Suzanne at Aberdeen Voice

Mar 212018
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

For people who care about animal welfare, supporting an animal shelter seems like a great way to help – but how many know what kind of shelter they are donating to? Last August Zara Brown, who said she was running a shelter, was found to have committed a catalogue of horrific offences.

Investigators found, for instance, a freezer stuffed with seven dead dogs and a cat.

Animals were left in dark, cold buildings with inadequate food and water and without medical treatment.

The courts were told poor Zara was depressed and was unable to cope.  She got off very lightly for the cruelty inflicted.

Then we learned she was a convicted fraudster to the value of some £37,000.

Clearly we cannot have people who are convicted fraudsters handling animals and money.

Facebook posts show that awareness of huge problems at her animal sanctuary existed long before she was ever convicted – why was no action taken?

A recent proposal to the Scottish government would see the SSPCA and police tackle the unscrupulous animal charity.  However, is the SSPCA really the right body to deal with this?

One long-running animal welfare group, Animal Concern Advice Line, likes the idea, but opposes SSPCA involvement. It recently told its supporters:

“We oppose this for three main reasons.

“1: The Scottish SPCA is the largest owner and operator of animal rescue centres in Scotland and as such should be regulated and policed by the scheme just like every other rescue and rehoming operation.

“2: Some of the smaller rescue, rehab and rehoming operatives harbour ill feeling towards the Scottish SPCA and would find it extremely difficult to be part of any scheme administered and/or policed by the SSPCA.

“3: Dumping the administration and policing of any scheme on the shoulders of the Scottish SPCA would mean that yet again the Scottish SPCA would be spending charity donations to do work which should be funded by central or local government thus reducing the resources available to the Scottish SPCA to help animals for whom no-one has a legal duty of care.”

Sadly the SSPCA has come in for a lot of deserved criticism of late. Its issues include:

  • Raising the chief executive’s salary to a whopping £216,000 without any consultation with the army of donors (I collected money for the SSPCA and donated for years – to help animals not to pay a massive salary to an executive – Suzanne).  The latest on this is that the chair has left.
  • Killing a harmless snake which was misidentified as poisonous by putting it in a freezer to die alone in the dark.  I asked repeatedly why, when the snake had already been captured could it not have been left alone until an expert could assess it – no answer was forthcoming.

When the salary of the chairman went up, the SSPCA closed its Shetland facility, with Mike Flynn of the SSPCA making the shocking claim that the SSPCA’s role was not to keep a building open in case there was an oil spill.

The facility was not strictly used for oil-accidents, and the closure dismayed residents.

Keeping the shelter open would have cost a fraction of what the chair’s salary rise was.

Initially Mr Flynn was critical of an Aberdeen scheme to kill deer on Tullos Hill to plant trees (a government report had already said trees could not be established in numbers because of the soil matrix being poor).  He was cheered for condemning the move – but when later asked for further comments on the scheme he called ‘abhorrent’ he simply stopped replying to correspondence.

John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line has been campaigning for licensing and policing of animal rescue centres and sanctuaries for many years.

He said:

“I want to see all animal rescue and rehoming centres brought up to a high minimum standard of animal welfare, public safety and financial accountability. Sadly a small number of rescuers get it very wrong causing animals to suffer and the public to lose trust in the whole sector.

“Some put people at risk of death by placing potentially dangerous dogs in totally unsuitable new homes. Others fail to carry out  proper home checks and risk placing animals with potential abusers. Most of the problems are caused by well-intentioned people who don’t have the space, skills or finances to do things properly.

“Regretfully a few are criminals who knowingly abuse and neglect animals while conning the public and grant-giving trust funds out of money.

“It is a great pity that the many  good and trustworthy rescue centres are going to encounter a bit more red tape and expense to meet a new licencing regime but that is what it is going to take to get rid of the cowboys and criminals.

“One major problem is in finding an organisation to administer and police the licensing scheme.

“The Government wants the Scottish SPCA to run things but that would be wrong as the Scottish SPCA has more animal rescue centres than any other organisation and should not police itself.

“Police Scotland and local authorities, some of which have their own rescue kennels, have legal responsibilities for stray dogs thus rendering them unsuitable to manage the scheme.

“I suggest responsibility  be given either to the existing Animal & Plant Health Agency or to a new body created by the Scottish Government.”

A bona-fide animal rescue will either be a registered Scottish charity or will otherwise let you look at its accounts.

A genuine rescue will not be selling animals for slaughter while asking people to donate to save the lives of other animals – it is not possible to do both ethically, morally or logically (how can one pig be worth saving and another pig be worth killing?).

As the Scottish consultation points to the unsuitability of convicted fraudsters handling public donations, no reputable animal rescue will have anyone who has form as a fraudster or confidence trickster taking in donations.

Hopefully a suitable arrangement can be found, but for reasons pointed out by Mr Robins and by this article, the SSPCA should not be involved in regulating an industry it itself participates in – and which has failed in its duty.

Spotlight on Northfield Animal Haven

Despite its continuing threats to close (and its threats and insinuations against its critics), Northfield Animal Haven continues to:

  • Seek donations, buy animals (wrong for any charity, but wrong for one so apparently short of funds).
  • Sell animals at Thainstone market, where many if not all will wind up slaughtered.

Here is an extract from a previous article. Despite false claims from Northfield, neither Aberdeen Voice or Suzanne Kelly (myself) have been in any way prevented from writing about the odd goings-on at this place.

Fact Recap:

  • That Kelly Cable is a convicted benefit fraudster [3]– this calls her honesty into question;
  • That Kelly Cable denied signing for a substantial loan [4]– again her honesty was thrown in doubt;
  • That signs and funding appeals stating ‘all farm animals are rescued are misleading [5].There seem to be two Northfields – one that keeps some animals as rescues – while breeding for sale from these [6.1-3], and one that sells animals at Thainstone Market and privately where slaughter is the almost inevitable outcome [7]This schism is condemned by many animal welfare professionals including John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line [8].
  • When cornered on this issue, Kelly has made posts along the lines of ‘everyone’knows that she operates a working farm and that the reason she uses pictures of animals in her appeal such as sheep and cattle that are not to be rescued is ‘people have asked to see all the animals’ [9]. Donors Aberdeen Voice had contact with were completely in the dark on the point, and would never have donated to money to an institution that breeds from its rescue for sales, and raises farm animals for commercial purposes.
  • That Cable used, without any contact or permission, images of animals she had nothing to do with for fundraising purposes – this calls transparency and honesty into question (the image on the left of an emaciated bovine is not an animal Cable was trying to rescue; it is from 2011 in the USA  [10].
  • That Cable has claimed to different witnesses to have disabilities and illnesses [11.1-11.4]; she has told several people these illnesses lead her to use cannabis on the farm and that alcohol and drug use by others is tolerated by her at Northfield around the 170 animals she says she cares for single-handedly. This clearly poses threats to animal welfare – and that has led to serious consequences as this article will demonstrate. This drug use should also be of serious concern to anyone using her animal assisted therapy programme.
  • There are allegations of cannabis sales which the authorities are aware of [12]. (As an aside, cannabis can be a very therapeutic medical boon to some. The appropriateness of seeking public donations while using/selling cannabis on a farm by a disabled woman who purports to single-handedly care for over 170 animals where neglect and deaths have occurred should raise red flags to animal welfare authorities and those concerned with public safety).
  • Northfield has itself posted about animals that have died ‘from a broken heart’ or overeating.
  • Northfield has also posted that Suzanne Kelly was involved in going to their farm, damaging fences, locking a pony in a food store where it ate itself to death.
  • A previous Northfield Facebook administrator, Fiona Manclark, was ordered to pay Suzanne Kelly £15,000 plus costs for repeated libel (Manclark had months in which to simply make an apology without facing any costs, but forced the matter to court). Ms Manclark spectacularly wrote to the court to excuse her failure to turn up, and in her letter she wrote that cannabis is routinely used at Northfield, a claim which fits in with other peoples’ allegations of drug use and dealing.  While many people feel cannabis use should be legalised, many would question whether a disabled woman who claims to care for over 70 animals, some of whom have died in her care from exposure and feeding issues – and who offers animal therapy to young people – should mix cannabis with an animal welfare charity offering therapy.
  • Ms Cable is a convicted benefit fraudster (see past AV articles).

This all adds up to irresponsibility fiscally, operationally, and safety wise on a worrying scale.

https://aberdeenvoice.com/2016/10/northfield-animal-haven-haven-hell/

Northfield and its supporters first began to attack Aberdeen Voice and myself when we repeated a press release (the Press & Journal printed it too) merely calling for a voluntary registration scheme for shelters which would ensure animal welfare.

What Northfield will make of mandatory regulation excluding fraudsters from running animal charities remains to be seen, but whether or not the SSPCA is involved, a regulator in this sector will spell the end for any fraudsters operating animal shelter charities.

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Feb 222018
 

A three-year, £350m Aberdeen Harbour expansion project chalked up a broken leg and a serious head injury in the first two months of construction. By Suzanne Kelly

Spanish firm Dragados is contracted to deepen and industrialise the Bay of Nigg, and is keen to keep a lid on its mounting problems.

According to one contractor: 
“Everybody is told at the beginning, ‘There is a group of people against the project

“We encourage you not to talk with these people in any manner, social media included.'”

Despite frequent verbal threats to would-be whistle-blowers, mounting injuries and near-misses are encouraging people to speak out.

One worker described the lead-up to the broken leg:

“On 6 December 2017 an Eastern European broke his leg when a supervisor for Dragados – with no risk assessment, no toolbox talk – instructed a forklift driver to move steel ten meters long (a practice which is frowned upon by others more experienced).”

While the steel was being moved it either hit or fell on the injured party who was rushed to hospital.

The injured man left the UK and is said to have been paid a hefty settlement.

Another person was hospitalised after someone opened the door of a lorry into their head.

One source said:

“I’d say 90% of the workforce don’t know what’s to be done as there are no plans in place.”

They claim safety material is not routinely translated for non-English speakers.

“Some of the management’s English is that poor they don’t understand certain documents.”

The HSE confirmed only one of these two accidents was reported (they would not confirm which incident this was, but they requested materials and are investigating).

One whistle-blower said:

“Dragados are now contemplating sub-contracting out most of the work as they will be unable to complete it; they simply do not have the safety systems in place.”

Javier Buron, Community Engagement Officer, Aberdeen Public Relations and Communications for Dragados SA UK & Ireland, had no idea whether he could even release the company’s Health and Safety Policy – something most companies publicise widely and are proud of.

Mr Buron promised to send a statement, but did not express concern on behalf of Dragados for the injured.

When chased for lines for publication Mr Buron said:

“We cannot issue any of these documents [no documents were requested].

“It is [for] internal use. It is illegal to share it.”

His posting to this multi-million-pound project is something of a leap; his Linked-In profile gives his previous experience as working for Aberdeen’s International Youth Festival (which is about to lose its £100k yearly council funding).

There seems to be as haphazard an approach to supply management as there is to safety and public relations.

Several sources claim 40 tonnes of non-specification stone was imported from Norway, only to be rejected as inferior.

Dragados now has to get rid of the stone and make up the financial loss.

Disenchanted workers are watching to see how this plays out while scratching their heads as to how Dragados became the preferred bidder in the first place.

Work is due to complete in 2020. No one working on site believes this is possible.

The impact of this expansion on the dwindling number of salmon, sea birds and cetaceans is another matter which doesn’t seem to have troubled Scottish environmental authorities sufficiently to make them object; time will tell the impact on wildlife.

Sceptical locals are promised cruise ships will dock. Whether well-heeled travellers will disembark to spend money in Torry’s pubs, betting shops and off-licenses is doubted.

As one source summed it up:

“It’s a complete joke.”

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Dec 232017
 

This is an attempt at satire. Any resemblance to a person living, dead or somewhere in between; competent or wholly incompetent; greedy or otherwise is purely and yugely coincidental. By Suzanne Kelly.

It was a cold November rain that fell on the glistening, gleaming, sparkly, shiny granite stone of the Granite City.

The rain even dared to fall on the city council’s Town House and Marischal College.

Inside said Town House, a vulnerable Willie Wonky was clearing out his desk. It was late at night and unusually he felt tired and emotional.

And indeed angry – too angry even to throw out a few enlightening tweets to his many admirers – though being agitated had never stopped him before.

“It was only a fence, a wall, pathways…” Willie thought to himself; he was feeling rather hard done by.

“What about everything Dean for instance got away with?”

He had been forced from his office and his post on the City Council unceremoniously.

He felt that the science-based evidence against him was insignificant – after all, there was Pete Leonard, the man responsible for the crematorium scandal, and on a lesser note, he had formally reported that the Tullos Hill deer should be wiped out to create a forest – cost neutral no less – when he already had a letter telling him it wasn’t possible to have a forest on the hill, a former rubbish-tip.

The man was soundly hated by 99.9% of his staff – yet got months of gardening leave with full pay and a golden parachute.

“If only the public knew how much we gave Leonard.” Wonky muttered to himself.

He opened his desk and began taking out the files, deciding which to keep and which to leave behind – or destroy.

‘City Garden Project’ was by far the largest folder in his desk.

“Humpf” Wonky thought

“What a load of old cobblers. F me that was a stupid idea – ramps going up to a steep height only to descend to the other side. So much for the excuse of ‘accessibility’ being the reason to turn the gardens into a parking lot with astroturf. You’d have to be a mountain goat to get up or down those f-ing arches. So much for anyone in a wheelchair.

“Anne Begg easily accessed the gardens as they are . The idea of spending £180 million on this drivel and expecting people to fly in from all over the world to walk up and down a ramp or sit in an outdoor theatre – an outdoor theatre no less – to shop at Next and Boots; old Ian Wood must have thought we were out of our minds.”

Willie pulled this thick file out of the drawer and unceremoniously heaved it on his desk.

Rifling through the file drawer was considerably easier with the bulk of the Union Terrace Gardens out of the way.

“Oh look, the Stewart Milne Stadium plan.” Willie snorted derisively.

This huge white elephant was going to be great for everyone, especially one Stewart Milne.

File after file Wonky pulled out of his desk, from cabinets; dust was flying. Outside the rain intensified and the wind howled.

With each passing file he found – ‘Tree for Every Citizen feasibility study’ (by the man who gained £100k if it went ahead), ‘Art Gallery renovation costings’ (a work of sheer fantasy Wonky thought to himself with a sneer), ‘Donald Trump impact study – benefits for Aberdeen City, by VisitScotland’, ‘Invitation to Trump’s doctorate celebration’; ‘Benefits for Torry of having a breaking yard and incinerator’ – dozens of reports, papers, invitations and so on were piling high on Wonky’s desk now.

The wind moaned louder and the windows rattled, but Willie ploughed on.

‘Gerry Brough – curriculum vitae and list of academic credentials’; Wonky laughed aloud as he found this file; Brough was the bully who shouted down all opposition to the Garden project and stopped the public having a vote on just fixing the gardens up.

“F this wind and rain.” Willie thought as he turned on his computer – well, it was still his for a day or maybe two, as he decided to have some Netflix and chill.

The computer warmed up, and the next thing Willie heard was an old familiar voice

“Ahn tae all me friends – comrades – I should say – This is Alex Salmond, welcoming you to another instalment of McRussian TV. Have I ever told ye about the time I was doon te Balmoral and was singing with Prince –“

“F that!” shouted Wonky at his computer and closed the tab for the Alex Salmond show,

“how the f did that get on my computer?”

He opened an new tab and waited for Amazon videos to load up; he swiped haphazardly at the screen and hit the Christmas movies button.

Willie unlatched the window; as rainy and windy as it was, he had unaccountably become clammy, hot and excitable.

When he crossed the room to return to his desk, he could see there was a big box still on top of the cabinet, a yuge box.

“F that, I’d better see what the F’s in that F-ing thing.” Willie said, his anger growing.

A random Christmas movie whirred into life on his laptop; ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ had started. He could hear it play in the background.

Pushing his swivel chair close to the cabinet, Willie stepped onto its seat, reached for the huge cardboard box high on the shelf and started to pull it towards him. At that moment several things happened all at once.

The wind suddenly gusted, blowing the windows wide opened. This caused the papers in the room and on his desk to spring to sudden life and swirl through the air.

“Waa F!” Willie thought as this sudden commotion caused him to lose his footing and the chair started to wheel away. Alas, he had not lost his grip on the giant box.

The box Willie had grabbed slid off the shelf, knocking him straight between the eyes, causing him to wince and howl in pain as he fell backwards. Then to cap things off, a long-forgotten trophy ‘Aberdeen – best employer in Scotland’ made of faux granite and cheap metal clonked Wonky straight on the head. Down and out he went.

#          #          #

A voice in Wonky’s head was saying: “Congratulations! You’re the final winner of the Aberdeen Art Gallery renovation lottery Golden Ticket contest!”

“What the F?” Willie thought, then he opened his eyes. He was in a vast crowd in front of the Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Crowds cheered. There was a podium on which were about 8 of the most ridiculous-looking people Willy had ever seen. The man who congratulated him was a tall, thin man of about 70.

The man, dressed in a top hat, tails and with a big bow tie kept speaking.

“I better cut down on my order” thought Wonky as he was helped to his feet.

The oddly dressed man was addressing the crowd:

“Friends, thank you for buying the 7 million Aberdeen Art Gallery refurbishment tickets in a single afternoon! We will have the art gallery back opened in no time – say 3 to 5 years! Result!”

The frenzied crowd roared with its approval.

The man fixed his top hat, adjusted his satin waistcoat, and continued:

“The art gallery lottery promised there would be six winners whose golden tickets would get them an amazing prize! More about that in a moment. We’ve raised £7 million pounds! Hooray us!”

The crowd cheered some more.

“We’re going to raise even more money through some – ah efficiencies! We’re going to stop the Youth Festival – that’ll save £100k! No more kids wandering around town in the summer! No need to thank me or your councillors!”

The crowd were delirious with joy.

“Back to the Art Gallery Golden ticket winners” said Ian Wood – for it was he,

“These lucky people are the winners who will get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to come inside Marischal College and see where all the great ideas you love are dreamed up!”

There was more cheering, as you’d expect.

“The final winner is Willie Wonky here, who won the final golden ticket when he bought his Art Gallery lottery ticket. He too has won this vibrant and dynamic look behind the scenes at Marischal.”

“The other winners are Donnie Trump from America, who loves watching television and playing with guns; He is with his lovely assistant and spokesperson Sarah Malone Bates!”

Again with the crowds cheering.

“We also have Professor Bill Ritchie, former Head of Housing Peter Leonard, and… Stewart Milne!”

The crowd was delirious by now with joy.

“And friends” continued Sir Ian, bowing and tipping his top hat,

“Before I take the lucky winners on the tour of the dream factory that is Marischal College, I just want you to know it is pure coincidence that most of the people who have won are friends of mine – but then again – who isn’t?”

The crowds cheered more furiously than ever, as the lucky winners – Donald Trump, Sarah Malone, Willie Wonky (who was still feeling groggy and confused), Professor Bill Ritchie, Peter Leonard and Stewart Milne all stepped away from the crowds and past the statue of Sir Robert The Bruce towards a revolving door which would lead into the magical Marischal College building, where the magic happens.

Willie looked at the statue. For an instant he thought the horse snorted and Sir Robert bowed his head to expose a tear, but the fancy lasted only a moment.

Here we are! All pack in now! And Sir Ian stepped into the revolving door.

The other guests did their best to cosy up to him.

“Easy Stewart, if you get any closer you’ll be behind me.” chuckled Sir Ian.

Willie didn’t see why they all had to crowd into the same section of the revolving door, but no one else complained; they just looked adoringly at Sir Ian.

“ARGH!” shouted Willie – “What the F-’”

“-No need to worry my boy, it’s just one of the Troompa Loompas who run Marischal College.” Smiled Sir Ian Wood.

“But it’s hideous! Why is its hair that colour and doesn’t it own a comb or a mirror! Why is its skin bright orange? Is it human?” said Willie, pointing

“That’s my reflection you’re pointing at pal.” Said Donnie Trump angrily

“I’ll be tweeting about this, mark my words!”

“No, that other hideous thing!” said Wonky, pointing to another orange skinned creature that looked only half human.

“Ah, that’s Valerie Watts, the old Chief Executive. She’s been stuck in this revolving door for years now, one executive appointment after another, going around in circles.” Said Sir Ian.

“Stick with me everyone, you’re on the ride of your lives!” Ian said, as the real Troompa Loompas, orange skinned minions with frizzy white hair started to make the revolving door spin faster and faster.

The revolving door was jam packed, the Troompa Loompa s made it go faster and faster.

Willie Wonky could see shapes as the revolving door spun round – there were flowers, birds, meadows of grass, gorse and birds. The elevator slowed, and out the occupants all spilled onto Tullos Hill.

A deer ambled past. A quick gunshot rang out, and the deer fell dead.

“Isn’t it beautiful?!” asked Sir Ian. Wonky looked at the dead deer, but noticed Ian was pointing at a parking lot by a new building.

“Wood House and its new parking lot!” Sir Ian sighed.

“I’d like to thank you Pete Leonard for helping me. Aside from the unfortunate crematorium debacle – which we won’t talk of .” Wonky said, noticing the obsequious yet bullying Leonard had coughed,

“if not for how you handled the Tullos situation, I might not have got that parking lot made.”

“I have to hand it to you Pete. You knew there was no chance of growing a ‘Tree for every Citizen’ forest on this hill – it’s a rubbish heap, and you were sent a letter proving it. But, on you went – and here’s the genius thing – you told everyone in a report it was – cost neutral! Brilliant!”

Everyone laughed and clapped. The deer made a further spasm. Gunshots echoed all around.

“Pete, I like your spirit. You not only got rid of these deer, the migration of which was also a stumbling block for other projects – more of that soon – but you let the land donated to the city fall into such disrepair that the private owners took it back. If there’s now coincidentally a parking lot I need for my beautiful new building, then I thank you.

“And all that money paid to the consultants – what was that guy’s name – Chris Piper? Then well done you” Sir Ian said pinching and shaking Peter’s cheek.

“I hope if any crumbs fell off that table, you swept them up Pete.”

As the group surveyed the parking lot, the now barren hill save for a few dying saplings in tiny tree guards, a group of the Troompa Loompas marched into the scene.

As the Troompa Loompas gathered the group together to go to the next destination, they broke into song.

Troompa Loompa doopity dee
If you are wise you’ll listen to me
If Ian Wood wants a new parking lot
Wildlife and habitat don’t matter a jot

Let the land he needs fall into disuse
So he can get it – use any excuse
Kill a few deer and ignore the public outcry
Peter Leonard, you’re our kind of guy

You lied to the public
You lied to the public
You can live in luxury too
Like Sir Ian and Helen doopity do.

As they were getting ready to leave the hill, Willie was sure he saw Sir Ian give Pete a bag marked ‘swag’. The deer’s tiny back leg gave its final twitch.

“And now if you’ll all pile onto this magic bus” said Sir Ian as the Troompa Loompas helped the guests get on a Number 3 Stagecoach.

All the while Willy Wonky felt something was wonky.

The next stop is Loirston Loch! Where I’ve got a surprise for my friend Stewart!

“Sir Ian,” asked Sarah Malone-Bates.

“That’s like great an’ all, like, but it will take ages in this traffic?”

She pointed to the gridlocked cars on Wellington Road.

“I have a nail appointment at 5, Botox at 8, then my colonic at….” She droned on

Willie started to ask whether the new Wood building with its full parking lot was a good idea for this already congested road (which was and still is one of Scotland’s most over-polluted Roads) but a Troompa Loompa shot him a dirty look.

“It will take us no time to get to Loirston, isn’t that right Stewart?” said Sir Ian with a wink.

The doughy, sweaty kitchen fitter Stewart Milne nodded emphatically:

“Yes, anything you say Sir Ian, you look wonderful today. Yes, that’s right. In my plan to build a new stadium on top of Loirston Loch, we told the public and the planners that you could get to Loirston Loch by bus from the centre of town when a football match was on in 15 minutes.”

“Fifteen minutes? It takes that longer than that to get to Torry as it is.” Willie thought as the last of the entourage climbed on the magic No. 3 bus which sped off and to Willie’s amazement flew through the air over the gridlocked cars.

Before the group knew it, the Troompa Loompas were helping them off the bus and out onto a construction site near a lake. Not a bird could be seen or heard amid the rising girders and hum of machinery.

“Well Stewart my dear friend” started Sir Ian

“We might not have got you that football stadium at Loirston you wanted – yet – but look at all these houses and businesses going up! More office space! Just what we need!”

Willie looked around, and noticed he was standing on a faded, splintered wooden sign that said: ‘The City of Aberdeen recognises the importance of Loirston Lake both to wildlife…. A first view of our city… agree it should never be built on…’

“But Sir Ian, er, don’t we already have a glut of office space? asked Willie Wonky, whose head was hurting and spinning now.

We can’t even fill the new Marischal Square, even though it does have a giant leopard statue in it?”

The looks of the rest of the assembly were of scorn and derision, but Sir Ian said:

“My boy, Willie – when I say ‘we’ need office space – I mean WE. The construction industry, Scottish Enterprise – we have to keep building stuff so we have work to do and can brag about new buildings.

“Then there’s all the – ah – associated benefits – consulting work, subcontracting… We definitely need this building. Who’s going to let a few threatened species of birds stand in our way?”

Everyone laughed and Willie smiled weakly.

Stewart Milne toddled forward, and hugged Sir Ian – although this amounted to hugging him by the waist given the height differential.

“I’ve got a wee something for you in your Swiss account Stewart, see you at the next ACSEF meeting after this tour’s over.” Said Sir Ian winking again

“You mean the next First meeting don’t you, Sir Ian; we changed the name and the logo – remember?” asked Stewart Milne?

“Whatever.” Said Sir Ian.

And the Troompa Loompas again broke out into song, which was beginning to wear thin thought Willie.

Troompa Loompa doopity doo
I have another conundrum for you
What good’s a loch and a birdie or two
When there’s money to be made for you-know-who?

If a bird can’t earn enough to feather its nest
Making it clear off is definitely best
More office space is what we all really need
A ‘Smart successful Scotland’ well, and maybe some greed

You can live in luxury too
Like Sir Ian and Helen doopity do.

The group were ushered awa from the lock, and Sarah humpfed as her 6” Jimmy Blahnik dolphin-hide heels sank into the grass.

A helicopter was waiting for them marked Scottish Enterprise

“All aboard, and I’ll show you places where Aberdeen city and Shire have made several dreams come true!” said a jubilant Sir Ian Wood

“Who’s the pilot?” asked Sarah, who looked a little green with envy at the tall blond woman.

“Everyone, this is Jennifer Claw.” Said Sir Ian with a wink to the pilot.

“She’s got a degree in nutrition and the cutest little dimples when she – ah – smiles. So, as she had a degree in nutrition or something, so I made her the head of Scottish Enterprise Grampian and put her on the board of my Wood Family Trust – is it holding £25 million now? I forget.”

“Jennifer’s also on the Robert Gordon University board – no need to thank me just now Jennie darling – and– look you can see it down there as we fly over!” said Sir Ian, distracting everyone away from Jennifer who had blown him a kiss by pointing out the sprawling campus

“And that’s the Sir Ian Wood building” he said as all the assembled marvelled and clapped.

Except for Willie. Willie was beginning to sense a link to all these Aberdeen City Council projects, and he wasn’t sure he liked it.

“So, where’s Lady Helen today Sir Ian?” Willie asked. You could have heard a pin drop.

“Ah, she’s off playing tennis; her ball control’s improved, and her strokes are decidedly better.” Sir Ian said as he mopped his brow with a hugely oversized hanky.

“We’re not going to stop in, but look over to your right as we fly up the Aberdeen Coast – that’s Torry and Nigg, near where we were at Tullos – isn’t it beautiful?”

Sir Ian gesticulated towards the coast south of the city centre which the copter was now flying over.

All Willy saw was a plume of smoke, lots of lorries, barbed wire and a huge construction project on the bay of Nigg.

“The people there are so lucky Aberdeen City and its Harbour Board helped come up with these huge improvements” said Sir Ian – “well, with a little help from Scottish Enterprise and ACSEF.”

Again all those aboard laughed and clapped.

“Hey, isn’t this the same helicopter youse guys paid me to fly in to the Menie Estate in when I came over looking for a place for a golf course?” asked Donnie Trump.

“The very same.” Sir Ian replied.

“The wonderful, important golf course at Menie, the wonderful, important cruise line for Torry – does everyone know who we have to thank for these developments?”

Professor Bill Ritchie gave his head a jaunty tilt and a little shake of false modesty.

“Oh, I’m just happy to help my friends Donnie and of course you Sir Ian.” The professor started,

“I was once on the board of the East Grampian Coastal partnership. I used to think we needed a public marina, wildlife habitat, and a place to educate young people for maritime careers. But (he said looking at Sir Ian) I changed my way of thinking.

“I was proud to be helpful to you too Donnie when you wanted your golf course. I said it was easy to build 900 homes, a hotel, 2 golf courses and a country club – as well as living quarters for the lackeys – without harming the environment or the protected sites. I’m so happy to have been proven right.”

Professor Ritchie’s chest puffed out, he was filled with self-satisfied pride and almost everyone on the chopper applauded him.

“F me not another F-ing song” thought Willie as those Troompy looking hobbits geared up for another verse.

Troompa Loompa doopity da
If you’ve no scruples you’re sure to go fa
What does an expert get whose opinions for hire?
Consultancy cash from SE, ACSEF and Aspire

Using his titles to feather his nest
Swearing to everyone that he knows best
Just don’t talk to reporters
Don’t talk to reporters

You can live in luxury too
Like Sir Ian and Helen doopity do.

Willie Wonky was starting to get fed up with his golden ticket tour of all the magical things Aberdeen City was making happen. And that bloody singing.

Willie asked:

“Professor, weren’t you supposed to lead an environmental monitoring group with Sarah to protect wildlife, and isn’t it true that since the monitoring fell apart you won’t answer any questions from the press about your role?”

He immediately sensed he had overstepped the mark with this question; for a moment a shadow passed Sir Ian’s face and Sarah wrinkled her expensive nose. The professor scurried away and didn’t say a word for the rest of the trip. Donnie was turning blue in the face.

Sarah spoke.

“Oh, we did that, but it was too cold for me to go outside in my Prada, and besides, it’s the world’s greatest golf course on the world’s largest sand dunes.”

At her words Donnie Trump calmed down a bit, his face returning to its orange hue.

“Sarah’s right” started Sir Ian;

“She’s smart as a whip. Why everything’s fine and just how we want it. Sarah’s so smart I had one of my little groups invite her to give a talk, isn’t that right honey?” he asked her.

“Sure, it was fun too,” Sarah Malone-Bates said, “I got to give a talk called “’The Bigger the Vision, the Bigger the Opposition,” and the event – held at the Sir Ian Wood building of course at RGU where Woody – I mean Sir Ian – runs things. I must thank whoever wrote that speech for me sometime.”

Sarah continued to list her accomplishments, how she was whisked out of the Gordon Highlanders Museum to be Trump’s first ever Scottish Executive Vice President, how good she was at moisturising and accessorising, and how much her husband, coincidentally who used to edit the local newspaper, loved her [surely some mistake? – editor].

Willie audibly groaned as the Troompa Loompas circled Sarah Malone, whose shoulder pads were a marvel to behold, as he knew another song was coming; he felt he was going to be sick.

Troompa Loompa doopity de
I have another puzzle for ye
What’s more important than designer clothes,
Having the right hair and a beautiful nose?

Attracting the right man, obviously
Especially if that man has lots of money
She’s the Face of Aberdeen
She’s the Face of Aberdeen

What do you get when you tell lots of lies
If you are Sarah then you get a pay rise
Trading your looks in for cash is her solution
So what if other people think it’s prostitution?

(Sarah’s a Vice President)

You can live in luxury too
Like Sir Ian and Helen doopity do.

Willie Wonky’s brain was putting together all the puzzle pieces from the day, and was starting not to like the picture they were forming.

But on the copter flew, and just before they started to land on a helipad with a giant letter T, Donnie Trump exclaimed:

“There they are, the world’s largest sand dunes! I even made a plaque, didn’t we Sarah Malone honey, to say so! Biggest! Bestest! Yugest!”

A tumbleweed blew past as the rotor blades slowed, and out the lucky Aberdeen Art Gallery golden ticket winners scrambled into the freezing air.

“Anyone for 18 holes?” bellowed Donnie in the freezing winds as the rest of the group ran for the shelter of the clubhouse.

Once inside this building on an empty parking lot, Sarah snapped her fingers, and waiters and waitresses appeared with bottles of whisky and glasses.

“Trump whisky – £50 a glass or £500 for a bottle. £250 a bottle if signed by Donnie.” She hawked.

“Later Sarah Dear” said Sir Ian, adjusting his top hat and billowy bow tie.

“No one’s here, aren’t there supposed to be golfers – what’s going on?” asked Willie; everyone smiled at him.

The room started to spin as he sipped one of those whiskies.

“We don’t want anyone here.” said Sir Ian quietly, the others faces started to look mean and contorted.

Willie Wonky stumbled and fell into a chair – a chair with a big Donald Trump crest on it. The other winners, the Troompa Loompas leaned in closer.

Willie felt quite ill now, as these ghastly, grotesque faces sneered at him and laughed. Sir Ian spoke.

“We don’t want anyone here; never did. Another few years of tax write offs in the USA for Trump – if he doesn’t get impeached or jailed yet – no offence Donnie, but you’re not quite as subtle as you should be sometimes – and then it’ll be sold off. Donnie – we’ll talk about that international charity US tax break later.

“It will go to housing – we’ll all see to that. And what housing developer is favoured in this neck of the woods? That would be my good friend Stewart Milne.

“And what organisation would get involved with such a huge or if you will ‘yuge’ undertaking? Why Scottish Enterprise of course. I may have retired, but after decades as head of the thing, don’t you think I still have my claws still in it one way or the other?

“Think of the construction jobs, the consultancies, the money to be made. And Willie, the granite web is making a comeback; do you think I give up that easily? And when the idea was being promoted so hard, ask yourself two questions – who stood to benefit is one.

“Stewart owned the adjacent Triple Kirks, and he needed parking; we could have got that for him, but it’s not all over yet. The other thing to ask yourself – what did the public miss while we were distracting them with a design consultation vote when we already knew what design we wanted – the ludicrous web design.  And they fell for it.

“We have Donald Trump in charge of the USA; over here he will be allowed to do as he pleases.

And while tens – hundreds of millions are moving through Scottish Enterprise, land deals – like when the city sold that land to you Stewart for a peppercorn, and while public land is snapped up – we’ll get people to focus on other things.

“Either we’ll threaten to take away what little arts provision they and their children get, or the more mean-spirited ones will be convinced that people from abroad are taking their land, money and jobs – not you Donnie though” Ian winked, any previous trace of gentility gone from his features.

“While we’re at it, there’s one more item on the agenda for your tour Willie Wonky – we’re going to look at the City of Culture Bid.

“All aboard the helicopter for gigs on oil rigs! How much public money and time did that nonsense soak up? Well, here’s Rita Stephen to tell you all about it!

“Remember Willie – whether it’s a football stadium, a parking lot, a breaking yard, Trump’s golf course – and his honorary degree from the University I own that has a building with my name on it – you now know who’s behind everything in this town. Nothing, I mean nothing goes on in this town without my say so.

“I said as much to people before, and I’m telling you now.”

Oor Willie whined as, while his eyes fluttered open and closed, the Troompa Loompas broke into one last verse of their song:

Troompa Loompa doopity do
I have final question for you
Who in Aberdeen is behind everything
That is environmentally damaging?

ACSEF, First, RGU and SE.
As the saying goes, ‘follow the money’
Sir Ian is behind it
Sir Ian is behind it

You can live in luxury to
Just do what Sir Ian Wood –

tells

you

to!

#          #          #

Willie’s eyes had glazed over; the other golden ticket winners’ laughs had turned to a huge roar of noise, and he fluttered his eyes.

As if he hadn’t been through enough, standing over him was… Rita Stephen

“NOOO!” shouted Willie,

“Anything but the City of Culture bid! – Anything!”

“Willie, are ye alright mon?” She said.

“I was just going to re-write the symphony for orchestra, ship’s horns and horses that was part of me great City of Culture bid tonight, when I saw yer door open.

“I’d seen you passed oot and thought it was the usual, but I noted the gash on yer heid.”

His eyes focused and leaning over him was Rita Stephen, the woman behind among other things the City of Culture bid that made Aberdeen the laughing stock of the western hemisphere – again.

“AIEEEEE” Willie screamed, and sprinted out of the office, leaving all of his paperwork behind.

He didn’t stop running until he was safely locked in his house and under his covers.

The sun was shining. Willie woke up as the phone rang.

He remembered with a sudden start his horrible nightmare. He shook his head violently from side to side and answered the phone.

“Hi Willie, well, you’ve been gone long enough; what’s it been, a few days now? Fancy being deputy Lord Provost?”

Willie thought of all the corruption he knew about; he thought of all the pieces that had fallen so neatly into place in his fevered dream. He took a deep breath.

“Sounds great Barney; I’ll be over in a few hours. I’ll want a bigger office with a view mind.”

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Oct 062017
 

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

A new exhibition of breath-taking contemporary Scottish photography explores our relationship with the ocean and the growing problem of marine pollution.
It highlights how this global problem impacts the environment right here in the N.E. of Scotland. Bibo Keeley’s exhibition takes inspiration from the oceans – and the worrying state they are in.

Bibo gives the background to her work:

An estimated 12.7 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. Plastic does not bio-degrade, so it lingers in the ocean and it is killing animals and plants alike at an alarming rate. The natural order of things is seriously under threat.

The bad news is that our lives are closely connected with that of the ocean. For example: 50% of the oxygen we breathe and which regulates the climate is produced in the sea, mainly by plankton. However, according to The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society the plankton populations have been diminished by 40% since 1950. If the ocean dies, we all die.

Bibo said: ‘I have been visiting Aberdeen beach for about 20 years and I noticed that the amount of litter on the beach is on the increase. I started to document this with photography and I also travelled to other coastlines of Scotland to do the same. I found ocean litter on every single beach, no matter how remote – on the Isle of Lewis, on Skye, at Cape Wrath and on Orkney just to name a few.

The changes that the oceans make on our coastline are slow and almost imperceptible. In contrast, the negative impact on nature due to man’s interference is evident and happening with increasing speed. We – the population of planet earth – really need to slow down our negative impact on the environment.’

Bibo Keeley’s exhibition also includes:

– An installation of some of the beach litter which the artist collected from Aberdeen’s beaches.

– Videos (produced by artist Brian Keeley) showing Bibo Keeley’s personal connecting with the ocean; singing a love song to a dead seal , singing to a stranded oilrig,

– A video documenting Bibo Keeley’s recent participatory slow walking performance on Aberdeen Beach.

Bibo Keeley’s quote on the slow walking performance:

“When we slow down our breathing and our speed and manage to just be in the present moment, we can experience a shift in awareness – it’s a good way to connect with nature”

For Bibo’s slow walking performance, she was supported by Dr. Amy Bryzgel (art historian, author and senior lecturer in Film and Visual Culture at Aberdeen University) who participated in the walk along with the students of her Performance Art course. Dr. Bryzgel’s next lecture in Performance Art will take place in the exhibition space of Mother Ocean at Seventeen on Tuesday 3 October 2017 at 14.00.

Bibo invited the participants in her recent slow walking performance at Aberdeen Beach to have an inner dialogue with the ocean, or to think of ways in which they could reduce the use of unnecessary plastics in their lives; or to just relish the luxury of being allowed to take the time to slow down.

Imagine if every one of us felt so connected with the ocean that they made a conscious decision to help to save and restore the ocean”. – Bibo Keeley

 Dr. Bryzgel reflected on the performative walk on the gww (The George Washington Wilson Centre for Visual Culture) website about her experiences.

“it took us 90 minutes to walk what usually would have taken about 1-2 minutes at a normal pace ..… There was something really unifying about doing the performance together. For a brief moment, we became part of a community that shared something very unique.”

The exhibition ‘MOTHER OCEAN’ runs at Aberdeen’s Gallery Seventeen (Lower Gallery) from 3-7 October 2017.

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Sep 222017
 

Suzanne Kelly asked the Cock and Bull about its current stance on Donald Trump, given that it had proudly supported the tycoon years ago. With all the incontrovertible evidence Trump was a bigot, let alone how the environment and Menie residents were treated, surely the restaurant would have had second thoughts? Not quite. By Suzanne Kelly

A long time ago, Donald J Trump showed up in Aberdeenshire with a host of empty promises, a bad reputation, and more than a whiff of racism and sexism.

Despite how Menie Estate residents were treated by his team (water cut off for months for the Forbes family, who he called pigs; journalists arrested; a respected photojournalist threatened, etc. etc), a selection of businesses were keen to get in bed with him.

Many local businesses did and do trade with him (even though the Trump organisation fired a chef for having a photograph on his private Facebook page that they didn’t like – a story well-known in the catering trade), and fair enough, everyone has to make a living.

Some local restaurateurs supported the Menie Estate residents, and their support is steadfast and appreciated to this day. BrewDog attended an event there to sell beer and it got a good deal of criticism at the time. However, they decided subsequently to make a video poking fun at the bouffanted racist (what do you call someone who prevents black people from owning dwellings in his apartment buildings but a racist?).

While plenty of local businesses understandably did business with Trump, some went out of their way to take a pro-Trump stand.

The Marcliffe fawned over the tycoon, and invented the phrase ‘The Trump effect’ to say how much money was flowing into the area because of Trump’s presence.

Only that’s not what happened. The Marcliffe has been in sell-off talks from time to time, and its profit margin probably cannot have been helped by the homophobic comments of proprietor Stewart Spence. The Trump club posts year-on-year losses, and observers rarely see even a half-full parking lot. The environment has been changed and residents badly treated: this is the real Trump effect.

Few businesses went as far as the Cock and Bull. They hung a pro-Trump banner which many say also ridiculed an elected councillor.

They won’t take a stand on Trump now, but they tell me that it was a former employee who hung the banner – ie a big boy did it and ran away. The venue had all the intervening years to say they did not stand with Trump if they wanted to. They didn’t do so then and they refuse to distance themselves from him now.

The restaurant was approached, in polite terms, on Facebook to find out its current position. The chance to take a stand against Trump and all he stands for was turned down.

Instead of supplying an answer – and any sensible business that cared about racism, sexism, the welfare of residents across the road from them, and of the rights of people in the catering industry to have whatever they want on their personal Facebook pages – they decided to suggest I was asking for the opinions of their employees.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

We are talking about a president who has the endorsement of the Klu Klux Klan

Whether or not you like the restaurant or what you think of Trump, readers are invited to compare the initial conversation with what the Cock posted subsequently. Ask yourself if they are misrepresenting what the initial conversation was.

Ask yourself why they didn’t name me, which both made me look cowardly, and prevented me having a say early on to derail the misconceptions they offered up. The restaurant uses the scales of justice as an image; readers might want to use those scales to measure the two threads.

It is up to the individual whether it’s more important to have a good steak dinner from a venue that will not condemn racism or not. It is up to a business that has literally flown the flag for Trump in the past (even though there was more than enough evidence that he was as bigoted as the entire world can now see) whether they will either change their opinion, stick to their support, or instead start a hysterical campaign against the person who asked them if they still have the courage of their past convictions.

This is not a witch hunt as the restaurant suggests; it was giving them the chance to say no to bigotry and sexism (let alone the current Trump threat to use nuclear weapons against 24 million people suffering under the N Korean dictatorship).

Political differences are one thing and are to be celebrated. We are talking about a president who has the endorsement of the Klu Klux Klan, who has denigrated women and is implicated in rapes, and who is being investigated for collusion with Russia contrary to US law.

Contrast what the Cock and Bull posted with the initial questions, and ask yourself who is being dishonest and manipulative – me or them.

Why boycott dictators and those who support dictatorships in the first place? Because every business, charity, and high-profile person (let alone newspapers such as the P&J) which is friendly to the corrupt adds respectability to the dictators in question. The despot needs the veneer of respectability, and those who go along with bigotry are complicit. This is not a political point. This is a question of ethics: do you support racism and sexism or not.

People who have formed opinions based solely on what the Cock posted after my initial approach should have both sides of the story: not just the Cock and Bull cock and bull side of things – which is far from the real, complete picture. For instance, this sentence they wrote is a complete fabrication and huge distortion:

“I was contacted by said journalist and asked to publicly renounce any support for Donald Trump I may have (the man, not the course) in order for us to be excluded from the boycott list.”

This statement by the Cock is untrue; it is a gross exaggeration.

“…had it not been for your inflammatory comments regarding the restaurant elsewhere I would not have felt the need to reply.” The Cock writes; I will be interested to have them show proof of these inflammatory remarks I am meant to have made, as I am unaware of any at all.

The original post:

SK: “Just a quick question; yes or no will be fine: does the Cock and Bull support Trump? Thank you”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie: 

“Not sure I’m understanding your point here Suzanne, are you asking all businesses in the area to poll the political affiliations of their staff?”

Suzanne Kelly:

“It seems pretty simple to me. I’m aware of the position of many area businesses such as the Marcliffe, and a number of restaurants. Why do you add 2+2 and get 5? I am not asking anything about political private affiliations of your staff. Did the Cock and Bull ever hang a pro-Trump banner? I was told the restaurant had gone public with its support for Trump – in which case my question is even more valid than it already was.

“In case you don’t know, there is a major anti-Trump backlash, an international boycott of his businesses and their supporters (and even an app), and I’d be delighted to tell my contacts re. the boycott that the Cock and Bull has not, and does not, side with Trump’s racist, sexist ideas.”

Third party:

“They did have a ‘We Welcome Trump to Menie’ (paraphrasing here) banner. I saw it but it was some years ago. It wasn’t there last week.”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie:

“Sorry for the late reply – business to run, wages and bills to pay and all that. Personally I have no clue as to what you are going on about but given the tone of your posts you obviously have an axe to grind and have chosen a local business page to do so (not cool).

“However if you are alluding to the fact that Donald Trump dined at this restaurant many years ago when planning his course then yes he did. If you or your contacts choose to boycott us and all other shops, restaurants, hotels etc he has frequented and add us to your “blacklist” for that reason then it is your prerogative to do so and I respect your decision.

“We also have many guests staying and dining with us who play on his course so if that is classed as support then you may want to add that to your reason to boycott also.”

Suzanne Kelly:

“Thank you. Now returning to the question, and in the intervening hours people such as (Third party) have mentioned the banner your restaurant hung, are you pro-Trump as the Marcliffe for instance, or do you oppose racism and bigotry? I just want to let people know if your welcome to Trump still stands. Thank you.”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie:

“I’ve seen your witch-hunt on the Tripping up Trump page – you’ll get nothing further here. You want to up the boycotting of local businesses because you “think” you know their views then you be my guest.”

Suzanne Kelly:

“I gave you a chance to disavow your previous pro Trump stance in light of a mountain of evidence the man your banners supported is a bigot who has been caught in numerous lies; as you don’t wish to distance yourself from the man, I know all I need to. Many thanks.”

(Third party suggested I stay out of this issue)

Suzanne Kelly to third party: 

“Lol. You don’t seem to be aware the cock n bull story – or to be logical. They put up a sign welcoming Trump; they made a public declaration, which is their right. I have the right to ask them if it still applies even though it is evident to the world Trump is a racist and sexist. All the best”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie:

“A mountain of evidence? A banner that was hung some ten odd years ago by a member of staff no longer here that supported a golf course (golf course!) being built by a man who was at the time a business man and not president-elect?

“Due to this we are meant to support racism, sexism and bigotry as you have implied? A disgusting implication and had it not been for your inflammatory comments regarding the restaurant elsewhere I would not have felt the need to reply.

“Enough time wasted, I’ll get back to running a restaurant where thankfully the good vibes from lovely customers outweighs the frankly awful “boycott local businesses” campaign being run by yourself.”

Here is what the Cock and Bull posted on Facebook on the 20th September:

“I was made aware this week that due to us voicing our support for a new golf course in the area a decade ago, a journalist and anti-Trump activist was looking to include us in a “blacklist” to encourage customers to boycott the Cock and Bull, her words were “time to up the boycotting of pro-Trump businesses”.

We will not deny that we were advocates of the course when the plans were submitted ten years ago as we knew that the oil would not sustain the city forever and and know first-hand how important golf tourism is to Aberdeen. I was contacted by said journalist and asked to publicly renounce any support for Donald Trump I may have (the man, not the course) in order for us to be excluded from the boycott list. I refused. I did this not because I endorse Trump’s policies (I do not) and not because the political affiliations of anyone connected with the Cock and Bull are any of her business (they are not) but because her hatred for the man had overshadowed any other contributions that we make to our community and I wanted no part of it. She was not asking me the important questions of why you should choose to shop/dine/stay in my (or any) establishment – do we run our business ethically and sustainably, do we treat our staff fairly and morally, do we source our supplies responsibly, do we treat our customers hospitably and equally and we do we connect with our local community charitably. None of this was relevant to her and in my silence I was then branded a supporter of racism, sexism and bigotry. I find it incredibly sad that someone would want to tear down what another has built up due to an ill-conceived, ill-judged difference of opinion. Ours was not the only local business named that may be added to the list so by sharing this I hope that customers will make up their own minds about where they want to take their business using the points raised above and not be swayed by another person’s agenda. Our diversity of opinion is what makes us interesting but it is our humanity that allows us to understand why another’s opinion may differ from our own and our empathy that allows us to live together despite these differences.”

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Aug 042017
 

Suzanne Kelly got involved in coastal ecology issues when she moved to Aberdeen. She was a community councillor who was on the East Grampian Coastal Partnership, and undertook several campaigns to protect green belt land, animals and she campaigned against the Trump golf course. After recent news stories from around the world, Suzanne talked to some animal experts about the growing problem of people taking selfies with wildlife including Lee Watson of Ythan Seal Watch who supplied the photos and John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line and Save Our Seals Fund.

Selfie hunters disturb wildlife. Courtesy of Lee Watson Ythan Seal Watch

Scotland’s wildlife is suffering because of loss of habitat, pollution, dwindling food supplies and poaching in Scotland. 
In Aberdeen evidence of poaching was found on Tullos Hill in the summer of 2014. The city has some of Scotland’ most polluted streets. 
In Torry, protected species are going to lose shelter, food and water as Nigg Bay becomes industrialised. 

In the shire seal populations are supposed to be protected by signs, fences, and warning flags in the sand, but these deterrents are being ignored.

Seals need to ‘haul out’ or rest on the sands for many hours before they take to sea for food again. People are legally bound to leave them alone, yet these seals are bombarded by overhead drones, dogs off leashes, and people finding it amusing to frighten the resting seals back into the water to take videos. This behaviour is prohibited, the signs are clear, and yet people persist. 

John Robins of the charities Animal Concern Advice Line and Save Our Seals Fund said:

“People stupid enough to take selfies with wild animals probably don’t care if their idiocy ends in the death of the animal. They are not concerned that their actions cause stress and suffering to animals and the abandonment of young animals by their parents.

“Perhaps they will be more concerned to learn that disturbing animals can lead to the selfie taker ending up in a police cell, a hospital bed or on a slab at the local mortuary. Unless you have a special licence, it is illegal to take photographs of many protected species of animal and bird. Get caught doing that and you will be carted off to the police station.

“Seals, even cute and cuddly pups, have a nasty bite which carries a high risk of very dangerous infections which can lead to long term debility and even death. Many other animals and birds carry zoonosis, diseases including salmonella, e-coli and even rabies which can infect humans. My advice is to use your brain before your camera.”

Animals can be exhausted and in need of rest, frightened, injured, and must be left alone at a large distance. When visiting wildlife habitats, remember to find out the rules in advance, obey any signs, and listen to any directions you are given by any rangers or wildlife officials. Our wildlife is having a hard time – don’t make it harder.

Lee Watson of Ythan Seal Watch has been raising awareness and challenging illegal behaviour for several seasons now. A group of volunteers formed the Ythan Seal Watch and try to safeguard seals and nesting birds. Their Facebook page reads:

 “The Ythan Seal haul-out is now designated and the Seals are legally protected from harassment. We will work with the relevant wildlife and law enforcement agencies in support of this and we will continue to film and monitor the Seal haul-out and any irresponsible behaviour.”

If you are aware of any wildlife crime in the UK – illegal hunting, poaching, snaring – anything – please don’t let it go without calling 999 if it is happening now, or 101 for anything else.

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Dec 162016
 

OK, perhaps the link to Aberdeen Voice for this London show is a tenuous one. However, the Temperance Movement have a large, loyal fan base here who have seen the band in The Tunnels, The Lemon Tree, and the Beach Ballroom. If you’re one of those fans, here’s an account of the London acoustic show and a few comments from the band. By Suzanne Kelly.

The Temperance Movement always impressed from their first small shows through touring with the Stones and their current, seemingly endless world tour. Class, sincerity and promise are the heart of their rock, southern rock, blues and ballads. Quickly winning and deserving a fiercely loyal fan base, TTM must be among the hardest-working acts around. I am one of the lucky 300 to see them in London.

They’ve also kindly answered a few of my questions. For a start, knowing how busy they are, I wondered how and why they arranged these acoustic shows:

“Just that we wanted to do something a bit different with the material we’ve been touring over the last year or so, and more importantly we wanted an opportunity to play some more intimate UK shows and reconnect properly with our fans here having been away for most of the year.”

Fans on the band’s mailing list were alerted to three acoustic dates with one at London’s Bush Theatre. In order to outfox the ticket touts, fans had to earn a certain number of points to prove they were genuine and not scalpers. One of these ‘tasks’ involved watching a wild, wacky, stunning, fun video for Get Yourself Free. It was a case of earn your points, order your tickets and download them on a bespoke app, and you got in – if you were quick enough.

Arriving at the Bush, you were struck by its small size (only 300 tickets were available) and beauty it is a proper old-fashioned theatre with an ornate high ceiling just screaming out for some proper music to use its acoustics and that’s what we got. Next you might have noticed that peppered around the crowd were managers, Earache Records and other industry folks, and the band’s friends and relatives. It almost felt like we were crashing a private pre-Christmas thank you party from the band – and in a way we sort of were.

Out they came – Phil Campbell at a concert piano. And off we all went.

They took us to the Mississippi Delta. They took us to the San Antonio river walk, to dance palaces, to dirt roads in Tennessee. They took us to the 1920s, 1950s, 60s, 2016, and into the future. We got ourselves free.

A bit of an obvious question, but with so many different musical flavours, influences and genres that The Temperance Movement craft into their own unique works, it seemed prudent to ask them what some of their influences for this acoustic show were.

“Well there wasn’t a specific conversation in regards to these shows in particular, but we’re all fans of a lot of artists that are connected to this kind of show – Ryan Adams, CSN&Y, The Band, Bon Iver, Ray Lamontagne etc. ”

It wasn’t surprising that they mentioned both Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Band – these are acts that come to mind when you see TTM live. The CSN&Y harmonies and beautiful acoustic playing, and The Band’s energy at their live shows in the day, and their cornerstone pure American rock are definitely springs TTM has drunk from.

With a reputation for genuineness and a complete absence of artifice, The Temperance Movement and its guests had a night no one will forget anytime soon. Those vocal harmonies – not least on Chinese Lanterns. That beautiful guitar work – well – on everything – with such range and depth.

If you closed your eyes while listening to Only Friend, Lovers and Fighters, White Bear, you could be forgiven for thinking this was an all-American band composed of the finest blues and rock seasoned veterans and that you had to be in the US. The Temperance Movement dressed the part as well, most sporting jackets – all nicely suited and booted.

The venue had delicious acoustics for this night; the room was filled with golden harmonies, each note of the piano was heard, and I could go on. I really hope someone’s recorded these acoustic sessions; I’ll be first in the queue to buy a copy.

Phil remarked about how things seem different when you return to the UK after being in the USA for a long time. He altered the lyrics on I Hope I’m Not Losing My Mind; the song as recorded seems more an indictment of a selfish partner. At the Bush he’d turned it around into a kind of apology which certainly seems geared towards his partner and family.

Life on the road seems a likely cause for both versions of the piece. The band were asked how life on the road was treating them.

“We’re very aware of how lucky we are to be able to tour and make music, but it can also be hard at times, especially being away from kids etc. There are ups and downs like any job, but maybe they’re more extreme!”

This band’s only on its second album – but we got a look into the future when Phil performed a song that I’ll call ‘Children’ for ease of reference. It starts out with insinuations of disloyalty and neglect of loved ones, and then ‘I never want to write a song like that’ is the refrain. It was a homage to home life – something they must all be missing greatly. Behind these great musicians must be some great lovers, friends and family to keep them going.

Rejoice! Here’s a Christmas present for supporters – there will most assuredly be a third album:

“The 3rd album is definitely becoming the thing that we are all most focused on doing next, but as far as a direction or sounds for the album, it’s probably a little too early to say.”

Sadly, percussionist Damon has bowed out. One song Phil dedicated ‘to everyone who’s ever been in The Temperance Movement’.

Asked about this departure the band said:

“At the moment we’re just focused on playing the shows we have booked in for the remainder of this year. We’ve met a load of great musicians over our respective careers and we’re just looking at this as an opportunity which can help us shape the next phase of TTM.”

There were two cover songs in the evening were hugely enjoyed You Do It To Yourself (curiously dedicated to management – if I have that right) and Blur’s Tender which was another earnest rendition.

The only minor event to mar the night was swiftly brushed over. Is it easy to start a song on stage? Hell no. Possibly a song like Serenity – acoustically in particular – must require concentration as well as intuition. Alas – someone decided to use the first few bars to shout “Put that camera down!!” loudly. The band continued and full marks for that. It’s easy to understand the frustration some people have who come to experience a show like this, not to record it on an iphone. 

A little later Phil made a very gentle rejoinder to the interrupter – another man might have been more angry. Problem solved swiftly, elegantly; problem forgotten.

Serenity was as ethereal as Chinese Lanterns had been – such beautiful songs! I wondered how they’d deal with the crescendo in the acoustic format; the answer was very gently, but my mind seemed to still hear the electric guitars and emotion-packed vocals from the album. These songs, White Bear, A Pleasant Peace I Feel – in particular – these are songs which still create an emotional response however many times I hear them.

Here’s a youtube video to give you an idea.

Hearing them in a completely new way was something I wouldn’t have missed, and again, is really something that needs to be recorded and released. I want.

As the night drew on the enchantment grew. Everyone around me was silently soaking it in, smiling all the while.

Final encore? A pleasant Peace I Feel. Even if you ignore the moving lyrics, the music alone makes it one of the most uplifting, energizing, feel-good songs you’ll have heard in years. When the house lights went up, it went up on some seriously happy people.

Asked whether there was anything TTM wanted to say to their fans whether about the acoustic show or otherwise, they said:

“Just thank you for the support over the last few years, which is what these shows were about for us really. We tried to really make sure that tickets got directly to the fans, and we wanted to play some intimate venues to feel that connection.”

Here’s to their Aberdeen return. http://thetemperancemovement.com/

Dec 162016
 

Melancolia meets the hideous nutcracker named Donald J Drumpf whose odd shaped mouth and repellent hair don’t put her off, neither does the fact he’s actually loaded.  After waging a battle it seems unlikely the nutcracker can possibly win, they are miraculously victorious. Together they go on a journey around the world visiting wondrous lands etc etc. Now read on.

IT WAS A cosy Christmas eve at young Melancolia’s photoshoot; photographers, stylists, other nude models and various reptilian types were gathering for a
Christmas themed girl-on-girl shoot – but a tasteful one.

Melancolia was one of the top glamour models ever to share a full page spread with another woman and guns.
Her sparkly eyes, perfect teeth, chiselled cheekbones and enviable physique were only matched by her perfect pout.

And all her features were perfectly natural, with only a few boob jobs, teeth work, nose re-sculpting, tummy tucking to tweak her natural beauty a wee bit.

Some of the girls had their reservations about the current shoot, but the stylists said ‘this will make your career; it will be very artful – just think of Hannah Montana and the sexualized giant teddy bears only nude – now put on these tassels. What a cracker!’.

But young Melancolia had no such qualms. Rather, she was transfixed by something in the room. It looked like a bloated, oversized animated – overly-animated – nutcracker.

To be clear, this was one of the most repellent looking things at the shoot. It seemed wooden for a start. But it was grossly misshapen – where there might have been a chin, the oversized potato-esque head joined to its body directly, and there were so many chins Melancolia couldn’t count them all.

And the hair! Revolting! Thin wisps of straw like grey material – ‘Squirrel fur?’ Melancolia wondered – were in places dyed a primary shade of yellow. These few strands were probably several feet in length and would have hung down like a balding Rapunzel. Rather, they were seemingly wound into a shape not seen since the days of Douglas Hird and were lacquered into a shape such as to accentuate, rather than disguise the nutcracker’s bald pate.

The eyes were beady; the outfit gaudy. The thing wore a little red cap which only exaggerated the size of its head. The hat said ‘Make America Bigly Again’ – while a little label sticking out of the back of the tacky headpiece proclaimed ‘Made In Mexico’.

The mouth. The mouth was revolting and never, never stopped moving. Was the thing having some kind of asthmatic attack? The mouth seemed to gasp like a basking shark gulping down plankton one moment, and the next it wore a leering smile like a Cheshire cat.

“Melancolia, what are you looking at?” asked one of the models, adjusting a leather sleigh harness and fixing her antlers to her head.

“Zat thing over there – vat is it?” Melancolia said pointing with her chin towards the nutcracker and her glossy mane flew round her perfect features.

“That guy’s a nut – a real whitebread cracker who owns a model agency. Gives me the creeps myself; I try and stay clear. Calls himself Herr Drumpf or something.”

“Sank you” Melancolia said, and turning now to the creature, who was wildly waving its arms and yelling at one minion or other, mouth quivering like the maw of a giant squid, she smiled. The nutcracker smiled back, or at least she thought so.

“Hey baby, you’re wanted on set, and bring the gun and handcuffs, gonna be real classy. People will be talking about this shoot for years to come” the director said to Melancolia.

How right he was. Yugely right.

*                                             *                                             *

What happened that night was all a big blur for Melancolia; the traditional after shoot party was in full swing. Someone had decided to play Christmas music, and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite was emanating from a wireless. Naturally this being an after-shoot Christmas party, there was lots and lots and lots and lots of ‘snow’.  It seemed to be everywhere. People had all sorts of other candy as well.

The Nutcracker – I mean Drumpf – made its way over to Melancolia; they both pouted. Right then and there, they seemed destined to be together.

“Hey I’m Donald Drumpf, nice to meet me I know. You’re not from Central America I hope?” The Nutcracker drawled,

“Nice shoot baby – loved what they did with the sleigh bells.”

“Zank you, you handsome man.”

“Yes, I know I’m handsome, but thanks for saying it. Wanna go for a ride in my Drumpf jet after the party? The toilets are solid gold.”

“Ven do ve go?” pouted Melancolia

“I can get into some clothes in a minute or two.”

“Never mind the clothes honey, just bring that gun, the handcuffs, and that photographer.”

“Okey dokey as you Americans say.”

From the other side of the room, the random chatter, snorts of amusement (or snorts of something) from the models echoed, and the wireless continued:

“… and the ugly Nutcracker transforms into a rich, handsome prince; he and Clara defeat their enemies, and take off in a magical flying sleigh to the world of candy and fantasy…”

Melancolia listened as Drumpf continued listing his accomplishments; but she was feeling a bit woozy by now.

“… and Drumpf Model Agency, and Drumpf whisky, Drumpf Golf links Scotland, Drumpf…” Drumpf continued without pause.

The wireless competed for Melancolia’s attentions too; the announcer’s voice rising:

“… and The Nutcracker and Clara visit exotic faraway lands such as China and Japan…”

The snow dazzled the East European beauty as large flakes of it fell on her tongue. The more the snow raged, the better looking the nutcracker (and his wallet) became. The room was humming harder as the ceiling flew away. Melancolia fell into a vision – giant mounds of snow appeared, she saw fairies dancing, mice with seven heads, and all sorts. Her head swam.

‘Not bad party’ she thought as Drumpf droned on – “…Drumpf offshore holdings, Drumpf casinos..” and she fell into a reverie (obviously not fuelled by any illicit substances, because nude models don’t go near that scene, nor do their photographers).

*                                             *                                             *

Melancolia closed her eyes for a moment.

Woosh! the happy couple were suddenly flying off to Drumpf’s kingdom on 5th Avenue, and all the little people – black, Jewish, Mexican and even gay ones rejoiced and worshipped their undoubted king and queen Donald and Melancolia. Everyone wanted to buy Drumpf brand clothing; everyone wanted to play golf at Drumpf golf courses, or gamble away all their money at Drumpf casinos.

The whole world watched The Nutcracker – or rather Drumpf – on television telling people they were fired; and all the women contestants on his fantastic television show were in love with the him, which goes without saying. The burgermeisters turned a blind eye to some of The Donald’s colourful antics.

Black people were turned away from Drumpf apartments and Drumpf job openings – but that’s just how you do business. Women were grabbed by their tutus as they competed to be Miss Nutcracker – but of course as they were dressed provocatively, they deserved it and if you’re famous, you can grab all the tutu you like.

Illegal immigrants got beaten up – but in the land of freedom, justice and liberty for all, you have to expect that kind of thing. All was well.

What more could the happy couple have wanted? – they had their own son, and Melancolia might not have been as young as Drumpf’s daughter from another marriage, but she was just as sexy – Drumpf himself often said as much. Melancolia had all the clothes a woman could want, and after all those years without wearing any clothes, this made a nice change.

But somehow for her beloved husband Donald, this wasn’t enough. New York, New York – if he could make it there, he could make it anywhere – so where next for the Drumpfs?

*                                             *                                             *

“Hey Melancolia, ya know” said Donald Drumpf, smiling widely like a crocodile with gas,

“I think I’m gonna go be president. Whaddya think of that?”

He was reclining on a gold lame cushion on the gold divan, sitting on the marble floors inlaid with the Drumpf logo.

“Okey dokey honey – you do that. You win. You big winner. You always telling me that.” 

Melancolia was admiring her face in one of the gilt mirrors.

“Lots of pictures get taken when you campaign in America no? I buy dresses. First Lady dresses. I be traditional First Lady like Mrs Ford or Jackie O. Jackie vas pretty. I prettier.” 

She came and put her arms around The Nutcracker, though they barely reached around the space where a neck should have been.

“Sure honey, you buy all the dresses you want.” The Nutcracker/Drumpf said, its mouth throwing otherworldly shapes,

“Mind the hair Mel, just had it woven last week.”

And so it came to pass that the Nutcracker and his brood hit the campaign trail. Many wondrous sites did they see. All of a sudden wonderful worlds of opportunity appeared; the mood was jubilant. First of all, they could give all the Drumpf children official campaign jobs – that meant tax breaks, taking donation money and giving it to the family, and it was all legit – which made a yuge change.

Then they could hold parties at Drumpf hotels and resorts – and charge the campaign fund a fortune for them! Result! Never before had those fundraising dinners caused The Nutcracker to salivate so. The Donald was now so busy that understandably he forgot about a few million dollars he was going to give to some veterans, but it’s the thought that counts.

Then there was money from his charities – he could raise money for charity and look good, tell people how charitable he was (which is the real point of charitable works), get tax relief, and then keep the money. He should have run for president years ago.

At the rallies Drumpf would tell his euphoric fans what his great plans were.

“Donald J Drumpf will wall up Mexico!” – the crowds cheered

“Donald J Drumpf will punish women who have abortions” – the crowds were in a frenzy

“Donald J Drumpf will throw all the illegal aliens (and some legal ones) out of the country and monitor all those Muslim types!” – the crowds were euphoric

“Climate change is just a myth made by the Chinese!” – how could he fail to win the presidency?

For some reason, not everyone in America was delighted by his candidacy. Then again, these weren’t real Americans – some were even Muslims and a few Mexicans who’d snuck in.

There was one guy who pretended to be some kind of American war hero who objected to Drumpf too – but he was a big fraud who had been dumb enough to get caught, and we all like our heroes to be guys who don’t get caught.

Donald might have been a great war hero himself, but he had a tragic medical flaw – there was a bone spur on his foot. This was so bad, that he couldn’t always win all the college basketball games he played in while being too ill to be drafted. Playing ball with a bone spur must have hurt sometimes, so in a way a pretty heroic thing to play b-ball at all.

Occasionally undesirables would get into one of nutcracker Drumpf’s rallies and try to protest – as if there were anything to protest, and as if resistance wasn’t futile.

“That guy over there is a protestor, throw him out, throw him out. You know, when I was younger, this guy would have been roughed up.” Drumpf told the faithful– and thus he won the heart of the right wing.

Melancolia was not crazy about the arduous schedule this campaigning meant, but it was worth it for such a good cause. She had to sometimes get up early before 11 am when the stylists arrived, and she had to wear some pretty frumpy outfits – but at least they were eye-wateringly expensive. She had to stand around at the nutcracker’s side and smile for hours on end – it was gruelling work.

How hard it was to smile without throwing in a single pout! But the photographers were there, and that was all that mattered. However, things were about to get really tough.

One evening Drumpf told her:

“Honey, ya gotta give a speech next week.”

Melancolia was not used to doing anything more than pouting or smiling, this was going to be a challenge.

“You will have a speech written out, and then you say the words on the paper, and smile – all at the same time. We’ll get you a coach honey, gonna be fine. Gonna be the biggest, best, yugest speech anyone’s ever made – well except me of course.”

And the day arrived and Melancolia read her speech. It was really hard, but she managed. At least people took pictures, and she smiled.

Alas! The speech was copied by someone named Michelle! The nerve! This copying was even more annoying because Michelle did her speech before Melancolia could do hers! This campaigning was a hard business.

Anyway to make a long campaign short, Drumpf The Nutcracker won the nomination, and then went on to defeat the evil cheating lying dishonest Hillary, who should be really in prison. The next president of the United States would be a wooden figure, whose mouth was controlled by a lever in the back by unseen hands. Russian hands. Result!

*                                             *                                             *

A voice far, far away came into Melancolia’s head:

“…and so The Nutcracker and Clara defeat their enemies, and take off in a magical flying sleigh to the world of candy and fantasy…”

He’d won! He defeated all comers and had been elected!

“Dahling!” she purred into her nutcracker-husband’s fuzzy ear-hole,

“eet iz wonderful! I buy ballgowns now. But vat is this cabinet zey keep talking about? Do we need nother gold cabinet to put zings in?  How much money we get for being president?”

“Melancolia – it’s gonna be a really big cabinet. Yuge. The best cabinet ever. No one will have ever had a cabinet like my presidential cabinet’s gonna be. I’m really smart when it comes to cabinets.” Drumpf reassured her, arms flailing, mouth flapping

“Vat you put in zees cabinet?”

“Nuts. Lots and lots of nuts.”

*                                             *                                             *

“Honey, we’re going on a victory rally tour; got the idea from this great book I’m reading by some German guy, Adolph something or other. The media will love it. They love me.” Drumpf explained as the servants packed a few gold-plated essentials.

And off the couple flew, with some of the Drumpf children, a handful of secret servicemen and a press team.

The first stop on this tour was Japan.

Drumpf’s daughter Iwantitall and son Donny Jr had come along on the tour, and it was heart-warming to Melancolia how her Donald was letting his children learn the ropes for the new family president business.

“Iwantitall, why don’t you go to that Japanese meeting thing darling; I’ve got some really important Tweets to send.”

“Fer sher daddy; can I have an advance on my allowance?” Drumpf’s daughter drawled; she was wearing a tasteful mini dress (available from her QVC shopping channel for £499).

Perhaps it was sour grapes, but the Japanese and some embassy attaches (whatever those are Melancolia wondered) didn’t think it was proper that Iwantitall was at the meeting. But what did that matter? Drumpf was running the show – the TV show that is (he was hardly going to give up ‘The Apprentice’ and the chance to say ‘You’re Fired!’ on TV – that was pretty important stuff).

As to running the White House, there was some guy who would call up and give Drumpf pointers. He had a Russian accent, and was pretty knowledgeable about all this electric college and cabinet stuff – how good it was to have help.

And off the entourage flew to their next destination. Africa.

“Welcome to Africa! Hail to the Chief! You come shoot some more elephants and giraffes Mr Donny – we need the shoes and game meat your little visits supply! We’re so grateful! Anything you want, anything at all!”

Donny Jr said:

“Thanks thanks – but ya know, I’ve not bagged one of those ferocious giraffes in a couple of months, let’s go kill some and then you can show me some more gratitude.”

The African ambassadors threw glances at each other for a moment:

“We’ll get back to you on that soon, Donny.” 

For some reason, they all had to go really suddenly.

“That went yugely well” Drumpf said as they all got back on the plane, Donny sporting an elephant’s tail the grateful locals insisted he take with him.

And off they went to China.

“I’m gonna handle this one on my own” Drumpf told his fellow travellers.

“But first, I got a little phone call to make to Taiwan. They’re gonna do some merchandising for me.”

Melancolia thought she saw a look of shock on the faces of some of the press team, but she put that down to their being awed that she and Donald knew Taiwan was a thing.

After completing a phone order for a hundred thousand ‘Make America Greatly Again’ baseball caps from the Taiwanese business delegation, it was off to China.

Stepping out of the plane, Drumpf was for some reason given a frosty reception. Putting on his best ‘O’ shaped mouth, he descended and told the Chinese government representatives:

“Yous guys gotta stop raping America – and why didn’t you ask my permission before you devalued your currency? You didn’t even respond to my tweets about that! You’d better learn who’s in charge – yeah, that’s right Vlad – I mean me. Now if only you’d have done the right thing, I wouldn’ta had to order my baseball caps from Taiwan. So you’d better stop thinking like losers and –“

For some reason at this point the secret servicemen pulled all the presidential party back up the plane steps, and prepared for a hasty departure.

“Get ready for take off!” the pilot announced over the tannoy of Air Farce One

“Ze dress first and leave the shoes on like usual?” Melancolia asked. But no one answered, and off they jetted.

“Geez, this thing doesn’t even have a gold plated can” Drumpf said, exiting the jet’s toilet.

“I’m gonna cancel that Boeing contract, that’ll show ‘em – and get a proper Presidential Plane”

“But- but sir” said one of the press party – and it was a woman to boot,

“there are thousands of American jobs at stake at Boeing, and if you make such an announcement, you’ll devalue the Boeing stock!”

“Who let this woman on the plane – are you a real reporter honey? – you don’t look very pretty. Who are you to be questioning me!” Drumpf thundered,

“and don’t go telling me about business. I know business really well. Dad lent me $6,000,000 – and I’ve only had eight bankruptcies. Go put on some makeup or something.” 

And with that the hapless hack was despatched.

“Ya know, we’re gonna go somewhere they really love me – not that they don’t love me everywhere that is – but in Scotchland they love me. Take us over there, that’s where my mother was from.”

And the Presidential jet touched down in Aberdeen. A police escort took Trump to his beloved golf course at Menie. All the staff were lined up and ready to meet him.

“Sarah Malone always good to see you – how’s that husband of yours doing – does he want another column for his newspaper yet, cause I got some great ideas.”

Drumpf addressed none other than the very Face of Aberdeen – a stunningly beautiful creature – obviously not as pretty as Iwantitall or Melancolia.

“We’re so glad to see you sir Mr Drumpf sir! If I can just -” she squealed.

“Just make sure I get plenty of clean towels honey.”

He dismissed her, and then proceeded to greet all the assembled Aberdeen city and shire councillors who lined up to kiss his ring.

Melancolia thought the Scotchland visit went much better than the China trip. It was freezing cold, the place was deserted, and part of the golf course had fallen into the sea. Still, there was the tasteful Drumpf clubhouse – with the Drumpf family crest – a two-headed monstrous bird – carved or printed on every surface within eyesight. Drumpf whisky was on sale at a mere £500 per bottle, signed by Drumpf (or truth be told, signed by Sarah Malone).

Soon this state visit had to end as well, and off the party flew back towards the States.

“One more stop, just to make sure everyone knows what a winner I am” the Drumpf/nutcracker said; its hinged mouth flapping wildly, its hair more frazzled than ever. “Mexico it is.”

The welcoming party at the airport seemed very festive; the peasants were all holding giant piñatas that looked just like Donald J Drumpf, and they were beating the s*it out of them. Drumpf opened his mouth to speak, but the cheering was so loud he couldn’t be heard. Melancolia was told that the waving of pitchforks and torches was a traditional Mexican greeting. Drumpf, his family and Melancolia were ushered quickly away and soon sat down to talk to the Mexican president.

“It’s very simple.” Donald said, his mouth in one of his widest smiles,

“You’re not giving us your best people. You’re giving us rapist and drug dealers. You gotta keep people in Mexico or I can’t get a good price on my Drumpf t-shirts that they make so cheaply here. So here’s what we’re gonna do. I’m gonna build a wall. It’s gonna be the biggest, bestest, smartest wall anyone ever built, and it’s gonna keep those bad Mexicans out of America.”

“Senor – this is not possible – think of the environment, the practicalities – the cost!” The Mexican president wiped his brow.

“Not my problem – you’re gonna pay for it pal!” Drumpf said, leering.

“This meeting’s over and I’ll send you the bill later.” 

And with that, he rose, the rest of his party rose, and off they went.

“Oh wait, there’s some other place we gotta go” Drumpf said to his weary pilot,

“What’s it called again, it’s somewhere they really, really need my smart thinking. Oh yeah, The Middle East – that’s it.”

Audible groans came from everyone but the first family, as the jet roared into the night.

“Time for your CIA briefing sir.” said a man in a black suit.

“Ya know, I’m not one of those dumb guys, I don’t need to be told the same thing day in day out.” said a bored Drumpf, who was tweeting about a television show called Saturday Night Live, which was not funny or fair at all.

“But Sir!” persisted the CIA officer,

“The Syrian problem is deepening, there is a rift in Turkmenistan, there is insurgency in Turkey, human rights violations in several countries, economic instability threatens several regions, and environmental disaster relief is threatening to outstrip spending on our other missions.”

“Eh?” said Drumpf

“Just do what ya gotta do; maybe I’ll get time for you next month; we’ll see. Don’t you know I still gotta television show I gotta produce?”

Drumpf had ordered all the region’s diplomats and leaders to meet his plane, which as usual was greeted by a classy red carpet, a couple of models, and some bagpipe players just in case anyone forgot his mother was from Scotchland.

“Darling you do know how to make ze entrance!” Melancolia purred.

“Here’s some money from one of the charities – why don’t you and Iwantitall go do some shopping.”

Needing no further encouragement, the women were off. Drumpf was ushered into an assembly room and led to a podium.

“Guys you got to know – Jews love me. Muslims love me. The blacks – they love me. Now the problem is that you’ve got too many Muslims here in the Middle East – I’d suggest you deport some of ‘em like I’m gonna do in the States – send ‘em back where they came from.

“But I gotta hand it to you, ya know how to do great wall building here, and if you play your cards right, you might get some building contract work from me on the Mexican border, maybe even some security guard work, unless my pal Vlad has that sewn up already… Now if you’ll form an orderly queue, I’ve brought a few dozen copies of my new book ‘Nuclear weapons – why have ‘em but not use ‘em?’ – a snip at only £49.99 each – £99.99 if I sign them.”

Leaving the Middle East was all a bit of a blur to Melancolia, but the echoed shouts of thanks seemed to fill the streets.

“Donald Darling – Iwantitall and I have bought such darling new ball gowns – look – even titties mostly covered on mine! – we vant to go have dinner at Buckingham Palace.”

“Great idea Mel – let’s go do that. They love me there. The Queen – she loves me; she’ll want me to stop by. Prince Philip – he and I get along great – agree on almost everything. That Charles one – he loves me. Now don’t get jealous sweetie – but his ex-wife Diana – she couldn’t keep her hands off me. I had to tell her – Di – darling – I’ll send you a t-shirt and a cap, but you gotta get off me.”

Melancolia was not pleased to learn that the late princess had such a fixation on her Donald – but it was perfectly understandable of course. So off they all flew to Heathrow.

Soon they were ushered into a Buckingham Palace state room. A gaggle of courtiers surrounded the stately if diminutive Queen.

“Hey, hey Liz – this is my wife Melancolia – shake hands there you go – give me a big kiss.” 

Drumpf’s attempt to slobber all over HM were blocked by the courtiers. The Queen seemed to have turned a shade of red not dissimilar to the colour of a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat.

“Brought you something” Drumpf said, handing over a plastic bag with one of the coveted baseball caps.

A footman took the package, holding it in his gloved hands by two fingers, holding it an extreme distance away.

“Liz, there’s a guy here that wants to see you too – it’s my pal Nigel Farage. Nigel – Liz, Lizzie – Nigel. You’re gonna be fast friends I can tell. It will be yuge. I told Nigel he can be ambassador to the USA for your little country – that’s OK right? He’s got some great ideas – not as great as mine you understand – but he’s gonna make Great Britain Great Again. 

“Now about these immigrants like the Irish you got here….”

The Queen was speechless, not least because Drumpf’s wife and daughter were both trying to grab her tiara.

“This audience is at an end. Her Majesty thanks you and bids you good day.” a guard said, ushering the whole party out of the palace with bayonets drawn.

Soon they were back on their plane, flying for the States.

“Probably an old English custom. Nigel – leave some of that Drumpf whisky; we need to sell some later, that’s a good guy.” Donald said.

Melancolia was in a whirl from this whirlwind world tour. As they walked to their waiting limos to return to Air Farce One, it started to snow.

Donald was on the phone; she wasn’t sure to whom.

“Yes, Vlad, all good here – how’s Wendy? You must come over for some golf sometime soon. Thanks again for everything. What’s that? You want me to press that button thing now? OK – give you a half hour head start to get into that underground complex. 

“I’ll tell the Pentagon just like we agreed. I’ll tell those missiles myself ‘YOU’RE FIRED!’”

Everything was a blur of mushroom-shaped clouds, Drumpf shouting, and then everything went black. She closed her eyes for a second, and everything seemed to fade away.

The snow was swirling all about her face now, landing in huge crystals around her tongue and nose.

*                                             *                                             *

Melancolia was suddenly back at the Christmas Eve photoshoot – it had all been a dream.

“So honey, you wanna blow this party and come back to 5th Avenue with me on my big gold plated jet now?” Drumpf asked, a little drool spilling over his oily o-shaped lips.

His hair had loosened from its previously lacquered condition so that several single strands of oiliness and dye reached his chest, hitting his Drumpf necktie, which at the neck seemed nearly as wide as the spud-shaped head.

Some of the snow had stuck to his polylmer hair and a dash was on his nose.
Melancolia thought of all her imagined adventures which had seemed so real a moment ago.

Turning to Drumpf, moving closer to him, she turned her pout into a wide smile and said:

“Let’s get going big boy. Zees is going to be great.”

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Dec 012016
 

Sometimes it’s best to keep it all in the family. Here’s a heartwarming tale from our roving reporter, Bec Hander.

money-euro-1144835_1280In a resounding victory for transparency, objectivity, and fair play, an Aberdeen City Senior Sustainable Development Officer was awarded 3 EcoCity Awards worth in the region of £1500 from Aberdeen City. The selection committee included academics, councillors, and several of the winner’s fellow ACC officers.

The Officer, also a director of a local community energy scheme that promises to ‘more than double’ the punter’s investment, is thought to be overcome by surprise at winning 3 of the 7 awards; he had expected to get them all we hear.

The award application details are:

“The EcoCity Awards recognise and reward local people for their efforts to make Aberdeen a more sustainable city. Members of the Sustainable Development Team in partnership with the Environmental Services Team, Transport Team and the Recycling Team, have worked together on the EcoCity Awards 2016 and invite submissions from individuals, community groups, schools, businesses, charities and other organisations.”

– and what could be more local than someone salaried by the City to work as a Senior Sustainable Development Officer?

Demonstrating its largess and generosity, the City Council and officers both recommended and invested in the scheme – very canny as they will ‘more than double’ their investment – and are going to assist with landscaping. They have already generously advertised the investment offer in their publication Our Green Times – modestly not naming the officer who is a director of this scheme, and who won an unequalled 3 Eco City awards.

Judges are thinking of changing the criteria next year, making it mandatory for award winners to already be working as city council officers. A few sore losers pointed out that normally a competition is closed to people who are related to, or work with, the judges or the organisation giving out the awards. Aberdeen City however always operates in such a transparent and fair manner that such criteria would not be necessary.

One of the winning officer’s awards was for his work as an individual.

It brought a tear to the eye of all present that this young man has managed to work full time for the council in a senior environmental capacity (is that full time? He must be working around the clock to avoid doing his hydro scheme on ACC taxpayer time or using ACC resources), get his outside project funded by the council, have the hydro advertised to the public in the council’s green publication, and somehow managed as an individual to get an extra £500 – or whatever it was.

Asked whether the council had any qualms about the promises publicly made by this winner to double a person’s investment, the council obligingly said it backs that statement completely. Should any investors not double their money, the council will, as advertiser, supporter, and investor in this scheme, be over the moon to make up any losses an investor might have.

It’s not as if there is any favouritism, cronyism, or mutual backscratching going on

This award-winning environmental officer managed to make great savings for the city. Not long ago, he ensured that local people on a photography course would have their photographs used in a publication that went to thousands of homes – without paying the photographers a penny or even asking their permission.

Most of course were just so humbled and honoured to see their work in print that they were overcome with emotion, even if some were residents of poor areas of the city – what’s money at the end of the day?

None of the directors of the hydro project are going to get any money from the project we have been told; in fact, they’re spending their own money with no thought of reward according to an email they sent. Just as well then that the city is putting money into its employee’s plans, advertising it, and bunging him the odd £1500 here and there – sorry – I mean giving him a well-deserved handful of awards based on him being just another average guy in the community.

Any similarity to this cash windfall and the time that arts grants money was awarded to an ACC arts officer who knew the judges is purely coincidental. It’s not as if there is any favouritism, cronyism, or mutual backscratching going on in Marischal College. With that kind of paranoid attitude, you’d be expecting them to give builders like Stewart Milne huge tracts of land for a song – and that’s never happened, has it?

Any suggestion that there might have been conflicts of interest, unethical overlaps in the roles of those involved in applying for and awarding awards to an ACC officer are without any foundation.

We can look forward to many more such schemes from our council in the future – make no mistake.

Images courtesy of Pixabay, used under creative commons license. Featured Image, credit: Geralt. Top right and thumbnail, credit: Janeb13.

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Nov 252016
 

As the Aberdeen Press & Journal gets into the festive spirit by announcing on its front cover today that ‘there ain’t no sanity clause’ and it’s dangerous to encourage children to believe in him, Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly marvels at Damian Bate’s organ yet again, and how it has seized the spirit of good will with its attack on Father Christmas.

DictionaryAt this time of year, it’s important to realise how lucky we are, and to think of those who are less fortunate, who suffer, who are abused.

Imagine spending your days in a no-hope situation. A tyrant forces you to do things against your better nature. You are humiliated on a daily basis, and people openly laugh at what you are doing.

Let’s take a moment then and pause. We have our problems. We might have money and health worries. It’s freezing cold.

But at least we don’t have to write for the Press & Journal and Evening Express under Damian Bates and Sarah Malone Bates.

Some poor soul had to write the infamous ‘TRAITORS!’ article back in the early days of Trump’s planning campaign depicting councillors who dared to vote against the unprecedented Trump golf plans.

Some idealistic young thing who years ago dreamed of a career in journalism now takes orders to write articles praising Damian’s wife’s forays into running a 5 star resort (or is that 6 diamonds – as Turnip awarded himself a few years back?). Imagine the overpriced coffee, the clunky ‘temporary’ clubhouse where the invented ‘Trump family crest’* asserts itself on every piece of furniture, paper serviette and presumably loo roll too.

And you have to submit copy saying it’s fabulous.

While you are instructed to write yet another review of MacLeod House and its beautiful concrete fountain, all around you local writers are firing off Freedom of Information requests, digging into Companies House files, and uncovering stories which actually constitute investigative journalism while you try to find 250 words about why the chicken supreme is worth £40 per head, all the while ignoring the giant plaque staring at you through the clubhouse windows proclaiming that you are on the world’s largest sand dune system.

You might like to say something about this being a blatantly untrue fabrication – but you don’t really dare to do so.

At least you get paid for it. Rather like those girls around the harbour. At least they don’t have to put their name to their handiwork. And quite understandably, many of the AJL articles go without anyone claiming a byline.

santa-with-traumatised-children-creepy-santa-comAnd now this week one of you was handed an arcane, clearly deliberately provocative piece from two academics who believe perpetuating the Santa Claus fable is akin to child abuse. ‘Give me a front page story on Bad Santa’ Damian or one of his minions told you.

And you did it, didn’t you?

Did you care this angle has been done before? Was what you were going to bring to the argument so brilliant you didn’t care? Maybe you were happy to get away from Trump for a little, or you were happy to try and forget the real news stories in our area that a reporter would want to cover – Marischal Square and its genesis, who is linked to who in the curious companies Sir Ian Wood and others still keep afloat even though (theoretically) the Union Terrace Gardens parking lot scheme (for that was all it really was) is dead in the water.

Maybe you don’t want to think about the fact your newspaper (for lack of a better word) will soon need to metaphorically tug its forelock at the city council: what other newspaper would even remotely consider taking a free rent from a city council? Can you even keep track of the number of city council stories and dealings that should have been investigated by the local printed press?

No, you are now going to Google elves, Santa, and present your findings on the new throwaway theory Santa is Bad Santa. Someone else is going to look into Muse, Trump, Inspired, fraud inside the council, etc. etc. But not you or your fellow Aberdeen Journals writers.

And Result! Good for you!

The Facebook P&J page has hundreds of hits on this story. Of course most of them are ridiculing the fact your boss put this on the paper’s front cover, and some are angry that young children will see this and dissolve into tears – thus spoiling photoshoots for your next ‘adorable tot’ competition. Hits matter on Facebook to your boss – even if the paper is not exactly flying off the shelf. You may well put this into your cuttings book – another front page story for you.

At least it beats the brains out of having to type for the umpteenth time ‘breathe fresh life into the beating heart of the city’ and such. How do you breathe into a heart anyway?  How fast can you as an Evening Express reporter type the phrase ‘vibrant and dynamic?’ Do they pay you for the word much as some other professionals are paid by the hour?  I’ve always wondered.

Maybe someday they’ll give a Pulitzer for incisive, pithy front page stories about the Tooth Fairy’s negative psychological impact on children. Perhaps that brilliant headline your paper used when a young man was missing ‘search called off due to unforeseen circumstances’ about a no-show psychic should have received more acclaim – how the family must have laughed! But not today.

Just maybe your Father Christmas article will lead to bigger and better – there is no shortage of crackpot experts with degrees who write ridiculous papers to get noticed – not that the attack on the Santa belief wasn’t a serious, scholarly work. You’ll find them – or Damian will find them and tell you to write up an op ed. Can a piece about the Loch Ness Monster be that far off now? I guess we all aspire to something.

perhaps time for you to pick up an actual newspaper and see what other writers are doing

So, many of us who contribute to Aberdeen Voice will keep doing the work you’re too busy to do. We’ll keep revealing that despite Trump’s declarations to the contrary, he was definitely seeking compulsory purchase orders against his neighbours. That was an AV scoop, and it doesn’t seem you picked up on that.

Guess it didn’t have the gravitas a piece on the Easter Bunny will do when you write it.

We revealed the literally cozy relationship between the P&J and Trump International Golf Links Scotland. We found out how much money from the public purse was spent promoting the risible UTG project. Did you like looking at those lurid images of the ridiculous ramps arching over an impossible landscape of trees and open air theatre month after month?

You’ve gone all out to help the council (usually).  Remember the Evening Express story designed to lend creedence to the city’s plans for killing the Tullos Hill Deer?  The deer were going to be killed to plant trees on Tullos despite public outcry to just leave the hill, wildflower meadow and deer alone.  The trees aren’t growing, but the deer are dead.  Your paper helpfully announced ‘Two Deer Found Dead Ahead of Cull’ – implying the poor creatures needed to be culled for their own good.  Then I found out it was fully two years before the cull was proposed that the deer were found dead of unknown cause.  Your paper never did cover my story that deer had clearly been slaughtered in the Gramps – severed limbs were found.  The preposterous claim Ranger Talboys made was that the deer must have been killed somewhere else, then the poachers marched up two different hills to deposit the limbs.  I guess there wasn’t room for any of this as well as another review of MacLeod House.  The ‘cost-neutral’ tree scheme Peter Leonard of ACC forced on the taxpayer has now cost a five-figure sum – obviously that’s not newsworthy to Damian.

As I write, it’s nearly 6pm – knocking off time for you, or perhaps time for you to pick up an actual newspaper and see what other writers are doing. Does it bother you to read Monbiot, Rob Edwards, people who care about corruption, the environment, the threat Trump poses to world stability – or are you genuinely content writing about the latest P&J sponsored award show held at the AECC and who won a golden cabbage or whatever it is given out that helps generate advertising revenue and PR for your stable of publications?

From the rest of us, we feel sorry for you. It’s not news you’re writing. It’s not investigative journalism your paper offers as a norm. You are sucking up to your advertisers (remember when a certain diminutive housebuilder reportedly threatened to pull his advertising if you ever wrote a critical piece on him again? I do). The press should serve as a check and balance on the council; in the P&J’s case, the council’s cheques for ads total £200,000 a year, and press you into service.

Adios to ideals; to dreams of reporting and investigating, or choosing what stories to follow. The rest of us feel your shame, and we pity you. This has taken enough of your time though, and you will likely have a beautiful tot or beautiful bride layout to work on.

Some of us managed to believe (or half believe) the Santa Claus/Father Christmas mythology without it turning us into megalomaniacal would-be fascist dictators, preening newspaper editors whose Facebook page consists of a series of selfies and little else, or a woman in a job over her head who will do anything for money, however much that means swallowing racism, sexism and nationalism – just hypothetical examples of personality disorders, mind you.

I am very thankful. Thankful I am never going to work for you or those you serve.

STOP PRESS:  Be sure to take your children to Santa’s Grotto at the Trump International Golf Links Scotland; if you’re going to scar the offspring for life, do it somewhere where they know about great big men with odd hair promising lots of gifts to people who do what they are told to do (even if those gifts never materialise). A tenner a tyke.

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