Apr 012022

By Duncan Harley.

A First World War veteran, Laurence Taylor (1899-1949) arrived back in his native North East in the September of 1918 just a few weeks before the armistice between Germany and the Allies which effectively ended the horrific fighting and the loss of millions of lives across the battlefields of Europe.

After four years of trench warfare, the guns on the Western Front had finally fallen silent.

Wounded by shellfire during an abortive attack on a German redoubt near Ypres, Laurence was hospitalised for several weeks in France before being sent home to his native Fraserburgh where he gradually regained his strength and took stock of his new situation.

Battlefield surgeons had amputated a leg below the knee and shrapnel had severed several fingers on his right hand but, despite these injuries, Laurence was determined to resume his career as an accordionist in a Bothy Band.

Now, folk will usually assert that there is no such thing as a left-handed accordion player. But that is not strictly the case.

Given the right circumstances and a bit of determination, it is perfectly possible to play the accordion upside down. And that is exactly what Laurence trained himself to do.

Over the course of several months, he not only regained his mobility but re-learned his accordion skills using an inverted keyboard specially designed for him by a local blacksmith.

Over the course of several decades Laurence and The Big Accordion Band toured the UK and even made it as far as New York on one occasion becoming what was probably the very first transatlantic bothy ballad band.

Towards the end of his life, the lad from Fraserburgh was interviewed for the local paper and asked about the reason for his success.

“It was all down to grit and determination” he said.

“And I would do it all again if I had to. Mind you the left-handed keyboard has taken its toll on my remaining fingers and you can’t really toe tap effectively with just the one leg in case you fall over.”

Asked about the future he stated that he was still good enough to play the bass side but not the treble side but he was still working on a solution.

The years took their toll however and the man who took the bothy ballads of the North East to America eventually ended up on the streets.

Fame and hangers on had taken their toll and drink had gotten a hold of him. The Big Accordion Band had long since broken up and by September 1947, the Fraserburgh accordionist was reduced to playing for drams in the bars and the strip clubs of rural Aberdeenshire.

Laurence Taylor became ill on stage half way through an open-mike performance at McGinty’s Bar near Cullen in 1949 and died aged fifty in a Fraserburgh nursing home after a short illness. His ashes were scattered at sea.

His legacy lives on however. Not least as the first left-handed accordionist to introduce down-town New York to the bothy ballads of the North East.

(Additional reporting by April McGinty)

Aug 282015

Alex Salmond head and shoulders2With thanks to Tom Collins, Press Officer, Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MP MSP

Former First Minister, Alex Salmond MSP (Aberdeenshire East) MP (Gordon) has called for a posthumous pardon for Thomas Muir and his fellow radicals tried and transported for sedition in 1793/94.

Mr Salmond said:

“The exploits of Muir, a pioneer of democratic political reform and Scottish independence, are recognised in the monument at Old Calton Cemetery.

“However, the trumped up charge by the notorious Lord Braxfield of ‘unconscious sedition’ still stands against the names of Muir, Palmer, Skirving, Margarot and Gerrald. It is time to set the record straight”

Mr Salmond delivered the inaugural Thomas Muir lecture at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Monday (24th August).

He Continued:

“This 250th anniversary of Muir’s birth is an opportunity to re-examine the historical record with a view to pointing the way to a better future for Scotland.

“Robert Burns penned Scots Wha Hae on the day that Muir was tried in late August 1793. Burns wrote to his publisher George Thomson that he had been inspired by Bruce’s struggle for freedom ‘associated with glowing ideas of some other struggles of the same nature not quite so ancient’. That is the clearest possible reference to Muir’s trial and the Friends of the People movement.

“For Burns and for Muir the radical cause of reform and progress was inextricably linked with the national cause in Scotland. So it is for this generation.

“In his speech before the Court of Judiciary, Muir said: ‘Gentlemen, from infancy to this moment I have devoted myself to the cause of the people. It is a good cause – it shall ultimately prevail – it shall finally triumph’.

“His friend William Skirving said from the dock: ‘I know that what has been done these two days will be rejudged’.

“We have the ability to do this in Scotland and we should do it now to reclaim the position of these founders of democracy in Scotland.”

Mr Salmond praised Elaine Henry of Word Power Books in Edinburgh who organised the lecture and Murray Armstrong, author of “The Liberty Tree”, a historical novel, which recounts the story of John Muir and the Friends of John Muir who have campaigned to place this founding father of Scottish democratic reform back to prominence.

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Jan 302015

Suzanne Kelly aka Old Susannah gets to grips with Grampian’s great and good, and with St Valentine’s Day just around the corner, her soft and sympathetic side is coming to the fore. Or maybe not. Can’t you just feel the love?

DictionaryWell, it’s official now: Aberdeen City and Shire ARE ON THE MAP! This is for several reasons. It’s not because we’re home to BrewDog, the UK’s fastest-growing drinks company (and arguably the most fun drinks company anywhere). It’s not even because we might set the tone and build a granite web (keep dreaming Messrs Wood, Smith and Crosby, you never know).

We got on the map mainly because Donald Trump came to our humble backwater. But the latest developments are even more exciting than that! Alex Salmond is writing a column for the Press & Journal AND famous people came here the other weekend! Result!

As to this new column, it’s riveting stuff. Did you know he loved his mum? He’s written a column about it.

It’s in no way reminiscent of when an X Factor contestant seeks sympathy with a sad story before singing badly. He’s also sharing a few likes and dislikes. I’m sure the honourable member will one of these days come and visit the people in his constituency at the Menie Estate – it’s just a matter of priorities.

Columns don’t write themselves you know; it’s hard work for a budding writer on his own to make it in the journalism world. It’s awfully good of the P&J to give this novice a break; I wonder if it was just the goodness of the collective Aberdeen Journals Ltd’s hearts – or if there were any other factors involved in signing young Alex up to pen his thoughts? I wonder.

But that’s only the half the reason we’re on the world’s radar now: did you know someone from Oasis and a fashion model actually came to Aberdeenshire for a party?

Well, if not, where have you been? It’s the story everyone’s talking about (well, after fracking, Muse at Marischal College, pollution and other boring subjects). Apparently someone threw a party and… people came up north from down south. To hear Aberdeen Journals tell it it’s the best thing since bunting:

“Kate Moss and Nick Grimshaw party in Craigellachie… That’s right, you read it correctly!”

Yes, that’s right: you DID read it correctly! Well done! I hope you’ve not fainted with the excitement of this revelation if you’re only reading it here for the first time. Apologies. (And if one of you could be so kind as to send me a message and let me know who Nick Grimshaw is and what he does, thanks in advance).

Watch and download the Craigellachie video here, for your and your grand children’s future viewing pleasure:

Anyway, moving on…It’s not Valentine’s day just yet; but as the supermarkets are already piling the Easter eggs on the shelves, there’s no time to lose. Tally ho!

Perhaps love and romance deserve a few definitions at time of year. A cynic might think that St Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Let’s look to our betters and see if we can learn anything about affection, admiration, and maybe even love.

To Reconcile: (English verb) Renew a friendship or a love; to recover lost affection and love.

There is one power couple that I hope will soon reconcile. These are two people, meant for each other, sharing the same loves, dreams and ambitions. It would be a huge loss if they can’t rekindle what they once had. So Alex Salmond, in case you missed it: Donald Trump ‘Still Likes and Respects You.’ Or so says the Press & Journal – and if ever The Donald will be quoted accurately, rest assured it will be in the paper his Scottish Vice President’s husband edits.

In mid 2014, Trump said of Alex:

“I disagree with him on one element, I’ve had moments in life when I’ve been very friendly with him and I do respect him, but I disagree with him on wind. [Old Susannah wonders if they got this wind from all the champagne they drank with their steak dinners in New York]

I think there are other great forms of energy but wind is becoming obsolete. I disagreed with him on that, other than that, I like him. I told that to someone the other day, I actually like Alex Salmond but I have to fight him. I’ve created a masterpiece and I don’t want to see it hurt by a very, very foolish technology that’s obsolete.” 

Presumably the very foolish technology that’s obsolete is not the printed newspaper.

I suppose when two people are deeply involved – what with wining and dining in the finest hotels either side of the Atlantic – their passions will sometimes lead to heated arguments. However, now that Alex is writing a column for the Press & Journal, he’ll have lots more opportunities to let people connected to Trump know that he likewise wants and needs to get back together.

Let’s wish the couple a happy reconciliation. Trump did go on in the P&J article about taking a position on Salmond’s independence drive, and what would or would not be appropriate for Trump to do about it – but lest the imagery be too heady for some readers, I’ll not dwell on the idea of Trump taking a position on Alex.

Perhaps the taxpayer should step in – again – and send the two flying off to a 5 star hotel in New York or elsewhere where they can enjoy yet another evening of drink and fine food. Perhaps there’s some other SSSI site we can give Trump on a silver platter as well.

Anniversary Gifts: (Modern English compound noun) A list of gifts couples are meant to exchange on different wedding anniversaries.

In January 2013 the power couple of the year tied the knot. Yes, Damian Bates married 2007 Face of Aberdeen Sarah Malone. Why the two didn’t have their nuptuals announced in Aberdeen Journals Ltd – and why Sarah didn’t make the Bride of the Week page – is a mystery. But then love works in mysterious ways. I personally think they didn’t want us mere mortals to be jealous of their union.

Last year by tradition they would have exchanged anniversary gifts made of paper – but I guess Damian had already given Sarah a gift in the form of paper – the Evening Express and P&J to be specific. The modern gift would have been made of plastic for that first anniversary; but no doubt there was already enough plastic in the mix as it was.

The alternative gift for a first year of wedded bliss is to exchange clocks. However, at Sarah’s day job at Trump’s Menie Estate, there are already some small, discrete, tasteful clocks on the landscape. Even better, they all seem to tell different times – doubtless the couple count the hours until the next Trump advertising revenue comes in and the next pro Trump advertorial is put to bed. Isn’t love grand?

This year the happy couple are meant to exchange cotton. Again, that ship has sailed, for they have both cottoned on a number of years back.

Online Dating: (Modern English noun) means of using electronic communications and computing to find a potential partner based on compatibility.

Do pity us poor single people; I spend all my time crying in my Hagen daas, wondering what to do with myself, fearing I’ll wither away as a wallflower spinster. Some singles join church groups, some take tango lessons, some take out classified ads. All are desperate to find that certain someone to go to Union Square with on a Saturday, then to stroll hand in hand through the paint thinner section of B&Q with on a Sunday. Let’s face it – you have to be in a couple to be anybody.

Single or married, if we were to be honest with ourselves, men and women are looking for some very basic, important things from a relationship. Money and looks.

You can exchange Tinder feelings to complete strangers and meet up in a back booth of the Chester Hotel to compare bank balances and plastic surgery results. But those who are in the know and in the dough cut to the chase and visit website ‘Seeking Arrangements’.

This is a dignified, personal site that pairs up rich men with poor, good-looking (and for some reason usually younger) women. The women in question, while working nights to put themselves through medical school and supporting their sick mothers no doubt, need a little financial assistance. Girls dating rich men is of course nothing like girls selling themselves for money.

Today’s smart successful girls are free to seek out sugar daddies and ask them to contribute a wee bit to keep them in Jimmy Choos and Tiffany bracelets. In return the men get the satisfaction of working closely with younger people and helping out the next generation – they wouldn’t want anything else for their money from beautiful young women, would they?

I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a romantic way to find the bank account of your dreams if you’re a liberated woman (who looks good of course). And if you’re a rich, hard-working man, it’s likely the wife doesn’t appreciate you, and for a bit of money and jewellery, you can get in a few hours of appreciation on the side. Someone to listen how the wife doesn’t understand, to take walks in the park with, perhaps to do the crossword together.

Or something.

For whatever reason, some people object to sexually objectifying men or women. They even nearly stopped the Sun’s Page 3 models for a day or two!

And that would have been bad for the circulation. Such people are called Feminists. They are almost always unattractive and old. Some of the former Sun models took time out from their busy careers to make witty tweets about those who object to Page 3. Rhian Sugden said:

“It’s only a matter of time before everything we do will be dictated by comfy shoe wearing… No bra wearing… man haters.”

But I digress.

Back to the subject of ‘Seeking Arrangements’ I hope no ‘bra-wearing, men-haters’ think there is anything wrong with such a set-up. It’s not as if it objectifies women, glorifies youth and beauty and commodifies these traits.

One final word on the subject. There are some taboos that should not and must not be broken. It’s acceptable for a rich old man to buy – sorry to help out a poorer, beautiful girl. That’s one of the things we like so much about Mr Trump for that matter. They’re called ‘sugar daddies’ – such a cute nickname, with nothing remotely unpleasant about the ‘daddies’ bit.

But we can all agree that an older woman, however rich, has no business around younger men. Cougars are just unacceptable. Happy to have cleared that up.

It’s so refreshing we had a women’s rights movement, even if it was a long time ago and it’s largely forgotten. For the life of me I can’t think what people like Emma Watson are getting so worked up about. Men may earn more than women, but as websites like Seeking Arrangements show, we’re all really just looking for that person out there who shares our values.

Good luck girls – but be warned: you may have to at some point hold your sugar daddy’s hand. Or something. Still, think of the money.

Cultural Speed Dating: (Modern Aberdonian quango phrase) A matchmaking service for rich patrons and poor artists and makers to get together.

In the same way that the idea of ‘Seeking Arrangements’ gives us a warm feeling, the concept of Cultural Speed Dating is nearly as heart-warming. I wonder what clever person came up with this marvellous idea?

Poor impoverished artists can come and throw themselves at people with money in a bid to get funding. It’s a speed dating set up which gives artists the respect they deserve – a chance to beg for money from the rich in a small space of time.

Culturally speaking, the marriage between the rich, the government, and those artists who either are desperate for success/money – or who are keen to get into bed (as it were) with the powerful is as moving as when Romeo and Juliet first spoke. And that turned out just fine.

Aside from money and fame, any real artist worth their salt wants to be guided by the patronising hand of the people with money.

What can be more important for a visionary than learning to be more commercially acceptable? The people in government who hand out grants know what art they want, and if you want their money, you’ll give them what they want. The wealthy private patron has their own ideas as well too, and the ideas of the rich trump the ideas of the talented. What’s a little compromise now and then if you’re a creative?

Old Susannah was told of a foolish portrait painter who some years back took a commission from a retired wealthy man for a group painting. When the painting was nearly done, the man’s wife told the artist to leave the painting unsigned, so that she could sign it herself later.

What do you think the ungrateful artist did? He said no.

Only with slightly different words. The painter lost out on money. If you’re an artist, I hope you’ll learn something from this little anecdote before the next Cultural Speed dating comes along. I’m sure 5 to 10 minutes is enough time to explain your artistic vision to someone with a chequebook – and if not – just let them do the talking instead.

We can’t just have people going around creating art or literature that the rich folks won’t enjoy, can we?

Next week: I’ll tell you that I love my family, and what tragedies I’ve been through. Or I may update you on what Police Scotland’s been up to (or not been up to for that matter).

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Nov 282014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryApologies for the late running of this service, I’ve been on holiday. I was at the bonfire night fire festival in Lewes where suffice it to say Alex Salmond must be very popular, as there were two giant effigies of him paraded through the streets. Thousands of people, fire, pubs open late; hospitality galore all night long – and all no more police, security and crowd barriers as Aberdeen employed when the Commonwealth torch passed through town, or for a Christmas tree in the gardens.

Lewes also forgot to put up signs saying ‘no dogs, no pets, no plastic chairs, no food, no alcohol’ like Aberdeen did for its 2 hour torch party.

I think Lewes could learn quite a bit from Aberdeen City Council when it comes to having fun.

Safety first, fun … well, where possible in small dribs and drabs (‘drab’ being the operative word for recent events; let’s see what the city has in store this Christmas season).

Overall playing it safe seems to be the theme of several news stories this past week or so, and here are some relevant definitions.

Spin Doctor: (Modern English compound noun) – A person who serves as a public relations professional specialising in damage limitation, reputation enhancement, and other forms of lying.

It was a shame to be away with all of Aberdeen’s exciting developments going on, but the £80,000 pending appointment of a new City spin doctor is by far the most thrilling.  Congratulations in advance to Aberdeen City Council’s future new head of spin, Takki Sulaiman. Let’s hope he can do for the city what he did for London’s Tower Hamlets. Fraud, waste, housing issues, financial irregularities – he’ll have lots of experience in these areas to bring with him.

For some reason he still has to have his pre-employment checks carried out. For one thing apparently he didn’t bother to mention he was at one point a Labour Councillor; perhaps he was trying to forget. But if our new spin doctor is a bit forgetful when it comes to minor details on his own CV and Tower Hamlet’s many problems, I’m sure his otherwise astute eye for detail will be worth every penny of the £80k.

The P&J reported on this joyous news, adding their own spin to the story. Their news article (if that’s what they call it) reported that:

“The city’s Labour-led administration has courted controversy after ditching £140million plans to redevelop Union Terrace Gardens and attempting to ban First Minister Alex Salmond from council property.”

I am always in awe at how the P&J can recall these facts. Other facts seem to elude the paper though, in the same way that Takki forgot he was a Labour councillor.

Perhaps counting actual profit and loss from black and white figures is not their strong suit

The P&J has a little amnesia when it comes to remembering little things like the taxpayer would have had to borrow £90 million pounds to build pointless webs to nowhere, and that PricewaterhouseCooper predicted the web would earn us hundreds of millions and make 6,000 permanent new jobs. How could we have turned that down?

It would be churlish of me to mention that this same PWC entity has overestimated Tesco’s profits by a few hundred million in errors spanning the last few years.

Perhaps counting actual profit and loss from black and white figures is not their strong suit. Maybe they are best left to use their undoubted expertise to guess how many tourists will come to buy goods if they’re situated under a granite web.

At one of the many council meetings about Ian Wood’s web scheme, I gave a deputation. When I was done, Callum McCaig asked me whether I was doubting the reputation of PriceWaterhouseCooper. I managed to answer that we’d already paid a five figure sum of taxpayer money to the PWC experts for their web expertise, and they’d get more if we went ahead. My opinion of this firm has changed very little on learning they failed to add up Tesco’s books accurately.

As to the other point the P&J brought up, At the time Salmond had developed a penchant for showing up any place he was invited, such as the Bramble Brae school because a parent had asked him. This was during a by election. Well, he’s still invited to meet his own constituents at the Menie Estate and see what good he’s done them. We’re waiting Alex.

But I digress.

I suppose Suliaman’s a safe alternative to the city’s previous relationship with the BiG Partnership. At least he is not likely to enlist the services of Jake the Ghost or Morris the Monkey to tell us we need to spend £140 million on granite walkways to make money. But what can we expect?

Tower Hamlets has had one or two wee problems; like our friend up the road Donald Trump, Panorama decided to take a look at how things work there. It’s all a bit messy, complicated, fiscally obscure, politically-skewed story. Takki will love it here in the uncomplicated, straightforward Deen. As a media professional Suliaman knew exactly what to do.  He refused to make a statement, and hired a PR company (I’ll bet Tower Hamlets taxpayers were thrilled):

“[Suliaman] … declined to speak to PRWeek earlier this week, explaining that he did not believe it was appropriate with the Panorama controversy ongoing.

“Rahman and Tower Hamlets Council have mounted a robust response to the programme, for which Sulaiman has enlisted the help of PR and public affairs agency Champollion.

“An agency spokesperson stresses it is working for the council, of which the mayor is the head, and is not involved in political campaigning. “Takki has a duty to protect the reputation of the council and we’ve been supporting the council to ensure that whatever happened wouldn’t harm its reputation,” the spokesperson says.

“Champollion’s work has involved interview preparation for the mayor, along with help for press officers in preparing for calls from journalists.”

So how does our £80,000 per year job candidate get on with the press historically? PR Week’s article continues:

“A difficult relationship with the media appears to be a theme with Sulaiman.  [well, that’s a little bit of a downside; maybe that’s why he’ll only cost us £80K]

“Ted Jeory, a Sunday Express journalist who also has a blog on east London politics, Trial by Jeory, argues Sulaiman’s approach to working with the press is about placing “barriers in the road” rather than developing relationships.

““The council doesn’t have the best of reputations for transparency and his overly defensive, bordering on aggressive attitude doesn’t help overcome that,” says Jeory. “He’s a former politician, of course, and I get the impression the argumentative nature required in that field has spilled over.””

It looks that between Takki and Aberdeen Journals we’re set to get even more of the straight-talking, fact-based, unbiased reportage that we’ve come to expect. The city’s secrets will be in a safe pair of hands soon – don’t worry.

Vaping: (New English gerund) Process of vaporising products such as tobacco and inhaling the vapour instead of smoke. Billed as a safe alternative (?) to smoking.

It is a bit confusing to Old Susannah – vaping may be completely safe – but we don’t know that yet for certain and everyone seems to be at it. We do know smoking is dangerous and often deadly – but laboratories are still making money by forcing animals to inhale smoke and get diseases. Something seems just a little bit wrong there. Vape to your hearts are content; it seems that there is no secondary smoke. But as to whether or not vapers are damaging their health, the jury is out.

United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP): (Modern English  proper noun) New political party gaining ground, considered by some to be the safe alternative (?) to conservatives, Lib Dems, BNP and Labour

So UKIP has won further power in UK politics. UKIP is seen by its supporters as the alternative to the other political parties. Which of course it is. Putting aside UKIP’s views on immigrants, women, religious tolerance, homosexuality and so on, it’s a great choice.

Congratulations to all those who’ve switched to  UKIP. We’ve not seen anything like this before in Europe. Except in the 1930s. In Germany. What can possibly go wrong with putting in place a government that fears foreigners?

Nuclear Power: (Modern English compound noun) Energy produced by atomic reactions, considered by some to be the safe alternative (?) to fossil fuels.

Nuclear power is clean, wonderful, efficient, and will stop us depending so much on foreign energy. Result!  It’s the safe way to go, so we’re told by a few engineers and energy leaders, all of whom I assume are completely objective in their support for nuclear power.

In a story a few weeks back, The Engineer reported:

“British scientists are to research whether a new type of supposedly safer, smaller, cheaper nuclear reactor could help reduce the UK’s radioactive waste stocks.”

Safe and cheap. That’s how we like our nukes. We were previously assured ad nauseum that nuclear energy is safe. That is, except for Chernobyl, Fukushima, and closer to home another release of radioactive material following a fire at Douneray.

But don’t worry – everything is fine, what’s a little (more) radiation, and in a shocking development, lessons will be learned.  Somehow lessons seem to get learned after the horse has bolted or after the tritium has escaped into the atmosphere or sea, but the important thing is, the people in power are learning.  The BBC wrote:

“DSRL said trace amounts of tritium were released and did not pose a risk to the public. No-one at the plant was hurt in the early morning incident. The Caithness site’s fire brigade extinguished the blaze in the PFR’s sodium tank farm within 30 minutes.

“Managing director Mark Rouse said DSRL has been served with an improvement notice by the nuclear industry’s regulators. He said: “Our investigation identified unacceptable behaviours and practices that fell well short of our values and standards. It is important to take the time to ensure as many lessons are learned from this incident as possible.”

As well as our experts learning yet more lessons, we’re assured that everything is perfectly safe. I’m sure you find that as comforting as I do. What’s the odd fire at a nuclear power plant every now and then anyway?

So there you have it – we’re all completely safe. Phew. There may be fires at nuclear plants that have ‘unacceptable behaviours and practices’ – but lessons are being learned.

There may be no other alternative than to vote UKIP – I’m sure that will be consequence free and safe as well. We can vape as we see fit. We’ll be safe the next time Aberdeen City throws a festive party with security guards, police, anti-climb paint and crowd barriers. The city’s secrets – not that it has any – will be safely guarded by Takki Suliaman going forward. Nothing to worry about.

It’s just as well I didn’t mention the fact that our local NHS is leaving our private patient files lying about in supermarkets.

Next week:  More on document security, privacy, spying – and other things that keep us safe. Tally ho!

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Oct 102014

SalmondHamletBy Bob Smith.

Wee Eck wull hae time on his haans
Fit wull he noo dee ti wow aa his fans
Foo aboot performin on shows like X-Factor
A singer a duncer or maybe an actor

“I Dreamed a Dream” is a sang he cwid sing
Or in a braw kilt he cwid dunce Heilan Fling
An actor o coorse wid bi richt up his street
Tho’ his latest performances made lots o fowk greet

A lion tamer in a circus wid suit Wee Eck fine
He’s weel used ti wheep crackin ti keep fowk in line
A reader o palms –noo fegs ‘ere’s  a thing
“Gypsy Rose” Salmond aat his a braw ring

On Strictly Come Duncin cwid oor Eck dee a twirl
He micht be mair suited ti an Eichtsome Reel birl
In tails an bow tie he cwid ay dee a Valeta
Or maybe a tango wi a quine ca’ed Conchita

They say auld politeeshuns niver dee they jist fade awa
Auld politeeshuns nivver dee but fae office can fa
Wull Wee Eck fade awa or inti the sunset micht ride
The mannie likes the limelight so aroon he wull bide

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
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Sep 262014

By Bob Smith.
YesNo - Credit Kay Roxby - Creative Commons.

Scots wha hinna voted yes
Scots wha left Eck in a mess
Scots wha widna settle fer less
Wint on ti victory
Wee Eck tho wis affa calm
Wis unnerneath tho blast an damn?
Maybe he took a wee bit dram
As No’s claimed victory
Fit noo wull wee Eck dee
As fowk refused Yes aims ti see
Apairt fae Glesga an Dundee
Maist regions voted No
The Yes voters they war cheesed
A fyow o them war fair displeased
Some o them widna be appeased
Cos No claimed victory
Lit’s hope Yes an No can be pals
An nae protest ootside toon halls
Nae kickin each ither in the balls
Jist accept it’s aa noo ower
Wee Eck his hid ti resign
Aat tap table nae langer dine
An somewye farrer doon the line
A new leader SNP wull embrace
Bickerin fowk a wid send ‘em
Far awa fae onything referendum
The “referendum his become the neverendum”
Fan wull it ivver bliddy eyn?
A really hope things settle doon
Some faces tho still weer a froon
Peace an quairt wid be a boon
Noo Scotland’s voted No

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
Image Credit: Kay Roxby. Use via Creative Commons Licence.

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Aug 152014


Alex Salmond MSP on a recent visit to an Aberdeenshire food bank

Aberdeenshire East MSP Alex Salmond says Scottish pensioners will be better off in an independent Scotland after considerable cuts to Savings Credit by the UK Government. Submitted by Ann-Marie Parry, Parliamentary Assistant, Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP

Benefits for the north-east’s poorest pensioners have been reduced by £3million since 2010, with a cut of £90million for Scotland as a whole.

Research by the House of Commons Library has shown 50,000 Scottish pensioners have lost benefits since 2010 with a cut of £90 million to Savings Credit, and pensioners across Scotland will lose out further as the benefit is to be scrapped for all new pensioners in 2016.

The cut has had a substantial impact on pensioners in every part of Scotland with 1,900 fewer people receiving it in Aberdeenshire – a reduction of £3,075,344.

Savings Credit is paid to poorer pensioners who have saved for their retirement. A single pensioner could receive up to £20.52 per week, or £27.09 per week for a couple.

As set out in the White Paper Scotland’s Future, following a Yes vote the Scottish Government will provide Scotland’s pensioners with a guaranteed pension of £160 a week from 2016-17, a triple lock and the continuation of Savings Credit.

Mr Salmond said:

“Scotland’s pensioners who have worked hard for their retirement are being hit hardest by these cuts.

“The UK Government has taken away £90million from some of Scotland’s most vulnerable residents since 2010 and in Aberdeenshire alone the benefit has been slashed by more than £3million.

“There are now 1,900 fewer recipients of savings credit in Aberdeenshire than there were four years ago despite Scotland paying more in taxes in each of the last 30 years than the rest of the UK.

“It is a pity that the people who have made these contributions and are now in retirement are not enjoying the benefits of their hard work.

“A Yes vote in September will mean that Scotland’s wealth can work for the people who live here – which includes a fairer welfare system and greater protection for our pensions.”

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Jun 062014

woman-214786 tallBy Bob Smith.

In the independence referendum
Maist weemin micht vote no
They think SNP directives
Are nae the wye ti go

A poll it wis cairry’t oot
Independence 64% dinna like
Is es a wye o sayin
SNP jist tak a hike

Es o coorse begs the question
Fit wye micht they vote no?
Div some see Alex Salmond
As a smarmy so an so?

Maist weemin it wid seem
Are listenin ti their heid
An refuse ti lit their hairt
Cause their soul ti bleed

Es maan  be a problem
For Alex an his cohorts
Are thochts o independence
Noo a wee bit oot o sorts?

A fyow months later on
Votes wull be aa revealin
Bit dis es latest poll
Sen independence chunces reelin?

Fitivver its oor luck ti be
In the UK or maybe nae
The vote o Scotland’s weemin fowk
Micht haud a wee bit sway

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
Image: http://pixabay.com/en/woman-girl-female
Thumbnail: http://pixabay.com/en/girl-woman

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Mar 282014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryApologies for the late running of this service; a fortnight ago I got tonsillitis, which I found over-rated.  Had to spend a week in bed (without any BrewDog at all – it was awful);  I’d been struck down just after another marvellous Moorings music moment with Kirk Brandon and Dave Sharp.

Thankfully I was back on my feet in time for the Aberdeen Jazz festival.  I caught both Gerry Jablonski sets, the first being in the Tunnels.  The Tunnels are surprisingly dark for some reason, and the atmosphere was very intimate – I felt as if I were in a New Orleans nightclub at midnight.

Jablonski was on great form, and an hour later, the band were doing another set on the Green, which for some reason was lighter as well as nicely crowded, considering half the city had driven to Glasgow for the football. 

Those who spent the afternoon on the Green had a choice selection of music, but the Jablonski band pretty much stole the day (and best wishes to the drummer, who wasn’t well enough to perform, and many thanks to the excellent stand in, DW).

Later that night the Joe Louis Walker Band was at the Blue Lamp; it was a rare treat to see blues done with such regal authority.  I couldn’t figure out why no merchandise was on offer, but I’ll soon remedy that with a trip to itunes.  Finally, this past Saturday I went with Julie to see Deborah Bonham at the Green Hotel in Mundell Music’s magical Backstage Bar.  Another intimate show, and a rare evening.  More on that elsewhere.

I also took in the Great Tapestry of Scotland currently on show at the Art Gallery; it is a phenomenal labour of love, and there are opportunities to add your own stitches to one of the panels. This massive series of beautifully stitched tapestries commemorates the good, the bad and the ugly moments in Scottish history; a section dedicated to those accused of witchcraft and executed really does show Scotland warts and all.

Then there was Sunday’s victory parade; congratulations to AFC on its well-deserved victory (as opposed to Arsenal’s wholly undeserved dissection at Chelsea’s hands, only made possible by ref. Marriner, who has basically admitted now that he didn’t have a clue what he was doing.  Perhaps he’ll be applying for the newly-vacated Chief Executive of Aberdeen post, except for his admission he made a mistake.

Defence spending is still a worry though. We’ve not got much of a nuclear deterrent for one thing

But the real reason I’ve not had a chance to write was that I’ve been very busy with my financial advisors. Since the Tories announced they’ll turn our massive budget deficit into a small surplus in record time, I’m wondering what to do with my new found wealth. We’ll all be a penny better off when  buying pints of beer, and can put even more money into tax-free savings.

Since we’ve all been able to save tonnes of money these past years, I thought I better get some financial advice on what to do with this massive cash windfall heading my way. Perhaps we’ve raised so much money between the bedroom tax and ATOS getting lazy ill people to work that the budget deficit will just go away.

They’ve managed to find some money in the treasury:-

£140m extra for flood defence repairs and maintenance

£200m made available to fix potholes

I think it’s a great idea that the Government will start thinking about potential floods; what a disaster flooding would be. I wonder where they got this flood defence idea from? If I can dredge up any facts on this flood defence budget, that will be more dredging than the ConDems ever did. Dredging rivers was deemed too expensive to do by some beancounter somewhere, and funding was cut. Nice to know we saved some money for a few years without any comeback.

As to the £200m for pothole repair, Result!

Only a spoilsport would point out that Which Magazine estimates the cost of fixing Scotland’s roads would be £12.93 billion. Old Susannah is not much of a mathematician, but what if we took some defence funds and fixed up some of our own wee social and infrastructure problems, and then got on with bombing the middle east for democratic reasons with the leftover money? Just a thought.

Defence spending is still a worry though. We’ve not got much of a nuclear deterrent for one thing, and unless you can blow up the planet a good few dozen times, no one takes you seriously anymore. The cuts have hit the neediest defence contractors to a serious degree; I’ll see if I can find a way for concerned citizens to donate to the military.

Of course there might not be cash in our armed forces for things like proper gear for people on the front lines in our little police actions around the world, but someone somewhere is making some money. Here are the grim facts:-

“Last month defence secretary Philip Hammond claimed to have balanced the budget for defence equipment over the ten years to 2022, outlining plans to spend almost £160 billion on new vehicles and kit [sad to say, but £160 billion just ain’t what it used to be – Susannah].

“The programme includes £35.8billion for submarines, including a replacement for the Trident nuclear system; £18.5billion on warplanes and drones; and £17.4billion for surface ships, including new aircraft carriers.

“Another £8 billion has been left unallocated to cover the risks of cost overruns. The programme meant that “for the first time in a generation the Armed Forces will have a sustainable equipment plan,” Mr Hammond said.” [hard to believe there could be cost overruns in the military – OS]
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Trident-spending-to-accounts for third-of-defence-budget

Again, I’m no mathematician (so I may apply for a job in government’s budget office), but £35.8 billion would buy quite a few Granite Webs at £140 million each.  It might even be enough to keep Valerie Watts looking suitably sun kissed for a year. And with that, it’s time for a few definitions, and a fitting send off for Watts-going-on.

Grit and Dynamism: (English Phrase used to describe the departing Watts) 1.  Grit – sandy, irritating substance.  2.  Dynamism – .

Alas, farewell, cheerio, bye-bye Valerie Watts. Was it our failure to win you a second City of Culture nomination that drove you from the Granite City? Was it hard to keep your natural tan going in our climate? Alas, we may never know.

The SNP are for some reason blaming their political opponents. Kevin Stewart said:-

“Mrs Watts came to Aberdeen with vision, dynamism and real grit and her resignation is a great loss to our city. I am sure that Mrs Watts will give her reasons for leaving, but I am sure that the dysfunctional behaviour of the Labour-led administration has played a part in her decision to go. ”

I’m sure it’s nothing to do with her handling of local issues from  killing our deer on Tullos Hill  or objecting to SNP’s Salmond showing up at Bramble Brae primary school during a by election. He was only there of course because of Piper Alpha, and nothing to do with publicity – at least I think the press release said something like that. Why is she leaving? So far she’s not saying.

A touching SNP letter appears in the 27/3 Press & Journal.  The tears are streaming down my face as I read it:

“Valerie Watts came to Aberdeen City Council with a formidable record and she leaves with the utmost respect of colleagues and citizens alike.  I will miss the competence and drive of Mrs Watts at the helm of the council.  She has left some very big shoes to fill.” – Christian Allard, SNP MSP for North East Scotland

She may be leaving big shoes behind. Somewhere, perhaps in a cupboard she’s left behind a 3,000 strong petition begging the city not to kill the deer; she certainly didn’t bother to refer to it when writing a letter of 8 July 2011 about objections to the scheme.

“The objections that have been received by Aberdeen City  Council regarding this project since January 2011 to 28 June 2011 total 244 letter or emails from 197 individuals/organisations. This includes letters/emails form 3 Community  Councils (Cove & Altens, Kincorth & Leggart, and Bridge of Don”

You might have thought handing in a petition to Aileen ‘HoMalone’ on national television would have counted as objections, but not if you’re Watts.  http://news.stv.tv/north/17223-campaigners-hand-over-petition-opposing-deer-cull-to-council/

More on the lady in a separate article. I hope she doesn’t let the revolving doors of Marischal hit her on the way out.

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman: (Proper Eng. noun) Scottish government entity charged with overseeing complaints against Scottish local authorities and other duties.

You will be happy to know that, Aberdeen city still excels in some areas. In a 3 September 2013 letter to outgoing Valerie Watts, the SPSO ranks Aberdeen City Council the worst in Scotland for the number of complaints received in 2012/13 about its housing services, second in Scotland about how its planning services function, and third in Scotland for Social work complaints.

We also come 5th in Scotland for Educational complaints and 7th for Environmental complaints. Considering that George Copeland has for instance waited over 8 months to get a working front door fitted to his flat after the police broke it in while looking for a non-existent gunman, I can’t see why anyone’s unhappy with Aberdeen’s Housing bods.

As to the Environment, where else in the country will you find streets like ours for cleanliness, or more concern shown for the welfare of wildlife and the environment. You will be pleased that Aberdeen had the same ranking for complaints for housing, planning and social work in 2011/12.

Yes, we can be proud of excelling at something.

But that’s enough definitions on the sad occasion of Watts returning to Derry. From what I’ve read, she’ll be helping to increase passenger numbers at the airport, which has not noticed any increase in passengers from its gaining the City of Culture title. You could almost think this ‘Culture’ accolade was a hollow, expensive vanity award with little saving benefits. But surely not.

Next week:  more definitions.

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Dec 262013

Salmond Letter Credit Duncan HarleyDuncan Harley has a review copy of “Scotland’s Future” – the book the Scottish Government don’t want you to read because it’s so awfully longwinded.

The Scottish Government has quite recently published a glossy 649 page guide to Scotland’s Future as a pdf and you can of course order a free hard copy.

If all 7.132 billion of the world wide population ordered a copy of “Scotland’s Future” even the Darien Disaster would appear insignificant in terms of the resultant Scottish national debt and the more recent history of Scotland.

If all 5.295 million of us Scots ordered a copy the English would no doubt be made to pay.

Billed as the answer to all questions regarding the independence debate it’s a riveting read indeed.

This correspondent can however reveal that to date however, few have actually read the longwinded tome.

Mrs Catto of Aberdeen commented:

“I don’t understand why they even published it. It’s too heavy.”

Mr Green from Methlick commented that:

“I can’t even lift the book, never mind understand it.”

Mr Brown from Hamilton said:

“I never asked for this, what is Salmond playing at? As a registered blind person there is no way I will read this.”

Most Scots however should, at the very least, order a few copies so as to tell their grandchildren that they looked hard at the issues and completely understood the way ahead prior to independence.

The White Paper on Scotland’s Future promised much more than either the document or the launch managed to deliver. Scotland’s current First Minister Alex Salmond and his sidekick Nicola Sturgeon MSP launched the white paper with a promise that “every child from age one to starting school is guaranteed 30 hours of provision for 38 weeks of the year.”

Bang on really in terms of independence speak. Bang on really in terms of impressing the world’s press.

A wet squid? A damp banger? Or just a wasted opportunity perhaps. History will no doubt reveal the truth.

Defence of the realm, the Scottish economy, Scottish EEC membership and the issues of tax, social welfare, diplomacy and healthcare are indeed however covered in some detail throughout the length and depth of the book.

High Girders Credit Duncan HarleyOn page 236 the slightly embarrassing publication details plans for the defence of Scotland in the event of invasion by a foreign power.

It seems that Scotland will be part of “collective defence arrangements involving the reconfiguring of the defence estate inherited at the point of independence to meet Scotland’s need and the progressive build up of Scotland’s army to a total of fifteen thousand regular troops over the ten years following independence.”

As if the reassurance offered was insufficient, the White Paper goes on to say that units of the Scottish Army will seemingly carry on the names, identities and traditions of Scotland’s regiments, including those “lost in the defence reorganisation of 2006.”

On Macroeconomic Policy we are advised that countries of a similar size to Scotland have enjoyed very low levels of borrowing costs via careful management of public finances.  Scotland will seemingly “establish a debt management function.”

Regarding firearms, the white paper advises that the Scottish Government will introduce full powers to introduce airgun legislation. Regarding drug use, the Scottish Government will introduce a drug strategy. Regarding Road Traffic Law, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding gambling, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding broadcasting, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding Channel 4, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding the National Lottery, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding culture and heritage, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding international phone charges, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding Royal Mail, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding the price of stamps, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding mobile phone charges, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding the question of a separate passport for Scottish Nationals, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding citizenship, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding crime and the dialling of 999 for assistance, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding the police, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding justice, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding oil and gas emissions, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding carbon capture and storage, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding farming and food production, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation. Regarding health and safety, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation.

The tome drones on and on about people down the decades wondering about how “a country blessed with such wealth, talent and resources could and should have done more to realise the potential we know exists for everyone.”

“constructive working together will continue after independence” says Alex Salmond in the introductory message.

In truth many of us Scots will have little idea what he means.

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