Sep 192018
 

By Duncan Harley.

The four-star Maryculter House Hotel was today the venue for the Scottish Samurai Awards.  Scotland and Japan have long enjoyed both trade and cultural links – well for just around 150 years in truth.

Japan sent many students to the UK between the late Edo period (1603-1867) and the early Meiji period (1868-1912) in order to explore and import Western technology.

The various international trade exhibitions of the 19th and early 20th Century provided useful platforms for the sharing of both scientific and aesthetic ideas. 

Cities such as Glasgow and Aberdeen provided ripe-pickings for the aspiring technologists and alongside acquisition of new skill-sets the two nations exchanged cultural and artistic aesthetics which continue to create broad-ripples to this day.

Japan, of course, had participated in the second Glasgow International Exhibition in 1901.

The Japan Pavilion was located near the main exhibition hall at Kelvingrove and there is a likelihood that Rennie Mackintosh and many other influential Scottish designers of the day would have visited and been influenced by what they saw there.

Some 11.5 million visits were recorded during the eight-month span of the exhibition and surely Mackintosh would have been one of those tempted to return again and again to absorb the sights.

Contemporaries of Mackintosh certainly visited Japan at about this time and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum hold a collection of so-called ‘Industrial Art’ collected by Glasgow born designer Christopher Dresser who visited Japan in 1876 or thereabouts.

Aberdeenshire, of course, has a splendid claim to the forging of the Scottish-Japanese relationship and one man in particular played a pivotal role. Variously known as the Scottish Samurai or The Scot who shaped Japan,

Thomas Blake Glover was probably born in Fraserburgh in 1838.  His father worked as a coastguard officer and the family lived at various locations along the Aberdeenshire coastline including Sandend, Collieston and at Bridge of Don.

On leaving school, Glover began work with the trading company Jardine, Matheson & Co and quickly progressed to the Shanghai office before taking up a post in Japan. 

His role in Shanghai has often been glossed over in order to present a popular image of Glover as an enlightened trader intent on hauling an impoverished Japan into the industrial age. In truth however, Jardine Matheson & Co were happy to trade in everything from silks and tea to guns and opium.

Glover excelled in his role as trader and alongside making vast amounts of profit for his employer he soon started taking a substantial cut for himself.

His move to Japan, in 1859 age 21, came at a time when various rival clans were warring for control of the country. For more than 200 years, foreign trade with Japan had been permitted to the Dutch and Chinese exclusively.

However, following an episode of gunboat diplomacy in 1853, the US Government had persuaded the Japanese to open trade up with the West. 

Glover arrived in good time to use his proven skills to exploit the situation.

Soon he was supplying both sides in the civil war with guns and munitions. Before long he was taking orders for the building of warships, to be built in Scotland, to arm a fledgling Japanese Navy. The market for weaponry however soon became saturated and he turned to mining to maintain his by now dwindling fortune.

Glover is often credited with importing the first steam engine into Japan.

Demand for coal had surged as steamships began to proliferate in Japanese waters. Glover, in partnership with a Japanese clan, invested in developing the Takashima coal mine on an island near Nagasaki in 1868. 

The mine was the first in the country to employ Western methods. Mitsubishi acquired the Takashima mine in 1881 in the organization’s first main diversification beyond shipping.

Glover is often credited with importing the first steam engine into Japan and being instrumental in the formation of the Mitsubishi conglomerate. Japan also lacked modern facilities for repairing ships. So, Glover imported the necessary equipment for a dry dock in Nagasaki in 1868.

He later sold his share to the government, which leased the dock to Mitsubishi as part of the shipyard in 1884. By 1905 Japan had, according to many accounts, become the 3rd largest naval power in the world.

There are many enduring myths surrounding the life and career of Thomas Blake Glover.

One involves the notion that his Japanese wife Tsuru was somehow the inspiration for Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly”.

There appears to be little substance to this idea. A booklet produced by Aberdeen City Council to publicise the areas links with Glover asserts that:

“the association of Glover Garden in Nagasaki and Madame Butterfly no doubt relates to the fact that American soldiers after the Second World War dubbed the house Madame Butterfly House.” 

Thomas Glover eventually became famous in Japan and was the first non-Japanese to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun.

today’s event saw some 23 or so Samurai and Shogun awards made to a broad range of recipients

When he died in Tokyo in 1911 age 73, his ashes were interred in Nagasaki’s Sakamoto International Cemetery. Fraserburgh Heritage Centre host a permanent exhibition celebrating his North-east links and his former house in Nagasaki attracts two million visitors each year.

Founded and overseen by Aberdonian and OBE Ronnie Watt, the Order of the Scottish Samurai is an award inspired by Blake Glover and those admitted to the Order are encouraged to use the letters OSS after their name.

While Ronnie actively heads the Order, he is supported by patrons, members and recipients – many of whom, such as Lord Bruce and Joanna Lumley take an active interest in the progression of the historic relationship between the two nations.

Opened by Ms Masami Fujimoto, Deputy Consul General at Consulate-General of Japan in Edinburgh, today’s event saw some 23 or so Samurai and Shogun awards made to a broad range of recipients.

Two previous Lord Provosts, Margaret Smith and Margaret Farquhar received Shogun awards for services to Aberdeen while Duncan McPherson and Robert Boyd received Legendary Samurai Awards for services to the Japanese Martial Arts.

Terry Boyle and Tyrone Smith were awarded OSS Shogun and Becca Hobart – alongside delivering a splendid display of Highland Sword Dance – collected up a well-earned OSS Hatamoto for services to the Order of the Scottish Samurai.

Previous recipients of the various Scottish Samurai Awards have included Ian Wood, Alex Salmond, Charlie Abel, Len Ironside (for services to wrestling) and film producer Compton Ross. So it looks likely that Becca Hobart is in fairly good company.

Words and images © Duncan Harley – Inverurie September 16th 2018.

  • Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire plus the forthcoming title: The Little History of Aberdeenshire- due out in March 2019
Aug 202017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

Aberdeen’s premier ice hockey team has pledged to support a local children’s charity during its upcoming season.

The Aberdeen Lynx Ice Hockey Team, the second most supported sports team in the city, will be fundraising for Charlie House throughout the 2017/2018 season.

Charlie House is an Aberdeen-based charity that engages in activities and projects to support children with complex disabilities and life-limiting conditions.

It also provides practical and emotional support to families from diagnosis onwards, helping the transition home after a long stay in hospital and onwards through their life journey.

Players and committee members of the Aberdeen Lynx, which is a not-for-profit organisation, plan to organise fundraising events for Charlie House throughout the season, this will include a charity ice hockey game, plus various raffles and competitions.

Charlie House will also have an article in the Lynx programme, whilst its logo will feature prominently on all players’ and supporters’ replica tops for the season. 

Chairperson of Aberdeen Lynx Ice Hockey Club, Martin Hill, said:

“The Lynx are very proud to be partnering with Charlie House, as this will enable the charity to continue providing vital support for local children and their families affected by life-limiting conditions.

“We have been busy thinking up new and exciting ways for the Lynx to raise as much money as possible for Charlie House, as we are extremely passionate about getting behind worthy causes.”

Dr. Sorcha Hume, general manager of Charlie House, said:

“We are delighted to be selected as the charity partner for the Aberdeen Lynx Ice Hockey Club. A number of our families attended matches last season, after the team donated tickets, and had a fabulous time. As many of our families’ children have complex needs, it can be very difficult for them to enjoy a day out as a sporting event, as the access, equipment, and support they require can be substantial and sometimes it is just not possible.

“The Lynx team and management ensured everything was in place for our families to have the best possible time and for that we are very grateful. As a charity we depend on fundraising and partnerships to enable us to deliver the best possible support to our families. These funds will go towards the support of our everyday activities, such as our clubs and days out, so this new partnership is invaluable. We are very much looking forward to welcoming the Aberdeen Lynx to the Charlie House family.”

Aug 112017
 

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

A private clinic in Aberdeen is supporting a local duo with a challenge that will take them around the moon.

Temple Medical, a private aesthetic clinic, is providing professional medical support as two businessmen take on a gruelling fitness challenge to complete the circumference of the moon in six months.

Chris Robinson, 38, and Sean Gordon, 25, are cycling, running and rowing the circumference of the moon during 2017 – a total of 10,921km, in aid of local charity, Charlie House.

They aim to complete 27km per day between June and December 2017.

Temple Medical, owned and managed by respected GP, Dr Sam Robson, will monitor the pair throughout the challenge using the company’s in-house state-of-the-art body composition analysis equipment, the InBody770.

Temple uses the InBody 770 to help monitor progress on its Alevere weight loss programme, It provides essential feedback on fat % and guides the clinical staff when advising on nutritional changes required to keep patients healthy and on track with their weight loss journey

This machine provides medical grade analysis of their body composition, and is also commonly used to support world-class athletes.

The InBody 770 analyses the body’s water, body fat, bone minerals and muscle mass. The detailed biometric results will be reviewed every six weeks by Temple’s Dr Jo Green. She provides guidance and advice on an ongoing nutritional plan with an aim to ensure the men are eating appropriately to manage the Moon Challenge. Her goal is to keep them in the best physical shape to avoid injury and excessive fatigue. 

Dr Green said:

“27km per day will undoubtedly be an enormous challenge for their bodies, so our main goal is to keep them healthy and ensure that they are able to reach the end of the challenge in full fitness.

“Monitoring them regularly will allow us to keep a close eye on their metabolic rate and ensure that they understand what changes to make to their diet and exercise regime so that they don’t lose muscle.

“Throughout the challenge, they will be doing plenty of cardio exercise but also need to incorporate some resistance exercise in order to build muscle. Their nutritional requirements involve good hydration, good protein and good carbs – if they struggle physically, they will struggle psychologically.”

Chris Robinson said:

“I knew the challenge would be tough on my body and I wanted to make sure I could do the miles without any lasting damage. The In-Body analysis is fascinating. The first report told me I was in better shape than I had thought and gave me a real insight into my current levels of fat and muscle. Temple Medical gave me a nutritional plan and the team is working with my personal trainer to help me get through the long distances that I must cover.

“When the challenge finishes, we will work together to develop a maintenance plan so that I can sustain my fitness levels and improved body composition.  The body analysis and nutritional advice has been essential in helping me achieve the miles every day, and I can already see real benefits in terms of my body shape and energy.”

The inbody machine is instrumental in helping people to reach their fitness goals as part of the Kick Start programme. This entails providing the biometric analysis as described alongside nutritional advice and exercise guidance to help improve their body composition.

Dr Sam Robson, owner of Temple Medical, added:

“Our Kick Start programme gives a real in-depth look at what’s going on inside your body, and how to make improvements for long term health.

“Technology can play a huge part in helping people make changes for the better, and can enable ordinary people like Chris and Sean to take on a huge challenge in a safe manner.

“The reports we provide are very detailed, and at each review session we can see in detail the benefits our nutritional advice and training has had. We’re delighted to be part of the support team for the challenge and we wish Chris and Sean good luck as they set off around the moon.”

Temple Medical is a private medical clinic, concentrating on non-surgical or minimally-invasive procedures addressing problem skin and the effects of ageing. The clinic also offers Alevere weight management and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.

Dr Sam Robson is a member of the British College of Aesthetic Medicine, and a fully qualified GP, who has over 13 years’ experience of aesthetic medicine. Temple Medical clinic has been recognised nationally and internationally with several industry awards, including Best Cosmetic Doctor, 2017 and 2015, in the Scottish Medical Cosmetic Awards; What Clinic customer service award 2016, and My Face My Body Best Non-surgical Makeover (2014) and Best Customer Experience (2012).

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Aug 112017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Celebrate summer at The National Trust for Scotland’s Haddo House with a day packed with fun for children of all ages.
Kids can let off energy on the bouncy castles, enter Gladiator duels and be challenged on an obstacle course.

Florence The Confused Frog author Cat Taylor will lead storytelling workshops and caricaturist Lyn Elrick will be penning portraits. There will be face painting and a toddler area for soft play and ball pool. 

For grown ups there’s an adult bouncy castle or book a flea market table and sell any unwanted toys or children’s clothes.

Refreshments will be on sale in the castle shop, and visitors can bring a picnic if they wish. Haddo House is an elegant mansion house with stunning late Victorian interiors.

Noted for its fine furniture and paintings, Haddo also has a terraced garden leading to the Country Park with lakes, walks and monuments.

For more information about summer events at Haddo House – and other National Trust for Scotland properties – visit www.nts.org.uk

Event:           Haddo Summer Fair
Date:            Sunday, 13 August 2017
Time:            11am-4pm
Venue:          Haddo House, Methlick, Ellon AB41 7EQ
Price:            £3

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Nov 042016
 

There are few people taking to social media to profess love for Muse’s Marischal Square development which is growing up and around – and now under Provost Skene House.  Photographs from the site show that far from respecting the house, it is not only surrounded by this oversized new office structure, but also digging works are also taking place which certainly seem less than safe for the Provost Skene House. Article by Jon Symons, Photographs by Suzanne Kelly of the Provost’s House as it now sits, and from Writing from Scotland – by Christine Laennec.

provost-skene-house-one-use-onlyPhotographs which have appeared on social media make it look as if the fabric of Lord Provost Skene House is not being respected by the builders. Aberdeen Voice has been promised access to the site and a statement from the builders.

This will be published in due course.

So what is it about Provost Skene House (PSH) that inspires an abiding affinity with most Aberdonians?

Is it the fact it was initially built in 1545 and is 471 years old?

Is it the fact Mary the First was on the Scottish throne when the foundation stones were laid?

Perhaps it’s because PSH is the oldest surviving house in Aberdeen and one of the few remaining examples of early burgh architecture in the city.

It has an exceptional interior with outstanding examples of 17th century plasterwork and a painted gallery with an unusual cycle of religious tempera paintings.

The first records of the house date back to 1545 and the vaulted basement is likely to be from this period.

In 1622 this former three storey house was bought by Matthew Lumsden who added a two storey and attic gabled section to the south west side. His Coat-of-Arms, dated 1626 is clearly visible in one of the dormer gables.

The house was then bought in 1669 by the wealthy merchant and later Provost of Aberdeen, George Skene of Rubislaw and he reconstructed the original house and built the square tower on the north west side.

The house is steeped in history and was used by the marauding Duke of Cumberland’s troops in 1746 and for a long time after was known as ‘Cumberland’s House’.

In 1732, the house was divided into two separate tenements but was then brought together again in the mid 19th century and later used as a lodging house (Victoria Lodging House) but thereafter it slowly fell into disrepair.

Many of the slum buildings surrounding it were demolished in the 1930s but a public campaign (purportedly supported by the Queen Mother) saved Provost Skene House from Council vandalism.

provost-skene-house-one-use-only-facadeThe painted gallery is important and unusual.

Originally depicting The Life of Christ in 10 panels the ceiling is by an unknown artist although it does show Flemish and Germanic influences.

Some of the armorial devices included in the paintings may be those of previous owner Matthew Lumsden and this suggests the ceiling may have been painted between 1622-44.

The smaller painted room depicts landscapes with figures all done in a Classical style.

The archway, now removed at Muse’s instigation, was transported from Union Terrace Gardens and rebuilt at the house in 1931.

In the sixties the then Council decided to erect the monstrosity known as St Nicholas House and PSH was virtually hidden from public view from 1968 until 2013 when the Council’s carbuncle was finally demolished.

You could be forgiven for thinking Aberdonians had forgotten about their historical city centre jewel but that was not the case. During the limited (some might say derisory) consultation with the public on what should be done with the site it became obvious that Aberdeen’s residents had rediscovered their love for PSH.

Even the present Council realised this and determined, in recognition of the importance of the Broad Street site to the future of the city centre, officers should explore the options open to the council to ensure any development was of the highest quality and sympathetic to Provost Skene House and Marischal College and ruled that should include consideration of the council developing the site through a joint venture and the possibility of a design competition tender exercise.

Of course, saying one thing and doing something completely different would seem to be the hallmark of the current Council administration and it appears they have put money and potential profit ahead of all other considerations.

The final design (Muse Developments) was supposedly chosen by an unbiased and independently minded ten person working group based on Urban Design, Culture and Heritage but only five of the group were Councillors. The other five were Council Officers and an employee of Ryden, the site selling agent and later the company Muse chose to market the property.

More recently photographs have shown the apparent disregard the contractor has shown for PSH as they appear to dig under the south west gable end foundations with no obvious support for the four hundred and seventy one year old building.

When completed the Council seems determined to dumb down the house and use some of the rooms to showcase the likes of Joey Harper, Annie Lennox and other lesser known Aberdeen celebrities.

provost-skene-house-one-use-only-detailThey have also decided not to reopen the once popular PSH tea room and this may well be because they hope to rent the ground floor retail units of Marischal Square to fast food outlets.

Provost Skene House is a national, never mind a city, treasure and most Aberdonians hoped and thought it would finally be showcased in the green grassed and tree lined surroundings it deserved.

Unfortunately it seems this Council, just like the one in the nineteen thirties, has little if any regard for the needs and wants of Aberdeen’s long suffering citizens but then again, why on earth should we be surprised?

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Jul 212014
 

By Ken Hutcheon.

Provost Skene's House by Stanley Wright

Provost Skene’s House – Credit: Stanley Wright

The date for lodging any comments/objections to the Marischal Square and/or Provost Skene Developments has now passed with 146 formal comments/objections having been received by Aberdeen City Planning Dept.

The Council are now considering whether to have a public hearing regarding this development.

The Planning Committee will meet next Thursday 24th July to decide.

Unfortunately it appears that leading councillors are confident they can push this present development plans through WITHOUT a public hearing. If we can get enough councillors to understand that they should be voting to support the wishes of the people that put them in power we can achieve a public hearing to get the developers to think again.

The developers can surely produce a far more innovative design that will open the magnificent view of the shining granite of Marischal College and the historic frontage of Provost Skene’s House for generations of Aberdonians and tourists to the city.

To condemn the centre of Aberdeen (the silver city) to a series of boring square boxes which hide the beauty of Marischal College and Provost Skene’s House is a terrible act of vandalism by our council.

Anyone who is understandably concerned regarding this development should email the Councillors for their area to suggest they vote to hold a public hearing. Over 1100 Aberdeen citizens stated at the exhibitions of this development they do not want these plans to go ahead.

To find your councillor and their email address, the easiest way is to put your postcode into the Aberdeen City Interactive map.

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Jun 232014
 

Provost Skene's House by Stanley WrightBy Ken Hutcheon.

The Marischal Square Development objections closing date may be gone, but MUSE developers have further plans in mind.
Proposals to remove the historic archway, stairs and wall in front of Provost Skene’s House are being considered. The plans can be viewed here.

This is despite the fact that on MUSE’s own website it states:

“Provost Skene’s House will be at the heart of the Marischal Square project……. The role and setting of Provost Skene’s House will be given special consideration in the new development. It will be protected from the demolition then re-opened at an appropriate time.

“Money is being set aside for conservation work.”

There is also a picture of Provost Skene House as it is now, complete with arch and surrounding wall, on that page. Presumably the money that is being set aside is for the removal of part of the frontage of Provost Skene’s House.

You still have time, till 3rd July to comment on, or object to these changes.

You will find more information on my website at www.marischalsquare.weebly.com. Note reference for this plan is 140755.

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Sep 272013
 

PubSigns2By Bob Smith.

Some nichtclub ainers in Aiberdeen
Are vexed an fair pit oot
Cos ae pub can open tull 3am
Takkin some o their “loot”

Mike Wilson faa ains a club or twa
Wints tae open throweoot the nicht
Sellin booze tull it dawns sax
An idea fit’s nae aat bricht

Itherwise he micht lose siller
An eyn up cryin in his beer
Anither million doon the drain
Is aat fit his ilk a’ fear?

Is the billie fer the “poors’ hoose”
If cooncil fowk ignore his plea?
Wull he hae tae shut the doors
If wi him they dinna gree?

Wull club ainers gyaang “tae the wa”
As we listen tae their tale?
Tryin tae stir up sympathee
Or is’t anither “Epic” wail?

Aiberdeen wull be an open toon
Fer binge drinkers an face bashers
If the licencin board grant his wish
They’re minus screws an washers

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

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Jun 282012
 

Gubby Plenderleith, our Special Correspondent for Arts, Culture and the Media, reports on the ground-breaking pilot for a new reality TV show.

It’s forty four years since Andy Warhol first forecast the future in which everybody would be famous for fifteen minutes.
That future has well and truly come and while not everyone has achieved fame, the current crop of reality TV shows has ensured that far more people than ever have realised a degree of celebrity that could never have been envisaged in 1968.

But while reality TV to date has favoured the younger members of its audience – the Club 18 to 30 of society if you like – production company Endthemall is currently piloting a show where the stars will all be senior citizens. 

The idea of the show is for a group of pensioners to share a house for two weeks, with a range of tasks, treats and penalties being administered by ‘Big Daddy’ in order to see how they interact.

The working title for the show is Grandad’s House and, having been lucky enough to be invited to view some of the footage which has already been recorded, I offer you below a taster of what we can expect to see when the show is aired nationwide.

6.13 pm     Bill and Gladys are tidying up in the kitchen.  Rose prepared the tea tonight – sausage rolls and alphabetti spaghetti – and is now fast asleep on the couch beside Tom, who’s slowly packing the few remaining strands of what’s still left of this week’s Tam o’ Shanter into his pipe.  Meanwhile, in the boys’ bedroom, Jack has stretched out on the top of his bed and snores gently, the gentle rhythm broken only by the occasional expulsion of flatulence.

6.42 pm     Bill and Gladys have finished in the kitchen and gone into the garden.  Bill’s trying to play bowls, but the chickens keep escaping from their pen and cluster around the jack.

Maggie, who’s been trying all week to get one of the boys to hold his hands out in the regulation manner in order that she can wind her wool, has given up and sits quietly on the deck area.

6.59 pm    Matt, the oldest person in the house, is telling them all again how old he is.

“We know you’re 93,” says Tom, “you’ve told us every hour of every day since we’ve got here!”

“Have I?” asks Matt and tells them again.

7.02 pm     The Housechums, having successfully completed this week’s task – staying in bed until 7 o’clock on at least one morning – are putting together their shopping list.  Gladys is again lobbying for an extra bottle of Sanatogen Wine, while Matt reminds everyone that the ten cartons of Steradent they ordered last week have already run out.

“It’s not funny when you get to my age,” he says, “I’m 93 you know!”

7.05 pm     Matt tells the Housechums again that he’s 93.  Tom swears under his breath and passes wind.

7.11 pm     Jack appears in the living room and tells everyone that there must be something wrong with the drains.  They ask him why and he tells them that there’s one hell of a smell in the bedroom.

7.14 pm     Maggie shuffles into the living room and asks if anyone knows where the Rennies are.  Jean, who’s been sleeping quietly in the corners, wakes up tells her they’re where they always-bloody-are!  Maggie asks her where that is and Jean tells her she knows damned fine before nodding off again.

Matt starts to tell her about a sergeant named Rennie who was in the Black Watch with him, but she tells him not to start and waddles off to the girls’ bedroom.

7.21 pm     Matt asks Gladys if it’s time for tea yet and Jack tells him they’ve already had their tea.  Matt asks him what he had and whether he enjoyed it.

7.27 pm     Big Daddy tells the Housechums that, as a special treat, they’re to be allowed to watch Coronation street tonight.  Maggie and Gladys both tell everyone that it’s their favourite programme and how that Gail Tilsley’s no better than she should be.  Jack says it’s a load of pish and Matt starts to tell them how old he is but falls asleep before he finishes the sentence.

7.34 pm     Gladys, Maggie and Jean sit watching television when Bill wanders in from the garden and ask them what crap’s on the telly now.  They tell him that Big Daddy is letting the Housechums watch Coronation Street as a special treat.

Bill tells them that the only reason he came into the Grandad’s House was to get away from bloody Coronation Street, bloody East Enders and bloody Emmerdale.  They tell him that he missed out River City and he tells them that it’s the best bloody programme on the bloody telly and how he’s always been interested in boats and sailing before going back out to the garden.

7.42 pm      During the commercial break Jean goes into the kitchen to put the kettle on while Jack and Tom get up to go to the toilet.  Maggie asks them where they’re going and, when they tell her, she reminds them that this will be the third time they’ve gone in the last hour.

Matt tells them how convenient his colostomy bag is.

7.57 pm     With Coronation Street finished, the Housemates hope that Big Daddy will let them watch the next programme but the screen goes blank.

8.02 pm     The Housechums have returned to compiling this week’s shopping list.  Maggie and Jean are discussing the relative merit of two different brands of pork luncheon meat, while Jack tells them not to get any eggs as he’s been bound for the last five days.

8.13 pm     Bill comes in from the garden and announces that he’s going to his bed.  The Housechums all agree that this is an excellent idea as they’ve got to be up early in the morning and join him.

Clearly Endthemall have worked their particular brand of magic again and we can look forward to yet another example of the kind of reality TV that has made British broadcasting what it is today.

 Image Credit:  © Frenk And Danielle Kaufmann | Dreamstime.com

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Jun 222012
 

Summer Solstice – a standing still of the sun on the longest day. In that magical moment of stillness, before the sun starts its journey back towards the Winter Solstice, the possibilities presented by the Universe are unlimited.  This Summer Solstice 2012, Aberdeen Voice’s Nicola McNally and Rob Scott  joined Be Free at Haddo House to celebrate with a Firewalk ceremony.

Gathering before dusk, the Be Free team – Graeme Pyper and Clare Rochford, with their ‘3 stripes’ Fire-keepers Dougie Bogie and Arron Pyper – made all their preparations for the event.
Working away to the sounds of shamanic drums on an eclectic soundtrack in Haddo’s grounds on this longest day of the year, the fire was soon glowing as wood smoke and laughter filled the air.

Graeme explained:

“The path for the Firewalk is aligned with the setting Solstice sun, to the West of Haddo House.  The new path is prepared over the existing Firewalk path here.   Each piece of wood is set in place by hand by the Fire-keeper as a mark of respect to those walking the fire.  Silver birch wood, symbolising new beginnings, is used to line the path.”

Once the preliminary work was done to set up the fire path and participants had placed their personal offerings into the flames to burn, the Firewalkers were led into Haddo House to assemble for the workshop part of the evening with Graeme.

As Be Free’s founder, Graeme Pyper has an ardent interest in Extreme Human Potential and the relationship between mind and body.  He has experience in a wide range of ancient Eastern techniques which have been virtually unknown in the Western world and he combines these Eastern techniques with Western psychological approaches.

As a workshop leader, Graeme is inspiring and relaxed and uses his sense of humour to good effect.  The group of firewalkers at Haddo were inspired to share their wishes and motivations for completing their Firewalk.

There was a mixture of men and women – Aberdonians, Australians, Americans – some experienced and some new to Firewalking.  One returning Firewalker, the beautiful and brave Dee, was aiming to complete the walk; she had started Chemotherapy treatment that very day and her determination to succeed was obvious.

Another group member, Emma, was walking to commemorate the 5th anniversary of her grandfather’s death and she carried his wristwatch.

  One by one, to the sounds of wild applause and respect from the others, they walked barefoot through the fire.

Others in the group were walking for charitable causes and personal reasons.

The emotion and motivation of the firewalkers was so strong, encouraged by Graeme to approach their Firewalk with courage and excitement.

As the sun set, Fire-keepers Dougie and Arron had the Firewalk path all prepared and the group were led out into the dark night towards the glowing embers of the candlelit path west of the main House.  They assembled in a circle.  One by one, to the sounds of wild applause and respect from the others, they walked barefoot through the fire.

Singly, in pairs, or in groups they went across the burning path and were met with a huge hug from Graeme waiting at the other side as they completed their spiritual or personal quest.

The Summer Solstice has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun.  On this year’s Summer Solstice, June 21st at 00:09, this Firewalk provided a celebration which continued with music and stories around the fire until the sun reappeared on the horizon at Haddo House.

Clare Rochford of Be Free told Aberdeen Voice:

“Be Free’s mission is to take people beyond what they thought possible and free them from what inhibits them.”

In their closing ceremony this Solstice, where the participants earned their stripes, this mission statement seemed like the perfect description of what we all experienced that night – yes, the two Aberdeen Voice team members walked across the Solstice Fire for AV that night!

To find out more about Be Free’s Firewalking events, contact Graeme Pyper on 07971 927765 or email Graeme.pyper@btopenworld.com

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