Dec 072019
 

Suzanne Kelly presents her annual Christmas tale.

Popular mythology would have it that the original Dick Whittington, born 1354 was born of poor parents; this simply wasn’t true.
Dick was wealthy and became mayor of London; that’s as far as it went.

Popular mythology would have it that Boris Johnson, born 1964, was born of average parents; this simply isn’t true.

Boris is wealthy and became mayor of London and PM: that’s further than it should have gone. Now read on.

A long time ago there was once a poor boy called Boris Whittington whose parents were so poor not all the children could go to English prep schools.

People at his school made fun of his great poverty and his foreign ancestry. He would learn from this.

Our hero was so poor he went to Oxford to study, well – maybe he studied less than some. He did however cut a fine figure for a poor foreigner in the Bullyton Club. He spent all his parents’ pieces of gold on the £3,500 outfit he needed to wear to go to Bullyton Club dinners.

Soon this awkward, sensitive outsider was accepted as being ‘almost one of us’ when he proved what he was made of, and burned a £50 note in front of a homeless person (who might have even been from ‘Bongo Bongo land’ as Boris called some countries).

Poor Boris wanted to better his life, and his fellow Bullyton club members told him of London, where the streets were paved with gold.

“Cripes!,” thought Boris

“I say, that sounds like the place for me, what?”.

So off Boris Whittington bravely strode to London town, carrying in a little handkerchief tied to a steamer trunk in a flotilla of moving vans all of his meagre worldly possessions. He was determined that he would go there and dig up enough gold from the streets to make his fortune.

One day he met a friendly hedge fund manager who was going to London who said he would give him a lift there, so off they went.  When they reached the big city Boris couldn’t believe his eyes, he could see horses, carriages, hundreds of people, great tall buildings, lots of mud, but nowhere could he see any gold.

What a disappointment. How was he going to make his fortune? How was he even going to buy a four-bed flat?

“But corrr! Look at all this Totty!” He thought, and set off to better himself.

By then he had married a pussycat who grew up in a castle in Perthshire; she was called Allegra Mostyn-Owen. This was very useful for a time. They both toiled in the news business for a time. But Boris realised he was destined for greater things, so he sold her on.

Being a man of great character, he decided to start at the bottom and deigned to take a trainee job at Ye Times newspaper.

Alas! Boris thought he would add a little excitement to one of his stories, and surprisingly Ye Times took a dim view of this, so much so that they gaveth him ye sack. The Times then continued its unsullied mission of printing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: well truth as The Digger (who was a sorcerer from the land of Oz) saw it.

After a few days he was so hungry that he collapsed in a ragged heap on the doorstep of a rag merchant owned by two twins Barclay Dee and Barclay Dumb.

Out of the house came a crook:

“How would you like to be a weekly columnist for the Daily Telegraph? We can pay you £275,000 for one column a week – but it’s a start.”

Boris thought long and hard of the sacrifices he’d have to make.

“I’ll do it! Jings! Crivens!” he said.

He suffered. Boris even had to cover an event full of Lefties in 1996. Now the Lefties were not really our sort of people, don’t you know. Some of them weren’t even white; they even let girls be Lefties, and some of those girls ‘dressed up like letterboxes’.

Worse still – the Lefties allowed ‘bum boys’ to join! Cripes! What would Boris write for the Daily Torygraph about this horrible scene?

“The unanimous opinion is that what has been called the ‘Tottymeter’ reading is higher than at any Labour Party conference in living memory,” he wrote.

And the Torygraph readers loved him all the more.

Alas! Boris was notorious at the rag merchant for writing his column during a brief window on Sunday afternoons before sending it to the printing press only just in time.

This left little time for editors to make changes and fact-check his claims, but happily, fact-checking was not high on the Barclay twins’ agenda. So, on Boris toiled, dreaming of better days. He started to wonder if he wasn’t destined for better things and an easier life, like going into politics.

Boris was ever so grateful to the Daily Torygraph’s Barclay Dee and Barclay Dumb but, alas, the editor was always very bad tempered and, when no one was looking, used to beat and pinch him.

Now while Boris was slaving away day in, day out toiling at his demanding job, he acquired a pussy. Her name was Miranda.

London was full of rats and fat cats. Boris realised that the more rats and fat cats he could catch, the richer he’d get. But Miranda really wasn’t much cop for improving Boris’ social standing, so she had to go.  Verily he got shot of Miranda, which opened the cat flap for lots of other pussies, and lo, they verily did make use of it; they were Petronella, Helen (with whom he had a litter of kittens) and most recently Carrie. Carrie and Boris are so fond of each other that to this very day, the sounds of cats screaming and breaking things can be heard from their happy home.

Soon Boris was attracting lots of pussies, fat cats and rats. And lo it came to pass that with the blessing of the Tories, the help of the Barclay twins, and a whole bunch of rats, Boris became Mayor of London.

But our story does not end there.

Boris spent millions on a garden bridge in old London Town; it was never built. The people didn’t care.

One day Boris met a very important fat cat – and the most true Brit in all of Britland: Nigel Farage.

Nigel hated the people from ‘Bongo Bongo land’, people who wanted to come to Britain (except Boris’ ancestors of course!), and the Lefties. And pretty much anyone who wasn’t a white British man.

Nigel made his fortune by representing Brit land in the Union of Europe. This Union of Europe was an evil organisation that allowed people to trade goods throughout European countries, work in other countries, live in other countries, and gave them something called Human Rights.

Worse still, it wanted to harm the fat cats and rats by not letting them give their money to seafaring merchants to take away to the lands of Island of Virgins and Bahamas and verily the lands where the Barclay Twins lived in the Island of Channels. Nigel took a big salary from Europe, and will take a big pension from Europe.

Nigel hates Europe. And so does Boris.

The two of them hired a great big red coach, and painted on it that Europe was costing 350 million gold pieces each week, which should be used to heal the sick instead. Verily the people who had read Boris’ wise words in the Barclay twins’ rag believed every word, and felleth for this hooketh, lineth and sinkereth.

Alas, it was not strictly speaking true.

How the people loved his racism, sexism, lying, propaganda and anti-Europe positions! Yes, Boris was destined for greater things still.

The evil, ageing hag-queen of London was clearly losing her ability to govern. Sometimes when she had to walk across a stage, she had odd convulsions that some mistook for dancing. The Queen of the May had held power for some time now, and had many accomplishments.

She buried news about a disastrous, expensive failure of the Trident rockets, had cut all services to the poor, and made the dying travel to centres where they were told they weren’t dying at all. Who could possibly pick up where she left off?

Yes, you guesseth correctly: Boris soon became the Prime Minister of all of England!

Now, being Prime Minister was even less work than being mayor was. There was always someone with a bag of gold or a perk or a pussy or two who wanted to help him out and do the work for him.

“Cripes! This is great!” Boris thought, as his collection of gold doubloons and totty continued to increase. But it was never enough.

Not long after, Boris heard the merchant twins and other fat cats he knew asking everyone in the Houses of Parliament if they wanted to send anything on board their ship, they thought they could sell. The ship was going on a long voyage to the other side of the world to a place called America and the captain would sell everything on the ship so they could all make some money.

Poor Boris, what could he sell?

Suddenly, a thought came to him

“Please sir, will you take the National Health Service?”

Everyone burst out laughing, but the merchant smiled and said:

“Yes Boris, just what I was thinking, I will, and all the money from her sale will go to you – and to all of us.”

After the merchant had left from the city Dick found there was a small group of peasants who were revolting because they were such smelly oiks.

They somehow objected to selling off the NHS, to Boris’ little white lies about the gold going to the NHS, to leaving Europe, to having their ill and dying being made to work, and their air and land being poisoned.

How would Boris deal with these rabble – especially as the captain of the guard had decided that Boris couldn’t just sweep them all away with the water cannons he’d ordered years before. So, he just closed Parliament down a few times instead.

Boris knew he had to do something to make himself more popular again, so he could keep being the Prime Minister.

He invented an immigration points system to keep the wrong sort out of the UK, threw people out who had come in the Windrush period, and this kind of thing made his peasant fans, Mr Yaxley Lennon and his mates very happy.

Verily, this distracted such peasants from caring about the honey and plenty of money wrapped up in a five pound note the fat cats were sheltering in the Offshore Trusts. But it wasn’t quite enough, and Boris had secret plans underway.

One such plan would happen right here in England; the other was being put into action by the merchant captain at the fat cat’s bidding.

Boris had denigrated women, grabbed them (in an English way – by the thigh, not their pussycats so that was OK); and said women in burkas looked like letterboxes. Sure, he had also said that seeing groups of black kids made him nervous, and black people had watermelon smiles.

But here was the genius plan: He’d just say everything he’d ever said or done was satirical, and the real racism was in the Labour party. After all, the oiks in the streets wouldn’t know what satirical meant and wouldn’t care as long as white people – white men – were still top of the food chain, what?

His old friends the twins and his old newspaper jobs would be delighted to print this story, and so it came to pass. BoJo (as he was unaffectionately known) and his press baron friends painted Labour as being villainous racists, while Boris was made to look like a saint.

Unsurprisingly, this pleased his peasant fans – like Yaxley-Lennon who was also known for violent arguments with women, hating non-whites, and blatant lies. Success! Result!

Across the other side of the world, the merchant captain and his ship had arrived at their destination, Washington.

King Trump and Queen Melania (who had been so poor she could only afford to wear boots, handcuffs and guns before her rise to power) were so delighted that they invited them all to a feast.

The captain had heard that like Boris Whittington, King Trump was a self-made man. Set out into the world on his own with just six million dollars in the 1980s and a family Ku Klux Klan background, Trump had to fend for himself with just a few mafia figures to help him – and that all turned out OK.

Except for a few bankruptcies, people losing their homes and jobs when Trump went bust, black people not being able to own homes in Trump castles, and the odd rape accusation or two (including from his wife Ivana).

But, believe it or not, when the food was brought in none of the ship’s crew nor captain would eat it.

“Oh dear” said the king stuffing a chicken leg into his mouth and wiping his hands on his golf trousers,

“Dontcha like KFC and Chick fil a?”

“No offense your majesty” said the captain,

“but we don’t allow growth hormones in our beef and bleach in our chicken. We don’t allow ground-up bugs in our chocolates (well, not in as high quantities as you do), and we don’t put lots of non-food chemicals into our food. Nothing personal – we just like to live.”

“Not to worry!” laughed King Trump,

“Everyone is healthy here – I’m 6’3” tall and only weigh 185 lbs… or is that 185 stone?”

Chewing on a KFC family bargain bucket, Trump continued:

“To show our appreciation for your country, we’ve agreed to take on the NHS contracts, and as a bonus, when you leave the Union of Europe, we’re going to be your new food trading partner. Everything’s all arranged – just ask President Boris.”

And they all laughed, and the real feast of edible foods was brought out.
The merchant ship captain looked at the huge banquet dais where Trump sat, and behind his thrown was a curtain.

Behind that was an athletic chap, shirtless, sitting on a horse. He seemed to be pulling levers and strings.

Before the merchant ship captain could ask, Queen Melania hissed in his ear:

“Pay no attention to zat mehn behind ze curtain!”

“But it looks like he’s really the one running the show and pulling the strings!”

“I really don’t care, do you?” she purred.

Clinking his plastic cola bottle with a plastic fork, King Trump signalled for the room to be silent for one of his speeches. The captain thought some of the King’s aids rolled their eyeballs.

“Welcome friends from Englandland! We’ve decided to help you out of the NHS – I mean help the NHS.”

“Right, we have even more gifts we want to give youse guys in Englandland” Trump continued.

“The reason you have these terrorists is because you let people immigrate – that means come in – to your country. You gatta do what we do here – when they get to the border, put ‘em in cages.

“Lots of money for getting the little ones adopted – believe me! And the amount of money you can get for keeping these vermin sleeping on concrete floors under foil blankets – ya wouldn’t believe me.”

The captain felt his smile recede as Trump continued:

“Then, you’d also be much better off if you’d all jes get yerselves some guns – yeah, good guys with guns. Not having guns is un-American ain’t that right Mitch McConnell?”

At this several old white men stood up; many clutching fists full of roubles. The man behind the curtain with no shirt laughed.

“You’re too nice over there too” Trump told the captain,

“The press – well, not Boris and his friends – the other press, and these foreigners, these people not following the right religion – you know you have to rough ‘em up a little bit, right?”

The captain felt some colour drain from his face as he started to make his goodbyes. He and all the fat cats had been happy to do a bit of profiteering off the NHS – who wouldn’t be?

But surely England would never stand for people being deported, mistreated and dying in custody? And no one in their right minds would want to see guns on London’s streets: what kind of a maniac would even propose such a thing.

Over 40,000 people were shot in this crazy Trump land last year alone; synagogues, churches had been burnt or vandalised, women were prevented from making decisions about whether to have children or not – with some even going to jail for miscarrying.

“But the worst thing about those Lefties?” Trump asked,

“They wanna get rid of Christmas! That’s right – no ‘Merry Christmas’, no trees!”

At this a group of TV preachers and evangelists ran to the king, and put their arms around him, proclaiming him ‘the chosen one’.

Whether it was the cockroach-infested chocolates or the bleached chicken, the captain felt his stomach turn.

After the feast, the captain and crew made their way to the harbour. They walked the streets of Washington, where dozens of homeless people slept or begged for alms. Some had been soldiers; some lost everything they had due to paying for medical bills.

Shots rang out; school children covered in blood and crying ran through the streets. The brave captain and crew barely made it back to the ship, and they weighed anchor, immediately setting sail for home.

As they sailed into the east, the captain sighed, safe in the knowledge such far-fetched things would never happen; Boris wouldn’t allow it.
When the ship returned to London, the captain was making his way to Boris’ humble home in Downing Street when a newspaper caught his eye.

“Legalise Handguns now! Says Farage”

“NHS will improve under US contracts!”

“Point system for foreigners Boris proposes!”

“Windrush man facing deportation kills himself!”

“Boris leading in polls!”

The captain stood looking at the headlines for a few minutes.

“Maybe the Union of Europe wasn’t such a bad thing after all.” he thought.

Slowing his pace, losing his desire to race to No. 10, the captain saw one ‘Leftie’ newspaper before he left the newsstand which read:

“Don’t forget to vote on Thursday 12 December!”

“No, no I won’t forget that” thought the captain, as he slowly turned from his course to No. 10, and headed home to ensure his voter registration card was at the ready.

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Jul 042018
 

A coalition of trade unions, political parties, and equality, faith, and campaign groups will hold events in Glasgow and Edinburgh on 13th and 14th of July to coincide with Trump’s planned visit to the UK.  With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Scotland United Against Trump is a coalition of organisations and individuals that have come together to protest against the policies and politics of Trump and the corporate interests for whom he governs.

It includes the STUC, SNP, Labour, and the Greens as well as Scotland Against Trump, the group which organised protests following his election in 2016.

The SNP has also spoken out to encourage people to stand up for Scotland’s values during the President’s visit.

Dave Moxham, STUC Deputy General Secretary, said:

“All of the organisations coming together for these protests agree that Donald Trump’s presidency is proving every bit as dangerous and divisive as people feared.

“Trump’s administration represents corrupt corporate interests – cutting taxes for the rich, attacking workers’ rights, undermining democracy, endangering action on climate change, and stoking resentment based on racism, sexism, transphobia and bigotry.

“At the very moment when the world needs more solidarity, more cooperation, and a greater commitment to justice, he proposes to build walls and wants to turn us against each other.”

Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard said:

“There is understandable anger at the prospect of Donald Trump coming to Scotland and a strong desire across the country to show that he is not welcome here.

“Someone who holds such misogynist, racist and anti-trade union views, and withdraws the US from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, should not be given the ‘red carpet’ treatment.

Scottish Labour wants to see a world that stands up to intolerance, injustice and climate change and that is why we are working with Scotland United Against Trump campaign to ensure there is a mass protest if Trump does visit.”

Co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie said:

“Scotland has seen the bullying, arrogant and delusional side of Donald Trump long before his election. Since becoming President the whole world has seen far worse, as he gives political space to white supremacists, and seeks to wreck international cooperation on climate change.

We should unite to show him he’s unwelcome, and demand that the UK Government stops treating this dangerous man as though his politics are legitimate.”

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said:

“Scotland and America have historic ties that go back centuries and that will not be undermined by the policies of one President. We share values with the American people of equality, diversity and support for human rights and must always stand up for those values when they are threatened.

The President’s approach threatens international co-operation on key issues like climate change and it is our job to show that we will not be put off our efforts by his opposition.

If President Trump visits we have an opportunity to show that we will never compromise our values and Trump will go back to America with a clear message that in Scotland we build bridges, not walls.”

Kirsty Haigh of the Campaign organisation, Scotland Unite Against Trump, said:

“Trump likes to talk up his Scottish connections – but we are going to show that his politics are not welcome here.

A growing coalition of organisations and campaigns are coming together to say that Scotland will stand united against Trump. Over the next month, we’re going to be building support for two massive days of actions with a rally in Glasgow and national demonstration and festival in Edinburgh.

We will also send a message to the Tory government that we will not tolerate their pandering to Trump.”

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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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Oct 062016
 
Michael Moore and Anthony Baxter courtesty of A Baxter

Anthony Baxter with Michael Moore. Baxter’s 2011 film, ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ won the Special Jury Prize at Michael Moore’s prestigious Traverse City Film Festival.

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Film maker Anthony Baxter launched a crowd funding appeal to get his next film out before the American elections.

From the Menie Estate to the American presidential campaign trail, Anthony takes us on a further journey exploring what Donald J Trump has done to Aberdeenshire residents, the environment and how his campaign became the most bigoted circus in American presidential politics – ever.

Menie Estate residents will confront American Trump supporters with facts; the film will share these reactions.

Anthony and his partner Richard Phinney will bring us the latest from the Aberdeenshire coast and some of those caught up in the activities at the estate.  When the duo worked on their first film, You’ve Been Trumped, they were infamously arrested – the first time journalists were arrested in Scotland.

The arrests were condemned soundly by the NUJ. The crime? Trying to find out when the Forbes Farm residents would have their water supply restored after Trump’s construction team broke the supply pipes. Charges were dropped.

The film will go out in American in advance of the Thursday 8 November election date. An Aberdeen premier will be announced shortly.

In order to complete the film, Baxter’s crowd funding campaign needs to raise a minimum of $70,000 by the 30 October. So far it has attracted 432 backers and raised $36,207.

There are a variety of rewards available, and all contributions are welcome.

Further details can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/anthony-baxter/youve-been-trumped-too

Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly was one of many people interviewed for the film.

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Aug 262016
 

In this week’s satirical offering from Suzanne Kelly aka Old Susannah, she delights in Aberdeen’s generosity to the Press & Journal, and is happy to brush aside any minor qualms there might be about use of taxpayer money, conflict of interests and ethics; she also spares a few words on an advert for a US gun festival – in Orlando – featuring a skeleton wielding a semi-automatic weapon…(Psst – any non-Aberdeen readers, you might want to skip directly to the last few paragraphs of this column, cheers).

DictionaryTally ho! Another week flies past in Aberdeen. The original BrewDog bar (Old Dog – Gallowgate as opposed to New Dog – Castlegate) have hung up some of my recent paintings and just hosted another successful, fun, packed Drink and Draw session. Their ‘Live Dead Pony’ – it’s the addition of live yeast to their popular brew Dead Pony Club makes it ‘live’ – has proven popular as well.
So for those who can’t stand this small shareholder (one of over 10,000) talking about Aberdeenshire’s most successful start-up company, please feel free to send in a diatribe as to why I shouldn’t be allowed to talk about things I like, even though I’ve disclosed my shareholding since the first mention.

Otherwise, the BrewDog team are looking for further artists’ work to hang, so get in touch at the Old Dog.

For those of you with bigger fish to fry, it’s been quite an interesting few weeks in the Granite City.

The crematorium ash scandal is not a suitable topic for satire, but it needs to be addressed.

The remark made by the man in charge, Peter Leonard, displays all the contempt you’d expect from the man’s previous form, but this belies far more callowness than even seasoned Leonard-watchers have come to expect. If you missed it, the BBC reports (and the council haven’t asked for a retraction which speaks volumes) Leonard saying to/in front of inspectors:

“we’re slow-cooking babies.”

How can anyone who lost an infant or child and was caught up in the crematorium scandal can be expected to work for, with, or have to communicate with this lizard? Why are we keeping him in his job?

My interest in the man goes back to his report which condemned the Tullos Hill deer to massive culling. He told the council the tree-planting scheme was completely cost neutral and would succeed – if we shot the deer and kept the weeds down. Lib Dem councillor Aileen ‘Ho’Malone was at the helm of the relevant committee which pushed the scheme through.

She’s just the sort of person you could convince to wipe out a meadow full of flowers and a herd of deer to plant trees on top of rocks and industrial waste where there is no topsoil.

‘A tree for every citizen’ they called it. They deliberately left the culling and the £43k penalty out of the initial public consultation (correspondence proves they knew a cull was planned – but they wanted to ‘manage’ the public which they knew would object. The city tried to deny the £43,800 penalty it paid for the previous failure, too – that’s what we call open government; but I digress).

Peter’s cost neutral scheme? Looks like it’s cost nearly half a million, with £100k alone going to the consultant Chris Piper.

So, Leonard sits in his highly-paid post having been out with his estimates by half a million pounds of taxpayer money, and having insulted everyone with his ash scandal remark, and has not been bounced out of office. Blame the elected officials for bad decisions if you must – but it’s the officers like Leonard who create the reports the councillors have to vote on. Has he stuffed up one too many times?

Any member of staff who’d blundered like he has would have been disciplined and/or let go. Maybe the powers that be will keep him in place. By many accounts, should Mr Leonard be sent packing, there are a fair few staff who will not shed any tears.

Apologies for the lack of humour to this point, but that needed to be said.

Perhaps a few words on the happy event everyone’s talking about will change the mood. It’s not just that the Marischal Square building project is proving to be a breath-taking beauty (I hear people gasp when they look at it). It’s even better than that: everyone’s favourite newspaper, The Press and Journal, is to grace the building with its presence. Better still: the paper won’t have to pay any rent for a whole year. Result!

I’m thinking of starting a petition so that they’ll never have to pay any rent ever. After all, we’re supposed to be trying to attract smart, successful, vibrant, dynamic, forward-looking businesses to the beating heart of Aberdeen.

What better way to cheer us all up each morning than the sight of Damian Bates rounding Broad Street in his Maserati after dropping Sarah Malone off to her job as Trump’s spokesperson? I can barely wait! And with that, it’s time for some timely definitions.

Limousine Bull: (Proper Scottish Noun) – a Torry-based artists collective which had education, training, exhibition services for people in the south of the city. Closed for lack of £10,000.

These art types; just can’t balance the books. Perhaps if they had gone on one of the city’s cultural (?) ‘speed dating’ events they could have begged the rich for funding and kept going.

Alas, the city’s uber-rich wanted to build granite ramps and parking spaces; spending money on an actual arts and education service for the less advantaged was never going to get a look-in. And thus it was that after years of having a small warehouse space with studios for artists, Limousine Bull had to close. As their website reported:

“When we discovered ACC had given details of a new round of funding, with applications to be submitted just 6 weeks after our rejection notice, we put together a greatly revised funding proposal and were due to apply for just £1,700 of the £10,000 available to our category.

“On the day and almost exact time of the deadline for this, Carrie messaged the rest of us on the committee, saying she had decided not to submit the application, as she thought ACC’s demands upon applicants were too strict to follow for such a small amount of funding.” – LB website

Perhaps the people who wonder why we couldn’t win the ‘city of culture’ accolade (or is that poisoned chalice – cities that have won have often found themselves in debt afterwards) might think that getting rid of small groups like this might have made us look smarter and more successful to the judges. The people who submitted our exciting CoC bid had no use for Limousine Bull – they wanted to have ‘Gigs on Rigs’ instead.

How exciting that could have been– flying rock bands to play to offshore oil installations where, er, the footage would have been beamed back to shore. Only the worst kind of philistine would have asked ‘why not just have them play on shore?’. What musician wouldn’t rather do survival training, fly to an alcohol-free oil rig in the chilly North Sea than play a few sets in nightclubs and hotels? But I digress.

Back to Limousine Bull – Old Susannah’s not surprised it went under; after all £10,000 is a lot of money (about one fifth of the amount we had to pay back to central government for the first Tree for Every Citizen failure on Tullos. Or, about one 14,000th of the cost of the granite web. But I digress again). Maybe someone in ACC is offering Limousine Bull a chance to resurrect itself rent-free at Marischal Square?

If so, I’ve not heard of it yet. And funnily enough, for some reason Aberdeen Voice’s invitation to a rent-free office suite at the taxpayer’s expense hasn’t come in the post just yet.

Ethics: (archaic term) Morality, knowledge of right and wrong.

We all know what ethics are (well, you do if you’re not in ACSEF … or whatever it is called this week) – the sense of a common morality that would stop a man making crass remarks about deceased children. It’s that sense of right and wrong that would stop people in power from crushing the weak while, for instance, using public resources to subsidise a newspaper thereby gaining control and advantage.

Many companies have ethics policies governing what freebies, advantages, and hospitality can be accepted without compromising the company. If as an employee you are going to accept a gift or hospitality, say a hamper of food or a few bottles of wine, most companies would expect you to declare it or decline it.

You see, accepting something might put you in a position where you would be indebted to the person giving you a gift. If one company were to offer another company something valuable these days – a weekend at a hotel, a trip, or say a year’s free rent for your business in a brand new suite of offices: you’d be expected by your code of ethics to turn it down.

Otherwise you would be either asked to do something in return for the largess, or even if you weren’t asked to do so, there would be an expectation of a ‘quid pro quo’ situation. In other words, there is no free lunch. And for that matter, there are also laws about using public money unethically, laws about public institutions ensuring ‘value for money’ is sought, and avoiding conflict of interests.

Then again, that kind of thing never hampers the truly creative Aberdeen spirit.

I come back to my friend Peter Leonard again. While the deer cull protest raged (several community councils, thousands of residents, the Scottish SPCA all objecting to the plan), an article appeared in the Evening Express:

“TWO DEER FOUND DEAD AHEAD OF CULL”. 

This story was planted by someone in ACC, although surprisingly, no investigation was held to find out who the ‘leak’ was. The intrepid reporter either didn’t ask, or omitted to say when the dead deer were actually found: and it emerged (after AV asked about it) that the deer were found dead two years before the cull.

The city’s insinuation that to stop deer from suffering starvation or possible accidents was not to supply more grazing land and erect fences – but to stop their lives being blighted by taking their lives away. But, shall we say, some readers found the absence of that little gap of several years somewhat misleading. To some people, this little episode might seem ethically bankrupt. However, I’m sure nothing misleading has been printed before or since by AJL.

I’d never insinuate that an organisation like the ACC would or could ever corrupt an organisation like the P&J – how could it? Sadly, other observers have made a few unfortunate remarks about the free rent offer. I think some of these people need shaming:

“If this if it goes ahead, (and all the hall markers suggest it will) it can but only be seen for what it appears to be – a covenant between the ACC and the P&J/EE. So where now lies objectivity, impartiality, indeed freedom to report and print news on anything that objects to the working of their landlord?”
– A MacDonald

“Don’t they realise that the continuing fall in readership is due to their biased approach to local stories in aberdeen. lets remember too that they are not a local paper anymore but another D. C. Thomson, Dundee rag. I for one cancelled my evening express as soon as it was made public that they were in talks to secure office space in Willies folly and i would suggest that others do the same”
– C Duguid

“Many readers were of the impression that the Press and Journal supported the opposition to the Muse development as evidenced by the publication of numerous stories relating to the opposition to Marischal Square and the scores of letters from the public over the past couple of years… It therefore case as quite a shock to many to learn that Aberdeen Journals themselves are to take up office space in Marischal Square.

“Many of your readers saw that as a betrayal…. Surely any deal that did not deliver the projected returns on the council’s investment would be seen as a failure by the council to secure its financial position and deliver on the promise of sustainable rental profits to fund essential public services.”
– a Mr W Skidmore, who is waiting patiently for this letter to be printed in the P & Poo (an affectionate term I’m told). I trust he isn’t holding his breath.

I hope these people will feel suitably ashamed at their negative words, which strike at the very beating heart of the civic district of the Granite City. It’s always sad for Old Susannah to see such cynical, suspicious minds at work criticising our beloved institutions which have done so much for us.

Perhaps the honesty, integrity and wisdom the council is known for will eventually rub off on such harsh critics. I’m sure we’re only talking a few hundred thousand pounds anyway, and it’s not as if there’s anything better to do with the money.

Conflict of interest: (English compound noun) an unethical condition wherein a person or entity owes allegiance to two opposing forces.

Can the P&J continue to claim the moral high ground it has rightly held these many years if it is now Aberdeen City’s bitch – sorry — tenant?

Perhaps we should mention a potential conflict of interest that’s been brought up on social media. For some reason, there are people who see something wrong with Aberdeen Journals Limited taking a year’s free rent in Marischal College from Aberdeen City Council.

I’m trying to figure out why this bothers some people. Sure, the P&J might in the past have called the development ‘controversial’ in its articles: that just shows that they’re not afraid of standing up to the city council!

I’m sure that fighting spirit, and love of investigation we love in the P&J won’t be compromised just because they will have had their bacon saved by ACC. What an insinuation! I think by now the values the P&J have are clear to us all. And, they win awards so we can tell they’re great.

No, I for one don’t think we will see any change to their usual ethical standards. Where would you be without the tiny tots baby competition? Without photos of the Menie Golf course and MacLeod House to look at every day?

An aside….

orlando ad for gun eventI’m sometimes asked, ‘don’t you miss America?’

There are things I don’t miss. I think the whole machinery that’s created a school to prison pipeline for the disadvantaged and minorities (where police brutality runs riot in schools) stinks. I hate the system that allows mega pharmaceuticals to ruin people’s lives for fat profit margins and where drugs and care can be priced out of the reach of those most in need.

I hate it that a woman can take a device like a medi pen, raise its cost through the roof, and pay herself an 18 million dollar bonus.

I hate it that the alleged founding principle of individuals having a right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ is not as fought for as the right to have a well-trained militia which has been torqued into the invented ‘rights’ of anyone to have a semi-automatic weapon.

There are many things I love about my country of birth: the majority of people, the land, the wildlife, the pre-existing culture and our potential. However, we’ve decimated the original inhabitants, the native Americans – and yet now they are leading the fight against our corporate greed. Native Peoples are campaigning on horseback and on foot in the face of the fury of the government and its armies over pipelines which can only devastate the environment.

This is a country where people who were brought in chains on slave ships can eventually see their descendants become professors, leaders, successes in all areas and icons.

We’ve seen heroes like the late great Mohammed Ali and Jesse Hagopian, an educational reformer who was teargassed on a peaceful protest, but still pursues his dream of fair education for all nonetheless.

It’s a country where ancestors like mine came fleeing from famine to find signs in New York’s windows and doors reading ‘no blacks, no Irish and no dogs’ and yet in a few generations, one such Irish catholic descendant became a president.

This is a country where a young American boy of Japanese ancestry can be imprisoned without due course or rights in an internment camp in World War II and somehow still come out of the experience with a wicked sense of humour to emerge as a voice for tolerance and forgiveness.

There is natural beauty (cross your fingers) and biodiversity.

There are also people who will take that right to have a well-armed militia, and exploit it until we have bloodbaths like the recent slaughter in Orlando. And why?

Ultimately to make money for the gun manufacturers. Gun manufacturers do not care who gets killed. Statistically we know that you are more likely to have an accidental shooting at a home with a gun in it rather than your successfully shooting a would be burglar.

The image above belongs to the Orlando Weekly, which sees nothing wrong in advertising a semi-automatic shooting event … with an image of a skeleton. Now, I’m possibly not the most sensitive person in the world, but I see something very wrong in printing an ad like this to a city which is still mourning.

So America, as dearly as I love some things about you, please start worrying more about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and less about this supposed right to have guns. You are locking up people for collecting their own rainwater, for growing herbs – such as ginseng – and you are criminalising people who want to pursue a different life/liberty/happiness than the status quo. That’s not what was meant to be.

Look at this ad. Does this say responsible, sober gun ownership and respect for life to you – or is this nearly the lowest appeal to base nature (save the videos with bikini clad girls firing automatic weapons) and lack of empathy for the dead of Orlando (and the wider country) that can be imagined?

If not for the likes of those who emerged from hardships in the US, I’d despair completely.

The editor of the Orlando Weekly is Graham Jarrett. At first he tried to claim he was forced to print the ad; it was pointed out that no one can force a news publication to take an ad. We’re waiting to hear what you are going to say and do next Mr Jarrett.

(Want to fight against this kind of gun happy propaganda? On Facebook seek out and join One Pulse, a closed pressure group with the fanciful aim of making people want to stop shooting other people. I’m honoured and happy to be a member).

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Jun 172016
 

Old Susannah turns her head awa frae Aberdeen this week as her lugs pick up gunfire in the States – again. By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryLand of the Free, Home of the Brave, Bastion of Gun Worship; Americans witnessed another senseless bloodbath this past week. It was an American born Muslim extremist

in Orlando, Florida, with an automatic assault rifle in a nightclub. Which politicians will try to use these deaths to score points and whip up a bit more hatred (give you three guesses as to one of them)? Where will it be next time?

America needs some new slogans. ‘Land of the Free, home of the brave’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.

It seems to me that no one’s genuinely free. Minority groups, women and the poor have one set of laws to govern them, and freedoms are more than a little limited.

There is now an expression specifically for spurious, racially-motivated arrests, ‘Running (or driving) while black’.

The more money you’ve got, the better illusion of freedom you can afford, and the better protected you will be. Policing is biased in many places, and as we’ve seen from the Brock Turner rape case, Justice peeks from behind her blindfold, and can tell when there is some gold on her scales. Law and law enforcement have long since gone their separate way from Liberty. ‘Truth, Liberty and Justice for All’ no longer reflects the reality.

Aside from if you were a Native American, it all seemed such a good idea at the time.

The American experiment if taken literally would see people today free to choose where and how to live, collecting their own rainwater without fear of prison, living off the grid if they felt like it, and dare I say it – using whatever plants (including cannabis) however they chose to.

Funny, no one wants to take the freedom, equality and rights-concerned sections of the Constitution literally – but the NRA certainly wants to ensure that we take very literally ‘the right to bear arms’ (which of course was in the context of having a militia and when muskets ruled, not semi-automatics and Saturday Night Specials).

In the USA there are those who take the bible literally too, and are at great pains to prove the world is only 6,000 years old and the righteous will float up to heaven in the Rapture (NB this is a US invention, not that most of the bible belters will admit that). The only parts of the bible they don’t want to take literally (while they build ‘creation museums’ showing dinosaurs romping with humans) is the ‘love one another’/ ‘do unto others’ bit.

What a selective species we can be. Interpretation of Truth and Liberty have been warped by special interest and greed to the point they’ve broken.

When I moved to the UK from New York people would ask me why, and I’d half-jokingly reply ‘because I don’t want to get shot’. Some would look at me funny; I’d explain handgun proliferation and gun culture to the interested. But no one I met in the UK could really understand why some Americans are dead set on ‘protecting’ themselves with guns.

From all the evidence (accidental misfire killings and wounding;, parents shooting children arriving home late, etc), I don’t understand how a gun ‘protects’ the average Yank either.

One reason I’m going to try and write on this topic (once more) was a post Nick Tesco (a founder of The Members, but you know that) made on Facebook in the wake of Orlando:

“Dear American friends, do these mass murderers see children, church goers and gay people as tools of the tyranny that they’ve been obliged to take up arms against as demanded by your Second Amendment and like your NRA say? Or is that something you might need to take a look at when you’ve finished giving women a hard time about abortion?”

21st Century – Still tribal after all these years.

In his post Tesco seems to be asking for an American re-examination of values, guns, the meaning of freedom, and where the focus of securing freedom should be.

Tesco’s since qualified his post; he well knows that not all Yanks are the problem, and if you look at the UK through a similar lens, you might not see a pretty picture either.

For instance there is some unnecessary, ugly violence going on over the beautiful game in France at present. Nationalistic fans clash with nationalistic fans in the streets and bars of France on some primitive tribal quest to prove who’s the most warlike (and I suppose to their minds this makes them superior, manly, desirable). Things aren’t different in the US. Scenes at pro-Trump rallies make thinking-people cringe, and that’s before the violence starts.

What is the American Republican/Democrat push-pull if not mindless tribalism? Everyone wants their side to win, and most people stick with whichever party their parents belonged to. No one looks at what their elected officials’ backgrounds are or what entities fund them and chooses – just whether the elephant or the donkey wins.

You might be living in a trailer park on benefits in America, but if mom and dad were Republicans, you’re likely to vote for a billionaire because he’s in the Republican livery, however exploitative he is of you and your fellow poor Americans. The ingrained desire to be a ‘winner’ overrides logic, fact, and common sense for some.

There is a lot to love about America – most of the people, the environment, and the idea of liberty.

How, when and why did a country which declared the notion of freedom being its core value turn into a racist, sexist, elitist police state governed by the rich for the benefit of the rich and their richer multinational masters? Perhaps being formed on top of, rather than along side of, Native American rights and values, and on the back of slavery meant the American dream was always going to become a nightmare, but the bloodshed and inequality has to be countered before it’s too late.

Ultimately I don’t think it’s too late to turn it around (or I’d not bother writing about it) but this must happen now before more ground is lost to the crooked cop, the bent judge, the lobbyist-controlled congressman and the multinational.

An observation which may or may not be a non-sequiter came to mind. I’ve a good number of intelligent American friends and acquaintances; most far more intelligent than I am. A few have put their brains into music, art, politics; the majority have harnessed their talents to making money. I can’t help but think if they hadn’t been conditioned to think that money equalled success that such talent could have been applied to creative, political and humanitarian ends.

I also can’t help but think for some people, they’d be a lot happier if they hadn’t been worried about being a lot richer.

You might think you are freer in the US than in other places. Gun-loving Americans clutch their guns and decry they will use them to guard their freedoms. They think this is freedom; they think it is a free country. I beg to differ. Here are a few thoughts on how freedom is doing these days.

Free Elections?

Turning back to gun violence, there are many worthy groups fighting to get guns under some form of control. Why don’t people just vote for congressmen who will deliver gun control, and that will be the end of the problem?

In order to run for office, a candidate needs millions of dollars. Perhaps candidates start out with high hopes and best intentions. I respectfully suggest that with a few notable exceptions, by the time they raise this money, they will get their hands dirty. They will owe favours. Will they owe the National Rifle Association, arguably the most powerful lobbying group in America? More than likely.

“According to OpenSecrets, a site that tracks money in politics, the NRA spent $984,152 on campaign contributions during the 2014 election cycle. It also spent more than $3 million on lobbying in both 2013 and 2014. The NRA also spent $28,212,718 on outside political contributions during this period, which includes ads paid for directly by the NRA. That makes it the tenth biggest spender when it comes to such political spending.”
http://fortune.com/2015/12/03/san-bernadino-nra-political-spending-gun-violence/

Voting is a right people fought for, but not everyone uses. About 40% of the country will either not bother to turn out for a presidential election – or do not vote for more sinister reasons.

There are those who want to vote – but get turned away in increasing numbers for spurious reasons. Names go missing from electoral rolls. Last minute demands for photo ID sends some away. In a paradox, questions were raised about some of the votes delivered from Florida by Governor Jeb Bush to clan Bush member Dubya – were all of those who voted: alive, able to vote, received postal votes themselves that they alone completed – questions remain.

Can elections be rigged? Of course. Does that only happen in the third world? Of course not.

So, we are not free to select the best candidate to run for office; we are selecting from candidates pre-selected by vested interest groups who give their candidates enough money to run. We are not free to vote if we are turned away because of unconstitutional practices, and racism does still stop people from getting to the ballot box:

“Thousands of black electors in Florida were disenfranchised in last November’s [2000] election by an electoral system tainted by “injustice, ineptitude and inefficiency” a leaked report by the US civil rights commission says. It accuses Governor Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, and his secretary of state, Katherine Harris, of “gross dereliction” of duty, saying they “chose to ignore mounting evidence” of the problems. 

“The eight-strong commission, whose report will be published on Friday, found that black voters were “10 times more likely than white voters to have their ballots rejected”, and pointed to the use of a flawed list of felons and ex-felons to purge the voting rolls. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/jun/06/uselections2000.usa

Freedom fail.

Tesco also once posed on Facebook that everyone should vote; this is true up to a point. Not that I take all my political leads from musicians, but Jerry Garcia is attributed with having said (I paraphrase again) ‘If you vote and choose between two evils, you are still choosing evil.’

So – while I must vote for Clinton – as a vote against Trump – it is not because of any woman solidarity, and it’s certainly not because I approve of her Monsanto links.

She is clearly the better choice over Trump. A nation of 260 million people – and it comes down to this. I might well write in George Takei who has always spoken out against violence and intolerance, or for heroic filibustering senator Chris Murphy whose stamina has forced a congressional vote to ‘close the terror gap’.

In the end, I will vote for Clinton, to avoid the Trump presidency, and the catastrophe that would spell. (besides which, I’d like to be able to visit the US in the next 4 years without winding up in a boiler suit on my way to GitMo). As far as I know, unlike Trump, Clinton’s not racked up 3,500 lawsuits, hasn’t opened a fleecing operation posing as a ‘university’ and doesn’t want everyone armed. She’s no plans to ‘take out’ people related to terrorists, or to ban Muslims / American Muslims from travel.

Free to have guns.

Anything you need to know about the illogic and insanity of having automatic weaponry freely available can be found in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine documentary. The sad thing is that this film was made in 2002. Oh, and the wealth and power of the NRA tells you why the country is like this.

Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness.

At the same time we Americans are telling ourselves how ‘free’ we are, and how we want to bring freedom to other countries (frequently those with resources NB), liberty is getting a beating at home and abroad. The same ilk of senator who will keep automatic guns on sale is legislating to give American water not to Americans, but to sell or give it to companies like Nestle, which is bottling it up and signing lucrative deals to take water in states like Oregon.

Want to collect rain water on your own property? In many states that will land you in prison – like Oregon, which is giving your water to Nestle.

Nick Tesco is right in his Facebook post when he alluded to abortion, but it is actually worse and worsening for any woman who wants control over her body and life. Have a spontaneous abortion – don’t do it in certain states, or you’ll go to jail for failing to carry full term.

There are places where you will be mauled by a police dog, beaten to a pulp or beaten to death – or shot for offences like having a tail light out on your car, driving too slowly, running, or just being non-white in a white area. The police are brutal in some states. There is no other way of putting it.

And Justice for All? 

Some police officers are people who want to make the world better; however, organisations like Police the Police are proving time and again that the police force today includes Ku Klux Klan members, paedophiles and sadists. They largely seem immune from prosecution – while the guy collecting rain water or trying to live ‘off the grid’ will spend years in prison. In some states, growing marijuana can lead to decades in prison.

However, if you are white, privileged – and a good swimmer – raping an unconscious woman will get you a few months in a cell at most.

I’d add a description of how Native Americans have been treated past and present – but I cannot do it justice at all. Here is a good place to look at one issue though – the veritable kidnapping of Native children who are chemically coshed and placed with white, extreme ‘Christian’ families for no good reason other than money is made from it, and families and culture is destroyed in the process. This is the tip of the iceberg for Native issues.

It’s lunacy, and as far as the eye can see, the root causes are greed and self-interest.

Does this make me a conspiracy theorist?

Does it serve the interests of those in power when these incidents happen? It doesn’t always hurt. You’ve got Trump insisting if everyone had a gun, Orlando wouldn’t have happened (so no hostage or crossfire casualties in his world I suppose). When the serial killer in question is non-white and non-Christian – then the authorities insist we have an Islamic jihad problem that can only be served by the rest of us giving up more of our freedoms and… by panicking the suggestible into buying guns to protect themselves.

We know how well that works out.

CODA

Just as I finish this piece, Jo Cox MP has been shot and stabbed; she supports the Remain campaign, and works to help Syrian refugees. Allegedly the assailant yelled ‘Britain First.’ [17 June:  Jo Cox has been murdered. Britain First’s Facebook page has a BF ‘news’ item that the murderer didn’t shout ‘Britain First’ – they shouted ‘Put Britain First’.  A trivial distinction which ignores the fact she is dead, and those who have worked tirelessly to ratchet hatred up several notches are at least in part culpable.]

If the reports prove true, and they are a Britain First supporter, they have shown BF in its true light. Despite its many Facebook posts using click bait such as veterans, dog fighting, elderly issues – they are only nationalistic, white supremacist violent thugs. If this is how their followers try to advance their cause, let’s ensure we stop sharing their posts at the very least, and let’s make sure they don’t get a foothold.

The US is rapidly becoming ruled by gunpower – let’s ensure that never happens here.

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Jan 102014
 

S Gow 1With thanks to Jennifer Kelly, Tricker PR

The area general manager of Thistle Hotels in Scotland will be heading to the United States this month, after being selected as the only Scottish hotel manager to attend a prestigious hospitality scholarship programme at a renowned Ivy League university.

Stephen Gow, who is based in Aberdeen, will attend the 11-day General Managers Programme (GMP) at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York through a scholarship awarded by the Hospitality Industry Trust (HIT).

Open only to those in senior management, the GMP aims to give delegates skills to develop their strategic thinking beyond the demands of their day-to-day operational roles within their own properties.

Stephen explains:

“As only one of three managers from the UK, I am extremely honoured to have been selected to attend the programme. Following a stringent selection process, The School of Hotel Administration has selected 32 attendees for this course; 29 international delegates, two from London and me, the only Scot.

“Cornell University has the world’s leading hospitality management school and delegates travel from countries all over the world to attend this particular programme. In the last three years alone, professionals from 63 countries have taken part.”

Prior to taking up his role as area general manager for the six Thistle Hotels in Scotland in October, Stephen was the general manager of the four-star Thistle Aberdeen Altens. He has previously worked in hospitality and managerial roles at venues across Scotland, is a former chairman of the Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels’ Association and a founding board member of destination management organisation, VisitAberdeen.

Cornell University is the only Ivy League university in the world that offers a degree in Hotel Administration. The degree was set up in the 1920s, making it the oldest course of its kind anywhere in the world. For those who don’t wish to embark on a full degree course, Cornell University created the GMP programme which gives professionals the same unparalleled standard for a shorter period of time.

Stephen continues:

“The GMP programme is aimed at management level professionals looking to really enhance their knowledge and skills. The modules cover everything from asset management, strategic marketing, managing change and financial management. It will allow me to broaden my skills and take my career to the next level.

“I hope to gain a greater insight into the future of global hotel management and in particular, leadership and change management in 21st century Britain.

“I have previously attended an 18 month programme at Henley Management College so I know how much can be gained from attending such courses. In order to be considered for selection, I had to write a short paper and deliver an hour long presentation to three HIT trustees about the future of asset management in the UK hospitality industry.

“The programme encourages attendees to move away from being specialists in one sector to being a generalist in several. The end result allows professionals to take a much broader view on strategy, management and positioning; ideal for my new role as cluster general manager for Thistle Hotels in Scotland. I look forward to passing on the information that I will learn during the programme to my colleagues across the group.”

Thistle Hotels have six properties in Scotland including three four star hotels in Aberdeen; Thistle Caledonian, Thistle Aberdeen Altens and Thistle Aberdeen Airport. There are also Thistle hotels in Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh city centres.

Thistle hotels have a selection of restaurants and a choice of excellent health and leisure facilities, ensuring Thistle has something to offer everyone.

www.thistle.com

Dec 062013
 

By Bob Smith.
Candles lopro - Credit Ian Britton - freefoto

Black Friday noo it wis nae fun
A puir wifie trumpled on the grun
Fowk ower TV sets war scrappin
Cos in shops the price wis drappin
.
Black an blue they jostl’t an bumped
Some fowk feart they micht git thumped
Aa ower prices bein slashed richt doon
Mayhem an madness wis aa aroon
.
Black Friday hordes formed a scrum
As common sinse wint up the lum
“Tak yer thievin hans aff aat TV set
Or a bunch o fives ye’ll bliddy get”
.
The Black Friday idea it did start
Ower in America wi yon Walmart
Halloween sees pumpkins instead o neeps
Anither American custom ower here creeps
.
Civilisation a mannie eence said
Wis barbarism wi a veneer owerspread
Unnerneath micht be the savage beast
Unleashed tae gorge on Mammon’s feast
We’ve noo cam tae “The Retail Season”
Far fowk it seems can lose aa reason
Spennin siller they simply hinna got
An ither eens fair lose the plot
.
The festive season a like itsel
Bit nae the bliddy shoppin hell
On Christmas Day a’ll raise a cheer
“Retail Season’s” ower fer anither eer
.
A “Black Friday” cam tae Glaisga toon
Fin a helicopter cam richt doon
Throwe a pub roof near the Clyde
Fin fowk war haen a drink inside
.
So spare a thocht fer Glaisga noo
An fer the helicopter crew
Fer TV sets they’ll hae nae need
As “Black Friday” saw the puir souls deid
.
Agin ess sad an tragic tale
Materialism an sic like maan pale
Next time yer spennin yer bawbees
Myn life it disna growe on trees

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Image credit: Ian Britton – http://s3.freefoto.com/images/

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Sep 132013
 

Itinerant Scots have been accused of many musical misdemeanours. Musicologists have built careers tracing the global paths that Scottish traditional music has wandered along, injecting swing into cowboy music, adding Hebridean angst to the blues and a hint of bothy life into bluegrass. Since the heady days when The Old Blind Dogs linked New Deer with New Orleans there’s been a consistent interest in setting traditional Scots tunes against global rhythms. Along those lines, and on the face of it, this looks like an interesting CD release from Huntly’s Deveron Arts, reviewed by Graham Stephen.

CeilidhcatuBrazilian musician Allysson Velez, inspired by ceilidh music, recognised rhythmic links with his own tradition and its African slave roots. He teamed up with Omar Arif, a West African musician living in the area, and a handful of local musicians, including fiddle maestro Paul Anderson. The result is Ceilidhcatu, promoted as ‘a transcultural community of art’.
What I expected was a cross-cultural stew of shared enthusiasm with musicians sparking off each other’s playing and musical styles.

This may well happen in a live situation, but much of this recording lacks a dynamic spark, sticking to repetitive, unadventurous arrangements and never quite matching its ambitions.

Too often it sounds like two styles brought hesitantly together, shyly inter-mingling, but happier to stick to familiar territory. That, you may argue, is itself a fundamental tradition in the NE.

Not that there is anything wrong with the performances. The musicians play well, which is frustrating, because at times the formula works, giving hints of the possibilities. The relentless African drum patterns, for example, enhance the gloom and menace of Twa Corbies.

Driven by Anderson’s strong fiddle, The Devil In The Kitchen set threatens to take off, demanding to be pushed into overdrive by some strong percussion. When the drums arrive, however, they stick to a repetitive groove regardless of changes in the tunes, where subtle shifts and textures would have brought the set to life.

Opening track Scotland The Brave also suffers from this sense of deceleration, giving a feeling that the two elements have been brought together separately, rather than being a natural bonding. The traditional songs and tunes chosen are also very familiar. Perhaps a choice of material beyond the standard session repertoire might have enhanced the project.

Significantly, the strongest tracks are duets featuring only Velez and Afif, their hypnotic Maracuta rhythms echoing the legacy of slave trade links between Brazil and Africa. Set against this, an unexpected unaccompanied version of The Rovin’ Ploughboy, perfectly sung by Shona Donaldson, somehow encapsulates the aching soul of the NE bothy ballad while Steve Brown’s pipes on Farewell To The Creeks sit well in natural sound effects.

CEILIDHCATU
NordEste/NorthEast (Deveron Arts)

Aug 272013
 

By Bob Smith.
Pacu

Awa ower in Swedish watters
Ye micht hear some affa screams
As a wee fishie in the sea
Connachs a fyow chiels’ dreams
.
Iss  hungry fishie it wid seem
His a likin fer mannies’ bas
They creep up fin yer sweemin
An grab them wi their jas
.
Fin yer awa ower in Sweden
Skinny dippin micht nae be gweed
Thae fishies fae roon aboot
Wid queue up fer a feed
A fyow billies wull be wary
If sweemin  the Oeresund Strait
The local lads faa fish there
Micht use fowks’ bas as bait
.
Noo we’re telt it’s aa a myth
The Pacu fishie winna bite
A mannie wis haein a joke
An the story wis jist shite
.
© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Image Credit: I, Omnitarian. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
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