Jul 052013

The politically incorrect nature of chicory based coffee substitute. By Duncan Harley.

An Aberdeenshire recruitment consultant was recently stunned when her job advert for reliable and hardworking applicants was rejected by the job centre as it could be offensive to unreliable and lazy people.

An Aberdeen T shirt retailer was also left stunned when during the last World Cup, police turned up to investigate his racist T-shirts which read “ABE” meaning “Anyone But England.”

Even Donald Trump of Trump International Golf Course, Aberdeen has been slated for apparently having said “I have a great relationship with the blacks.”

The Robertson’s Jam Golliwog badges of yesteryear, which were beloved by those of a certain age, are out; as are those politically incorrect Big Black Sambo money banks which of course many of our grandparents owned but which can now only be viewed in the backroom of the local antique shop, lest they cause offence or lead to litigation.

Political correctness marches on it seems. Folk can think what they want in private of course since that is the nature of democracy, but woe betide anyone who, like that Duke of Edinburgh man, crosses the boundary between the acceptable and the not quite so acceptable, unless you are royal of course.

The good prince who is aged 92 and balding, on meeting a Scot’s driving instructor gaffed ‘how on earth do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get a license’ and equally famously while chatting to a class of British exchange students in Xian, in the Peoples Republic of China quipped ‘don’t stay here too long or you’ll go slanty eyed’.

Political correctness is here to stay however, so we might as well all get used to it. It sometimes causes us to lie silently instead of saying what we think but as an ongoing process it does bring about changes in culture which hopefully in the long term may enable us to look back and be amazed at the views of ourselves, our parents and our grandparents.

Removing the black Jelly Babies from the box and putting some real coloured folks into the cast of the Black and White Minstrel Show is one thing. However the actions of the manufactures of Camp Coffee go a few steps beyond and above on that score.

Dating back to around 1886, Camp Coffee is a thick black syrupy substance which was originally made in the good city of Glasgow by Paterson and Sons Ltd.

A “secret blend of sugar, water, coffee and chicory essence”, it came enclosed in a tall glass bottle with a label depicting a Gordon Highlander officer sitting kilted and sporraned atop a comfy cushion drinking a cup of Camp, while a turbanned Sikh servant stood obediently next to him, holding a silver tray with a bottle of Camp and a jug. The white military issue tent in the background was topped by a fluttering pennant emblazoned with the words ‘Ready Aye Ready’, while helpful instructions on the reverse urged Camp drinkers to ‘Stir one teaspoonful of Camp into each cupful of boiling water, then add cream and sugar to taste. Made with heated milk but not boiled, it is delicious’ read the blurb.

This was of course the world’s first instant coffee and the marketing was deeply manly and heroically suggestive of a sort of colonial luxury based on the right of the people of Britain to reap the good harvest of Victoria’s Empire!

Not much wrong with that perhaps. Well for a start, in those days the word Camp probably referred to the camp that the soldier on the label lived in as opposed to any other more recent meaning.

He was known as ‘Fighting Mac’ for his exploits at the battle of Omdurman

Also, in those days, the servant with the tray with his proud but of course respectful attitude towards his betters, was just what any Scottish officer serving abroad in the Gordon Highlanders would have expected given his rank and high position.

The officer in question was in fact based on a real life Gordon Highlander. Seemingly he was none other than Major General Sir Hector McDonald. The son of a humble crofter, Hector had worked his way up through the ranks of the Gordon regiment serving with distinction in the second Afghan War and in also in India.

He was known as ‘Fighting Mac’ for his exploits at the battle of Omdurman, where the Gordon’s had bravely deployed forty single-barrelled, water-cooled Maxim machine-guns, each capable of firing six hundred rounds a minute.

These were used to massacre an army of 60,000 lightly armed Sudanese Ansars, referred to as Dervishes in Gordon Highlander military speak, on a plain near Omdurman in the Sudan in what was to be a dry run for the set piece battles of the 1914-18 war.

The Gordons left the enemy wounded to die and amazingly refused them medical aid. A young war correspondent by the name of Winston Churchill reported that the Sudanese army resembled nothing so much as a “twelfth-century Crusader army armed with spears, swords, and with hundreds of banners embroiderd with Koranic texts.”

What has all that to do with coffee? Well, over the decades, the label on Camp Coffee has undergone some subtle but significant changes.

From the early days of the servile but proudly turbaned Sikh servant, the Camp Coffee label has morphed into a new and quite radical label portraying the Sikh servant and Major General Sir Hector McDonald sitting side by side enjoying a well deserved relaxed cuppa as equals.

Observers have however noted that on the way to this politically correct meeting of equals, there have been a few changes to the label over the years. In the 1980’s for example, the silver tray disappeared and the Sikh servant was left standing with his left arm by his side, while his right arm remained in its original under tray position. At least now he has been granted a well deserved seat.

No one really knows who the servant was, although no doubt he did exist. As for Major General Sir Hector McDonald, he was wounded in the second Boer War and later given command of the regiment’s troops in Ceylon where charges of homosexuality were brought against him.

He shot himself in a Paris hotel in 1903.


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Jan 062012

Old Susannah tries to get to grips with the newspapers, the actual news, and council-speak.  By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho and Happy New Year! Old Susannah’s had a bit of a holiday break in London and New York, but is back in the Deen and looking for news in all the wrong places.
All major world cities have their problems – New York, London – even Aberdeen.  It’s how these problems are dealt with that show the intelligence, logic, and well class of a city’s government.
New York at Christmas has subtle holiday lights, but all the stores (particularly 5th Avenue ones) do their best to have creative, exciting, individualistic window displays.

This just makes things look non-uniform and that’s a bad thing of course.  If only there were some giant red balls and uniform lights overhead to herald the presence of the New York Government.  Better still if such lights would fall down now and then  for a bit of drama as well.

There is a policeman on every corner of 5th and people are well behaved as a result.  Our streets are of course ‘livelier.’  How sad.  No one is allowed to use the streets for fighting/throwing up/robbing/ rolling around drunk in while the police stand idly by.  Here in Aberdeen there is more freedom to indulge in these traditional holiday past times.

Iconic landmarks such as Manhattan’s statue of Atlas, Ice-skating rink and the Christmas Tree just demonstrate how stuck in boring tradition NYC really is; hardly anyone comes to see these things.  I’d like to see a few buildings levelled (maybe the Chrysler and Empire) and a gigantic concrete public square created – that’s clearly what’s needed to revitalise NY’s dull city centre.

London’s  Soho was absolutely packed with people, music venues, and restaurants.  Believe it or not, the local shops don’t all close at 6pm; some even close when they feel like it.  Trash collections are regular, and I found myself missing my overflowing Torry communal wheelie bin with its broken lid and binbags torn open by hungry birds.   There weren’t even any sofas dumped on the streets to sit on.

In a not very vibrant or dynamic tradition, the Geoffrey Museum had  its annual  display showing how households used to look in times past for Christmas.  This tedious attraction could have done so much better if a monolith had been built on its historic front lawn.

You’ll never believe me, but in London’s massive Richmond Park (again just wasted space filled with lots of grass and trees) there is actually a deer park.

I suppose the biggest disappointment in New York and London as compared to Aberdeen  is the scale of waste.  New York has its (comparatively) massive Central Park and there are long stretches of coastal lands on nearby Long Island.  No one’s proposed any football stadiums, giant forests on the dunes, or turning the place into a giant golf course resort.

London has more parks than you could count that are filled with little more than grass – which so bothers Councillor Stewart.  These parks  do allow food kiosks and restaurants, something our City is far too cool to allow in Union Terrace Gardens (well, at least not until we build something over it first).

New York has great sports teams, but it’s not following our lead.  The Rangers continue to play in the outdated Madison Square Gardens rather than building something new outside of Manhattan.  Mr Milne could teach them a thing or two.  It’s almost as if people were fond of their historic sports venue and wanted to keep using it.  I think they’re in denial – the thing doesn’t even glow in the dark.

Finally an old building has been sensitively restored for re-use as a Native American heritage museum.  Doubt that made much money for any new-build businesses.  Shame.

You’ll never believe me, but in London’s massive Richmond Park (again just wasted space filled with lots of grass and trees) there is actually a deer park.

  No, the deer are not there for people to have their dogs chase.  The deer I have to admit are sometimes culled – when absolutely necessary – after living a lifespan where they can eat, roam free, and live.
Note: They are not culled for reasons other than animal welfare.

No one is proposing to shoot them in order to turn their turf into a lumber-producing forest.  Some eccentrics actually go out of their way to come and see the deer, or ‘vermin’ as Neil Fletcher and others would call them.

London and New York should really take a page from Aberdeen’s book and do much much more building in their empty green spaces.  The funny thing is that people actually choose to live near such places and pay more money for the privilege.

My one regret is that I missed the Christmas event in Union Terrace Gardens which by all accounts was a perfect afternoon.  The children loved seeing their artwork displayed; they loved the vermin – sorry – deer which had been brought in as a special treat.  The music was spectacular and everyone had a vibrant and dynamic time.  So my compliments to the organisers –  the Bothwell family and their friends, and to those who supplied prizes – Lush and The Artist’s Pad on Castlegate in particular.

I was happy to have been one of the judges for the art competition which was a real pleasure if not a nearly impossible task.  Watch Aberdeen Voice for an upcoming display of the childrens’ artwork and the entries for the Aberdeen Voice Union Terrace Gardens art competition – as soon as I can scan the 300+ items that were entered, that is.

But at this rate there won’t be room for definitions, so here we go.

Blindspot: (compound noun; English) An area which cannot be perceived whether due to physical limitations or psychological ones.

Old Susannah begins to wonder if any of our local press realise that by 23 January the City must relinquish details to me of what land was sold to Stewart Milne companies and for how much money? If they are aware, they certainly don’t find this revelation worthy of any space in their pages.

When I was travelling I kept up with local news via the internet – there were fascinating pieces on weather, a bit of vandalism, some bits of petty crime, another local store closed, and football games were won and lost.  But no word on Aberdeen Council being criticised by Scotland’s Information Commissioner or on the looming disclosure of what property ACC sold to Stew at what price. Guess this just isn’t as interesting as all the other stuff.

  seems northern Scotland can get windy in winter.  Who’d have guessed?

Still, by 23 January the City is meant to supply me with the info on Milne I requested a year and a month ago.

Let’s see who publishes the next development besides Aberdeen Voice.

I also read Private Eye when I was away (although I usually find it far too critical of our elected officials and millionaires), and a small item reminded me that the National Union of Journalists was ‘de-recognised’ by the Press and Journal and its sister, the Evening Express.

A cynical person might think the owners of these papers want to keep a tight rein on any reporter who goes ‘off message’ and writes anything too critical of their largest advertising revenue sources.  I just think the P&J management don’t want their staff to have to have the hassle of Union membership when they are so perfectly well remunerated.

Is there really any bias towards the powerful forces in the  City?  Just as  a matter of interest, a colour advertisement in the Evening Express supporting the ‘phase 2 tree for every citizen’ scheme cost the city c. £145.  A similar sized colour ad by those opposed to the tree planting and related deer cull cost over £700 (with 2 reprints in the Citizen).  Just thought you might like to know.

Festive Decorations: (noun) holiday-themed lights, banners, etc.

Well, the City’s outdone itself this year.   From 21st November 2011 to the 5th January 2011, Aberdeen City Centre was festooned with festive lighting and decoration.  Of course some of the lights came down almost as soon as they went up; seems northern Scotland can get windy in winter.  Who’d have guessed?  (Note – this historic pattern of high winds will of course be no object to planting trees on Tullos Hill, even if a Forestry report says wind is a problem there).

  I have my own theories about what the giant, over-sized, totally out-of-proportion red balls symbolised

According to the City’s website ‘Other communities around the City also take part with their own festive lighting on lamp-posts.  Aberdeen’s main thoroughfare (Union Street) is the centre piece with 11 cross street lighting all with a Christmas theme.’

I was surprised that Christmas was the theme for the beautiful lights on Union Street – I’d have thought the City was supposed to be non-denominational.  But I saw the light.  The decorations on Union Street show pictures of presents, toys and sweets – and buying stuff like that is the true meaning of Christmas after all.

I have my own theories about what the giant, over-sized, totally out-of-proportion red balls symbolised, but perhaps I’ll keep that to myself.  I look forward to watching them fall down again next year.

Jargon: (noun) vocabulary which is not recognised in the mainstream, is hard to decipher, and which may be deliberately exclusionary.

Next week I intend to look at upcoming budget/financial actions our fair city may be taking.  Believe it or not, I am not always convinced their financial skills are as good as you might think.  If anyone can help me decipher  the following paragraph which I found on the ACC website, then please get in touch:-

“There are also other projects currently active that will produce efficiencies for all Services, i.e. ICT infrastructure and connectivity, procurement revisions, etc. The ICT infrastructure and connectivity work is delivered solely by Service Design and Development and therefore is not included  in the above listing. The projects listed above all fall into the category of technology enabling making change happen.”

It sound absolutely wonderful, but I haven’t a clue what it means.  It’s from an older document covering finance and budget.

Is it  possible that a lack of straight-talking is confusing issues?  No, I thought not.  I guess I’m just not ‘falling into the category of technology enabling making change happen’ as naturally as everyone else must be doing.

Final thought:  Children in Need:
Spare a thought to those who don’t have the things they need this season.  Take the case of Stewart M.

Stewart, aged fifty-something years, will not have a happy holiday season (or any kind of happy season) without some help.  A mere 7.8 million pounds will give him the toy football stadium he wants.  Next year he may also buy some toy players to go in the toy stadium if it’s not all been thrown out of the pram.  Please give generously.

Another Final thought:  Electoral Roll:
Live in Aberdeen?  Want to vote on the future of Union Terrace Gardens?  Make sure you are registered to vote before 10 January.  IF you are not on the electoral role, follow this link and register:  http://www.grampian-vjb.gov.uk/clients/GVJB/flexviews/core/assets/pdf/er/voterregistrationform.pdf



Jul 222011

By Bob Smith.


Yon Murdoch mannie’s nae happy
In fact he’s jist fair pit oot
The NOTW accused o hackin phones
An pyein oor bobbies aff wi loot

Papers fer some mony ears
Hiv hid ower muckle swye
Politicians aa feart ti act
In case they’re hung oot ti dry

The investigative journalist hack
We still o coorse div need
Bit nae the type faa brak the rules
Jist ti satisfy Murdoch’s greed

Noo fowk faa bocht his papers
Some class  a Murdoch Muppet
An aa helpit prop up his empire
Oot his brose bowl they hiv suppit

Lit’s nae forget oor local lot
Faa git up ti aa sorts o capers
As promoters o  yon Donald Trump
Losh he’s nivver oot their papers 

The P&J shud bi worried
If its practices are reviewed
Ower lang its hid a monopoly
Gweed fowk’s views are screwed

Fae Lowrenkirk ti Lerwick
An ower wast ti Stornoway
The daily fit rules the roost?
It’s the bliddy P&J

It’s nae eese noo girnin
Ti thon lot at thePCC
We need fowk fa are independent
An fae press barons wull bide free

Ye’ll nae fin me greetin
If Murdoch he gings bust
An aa his media empire
It finally bites the dust

The only Murdoch a div like
Is fae “Sunday Post’s” comic stuff
An aul farrant sort o bobby
He’d  hae Rupert in hauncuffs 

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011
Image credit: © Christopher Hall | Dreamstime.com