Nov 082013

By Duncan Harley

clock changing177

Aberdeen Voice is not currently considering teaming up with Home Energy Scotland to reflect on the situation of the 8000 or so citizens receiving the now abolished Incapacity Benefit in and around Scotland’s Granite City.
ESA, or Employment Support Allowance, seems to be the current title and seemingly:

“Claimants already receiving Incapacity Benefit, Income Support paid because of an illness or disability or Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) continued to receive those benefits as long as they remained eligible. However, the government announced in 2010 that these claimants would all be migrated to ESA between spring 2011 and 2014.”

Hopefully this migration has taken place since fuel bills are going up yet again by another 8% or so, and with that in mind it is time to consider energy saving measures. You may feel disempowered, you may be on benefits or you may simply feel overwhelmed by the problem of how to keep warm this winter.

With those clocks changing and the outside temperature sliding downwards, it’s time to take control and manage your energy use in the 21st Century.

Top tips include:

  • Home Heating: Did you know that by just turning down your home thermostat by just 1 degree you can cut your home heating bill by 10%?  Great news for your bank balance.
  • Your floor: Did you know that by insulating an under floor space and sealing those pesky gaps around your skirting boards you could save 1% of your annual spend on household heating? Great news for your bank balance.
  • Loft insulation: Did you know that most heat is lost via the roof? By making sure you have the recommended 270mm of insulation recommended by the government you could save around 30% on your annual bills for home heating. Great news for your bank balance.
  • Cremation: Did you know that the average cremation consumes around £200 of carbon rich resources. Many families choose cremation because it’s seen as a more environmentally friendly route than a traditional burial.  Embalming, expensive sealed caskets and burial vaults are not required by law and although traditional memorial parks may require them, a green cemetery or memorial nature preserve does not.  The simplicity of a green burial is in tune with nature and need not be expensive. Great news for your bank balance.

A green burial can relieve your loved ones of the distress that comes in having to make difficult, and often costly, decisions after your passing.  Involve your friends and family now, so difficult decisions do not need to be made in a time of grief. Great news for your bank balance.

frond177A green burial is a cremation alternative, and a viable alternative to traditional burial practices in the UK.  It is an eco-earth friendly option when considering burial vs cremation.

Home Energy Scotland?  Seems it’s at

It is apparently a one stop shop for people looking to save energy and lower fuel bills during the winter months.

Measures include offering free energy saving gadgets worth £50 in the form of a digital electricity monitor and a stand-by plug which will help households to save, on average, £47 a year on fuel bills and CO2 that would fill 361 wheelie bins.

Great news for your bank balance.

Kenny MacAskill MSP says:

“The range of help available through the Home Energy Hotline includes free or discounted insulation, central heating, help to switch to cheaper tariffs and help to ensure people are claiming their full pension and benefit support.

“By offering this help the Scottish Government are once again ensuring people are able to stay warm and keep their bills down this winter. If we see a winter similar to last year this will be a very welcome measure. The free energy-saving devices and other help will assist households in saving money at a time when everyone is counting the pennies.

“I would encourage anyone in Edinburgh East & Musselburgh who is unsure of what they can do to call the Home Energy Hotline on 0800 512 012.”

Great news for your bank balance.

The government and the energy companies wish you well this winter but advise you to remember to turn down your thermostat.

They also would like to take this opportunity to remind you that a warm home is a privilege not a right.

Great news for your bank balance.

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Jul 182013

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

Balmy evenings, hot days, dolphins playing in Nigg Harbour; things are looking pretty good in the Deen for a place with such poor connectivity.  The Surf show of River Don photos has moved to 17 Belmont Street; at the opening Alicia Bruce gave an interesting talk, and some of the photographers discussed their work.

Art events, whether state-sponsored or not, are taking place despite the cultural bid being knocked out in an early round.   Artists converged on BrewDog earlier this week, with artists creating more wall art, and everyone given a chance to create their own artwork as well.
Photographer Sam Brill took some brill shots of the goings-on ( See pic below ).

It was almost as if artwork and spontaneity can happen without being planned and controlled by non-artists.

To celebrate getting a year older, I had a great night at Cafe 52, complete with a great group of people and the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had, which was made with stout – thank you Dorothy B.   I also had a lovely meal at Cafe Montmatre (the chocolate fondue dessert in particular was amazing); and some mysterious person sent champagne to my table as well, which went down very nicely indeed.  Thank you mysterious benefactor.

Education is in the forefront of the news this week.  School’s out for summer; schools are being merged, built, torn down and set fire to.

Graduating Uni students took their parents and friends to Union Terrace Gardens for photographs.
I suspect this is just to demonstrate the kind of hardships they’ve had to put up with while studying in the Deen, with its dark, dank scary park filled with deviants and druggies.

Many wonderful honorary degree candidates have been awarded diplomas as well; more on that later.

There are one or two coincidences in the news this week; one involves Aberdeen International Airport’s magazine, upBeat, sister to Trend magazine [what that?  Ed].  Its latest issue extols the virtues of our favourite golf course:-

“All golfing eyes are on Aberdeen with the advent of the Trump International Golf Course.  …the course has been voted both course of the year and the UK’s beset  practice ground, by Golf Odyssey, a leading golf travel magazine.  Looking ahead, the Trump resort will offer luxury accommodation in the Balmedie area, right on the coast.”

Isn’t that wonderful?  Awards, luxury, and no mention of any problems.

Coincidentally, the same issue of upBeat has a full page front inside colour advert.  Would you believe me if I told you this tasteful ad is for Trump’s Balmedie course?  Well, it is!  How very lucky to have the kind words appearing in the same issue as the ad.

This week’s definitions feature another coincidence and some university- and police-related definitions.

School Dinners: (mod English plural noun) cafeteria meals served to school children at meal times.

Known for their gourmet quality and popularity among children and school staff alike, I can truly say there is nothing like a school dinner.

In the news this week,  government is being pressured to make taking these delicious, healthy lunches absolutely mandatory.  The BBC reports that lobbyists want to ban packed lunches.  We can’t have too much freedom of choice, can we – makes things confusing.

Coincidentally, banning packed lunches and mandatory school dinners would be very profitable – for the Leon restaurant chain, which have been involved in a government-commissioned school food review.  Well, they weren’t going to come down in favour of children eating what they wanted or what their parents gave them, were they?

Sadly this attempt to gain further control by the state over children and parents is only in England so far.

I wonder which ConDem pals are behind this healthy option?

Since school meals are absolutely delicious and nutritious all the time, the little kids will be lapping this news up.  Still, it might be better if they could be force-fed, just to make sure they ate as they were told.

If some lucky restaurant/catering company gets a few pounds more from the recommendations they themselves made, so much the better. It’s not as if we’ve had any food scares.  And what could be better than a delicious British/English/Scottish/Welsh lunch at school?  Yum!

The small fly in the ointment (or in the spag bol sauce) might just be the little revelation that most of our institutions are serving chicken from… Thailand.

Sure this might not be the most ecologically sound choice in terms of carbon footprint.  It might not exactly be the best country in terms of animal welfare.  This fact might not exactly be good news to UK farmers.  But still, we’re saving money, even if  causing further animal suffering, ignoring our own economy, and making interesting transport choices in terms of pollution.

I wonder which ConDem pals are behind this healthy option?  Then again, it’s not a great amount, only 70% or so of chicken is coming from Thailand.  It’s not as if we’re serving horsemeat or contaminated beef to the little nippers, is it?

Honorary Degree: (Eng. compound noun) a citation/diploma bestowed by an educational institution on a person worthy of receiving such a qualification in light of their achievements in the world.

Someone named Annie Lennox got an honorary degree this week; she’s a singer who sticks her nose into issues such as Union Terrace Gardens (when we know only famous football managers are allowed to comment on the gardens’ future).  She’s also done lots of charity work, entertained people around the world, and campaigned on issues such as AIDS.

Bad luck Ms Lennox – you didn’t get a degree this time round from Robert Gordon University.  It instead decided the person to honour was: ex BP supremo, Tony Hayward.

Tony gratefully and humbly accepted this honour , presumably from Chancellor Ian Wood, for his 30 years in the oil business.  Less said about that little blip in the Gulf of Mexico, the better.

Of course Tony could have refused this degree, but why should he?

Haywire was in charge when the Deepwater Horizon incident happened.  People lost lives, lost husbands and dads, and it was very gruelling indeed for Tony.  He told the press he very much wanted his life back; it was all just a bit too demanding on his time.

Not so demanding though that he couldn’t go out sailing with Hay junior (presumably not in the Gulf of Mexico though).

RGU are being just a little bit modest in their awarding Tony this honour.  They say that once it was on the table, they had to go ahead and honour him.  Of course they did – when did RGU or Chancellor Sir Ian Wood ever go back on their word?  (Voice Competition – send in your lists of Ian involved in contradictory statements/actions – longest list wins a prize.  First hint to get you started – who said they would walk away if the public didn’t want the city gardens project?).

Of course Tony could have refused this degree, but why should he?  Aside from issues of accountability, lack of cooperation  with US investigators, denial, self-pity, or self-absorption, no reason I can think of.

Congratulations to Tony for joining other honourees including Donald Trump.  If the unthinkable happens, and RGU ever did anything unpalatable or unethical, Wayward could do as Dr Kennedy did, and return his degree.  More on the great man here, from Lena the Hyena

Undoubtedly, this great honour to a great guy to celebrate him getting his life back (unlike the 11 souls which were killed, and the thousands of birds and sea creatures killed) is completely justified.

The best part of these RGU degrees is the example they set to the students.  Holding up Hayward and Trump as examples of what to aspire to, rewarding how they have proceeded through their careers, sends a clear message to students as to the importance of integrity, ethics, compassion and accountability.

Betting’s open for who will get an honorary RGU degree next year; favourite contenders are Ian Duncan Smith, Vlad the Impaler,  George Osbourne, or Roger Pearce of Special Branch.   “Who’s Pearce?” I hear you ask.  Well, here is a tale of our chief freedom fighter…

Justified: (noun) Necessitated, explainable, required.

Sometimes it’s worth taking a minute to realise how important it is that police spy on us.  Whatever they do, it’s for our own good.  Here’s to the men and women – although in this case mostly men – who go to great lengths to blend into dangerous subversive groups to keep our nation free from democracy – SORRY – I mean to say they keep our nation a free democracy.

Scattered around the country, there are a dozen or so young people who will eventually get mandatory school dinners justifiably thrust down their throats; they may wind up on great university courses where they will learn ethics by example such as RGU.  Their very existence is a shining testament to the vigorous vigilance, – and virility – of our brave, selfless undercover police.

This might seem outrageous, anti-democratic, exploitative of women

So thank you Roger Pearce of The Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad, for running secret operations, keeping us safe in our beds.  In the case of a dozen women, it was more a case of getting them into bed, having sex with them, and fathering children – all under false pretences.

Those brave undercover cops got under the covers to keep you and I safe –  from middle class environmental protestors.

There can be no better example of how actions are justified than what Pearce told the BBC:-

 “The objective was to gather secret political intelligence. Many in the Met as a whole wouldn’t have known about it and even within the branch it was kept very, very secret for 40 years,”

“People felt very awkward about doing it. People thought of the parents of the children who had died. But against that was the sense of mission and work for the country.”

“Most [of the creepy two-faced bastards – sorry – police] had families who had to also bear this other life they were leading at strange times of the week – weekends and evenings – so it was tough for the officers and tough for their families too. But I think what drove them on to do it was that it was seen as the pinnacle of their careers,”  (Presumably their wives gave their consent for the police husbands to have unprotected sex with suspects and father children – how very giving of them – if they were consulted).

“on balance, distasteful in many ways though it was, set against the sense of mission and the sense that this was done for protection of national security, I believe it was justified“.

For ten years, Pearce signed off on operations where male officers took the identities of dead children (nb – the bereaved parents were thrilled to learn of this) in order to pretend to be protestors, spending years pretending to be friends, lovers, husbands.

This might seem outrageous, anti-democratic, exploitative of women if not actual sexual assault by sleazy narcissistic police officers, and so on.  But rest assured – Pearce believed it was all justified, so that’s pretty much all right then.

Not just anyone would be willing to spend years fooling those around them, even after realising the protestors in question were harmless, non-violent  average people who simply wanted to do their bit to protect the environment.

Not everyone would have had sex with women and got them pregnant to keep their cover.  And not just any top cop would have signed the approvals needed for this to go on. you just can’t teach this kind of patriotism or ethics – perhaps doling out a few RGU diplomas to those involved would be a suitable reward.

Officer Bob Lambert was especially vigilant; he had his own children, but fathered a child with a woman named Jacqui.  Oddly, she feels hard done by, and feels like she was ‘raped by the state.’  The Guardian has more on her story here

As ever, Private Eye has been on this story from its early days.  No doubt more accounts of heroics will be forthcoming; Old Susannah will watch in admiration, and report back.

Just a little reminder.

Do enjoy the summer sun, but wear sunscreen.  If you have children, don’t let them out for any length of time, cloudy or sunny, without a good child’s sun lotion.  Unless you want to damage their health that is.  Even a little sunburn for a child will be very dangerous and damaging.

Dogs need lots of water if you’re taking them on long walks, make sure you bring some water for them.  And please don’t wind up like the Edinburgh policeman a few years back who killed his dog.

He left it in the hot car.  Just for a moment.  It’s dead, and that’s really all you need to know.  Dogs die in hot cars – and in cars that don’t seem hot to you.  Dogs also get stolen.  If you wouldn’t want your dog dead or stolen, then don’t leave it alone.  Enjoy your summer with sense.

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