Dec 232017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Humpf” Wonky thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#          #          #

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

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

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

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

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

The oddly dressed man was addressing the crowd:

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

The frenzied crowd roared with its approval.

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

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

The crowd cheered some more.

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

The crowd were delirious with joy.

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

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

There was more cheering, as you’d expect.

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

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

Again with the crowds cheering.

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

The crowd was delirious by now with joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the while Willy Wonky felt something was wonky.

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

“Sir Ian,” asked Sarah Malone-Bates.

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

She pointed to the gridlocked cars on Wellington Road.

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

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

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

The doughy, sweaty kitchen fitter Stewart Milne nodded emphatically:

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

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

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

“Well Stewart my dear friend” started Sir Ian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone laughed and Willie smiled weakly.

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

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

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

“Whatever.” Said Sir Ian.

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

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

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

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

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

A helicopter was waiting for them marked Scottish Enterprise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again all those aboard laughed and clapped.

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

“The very same.” Sir Ian replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Willie asked:

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

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

Sarah spoke.

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

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

“Sarah’s right” started Sir Ian;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Sarah’s a Vice President)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tells

you

to!

#          #          #

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

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

“NOOO!” shouted Willie,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Two planning enforcement notices have been served by Aberdeenshire Council on Avant Homes in respect of the former Kingseat Hospital development near Newmachar.
The action by the Council’s planning service follows a report on Kingseat, instigated by East Garioch councillor Martin Ford, that went to the Garioch Area Committee in June.

Cllr Ford has welcomed the decision to serve enforcement notices. He said:

“I am very pleased by the response from the Council’s planning service to the Member Promoted Issue report on Kingseat discussed at the Garioch Area Committee in June. Actions are now being taken that will put real pressure on the main site owner to complete at least some of the outstanding planning requirements.”

The planning enforcement notices served relate to the storage of spoil and materials and failure to install a play park, required from the developers as part of the overall Kingseat planning permission. The developer has 12 weeks from 20 October to clear the spoil storage area and create a new open space including play equipment.

If the developer wishes to appeal the enforcement notices, it must do so by 19 October.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“Under the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, councillors are not allowed to press for particular planning enforcement actions. Such decisions are for officers in the planning service. The decisions officers have now taken regarding Kingseat have my wholehearted support.

“I do think Aberdeenshire Council was far too passive for far too long in dealing with the stalled development at Kingseat. Of course, the Council cannot simply order the developers to complete the whole development, it doesn’t have that power. But the Council can proactively pursue obligations the developers have under the legal agreements associated with planning permissions, and take enforcement action over non-compliance with those permissions.

“There is clearly now a new determination to use the powers the Council does have to try to force the main site owner to undertake further work stipulated by the permissions granted and agreements signed. That has got to be very welcome.”

Aberdeenshire Council hopes Avant Homes will comply with the enforcement notices. In the event of non-compliance, officers in the Council’s planning service will decide what action to take. This could include the Council undertaking the work required and recovering costs from Avant Homes and reporting Avant Homes to the procurator fiscal for non-compliance.

The Council is also reviewing other options for action to get work progressed at Kingseat, including Avant Homes’ obligations under Section 75 legal agreements.

In order to preserve the historically important former hospital site, Aberdeenshire Council granted planning permission for a mixed use development at Kingseat in December 2004. The first new homes at Kingseat were completed on 21 February 2006 – so some residents have now been living in an unfinished development for over eleven years. The lack of a play park is just one very obvious failure by the main site developer.

The Council’s long-standing policy on preserving the historic buildings at Kingseat is reflected in the agreed development brief for the site.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“The goal has to be to get the whole development finished and see the fine buildings that are currently derelict brought back into use.”

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Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

Organisers of Nuart Aberdeen have made a ‘call for walls’ to identify city centre sites for new street art murals to be developed when the festival returns in 2018.
The international award-winning festival made its debut earlier this year and a team of globally acclaimed artists showcased their talents by producing powerful murals attracting large crowds over the Easter weekend.

Nuart Aberdeen was brought to the city by business organisation Aberdeen Inspired and Aberdeen City Council, and was supported by main sponsor Burness Paull LLP.

In anticipation of the festival returning next year, work is already underway to find prospective new walls to use next year and the festival project team are keen to hear from property owners and business that would like to be involved.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the Nuart Aberdeen festival and it has been truly transformational, attracting significant footfall over the summer months. 

“We are delighted that the festival will be coming back and the festival team has started work to identify prospective new walls in the city centre for street artists to use next year. I’d encourage property owners and businesses in the city centre who would like to be considered to contact us.

“Already we have noted interest from city centre businesses, however we want to maximise this opportunity to shape Nuart Aberdeen 2018.”

Held in the Norwegian city of Stavanger since 2001, and widely regarded as the world’s leading celebration of street art, Nuart Aberdeen was the first overseas version of the festival.

Martyn Reed, director and curator of Nuart, said:

“The artists, team and partners had an incredible first year in Aberdeen, a truly remarkable event that we took a lot of credit and accolades for alongside our partners, Aberdeen Inspired.

“It’s always a little humbling taking credit for Nuart, because the reality is, the event is a huge collaborative undertaking between so many different talented and passionate individuals and partners. This is where our ‘call for walls’ comes in. It’s a truly democratic way to have the public and local businesses involved in where the art might be placed.

“We can’t wait to see what comes in and to get feedback from artists who will be with us next year. We’ll be in town shortly to scout locations, and the more options we get the better.”

Shaun Hose, Assistant Director of Rockspring, which owns Aberdeen Indoor Market, which was the centrepiece of the inaugural festival has encouraged property owners to come forward.

He said:

“Rockspring have been fortunate enough to work with Nuart on three artworks which exceeded our expectations. The art is now an integral part of the Indoor Market space overlooking The Green and the trendy Merchant Quarter.

“We are proud to have worked with Aberdeen Inspired and Nuart by providing them with a canvass to enhance the urban landscape and breathe life back into our building.

“We and the stakeholders of the Merchant Quarter have benefited from Nuart Aberdeen and look forward to working with them again on other projects whilst continue to invest in Aberdeen.”

The call for walls comes as discussions with Aberdeen City Council are ongoing to secure Nuart Aberdeen for the future.

Councillor Jenny Laing, Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader, said,

“Aberdeen City Council was both proud and delighted to be the joint delivery partner for Nuart Aberdeen this year.

“The festival showed the very best of the Granite City and this is reinforced by the overwhelming response to the festival by residents and visitors alike. It is therefore right that discussions with partners are continuing as to how the council can best support this very special festival going forward.”

Walls must be in a good condition for paining and interested parties should contact the Nuart Aberdeen project team via: 01224 566291 or email: callforwalls@aberdeeninspired.com

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute. Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district.

For more information about the Nuart Aberdeen Festival, please visit: www.nuartaberdeen.co.uk

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Sep 222017
 

Elizabeth Pittendrigh, Stewart Stevenson MSP and Therine Henderson at the Fraserburgh & District Older People’s stand.

With thanks to Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson was a guest speaker at the annual Celebrate the Difference event in Fraserburgh on Saturday.
The popular event which brings together the varied cultures and people who call Fraserburgh home and provides an afternoon of Music, Entertainment and Food as well as a showcase for the local voluntary and charitable organisations to meet with local residents.

Commenting Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to have taken part in another successful Celebrate the Difference event at Fraserburgh College this weekend”

“It was good to meet people from around the world who chose to live in the Fraserburgh area and to learn a little about their heritage and culture, as well as our own. Events such as this show the fantastic community spirit we have in the North-east and I would like to thank Margaret Gault and all of the organisers who work tirelessly to make this annual event a success”

“As well the food song and dance, Celebrating the Difference provides many local organisations and voluntary groups an opportunity to highlight the important work and services they provide to the local community, after all when we celebrate the difference, we also make a difference.”

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

Sep 152017
 

Members of Kintore United 2007 with Coach George Boyd (left) and Cllr Glen Reid (right).

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

East Garioch councillor Glen Reid is delighted to announce that he has reached agreement with Aberdeenshire Council to open the superb 3G all weather football pitch at Midmill School to local youth sports group. The school was opened in November 2016, but the brand new pitch has been locked up and unavailable to anyone after the school day finished at 3.15pm.

Commenting, SNP councillor for East Garioch Glen Reid said:

“Today is a great day for the community with the opening up of this pitch. It is one of the reasons that I decided to stand for election in May. As a local resident and a member of Kintore Community Council, I had raised this matter repeatedly, but had no joy. Since being elected, I have campaigned tirelessly for this facility to be accessed by our children, and it’s great to welcome the footballers of Kintore United 2007s here to the inaugural training night.”

Kintore United, who have boys and girls age group teams from primary one right through to academy years, will have access to train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 6.00 until 10.00 pm initially on a trial basis until the end of the year.

Continuing, SNP councillor Glen Reid said:

“If the trial is successful, then we will be looking at adding further dates and opening the venue up to school football teams as well. I wish to thank the Aberdeenshire Council officers who listened to the frustrations of the community. The local grass pitches can be a nightmare during the winter months and even other times of the year, so this facility now offers the children guaranteed training every week in an excellent environment.”

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Sep 022017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

Aberdeen businesses have reported a significant boost in trade over the weekend following large crowds in the city centre for Celebrate Aberdeen and the Great Aberdeen Run.
Business organisation Aberdeen Inspired has been in touch with traders to assess the impact of the two events – with initial feedback highlighting that some saw an increase of more than 30 percent increase in sales compared to a normal weekend.

Thousands of people spent time in the heart of the city as part of the Celebrate Aberdeen parade and musical performances over Saturday and Sunday as well as the Great Aberdeen Run.

Julie Haig, owner of Haigs Food Hall, said:

“Sunday was really special and to see Union Street geared up for such a great running event was fantastic. The buzz it created in the city was amazing.

“The sense of community spirit I felt over the weekend makes me proud to be an Aberdonian. We saw a significant increase in footfall over the weekend and we would like to thank the people of Aberdeen for coming out and supporting these wonderful events.”

Union Street McDonald’s franchise owner, Craig Duncan, added:

“Sales at breakfast were more than double what we would expect on a normal Sunday and overall for the day there was an increase of more than 30 percent. It’s great to see these big events come to our city and hopefully we’ll see more in the future.”

Craig Willox, owner of Books and Beans, also saw a significant increase in trade which was also boosted by the substantial number of people who visited the Belmont Street Market.

He said:

“This was the busiest weekend of the year for us so far. The Belmont Street Market on Saturday was even bigger than the one in July and looked even better attended. We also had a queue of people waiting outside before we even opened before the Great Aberdeen Run.”

Adrian Watson, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Inspired, praised the work of everyone who worked to deliver Celebrate Aberdeen and the Great Aberdeen Run

He said:

“To see the thousands of runners and well-wishers descend on our city over the weekend was very pleasing indeed and we are very proud to have worked with Aberdeen City Council and the other key partners to help deliver Celebrate Aberdeen and the Great Aberdeen Run over the weekend.

“This success clearly demonstrates the growing ambition we have for this city and we look forward to welcoming even more runners, from the city, region and beyond, for next year’s event as it establishes itself nationally as a ‘must attend’ event on the circuit.

“Of course, an acid test for my organisation is business feedback and the initial soundings from many of the retailers in the city centre has been very encouraging indeed.

“We’re now looking to the opening night of the Aberdeen Comedy Festival on Thursday, October 5, with this event being the third largest of its kind in the country, after proving hugely popular last year.

“We again look to the north-east public to come out in force to enjoy this great offering, as well as reach out to those from further afield, as the festival also establishes itself as another event that people will travel to the city to be part of.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute.

Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district. More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available at: www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Aug 252017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia Ltd.

Aberdeen’s performance swimming team is celebrating after an impressive end of season medal haul, leading to 14 swimmers being called onto national squads.
The University of Aberdeen Performance Swimming (UOAPS), led by Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth Games coach Patrick Miley, is a partnership between Aberdeen Sports Village, Aberdeen City Council, Scottish Swimming and the University of Aberdeen and seven of the city’s swimming clubs.

The ambitious programme, which was established to build on the city’s previous success with David Carry, Robbie Renwick and Hannah Miley, has seen early results, with swimmers bringing home an unprecedented collection of 12 medals at this year’s British Summer Championships.

In previous years, only a few swimmers from Aberdeen have qualified to be invited to the important end of season event, which invites swimmers ranked in the top 24 in their event. However, in July, 30 athletes from UOAPS headed to Sheffield.  The successful squad included swimmers as young as 13, with an impressive podium display of three golds, three silvers, and six bronze medals.

Rosie Morgan, 14, of Aberdeen won her first gold medal at the UK-wide competition, while fellow Aberdonian, Gaia Alcaras, 15, took home one gold, one silver and one bronze medal. 

As a result of this season’s success, 14 swimmers from Aberdeen have been invited to join the Scottish national squads, which will result in additional training and support for the potential champions.

Joining the 2017/18 Scottish national squad, which was announced this week, will be UOAPS swimmers Orla Adams, Fraser Agnew, Gaia Alcaras, Andrew Arthur, Thomas Beeley, Caroline McIntosh, Hannah Miley, Rosie Morgan, Connor Morrison, Yasmin Perry, Rebecca Reid, Anya Slessor, Jessica Thomson and Cameron Travis.

Mr Miley said:

“After just a few months, we have seen a tremendous change in the swimmers, resulting in much deserved medal wins. Taking 30 swimmers along to the championships for the first time made a real difference, as we had a fantastic team spirit, which really adds to the confidence of each individual performer.

“The swimmers have been training really hard, and everyone could feel the confidence growing with each new Aberdeen medal in Sheffield. We have been working on detailed training programmes, with every swimmer dedicating themselves to improving their performance. We have focused on a culture of success, and it was wonderful to see the results of our hard work on the podium at one of the most important meets in the country.”

Duncan Sinclair, CEO for ASV, said:

“The UOAPS programme has high ambitions, and it is working. Aberdeen was very well represented in Sheffield, and the outstanding medal haul is something to be proud of. Having a group of people dedicated to developing the very best athletes is a real benefit to the city and we hope to see this success continue into the next season.

“The aim of UOAPS is to produce the best, and with 14 young people representing Aberdeen in the Scottish national squads, and look forward to competing at Commonwealth and Olympic level, the programme is more than meeting its objectives.”

Councillor Jenny Laing, leader of Aberdeen City Council, said:

“Aberdeen City Council has made a significant investment in high performance swimming to help ensure that elite talent stays and is nurtured within the city. It is hugely encouraging to see that investment paying off at such an early stage with the team’s successful performance at the British Summer Championships. I am sure that this is just the beginning  of what we and our partners hope will be an amazing success story in establishing Aberdeen as a major centre for elite swimming.”

University of Aberdeen Principal, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, said:

“The team’s performance at the British Summer Championships demonstrates the level of talent we are developing here in Aberdeen as part of this ambitious programme.

“Their impressive medal tally is not only a testament to the swimmers themselves, but to the dedicated coaching staff headed by Patrick Miley.  On this form I expect the team to enjoy continued success, and I wish them all the best for the season ahead.”

Medal winners:

Gaia Alcaras, 15, gold, women’s open 400m IM; silver, women’s open 200m IM; bronze, women’s open 100m butterfly
Orla Adams, 22, bronze, women’s open 400m IM; bronze, women’s open 200m breaststroke
Kirsty Simpson, 21, silver, women’s open 100m backstroke
Thomas Beeley, 18, gold, men’s open 200m butterfly; bronze, men’s open 100m butterfly
Yasmin Perry, 16, bronze, women’s open 50m butterfly (16 yrs)
Connor Morrison, 20, silver, men’s MC 100m breaststroke
Aberdeen Performance A team, bronze, women’s 17 years/over 4 x 200m free team
Rosie Morgan, 14, gold, women’s open 100m free

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Aug 112017
 

A report on waste infrastructure by consultants Eunomia released this week, highlight a “major risk of financial failure” of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils’ multi million pound incinerator project. This is according to leading Aberdeenshire Councillor, Paul Johnston.

Aberdeenshire Councillor, Paul Johnston.

“The report indicates that under likely scenarios the plant will be at risk of being surplus to requirements with increasing recycling rates even before it is fully working.” Said the leader of the council’s Democratic Independent and Green Group.

“Eunomia as respected researchers indicate that too much capacity could either reduce recycling rates or make surplus capacity incinerators go bust.

“The councils , if they decide to legally commit to such a major project, face a major risk of financial failure”

“This should be a signal for Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Council to stop, take a deep breath and to go back and take a long hard look at the alternatives before they waste as much as £180 million on a white elephant. “

“Each new report such as this from Eunomia or the chartered institute of Waste Management and even from advice out of the European Union waste directorate is adding more and more evidence that the city and Shire have they got it wrong in opting for incineration. It is financially too risky as well as being environmentally unsound.”

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Jul 252017
 

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

Soprano Pipistrelle Bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) at bat handling and trapping demonstration held at the National Trust for Scotland property of Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland, August

They are the type of beasties that most people try to keep out of their homes but the rangers at Craigievar Castle will be doing everything they possibly can to lure moths out of hiding – even offering them a beer.

Visitors to a late-night event at the National Trust for Scotland’s property will be able to learn how to make sugar traps – a sticky solution of black treacle and beer that moths just can’t resist.

The sweet-smelling mixture, which is completely harmless to the creatures, is then pasted onto trees in the grounds of the castle and will attract moths from far and wide.

But it’s hoped that moths will not be the only winged visitors making an appearance at the family event on Friday, July 28. Those who go along to the Craigievar, near Alford in Aberdeenshire, will also have the chance to meet the resident colony of bats.

The elegant tower house, known for its distinctive pink façade, is home to pipistrelle and brown long-eared bats which love to go flying as the sun starts to set.

National Trust for Scotland ranger Toni Watt said:

“Moths and bats are absolutely fascinating flying creatures. We’ve previously staged popular events for bats and events for moths, but this is the first time that we have brought the two together.

“We’ll start off in the castle grounds where we will show people how to make and set sugar traps. The traps are a harmless mixture of black treacle and beer which is boiled up and pasted to trees. It gives off a sweet-smelling nectar which the moths love.

“While we are waiting for the traps to work their magic and attract the moths, we’ll take a walk around the castle grounds and look for bats. We have not yet conducted a bat survey this year, but previously we have had pipistrelle and brown long-eared bats roosting at the castle.

“We’ll be using bat detectors to see what is out and about, and during the walk we’ll be discussing the bats and their nocturnal lifestyles.

“We’ll then go back to the sugar traps and set up a light so that we can see the months. As well as a torch to walk around the grounds, we recommend that people bring sunglasses or a wide brimmed hat to protect their eyes from the light – a real mix of items!

“I know that some people may find this a little bit spooky but it is a lovely time of day to visit the property. I love being out with the bats as it starts to get dark and it can be a beautiful sight on a nice evening.”

Moths and Bats at Craigievar is one of a range of special events being held by the National Trust for Scotland, Scotland’s largest conservation charity, at its properties over the summer months.

The event is being staged by the Trust’s Ranger Service in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service and Butterfly Conservation.

It is suitable for all ages – visitors aged under 16 must be accompanied by an adult – and starts at 8.30pm. It will go on until after darkness falls, and is expected to wind up at around 10.30pm.

Booking is essential for the event and tickets, which cost £4 for adults and children, are available at www.nts.org.uk

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Jul 142017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

Aberdeen athletics coaches gathered at a leading sports facility this week to celebrate the work of an early 20th century sporting official at a unique historical presentation.
Aberdeen Sports Village, based on Linksfield Road, held the opening ceremony in honour of the work of Andrew Ross Scott (A R Scott), a former Scottish Athletics judge.

Mr Scott’s great grandson, Andrew Walker, visited Aberdeen Sports Village with his wife, Hilary, to see the display featuring A R Scott’s original timepiece, a unique athletics record book, and the medal awarded to Mr Scott by Queen Alexandra, at the 1908 Olympic Games in London.

Mr Scott was a Scottish Athletics official for over 15 years, taking on the role of president of the organisation in 1903. The Summer Olympics of 1908 was to take place in Rome, but due to an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the venue was changed to London, with each of the UK nation’s supplying officials.

The final of the 400m was declared void due to elbowing, and the final was rerun with only one runner, after the other athletes refused to take part. Wyndham Halswelle, a Scot, ran the race to win gold, becoming the only athlete ever to win an Olympic gold medal by a walker. A Ross Scott was one of the judges for the rerun.

Mr Walker was given his great grandfather’s memorabilia by his mother, and approached a current Scottish Athletics coach, Alex McGregor to find the best way to display the unique pieces. Mr McGregor decided to approach ASV, having run on the original Linksfield Stadium ash track as a boy over 60 years ago.

Several seasoned officials from Aberdeen Athletics Club met Mr Walker to hear the unusual story, which is now on display in a specially produced pod at ASV.

Duncan Sinclair, CEO ASV, said: 

“The story of A Ross Scott and Wyndham Halleswelle is unique, and so we are delighted to display the beautiful timepiece, book and medal at our facility. It is fascinating to hear about sporting endeavour from over one hundred years ago, and it was a great pleasure to meet with so many experienced judges and coaches who came to welcome Mr Walker to Aberdeen.”

Mr Walker commented:

“The display pod is everything I could have wished for. My mother and my great grandfather would be very proud to be part of this tremendous facility, encouraging young people to achieve their best.”

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