Mar 212020
 

Three former Torry community councillors have lodged a complaint against Depute Lord Provost Jennifer Stewart with The Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life. By Suzanne Kelly (one of the three).

The Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life received a complaint from Bee Kerr, Renee Slater and Suzanne Kelly against Councillor Jennifer Stewart.
They have asked the Commission to investigate, and if appropriate, censure or suspend Jennifer Stewart on account of her behaviour following Councillor Alan Donnelly’s sexual assault of a person at a civic function.

Councillor Donnelly, who has represented Torry and Ferryhill in the past, was placed on the sex offenders register by the Aberdeen Sheriff Court. The court found him guilty of sexually assaulting a waiter.

The offence occurred while Donnelly was at a civic function in his capacity as councillor.

Donnelly tried to deny events; the court said he should be ashamed. He refused to step down despite his criminal act being a clear violation of the Code of Conduct for councillors.

Renee Slater launched a petition demanding Donnelly resign, which was signed by over 700 people.

The Standards Commissioner’s office announced his suspension one day after he voted on a crucial budget during a stormy council session, to the benefit of the council’s majority group. If he doesn’t resign, he will face a public trial.

Prior to this vote, Cllr Stewart took to radio and commented that the sexual assault didn’t sound serious.

She said:

“I would wonder if it was an attack. To me an attack is a much more physical and aggressive thing, but sentence has been passed.”

Her remarks infuriated many including councillors, residents and people connected to victim support groups.

The signatories to the complaint and experts they spoke to feel it is hard enough to cope as a victim of an assault; it is harder still to report it.  Getting to trial is stressful, and many trials end with no conviction.

It is arguably harder for a man to be a victim of sexual assault given some societal attitudes. Elected officials should not use their office to question the judgment of the courts and to add to the burden of the victim, who has had to endure the harmful insult by way of the Depute Lord Provost suggesting the assault was not serious.

It is quite probable, the complainers feel, that future sex assault victims who are aware of Stewart’s widely-reported remarks may be reluctant to come forward fearing she may weigh in to judge them too.

Undoubtedly, her comments on the assault would not have been published had she not been the Depute Lord Provost. She has not responded to a request for comment.

In press coverage almost immediately following her remarks, she accused both the SNP and Liberal Democrats of contributing to her confessed mental health problems through bullying and intimidation.

She named no names; the Liberal Democrats denied any such wrongdoing, and the SNP wished her recovery.

The complainants know the Ethics Commissioner will look into her remarks, which, as they stand, smear the entire opposition with serious accusations of breaking the Code of Conduct – accusations they cannot counter as they are not levelled at any one person or persons.

The Evening Express have been asked to explain how they verified her later claims of mental health problems caused by the SNP and Liberal Democrats; 5 days on, we still await their response

Anyone who wishes to add their name to the complaint or lodge a complaint against a councillor can contact the Commission here: info@ethicalstandards.org.uk

Mar 022020
 

Will a convicted sex offender hold the key vote on Aberdeen City budget cuts? Suzanne Kelly writes.

Disgraced Alan Donnelly was found guilty, in an Aberdeen Sheriff court, of sexually assaulting a waiter at a civic function.
Despite this completely contravening the Councillors Code of Conduct, he’s staying in power and may hold a key vote on swinging budget cuts at the council’s meeting Tuesday 3 March: and some councillors are happy with him staying put.

The council’s ‘Urgent Action’ Committee have removed him from committees he was on, and reported him to the Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (they had to really – so many people have done so, the Commission won’t take more complaints).

However, it does not appear they asked the Commissioner to exercise the power and suspend Donnelly. Instead, some councillors have been making statements in their official capacity to support Donnelly. Many believe this is because his vote is needed.

Repercussions.

While publications such as Private Eye (Eye 1516) cover this scandal and, as the Commissioner confirms, it is investigating Donnelly’s breaking of the code, Donnelly is still being allowed to attend civic functions and represent the city – and vote.

If he hangs on, he will be the subject of a public hearing by the Commission.

The Commission may be asked to look into what the council did to protect people from Donnelly, not least as there are reports Donnelly, who once was attached to ACC social services, bought alcohol for a sex offender in violation of protocol.

Did the city really do all it could to prevent this sexual assault? Were councillors’ remarks and actions appropriate? The commission’s remit is apparently widening by the day.

A petition started by Renee Slater, a former Torry Community Councillor (Donnelly’s ward) has over 770 signatures asking for Donnelly’s swift departure from office.

Reaction: Survivors UK say ‘he should step down or be removed’

“I agree wholeheartedly that he should step down or be removed from being a Councillor,” said Alex Feis-Bryce, Chief Executive Officer of SURVIVORS UK.

SURVIVORS UK helps sexually abused men as well as their friends and family, no matter when the abuse happened, and challenge the silence and attitudes.

Mr Feis-Bryce added:

“I say this as a survivor, the CEO of an organisation supporting thousands of survivors and a former Councillor.” 

According to the group, an estimated 12,000 men are raped in the UK every year, and more than 70,000 are sexually abused or assaulted.

Which witch hunt? What Jennifer Stewart did next.

“What I see is that there is a bit of a witch hunt to get him (Donnelly) out.”
– Depute Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Jennifer Stewart

As Survivors UK’s web page says:

“we know male sexual abuse has profound effects on those who experience it and can deeply affect their mental health and relationships.”

Most people understand sexual assault does not have to be a penetrative rape or involve being beaten. Not Cllr Stewart.

Jennifer Stewart, now in Donnelly’s former role as Depute Lord Provost went to the press in her official capacity and said:

“I would wonder if it was an attack. To me an attack is a much more physical and aggressive thing but sentence has been passed.”

In other words, the Depute Lord Provost of Aberdeen went to the press to call into question the robustness of an Aberdeen Sheriff court decision and to denigrate the sexual assault victim.

She said that those seeking to get Donnelly out were on a ‘witch hunt’.

Was she trying to conflate a hysterical persecution of the innocent (witch hunt) with trying to protect people from a sex offender, protect the council’s reputation, and ensuring the code was adhered to by councillors? Surely she knows the definition of the phrase ‘witch hunt?’

The barrage of justified criticism of her words was swift. Stewart immediately took to the press again and released a story, again in her official capacity, claiming she suffered mental health problems. These, she said, were so bad she was scared to walk down certain council corridors.

Stewart said:

“The level of pressure that was brought on me by the SNP and Liberal Democrats caused me significant mental health issues and anxiety, something I have never suffered from before.

“I have been ostracised, shunned and prevented from walking down certain corridors.

“Other councillors have no right to go on a witch-hunt to try and get rid of someone.”

In her next press outing, she was praised for her work to help female victims of domestic abuse in a new initiative with the police and a charity.

(NB – The most recent figures (Scottish Government 2012a) show that in 2011/12 there were 9,569 reports to the police of a domestic abuse incident where the ‘victim’ was male and the perpetrator female and 659 reports where there was a male ‘victim’ of a male perpetrator (where the sex of the parties were recorded).

A day or two later she was portrayed in the press again sympathetically, talking about the death of a friend.

Ms Stewart was asked to comment but has not replied. If it is true, she has mental health issues which she is willing to talk to the press about while accusing political opponents of causing these problems, then the Standards Commission should be asked to investigate these as a matter of urgency.

However, if she suffers mental health problems because of bullying, perhaps she should not go around contradicting the sheriff court’s finding a man was a victim of sexual assault, and in her official role telling the press ‘an attack is a physical (it was) and aggressive (it was) thing’.

If, however she has cynically made a false claim of mental health problems caused by political opponents (who strenuously deny such claims – and Stewart named no names) as a means of garnering sympathy and to deflect attention from her contentious remarks over Donnelly’s victim, this must be investigated.

For a woman who uses the term ‘witch hunt’ about those wanting Donnelly out, she has herself started a genuine witch hunt with her claim unnamed people gave her mental health problems.

She has tarnished her every opponent and by not naming anyone has made the public wonder who is harming her mental health, thereby causing people to mistrust those who would do such a thing: with absolutely no evidence for her claims.

It is understood Ms Stewart’s conduct will be reported to the Standards Commission shortly too.

Reaction.

At least some members of ACC recognize the crime of sexual assault is serious. Councillor Alex Nicoll and Steve Delaney want Donnelly out now.

The calls came not long after Donnelly was seen at a Town House event to celebrate the success of local food bank (the ‘oil capitol of Europe’ should not need food banks, by the way).

Lord Provost Barney Crockett told the BBC the city must:

“ensure everybody is treated appropriately, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

How he is treating Donnelly’s victim appropriately remains to be seen.
Mr Nicoll demanded Crockett must:

“clarify why he feels the sex offender should be treated the same as everyone else.”

Responsibility.

Mr Nicoll added:

“It is utterly disgraceful that Councillor Donnelly continues to attend events, by invitation, as if nothing has happened.

“I would urge the Lord Provost to ban him from civic events if he is serious about protecting the public and ensuring Aberdeen City Council is not a laughing stock.”

When asked where the responsibility for protecting the public from a further Donnelly attack lies, a spokesman for Aberdeen Sheriff Court said

“This would be a matter for Aberdeen District Council.”

Risible.

As things stand, Donnelly is on the council, attending events, drinking alcohol, enjoying himself, laughing with other councillors.

He is poised to vote, and may be key to getting a controversial budget passed. Depending on what ACC do over this vote, it looks as if the Standards Commission is going to be very busy with investigations indeed.

But, alas for Cllr Nicoll, Aberdeen is now a laughing stock throughout the UK and is on record as being an institution callous to sexual assault victims.

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Nov 222019
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen City Council’s new policy for sealing council flats has been condemned by an animal welfare charity today.

The city recently revised its policy for locking properties but the new policy is potentially harmful to any animals discovered in flats.

John F. Robins, Secretary of Animal Concern Advice Line, said:

“Aberdeen City Council would be well advised to have a rethink on this.

“If a tenant has died or done a moonlight flit it is likely to be several days or more before the Council find out and take action.

“Any animals on the premises may have already died of thirst or hunger and surviving animals are likely to be in a poor state of health.

“Instead of locking them in the property the Council should, if it is safe to do so, take the animals out and have them examined by a vet.”

The council came under fire when it was found to have sealed Michael Stewart’s body in his council flat where it remained undiscovered for two months.

Police eventually found Mr Stewart’s remains after a missing persons report was filed and they broke into the premises.

Bungling council operatives hadn’t even checked inside the flat before padlocking it shut, leading to this change in procedure.

The new policy reads in part:

“If a property [to be boarded up and padlocked shut] is found to have pets but no owner present… ensure that the pet has access to clean, fresh water.

“Regional Contact Centre should be advised that a pet is in the property.”

The city does not mandate animals be rescued, even the word ‘should’ is used about informing any other body that an animal will be locked in the dark, alone, with only water.

The policy does not give a time frame for reporting the presence of an animal either.

Mr Robins finds many faults with the policy and said:

“When dealing with exotic and potentially venomous animals such as reptiles, it might be best to call in an expert to deal with it.  

“Once the vet has seen the animals and passed them as fit, they should immediately be taken to an appropriate place of safety such as the nearest Scottish SPCA welfare centre or a reputable local independent animal refuge.”

The Scottish SPCA seemed to feel the policy was adequate however.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said:

“Aberdeen City Council have a procedure in place with regards to properties involved in evictions when there are animals present.

“If a pet is in the property, the relevant authorities are to be notified and we will be contacted if necessary.

“As long as the proper procedures are followed in an appropriate period of time, the welfare of the animal should not be compromised.”

The policy does not specify a particular length of time as being appropriate, and the time different animals can be left alone varies greatly.

It seems the actual legal requirements of animal welfare and criminal law have been overlooked by the city, too.

Mr Robins said:

“Apart from the welfare of the animals there is also a legal position to be considered.

“If the animals were abandoned when their owners did a moonlight flit a criminal offence was committed and should be investigated.

“Once the Council has repossessed a property with a resident pet the Council becomes legally responsible for the welfare of that animal until it can be placed in a suitable, safe environment.”

The vague policy singles out dogs, ignoring the fact animals such as reptiles needing heat and light conditions to be constant otherwise they will likely perish.

The city’s policy states:

“If the pet is a dog, Regional Contact Centre should contact Aberdeen City Council Dog Wardens.”

Equally vague, the policy assumes that those present when a flat is sealed will somehow be animal experts.

The policy continues:

“SSPCA can also be contacted for advice if necessary….”

Surely the soundest advice to housing officers and joiners would be not to leave an animal alone in a cold, dark flat for any length of time in the first place.

Aberdeen City refuses to comment further on any matters connected at all with their having sealed Michael Stewart’s body in his flat.

Nov 112019
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen Voice first interviewed actor Declan Michael Laird in June 2012, when he was a determined, optimistic 18-year-old trying to break in Hollywood.

Quite a few films, commercials and experiences have gone under the bridge since then. This catch-up seemed quite overdue.

“I believe that if things are meant to be, they’ll be” he said at the time – while putting in the hard work to make what he wanted to happen a reality.

Glaswegian Declan started out as a rising footballer, playing for Greenock Morton FC on a youth contract; football runs in the family. His brother Stefan is Aberdeen Football Club’s Academy Head and owns his own coaching company, SJL Coaching.

A combination of circumstances, accident, curiosity, luck, and mostly talent led Declan off the pitch and in front of the camera.

“It was all amazingly sudden,” Declan explained in an earlier Aberdeen Voice interview of his first brushes with acting,

“I went to the first filming and decided this was what I wanted to do – the cameras, the actors, being on set was amazing.  Football, which had been my aim for 10 years, suddenly fell to the back.  I did a few short films back home with independent filmmakers.” 

Determination and drive saw him attend the prestigious Stella Adler school on a full scholarship (the previous person on a full ride to the famous school was Robert DeNiro).

Fast forward to our present talk, which comes on the heels of the film ‘Hot Air’ debuting on Amazon Prime Video.

Hot Air is the latest from the inimitable, incisive Steve Coogan. Laird has a supporting role in the film, also starring Neve Campbell and Taylor Russell.

Before I knew Declan was in this film, it had my attention.

Coogan plays a far-right wing, bitter, manipulative, cynical shock jock à la Bill O’Reilly: a man who plays his perpetually furious, far-right wing listeners like a violin, creating ratings from fomenting their anger.

He has some great lines indicting the kind of journalism that is now poisoning American minds in particular (a disease spread by the likes of Breitbart and Kate Hopkins).

As someone who was on the O’Reilly Factor show some years back, I wanted to see if the dirty tricks, psychological games and ruthlessness would be captured.

They were.

Coogan’s radio talk show host is emotionally wounded and the cuts have festered over time. The Dei ex Machina appearance of his niece (Taylor Russell), child of his damaged, addicted sister provides a way to see how he wound up so twisted.

He gets some killer lines (‘How do you sleep at night?’ Is answered by him with ‘On a mattress stuffed with cash and the broken dreams of Hillary Clinton’), climaxing in his soliloquy damning politics and far-right media near the end.

This movie has a lot to say, and I like how it does it.

Declan does an impressive turn in this supporting role

It was great to see Neve Campbell as the love interest. You can see in her face her conflicting emotions – fondness, perhaps love for the rather unlovable DJ, and turmoil when he gets things so wrong at different times.

If you remember Trump’s preposterous recent pronouncement that instead of a wall we should have a moat, he may have picked that up from this film 

But there is humour, not least supplied by Declan’s character – a trustafarian young Russian man who lives in Coogan’s ultra-exclusive Manhattan apartment building who takes Taylor Russell out clubbing, to Coogan’s chagrin.

Declan does an impressive turn in this supporting role, from his accent, his movements from his hands through his fingertips.

I asked how he got his accent honed.

“I was always the guy doing impressions and mimicking people growing up – it came naturally to me. I did study dialect at Stella Adler as well; there were two years of accent training.”

“I asked the director ‘Do you want me to play it straight or do you want caricature?’ and he said ‘Well, we’re going to put you in an Adidas tracksuit with a thick gold chain.’ – so that told me all I needed to know.”

He was surprised to see Taylor Russell as a fellow actor on the project – he had met her before.

“It was the craziest thing – I met Taylor about three years earlier. We got introduced by a friend of a friend. Then she was in Lost in Space for Netflix.”

He saw her name on the scripts and that meeting came back to him.

“It’s funny how it’s such a small world.”

Ms Russell is in the acclaimed Waves, and has just had a 2020 breakthrough actor nomination for her work on the film in the Gotham Awards.

I didn’t ask Declan the predictable ‘So what was Steve Coogan really like?’ question, but I did ask what it was like to work with him. To many, Coogan is Alan Partridge; to others like me, Alan Partridge is a small part of Coogan’s work.

Declan said:

“He was kind of a quiet person, very polite. He thought I was Russian. When he asked me where I was from and I answered ‘Glasgow’, we got talking more. He was a great person to talk to and had lots of good advice.”

It was a bit odd how Declan landed the role – it was via one Skype call. He had done a reading of one scene with only one read through, and no input came back from the director – which can be very good or it can mean they’re not remotely interested.

“Forty-five minutes later my agent called and said I got it.”

“It was funny… I went to see it in a theatre with my girlfriend and this couple looked at me, and the man did a double-take. I heard him say afterwards to his partner, nodding in m y direction, ‘That’s the guy who was in the film!’ And she said ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’

“I laughed.”

Declan tells me about his girlfriend – they met in New York; she went to NYU and plans to direct and did casting for Netflix. I ask him if he has any interest in directing.

“Directing doesn’t interest me. I look at acting, writing, producing, and she talks about shots, cinematography, lightning.”

What’s next seems to be more acting and some producing.

“Zak Kadison has taken me under his wing,” Declan says of the producing side.

Acting-wise, he will be appearing in Green Fever next year.

Green Fever is a tale of a marijuana farm in California at a time of transition, directed by Gerard Roxburgh, written by Danny Acosta and Paul Telfer.

It is based on true events, but as Declan puts it

“My role is the only real fiction in it; I play a younger brother of a farm owner. The focus is on politics around the time weed was made legal. It’s an action/thriller/heist film.”

I cheekily ask whether the cast are taking the method acting approach to the project; Declan laughs and replies:

“There was a strong talk from the director to everyone about not smoking!”

A Scottish coincidence arises in the film’s crew;

“Gerard’s (the director’s) family come from down the road from my family in Greenock, and Telfor’s roots are in from Paisley.”

By this time, we’d talked politics, Trump (inevitably), earthquakes, San Francisco, football and more, and before I talked him hoarse, we wound up the call.

It is wonderful in such a time of upheaval and problems, and frisson between generations to see someone like Declan whose mature and hard-working beyond his years getting closer to the nearly impossible dream of Hollywood stardom.

If anyone can get there though, it’s him. I can’t wait to see where he’ll be in a further nine years.

Nov 082019
 

Duncan Harley takes a tour of the newly refurbished Aberdeen Art Gallery

It rained and there was a bag search on the way in to the gallery space, but fortunately we had arrived late and there was no queue. The drenched security operatives cheerfully let me through since I had no bag and just a stick.
A cursory glance into my companion’s crowded handbag convinced them that she was no una-bomber and off we went to see the pictures.

It was day one of the re-opening of the newly refurbished Aberdeen Art Gallery and a tiny sense of foreboding clouded the event – the renovation had included the discovery of plague skeletons – there were 92 of them.

And the original quite splendid white-marbled staircase had it seems been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Clutching our, now soggy, Eventbrite passes we made our way into what might once have been a familiar space.

Various dog-tagged staffers welcomed us into the new space. Commemorative tin-badges were handed out and a quite splendid map detailing the various new gallery spaces immediately made clear that the old, and perhaps dowdy, gallery space had gone to that dusty place where such things go to die.

Seven years and £35m in the making, the new interior is quite breath-taking.

Where the staircase stood, there is now an open central space linking three floors.

Not an atrium in the true sense but not far off in terms of lighting, and acoustically splendid.

Opening morning was accented by a set of coloured musical notes titled ‘The Big Picture’. By Judith Weir – a formidable composer with Boston Symphony and various operas under her belt.

Conducted by John Horton and directed by Roger Williams, the celebratory piece, written specially for the opening of the gallery, took the form of a synaesthesia where listeners were invited to experience five colour-themed movements (Green, Blue, Gold, Red/White and finally Colour) in a cantata for two choirs plus an instrumental ensemble spread amongst the gallery floors.

The resulting sound experience was quite breath-taking, especially when heard for the very first time in a public space.

As Judith’s Big Picture gently reverberated around the building, we headed for the upper floor before making our way down the staircase and through the various new gallery spaces.

There are thankfully a few familiar images amongst the thousand or so exhibits. Eric Auld, Joseph Farquharson, Glasgow Boys and Monet feature. But in the main, the new space is full of new pleasures and a somewhat brave set of decisions.

Photography is allowed – and why should it not be. Accessibility has also been splendidly addressed and the artwork on display boldly embraces most tastes.

Tracey Emin vies with George and George. Martin Parr vies with the old masters who painted Finzean sheep and Victoria’s kilted Albert. And a multitude of previously unseen works inhabit the walls, Dick Turpin amongst them.

And the justice on the cake? The new gallery is free to enter and as often as you like. All we need now is an Aberdeen Museum.

  • Duncan Harley is author of two books about the North-east of Scotland. Both – The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire and The Little History of Aberdeenshire – are available from Amazon.
Oct 212019
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally ho! I’m missing Aberdeen and want to visit. If anyone wants to add me as a guest to the Northsound Business dinner, I’m in. Tables are £1250, and it’s at the Marcliffe, as previously mentioned.

Richard Thompson turned 70, and threw the best birthday party/concert I’ve ever been to, or am likely to ever attend.

The Royal Albert Hall three-hour extravaganza was unlike any show ever assembled before.

The music was a masterpiece of curation. Folk music, early RT songs, Fairport, torch songs, epic rock and humour were all on show.

The multi-talented, marvellous Marc Ellington performed ‘The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie-o’ beautifully.

Where do we start with the Thompson family – Teddy was awesome; Kami stunning, and Linda was there. I eventually had to stop counting the many Thompsons present as the music took me away.

There were some soloists who I definitely will go out of my way to see in future. There must have been 20 people onstage by the final pieces. Harry Shearer was mind-blowing in his Spinal Tap Derek Smalls persona, performing the moving, elegant ‘She puts the bitch in Obituary’.

The entire Thompson clan sang one of my favourite-ever protest songs, ‘That’s enough’.

‘Cry me a River’ transported us to a different time. For the last two pieces, a final guest star emerged: David Gilmour. ‘Dimming of the Day.’ ‘Fat Old Sun.’ the talent on stage was unsurpassable, and when Gilmour and Thompson played together as Fat Old Sun reached its crescendo, I think I cried some happy tears.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njeoAIX1Slw .

‘Meet on the Ledge’ saw all the legends present assemble. This was beautiful beyond the telling of it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB4F-DS0Wvw .

I’d been backstage for some pretty wonderful times at the RAH before, but I’d never seen a crowd anything like this before. Alas, I didn’t get to meet Mr Gilmour, whom I’m told I should meet. Maybe one day.

He also signed a photo and CD for Willows Animal Sanctuary, 

In the bar it was Thompsons to the left of me. Thompsons to the right of me. Thompsons in front of me. Harry Shearer, Michael (RT’s remarkable percussionist), other stars, and Marc Ellington peppered among the partygoers.

I found myself next to Richard for a few minutes, and looking around at the lively, deliriously happy crew, I asked:

“So Richard, you going to do anything interesting for your birthday?”

We laughed – or I think he did. I believe he gets my sense of humour by now. If not, that’s going to be the last invite I get. But what a night; beyond uplifting. Happy Birthday Mr Thompson.

I never ask for autographs as a rule from anyone, but I did of Richard twice. Ruth MacPherson was a great friend to Aberdeen Voice; she was meant to come with me to see him play at the Music Hall years ago.

She was ill with lung cancer, and on the night, she wasn’t up to it, which saddened her greatly.

He signed her a cd which I passed to her, and I know she treasured it. He also signed a photo and CD for Willows Animal Sanctuary, helping raise funds. Guitar hero indeed.

Moving swiftly along – as I must rush to London Brewdogs now that the collaboration festival is live (they brew scads of new beers with other breweries and each bar gets a few different ones. And yes, I’m a shareholder).

Since I’ll be out sampling new brews, I’m turning this 199th Old Susannah column over to a very special guest.

Aberdeen Voice has obtained the secret diary of…. Damian Bates, former editor of Aberdeen Journals Ltd.

I’ve added a few historic notes to the diary entries so you can see what was going on in the world at the same time Master Bates penned his thoughts. I hope you enjoy reading Damian’s thoughts on his pal Trump and how he had death threats.

It would be wrong for me to question the minor ethical dilemma or two that arise.

THE SECRET DIARY OF DAMIAN BATES

16 October, 2019

Only 18 days before I, Damian Bates, will tell everyone at Northsound’s business dinner what a great guy my personal friend Donald J Trump is and how great my tome is!
Sarah’s out shopping for the right dress and shoes (of course) for this great honour. Do you know I’ll be joining some of history’s great and good by speaking at this dinner? I, Damian Bates, will now be spoken of in the same breath as past speakers: Alastair Campbell, Lord Digby Jones and Ed Balls. I told some of my old colleagues about being asked and who the past speakers were, and they smiled and said I was a perfect fit.
I got where I am by hard work, not by coincidence; I don’t believe in coincidences. Now here I am, a friend of Donald J Trump. Me, Damian Bates who coincidentally edited the only newspapers where Trump was coincidentally building the world’s greatest golf course! Me Damian, who was coincidentally married to Sarah, The Face of Aberdeen Beauty contestant who I coincidentally chose to be the face, and who I coincidentally married! Sarah who Donald J Trump then coincidentally chose to run his golf course, despite my Sarah not having a stitch of relevant experience. No, I don’t believe in coincidence me, just in plain hard work. And being in the right place at the right time.
On reflection, I probably put one or two articles in the papers that praised the Menie golf course. But I only did that because it’s what people wanted. But the thing is, no one knows Donald J Trump like I do. He’s really just a nice, kind down-to-earth guy. If only everyone could know him as well as I do – they’d like him as much as this humble, hard-working newspaper editor does.
I’m a family man, me. Did you see the photos on my Facebook page? I still get people saying they can’t believe it’s really me pictured at the White House and then at Air Force One! And my Ferrari – I mean really. Did you ever see a cooler car? I think it matches my sunglasses really well – I spent days picking out the right pair. And my haircut. It goes with the glasses, don’t you think? And my car.
And now because my tome, Donald Trump The Real Deal is doing so well all over the world, Northsound Radio want me to speak at their business dinner this year! Time to get out my White House pen and start writing! I could hardly believe it when one of his aids gave me an official White House pen, it even has the presidential seal logo on it. If the metal clip on it says ‘made in China’ that just shows what a great businessman Donald J Trump really is. Now let’s get writing; I think I’ll comb through my diary to get some great anecdotes for my speech. What will be the high point? The time Trump got Eric and my great friend George Sorial, who’s also very close to Sarah, to move paintings around at Turnberry, or the fact Donald likes to eat KFC? Hard to tell which of those two is more of a show-stopper.

In other news …..

President Trump sends a letter to the Turkish president, telling him to ‘make a great deal’ or Trump will ‘crush’ Turkey’s economy. The letter continues ‘history will… look upon you as the devil if good things don’t happen.’

The letter is widely ridiculed.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?

Donald Trump takes to twitter to insist that Nancy Pelosi, not he, had a meltdown yesterday. Trump met Pelosi, Senator Schumer and others after his crushing defeat in the House.

A bill to challenge Trump’s abrupt pull-out from Syria, which has seen Kurds killed in the vacuum passed 348 to 60; many Republicans turned away from Trump for the vote. He is said to be ‘shaken.’

William D Cohan publishes a blockbuster article in Vanity Fair on mysterious, huge profiteering on the stock markets revolving around announcements and actions of Donald J Trump. Did these lucky players have knowledge only Trump could have had? https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/10/the-mystery-of-the-trump-chaos-trades?

26 July, 2019

Today I did an interview with Northsound to promote my speaking at their business dinner in November about my tome! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnQh6w2ere8&t=10s I revealed for the first time that I’ve had death threats – oh yes. Can you believe it? Death threats against a journalist! Against me! People have to respect reporters and editors; we’ve got integrity and we’re here to give you the news. I did tell the interviewer not to ask me what these threats were about or when, or ask when I reported them to the police or why I didn’t seem to have ever mentioned them before. I also explained ‘I was the captain of the ship; the ship was far more important than I was’, I said. I might have steered that ship towards the Menie Estate and away from any Trump critics (believe it or not he has some), but nothing more than any other editor whose wife works for Trump would have done. I thought one of the recording crew said something about ‘a rat leaving a sinking ship’ but I couldn’t be sure.
I tell the interviewer there are many tomes out there that claim to tell readers what Donald Trump is REALLY like – but they are by people who haven’t even met him. How can you know what someone is like unless you have dinner with them at their club which your wife manages? It’s like when people write about Hitler or Pol Pot who never met them – what can such authors really know? My tome has it all – our phone calls, dinners, interviews – and what an impartial observer I am.
Trump’s been honest with me and I’ve been honest with him. I might not have been honest to the readership of the P&J or EE about these dinners, phone calls and of course the wife’s job – but there you go. Some reporters just report about the things he says and does, like telling the Ukraine president to get him dirt on Biden, or sending Ivanka to high-profile international meetings, or saying journalists are the enemy of the people who should be roughed up. But he laughs and jokes, and is a great guy. Some people write that he yells at his staff and it’s chaos – but I never saw that, so it can’t be true. My tome will say that – he can be wrong sometimes! Ground-breaking!

In other news ….

At Trump’s insistence, the federal death penalty has been reinstated, despite evidence that innocent people given unfair trials have been convicted, some executed.

June 13, 2019
( Damian Bates adds photo of him with Trump in the Oval Office to his Facebook page.)

Wow. I thought my Ferrari was really cool – but wait until my friends see this photo of me in the Oval Office while Trump sits at his desk! That’ll really impress everyone! Maybe I should put in my tome about the time I said ‘Mr Trump, sir, Donald – can I call you ‘DJ’?” He looked up at me from the TV and, get this – with more than a hint of his genius – he said ‘No.’

In other news ….

North Carolina man Craig Hicks, pleaded guilty to fatally shooting three Muslim university students back in 2015. The women’s father said the killings were part of rising bigotry against Muslims.

Prosecutors said Hicks had brandished a handgun to intimidate a Korean neighbour and a black remodelling worker. Relatives of the victims have asked federal authorities to charge Hicks with hate crimes.

Hate crimes have spiralled upwards since Donald Trump’s election.

Trump called for a ban on Muslims travelling to the US, which has an estimated 4-7 million-strong Muslim population. This was to be, in his words ‘…until we can figure out what the hell is going on.’

Trump recently offered to hire out US troops to Saudi Arabia, a nation with an appalling human rights record, implicated in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on 2 October 2018.

He was believed to have been dismembered while alive in Turkey in the Saudi consulate – the Saudis claim the murder, involving several Saudi agents and a bone saw, was ‘a spur of the moment’ event; an audio tape makes it abundantly clear it was premeditated. Trump refuses to listen to the evidence.
newly-released-transcripts-tell-gruesome-moments-saudi-columnist

June 28, 2018 …..

Note to self – must make sure to update my Companies House appointments and addresses; I guess saying I’m at Lang Stracht isn’t quite right any more.
https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/5pJaOqY8SsluCgyKU-FaAQZxH4Y/appointments

In other news ….

Five journalists at Maryland’s Baltimore Gazette are shot dead. This followed Trump’s repeated speeches casting journalists as purveyors of fake news and enemies of the people.

April 17, 2018 
(
Damian Bates adds photo of Air Force One to his Facebook page.)

The best day ever! It’s not every day a hard-hitting, honest newspaper man like me gets to hang around with his busy pal Donald J Trump and go to Air Force One, that’s the president’s plane by the way. Someone wanted Trump to sign some paperwork – but he said he was busy – with me! This is the kind of friendship we have, and that’s how I know the real Donald J Trump – a great guy who’s hardworking and as honest as I am. Must take home some of the Air Force One branded cups and sick bags for Sarah – she loves anything with a prestigious logo, like my Ferrari.

In other news …..

President Trump held off imposing sanctions against Russia for its backing Syria. Nikki Haley, then UN Ambassador for Trumpistan had announced the sanctions the day before.

The Washington post reported:

“The additional sanctions were expected as a response to Syria’s suspected chemical weapons attack. Moscow opposed the sanctions, and Trump didn’t sign the order. Haley had said Sunday on CBS News that the sanctions would target Russian companies linked to equipment used in the alleged chemical attack.

“Trump, however, reportedly told his national security advisers he was not yet comfortable pulling the trigger on the sanctions.”
10-things-need-know-today-april-17-2018

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Oct 012019
 

Old Susannah rides back into Aberdeen, well, back onto Aberdeen Voice’s pages anyway, picking up where she left off, defining the terms that define the indescribable goings-on in the Deen and Shire. By Suzanne Kelly.

It’s been a while, but with all the exciting things going on in the dynamic and vibrant city of Aberdeen, I couldn’t stay away.

This column traditionally opens up with descriptions of what I’d been drinking and doing in BrewDog bars, so why not now? I’ve visited BrewDog Brighton (Drank my first Dog F – a rich, heady dark offering) and BrewDog Clerkenwell to enjoy Obzest – very citrusy and refreshing. 

I never hid the fact I’m a shareholder.  I’m glad I’m a shareholder.  So are at least 100k other people.

I bring BrewDog up not just because I wish I were at the Flagship this minute, but because from the first time I owned shares and wrote about BrewDog, I told Aberdeen Voice’s readership.

To do otherwise would have been dishonest. And still we had complaints: I was writing about the biggest new thing in town, the UK’s fastest-growing drinks company started by two young men paying a living wage, making phenomenal brews, being politically active and irreverent.

No one ever has to pay to read Aberdeen Voice; and if you were a donor who didn’t like my offerings, then you could either stop donating or simply not read the bits you didn’t like.

If, however you were an Aberdeen Journals Ltd subscriber (there are still some apparently), you paid for years while being played – and not for small beer. 

Damian Bates never told those buying the local rags he had a financial interest in Trump doing well in Scotland.

He kept quiet about his wife’s working for the toupèed toddler.

I sometimes wonder whether those who insisted I shouldn’t write about BrewDog ever insisted Damian shouldn’t be allowed to print dozens of pro-Trump advertorials and stories, while directly helping his family’s wallet? 

Aberdeen Voice allowed my morally-indignant critics to have their say. Have you ever yet read a word in the P&J admitting this ethically challenged editor used the papers to firm up the Mrs.’s position under Trump?  No, you never did. 

Trump is a regular guy, as you’d find out if you buy a table

Tally ho!  Northsound Radio is holding a business dinner – only £1250 per table at the 5 star Marcliffe Hotel and Spa (homophobic ‘jokes’ from the owner included at no extra charge).

Who got the huge honour of speaking? Why, Master Bates, who’ll tell the guests about his book and what Trump is really like (he hates fancy food). 

It must be interesting to be a reporter who’s pals with a man whose hate speech has got reporters beaten and even killed. But Trump is a regular guy, as you’d find out if you buy a table.

Result! I finished making my emergency survival bag which UK police recommend we all do, while telling us ‘don’t panic’.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-49631455 

This is nothing to do with Brexit, food shortages, rioting or the yellowhammer documents. I recommend a first aid kit, some BrewDog, and old unsold copies of the Evening Express for insulation and starting campfires.

Alas though! I’m upset for poor Prime Minister Johnson, who was slammed by the courts, ruling his closing Parliament was illegal. I’m so upset I can barely see through my tears. Now there’s a man who’d better get his emergency survival bag ready.

PS. I recommend Steve Coogan’s latest offering, Hot Air. One reason I wanted to see it was to see Declan Michael Laird. I’ve written about this young Scots actor in the past and things are starting to go, deservedly, extremely well for him. 

The highlight as expected is Coogan’s soliloquy: he plays a cynical, manipulative right-wing DJ. In his speech he describes virtually all our current societal, governmental, media failings.

I didn’t have any preconception of what Declan would be doing in this – but he’s wonderfully hilarious as a wealthy young Russian trustafarian living in Coogan’s uber-rich building. Hot Air is well worth your time. 

Herewith some definitions

Exploitation: (Noun) Taking something of value from a source and profiting considerably more than the source does.

Friday was some kind of climate protest day, and I’m sick of the exploitation of children by adults who have selfish motives. 

It’s awful to see young people who don’t understand the real world being manipulated to the point they care more about species extinctions, plastic entering the food chain, unprecedented climactic events -when they should care about clothes and getting rich. 

Who gave them clearance to be at school and take this PR photo? Did they have DBS Clearance checked? If you know, please tell

How would you feel if your child went on some rally when they should be safe at school?

They’re being manipulated I tell you; if they were at school all would be well.  Unless maybe they were in an American school (have you seen this video yet?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5ykNZl9mTQ ). 

Or unless they were in a school where politicians entered at will without any permission or vetting, like when Alex Salmond descended on Bramble Brae Primary with his team.

Since that happened, Mr Salmond had sex abuse charges leveled at him.  Just like his friend Donald Trump. No, no reason to get clearance people who want to wander into schools to take pictures.    

Or there was the time a bunch of suits and Sarah Malone took photos of young people in their new Trump International football strips.

The shire told The Ferret’s Rob Edwards years ago the shirts were in line with policy (even though it really wasn’t true).

You might think that’s old news. However, the shire told me a different story recently: they now say the shirts were nothing to do with them after all, but a private group of parents organised it. Parents who were allowed to go into what certainly looks like school property and photograph students – with a couple of besuited men with them.

For marketing and promoting a private business. Owned by a man with US mob and Russian ties, accused of sexual crimes. That seems to be OK too.   

In the same way the police release photos when trying to solve a crime, I want to know: who are these people? Does everyone in this photo have DBS clearance to be hanging around young people? Did they get permission to use this gym in their wonderful photos?

Aberdeenshire doesn’t care but I do.

Yes, keep the students in school; a day away to exchange ideas and support each other over their future is far less important than whether Sarah Malone wants a photoshoot or Salmond wants to boost a candidate.

Maybe Aberdeen Voice should just print up some t-shirts for the frisbee team, head to a school, and take photos of kids holding up AV shirts?  I’m sure the shire would have no problem with that.

he does know his Nazi regalia, I’ll give him that

If young people have to be out of school for some ‘environmental’ reason, then it should be for something practical. Like planting marram grass to stabilizes Menie’s moving sand dune system.

The shire insisted the planting was approved by educational environmental bods. I found out that was not remotely true. But at least the photos of the kids planting the grass that ruined the dunes were lovely; I’d not be surprised to find the EE was selling prints for a tenner, as they do.

All this climate change talk is obscuring what’s really important in this life:  how you look.

Sexy Dinesh Dsouza reckons Greta Thunberg’s braids mean she’s emulating an old Nazi poster of a child in braids (he does know his Nazi regalia, I’ll give him that). Somehow he objects to Danish student Greta looking Nordic – she should do something about that. 

And those braids – so very traditional and childish; almost like she was a young person or something.

The teen certainly needs fashion advice too:  there are so many exciting styles coming out of third world sweatshops (Ivanka can give some pointers here as she owns so many – speaking of pointers did you see her tasteful blue shirt worn t the UN?). 

Perhaps anti-bullying champion Melania can serve as a role model too. I wonder where that jacket she wore on her way to visit caged refugee children got to, you know that one that said ‘I really don’t care do you?’ That would look so cool on Greta.  

Finally, a bit more orange make up would put some colour in Greta’s cheeks too don’t you think – get rid of that ‘Nordic’ look? Trump could make a recommendation or two here I think. Kids today, eh?

Rent: (Noun or verb) A fee paid by a tenant to occupy real estate. Unless you’re the P&J renting from ACC.

It’s only taken about four months for ACC to partially answer my freedom of information request on what Aberdeen Journals Ltd is paying to be in Marischal Square. You know, I think they’re getting faster.

Why would anyone think that ACC was giving AJL a free ride or sweet deal on rent?  Maybe it was the talk at the time, the odd article or two, or the fact Bates put out an email denying it was remotely possible. 

Here’s two findings from my FOI:  I’m sure this all sound as legit and believable to you as it does to me: 

Council says:  

“Aberdeen City Council personnel, Chief Executive, Elected Officials and staff have NOT accepted any discounts, hospitality, gifts, favours from Aberdeen Journals Ltd and its companies for the period 1 January 2017 through the present day (Sept 19).”

So for nearly two years, not a soul at ACC took so much as a free lunch, newspaper, paperweight, pen, calendar, theatre tickets, dinner for three years and nine months. Wonder at the fact-checking here.

The Council wrote:

“The headline rent paid per square metre paid by AJL at Marischal Square is £322.92.” 

And just exactly what is headline rent?

Headline Rent: (Compound noun) Rent paid under a lease after the end of any rent free or reduced rent periods. It is an artificially inflated rent which ignores the rent-free period or any other concessions given by the landlord to the tenant in return for a higher headline rate.

So.. from the definition, we can conclude AJL got some kind of a sweet deal for at least a while.

Who would have guessed – and what was it exactly?  (I’m on it).

By the way, looking at city centre commercial rents on large properties the £332.92 per square metre per annum hardly looks like an inflated rate at all – it looks average.

If the city says this figures is a headline rent it means AJL was definitely paying less than the average going rate for a brand new building. And of course, there is nothing unethical about a newspaper cozying up to government, just because the press is supposed to serve as a check on government.

Someone needs to tell Damian Bates.

When the move was still being discussed, he sent an email:

“.. it is not correct to suggest there is any ‘state aid’ around any potential deal…”  (But there was – otherwise no headline rent). 

He continued in this July 2016 email: 

“… we have not sought nor will we be seeking anything with the council subsidizing our lease…”

Whether they asked for it or not – looks like they got it. Here’s to Aberdeen:  home of the world’s most generous taxpayers.

But why be upset? It’s not as if your tax money has been used to support Scotland’s most pro-Trump mainstream news vehicle. It’s not as if that newspaper took money off you every time you wanted a P&J or EE to line the canary’s cage, while hiding Bates’ personal financial link to Trump? 

If you ever have awkward questions about the city’s dealings (maybe while you’re wondering why they’re charging you £30 a year now for green waste), you can just call the local press with your scoop. They’ll be right on it I’m sure.

PS. the City has recently taken out a few more million plus pound loans.  Result!

Math quiz:  Select an answer from (A) through (D): 

If AJL has 19,000 square feet (which is 1765.15 square metres) and is now paying £322.92 per square metre (presumably per annum) and paid a lower figure previously, then: 

(A)  the cost is £570,000 per year;
(B)  aren’t we taxpayers generous;
(C)  they got a very good deal initially to be paying headline rent that is around the city average – did the taxpayer get left holding the bag again; or
(D)  all of the above.

The bottom line? We can rely on the City to get best value for taxpayer money and to be transparent with its taxpayers, and on AJL papers for unbiased, investigative reporting. Well at least to the same standards we’ve become accustomed to.

I have much more to say, so there’ll be a further column or ten – that’s either good or bad news depending on your perspective. But I see the word count increasing, and with it the editor’s patience decreasing. More soon. 

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Apr 222019
 

Duncan Harley reviews Doorways in Drumorty @ Aberdeen Arts Centre

Doorways in Drumorty is loosely based on the writings of a Strichen lass by the name of Lorna Moon who made it big in Hollywood.

Alongside her one published novel Dark Star, Lorna – born Helen Nora Wilson Low – escaped her native Buchan age 24 in around 1910.

Broken relationships and abandoned offspring followed before the talented, and by now re-badged, Lorna Moon took up with the son of Hollywood mogul Cecil B. DeMille and forged a successful career as a scriptwriter.

Her short stories, first published in Century Magazine, feature a clutch of thinly disguised Buchan folk and pull few punches. Titles such as ‘The Sinning of Jessie MacLean’ and ‘Feckless Maggie Ann’ did not endear her to the locals and, in true Lewis Grassic Gibbon tradition, legend insists that her books were shunned by the local library service.

Penned by author/playwright Mike Gibb the play explores the curtain twitching mentality of small-town Buchan. Questionable morality, dubious loyalty, fractured community and tightly held family bonds inhabit the tale and through the course of a series of vignettes the reality of a century old Buchan community is revealed warts and all.

A three-hander – Estrid Barton, Fraser Sivewright and Lucy Goldie take on some dozen roles – Doorways is at points humorous, poignant and even tragic.

Neatly bookended by Lucy Goldie’s Lorna Moon in full 1920’s flapper gear the play hits hard.

A heavily pregnant and destitute Bella Tocher is banished from Drumorty to fend as best she can. A new minister unwisely accepts a dinner invitation and is labelled a thief, the local dentist elopes with the postmistress and – following the theft of a chicken – an innocent infant is subject to divine retribution.

Gossip, double-standards and rumour-mongering infest the close-knit community but of course:

“You’re only the gossip on the street until something more interesting comes along.”

Set and lighting are simple and reek of a more austere era. Fast paced, the character changes are at times difficult to follow leaving some of the audience at least lagging behind the action on stage.

However eventually, when it becomes clear that this is not a tale about Lorna Moon but is a tale based on her writings, the building blocks slide into place.
As for the title; there is speculation that alongside revelling in the name Lorna Moon – she had taken up with Walter Moon in around 1913 – Lorna was a great admirer of kailyard authors such as Ian MacLaren and J.M. Barrie.

Barrie’s ‘Window in Thrums’ and MacLaren’s ‘Drumtochty’ provide some clue as to the provenance of the ‘Doorways in Drumorty’ header.

As Lorna, an admirer of Barrie seemingly said:

“I’d rather be Barried than buried.”

This is in essence an important play and seems destined to re-awaken interest in a woman who, although ruthless in her pursuit of career, nevertheless put the likes of Strichen on the map.

Mind you, at the final curtain and despite the loud applause, it was hard to shed the notion that the long-gone folk in the Buchan graveyards were still cockin’ a lug and shakin’ their heids at the pure cheek o’ the lass.

Stars: 4/5
Produced by Andy Corelli and written by Mike Gibb, Doorways in Drumorty will tour 18 venues across Scotland between 18 April – 18 May 2019

Click here for tour dates and tickets.

Words © Duncan Harley. Images © Andy Corelli

Apr 112019
 

Mike Shepherd reviews Duncan Harley’s ‘The Little History of Aberdeenshire’.

Duncan Harley’s fascinating new book is described as a little history of Aberdeenshire, yet covers a 4,000 year time span from the Neolithic when peasant farmers built the stone circles that dot the countryside through to North Sea oil.

Along the way we read about battles, plagues and the arrival of the modern era when Aberdeenshire finally became accessible to the outside world: turnpikes, canals and railways were built.

This is anything but a dry and dusty history tome.

As with his previous book, The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire, Duncan throws in lots of quirky and curious facts to liven up the tale.

Did you know that the bulldozers building the Aberdeen bypass uncovered a whole load of new archaeological finds including ninety Roman bread ovens at Milltimber? That it took years to complete the monument to the battle of Harlaw near Inverurie, because of a reluctance to add the armorial shields representing the highland clans?

The expense involved was considered as ‘paying for the arms of the enemy’ (and this 500 years after the battle took place). The shields were finally added in 2011 for the 600th anniversary.

Or how about this? Stonehaven’s oldest building, the Tollbooth at the harbour, was severely damaged during the Second World War when an anti-shipping mine beached next to it.

These and many more nuggets make Duncan’s book an engrossing read. If you enjoyed Duncan’s first book or you are curious about the history of Aberdeenshire, then this is the book for you.

Highly recommended. 

Published by The History Press. £12.00 in hardback.

 

Mar 072019
 

Aberdeen Voice contributor for the past 8 years, Suzanne Kelly aka Old Susannah has been writing about BrewDog since before the Aberdeen flagship bar opened.  She’s just back from a trip that she won on the BrewDog Airlines maiden voyage and tells us what it was like.

Flight Club – a brew designed to be drunk at high altitudes with extra flavour.

BrewDog shareholders, some 200 strong, invaded Columbus Ohio last Thursday.  Beer lovers, some in kilts; many in BrewDog regalia, took to the streets, the breweries, the pubs, the hotels and the city arena in an orgy of love for the art of drink.

Perhaps no brand of beer has put the love and the art into their product and into pleasing the many ‘Equity Punks’ shareholders who made all of this possible.

Winning a place on the trip (thanks to doing a lot of buying, trading, and giving stickers away), I found myself at Stanstead Thursday afternoon waiting to take off. 

The infectious, happy, perhaps zany atmosphere of the shareholders, staff and founders was there from the start and reached frenzy at points.

The plane was a private hire (with a remarkably friendly team) – in bespoke BrewDog livery.  BrewDog blankets, toothbrushes, snacks, eye masks and antimacassars) awaited each passenger.  We drank to our hearts’ content of BrewDog beers, its lovely gin and American style whisky. 

Then, as an in-flight treat we tasted Flight Club – a brew designed to be drunk at high altitudes with extra flavour to compensate for slight changes to the senses at height.  We toasted; we cheered, we laughed; we drank – to the point the toilets were at capacity – something the pilot said he hadn’t seen in 25 years of flying.

After a few or many beers at the hotel or in town, we assembled the next day to tour the brewery and hotel in smaller groups.  I knew it was large (42 acres), but like everyone else, the complex on the outskirts of Columbus bowled me over. 

I once thought the Ellon Brewery with its artwork and state-of-the-art systems was a Willy Wonkaesque fun factory; BrewDog’s Columbus premises is all that – on steroids and with a hotel.

We toured the brewery, meeting half a dozen operatives along the tour; the cannery and its hyper-enthused canner was smashing; the nerve centre control room was science faction as computer graphics illustrated what valve needed turning or what needed heating. 

photo by Suzanne Kelly

BrewDog’s chartered plain was filled with luxuries

The hotel is everything we were hoping for; some of us stayed for a night or two in the rooms which were named after some of the beers, lagers, stouts and IPAs BrewDog’s created. 

A giant bed, a neon sign over it, two beer fridges (one for your bathroom by the shower no less), and an option to put a draft of your choice on tap in your room and views to the fields and into the brewery:  heaven. 

When I got to the Hinterland room for the last night of the 4 night epic adventure, I was too tired to go out – and was deliriously happy staying in the giant bed with its fluffy pillows.  It should be noted the shampoos, soaps and lotions were made with a BrewDog concoction ‘Elvis Juice’ – a nice citrusy, tart delight – these will, I hope, be offered for sale sometime soon.

Revelling in this fun city, many of us went to the Columbus Blue Jackets ice hockey match on the Saturday. 

Despite having a nearly equal shots on goal position, the Blue Jackets outclassed San Diego 3 goals to nil.  The second was beautifully capitalised on from a chancy shot; the goalie had a certain style and an amazingly cool head. 

After the game, many wandered to BrewDog in the Short North part of town – a very vibrant area with shops, no shortage of places to eat and drink, and a lovely fragrance bar called The Candle Lab, where you choose fragrances to make your own candles, soaps, body sprays and room sprays. 

The Short North bar was heaving; but the zingy staff got everyone drinks quickly.  There was a delightful, filling ‘Donut Drive By’ coffee stout that had been made with donuts; It was like being a cop on a stakeout in terms of flavour. 

There was a deceptively 11% IPA (I think) called Diabolical Dream State.  One of those was all I needed; I’d walked for miles that day to BrewDog’s Franklinton bar and the city’s German town.  And I’d attended a hugely impressive tour at 451 Distillery. 

Founder, distiller, creator Chad told us his story, explained in detail but perfectly simply how a distiller starts to distil, when they ‘cut’, and what they can do to ensure they get out all the alcohol from their mash. 

He then gave us thimblefuls of a heavenly absinthe (which he’d explained to us very well), a remarkable mescal, rum, whisky and… a rosemary-heavy gin, Clawfoot’ – which I simply had to have.  He can’t send his products to us alas – not yet anyway.

BrewDog Franklinton had a lovely roof terrace, but its appeal was not for this cold weather.  The food was lovely, not least fresh hot pretzels served with mustards.  The root beer float was tempting, but I opted for a traditional (non-alcohol) crème soda. 

The trip saw us given lots and lots of goodies, drink, and opportunities to take tours (a bus trip to Cincinnati’s bars and breweries was offered, but I wanted to visit The Candle Lab).  Even the inflight food was delish – with the vegetarian options putting other airlines to shame. 

But what made this trip?  Things did go wrong – there was a power outage, and one Cincinnati bus driver proved a bit less than clued up – but none of these were BrewDog’s fault. 

What made this trip?  The BrewDog team.  The founding fathers James Watt and Martin Dickie kept us amused on the flight over as you would expect, but the crew from the UK and the Columbus crew worked tirelessly and yet somehow effortlessly. 

The staffies make this company, as do the shareholders.  I’ve never had such enthusiasm for a brand, for entrepreneurs; and I’ve never found anyone making beers as inventive, unique, delicious even audacious as BrewDog does. 

I’d go on about the tour, about how the sour beers are made, about what the bars were like, and how much fun Columbus is.  However, I’m well over my word count and can picture my editor pulling his hair out long before now. 

Slate me if you will, but I am a proud shareholder who saw something great for Aberdeen city and shire in James and Martin from the first day I drank their beer, and as much as I’ll shout about what’s going wrong in the area,

I’ll equally shout about what’s going on that’s great.  And that’s BrewDog.  Cheers.  And thanks to the wonderful person who traded me the sticker I needed.  You rule.