Nov 072014

bowlinghalloweenBy Bob Smith.

On a weel kent street in Aiberdeen
T’wis the nicht o yon Halloween
A fyow chiels dressed as skittles
War oot fer fun, booze an vittles

Doon on Belmont Street they war
Fin they cam upon a bobbie’s car
The loons they did staan their grun
An syne began aa the fun

The boys in blue in their car
Did a gweed job fer polis PR
The car becam the ten pin ba
The “skittles” aa pretendit ti fa

The video o es it wint fair viral
Wi loons bunk balances set ti spiral
A Yankee firm video richts hiv bocht
As mair “hits” on es is socht

Fit next fer the chiels next Halloween
Fin they tak ti the streets o Aiberdeen
They cwid aye dress up as Donald Trumps
Wid the bobbies dare ti “hit” their rumps?

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
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Oct 312012

Another wonderful week has flown by in Aberdeen, and at this time of year, additional spookiness is in the air. By Suzanne Kelly. 

A Sweet Lily Adams cupcakes decorating session produced these holiday favourites; I hope you like.

Old Susannah also had a delicious dinner at La Stella.

Sadly I missed Wildly Unprepared’s Halloween evening at the Belmont, but I’m told it was a scream.

BrewDog launched this year’s ‘Movember’ charity event in aid of combatting men’s illnesses. Please support them if you can, just drop in to find out how. And thanks to Graeme Milne for giving us his Victoria Road ghost story as well.

In the news this week international observers denounced a recent vote as a backward step for democracy, marred by “the abuse of power and the excessive role of money”. For some reason, these observers think that abuse of power and money influenced the Ukraine’s recent vote.

Perhaps next time Aberdeen has a referendum, we should call on their services.

I am worried about  ACSEF – if they are keeping their minutes up to date (and they would of course) then they’ve not done anything since 19 June – some four and a half months. I for one am happy to keep paying tens of thousands of pounds to keep them going, meetings or no meetings. However, there is not much time left for them to get in the required two further full meetings before year end.

The elapsed time since 19 June is a lot of time for our best business brains to be thinking of new schemes. Could this coven be concocting anything even more hideous than the granite web?  Be afraid, be very afraid. Back in June, they had this to say:-

“ACSEF 5 Year Plan and Scheme of Delegation

“Rita Stephen outlined the progress being made in the development of the updated Economic Action Plan for Aberdeen City and Shire [must have been a short outline – OS]. The Plan has been given the title of “Building on Success” and not “Building on the Future” as stated in the report [An ACSEF report that is inaccurate – this is a first – OS].

“Discussions still ongoing with relevant leads as to the shaping of the actions within the Plan and also with Partners on the drafting of specific pieces of text [this sentence would be more of that ‘transparency we’ve heard so much about – OS].

“The structure of this Plan will follow the previous action plan format but will include more visuals/drawings/impressions etc [excellent – hope it’s the same team that did the granite web’s visuals – I liked the giant floating child in particular – OS]. “

Phew!  That’s a load off my mind. If they were planning to build on their future, I’d recommend they get a structural survey done first.  Besides, ‘Building on Success’ sounds much safer than building on their future, doesn’t it? I reckon they have slightly more success than they do future. Then again, if they’re going to build on their success, at least they’re planning something not as grand as the granite web, theatre and bosque.

But be warned. If they’re going to build on their success, what form might that take?  I kind of think ‘building on your common good land and seizing it by means of a private trust’ would be an apt name; perhaps I’ll suggest it.

Yes,  Halloween was Wednesday; many an oddly costumed character has been seen prowling the streets. Grotesque neeps with faces marked with pain, greed and/or anger are rife at this time of year, mostly in Marischal College or the Town House.

Did you know Marischal College has a ghost? Its corridors are said to be haunted by a wild-eyed, frightening  spirit of a woman who once briefly worked  in the building.  She is thought to still haunt the area, hoping one day to return.

A few weeks before Halloween, a very small group of people believed they saw her, this time in front of Marischal. The group was very small indeed  (I’m told it was some kind of mini protest), so there is no way to corroborate that particular sighting, which unusually happened during the day. However, there have been no further sightings of  ‘The Woman in Leggings’ since that time.

Perhaps her spirit will fade away over time, as occasionally happens in the spirit world.

Time for a seasonal look at some scary movies.

The Haunting: (director Robert Wise, starring Russ Tamblyn, Claire Bloom, Richard  Johnson and Julie Harris. 1963)

This black and white movie from the same director who gave us ‘West Side Story’ still has the power to send shivers up your spine. ‘A lame remake with Catherine Zeta Jones can’t hold a ghostly candle to this original.

In it, a team of alleged professionals set off inside a haunted gothic-style house called Marischal College. Their experiments prove costly, particularly on one member of the team who really isn’t the full shilling; she is later forced to depart.  The townspeople ‘don’t come nearer than town, no one will come any nearer than that’ afraid of the horror that lurks within. You never really see a ghost, or for that matter all the £60 million that was sunk into the old college – but the plumbing acts up for no reason mysteriously.

Frankenstein: (1931 – Boris Karloff, Colin Clive)

A mad, wealthy, unbalanced power hungry madman rules his small hamlet from his lofty castle called Triple Kirks, but still needs more power and money.  He orders his lackeys to assemble the lifeless parts which will be turned into a monster to do his bidding, which he calls ‘ACSEF’.

ACSEF starts humbly enough, doing as its master wishes, but once reaching full power, it begins to run amok, and causes devastation on the town, called ‘Aberdeen.’ While some of the assembled business and public sector parts which are welded into the monster have come from good, the brain was that of a dangerous madman, and it is the brain driving the creature to violence.

The creature does briefly call for our sympathy, it is created by all of society to some degree. However, when its path of destruction proves too much, it must be destroyed, and the townspeople rally. Killing the beast proves difficult, and it does come back in several sequel films. But it is always ultimately destroyed by the power of good.

Poltergeist: (1982, directed by Toby Hooper; written by Steven Spielberg).

A family move to a new housing development, which has been built on former greenbelt land. The real estate developer is all smiles as the family moves into its new suburban, urban sprawl neighbourhood. But things are not as they seem. The electrics don’t work too well.

Funny substances start oozing out of the walls, and the chimney catches fire. The toilets aren’t hooked up properly. In one particularly horrific scene, more than eight people are in the kitchen at one time, and the floor promptly collapses. Not for the faint-hearted, or for those who like to have parties in the kitchen.

Dead of Night: (1945, several directors; based on an HG Wells story).

An architect or perhaps home builder is trapped in a time loop for his past sins such as trying to cheat a city out of money in a land deal. He keeps reliving an evening all over again, where people tell ghastly stories for hours. It is indeed a full council meeting.

One story he is forced to endure concerns a ventriloquist and his youthful dummy. The ventriloquist pulls the strings and works the little puppet, but things slowly go mysteriously wrong. The puppet, which of course should do exactly as the ventriloquist wishes, starts to speak for itself, with  some embarrassing consequences for its master. This happens at a BBC debate about a garden.

Eventually the dummy’s antics help to undo his puppet master, who winds up a complete wreck. Was the ventriloquist actually someone with two personalities – one a generous benefactor doing charitable works, and the other a tax-shirking, land-grabbing robber baron? It is up to the viewer to decide.

The Malone Witch Project: A film in which a single-minded, arrogant woman sets out on a vanity project and winds up getting herself and her two misguided pals (played by Leonard and Tallboys) lost in a very hostile environment.

Her initial contempt for the townspeople she briefly speaks to at the beginning of the film comes back to haunt her. In their foolishness they wind up bickering about pointless things, ignoring the dangerous peril their careers and the Lib Dems are in.

In the end, the woods are desecrated; gorse is ploughed up and underneath lies pollution, rock, but no soil. In the end, the innocent are slaughtered. A harrowing  film to which Old Susannah is pleased to report there will be no sequel.

Next week:  who knows?  Happy Halloween!

Nov 072011

A Photoessay by Earl Solomon and Suzanne Kelly

Autumn is surely one of the best times to experience Union Terrace Gardens.

The leaves are changing colour; the air is cool but very clean (that’s what trees do), and in this unique valley garden people are enjoying themselves.


We spoke to Gaye who had been cleaning up rubbish on the morning of the 29th October.  She had been down earlier with a group of school children who had planted bulbs.

The variety of plants and flowers in bloom even at this late stage of the year is an impressive draw to many, and we were far from the only photographers there Saturday. 

Many were Scottish; some were Dutch tourists.


We looked at a tree we both particularly like – the ‘Friendship Tree’.  This is a Madagascar Cedar, known there as The Tree of the Gods.  

  It was a gift to Aberdeen in the 1970s by the Indian High Commission, and the then Provost, James Wyness, attended a planting ceremony with His Excellency the Ambassador.  

It has delicate, long needles and is a very attractive tree, although it seems to have had its top badly pruned (or perhaps it was an unfortunate accident during a storm). 

It is a nice addition to the other ancient, listed trees.


How very different the garden was on the night of 1st November. 

It was the scene for the Pumpkin Parade. 

Dozens of carved jack o’lanterns were lit up and gave the park a very atmospheric Halloween feeling. 

Many children were present, and spent a happy hour or so running around on the grass.


This park is perfect for this city. It is its city centre lungs; it is the city’s green heart and it doesn’t need a heart operation. It needs to be better manicured and for its animals and flora to be respected.

And that is all it needs.

Oct 212011

Old Susannah looks back over a week in Aberdeen which felt like a month whizzing by in a day and wonders how much of it was real, and how much more connectivity she can make sense of.

The past week in the Granite City was as vibrant and dynamic as you could have hoped for.  There were walks and photos on Tullos Hill, and photos taken on Belmont Street, to the outrage of security guards.

The opening of the exhibition at the Pier (that’s one of the empty shops at the Academy shopping centre in case you didn’t know) for the six design finalists was of course the pinnacle of everyone’s week if not existence.

On the VIP ONLY opening day, an entire 5 people showed up before 9am to marvel at the designs.

These were our very own Lord Provost, Jennifer Craw, Aileen ‘Ho’Malone, Kate Dean, and a charming blonde woman with clipboard, supposed by many to be Zoe Corsi from the BIG Partnership.

It was as if all my Halloweens had come at once.

She saw me about to take a photo (yes, I fully admit I was going to take a picture, it is a fair cop) and came out of the building to tell me photos weren’t allowed.  Laughingly I told her that I was on a public street.  To teach me a good lesson I shan’t soon forget, she said ‘OK then’ and obligingly struck a pose.  I feel obliged to reproduce it here, along with the picture that Security initially banned.

Look away now if you are of a sensitive disposition.  It all becomes clear why they were so keen to stop me.

There are six finalists.  The competition was very, very stiff (so stiff I suspect rigor mortis had set in), and there were many good submissions.

But there can be only six. Choosing these finalists was very difficult, and a bit of an agonising process as well, I don’t mind admitting.  And I put my hand up – there is no way I could do a better job than any of these finalists; and probably could not have done as well as they did either.

All are to be congratulated for getting this far, and I mean that sincerely.

Without further ado here are the six finalists – for the best reviews of the preposterous, ridiculous, unworkable, ugly, childish, regressive, anti-elegant pieces of tripe which were shortlisted to destroy Union Terrace Gardens.

1.  The Monolith

A beautiful and concise summary of the design which looks like a game of Jenga played badly at 3am.  Nothing to do with Aberdeen.  Even less to do with the garden.  Everything to do with’ 2001: A Space Odyssey’.    In the words of those on Facebook (which all the young people use for ‘connectivity’ and so on), the Monolith design is something ‘we can worship at the foot of’.

The supporters of Monolith are 30 strong,  at the time of writing, the Official City Garden Project Exhibition Facebook site has 68 members.  Yes, that’s right:  the ‘silent majority’ who want the gardens built on have come out in full force.  Please do visit the Monolith Facebook Page for a full set of photos, and some colourful prose.

2.  The Alternative City Gardens Design Contest

The artwork here is superior to anything you will see in the Pier.  The people who created this page understand design principles, scale, colour and aesthetics to a degree our shortlisted official designers can only dream of.  There are pterodactyls, sunken Statue of Liberties, giant slides, flying saucers and other elements worthy of your attention.  The designs I see on this page are as affordable, attainable and desirable as anything you will find in the Pier.  Please register your approval at:!/pages/Alternative-City-Gardens-Design-Contest/251979328187602 At present this worthy effort has 40 people who like it.  Do scroll all the way down, or you might miss the ‘Colossus of Woods’.  Beautiful and stirring.  And I do like stirring.

3. TeletubbyLand

I nearly spat out my Tubby ‘ustard and Tubby toast when I came across this entry, immediately shortlisted as one of the six finalists.

Yes, someone has gone back to the set of the Teletubbies and re-created all those walkways.  I see no potential problems with concrete walkways ascending and descending some 50 feet or better above the gardens.  No one will fall, jump, slip or be pushed; they will be great for bobsled practice in the winter, and police will be able to respond to any crime on the ground in seconds.

If we covered these great concrete slabs with something to stop anyone throwing empty beer cans at those below, then we’d have a giant cage.  Result!  A Facebook poster has revealed that Tinky Winky is the mysterious £5 million pound donor towards the garden project going ahead.  To this particular vision of our future, just say ‘Po.’

I only hope there will be a chance in all of this for me to attend an event where the designer(s) of Teletubbyland have to explain to a room full of grown-ups just what they were thinking.

Oh, and as reminder, for the shortlisted designers, a prize is awarded of somewhere in the region of £135,000.  £135,000 for a drawing of the set of a kids’ tv show or a monolith.  I must go find a definition of either ‘value for money’ or ‘old rope.’   Dipsy would be proud.

4.  The Giant Glass Worm on ‘The Future Is Here’

We aren’t supposed to reveal who any of these creative masterminds are, but when you visit this website – which is a must – you will soon realise that No. 4 and No. 5 of my shortlist are both by this design giant.  His observation of the glass structure proposed somehow to cover pedestrians, cars and trains may be one of the worthiest submissions yet:

“The worm doesn’t actually devour the humans, It appears to simply wine and dine them. Like a giant larval bad date” – Fraser Denholm

Obviously there won’t be any issues with air quality, safety, cleanliness (or just plain stupidity) if we make a giant glass worm cover people, trains and cars.   Will smell lovely inside I’m certain.  Birds will persuaded not to deface the beautiful worm by either defecating on it or crashing into it.  Likewise vandals would never be tempted to do anything to a giant glass structure covering a road or train track.  Why didn’t we think of this sooner?

Hats off to you Mr Denholm.  A job at Foster & Partner surely awaits.

The best part of the serious submission is some giant banners in the worm’s body which for no particular reason read ‘science’  on them.  These will soon be for sale as tea towels in every city centre souvenir shop which this project will deliver.

5.  ‘I can’t believe it’s not Halliday Fraser Munro!’ (the underground bunker with no ventilation and with trees without roots growing on top of it).

Mr Denholm delivers some spectacular laughs, but we do have only six places on the shortlist.  His prose is brief on this lovely design, but is incisive.

This design gives us all the underground lifestyle we can only dream of – no sun, no natural light, and not even any air vents of note, for if they were included, they would be very large and visible in the garden.  The garden features giant trees which very thoughtfully don’t  need to have any roots.  Most plants have underground parts that are at least as large as their ‘aerial’ parts.  Not these ones.

Four-hundred-year-old trees are so yesterday

Get rid of those, the things living in them, and get some of these magic, rootless trees.  Denholm also correctly identifies the rice paddies (they can’t be anything but) which grace another shortlisted design.

With all this connectivity business,  I’m starting to wonder whether all these people pushing the project forward are in some way ‘connected.’  Maybe even well connected.

6.  The Garden of Earthly Delights (H Bosch)

Normally in an important competition, it would be wrong to include yourself, friends or family members, but this is my late-breaking entry for the competition.  It’s not as if there are any family ties between the official competition companies, entities, sponsors, backers and so on.

Feel free to vote for my design, which is also on the Alternative Garden Project site.

I think it nicely captures the place where the garden scheme movers and shakers are heading.  And it’s got a space for musical performances, and access at all sides.

When you do visit the Pier, pay attention to all the lovely drawings.  See the trees that cannot exist if something is built under them.  See the lovely people walking around casually, just like you’ll be doing in February.

See the complete absence of logic.  If Star Trek’s Mr Spock were real and went to this show, he’d have a breakdown.  Comfort yourself with the fact there are several good pubs nearby.  You will need one.

And there you have it.  I have sadly taken up so much space with the finalists that there is only room for one definition.  For some reason this sprang to mind.


(noun, verb – modern English)  to embargo, ban or cease trade or activities with a person, company or entity. 

Folks – has someone or some company taken advantage of your good nature for too long?  Is, say, a football mogul asking you to ultimately pay (via an ‘uplift’ in retail tax) to turn your Victorian garden into Teletubby land?  Has such a person sent letters to the press ‘warning’ that unless we build a monolith or worm, the city is going to fail?  Has a certain chemist likewise said that a concrete spider web will save us and we must all stick to it?  Has a certain councillor said that you need to support a monolith and monorail?  Has a hotelier called you a luddite NIMBY for not wanting a big bunker in er, your backyard?

Whatever can you do about it?

Well, if you wanted, you could boycott these and other like-minded businesses and business people.  Don’t shop with them.  Don’t use their premises.  Don’t for the love of Pete vote for them.  Don’t spend your hard-earned money to watch their football team lose, and don’t (for many reasons) buy a house from them.

If everyone were to boycott people who used their power in ways the public did not wish, then things would change.  And not into a giant worm either.

Next week:  who knows?

1. Please keep your artwork coming for the Union Terrace Gardens art contest, which (because of lots of stuff) has not closed yet.  Alternative designs for the garden project most welcome.
2. Anti-deer cull postcards still available – get in touch if you need some; I know where they can be found.