Nov 252016
 

As the Aberdeen Press & Journal gets into the festive spirit by announcing on its front cover today that ‘there ain’t no sanity clause’ and it’s dangerous to encourage children to believe in him, Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly marvels at Damian Bate’s organ yet again, and how it has seized the spirit of good will with its attack on Father Christmas.

DictionaryAt this time of year, it’s important to realise how lucky we are, and to think of those who are less fortunate, who suffer, who are abused.

Imagine spending your days in a no-hope situation. A tyrant forces you to do things against your better nature. You are humiliated on a daily basis, and people openly laugh at what you are doing.

Let’s take a moment then and pause. We have our problems. We might have money and health worries. It’s freezing cold.

But at least we don’t have to write for the Press & Journal and Evening Express under Damian Bates and Sarah Malone Bates.

Some poor soul had to write the infamous ‘TRAITORS!’ article back in the early days of Trump’s planning campaign depicting councillors who dared to vote against the unprecedented Trump golf plans.

Some idealistic young thing who years ago dreamed of a career in journalism now takes orders to write articles praising Damian’s wife’s forays into running a 5 star resort (or is that 6 diamonds – as Turnip awarded himself a few years back?). Imagine the overpriced coffee, the clunky ‘temporary’ clubhouse where the invented ‘Trump family crest’* asserts itself on every piece of furniture, paper serviette and presumably loo roll too.

And you have to submit copy saying it’s fabulous.

While you are instructed to write yet another review of MacLeod House and its beautiful concrete fountain, all around you local writers are firing off Freedom of Information requests, digging into Companies House files, and uncovering stories which actually constitute investigative journalism while you try to find 250 words about why the chicken supreme is worth £40 per head, all the while ignoring the giant plaque staring at you through the clubhouse windows proclaiming that you are on the world’s largest sand dune system.

You might like to say something about this being a blatantly untrue fabrication – but you don’t really dare to do so.

At least you get paid for it. Rather like those girls around the harbour. At least they don’t have to put their name to their handiwork. And quite understandably, many of the AJL articles go without anyone claiming a byline.

santa-with-traumatised-children-creepy-santa-comAnd now this week one of you was handed an arcane, clearly deliberately provocative piece from two academics who believe perpetuating the Santa Claus fable is akin to child abuse. ‘Give me a front page story on Bad Santa’ Damian or one of his minions told you.

And you did it, didn’t you?

Did you care this angle has been done before? Was what you were going to bring to the argument so brilliant you didn’t care? Maybe you were happy to get away from Trump for a little, or you were happy to try and forget the real news stories in our area that a reporter would want to cover – Marischal Square and its genesis, who is linked to who in the curious companies Sir Ian Wood and others still keep afloat even though (theoretically) the Union Terrace Gardens parking lot scheme (for that was all it really was) is dead in the water.

Maybe you don’t want to think about the fact your newspaper (for lack of a better word) will soon need to metaphorically tug its forelock at the city council: what other newspaper would even remotely consider taking a free rent from a city council? Can you even keep track of the number of city council stories and dealings that should have been investigated by the local printed press?

No, you are now going to Google elves, Santa, and present your findings on the new throwaway theory Santa is Bad Santa. Someone else is going to look into Muse, Trump, Inspired, fraud inside the council, etc. etc. But not you or your fellow Aberdeen Journals writers.

And Result! Good for you!

The Facebook P&J page has hundreds of hits on this story. Of course most of them are ridiculing the fact your boss put this on the paper’s front cover, and some are angry that young children will see this and dissolve into tears – thus spoiling photoshoots for your next ‘adorable tot’ competition. Hits matter on Facebook to your boss – even if the paper is not exactly flying off the shelf. You may well put this into your cuttings book – another front page story for you.

At least it beats the brains out of having to type for the umpteenth time ‘breathe fresh life into the beating heart of the city’ and such. How do you breathe into a heart anyway?  How fast can you as an Evening Express reporter type the phrase ‘vibrant and dynamic?’ Do they pay you for the word much as some other professionals are paid by the hour?  I’ve always wondered.

Maybe someday they’ll give a Pulitzer for incisive, pithy front page stories about the Tooth Fairy’s negative psychological impact on children. Perhaps that brilliant headline your paper used when a young man was missing ‘search called off due to unforeseen circumstances’ about a no-show psychic should have received more acclaim – how the family must have laughed! But not today.

Just maybe your Father Christmas article will lead to bigger and better – there is no shortage of crackpot experts with degrees who write ridiculous papers to get noticed – not that the attack on the Santa belief wasn’t a serious, scholarly work. You’ll find them – or Damian will find them and tell you to write up an op ed. Can a piece about the Loch Ness Monster be that far off now? I guess we all aspire to something.

perhaps time for you to pick up an actual newspaper and see what other writers are doing

So, many of us who contribute to Aberdeen Voice will keep doing the work you’re too busy to do. We’ll keep revealing that despite Trump’s declarations to the contrary, he was definitely seeking compulsory purchase orders against his neighbours. That was an AV scoop, and it doesn’t seem you picked up on that.

Guess it didn’t have the gravitas a piece on the Easter Bunny will do when you write it.

We revealed the literally cozy relationship between the P&J and Trump International Golf Links Scotland. We found out how much money from the public purse was spent promoting the risible UTG project. Did you like looking at those lurid images of the ridiculous ramps arching over an impossible landscape of trees and open air theatre month after month?

You’ve gone all out to help the council (usually).  Remember the Evening Express story designed to lend creedence to the city’s plans for killing the Tullos Hill Deer?  The deer were going to be killed to plant trees on Tullos despite public outcry to just leave the hill, wildflower meadow and deer alone.  The trees aren’t growing, but the deer are dead.  Your paper helpfully announced ‘Two Deer Found Dead Ahead of Cull’ – implying the poor creatures needed to be culled for their own good.  Then I found out it was fully two years before the cull was proposed that the deer were found dead of unknown cause.  Your paper never did cover my story that deer had clearly been slaughtered in the Gramps – severed limbs were found.  The preposterous claim Ranger Talboys made was that the deer must have been killed somewhere else, then the poachers marched up two different hills to deposit the limbs.  I guess there wasn’t room for any of this as well as another review of MacLeod House.  The ‘cost-neutral’ tree scheme Peter Leonard of ACC forced on the taxpayer has now cost a five-figure sum – obviously that’s not newsworthy to Damian.

As I write, it’s nearly 6pm – knocking off time for you, or perhaps time for you to pick up an actual newspaper and see what other writers are doing. Does it bother you to read Monbiot, Rob Edwards, people who care about corruption, the environment, the threat Trump poses to world stability – or are you genuinely content writing about the latest P&J sponsored award show held at the AECC and who won a golden cabbage or whatever it is given out that helps generate advertising revenue and PR for your stable of publications?

From the rest of us, we feel sorry for you. It’s not news you’re writing. It’s not investigative journalism your paper offers as a norm. You are sucking up to your advertisers (remember when a certain diminutive housebuilder reportedly threatened to pull his advertising if you ever wrote a critical piece on him again? I do). The press should serve as a check and balance on the council; in the P&J’s case, the council’s cheques for ads total £200,000 a year, and press you into service.

Adios to ideals; to dreams of reporting and investigating, or choosing what stories to follow. The rest of us feel your shame, and we pity you. This has taken enough of your time though, and you will likely have a beautiful tot or beautiful bride layout to work on.

Some of us managed to believe (or half believe) the Santa Claus/Father Christmas mythology without it turning us into megalomaniacal would-be fascist dictators, preening newspaper editors whose Facebook page consists of a series of selfies and little else, or a woman in a job over her head who will do anything for money, however much that means swallowing racism, sexism and nationalism – just hypothetical examples of personality disorders, mind you.

I am very thankful. Thankful I am never going to work for you or those you serve.

STOP PRESS:  Be sure to take your children to Santa’s Grotto at the Trump International Golf Links Scotland; if you’re going to scar the offspring for life, do it somewhere where they know about great big men with odd hair promising lots of gifts to people who do what they are told to do (even if those gifts never materialise). A tenner a tyke.

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Nov 222016
 

marischalpicBy Suzanne Kelly.

While pondering whether to offer Aberdeen Press & Journal and the Evening Express a free base for one year in the controversial Marischal College office building, Aberdeen City Council has certainly been helping the paper financially as it spends £200,000 per annum on advertisements in the papers. 

A recent Freedom of Information request shows that the city council has advertised in Aberdeen Journals Ltd’s local papers to the tune of £626,500 over the last three years. 

This is a mean of £205,500 per year. 

The breakdown is as follows:

2016 – £199,818.78 (up to 25 October 2016)

2015 – £219,123.87

2014 – £197,513.68

The City explained:

“Unfortunately, we are unable to provide a breakdown of each expense. The types of expense that ACC would use Aberdeen Journals for would be, for example, Public Notices and Job Advertisements.”

The city also claims it would be too expensive to get a breakdown of what these ads are.

Aberdeenshire Council on the other hand spend a grand total of £6,998 on advertising with the two newspapers over the same three year period. When asked to check the figures, the Shire spokesperson confirmed this figure was all-inclusive.

The city declined to give a breakdown, stating there were a staggering 3,000 invoices for the time period, and the cost to them of collating the information was over £3,000.

There IS such a thing as free rent.

The City Council declines to answer whether it is planning to give free rent to the P&J or other future Marischal Square residents.

The City does advise:

“The discussions in relation to the proposals for the AJL terms have involved the advice of external property agents, the Council’s development partner and a number of Council officers.  The Council officers involved  were Head of Finance, Head of Land and Property Assets, and Asset Management Manager.” 

The P&J editor Damian Bates seems unsurprisingly keen to move to the building his papers previously called ‘controversial’. 

He commented in a recent article:

“It’s in no-one’s interests for it to sit empty and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to head back home; back into the city centre where we belong and where The Press and Journal started its amazing journey more than 270 years ago.

“We are now a multi-media business and this prospective move will provide a bright future for the Evening Express, P&J, Energy Voice and all our other products and sites. The council has been our landlord since approximately 1970 so nothing is going to change.”  

Some Free Advice on Free Rent, Expensive Advertising and Ethics.

Some notices must be published in newspapers for legal requirements. Job advertisements appear on the City Council’s website, which is free to access by anyone with a computer, and anyone with a library card can access computers for free. There is no excuse for cutting services while spending this kind of money on advertising.

Considering that jobs can be easily, freely posted on the city council’s website, and citizens are told that services and that citizens were told budget cuts have to be made, cutting down on advertising should have been a priority. In January Finance Committee Convener, Cllr Willie Young told the council’s advertising vehicle the Evening Express:

“It’s possible third sector organisations could see funding cut…We have to look at everything.”

Perhaps before any other services are cut, Aberdeen City Council might want to think twice about its advertising spend and giving new office space away for free, with the taxpayer picking up the tab.

According to the P&J, office space in Aberdeen commands a high price – or at least should do:

“…Aberdeen continues to lead the way for prime office rents, with Ryden reporting a current price of £32 per sq ft – higher than Glasgow’s £30 figure, with sites in Edinburgh and Dundee generating £28 and £15 respectively.” 

If the city could and should be making money out of the massive eyesore which could have been that civic square everyone in a position of power once Jonesed for (oh Sir Ian, where art thou? Why didn’t you want the civic square there? And I note that ‘Opportunity North East Limited’ has extended its accounting period so it won’t have to report at the end of this month now and has until the end of March 2017 – your comment welcome Sir Ian), and if the city has to ‘look at everything’ to find money – why should Aberdeen Journals Ltd. enjoy this largess?

Then again there is a small moral issue. For most of the rest of the UK, a newspaper has a duty to investigate with impartiality, serving as a check on government and a check on the powerful. As it stands, the P&J’s alliance to the editor’s wife’s boss Donald Trump is a dark stain.

Can the P&J really morally afford to be indebted to the city council it should be investigating, or has any pretence of journalism now left the building. We should be told.

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Oct 152016
 

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

DictionaryGreetings belatedly; sorry for the late-running of this service; I’ve been busy. For one thing – Result! TV Smith played Krakatoa on 8 October with Fred Wilkinson opening. Fred, or ‘Wilkinson’ as beloved LibDem Aileen HoMalone refers to him, played a lovely song about fashion called The Ghosts of Cable Street. I’m not really sure what it was about, but I think it had to do cable-knit jumpers and something about black shirts not being very popular at one time.

Fashions do have a way of coming around again, and I think there are more than a few blackshirt-lovers out there right now.

Smith played some old-fashioned, quaint ‘protest music’ – although heaven knows, we really have nothing to protest about, except maybe all those foreigners Amber Herd wanted named and shamed for taking British Jobs.

I wonder why she changed her mind? Could there be any link between the pound plunging to a new 31 year low, Brexit, and Amber’s anti-foreigner stance? I doubt it.

I am guilty of not being born in the UK. I am taking the unpaid job of some poor satirical British columnist who otherwise could be labouring for free. Yes, naming and shaming the companies that hire people from other countries seemed like the way forward. But I digress. Smith sang about modern poverty (no doubt caused by foreigners), state surveillance, and other such lefty concerns. Just as well we’ve nothing to protest about here in the Deen.

I understand Torry residents are planning a parade to celebrate all the jobs creation coming our way. We’re getting an incinerator – sorry – waste to energy plant! Result!

We’re going to get rid of the under-used Bay of Nigg so that cruise ships filled with rich visitors can stop by for a bet at Ladbroke’s and some Spar shopping. Result! Of course we’ll have to make a few sacrifices for creating these jobs.

A few protected wildlife species in the Bay, clean air (which we enjoy so greatly now thanks to the sewerage plant) and the wishes of local people – many of whom are foreign! – should not stand in the way of making the Harbour Board richer or getting a good old-fashioned British firm busy burning rubbish next to the school in Tullos. While the house prices here will plummet, a clear message is sent: Scotland is Open For Business.

We are open to taking American fracked gas; a great tanker sailed to Scotland filled with fracked gas, while some Americans in Pennsylvania begged Scotland not to take it.

If it will make us money, at least the considerable pollution will be happening far away – foreigners do have their uses. (The energy efficiency of creating fuel in the US leaving pollution in its wake and shipping resultant gas to Scotland is a little hard for me to understand, especially with gas here having been at considerably low prices for years. Still, if there’s money to be made, we can’t be seen to be closed can we?)

We’re also open for business at Marischal Square, where in keeping with the look of the city, Granite will be the main cladding material. That The Granite City is importing granite from China, where there are a few equal pay and workers’ rights issues is not an issue. We are Open For Business. The council says it’s not their business where the granite comes from – a huge comfort to the veritable slave labour that will be quarrying it.

John Forbes of Bon Accord Granite said:

“What people don’t understand is we haven’t built a major building out of north-east granite for the last 30 years, at least. It’s down to price. If I don’t supply Chinese granite, others will.” 

Thanks John for helping the project’s carbon footprint, Chinese workers’ rights, the government’s push to use UK labour forces – all while making a tidy profit. Nice one.

I get it – the position seems to be ‘if I don’t exploit unfair labour practices in China to supply material cheaply, someone else will’. Good code of ethics there then. So – foreigners = good source of labour to exploit as cheaply as possible – as long as the blighters don’t actually come to Old Blighty.

When the much-loved Marischal Square building is clad in Chinese granite, the much-loved Press & Journal is set to take a year’s free rent to grace us with its presence.

In order to figure out how this equates to being ‘Open for Business’ as opposed to, shall we say, giving the paper a bone so that it won’t unleash its investigative new hounds (if any left) onto juicy city council stories (not that there are any unless you count the cremation scandal, the Torry carve-up, Marischal Square..), Old Susannah lodged a freedom of information request.

We do know the key players at the Town House in this genius free rent scheme are the Head of Finance, Head of Land and Property Assets, Asset Management Manager. The city refuses to comment on these ‘commercial negotiations’ because:

“Release of the information at this stage would influence the negotiating position of parties wishing to occupy space in the development, to the obvious detriment of the Council’s commercial interests.

“Furthermore, disclosure of the requested information at this stage is likely to weaken ACC’s position in a competitive environment by revealing sensitive information of potential usefulness to competitors. ACC must maintain good working relationships with reputable companies to enable it to obtain value for money and so releasing commercially sensitive information could potentially damage ACC’s reputation with such third parties, dissuading the third parties from engaging with ACC.”

“The discussions in relation to the proposals for the AJL terms have involved the advice of external property agents, the Council’s development partner and a number of Council officers.” 

So if I understand correctly, the competition would get wind of us giving a years’ rent free in a new building to the press (normally expected to investigate just this kind of eventuality in some cities anyway), and they would give a better deal, or other people would want free rent like the P&J too.

Perhaps we should pay the P&J to grace the city centre, and breathing new life into the beating heart of the civic centre in a vibrant and dynamic manner.

The phrase ‘Value for Money’ worked its way into the FOI response. Older readers might remember when the previous administration sold property owned by the taxpayer for millions of pounds less than market value, and was investigated by Audit Scotland (the report was meant to be investigated by the police – but they didn’t do anything. When I asked for an update, it was explained the paperwork could not be found, and as it was only a few million pounds’ worth of potential fraud, it wasn’t really a big deal).

We also gifted Stewart Milne lots of land, at the same time he won a few sweet contracts totalling £10 million – he’d underbid the competition – possibly a feat made a bit easier by having a nice parcel of land as a handy asset. But again – I digress. Just as well though that the taxpayer isn’t propping up a hugely biased, outmoded pseudo-newspaper.

Not that there are any juicy city council stories of course, but in light of how the city’s officers are involved in a few slightly questionable activities, I set out to take a look at the register of officers’ interests. I was to meet someone from Legal and democratic services to take a look at the register. A few hours before the meeting, the legal team from the city decided that a FOI request was required.

Now in theory FOI requests should not have to be made to see information that is held – but they were apparently fearful that there might be ‘personal data’ in the register.

This register should be parallel to the register held on all the councillor’s interests and hospitality – which you can view right now on the website. It’s almost as if the officers had more power and influence than coucillors but surely not. The FOI service complains from time to time that it has too many requests to handle (which might be why it is late with a huge portion of responses).

If the other departments had this ‘transparency’ we’ve heard so much about, the FOI team wouldn’t have to suffer so greatly doing its job.

Democratic services? Transparency? Freedom of Information? Clearly not as important as being open for business. More on this soon.

While waiting for any of this information to ever get to me, liquid refreshment at BrewDog helps sustain me and pass the time. Old Dog (as I now call the Gallowgate bar, the first ever BrewDog bar) has been doing some wildly popular craft courses and a once-monthly fun event, Drink and Draw.

I have learned so very much from BrewDog. Did you know that it’s Robert Plant’s son Logan is behind the remarkable Beavertown Brewery? I hadn’t any idea. One of my favourite non-BD libations is Beavertown’s flavour packed Gamma Ray (American Pale Ale). And yes, I’m one of the 10,000 BrewDog shareholders, and still proud of it.

Finally, Anthony Baxter is making another film about ladies’ man Trump, although I can’t think of any recent news developments these past 12 months that would warrant any such documentary. However, the details are here for those who would like to chip in. Expected Aberdeen release 3 November at the Belmont. (And by way of disclosure, there is every chance I’ll be in it).

At this rate there won’t be time for definitions, so with no further hesitation, here are some career-related definitions for the wonderful people who bring so much to Aberdeen.

Spokeswoman: (Modern English noun) a female who undertakes public relations duties.

Sarah Malone has been enjoying a Trump salary these many years; this and husband Damian’s salary will no doubt be helping the Jimmy Choo purchase fund.

In order to get a paid gig dealing with the media as a spokeswoman for a multinational property developer, aspiring spokespersons would have to have style, flair, the ability to think quickly, analyse information and respond swiftly with tact and intelligence. This no doubt is why I toil for free. As a recent example illustrating the calibre of response such a professional spokeswoman would be expected to come up with, I offer the following recently issued by Sarah Malone-Bates, aka from now as Sarah Baloney:

“We have not seen the so-called film and have no interest in it.

“Anthony Baxter is not a credible journalist or filmmaker. He has no interest in the facts or the people of north east Scotland.

“He has propagated lies and nonsense about the company for years in an attempt to make a name for himself off the back of Trump.

“We operate a highly acclaimed, five-star golf resort and enjoy a great relationship with the local community and all of our neighbours with the exception of a few who have fought the project since its inception.”

Old Susannah can’t – however hard I try – write like this. For instance, if I had to use the compound-adjective ‘so-called’, I might have said ‘so-called journalist’. That would have opened up a debate on whether or not award-winning, acclaimed journalist Baxter is credible or not. Obviously we trust a Trump spokesperson’s word for what is and isn’t credible. However, ‘so-called film’ opens up the debate as to whether or not the film is a … film. I think even I could win that battle of wits with Sarah.

She is calling Baxter a liar – a daring PR move which of course could have legal consequences should Baxter want to sue Trump. I hope she’ll share the specific list of these lies with us; I promise I’ll ask for it.

As to that ‘great relationship with the local community’ – well, obviously that’s as true as anything else this professional, well-paid spokesperson said. Just because protestors raise Mexican flags, 580,000 people sign a petition against her boss coming here, the local university rescinded his honorary degree and he’s no longer a global Scot is no reason to think Mr Drumpf is in any way unpopular. And no doubt the relationship with this community is unshakeable…

Star: (modern English term) someone of celebrity status, admired and well-known.

Donald Trump is a star. How do I know? He said so in a conversation about the perks of stardom.

To attain star status, having superior genes is important; modestly Drumpf admits what we already know – that he has superior genes. Somewhere, in some obscure history lesson, I almost remember some other political figure being interested in genetic superiority. Perhaps it’s fashionable to talk about this again?

Perks of stardom include ‘just start kissing’ beautiful women ‘doing anything (to women)’ and ‘grabbing them by the pussy’. Oh those lucky, beautiful young women. Something in the nature of 1 in 5 American women can expect to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

And with that, I find the last satirical inclinations leaving me, and so I will sign off. Let’s hope nothing will dent that community appreciation Drumpf enjoys here in our little corner of Scotland.

Next week – more on other FOI requests, a look at the rosy future of Torry – and a DIY Investigating kit

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Apr 142016
 

donprespicBy Suzanne Kelly.

Master Bates had just parked the Maserati in his space and was making his way through the hallowed hall of the Press & Churnal.

The receptionists seemed even smilier than usual; the secretaries he walked past smiled and said “Good morning sir”, and seemed to be gigglish.

From further down the corridor, he could hear voices and laughter.

“Well, they say it even looks like him – big head of strawlike grey hair.”

“Well, Bates might as well give Drumpf a column; Drumpf’s given his wife a column and all.”

“Wonder if it’ll have her looks?!

“What if it has her brains and Donald’s looks?”

Bates didn’t quite hear all of that however; he had a searing headache. The reporters got sight of him and scarpered, scattering to all quarters of the newspaper’s offices.

Bates hadn’t slept well. He knew things were going to be different – life was going to be different now. But he hadn’t bargained on all that constant bawling. The whinging, the crying, the temper tantrums at the slightest provocation. That wrinkled face going beet read. The screaming. Yes, life with Donald Drumpf was trying – very trying. Thank goodness he could escape now and then to look after the newborn Malone-Bates baby, Donadina.

He pressed his fingers to his temples and massaged them as he got into his big leather chair at his big leather covered desk and sighed.

Giving Donald Drumpf his own column. He had little choice. He remembered well, how it unfolded. One day his wife came back from the Drumpf clubhouse and had told him:

“Darling, Donald wants to give you a present”

He thought at the time ‘Christ, not another damned Chinese t-shirt with the Drumpf logo or another cheesy Mexican baseball cap with the Drumpf name in giant letters’.

“Precious – how are you? How’s Donald? Happy to help of course.”

“It’s just a teeny weeny favour he’s going to do you”

‘Hope to hell it’s more advertising revenue’ he thought, ‘after we printed that weekend supplement about the MacDonald hotel with its garish orange duvets dyed to match The Donald’s skin makeup colour.’

That actually took a bit of pride-swallowing to print.

“it’s Fabulous! Donald’s going to give you a column to put in your newpaper! You’re always saying you need to fill up the space between advertisements with something or other. Well, he’s going to write you an exclusive column – that mean he’s not going to have it printed anywhere else.”

Damian remembered the little remaining colour running out of his face – something that never seemed to happen to his apparent new columnist.

“Darling, sweetheart, mother of my daughter – I’d er, love that almost as much as I love you. But angel, we’ve just spent a packet hiring Alex Salmond.”

“Yes, that was a mistake, it’s a good thing I talked Donald around about that – that was me using my great skills. I had to blink my eyelashes at him all afternoon about that, but he forgave you. Now he wants that column. Tell Alex he’s to make room for his old pal Donald. Donald says they are getting along now, so that must be true.”

“Sarah, darling – isn’t Donald going to be a bit busy running for president to actually write a column?”

“Silly boy – he’ll not actually write it – he’s far too important to do any actual writing. I thought I might write it myself; he says I’m very good with words. Why I can memorise what they write for me to tell the press in just a matter of hours now that I’ve been practicing.”

Damian was white now.

“Er darling, you’ll be too busy too, running the golf course and looking after little Donalda.”

Sarah wrinkled her pretty nose.

“I’m going to be too busy to look after her that much; the nanny will have to work more hours. And of course, when Donald Drumpf becomes president, you know what that will mean, don’t you?”

Puzzled, Bates couldn’t quite find the words.

Almost as if she could sense his bewilderment she answered:

“Silly – I’m the Vice President – remember? He made me Vice President a few years ago! I’ll have to go to Washington, and go to all those fancy State Dinners and Balls and meet the Queen and everything.”

The rest of that conversation seemed a blur. Bates only remembered that he gave Sarah a few thousand for a pair of rhinestone Jimmy Choos and he gave Drumpf a weekly column.

Bates had been outnumbered and outgunned. Donald’s ghost writer and advertising team sent over their full page, full colour ad – although there wasn’t going to be any advertising revenue! The pain of that increased Bates’ now permanent headache. The ad was monstrous – Drumpf in full open mouth basking shark mode, against the drapery of the US Flag. The Scottish public would undoubtedly find this a bridge too far.

But the contents of the column. How Drumpf had won over the Scottish people. ‘Me, Sarah, Woody – well, that’s three of us won over anyway’ thought the gloomy Bates. ‘How will I ever show my face after this and damn – what’s going to happen at my next RGU journalism lecture?’

His mobile phone bleeped at him. It was a text from Sarah.

“Hello darling; Donald just loves his column now he’s had a chance to read it. He says don’t worry – he’ll have a new column for you to print once a week at least. And he’s here now – will send you a photo in a sec. Love you. PS – can you get a courier to bring me your Barclaycard Platinum? Mine seems not to be working; must be the strip thingy on the back, and what’s ‘exceeded your credit limit’ mean again?”

His head throbbed worse than ever. He put the phone down. Looking out the window of his office he could see the Maserati in the parking lot.

Was that Magritte, the new student intern who was looking at the car so admiringly? For one split second he started to wonder. Then the phone blipped at him. Picking it up, he opened the JPEG message from Sarah. Donald stood next to Sarah; he was holding the baby. His little daughter had a crop of unruly blonde hair, and she was wearing a tiny Drumpf-embroidered baseball cap.

“Donald holding little Donalda MacLeod Sarah Damiana Malone Bates.” read the caption.

Bates put the phone down. He reached inside his desk for the extra strength anadin, and shook his head.

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Mar 112016
 

Aberdeen Voice’s Old Susannah has something of an identity crisis as her mortgage company rebrands her as ‘Elizabeth’ in a paperwork snafu. As such, we welcome Old Elizabeth’s Dictionary Corner this week. By Suzanne (?) Kelly.

DictionaryTally ho! The banks have decided that my first name isn’t Suzanne, it’s Elizabeth. That’s what the records show, so I have to prove them wrong. This error was only picked up a week ago, so I don’t expect it to be fixed any time soon.

Past signatures on mortgage papers, name on my bank account and payslips, my passport – none of this is good enough just yet for the powers that be. I may change my name; it might be easier. You’re probably as shocked to hear of a bank making any kind of mistake as I am, but apparently it does happen.

I’m beginning to think that I must be in the wrong, not them, and am going to double-check with my parents.

This past week a Florida woman who tried to teach her four year old child how to shoot a gun has been shot. Bet no one saw that coming.

This is an intolerable state of affairs; what kind of mother is this? Perhaps if she’d started him earlier, he’d have acquired more gun handling experience by now. It’s never too early to start learning to hurt or kill, is it? Call me old-fashioned, but every time I give a toddler who can’t really walk or talk a .45 six-shooter, I usually leave only one or two bullets in.

As to Mother of the Year, you’ll be happy to know that she is said to be in a stable condition. She sounds very stable to me. Of course junior might have killed himself or any surviving siblings. In the US nearly 10,000 minors are killed or injured by guns every year But that’s a small price to pay for freedom, I say.

No word on whether she’ll face any charges; hardly likely I’d think. Elsewhere in the US, if your child is stillborn, or has birth defects, you might just well find yourself in prison for murder. Oh, lest I forget – happy International Women’s Day everyone.

Closer to home, all’s well as we continue with our vibrant, dynamic public relations activities, showing the rest of the world how wonderful we are. Now that a new flight route has opened to Iceland, Visit Scotland is out there flying the Satire, waving our tax money around, and giving the VIP treatment to Icelandic Journalists. (Thank you Iain Richardson for sharing this story on Facebook).

As part of their packed itinerary, Visit Aberdeen will ensure the group enjoys ‘… a show round of Macleod House and Trump International Golf Links in Balmedie’. Now you might think that someone somewhere at Visit Scotland would think twice about promoting this particular golf course, but you’d be wrong.

Perhaps a few relevant definitions might help.

Visit Scotland: (Modern English compound noun) a Smart Successful Scotland’s Tourist arm; another unelected quango.

In the dark ages, no one came to look at Scotland’s landscapes, castles, coasts or cities. Then, we created Visit Scotland. What do they do?

“Visit Scotland works in partnership to exceed visitor expectations. Its mission is to contribute significantly to the advancement of Scottish tourism by giving it real presence in the global marketplace, benefiting the whole of Scotland.

“We’ve a wide range of stakeholders, but our activities are defined by visitors’ requirements. Everything we do is based on sound research to make sure that we stay ahead of consumers’ ever-changing needs.

“We work closely with tourism businesses and other partners to make sure that their activities are aligned with the national strategy, and that we’re all working towards a common goal.” 

It’s good to know that everything they do is based on sound research. Otherwise, locally anyway, it might look like they keep using the same venues over and over. We’ll soon find out how much money they’ve spent at Trump; I’m sure that they use all of our local hotels and golf courses on a rotational basis. After all, they are bound to be fair with the taxpayer pound.

They claim that for every pound we spend – of the $50,000,000 million pounds’ budget they have – £20 is spent on tourism in Scotland. Yes, I’m sure they are fully responsible for all tourism in the country. If not for VS, who’d have come to Edinburgh, Glasgow, The Granite City, the islands, the lochs. Well done you!

The fact that there’s a national strategy is comforting. I suppose spending our money at a venue run by arguably the West’s biggest bigot sends the message the national strategy wants to convey.

So, it’s time to round up the Icelandic journalists and show them Scotland. By going to the placid haven that is Trump’s Balmedie course. Will they stop and point out the bunds put up to try and ruin Susie Munro’s views, gardens and spirit? Will they point out where the water mains, electric and telephone services have been ‘accidentally’ cut by the Trump construction crews?

Will they discuss how this successful venue has posted a financial loss? Should be very entertaining. Perhaps the sound research needs a dusting off, as does those ever-changing needs of visitors.

Tacit Endorsement: (Compound English noun) – to imply support for a person, cause or thing by actions rather than words.

I asked Visit Scotland why they’d chosen to go with the Trump property for this visit. They replied:

“Hi Suzanne. Our work with the Trump Organisation is solely in its role as an operator of premium golf resorts in Scotland and as such we would not comment on Mr Trump’s personal or political agenda. Thanks for your FOI request which we have received. A member of our corporate team will contact you directly about this in due course. Many thanks.”

I like the use of the word ‘premium.’ Well, you pay a premium for lunch there, anyway. I suggested:

“Very interesting. Visit Scotland doesn’t distinguish between Trump’s very public remarks and giving taxpayer money to his concerns, yet he’s been stripped of being a Global Scot for these remarks, as well as losing his RGU honorary degree. Perhaps time you rethink your ethics? You are of course condoning and encouraging him every time you give him our tax money, you do see that, don’t you.”

We mustn’t rush to conclusions though. Just because Visit Scotland takes people to Trump properties, spends taxpayer money at Trump properties, and endorses Trump properties is no reason to think that they are happy to have Scotland aligned with the Trump brand. Let’s wait and see if the next visiting dignitaries from the Middle East get taken to Drumpf Golf International.

I’m sure they’ll love meeting Mrs Bates to the extent that all the talk of banning Muslims and making then wear badges in the US will pass once she flashes those pearly whites.

Sure the guy wants to ban Muslims from entering the USA (Muslim American citizen population 3 to 7 million). Sure, he’s verbally waging war on Mexico, wants to bring back water boarding (nothing quite like it you’ll agree), and a bag of vipers would be kinder and more logical. But there’s money at stake. Besides which, VS would have to admit that endorsing him is a mistake.

In December last year, VS said:

“…that it has no plans to stop working with Donald Trump, despite a campaign to ban him from entering Britain because of his comments about Muslim immigration. Visit Scotland said that the tycoon’s two Scottish golf resorts were a valuable asset and attracted thousands of visitors from around the world as well as multimillion-pound investment.” 

The welfare of Scottish citizens living under the whims of Trump at Menie? Who cares? Not Visit Scotland.

Iceland Press Council: (Proper noun – er, Icelandic I guess) – a body governing principles and ethics of reporting in Iceland

This press junket whereby Icelandic writers come to Aberdeen will, I sincerely hope, involve their talking to Aberdeen Journals Ltd’s big wheels like Damian Bates. This is almost inevitable, as Sara Mrs Malone Face of Aberdeen Bates will be showing them round the Trump course. There’s just one problem.

Cultures vary widely from country to country. While we’ve gone all smart and successful here, not every country is up to our own standards. Covering up stories inconvenient to top advertisers, pushing the wife’s business interests, embellishing or suppressing stories to suit the powers that be: Iceland’s not got wise to any of these modern journalistic techniques at all.

They actually have a paper, Rules of Ethics in Journalism; it goes back to 1988. Thought I’d share some of it with you. Press and Journal; Evening Express writers may wish to look away now (if you’re still with me that is). Sorry, but I thought I’d put most of the clauses into this piece, just to show how much more advanced we are here than these idealistic Icelanders.

I’ve made a comment or two in square brackets in bold for the benefit of our local reporters, who probably need a laugh.

Clause 1. A journalist aims to do nothing which may bring his profession or professional organisation, newspaper or newsroom into disrepute. [OOPS!] He must avoid anything, which may be deleterious to public opinion of the journalist’s work, or damage the interests of the profession [OOPS!]. A journalist must always be honourable in his dealings with colleagues. [OOPS!]

Clause 3. A journalist observes the highest possible standards in gathering information, processing this information , and in presentation, and shows the utmost fact in sensitive cases [UNLESS THERE’S A GRANITE WEB, OR THE NEEDS OF AN ACSEF MEMBER AT STAKE ]. He avoids all that may cause unnecessary pain or humiliation to the innocent, or those who have suffered.

Clause 5. A journalist must do his best to avoid conflicts of interest, for instance by reporting on companies or interest groups in which he himself is involved [OOPS! – DAMIAN – ANY COMMENT?]. He must primarily serve the interests of the reader [DAMIAN?], and the honour of the journalistic profession in all that undertakes under the aegis of his job. [IS THIS OK WITH THE MISSUS’ BOSS?]

A journalist writes always on the basis of his convictions [OOPS!]. He makes sure not to confuse editorial material of clear informative and educational value, with advertising in pictorial and / or written form. [HA HA HA!] This code of ethics does not limit the freedom of expression of journalists who write, under their full name, clearly defined items in newspapers, e.g. criticism, where the writer’s personal views are of the essence. [IS THAT WHY SO MANY P&J / EE PIECES DON’T HAVE A BYLINE?]

Clause 6. Any person who believes that a journalist has offended against the above code, and whose interests are at stake, can make a complaint to the Ethics Committee of the Icelandic Union of Journalists within two months of publication, provided the item published is not the subject of court action at the same time. [REMINDS ME OF WHEN I COMPLAINED ABOUT A P&J PIECE. A FRONT PAGE AREA LABELLED ‘FACTS’ IN A HEAVY OUTLINE, CONTAINED OPINIONS. THE RELEVANT PRESS REGULATORS DECIDED THAT ANYONE WHO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE WOULD HAVE REALISED THAT THEY BOX LABELLED ‘FACTS’ WEREN’T FACTS AFTER ALL. FAIR ENOUGH]

So there you have it. Despite First Minister Nicola Sturgeon taking away Donald Drumpf’s Global Scot status, despite the Open saying that they don’t want anything to do with Drumpf, Visit Scotland’s going to plough ahead promoting the Donald’s ‘premium’ clubs. I guess that national strategy they talk about doesn’t give our Nicola a look-in.

On that note, I’ll take a minute to say goodbye to one of Aberdeen Voice’s founders, David R Guthrie. He passed away after illness and a wake was held on Tuesday. A colourful writer, musician, wit, and all-round good guy, he had his reasons for helping to found Aberdeen Voice. One of those reasons was assuredly Aberdeen Journals Ltd. In lieu of flowers, feel free to donate to Aberdeen Voice.

One of the things I liked about him was his love of Union Terrace Gardens. Another thing I liked: the man was not for sale or for rent. He never got a Maserati, but he had things that were actually valuable. Good night Dave, and thanks.

You might not like Aberdeen Voice – but we’ve exposed untruths. We’ve covered important stories the local press wouldn’t touch. We’ve spoken out against people like Trump, and we’re going to keep going.

PS – I asked MP Paul Flynn how he felt now about Trump, who continues to gain in the polls, and might wind up being President. Flynn of course was on the Petitions Committee, and opened the Parliamentary debate on banning Trump. He’d taken that extra step of going to the press some 9 hours before the debate to say he didn’t believe in banning Trump for hate speech.

No, let’s just take him round my constituency, show him how multiculturalism is working, and then he’ll instantly change his way of thinking – that was Flynn’s master plan. Doesn’t seem to be working that well.

Here’s what he wrote back to me:

“There are still e-mails coming in from the US on Trump. His fans are happy but they all seem pretty stupid. Sensible Republicans are in despair. They believe that he has shamed their party. They believe that If he is the candidate, Hilary will win. I persist in the belief that a country wise enough to elect Obama twice, would be foolish enough to elect Trump once. At the moment I am very much involved in other things. Any contributions I could make in Trump’s downfall would be insignificant.” 

Well, perhaps anything he could do now would be insignificant. But when he led that debate, had he brought up all the relevant facts (including actual US violence caused by Trump’s words), and done the petition justice, I wonder where things would stand now.

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Feb 252016
 

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

!cid_09815cd1948a4527a96e35e13ba3e785@Open-XchangeFred the Aberdeen Voice editor is furious that we didn’t win a single award at the North Press ball thingy that Sarah Malone went to earlier this month, and he’s making some changes around here. We’re going to follow Aberdeen Journals Ltd’s lead, and start having a smart, successful newpaper. In that spirit, before we get to this week’s definitions, just a few words.

I am pleased to announce the Old Susannah column now has an official spokesperson. Buff McCracker, pictured, is our newest hiring. He is last year’s winner of the ‘Face of Moneymusk’ competition.

Buff has a high school diploma (nearly) and has worked as a personal fitness trainer at ‘Fancy a Kip?’ Lodge. Personal trainers from Kip Lodge have gone on to get into all sorts of fascinating positions, and I am sure Buff will do the same.

I am sure you will welcome him to the column, and in his role as spokesperson, you will look forward to hearing his in-depth analysis of local, national and world socio-political issues of the day.

Reader Offer: 

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We start our trip on the A96 in a bus, and will stop at some of the finest B&Bs in the area, while looking at fields of rapeseed, and what kinds of farm vehicles we can spot from the bus.

Meals not included.

£1,999 per person.

Showbiz Exclusive!  Local sleaze merchant shares lift for 2 minutes in Los Angeles with Rock god David Grohl.

Tony Cockroach says he’s met every A-List celebrity there is, possibly even Sarah Malone. Gosh I’m jealous. He’s been in the same lift as David Grohl! Result!!!! Did they have a conversation? No, but. Did they have anything in common? No, but. Was Grohl impressed that the man in the lift was from Aberdeen AND owned strip joints? No.

Singha SteveBut he was from Aberdeen, and he was in the same lift as David Grohl.

Full story and pictures on pages 2,3,4,5 and 27.

(Old Susannah was formally introduced to Mr Grohl on the occasion of the first ever Foo Fighters UK show, at the Brixton Academy, quite a while ago. He was cool. Old Susannah was – until now – being cool by not making a big deal of it. But we did briefly speak. In today’s modern newsroom, clearly this is big stuff by EE standards. So now you know. And no, I wasn’t so crass as to start photographing or filming the man).

Read more about it here! Really! Tally ho!

Send us your story – sheep on the road?

Did your daughter come in 7th place in a spelling competition? Did you get your heid stuck in a bin? Did you find the image of Kate Dean in your buttery? Anything like that with pictures – call us and we’ll put it in the next paper. Up to £2 per story paid.

RowiesRollsPancakesthmCompetition! Aberdeen’s Prettiest Rowie!

Send in your Rowie photos, and the most beautiful Rowie will be bronzed, and kept forever as a beautiful keepsake! Your photo with your Rowie will appear in the next issue!

You can vote for your favourite Rowie by calling our special hotline – calls charged £0.99 per minute!

And with that, one or two definitions

Pro Lifers:

Who’s against life? Why no one I know, except for some zombie films, it’s safe to say many people are in favour of living. But the pro-lifers have some ideas they want the rest of us to sign up to, and I thought I’d best get their unbiased, professional advice.

I looked for them at the anti-war demonstration. But they weren’t there.

I tried to find them protesting the nuclear weaponry we’ve stockpiled which would wipe out half the planet. But they weren’t there.

I thought I’d find them helping to save the refugees drowning in the Med, but there was no sign of them there.

I thought they must surely be protesting the death sentences carried out in some countries, but there was no trace.

I thought they would be in the drought-stricken countries trying to feed the starving, but they were not there.

They were at the abortion clinic. They were at the family planning centres. They were at the chemists where women can get the morning after pill.

It’s not the living they want to save. They want to tell women not to have sex. They want to tell people not to use contraception. They want women to bear children whether or not the women are able to look after these children, can afford them, are adult enough to be responsible for new lives. They want the raped women to carry their children.

They don’t want you to do anything that doesn’t adhere to the moral codes they have signed up to, and they want to make you bend to their will. They don’t acknowledge that each and every single pregnancy is life-threatening to the mother. They don’t want you to know that women from prehistory to the current day engaged in family planning by taking herbal medicines to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Pro life? Absolutely! Some might think this lot are a bunch of would be controlling, nosy, women-hating dictators who were not interested in the living whatsoever and hated sex and didn’t want anyone to have any. But they’re just telling us what the right thing to do is, and I’m sure you’ll give their message all the attention it is due. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14210094.display/

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Feb 202015
 

One hundred columns ago, Old Susannah wrote on the theme of how propaganda permeates our media and government, and how it’s used by the powerful to steer us and to blinker us. Times haven’t changed. By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryIt’s been a confusing week in the Deen; it’s been very hard to read the signs. Not least the signs pointing the way to the tourist board. An eagle-eyed local restaurateur (and pal) Steve Bothwell noticed that signs near the green point people in the wrong directions; those who wanted tourist info are merrily sent the wrong way.

If only we had some way to fix this problem. Word is those responsible for this error are planning to solve the problem by having the tourist board moved to a location near where the sign points.

All things considered, I think we’re on our way to being a modern, major Scottish city like Edinburgh.  We may still be able to escalate the St Nicholas House/Muse plans into our own Holyrood.

Holyrood of course was a well defined, precisely-run, on budget project which created the lovely building which fits so beautifully into the existing architecture of Edinburgh. If the building leaks, creaks and looks like its facade was drawn badly on the back of an envelope by someone using their foot and a crayon that just means it’s adventurous.

Perhaps we’ll yet have our own Tram scheme; we did have a councillor in the last administration calling for a monorail. Again Edinburgh handled that wonderfully well.

But as we learned this week, Edinburgh’s taken property management to a whole new level this week. Mandarins in the council managed to sell the historic Parliament building:  the only problem was that it didn’t actually own it – Edinburgh’s citizens do.

Or should I say Edinburgh’s citizens did own it. Scottish property ownership expert Andy Wightman’s account of this imaginative sale can be found here.  Aberdeen readers may be interested to know that the property in question was considered common good. At least you wouldn’t find anyone around the Granite City trying to appropriate common good land, Wood you?

Back here in the Glass City – sorry – Granite City, the Lord Provost decided that a motion to stop the Muse project was ‘incompetent’. It’s good to know the city is continuing to stop incompetence wherever and whenever they find it. Perhaps they want a word with the people who put up the tourist board sign though.

If only there was some way for the city to see whether or not people wanted a glass box or green space. Perhaps if a few hundred people protested, lobbied and campaigned. STV has a little poll going on; and while it’s a close-run thing, about 90% of people don’t want Muse’s glass box building.

Some people felt they were slightly misled over what would and wouldn’t happen to the St Nick’s site.  While it’s not like a politician to ever mislead anyone, perhaps a few propaganda-related definitions may remind us that once in a blue moon, we should question the information put before us.  And with that, a few definitions.

Emotive: (English adjective) Condition of having feelings and impulses not associated with logic or fact.

One thing we can’t have is people with feelings getting in the way of those who don’t have any.  The favoured propaganda tactic  to quash these Emos is to call them names, even if this paradoxically implies that those doing the name-calling are being aggressive, bullying and abrasive.   This is a strategy beloved of the SNH for those of us who want to find means to manage our environment without killing animals unnecessarily.

The Scotsman’s headline set the tone last week, portraying the people and organisations opposed to deer culling as ‘angry’. You see, if you’re angry – you’re emotional. A good headline should set the tone of the article to come.

I hope no one will be embarrassed by how emotive I got in commenting on this Scotsman article, but here is a comment I made:

“It’s disappointing that so many of the comments on this page have to sink to insulting those who oppose the cull. I’ve been studying for some years now the draconian proposals and guidelines that SNH have created about deer populations. You could be forgiven for thinking that the latest SNH guidelines were written by the pro-hunting lobby. In Aberdeen, a hill which supported a few dozen deer for decades with meadowland and gorse had no starvation issues.

“The roe deer live a short span, and foxes are well known predator as are man (we had five deer poached last year in the area I’m talking about – Tullos) and dogs. The SNH now says a herd size for this hill will be only 3 or 4 animals. The SNH don’t explain how this can be a healthy gene pool – how could they? Anyone who protests the punishing guidelines is, as comments on here show, insulted and denigrated.

“The fact is it is becoming a nice little earner to turn meadowland into forest; my city has spent at least £200,000 so far to transform Tullos – when several thousand residents signed a petition to leave the hill alone. In the mean time, SNH last counted 19 deer in the entire city green belt and urban fringe. We won’t have any deer left if the SNH’s position goes unchallenged.

“The people who manage private land may also be forced to kill more deer than they think is sensible. When there are humane ways to control deer numbers, why are we choosing culling as a first and only option? No it is not scientific and has no historic basis at least in my area.”

What caused this gushing show of emotion on my part? Here are some of the rational, measured comments made on the article by pro deer culling people:

“The animal rights groups made a big fuss about “game management” claiming that it was cruel, akin to killing Bambi…sound familiar? Now the deer have over-populated and are starting to starve to death. It pays to listen to the experts who know what they are doing and disregard the sappy tree huggers.”

“These animal charities are notorious for attracting vicious and malevolent people, and so I hope the people of Perthshire will keep an extra-careful eye on them.”

and

“We can thank these so called animal rights nutters for releasing Mink into the wild and all the damage they have done to our natural wild life…. These campaigners should be prosecuted for promoting animal cruelty, because as has been said by many others below, the deer population is out of control and many die slowly of starvation and disease…..”

Well, that’s me told. Heaven forbid the pro-culling posts were orchestrated or that people who hid behind pseudonyms were part of the authorities trying to convince the rest of us that if you’re against deer culls you’re being emotional. Heaven also forbid that the SNH had issued any press releases that fed into the line the Scotsman chose to take. That would never happen.

Being emotional is of course a major failing in a person in this day and age; if you do somehow have any emotions left after the constant bombardment we’re subject to of violence, racism, misogyny, animal abuse, best keep those emotions hidden.  You see, if you have any emotional reaction to something, then this means you are incapable of exercising any logic or intelligence. The two can’t be separated. Therefore, if you are against deer culling, you are unintelligent.

In this week’s papers we’re told that the subject of sentencing is also ‘emotive.’  You don’t say.

Happily, all sentencing in Scotland is proportional, measured, and no favouritism is ever shown to the powerful, the police, or the famous. I still fondly remember how a local policeman was cleared of looking up info on his ex regarding a drug case. The court found someone else must have accessed the data – using the accused’s password.

No doubt the police are looking for the real culprit – someone else in the force with the accused’s password who would have wanted info on the accused’s ex. Makes sense to me.

Not only is sentencing emotive, it can also be complicated. I’m as amazed as you are. Happily, the government is setting up yet another board, and no doubt sentencing, which the likes of  you and I can’t hope to understand of course, will be handled just as fairly in the future as it is now.

The Government in fact is committed to making justice ‘FAIR, FAST AND FLEXIBLE JUSTICE‘.

Well, it can be fast. It certainly is flexible. I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

Misinformation:

How do you get your own way in politics? As is the case here in Aberdeen, by persuasion with facts and reason. However, on the rare occasion the public need to be guided just that little bit more.

Back when the new St Nick’s proposal was first launched at the city’s art gallery (itself soon to be closed for a few years for a tasteful destruction of its marble stair and for a portacabin tm to be plunked on top of it), a consultation was held. It was wonderful to see the pretty drawings. Obviously though, the details were meant to be left to the architects of this city’s current architecture – our planners and those with big chequebooks.

With the people we have controlling the master (?) plan, many of whom have important titles like ‘Dr’ and so on, we’ll be the rival of Washington DC, Paris and London in just a few more years. If not, we may wind up twinned with Milton Keynes or Redditch. Anyway, I wrote to the city with my (emotive) criticisms of the scheme. In due course, I was invited to give a 5 minute deputation to the full council (Result!) on what I thought was wrong with the scheme.

A whole 5 minutes – and all I had to do was spend the entire day off work hanging around in the Town House.

I wondered – Should I take a day off work, buy a new frock, get a Valerie Watt spray tan and have my nails done and come and make a speech for 5 minutes? No doubt concerns of traffic congestion, pollution, architectural concerns, etc. would have won the day.

I called someone at the council and we discussed the pros and cons of this deputation. The word on the street as it were was that the decision to build glass boxes on the former St Nicholas House site was metaphorically set in stone. I could come along, but in the view of my contact, it would not make a difference. I don’t want to get my source in trouble; like me, they had been told it was too late to make any change.

We both believed this to be true. So I declined my chance to bring up a few emotive issues about St Nick’s former site.

Fast forward a few months, and it seems both my source and I were misinformed. The city won’t lose a hundred million pounds if we say no to the current design.

The future of the site has seen one or two little changes since that consultation at the art gallery.   Today the story is that we’re getting that glass office after all.  Somehow this will revitalise our retail sector, cure baldness, and make billions of jobs.  I wonder what the story will be tomorrow.

Yellow Journalism: (org. USA  – compound noun) Sensationalising or fabricating stories in order to both sell newspapers and to influence opinions.

This term hardly matters in today’s modern, well-informed age, but just for historical interest, here’s a word on yellow journalism.  In  days gone by newspaper giants Hearst and Pulitzer were fighting for supremacy in the US market, there was the occasional bit of creative licence taken with the facts.  A fight for a cartoon strip featuring ‘the yellow’ kid – a very popular feature – lent its name to a kind of journalism where facts don’t get in the way of a story, where hatred can be inflamed to influence opinion, and where the powerful are pulling the strings, often distracting people from the truth by the use of sensationalism, propaganda and misinformation.  This was the time of American expansionism, and a few little wars here and there.  Isn’t it great to be in the enlightened age?

As described on one website:

The rise of yellow journalism helped to create a climate conducive to the outbreak of international conflict and the expansion of U.S. influence overseas, but it did not by itself cause the war.

“In spite of Hearst’s often quoted statement—“You furnish the pictures, I’ll provide the war!”—other factors played a greater role in leading to the outbreak of war. The papers did not create anti-Spanish sentiments out of thin air, nor did the publishers fabricate the events to which the U.S. public and politicians reacted so strongly.”

Of course, a newspaper editor has several responsibilities to balance. One – to make lots of dosh for the shareholders. Two – to take lots of dosh for the sponsors and advertisers, who must be kept happy at all costs. Three – to make people buy the newspaper in the first place. It’s a tough job.

Remember the giant Evening Express headlines about ‘packets of white powder’ being found on an offshore oil installation? The implication was it was illegal drugs, and the paper milked it for all it was worth. Alas!  it was only cold medicine. You’ll remember the paper’s headlines announcing it had made a mistake. Or perhaps not.

Some papers such as the Daily Mail are subject to similar creative embellishments. Emotive headlines are a great way to get facts across to us emotive, slow-witted people, especially about immigrants, benefit scroungers, foreigners and other kinds of undesirables. It’s also a good way to sell papers.

News Blackout: (modern English compound noun) To deliberately withhold news and information.

If they don’t know about it, they can’t be upset about it. Whether it’s the P&J veritably ignoring stories about Donald Trump having underworld links, sometimes it’s best to have a media blackout. We’ve all those hoards of incoming tourists to think about, and Sarah Malone needs a new pair of Choos. Best a newspaper editor is selective with what stories they print.

That’s the case these days at London-based news institution The Telegraph.

The paper is just a little on the conservative side, and its rational, balanced, live-and-let live owners, the Barclay Brothers, have been doing a great job of livening things up.

Once the paper of choice for Tories it’s far more inclusive now, with stories about women with three breasts (that wasn’t quite true). Any story about business profits, exam results, you name it is usually dressed up with a picture of a pretty girl – and of course all the guys like their news served up like that. Private Eye magazine has cruelly made fun of the paper’s use of ‘fruity’ girls, and accuses the Torygraph (as PE calls it) of ‘dumbing down’.

It’s not really dumbing down if you decide not to trouble your readership with stories that are either boring or complicated (which is pretty much the same thing).  Take for instance the stories circulating about HSBC (‘the world’s local bank’) being somewhat in a pickle, the Telegraph decided that it wasn’t much of a story. So there are some questions about the bank’s operations, a wee black hole in its books and its Swiss offices being raided by police and the like.

HSBC has also apparently helped wealthy people avoid paying tax – that’s hardly news is it? While the rest of the UK’s papers were covering this story, the Torygraph was ignoring it. It’s almost as if the Barclay Bros had rich, powerful interest to protect – but surely not.

I’m certainly not suggesting that the government, quangos, media, police and our local politicians are manipulative, self-serving, devious or dishonest – heaven forbid. But I am beginning to have my doubts.

Next week- an updated who’s who of the great and powerful of city and shire.

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Feb 122015
 

Following on from last week’s Valentine’s Day themed column, Old Susannah is still feeling the love. After all, this is Aberdeen. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTally ho! The Deen is awash in romance; you can smell it in the air. Then again, that might just be a nasty whiff coming in from the sewerage plant.

In major news, it seems that civilisation may not end if we don’t build a glass office building next to Marischal College. Millions of jobs were to go, connectivity would be lost, and we’d lose our vibrant and dynamic edge that our planners have worked so hard for a decade or so to give us. However, it seems that protestors may interfere with our modern progress. After all, when has the city ever ignored protestors before?

We can’t thank our planning supremos enough for making us the 2014 Carbuncle Award Winner. Surely now that we’ve got this award, the city of culture award can’t be far behind.

I’m sure the awards will start flooding in, just like all those extra tourists clogging the roads from the airport to Trump Links and MacLeod House.

In fact, with all the good feeling and love in the air, here’s a few affectionate definitions.

Mutual Admiration Society: (English Compound Noun) An assembly of like-minded groups or people to share affection and respect.

It would have been enough to restore anyone’s faith in human nature; I’m sorry my invite was somehow lost in the post. But this past week, Donald Trump, Aberdeen Journals Ltd, Damian Bates, and other journalism superstars got together to pat themselves on the back, and sing the praises of journalism today.

It was hugs and kisses all ‘round when 60 business leaders (<swoon!>) got together to sing the praises of the Scottish Newspaper Society.  These respected figures included Trump, as well as a few respectable figures from quangos and some nice banking VIPs.

And what do businessmen like most about our newspapers? Is it for impartiality, for thorough, unhindered, unbiased investigative journalism? Here’s what The Donald said:

“I’ve had my battles with the Scottish press and seen my fair share of tough headlines, but the impact of advertising in the Scottish media – particularly The Press and Journal and Evening Express – can’t be underestimated,”
– http://www.thedrum.com/news/2015/02/09/donald-trump-joins-scottish-business-figures-backing-campaign-scotlands-newspapers

What do the executives value? Advertising. What more can you want from a newspaper? Absorbency, I suppose.

That the Scottish Newspaper Society sought Trump’s endorsement doesn’t make the group  look at all uninformed, star-struck, advertising-starved or parochial.  After all, Trump does get into the papers now and then. In the rest of the world, it’s for reasons such as failing golf clubs, bankruptcy,  links to organised crime, lawsuits and environmental damage. But that’s just negative nit-picking by The Haters.

Here, executives, newspapers and little people like us love him because he flies into town and has a red carpet when he lands. It’s because he hired our local sweetheart Sarah Malone Bates and used her extensive golf and real estate experience to forge our boring coastline into something else. And not what has he given us? Billions of pounds, millions of jobs, put us on the map, and of course the world’s best golf course ever. Really.

Any battles he’s had with the Scottish press have sadly either faded from my ageing memory, or have not been with the Press & Journal: I wonder why? I guess love is blind.

You can see the full list of business figures backing Scottish newspapers on the Scottish Newspaper Society website – that will keep you busy for many happy hours.  Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Federation, Trump, etc. etc.: This is a mutual admiration society like no other.

COMPETITION TIME: How many organisations on this list have links to ACSEF? Answers on a (large) postcard; winner gets a BrewDog or a P&J – their choice.

And what does a paper do to earn this lavish praise from otherwise neutral billionaire Donald Trump? What kinds of riveting articles command his respect? What incisive slants on local stories are we being served up this week? Old Susannah is happy to serve up some examples.

“Aberdeen store could be turned into 5 smaller stores.” 

We’ll remember where we were when we heard this story.

And then if you want a good laugh (even if it’s at the victim’s expense), we had:

“Man found guilty of putting face in woman’s cleavage”

As the story advised:

“A MAN who clamped his mouth to a stranger’s chest during a night out has been ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work. Remigiusz Zdziech was found guilty of putting his face in a woman’s cleavage while on a night out.

“The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, felt “distressed and shaken” by the incident. Zdziech, 28, denied the offence but was found guilty.”  

I guess  what one paper describes as ‘putting face in woman’s cleavage/clamping a mouth to a stranger’s chest’ is what some of the rest of us might be tempted to call a sexual assault and leave the specifics out of it to spare the victim any further distress – but there you go. If it’s good enough for Damian Bates to publish, then it’s good enough for us to accept without question.

And yet somehow Old Susannah can’t help but feel there is just the slightest hint of sexism in the writing. But I’m just a silly old woman anyway.

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder: (English saying) – belief that being away from loved ones makes them love you more.

Never was a saying more true than this past week when our former Chief Executive Valerie Watts decided to play  hard to get. Our former leader was to have been questioned at a hearing into the letter sent out last year, wherein it was stated that the city council wanted to stay in the Union. Everyone missed Valerie tremendously. If anyone could have given an honest and complete explanation, it would have been her.

Indeed, when it comes to her honesty, it is beyond question by miles. And here’s just a small sample of why that’s so.

So what kept her from her beloved former city? In her current job in Belfast, the Permanent Secretary had invited her to a meeting. Picture how conflicted and torn she must have been! Choosing between a meeting with her new lovely boss and her old love of Aberdeen. Some say she could have chosen to meet the Permanent Secretary another time (perhaps for movie and a meal – not to rush into anything of course), and come here to see us. But she chose to make us wait.

We will be waiting, Valerie. The whole hearing has been kicked into the long grass by this femme fatale with her natural looking suntan and honest smile. Let’s hope next time she’s supposed to appear at a hearing on this matter she doesn’t have a pedicure or facial planned instead. See you soon Valerie. We’ll wait.

Erotic Love: (Compound English Noun) Form of affection or desire which is sexual in nature

What could say ‘I love you’ more than a few lashes with a leather cat ‘o nine tails? What says ‘I care’ more than a complicated set of ropes and pulleys? How best to demonstrate the ties that bind you to someone than by tying them up?

You won’t be aware of this due to the lack of hype, advertising and promotion, but a romantic film is about to hit the big screen (in a non-violent, loving sort of way). Fifty Shades of Gray is coming (ahem) to a cinema near you soon. Is it (as I already suggested on Facebook – sorry) just money for old rope? No, this spanking new spanking film is set to change how the middle classes do DIY.

Hard to believe, but I’m told the film is even more riveting than the dialogue in the book. I’d go see it myself, but I’m a little tied up right now.

Don’t worry though – it can’t possibly lead to any further lack of respect to women. How could it?

Have fun all you B&Q-ers; best get down to the superstore before they run out of winches, pulleys, rope, cord and chains. Say good bye to spontaneity with a few DIY projects that will have that spare bedroom all decked up as if it were a haunt of Jeffrey Archer’s.

But what happens when you and your beloved eventually fall out and have an argument? Will you feel stupid, used, creepy, lame, ashamed, cheap, weird? Of course not – off you’ll go to your mini-dungeon locked room, and the dominant one will be pulling the strings once more.

I’m sure no one will ever carry this too far, get hurt or need to call the fire department and the sanitation services. Have fun, and remember, love isn’t dead. It’s just gagged, blindfolded  and trussed up somewhere.

Happy Valentine’s Day all.

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Dec 162014
 
GollumReds1

A creature with a bald pate and beady eyes sat at one end of an immensely long wooden table.

By Suzanne Kelly.

Damian Baits lived in a kingdom by the sea called the Shire; it had rolling green fields, sandy shores, meadows and hills. Deer grazed in fields, great birds flew overhead, and precious flowers grew.

In the centre of this great shire was a city of silver. Well, granite anyway.

In the heart of the city was a little green park in a valley, sheltered from the harsh winds and verily it was a trap for the sun.

The people had many ways to earn their keep, and young Damian was no exception. In fact, he had a calling in life for he was a journalist, and his newspaper was read by the town crier so people throughout the kingdom knew what the skinny was with the local burgermeisters at the town hall.

Alas! There just wasn’t that much money in the news business. Damian had high ambitions; he wanted to be like the lords and barons who lived in castles. He knew eventually he’d find a way to succeed. And it came to pass that his opportunity arose at last.

Now Damian had kept an old cow for some years; but he had grown tired of her (although some say it was mutual). He decided to trade her in for something new. Walking to the market with the poor cow to sell, Damian’s path crossed with that of a man in a suit.

“Good day sir, nice to meet you.” the man smiled at Damian. “I am an accountant with well-respected firm PriceHousewatercooper. Or, as the common folk would say, I am a bean counter.”

“How exciting that must be!” said Damian, for he knew that beancounters counted other people’s money, made wild predictions for the future, and got handsomely paid for it.”

“Why yes it is” said the suit, “In fact, I am just now doing some work for one of the giants, have you heard of Sirian of Wood? He is a giant in these parts, and I’ve just made some calculations for him on one of his projects. 

“Sirian says he can make the townfolk billions of gold dubloons every year, and that millions of visitors from around the world will come to buy the produce of our little hamlet. All we would have to do is put a few wee modifications into yon city centre garden. It will be nearly as wonderfully profitable as all the money I’ve predicted farmer Tesco will make this year.”

The stranger had a lopsided smile, and somehow didn’t seem to be that honest looking, but Damian was now thinking of dubloons. The stranger took a small pouch from under his three piece suit, and shook its contents out, revealing three little beans.

“Here are five magic soya beans – probably the most valuable thing in all the shire! I got them from one of my clients called Montsantto; he is a wizard who creates strange hybrid creatures. Says it’s all perfectly safe. I’m taking these beans to market to sell, wife says she won’t have them in the house.” said the stranger.

“But you’ve only got three beans there – look” said Damian.

“Och well, I’m an accountant” said the little man “we can’t always be expected to get all our figures right. Tell you what I’ll do – I’ll trade you these 8 beans for those two cows you’ve got there” the man offered.

“I’ve only the one cow, and you’ve only three beans” explained Jack.

“Done!” cried the accountant, and he disappeared in a flash of smoke with the cow.

‘Guess I should have asked whether I’m supposed to plant these or eat them’ thought Damian. To be truthful, he was not the most swift-thinking journalist in the land. He decided to take them home and plant them by his front door, which he did. He went to sleep that night, glad to be rid of the old cow, wondering what the beans would grow into.

Coins on white

Damian could not believe his eyes; overnight a beanstalk appeared where the beans had been sown, and the beanstalk was enormous! It reached higher than the highest Tree for Every Citizen by miles.

‘Forsooth’ Damian thought. ‘I will climb this beanstalk. Perhaps there are stories and adventures awaiting that the people should know of.’

Damian set out, using his best and most well-honed climbing skills. He paused once to look back and was astonished to see how far his climbing had taken him. He could see the green fields, the rivers and the beautiful sea shore of the shire. Two friendly peregrine falcons circled for a moment before flying back to the tower they lived in near the city centre park. Pausing for a moment to consider the shire’s great beauty, he then resumed his quest.

He climbed and climbed and climbed; the clouds grew thick above him, and an eagle soared far below. Suddenly he was aware that out of the clouds a small castle had appeared; there was a long drive leading up to it; misty vapour along this drive seemed to clear as he took his first steps along it.

‘My goodness’ Damian thought. ‘It seems to me that this driveway is heated! What wonderous magic is this?’

The drive led to the small castle; and two henchmen appeared. Damian was sore afraid, but they almost seemed to be waiting for him.

“This way Mr Baits, we’ve been expecting you.” 

The men wore dark suits and talked into small strange boxes; a voice seemed to emanate from these bewitched items.

“Is that Baits arrived? Bring him on in.” A man’s voice squeaked.

Damian was led into a main room where he feart the giant must be lurking. A creature with a bald pate and beady eyes sat at one end of an immensely long wooden table. But as Damian approached he realised this was no giant after all.

‘Why this wee mannie’s no giant after all’ Damian thought to himself., ‘In fact it looks like wee Stewart, the kitchen fitter. Is he wearing lifts? I wonder how he comes to be in this castle?’

The little mannie spoke:

“Fie Fi Fo Fum
“I want to build a stadium
“I may wear lifts cause I’m not big
“But honest gov, that’s me hair not a wig.”

Damian had no answer to that, and remained silent.

“Have a seat Damian – may I call you Damian?” The little man enthused. “I’ve been expecting you. You can call me The Chairman.” 

The henchmen pointed to a little chair; Damian realised that sitting in it would make him seem very small compared to The Chairman who sat on a throne with a booster seat. Damian sat, and so did his mysterious host.

 “How did you come to find your way to me then Baits?”

“Someone offered me some magic beans; I thought they’d be like the magic mushrooms I had the once, but a beanstalk grew instead. I climbed and climbed and climbed, and then through the mist, I saw the road to your castle. The steam and mist seemed to spring from the road as if by magic and it seemed to me I was meant to come done the path.” Damian explained.

At this The Chairman chuckled.

“That would be my heated driveway, don’t you know. Very ecologically sound. In fact, they let me re-design this castle. It may be vibrant and dynamic now, but it was terribly old fashioned before.” 

The henchmen withdrew.

“Now Damian, I’m really a very nice guy, but some of the peasants don’t like me. In fact I think the peasants are revolting. It’s been said I’ve tried to bribe the city planning elders one year with whisky – in fact this outlandish tale appeared in your very own newspaper. We’ll have no more of that I think.”

The man pulled out a small sack of gold and put it on the table. Damian’s eyes grew wide.

“The people also think I want to steal their lands and the lake at Loirston where the birds drink, swim and feed. Nothing could be further from the truth. They’ve also said that I wanted to steal the people’s park in the town centre for my own ends. Such lies! In fact, I merely wanted to enhance the lake and the fields – with a few hundred parking spaces, a stadium and the like. 

“As for the townspeople’s park, it’s not at ground level, and I’m sure a few layers of parking for their coaches and carriages would be preferable to the empty green space that is there now. It’s mere coincidence that I owned the lands across the great road, and needed space for carriages. As to those peregrine falcons that used to live in the ancient tower on my land, they chose to fly away. 

“Of course, I put in spikes and lights to ‘discourage’ them, but verily I never forced them to go.”

Damian looked at the sack of gold the whole while.

“Chairman, I should love to help you; whatever service can I perform to help?”

“To start with, there will be no more tales in your news that make me look badly in front of the people” The Chairman continued. 

“Perhaps some nice photos of me with my winning football team will make the people happy, and thus distract them from worries that would only trouble them. After all, I have used all my footballing skills these many years to build up the best team money can buy. If the stadium I built is apparently falling apart, and we need to move to a green field instead of rebuilding, that’s hardly my fault.” 

“And as a little incentive to you, for every good deed you for me to enhance my reputation with the good people, I shall send you advertisements and gold. Your newspaper needs advertisements, does it not?”

The Boss leaned forward at this point; Damian saw the gold reflected in his eyes. ‘Surely those are the most kindly and honest eyes I’ve ever seen’ thought the young reporter.

“Verily I thank you for your kindness to the people and myself – these souvenir autographed photos of you are lovely and so is that yon sack of gold. Forsooth! I am in. Call me.”

At that moment a high-pitched squawking started from a far corner of the room. A goose sat on a nest, and seemed in distress. A moment later, the henchmen appeared. Taking the goose off the nest, Damian thought he saw the gleam of gold, and in an instant, a bowing henchman placed a beautiful golden egg before The Chairman.

“Not bad, eh?” asked The Chairman.

Damian’s eyes were as wide as saucers now.

“My goodness – what magic is this?” he asked.

“That dear boy is my goose that lays the golden eggs. I call her Council. Council has given me gold many times and in many ways. Council found lands in the Western Hills for me, and gave them to me for a song; I then started to grow rich. Council did even better, and by enchantments I was granted three properties to develop for 10,000,000 coins of gold. 

“Had I not had the lands, I would not have had the leverage to be the lowest bidder among those bidding to develop those properties. Every now and again I am given further gifts.” 

As The Chairman continued, Damian was entranced.

“Council made a magic circle for me; it is called AXSEF. AXSEF is a few, well – like-minded people – people like you and me, Damian, who want to help the city and shire grow smart and successful. And AXSEF even made me its king for a time. 

“AXSEF does help – it’s helping me and my fellow giants as much as it can to get the townspeople on side and to bag that empty park the townspeople seem so fond of. and Damian, I think you may be able to help us with that too. Here, have a golden egg, and a free souvenir AFC coffee mug.”

The boy reporter was thunderstruck by the riches laid at his feet.

“I’ll be in touch soon dear boy” said the former kitchen-fitter, “do come back tomorrow; there is another giant who’d like to meet you and all.” 

The henchmen already had Jack to his feet, and were escorting him and his new treasures off the property.

‘Wow’, thought Damian, ‘What a nice guy; just a little misunderstood. I am sure I can get him out of the stew he’s in – and get a little gold in the process.’

Climbing down the beanstalk and back into his small but stylish home that evening, Damian filed a story or two about the shortage of coach parking and the need for more football stadiums before falling soundly asleep, golden egg secure beneath his pillow, and a fist full of coins in his tighly-clutched hand.

Coins on white

Damian could barely sleep that night. He thought more stories he’d write to say what a nice guy The Chairman was, but it was this next giant that fired his imagination. ‘I wonder who he is and what he has in store for me?’ Surely I will do what’s right for the townspeople – of course – but maybe this is just another misunderstood fellow too?’ – that’s what Damian thought as woke that morning, the gold warming in his hands.

The sun was bright and bonny as Damian wandered towards the beanstalk. He climbed and climbed and climbed. In truth he was turning into quite an accomplished little climber. Once more he turned to look to see the shire. But what was this? The great loch, once home to bird, beast and flower was covered in earth moving equipment, and fences were going up nearly as quickly as the skeletal iron building frames. The animals were nowhere to be seen.

‘Oh well, we can’t really waste space in today’s world, that’s not ‘value for money’ Damian thought. He climbed and climbed and climbed – he was getting better at being a climber every day. But no friendly falcon flew to greet him today ‘I guess the bird got ‘discouraged’ and went to live somewhere else’ he thought.

This time when he reached a break in the cloud he could see a far grander castle than the one The Chairman lived in. Despite having the right to roam in the shire, there were fences blocking Damian’s way. A great jaguar sat in front of the castle, an X type it was. A blonde haired woman stood in the doorway, a broom in her hand. She wore a black gown – and Damian was afraid she might be a witch.

Sensing his fear, the lady spoke.

“Greetings Damian – be not afraid; I’m just wearing my university gown for verily I have been put by my lord the giant in charge of a great seat of learning. I’m Jenny Claw” she said.

She was rather tall Damian thought, and he wondered what great academic qualifications she had for so high-powered a post.

She led him to a great hall hung with tapestries.

“These are scenes from my master’s life you see” she explained.

There were scenes of a tall, gaunt grey-skinned giant in a fishing boat on one wall hanging, for that had been the giant’s first line of work. In another wall hanging, a most curious illustration of the people’s gardens was depicted – but it was somehow changed. Damian could identify the gardens from their location in the town, but they were transformed by some form of sorcery or other. He recognised the town centre garden, but in this tapestry, the grass had been replaced by stone.

Strange nonsensical shapes seemed to arch out of the ground, rising to dizzying heights over the concreted garden, and then down to the ground they descended. The centre of the gardens had a statue which seemed to be the giant Sirian Wood.

‘What manner of witchcraft is this?’ thought Damian Bait; ‘these stone arches seem to have no purpose but to go up and then down again. Verily, it puts me in mind of the market stall where Farmer McDonald sells his hot beef sandwiches’. Noticing Damian’s blank puzzled expression the blonde witch Claw said,

“Interested in the garden project? You’ll be hearing about that soon enough I expect. Isn’t it just the most transformational thing you’ve ever seen?” 

“Er, sure it is.” said Damian, still a great deal perplexed.

The witch continued to escort Baits through the castle; indeed he thought she made a great escort.

Suddenly, a wailing woman’s voice was then heard elsewhere in the castle, and a man’s voice could be heard moaning as well.

“Whatever manner of horror is this??” Master Baits gasped

“Oh, that’s nothing” said witch Claw unphased, “that’s just my master’s wifelet taking her morning exercise with her gymnastics instructor.”

“Isn’t she your mistress then as well if she’s your master’s wife?” asked a puzzled Damian.

“There’s only one mistress around here – or there’d better be – and that’s me” said the witch with a wink.

They entered a great hall. And there sat the giant, Sirian Wood.

Sirian barely noticed Damian’s approach, he was busy with a retinue of what seemed like lawyers and politicians. With a wave of his hand they withdrew eventually. The blonde turned to go as well, and Damian imagined that Sirian gave her a swift wink. Sirian the giant then spoke:

“Fie Fi Fo Fum
“If there’s money going, then I want some
“I know nothing about black fish
“The granite web is my dearest wish.”

Damian had no answer to that, and remained silent for a moment. Changing the subject seemed a good idea though.

“Wow, this is some place you have here” Damian enthused

“But surely you cannot fence in your property to the exclusion of the peasants; there is a right to roam in the land”

“Don’t you worry about any rights my boy; I never do.” the giant murmured.

“This place – ‘tis like heaven!” Damian exclaimed, thinking of the castle in the clouds and the huge mounds of gold sitting in a big pile behind the giant Sirian.

“Well, it is a kind of heaven; a haven if you will, a tax haven.” the giant responded.

The room was rather shabby, except for the pile of gold behind Sirian’s throne, which was enormous.

“You’re looking at my gold” the giant noted.

“That’s 50.4 million gold dubloons I’ll have you know. I’m keeping it for a very special gift which I wish the peasants in the city and shire to accept from me. Either that, or I’ll grow some tea in Africa, and help make the plantation owners richer, with my friend the Giant Saintberry. It will be a great gift to the city – as long as they do exactly what I say, when I say and how I say with my gift.”

“Wow!” Damian was awestruck, not fully understanding the logic of this ‘gift’ – but gold glinted in his eyes making him dizzy.

“What kind of tax must there be on this great wealth?”

“Don’t you worry about any taxes my boy; I never do.” the giant murmured. “Now let’s brass tack this.” 

Sirian leaned forward.

“I want to give the people a statue of me, an outdoor theatre to enjoy all year round, rain, sleet and snow, and some beautiful arches of the finest granite. The people will be able to walk up one end of the arch, and down the other. This way they will be able to get from one side of the parking lot – er I mean garden – to the other. I will give them all this connectivity, people from far off lands will come here to shop.

“My accountants at Pricehousewater Coopers have done all the calculations as I’ve told them to do, and will make everyone rich. All I want in exchange for the money, the arches and the statue is that the townspeople give the park land to my good friends Crosby, Smith and Massie to, er, take care of. Now, you can’t say fairer than that – ” 

The giant leaned forward close to Damian’s face.

“CAN YOU?”

Damian was swooning with thoughts of gold.

“If there were only some way I could help you.” Damian sighed.

“Oh, that’s very kind of you indeed.” said Sirian.

“Since you mention it, it would be very nice if the newspaper you write for could proclaim throughout the land my great generosity in making this gift, how great it will be, and how important those arches are – more so than a bunch of peasant owning a big grassy gathering place in the centre of town.” I’m sure you’ll come up with something – but just in case, here are a few dozen articles that my servants have prepared. Two a week ought to do it.”

A huge scroll of papers was put into Damian’s arms. He barely had time to think. Then again, thinking hadn’t really come into any of his adventures in a positive way so far. There was just one niggling doubt he had.

“So, these are then press releases? I should read them, then investigate, then write my own story?” a puzzled Master Baits asked

“No need for that dear boy; press releases, articles – why confuse the simple townsfolk and peasantry? No, it’s all researched; we even did a poll that proved they want some underground parking, shops and a web. My boy, I will give you some magic gold. Before you know it, you will be going to all the important balls and banquets that the town’s grandees hold. You’ll love it. You’ll be meeting more and more interesting people that you can help, and that can help you back. In short, just print the stories as they are.”

“Here is a tiny token of my thanks to you, you’ll be hearing from my people in due course.”

The giant drew out his sporran. It was covered in cobwebs. As he opened the clasp a great cloud of dust arose. He handed Damian a single gold coin. Damian tried to hide his disappointment.

The grey-skinned giant continued, “It is a great deal of wealth of course in and of itself, and there’s more to come, for this is magic gold. More gold will flow to the coffers of your newspaper as I advertise for strong men to work for me in the seas and in the office blocks we’ll keep building. But mostly, keep this piece of gold, and when people know you have had gold from Sirian, then they shall fall over themselves to help you, knowing how important a person you must be to know me. ”

The giant arose; the door at the end of the great hall opened, and there was that blonde witch again. She stood in the doorway, one hand stretched out to the top of the door opening, the other on her hip.

“Right, er, it’s time for my, er afternoon nap” the giant said; Damian thought he was perhaps blushing.

“Before you go, have you heard of the giant Trumpo? He is a great wizard; he can turn muck into money, and he can fly over the oceans. Where he goes, red carpets and pretty girls appear. He is also a great scholar just like me and my assistant Jenny – I mean Ms Claw. I know this, because I own the great seat of learning called Robbie G’s, and it coincidentally gave Ms Claw a great job, and gave Trumpo a degree, making him an honorary doctor. 

“You’ll love him. Climb the beanstalk tomorrow at the same time; you’ll be driven to his castle in the clouds. The Mary MacLeods to be specific.”

The giant waved his hand, and his servants appeared again, bustling Damian out of the hall. From the corner of his eye Damian thought he saw the giant wrapping his arms around his assistant Ms Claw, but before he knew it, Damian was back on the beanstalk, on his way back home.

That evening Damian had quite a bit to think about. When he arrived home, all sorts of invitations awaited him – dinners and parties and feasts galore. ‘I must be a pretty important guy’ he thought. He put his one gold piece from Sirian on his mantle piece, thinking ‘I want everyone who comes here to see this’.

He fell asleep while reading the many stories about the gardens which would be turned to stone. Words like “vibrant, dynamic, connectivity, transformational” circled around his head. Once when he was about to nod off he realised he hadn’t asked the giant how much it was going to cost to make this grand web – or what it was for. ‘I must remember to do that sometime’ he thought as he fell asleep.

Coins on white

Despite his many trips up and down the beanstalk, Damian was filled with trepidation about his pending audience with the Great Trumpo The Donald. Trumpo was greatly feart in the city and shire alike. His fierce temper, his bellowing voice and his giant sized face with cavernous mouth caused the people to tremble. Damian was awestruck to learn that Trumpo could indeed fly.

Some townsfolk whispered that Trumpo had also caused burgermeister Alex to fly as well, for Trumpo came from a faraway land and Alex visited him for great banquets. It was said by some that Trumpo the Donald was half bear and half giant. This explained the tufts of hair on his head, his roar, his slavering jaw, and huge appetite to get his paws on anyone and anything he desired. Then again, these traits might just as well be due to the fact he was American.

Damian wore his best kilt, and made his way up the beanstalk. Things were different. Was this a dark cloud he was passing through? No, it was in fact smoke billowing from one of the many motor carriages and wagons that lined the roads. A new great ring road was springing up, and Damian could see that the field where horses once pranced and played was now a construction site.

‘All for the best, or so the giants tell me. I’ll trust it to them for verily they are rich – and some even have fancy university degrees!’ he told himself.

He looked down. The fields of green weren’t so green now. The Hill of Tullos was barren – there were no deer, no dame’s violets, no foxes and no gorse. ‘Good’ thought Mr Bates ‘those animals were vermin, the dame’s violets were garden escapees, and that gorse was invasive, serving no other purpose than to shelter the deer, the birds and the foxes. Trees – now that’s where money is – or that’s what my new friends tell me anyway.’

But all he saw was glimpses of tiny fledgling trees engulfed by weeds. The other fields nearby now sported more construction sites or glass and concrete office blocks. ‘What did I ever see in those fields?’ Damian asked himself ‘grass is just empty space that does no good’ he reasoned. No pesky peregrines or irritating eagles came to circle him today either.

Damian did wonder what turning he would take through the clouds on the beanstalk to find Trumpo – but he needn’t have worried. As the clouds cleared, far off loomed the largest sign he’d ever seen, announcing ‘TRUMPO’S GOLF COURSE AND TEMPORARY CLUBHOUSE. THE WORLD’S GREATEST GOLF COURSE. CASH WELCOME.’

Damian approached.

The mist cleared; green grass and a road were visible – speeding down the road towards Master Baits was a white van. ‘Acme Security Company’ it said on its sign. Two men – nearly giants themselves – jumped out and raced towards him.

“Halt! Who goes there! Where’s your ID? What are you doing here? I’ll smash your camera!” said the first guard.

“Hold on a minute there – this is our expected guest to be sure, tis Mr Baits hisselff!” exclaimed the second, extending a hand of welcome. “In ye pop and we’ll take you to the boss himself.”

Damian was bundled into a van and sped down a beautifully smooth path. He was driven at speed past huge mounds of earth, topped by dead and dying fir trees. ‘Well, that’s different’ he thought.

The van parked by a mysterious gate. It was wood painted brown; it sat at the end of a huge coach and carriage park. Either side of this gate was neither fence nor barricade, just more mounds of earth. ‘I guess that access code business doesn’t hold much weight up here at the dizzying heights these giants live at’ Baits thought, as he realised only the fittest and slimmest climber would be able to pass that gate.

They got out of the security van, and there stood an amazing sight: it was the biggest clock Damian had ever seen. It stood 20 foot tall – perhaps Trumpo was so big he needed a big clock Damian wondered – either that or he was compensating for something. On closer inspection the clock seemed even more wonderous – it had four different faces. ‘Trumpo must be very wealthy indeed – and look, each side of the clock has a slightly different time. Perhaps that shows what time it is in the magical realm he’s from, and other realms too.’

The temporary clubhouse was not quite as grand as one might think the world’s greatest golf course’s clubhouse would be. A wooden and glass shack, with some round tables and chairs met Damian’s eye.

A voice boomed from far away.

“Bring in the prisoners!”

The voice struck fear in everyone’s hearts – the guards’ and Damian’s too.

Damian and the two guards entered the clubhouse. A gigantic figure of a man with something on his head sat at the far end of the room. Two of the town’s constables entered, each dragging a man in chains before Trumpo.

“Sir, we caught these two men talking to one of your managers” one of the constables started.

“It’s a breach of the peace, sir. They were asking when yon peasants in the farmhouse will have their water supply fixed – you know, the one we accidentally cut off the other week on purpose. This one’s called Anthony of Baxter; the other is Richard of Phinney. They claim to be journalists.” 

The policeman shoved the two chained men forward in front of the giant and stepped back

Trumpo’s face was like thunder. Aesthetically, this was an improvement. He stood and shook his fist. Surely now Damian would hear the kind of oratory and wisdom that a doctor from Robbie G’s school would be expected to employ. Trumpo spoke:

“Hey! Whaddya think youse guys is doing, comin inta the world’s greatest golf course and taking pictures and talking to my fellers. Wadddya two wiseguys tryin ta pull already? Jeez!”

The tall slender man in chains answered,

“We’re journalists. We want to tell the townsfolk what you’re doing here. You can’t treat people like this – cutting off their water supply, and arresting journalists! Journalists need to be free to let people know what’s going on in the world, you can’t bribe us, you can’t silence us. And by law, you can’t arrest us!”

The man was either brave or foolhearty – or indeed he was a journalist and therefore a little of both.

Damian took a step back. After all he was a journalist on the most popular newspaper in the land. Something seemed wrong to him somehow – was he doing a good job as a journalist? He felt vexed.

“Boss, you can’t arrest ‘em it’s true to be sure” said a security guard. “But I’ll bet you can throw them in the prison for a day or so, and teach ‘em a good lesson. If we give ‘em a caution, that’ll shut ‘em up.”

“All right, all right – just ged ‘em outta here, I’ve got an appointment with a real journalist guy any minnit now.” Addressing the two writers, with his hair flopping in his beady eyes Trumpo said.

“Youse two, you keep outta the joint – this is the world’s greatest golf course after all.”

“Oh no it’s not!” said Anthony and Richard

“Oh yes it is!!” said Trumpo

“OH NO IT’S NOT!” said the defiant journalists

“OH YES IT IS! NOW GED ‘EM OUTTTA MY SIGHT.” 

Baxter and Phinney were dragged from the clubhouse in chains.

“Now I’m in one of my rare bad moods!” roared Trumpo the Donald.

“There’s only one thing for it – bring me my golden harpie.” 

The fearful giant clapped his plump hands.

The security guards returned with the most beautiful thing Damian had ever seen: a beautiful harp with the face of a beautiful girl. ‘Hold on, I know her!’ he thought. The giant Trumpo spoke:

“Fie Fi Fo Fum
“She’s rather pretty if rather dumb
“Useless for golf, but good arm candy
“A girl like this comes in handy.”

“Hey Sarah honey, I think you know my visitor Damian Baits here, dontcha?” Trumpo asked his harp.

“Why yes, when I was but a girl, he plucked me –“ she started.

“I’ll bet he plucked ya sweetheart! Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!” the giant said, roaring with laughter at his own double entendre. 

The guards looked at each other for a moment, one nudged the other in the ribs with his elbow, and they started laughing loudly at their boss’s joke as well.

The harpie blushed.

“Oh er, I mean he plucked me from obscurity, and crowned me ‘The Fairest Face of The Shire’” the harpie explained, hastening to add “It was truly a great honour – but not as much an honour of course as working for you. It’s real fun planning 900 homes, two golf courses, hundreds of homes and a clubhouse.” the harpie hastened to qualify her answer.

“Tell us whatcha know about golfing and project management, honey.” Trumpo demanded.

“Well, there are little balls. There are little holes, and er, you build stuff and then sometimes ask to get permission for the stuff you’ve already built, and… well it’s the largest sand dunes in the world out there.”

“Oh no they’re not!” Damian said before he could stop himself. Counting on his fingers he continued, “There’s the Sahara, the Empty Quarter, Death Vall-”

“OH YES THEY ARE! ARRRGH! Did you not see my plaque what I wrote by the dunes! It says the world’s largest dunes, sos that’s what they are gottit?!” 

The giant rose from his seat, knocking the fake flowers out of the fake porcelain vase onto the fake wooden veneer floor.

Damian was frozen with horror at the faux pas he’d made; the whole room went silent. Thinking quickly (for him that is) he replied.

“Oh, yes, now I see what you mean of course these are the largest, greatest, bestest dunes ever anywhere – please forgive me, I need to do some more research on your beautiful golf club, and I’ll tell all the world – well everything you tell me to tell all the world” Damian stammered.

“Now that’s what I wanna hear!” the giant said; he seemed placated.

“G’wan, have my golden harpie, take her home with you, I’ll bet you can play her like a violin just like I have. Haw! Haw! Haw!” Trumpo sniggered.

“Now I’m sure you’re gonna wanna help lil Sarah harpie here arentcha Damain, and here’s some gold to keep her good looking”

Trumpo put his hand to his mouth and whispered to Damian,

“She’s a bit high maintenance, needs some work done – just like my other exes, Har! Har!”

Trumpo thrust the harpie at Damian; Damian was smitten. So this then was him reunited with the face of the Shire. He looked at her lovely G string, and thought to himself how clever he’d been to get rid of his old cow before taking home this lovely trophy.

“Now Damian, c’mere” said The Donald, putting a giant arm around the young reporter.

“ I want we should forgets all about those two guys what you saw before – not a word about them or journalism in your little newspaper going forward, got it? Sarah here has written some great stuff about golf and the billions of pounds of investment we’re gonna have using all her brain power – she’s smart as a whip, isn’t she?” said the giant, nudging Baits in the ribs

“We’ll help you write some great stories. Here’s our first one.” 

Trumpo yelled to his minions again.

“Bring in those traitors!”

Several councillors were brought in by the security guards, chained together. They looked defiant.

Trumpo the giant turned to Damian.

“These wiseguys thought they could vote against my development plans – vote against ME! Well, you know I’m a giant, but I’m also a magician. Watch this.” 

As Trumpo spoke he waived his hands and a great purple smoke appeared. When it cleared, everyone gasped for to their amazement, the councillors who voted against Trump had been transformed into giant turnips.

“Damian, you’re gonna take some pictures of these knuckleheads, put ‘em on the front cover of that little evening paper ya got, and in giant letters call them ‘TRAITORS’. That’ll show the townspeople what happens when ya try and cross me. You get turned into a neep – that or you get a bit of a granite overcoat. Haw haw!” Trumpo laughed heartily, his booming voice filling the temporary clubhouse.

Damian thought he saw the beautiful harpie shudder. He too felt uncomfortable. Surely the purpose of a newspaper was to present the facts, and make clear what was an opinion and what was a fact? Surely a newspaper had to report the truth despite however much gold it was offered by industrial giants?

“Oh Damian, can we go home soon?” The harp was singing now, and Damian couldn’t remember exactly what, but a moment ago something had bothered him.

He was quite contented to listen to Sarah’s voice. Everything seemed fine.

“There’s a guy I’d like you to meet as well Damian”, Trump spoke, clapping his hands and a wizened little old man with a red face came out of the shadows.

“This is my scientific adviser, say ‘hello Bill’ – it’s Professor Bill Ritchie, from the other shire university, not the one that made me a doctor. Bill tells everyone how green and environmentally friendly we is at the world’s greatest golf course, dontcha Bill?” 

Trump grabbed the little man by the back of his neck and shook him a bit. The professor seemed little more than a puppet.

Damian was astonished: this was the little old professor who proclaimed far and wide that Trumpo’s golf course would be a great place for wildlife. The professor was supposed to record for the shire all of Trump’s great environmental accomplishments, and keep an eye on things. Alas! The professor had long since stopped receiving carrier pigeons or messengers; everyone thought he was dead. And here he’d been hiding all along, with the giant.

Damian wondered for a split second as to the famed professor’s supposed impartiality.

But it dawned on him: ‘I used to think the fields and creatures were good, but now that I’ve met these three giants with such great plans for our future prosperity, I see that the animals can go find somewhere else to live, and those pesky peregrines can flock off, too. I guess Professor Ritchie just figured that out before I did. I wonder if Sirian gave him a special honorary doctorate too – or some other giftie?’ Damian realised all was fine in the realm.

“Now before ya go, here’s a little bit of gold for you, and two very special gifts.”

Trumpo seemed very pleasant as he spoke. He reached into a shiny bag that lay on the table.

‘Would it be more gold?’ Damian wondered, ‘Perhaps a wonderous gift like the harpie or the goose that laid the golden eggs?’

“This is one of my personal Trumpo the Donald neckties, made in a faraway magical land called China. And this is my book, and I’ve even signed it.” Trumpo explained.

Sure enough, inside the book ‘The Art of the Devil’ was a big letter ‘X’.

“I’ll come see you next time I fly in, my granny was from Scotland land ya know.” 

Trump was off, henchmen at his side. Damian took his swag and left.

Unbridled joy was Damian’s. With the harpie on his arm like arm candy, another sackful of gold, a polyester necktie and some great stories to print, he headed down the beanstalk one final time, knowing he was truly now the success he always knew he would be.

Coins on white

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Jun 132014
 

SilverLynx1A new Aberdeen based literary journal has begun the process for ‘proving the existence of contemporary culture in Scotland north of Edinburgh – and refining it’. With thanks to Andrew J Douglas.

The Silver Lynx Sporadical, ‘a literary journal on an enigmatic publication schedule’, has launched an online campaign to spread awareness and has already started reviewing submissions for their debut print issue.

Intended as a throwback to when print was the foremost method of storytelling, The Silver Lynx was established by two friends who found themselves tired of constantly furrowing their brows in a vain attempt to understand the lack of original literature being read in Aberdeen by people who live in Aberdeen.

The Editors-in-Collective, Andrew J. Douglas and Christopher W. Bradley, may not have been born in our fair granite city, but they say the fact they have stuck the place out, living on the ‘breadcrumb’ line, is a reflection of a magic energy found here which is lacking in other cities.

Andrew said:

“We both moved to Aberdeen for Uni.

“I have an immigrant’s love for the place because it has afforded me with opportunities I found severely lacking in Glasgow.

“Glasgow and Edinburgh are seen as the bedrock of Scottish culture but who gives a shit? Aberdeen has always been a town of note throughout the world for its history but in terms of a city it has only really started to grow into itself since the oil was found.

“There are subcultures and lifestyles being lived here that no one knows about because traditional media in the city either ignores it or fails in its editorial responsibilities by reporting from a loaded point of view.

“The Sporadical is primarily a literary journal, but we have bigger plans on various back burners to turn it into a key weapon in the battle for the North-East’s heart, soul, voice and identity.”

The key players in The Silver Lynx certainly have the right kind of credentials for starting this kind if venture.

Editor-in-Collective Christopher W. Bradley is an English literature graduate whose prose style is heavily influenced by the Icelandic sagas (specifically Njal’s), and he harbours delusions of being:

” the world’s last skald with a Bukowskian twist”

Editor-in-Collective Andrew J. Douglas is a journalist and currently lead reporter at the Deeside Piper but writes fiction because he ‘can’t not’.

In-House Artist Ezra Fraserburg says his qualifications are being:

“gay, depressed and having access to sharpies.”

What kind of thing are they looking for?

Andrew:

“We don’t want anyone to be put off from submitting… except idiots writing thinly veiled porn and calling it chic lit, westerns, romance or fantasy.

We want to read about living here, being from here, moving here, that penny you found on George Street that changed your life, that abandoned building in Ferryhill, that night in Torry, that day in Duthie park… We just want to read anything that anyone who thinks they can write has written.

This is a place of struggle and opposing ideas. It is a breeding ground for creativity.”

Christopher:

“Everything Andy said, but I’ll add: if you’re not from the North-East nor writing about the North-East, still submit. We still want to read what you’ve got to write (assuming its excellent). Sure, The Beast sleeps in the granite city, and a large portion of the stories will be relating to Aberdeen, but the city’s just the conduit.

So long as it’s in English and we think it’s brilliant, it’ll probably go in.

“I see The Lynx as a significant turning point for the city, and if we get it right, a significant turning point for literature. Aberdeen is the frontier town of consumer-capitalism… black gold in the sea and what should be a cultural hub from all the nations it attracts people from for their share of it, but its not… yet.”

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