Aug 232013

Something for the Weekend Sir? Duncan Harley comments on the newspapers you might like to read if you had the time, the money and the inclination. This week he looks at the Sunday Post, the paper many Scots buy but choose to send to the relatives abroad rather than read.

Sunday Post: Image credit: Duncan HarleyI have a confession to make. I had not bought this paper, ever, until today.
My parents, God rest their souls, ordered it from the local newsagent in Hamilton, and as a child I read with relish the adventures of The Broons and that spiky-haired pre-punk manny, “Oor Wullie”. A double entendre indeed, but an awfa’ good one!

In the centre pages “The Doc” advised those bemused haemorrhoids sufferers amongst us how to anoint their nether regions with helpful ointments, while on other pages, “The Vet” suggested how to revive a dead budgie.

I purchased my first copy today from an “Eight Till Late” corner shop in Keith’s Reidhaven Square. It’s a wonderful local shop full of handy things that you might run out of, such as biros, lard and morning rolls. Open from 6am till quite late, it defies its name by some two hours and sells, amongst other Scottish icons, The Sunday Post.

My heart sank when the pound in my pocket was not enough to purchase the paper. The assistant quietly whispered that it went up to £1.30 a few years ago. Her comment somehow reminded me of my dad’s faux pas in 1962 when he asked the conductress on the Number 53 from Hamilton to Bellshill for a tuppeny return ticket, little realising that fares had risen tenfold since his last bus journey all those years previously.

Nothing, however, could prepare me for the new format Sunday Post.

The paper leads on a story about some drug smugglers arrested in Peru’s Lima airport. Now, I have been there a couple of times and it is not a good place to be, if smuggling drugs is your forte. Scanners abound in the departure area and folk with very big guns are all around. Even the traffic cops sport AK47s, plus some very serious attitude.

It seems though that the dad of one of the arrested pair’s flatmate is a murderer, according to the Post’s headline. “Melissa’s flatmate is daughter of Gangster” screams the front page. I for one won’t be hiring the paper as a defence lawyer, ever.

A piece entitled “Banged up abroad” leads on page 5. It seems that around a thousand UK citizens are imprisoned in foreign jails. The Post suggests that drug smugglers might be “coerced” into breaking the law in foreign lands. The paper may be right.

I failed to find Oor Wullie amongst the detritus

Never one to publish naked women in order to boost sales, The Post delivers a Page Three warning about a sharp rise in “attacks by lethal snakes”.

It seems that NHS Direct advise that all snakes can strike, and that all victims should keep still and seek medical help. I guess that’s my pet adder for the chop, then.

“Ambulance Staff in Sick Rate Shock” and “Klinsmann celebration ruined my life” take up pages 8 and 9. Then some centre page articles about “Corrie’s Cast”, and a man holding a Parrot are featured, complete with photos.

I failed to find Oor Wullie amongst the detritus which is “Newspaper of the Year”; and the Broons were thankfully similarly hard to find.

Page 54 of this week’s edition headlines on “The shows rubbish and it could be in a shed”. I have no idea what this may mean, and have no intention of reading the article. Perhaps it is a review of the paper, via insiders who know the full truth but need to express it in metaphorical terms.

A hard hitting read indeed. On a scale of nought to ten The Sunday Post rates a three. It’s a poor advert for Scotland I think, and a major reason why folk all around the globe consider us Scots to be primitive beings that live in caves and eat haggis twice each week with extra helpings on a Sunday.

Next week on “Something for the Weekend Sir?” I will be taking a look at the Express on Sunday or whatever it’s called right now.

“Something for the Weekend Sir” is of course what local barbers used to ask customers in the days before discrete prophylactic services became available via the internet.

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Aug 102012

Local folklore will tell you of a night, some years ago, of Antarctic-proportion blizzards and mini-Himalayan snow drifts, somewhere on the A9 between Inverness and Wick. To help assure the well-being of travellers, locals being far too sensible to venture out on ‘sic a nicht’, the local police had a patrol out at the start of the affected area, preventing would-be Ice Road Truckers from venturing into the blin drift. 

One traveller was determined that he had to get through. The cops were equally adamant that he should turn around and seek shelter for the night away from the freezing trunk road hell beyond the road block. As he pleaded his case, from nowhere came a vehicle, lights ablaze and wipers working double time, before disappearing into the whiteout ahead. The traveller’s protests that this vehicle had been allowed to venture beyond the official barrier was waved away by the bobby, “That, sir, was the P&J van.”

News has broken this week that the twin local institutions of The Press & Journal and Evening Express have entered consultation with 59 transport, circulation and finance staff in Aberdeen and Inverness over redundancy, writes our Business Correspondent.

Ellis Watson, CEO of DC Thomson Publishing commented on the BBC News website,

We have been working hard to assess how our business can meet the challenges of the dramatic changes in the publishing industry and the turbulent economy.

“We are one of the last publishers in the country still distributing our own titles. The cost of producing and distributing to market is ever-increasing, which is why we’ve had to make this decision to outsource, rather than to see our business decline.

“We are working with our affected staff members to ensure the best possible outcome for each individual during this difficult period.

“By facing the challenges head-on and investing for a new era, we will maintain a strong position on the news stands and continue our important role as an employer for the future.”

In the P&J’s own Business supplement, Mr Watson was more forthcoming,

“We are actively considering the option of outsourcing to a third-party provider for the distribution of our Aberdeen titles”.

The piece credited to Ian Forsyth reveals,

Newspapers would be delivered and collected by an external provider; likely to be John Menzies.”

Voice contacted a staff member likely to be affected by the outcome of the consultation who said,

“Alarm bells rang when The Courier and Telegraph distribution was outsourced to Menzies. When we asked them, managers said there were no plans at that time for Lang Stracht. That would have been late last year, or early in 2012. In fact, we had understood that when the costs of keeping distribution in-house were compared with the costs of outsourcing, our own transport was the cheaper option.

“The Dundee outsourcing started in July. Staff were asked if they wanted to move to Menzies under TUPE, but enhanced redundancy terms were attractive to them which meant that most left.

“We expected this, but thought that we would have had longer notice. The Dundee staff were given three months, but because there are under a hundred of us, only a month needs to be given.

“We’ve been told that the company wasn’t in a position to comment on enhanced redundancy terms just now, but that if there was no rocking of the boat, the company would consider enhancing the conditions.”

This will inevitably mean that Aberdeen Journals’ most visible presence in local communities, the ubiquitous (once red, now blue) transit van will disappear as the distribution service is outsourced.

No more ducking in Northern Road in Kintore as a tightly-rolled consignment of the latest edition is flung expertly on to the newsagent’s doorstep by a passing, yes passing, P&J van and consigned to the past will be stories such as that featured in our opening paragraphs.

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