think of Loirston Loch, the Triple Kirks glass box scheme, Pittodrie and so on, I wonder if we haven’t just started to say yes to him already.

Geography: (noun) study of terrain, locations, types of environments and areas.

If you are out there, Pete Leonard, Director of Housing, perhaps you might consider a geography lesson or two.  Pete insists Tullos Hill is ‘urban’.  The hill is next to all the lovely industrial estates which have helped make Aberdeen the profitable centre of the universe it is, but the hill just isn’t all that ‘urban’.  It’s covered with plants, grasses, wildlife, pre-historic cairns and so on.

Here in Aberdeen, there is a complete separation of contractors and councillors

On the word of Mr Leonard, I went to Tullos Hill the other day assuming it had been urbanised.   I looked for fast food, a coffee or a monorail ride, but there was nothing of the kind to be found.

It struck me that Ms Malone (who has lately been very, very quiet) might want to look for a new initiative to push. Perhaps if she abandoned the ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme and maybe had ‘a monolith for every citizen’ and/or ‘monorail for every citizen’ scheme, it might increase her popularity.  As I hear it, an improvement in her popularity stakes is currently the only possible direction.

Aside from Tullos, other urban areas in our city are easy to recognise by the well-maintained roads and footpaths, the general cleanliness, the complete lack of any crime, and all the many open local shops.

Corruption: (noun, English) a state of dishonesty, lack of integrity, self-interested behaviour of a person or body in a position of trust.

Edinburgh has faced accusations of council corruption. (“At least it couldn’t happen in Aberdeen!” I can practically hear you say.)

For openers, according to the BBC, the hospitality records are incomplete. ( This contrasts with our city’s up-to-date, perfectly set out, fully inclusive records which seem to indicate some councillors went to absolutely no events whatsoever in 2009 and or 2010).  But that’s the least of Edinburgh’s problems.

Edinburgh’s councillors are in the firing line for ‘possible fraud and serious wrongdoing’ with regard to building works and property.

Audit Scotland could not decide if the city was just a wee bit disorganised, or if there was a whiff of corruption

It also looks like a city councillor had a holiday paid for by a contractor.  Here in Aberdeen, there is a complete separation of contractors and councillors.  In those rare occasions when a councillor is somehow connected to a contractor, then they stay well out of any possible conflict situations.

Some years ago we had our own little trouble with Audit Scotland, you may remember.

They had a few uncertainties after a detailed investigation of our city’s property selling activities.  There were questions as to why so many properties were being sold below value.  Audit Scotland did tell the city to stop selling property at knock-down prices, and otherwise pay attention to details – like who is actually buying your property and what it should sell for.  In the end, Audit Scotland could not decide if the city was just a wee bit disorganised, or if there was a whiff of corruption.  In the end, they invited our local police to look into the issues.

After a completely thorough, detailed investigation, the police found nothing untoward.  Old Susannah is not sure when the investigation was conducted.  Then again, I’m not sure when exactly Stewart Milne Group started advertising on police cars, either.

Next week hopefully a Milne court and FOI case update; a fond look back at the careers of John Stewart and Neil Fletcher, who are not going to run for re-election in May.

Stop press Christmas Gift Solution:  Tired of the usual old boring gifts – the handbag-sized bottle of vodka, the city council carriage clock or branded pen?  Look no further for your gift requirements:  The City is selling photo prints of its greatest moments.  Rather than taking a picture of St Nicholas House or the ACSEF logo yourself to make a welcome gift for a loved one, just go to the City’s website.

What is the most popular subject on sale?  Why the Lord Provost of course!  There are only about 750 photos of him in action this year but fret not: there are two other years of Lord Provost photos as well.  Make a lovely print on canvas, or can be sent to an artist to create a portrait in oils.  I just might buy a photo of the Lord Provost handing over a gift and turn it into a mug, a mug for some reasons being the first thing that springs to mind.
See: http://aberdeencitycouncil.newsprints.co.uk/

Stop press 2:  there will be a further extension for getting your entries in for the Union Terrace Gardens art competition  – more news soon!

 

Sep 132011
 

The Friends of Duthie Park will continue their monthly gardening activities in the park on Sunday 18th September from noon until 2.00 pm. On the third Sunday of every month, during the summer season, the Friends of Duthie Park meet up to undertake gardening tasks to complement the staff in the park. With thanks to Dave Macdermid.

On Sunday, the Friends will complete the planting of a new Sensory Bed at the west side of the park.
A class from local primary school, Ferryhill, designed the bed as part of a competition and the Friends secured sponsorship for the plants from local garden centre Ben Reid & Co. In addition, herbaceous plants will be planted in other areas of the park.

Current and new members are invited join members of the committee meeting at the entrance to the David Welch Winter Gardens.

The Friends of Duthie Park, the group responsible for the resurrection of ‘Spike’ the talking cactus in time for last month’s successful inaugural Open Day, is also on the lookout to bolster its committee numbers, with certain specific skills being sought, as Chairman Tony Dawson explains.

“As a group, I believe we’ve achieved a great deal in a short space of time but if we are to continue to progress as we would like, we do need to supplement our committee numbers. While we are keen to hear from anyone who is interested in assisting, there are areas where we do require specific assistance, namely the development of our website, marketing & sponsorship, research & history and education & learning.

“In addition, the return of Spike was more of a success than we could ever have hoped for, resulting in a huge demand for regular appearances from him. Consequently, we would like to hear from anyone who would be interested in becoming one of the pool of people that we will require to call on to be the voice of Spike.

“With the forthcoming restoration work at Duthie Park, this is a hugely exciting time for the Friends and it would be fantastic to get some more people on board.”

Anybody interested in finding out more about any aspect of the Friends, including joining the committee, should, in the first instance, e-mail info@friendsofduthiepark.co.uk with their contact details and the area they would like to get involved in.

Sep 082011
 

Recent visitors to the Winter Gardens in Duthie Park have been left badly disappointed after vandalism caused the closure of some important sections including the Arid Room where Spike the Talking Cactus is on show. The new ‘Voice of Spike’ Andy Gibson reports on a worrying turn of events at the park.

I recently succeeded in my campaign to reinstate our favourite talking plant known as Spike The Cactus at the David Welch Winter Gardens in Duthie Park.
I was also given the honour and privilege of providing a voice for the prickly fellow for the first time in approximately 13 years. Duthie Park recently gained a grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund to restore the grounds to their original glory.

This included getting Spike repaired with help from a really nice man called Richard Irvin and his friends.

There have been previous attempts by vandals to smash the windows of the Arid Room and this time, sadly, the vandals succeeded.

Inside, the Arid Room itself is covered in broken glass which has forced the Friends of Duthie Park, in the interest of public safety, to close that area and other damaged sections throughout the Winter Gardens.

This has of course been of great inconvenience to the Staff at the Winter Gardens  including myself, and more importantly the public.

I created and uploaded a video to hosting site YouTube regarding this issue. In the comments box I have read that someone’s father in law, a keen gardener, came here to visit from Derby in England. This gentleman could not see the true David Welch Winter Gardens in all its glory.

This is a shame because there is not much else in Aberdeen that provides such an extensive view on various gardening styles. Seeing the full Winter Gardens as we know and love it would have been a great experience for a visitor who has an interest at what Duthie Park can offer.

As I documented above,  Duthie Park was given a large sum of money from the Heritage Lottery to refurbish the grounds including the restoration of the ponds in the hope of attracting wild ducks to return to the spot. Some of this will now need to be set aside to cover the cost of repairs.

I am very keen and raring to go as far as operating Spike is concerned; I loved entertaining the public last month during the Open Day, and I was looking forward to returning soon.

However, now everything has been put on hold until the mess has been cleared away, the repair work completed, and the Health and Safety aspects addressed.

I have spoken with the manager of the Winter Gardens and he has informed me that there have been no further attacks. Whether this represents and end to such idiotic behaviour, we’ll find out over the forthcoming weeks. I do hope he/she/they are caught before they cause any more destruction elsewhere.

If you have any suspicions regarding who may be responsible for this damage, then please contact Grampian Police on 08456005700 or if you want to remain anonymous you can communicate with Crimestoppers completely free on 0800555111.

Further Info – Click on the links.
Friends Of Duthie Park
The David Welch Winter Gardens
Spike The Cactus’ Facebook page

Andy Gibson’s YouTube Video
The kind man and his pals who operated on Spike to give him a new lease of life

Aug 182011
 

Old Susannah looks back at the week that was and wonders who’s up to what and why. By Suzanne Kelly.

The leak’s leaked.  Those nice people at Shell seem to have been economical with the truth about their North Sea oil spill; they say they have been completely open and honest.  However, some half a dozen environmental/animal groups do not think so.

I know whom I am tempted to believe.  I hope Shell can do for us what it has done for Nigeria, farmers in Northern Ireland, etc. etc.  If nothing else, it is good to know Shell has gone into public relations overdrive and is pouring oil on troubled waters.

Back on dry land, it is hard to know where to start doing a round-up of this past week’s events in the ‘Deen and the wider world.  The Road Sense AWPR appeal has failed.  Helpfully, Kate Dean posted on a Facebook discussion thread (you see – she is down with the kids for definite) stating:

“I’m amazed that this topical community hasn’t seen fit to discuss today’s Court of Session ruling on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.”

I told our Katie:

“To Ms Dean – nice to see you weighing in. I think you will find this ‘topical community’ and the Aberdeen Voice have historically dealt with both sides of the AWPR story. As the Voice is a weekly publication, no doubt some contributors will send in relevant items for next week’s issue. You would be welcome to write a piece as well”.

Alas!  Kate relied:

“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to contribute to a publication which habitually refers to me in such a derogatory and insulting fashion”

I tried to explain that my writings are ‘satire’ (well, for the most part). Of course there is not much tradition of important politicians being satirised in Great Britain – well, only since the time of King John, and more recently Hogarth, Spitting Image and Private Eye.   (I would have also replied: “XXXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXXXX”, but I could not figure out how to do redacted text on FB).  Perhaps I just do not know the meaning of the word ‘appropriate’ – time to see what can be learnt from Kate’s examples (see definitions).

Perhaps Kate thinks that is the end of the AWPR matter, and the necessary, environmentally-friendly, economical road will go ahead.  Well, we will see.  PS – my Facebook Home page tells me to suggest friends for Kate.  Any ideas?

And we have another nursing scandal; this time at Woolmanhill.

A nurse has allegedly been over-drugging patients, and gave a person a salt-cellar instead of their inhaler.  We are getting close to a medical scandal a week.  I wonder if all the cutbacks to frontline services might be related to frontline services going down the pan.

Old Susannah’s had a senior moment; I remembered writing about the brilliant designs shortlisted for the gardens, and thought I had done so in a column.  Turns out I had only done so on Facebook.  While trying to find what I did write, I googled my way upon this quotation:

“The gardens have the potential to be transformed in to a popular, attractive and vibrant green space in the heart of the city. The gardens have come under increasing pressure in recent years, with various schemes put forward to raise their level and develop them as a leisure facility. Care must be taken not to over-develop the space and potentially risk losing its essential drama and historical landform”.

- 2007, AberdeenCityCouncil Report

The above was the conclusion the City came to in (yet another expensive) report in 2007.  Since then a few things have changed, and commonsense has prevailed:  the only thing wrong with Aberdeen is that UTG is not vibrant and dynamic.  This is why we are all going broke, crime is shooting up, the independent shops are closing, and the streets are filthy:  it is the gardens – they are not used enough and are in a valley!

We may or may not get a vote on the Gardens’ future – but we have lined up five designers who have form when it comes to doubling and trebling their budgets.  I guess if you want something as beautiful, as functional and elegant as the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, it’s going to cost.  Then again, an inflatable Jacuzzi (on sale via ‘Groupon’) would have been as pretty and functional – and costs a few million less.

I’m sure it’s because I didn’t study architecture in great depth, but at first glance I thought the shortlist was the most predictable collection of expensive hacks to ever build boring and unsuitable creations, obviously my mistake.

Still, the Diana Memorial Fountain designer is one of our fine finalists!  I hope you are as excited as I am.  Since I did not go into detail about the talented designers Malcolm Reading has lined up to fix our city’s problems and how much it is likely to cost and since I cannot find my writings on the matter to begin with, (but I did mention some of the references rxpell uses), here is a good article from rxpell that sums things up nicely:
http://rxpell.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/a-look-at-the-city-square-short-leet/

This article will help you decide which of our five finalists to vote for.  If you get a vote.  We do not know for sure, even though HoMalone’s promised us a vote, which would include leaving the gardens as they are.  But this is Aberdeen, and the government’s position changes more often than the weather.

(I would love to say I have been out at nice dinners and working my way through the ever-changing Brewdog menu, but for the time being my doctors have me on lockdown, and am forced to live off rice, tofu and yoghurt drinks.  Somehow this does not really suit me.  Still, I will be back doing the rounds as soon as I can).  But now for some definitions.

Appropriate:

1.  (adjective) fitting, proper, suitable, in accord with acceptable norms.
Am I ever embarrassed by Kate’s telling me that it ‘is not appropriate’ for her to write in the Voice, as we are derogatory about her.  Shame-faced, I asked myself what can I learn from her example of what is appropriate behaviour?  I came up with a few examples.

What is appropriate:

  • To be a supporter of the Cove Rangers, to be the president of its fan club,  have a husband who is a Scottish Football Association referee, and to be administrator of the family plumbing business (Brian J Dean) which sponsors the club – and to endorse plans to build it a new stadium without any qualms or conflict
  • To make comments to the media about how wonderful a new stadium for the Cove Rangers team would be, yet to sit as convener of the Loirston Loch hearing (despite opposition from community councillors) which is tied to Cove Rangers’ future
  • To comment to the Loirston Loch hearing that you attended a meeting where virtually all present voted against the stadium going ahead, but that you were sure a man there wanted to vote in favour of the stadium – but was afraid to (mind-reading is a skill every councillor should have)
  • When implementing swingeing budget cuts (and having thousands of people march against them calling for your resignation) to reply ‘I was elected to do a job and I am going to do it’
  • To accept dozens of tickets to concerts and events at the AECC in a single year, despite guidelines suggesting this might not be ‘appropriate’

Thank you Ms Dean – I will indeed learn much from you, and will continue my studies.

And to whom but Aberdeen’s first citizen should I next turn towards to learn about appropriate behaviour:  Mr Milne has it nailed.  Out of the goodness of his heart, he allowed people to actually comment on his stylish plan for Triple Kirks (the Press & Journal obligingly called the area an ‘eyesore’ in an article.  There goes that bothersome blurring of ‘editorial’ and ‘article’ again, which of course is not appropriate).

Those who did comment on the Triple Kirks plans marvelled at the giant glass boxes (never mind the peregrines).  At least Milne said as much, claiming the majority loved his ground-breaking design.

(Hmm, if only there were some nearby, empty space that could be converted to parking, the scheme would be even easier to approve – if they could come up with some kind of a plan…).  Anyway, those few who objected and left email addresses got a very appropriate follow-up email from a Milne company, which reads along the lines of:

“From: “sales@stewartmilne.com”

“Many thanks for your enquiry. We will forward details and information to you shortly. We’re here to ensure that buying your new home is easy and enjoyable, so if we can help any further, just let us know.   Sell Your Home in 5 Days”

Now if I were a sceptical, cynical person, I would ask myself:  is writing to people who opposed your plans and offering to get them a new home in an ‘easy and enjoyable’ manner something that could be construed as a bribe?  Well, the City says everything is fine, so I guess it is all appropriate.  I have dismissed the idea that offering sales help to people who were against you is at all wrong.

I hope this has cleared up what is appropriate and what is not.

Appropriate:

2. (verb) – to take by deceit or force that which belongs to another.
See: Union Terrace Gardens, City Garden Project, ACSEF, Donald Trump, Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Tradition:

(noun) custom or activity rooted in the past.
People are funny about their traditions.  We are being told by the City Council that painting the Lord  Provost’s portrait – and celebrating the glorious event with an expensive party is OK – as it is tradition.

Foxhunting (no, not with golf clubs and tame foxes, Mr Forbes) was a United Kingdom tradition going back hundreds of years; it was deemed cruel and barbaric, and therefore has been made illegal.  The Catalonia area of Spain has recently given bullfighting the coup de grace –  it is hard to imagine anything more barbaric than bullfighting masquerading as a ‘sport’.

I came under criticism (on Facebook again – I really must stay away from that thing) for saying Spain should consider doing away with bullfighting.  (PS – if you really think the bull has a chance, and there is no prolonged torture or pain, and it is a brave matador that fights a bull with only a cape to protect himself, then think again – PETA will put you right).

Someone said I was showing ignorance of Spanish culture and tradition.  Their point was that tradition was more important than the animal issues. I say “bull”.

The city could not afford to replace broken windows in schools only a few years ago, but wants to shell out on canapés for its elected officials and the usual suspects to celebrate the fact that its Provost is an oil painting.  Too right.  Without these traditions, we would start moving forward.  And the future is uncertain.  It is best to cling to what previous generations did – it is safe (well, maybe).

If we always paid for a portrait, then we had better keep paying for a portrait.  We might have to cut a few services, but let us stick to whatever was the more traditional course of action.  It is important to bear in mind that all traditions are equal in value and all are good.  Perhaps we could bring back ducking witches in the loch?  Yes, to question traditions is to question culture and nationalism – and where would be without nationalism?

In my world, it is the 21st Century.  The whole world is under different pressures than it was when these wonderful traditions came about.  There should be more enlightenment and compassion than brutality and superstition; we have run out of excuses.  But then I turn on the news, and realise that I have got it wrong again.

Old Susannah is now out to catch something for dinner, and possibly bash a few enemies over the head with my wooden club.  Now where did I leave my bow and arrows?

Next week:  hopefully some FOI news, more definitions, and a back-to-school special look at education.