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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Jan 102014
 

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

DictionaryTally Ho! Happy New Year!

I trust everyone is happily settling down to the 9-5 routine after having time off for the holidays. The sales continue, despite dire warnings that the city council has to build something to save the retail market. Amazing.

Over the holidays I took a little walk around the Menie Estate; the friendly security guards patrolled in unmarked white vans.  Someone seems to have planted gorse on a footpath or two, and the beautiful entrance gates have been decorated with a rusted-shut padlock and a few boulders.

Having  sealed this gate to the parking lot, the area is further made inviting by more sand and dirt piled up on the sides of the gate, topped with dying squares of loose turf.

Mountain goats will have no problem going around the sides of this gate.

But don’t worry: Aberdeenshire’s Access Officers have been working on improving the situation. Since last March. I’d hate for them to feel embarrassed into enforcing the laws they are paid to enforce. For that matter, the bunds still remain in place; no doubt the council will want to save itself further embarrassment and get this situation rectified sooner rather than later.

As much as I admire the boundary/pushing spirit that BrewDog embodies, I’ll be happy if they can stay away from a new beer fad emerging from whaling –happy Iceland. I’m sure no one will have anything to do with Brugghús Steðja who have decided to make whales into beer. This is apparently been marked as ‘beer for real Vikings’. I personally think it is beer for real  %!£$(@  #!!^&$£ “£$&*£”!# s, but there you go. While most of the rest of the world is trying to eliminate unnecessary cruelty, there are still some nations happy to make a go of making money out of it.

I’ll stick to my BrewDog, many thanks. BrewDog have in the past used a small number of road kill animals for taxidermy; I wasn’t mad about it – but no animals were killed deliberately.  Companies like Stedja are probably why I’ve gone vegetarian again. By the way, congratulations to the makers behind excellent documentary ‘Blackfish’ about the cruelties of Sealand towards orcas and other creatures – they’ve been nominated for a BAFTA.

One of the more charming stories over the holidays was the discovery of mice, wasps and bedbugs in Aberdeen’s schools. I guess this puts the schools on a par with the local hospitals. With recent stories in the news about the state of our schools, dodgy teachers, educational league tables, vocational education and so on dominating local and national news lately, it’s time for some timely definitions.

Left Wing Academics: (modern Eng. phrase; plural noun) Educators with political views less conservative than the views of the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government.

Perhaps home schooling is the only way forward for caring parents who would shield their children from what Michael Gove , Secretary for Education calls ‘Left Wing Academics.’ These sinister figures may tell your children to question authority, and to question the accuracy of what they are given to read. Remember, if something is in print, then it is true – just pick up a copy of the latest Press & Journal, and you’ll be ahead of the class for the latest factual information.

No, the class structure and the elite had no part in the War to end All War

We need to be careful what sort of revisionist ideas are being circulated, and Gove has bravely stood up to left-wing entertainer, Sir Tony Robinson. This left-winger has been involved in archaeology which can lead to an interest in history. If that weren’t left enough, Robinson is an actor who appeared in an anti-war satire.

You won’t have heard of the little-known Blackadder comedy television franchise, but one of its series suggested that World War I might have been in some ways flawed. Gove says: left-wing academics:

 “were using Blackadder “to feed myths” about World War One.” 

Our education supremo went on to display his grasp of history and command of the language as he explained:-

 “The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh, What a Lovely War!, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite.

“Even to this day there are left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths.”

No, the class structure and the elite had no part in the War to end All Wars, which was the crowning achievement of military strategy. The shooting of shell-shocked, mentally distressed deserters ordered by officers had no class struggle in it at all. Perhaps there were one or two little military awkward moments like Gallipoli, the Allied defeat at the Dardanelles  and all those front line attacks , but a google search on ‘World War 1 blunders’ only got me 949,000 results.  One of the websites had a very left wing slant indeed:

“In Britain alone one third of the male population were casualties. We should learn from these costly mistakes of history so that we will not make similar errors.”   http://hornherald.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/military-mistakes-of-world-war-1-part-2.html

That kind of talk is no way to get the next generation ready to sign up for the next war, is it?

Robinson told left wing media news agency the BBC:

“I think Mr Gove has just made a very silly mistake; it’s not that Blackadder teaches children the First World War. When imaginative teachers bring it in, it’s simply another teaching tool; they probably take them over to Flanders to have a look at the sights out there, have them marching around the playground, read the poems of Wilfred Owen to them. And one of the things that they’ll do is show them Blackadder.

“And I think to make this mistake, to categorise teachers who would introduce something like Blackadder as left-wing and introducing left-wing propaganda is very, very unhelpful. And I think it’s particularly unhelpful and irresponsible for a minister in charge of education.”

Gove’s people countered:

“Michael thinks it is important not to denigrate the patriotism, honour and courage demonstrated by ordinary British soldiers in the First World War.”

These men both unselfishly do all they can to help their spouse’s careers

So there you have it. On one side, an uneducated, demented man known for his silly clowning around and being the jester to his superior. And on the other side you have Sir Tony Robinson.

So, keep your children away from those left-wing academics. And to help you do so, thankfully we  have the wise words of Sir Ian Wood.

Footnote on Family Values: 

There is a similarity between P&J editor Damian Bates and Michael Gove that I’ll briefly mention in passing. These men both unselfishly do all they can to help their spouse’s careers, and if that isn’t love, then what is? We have seen the factual pieces in the P&J extolling the virtues of Mrs Sarah Malone-Bates’ employer Donald Trump – world’s greatest golf course, world’s biggest sand dunes (well, it’s written on a plaque Trump designed, so it must be true), and a restaurant rated 6/6.

Then we come to Mr Gove’s devotion to Mrs Gove. In testament to her rapier-like wit, she’s been given a newspaper column to write (nothing to do with her husband’s position of course). She’s such an independent, honest woman that she writes under her maiden name, Sarah Vine. This is like the modesty Sarah Malone shows, working for Trump not as Mrs Bates, but as Sarah Malone. Sarah started a wee company to help the  rest of us look as beautiful as she does; and conveniently on Facebook, it has a link to a government Department of Work & Pensions.

According to the Mirror:

“The Department for Work and Pensions’ Facebook page includes a link to Get the Gloss under a post advising how to “dress for success”.

Get the Gloss was co-founded by the Tory Education Secretary’s beauty journalist wife Sarah Vine. It offers products such as Creme de la Mer serum at £230 and Gypsy Water perfume at £130. The website’s beauty expert Judy Johnson also shares her words of wisdom on the Facebook page.

They include:

“The first impression you make with a potential employer is the most important one.”

She adds:

“Make sure your eyes look perky so you don’t look all sleepy – people will hire you more if you look awake! (A good night’s sleep usually helps or a good under eye concealer).”

Labour’s Teresa Pearce expressed surprise that the DWP was suggesting people on jobseeker’s allowance of £71.70 a week could afford such items and accused ministers of being “patronising” and demeaning”.

She added:

“It is a cheap marketing ploy designed to exploit female body insecurities and the anxieties of those seeking work to make a quick profit.

“The reason so many people are unemployed is the lack of available work and not because they need pricey beauty products. Having ‘perky’ eyes won’t change that.” http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/michael-gove-wife-sarahs-beauty-2999455

I wonder if these two power couples, the Mr Bates and the Goves shouldn’t get together?

Want to know what kind of educated citizen is valued and rewarded by Sir Ian? Old Susannah is happy to oblige.

Honorary Doctorate: (Eng. compound noun)  A person whose achievements are so considerable that an institution of higher education confers a diploma on them without their having attended courses.

Think of successful businessmen, model citizens, virile hunters of African game and if you don’t first swoon with admiration you think first of Donald Trump. More accurately, Donald Trump, Doctor of Business Administration (Hon DBA).

Sir Ian, who will be chairing a committee to shape your children’s future, is of course Chancellor of RGU. He conferred this title on the deserving Donald.

Mr Trump’s behaviour in north-east Scotland has been deplorable

Alas! Not all were happy. One disgruntled academic returned his degree to RGU. Dr Kennedy had probably been jealous; Trump had earned lots of money and didn’t therefore have to go through the usual hard work of getting a degree. Kennedy, who is probably some kind of left wing academic like Sir Tony Robinson said at the time:

“Mr Trump is simply not a suitable person to be given an honorary degree and he should not be held up as an example of how to conduct business.

“Mr Trump’s behaviour in north-east Scotland has been deplorable from the first, particularly in how he has treated his neighbours.”

Sounds like envy to me.

Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce: (Scottish Government Quango)  – Body created one year ago by central government, chaired by Sir Ian Wood “tasked with bringing forward a range of recommendations designed to improve young people’s transition into employment”.

Let’s face it, the real purposes of education are to learn how to pass tests and to learn how to do some task that will make you money. It’s wonderful that Sir Ian Wood will be passing on all of his ethics, philosophical, architectural and cultural skills to upcoming generations. If we stick to vocational education and business studies, we’ll have a better society. I’m sure Sir Ian means to also call for more young minds to study philosophy, ethics, environmental protection, fine and performing arts – but it seems he’s not got round to that yet.

There is coincidentally a skills shortage in the oil industry: this means that you have to pay people more than if you train lots of people up to do specific energy industry jobs. We need to train people how to do manual labour. We also need to train people how to look for tax loopholes. For those of you interested in the vocational training they want to roll out from an early age to your children (presumably there is more time for this now that music, sports and arts have been cut back), here are some details.
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/09/7161

Some final thoughts on education:

There are still some people out there who think that the purpose of a good education should be to let children explore all of the arts and sciences and then let them decide where their talents and interests take them.

there are many different views and no religion can claim superiority

There are some who think there is value in learning a musical instrument, in learning how to play, and enjoy physical activity. Still others believe that if you teach a child how to use logic so they know how to frame an argument, weigh up facts for themselves and reach conclusions, you make them better, more informed citizens.

Others believe that the environment and nature should be experienced first hand and studied (perhaps this would have helped the police in the borders who mistook skinned roe deer they found for badgers. NB – I hope the poachers will be caught, but alas, they never seem to be).

Some people believe that studying art and nature will lead to creativity and a sense of aesthetics (I’d like to know where the granite web’s architects studied form and aesthetics).

There are proponents of comparative religious studies, so people can realise that there are many different views and no religion can claim superiority. Some believe that if you teach children about history, they may learn from the mistakes and triumphs of those who came before and learn about their own culture and therefore identity (I wonder where the property developers and obliging Central Government Reporter who will allow  building on the fields by Culloden studied history?).

There are those who feel if girls learnt about the struggles women made in the recent past to be able to vote, to own property and to study, they would be empowered (and then there is the Taliban, who had teenager Malala shot in the head for going to school). And there are even those who believe children studying all of these arts and sciences with the tools of logic and philosophy engrained would build a better, gentler, happier, cleaner world.

Thankfully, all that nonsense will soon be gone when upcoming generations are taught  how to make money and hang the rest.

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Dec 242013
 

ChristmasTwas the night before Christmas and all through the Deen
Nae een were stirrin, ye ken fit Ah mean?

ACSEF members were nestled all smug in their beds
Visions of brown envelopes danced in their heids
Lady Helen in her kerchief, and Sir Ian in his cap
Had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap

When out on their lawn there arose such a clatter
Ian sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.
Away to his window, he flew like a flash
Hoping no one would try robbing his cash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of granite to objects below
When what to Sir Ian’s beady eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer:

“There’s no right of access to land near my home
“I’ve got lots of money so you’ve no right to roam!”

Twas a little old man with a red suit and beard
“Could this be a communist?” Ian Wood feared.
Santa approached, getting out of his sled
Turning to Ian, this is what he said:-
Christmas

“Perhaps greed and age have made you grow thick
“For as any fool knows I am St Nick.
“I’ve come to the Deen to reward the good
“On second thoughts I could skip you, Ian Wood.”

“The thing is, with the greedy things that you do
“I just don’t think that I can believe in you.”

At this Ian faltered – he so wanted presents:
“Hold on now Santa, I’m not one of the peasants.
“Let’s talk for a moment so I can explain
“How you can maximise your capital gain.”

“Pay your elves’ wages from an offshore tax haven
“Hoots Santa – think of the dosh you’d be savin’.
“Perhaps you should start a ‘Claus Family Trust,
“And there’s ‘Venture Philanthropy’ – yes, that’s a must.”

“No taxes to pay and you’ll save lots of money
“Stop giving away gifts for free – it’s not funny,”
“Just because poor people put up a tree
“Doesn’t mean you should give gifties for free.”

Santa sighed, saying “Thank you indeed Ian Wood
Christmas“I think though that you just might be up to no good.
“If you paid your taxes, if you weren’t so greedy
“I dare say that others might not be so needy.”

“I’ll bid you good night; I’ll say no more.”
“But do say hello to your close friend, Mrs Craw.”

Donner, the lead deer, was slightly perplexed
“Well Santa, which house will we fly to next?”
“Let’s go to the Milne house since we are quite near.”
And off flew St Nick, the elves and the deer.

“Santa, this heated driveway is quite nice,
“It’s totally clear of all snow and all ice.”
Stewart Milne’s ‘eco’ house had some curious features
This driveway was welcome to Santa’s cold creatures.

“Just one gift for Stew, here, do have a wee look”
St Nick was clutching a nice brand new book
“What is it called?” asked a curious elf
“Football for beginners” – Santa laughed to himself.

“I don’t know that Stewart kens much o the game
“He cares more for money, still all the same
“In the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of Yule
Christmas“This book may help him ken the offside rule.”

Away the deer flew with the sled full of gifts
“Hey,” Comet said, “D’ye ken Milne wears lifts?”
All the deer laughed until it was clear
That towards Aileen Malone’s house they were drawing near.

“Don’t be afraid of that witch” Santa said
“Who as we know had your comrades shot dead
“Deer, if anyone needed the loo,
“We’re over Malone’s house. Yes I think this will do.”

Over Malone’s roof they arrived in a twinkling,
And soon every reindeer and elf started tinkling.
“There are those politicians who will tell you, by heck
“that really it’s raining as they pee down your neck.”

“So do your business – relieve yourselves here.
“In memory of 36 Tullos Hill deer.”

The deer did their business and some of them tittered
“With only 5 LibDems she must be embittered.
“At the election her side got quite trounced.
“Change course for the Bates’!” St Nick announced.”

ChristmasAnd soon Santa stood on the Malone-Bates roof
“No wonder that these newlyweds were so aloof
“No news in the press of their marriage was blurted
“To ensure their financial interests weren’t hurted.”

Perfect gifts for these lovebirds Santa had found;
Down their chimney Santa jumped with a bound.

But just as our Santa started to speak
He was scared by a monster which started to shriek.

Santa stared at the thing which wore a night gown
Could this be some kind of a beast or a clown?
Its hair was in rollers, its eyes were cucumbers
Its face was green mud: “You interrupted my slumbers!”

“You’ve got ash on my carpet! Turn around and get out!”
The hideous thing did shriek and did shout.
Santa twigged who it was, she normally looked fairer
It was ‘The Face of the Deen’, the lovely bride Sarah:

“In order for my great beauty to keep
“I need many hours of deep beauty sleep.”
“Oh Sorry,” said Santa, “my fair beauty queen
“I ken now why you are the Face of the Deen.”
Christmas

“From me you will not hear any further peep
“Clearly you’re behind on your beauty sleep
“I’ve just some small gifts for you two then I’ll go
“Back to my sleigh outside in the snow.”

“I’m amazed at the way you two work close together
“Let’s hope that there won’t be any stormy weather
“Like when the course fell into the North Sea last year
“And the cold’s perhaps wrinkled your sweet face my dear.”

Sarah said, “I’ve got an old man and he gives me  presents,
“My beautiful face put me above other peasants
“He pays me to run the world’s greatest course”
(Mrs Bates showed  not even a sign of remorse).

“Well then Sarah, I’ve two little gifties for you
“A gallon of wrinkle cream, och aye the noo,
“And a book you should read , it’s called ‘Golf can be fun”
(For she hadn’t a clue when all said and done).

“No need to thank me, I’m just here to serve
“And I do think you have got the gifts you deserve.”
As the sleigh left, its bells made a sweet tinkle
Sarah ran to the mirror to check on her wrinkle.
Christmas

“All these liars and cheats, they do make me cross
“But let’s pay a visit to Sarah  Bates’ boss”
The elves were astounded- “Santa don’t be a chump”
Santa answered “I do have one giftie for Trump.”

Donald was home, counting his money
And planning a trip to somewhere quite sunny:
“Where can I go next to get a good thrill
“With lions and tigers and bears I can kill?”

The Donald thought people loved him – the great hunter
But everyone thought: ‘what a horrible c*nt’ – (Er,
sorry ‘bout the language but thinking of him
Makes my blood pressure rise and me head start to spin).

The Don said “I built this course for my auld Scottish Nanny”
St Nick replied “Now just you listen here, mannie
“I’ve got a list of who’s nice and who’s naughty
“Or arrogant, scheming deceptive and haughty.
“No gift for you – no ifs, ands or buts
“But please take a voucher –it’s for ‘Supercuts’.”

Izon Security arrived on the spot
They’d been spying on locals – they do that a lot:
Christmas“Get out of that sleigh and let’s see your ID!”
Santa replied: “Are you talking to me?”

“Get stuffed you great b*stards” Santa said with a hiss
“Has the right to roam been reduced to this?
“You’ve no right to spy or to hassle good folk
“And this golf course is really one heck of a joke.”

With a jingle of bells St Nick and his team
Flew over the Great Dunes of North Aberdeen
“Come on deer and elves, there are good folk in need
“The ones who are victims of all this crass greed.

“The ones who are teachers and nurses and such
“They get paid very little yet do very much
“The children who don’t have enough food to eat
“Aberdeen may be rich, but some live on the street.”

“There are people who help the sick and the poor
“Some help animals too, and of this I am sure
“Those who help others with no thought of themselves
“They are the real saints, the real Santas and elves.”

Santa and his team spent the rest of their night
Giving out presents to good folks’ delight.
ChristmasAsk yourselves this “Am I naughty or nice?”
If you’re a bad one, take some advice.

Flaunting your wealth, and harming others
Ruins the chance that we have to be brothers
If you can help, then you should get stuck in
Greed, don’t you know is a terrible sin.

It’s never too late to fight the good fight
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

– Suzanne Kelly

– . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . –

Picture – Christmas Tree Baubles

Credit: Ian Britton. Freefoto.com
http://www.freefoto.com/download/90-04-66/Christmas-Tree-Baubles

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Nov 142013
 

Plagiarism. Say it out loud now: It doesn’t make you feel good, does it? It makes you feel sleazy and unimaginative.  It’s not the same as writing. It’s not the same as saying ‘Creative writing is what I do’, is it? Suzanne Kelly writes.

Plagiarise2Stuart Heritage wrote a column on winter in the Guardian, which is paraphrased above; by mentioning his name here and acknowledging the fact, there is no harm done. In paraphrasing Heritage, disgraced ex-Press & Journal columnist Carly Fallon is also in a sense paraphrased, for she had appropriated Heritage’s words and passed them off as her own.

Sadly, the meaning and seriousness of plagiarism seems to have been totally lost on Fallon.

In her (?) work, which oddly is no longer available online, she shamelessly hijacks Heritage’s piece, dumbs it down, and changes a few adjectives.

There is no thanks to Heritage, no ‘by your leave’ and no reference. No quotation marks are used around his phrases to show they are not hers. This is plagiarism, or put another way, one writer stealing another writer’s work and passing the theft off as being original.

Fallon Angel

Carly Fallon, married to New Zealand footballer Rory Fallon was given a column to write for the Press & Journal. This would undoubtedly have been no mere cynical exercise to fill space and hopefully increase circulation by capitalising on an attractive looking woman married to a sports star playing in Scotland’s Premier League.

Surely after advertising for a columnist/diarist, and sifting through hundreds of writing samples from aspiring and seasoned writers, the best woman for the job won. No doubt the P&J will be happy to explain the merits on which they handed out this column, and share with its readership how much Carly was paid.

Scott Bryan of Buzzfeed analysed the Heritage and Fallon columns, and found paragraph after paragraph of Fallon’s later piece was identical or nearly so. The Buzzfeed piece can be found here:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/scottybryan/local-paper-columnist-plagarises-column-from-the-guardian

Fallon Press Standards

Damian Bates’ apology can be found in this STV piece (no word yet from Fallon) http://news.stv.tv/north/247770-carly-fallon-was-axed-by-the-press-and-journal-over-plagiarism/.

In it Bates is quoted as saying:-

“Obviously plagiarism – in any form – is totally unacceptable.  I take this matter very seriously indeed and have decided that we will no longer be accepting columns from freelance writer Carly Fallon. 

“I’m deeply disappointed this situation has arisen and apologise for any upset this has caused anyone.”

Damian Bates is on the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee of the Press Complaints Commission, and was promoted to lead all of the Aberdeen papers owned by Aberdeen Journals Ltd last year.

Perhaps it is a bit galling for Fallon to have been dismissed from the paper by a man whose paper arguably promotes his wife’s business interests? Mrs Bates, aka Sarah Malone, works for Donald Trump at the Menie Estate, where two Sites of Special Scientific Interest were given over for a golf course and housing, and where the residents face intrusive security, and a host of hardships.

The paper often runs pieces favourable to Trump (who stands accused of racketeering in the US at present over his Trump ‘University’ programme). In fact Bates declared he would not run anything from pressure group Tripping Up Trump – claiming among other things they were not ‘local’ enough for their members’ opinions to be considered.

The P&J has all but ignored Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney’s documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ which won awards world-wide. In it the many issues of Trump’s activities at the Menie Estate are examined by experts; it includes dramatic footage of the documentary makers being arrested while filming – a new first for the area, and arguably a low for journalism.

All of which adds up to some very interesting values and standards at work within Aberdeen Journals Ltd.

Surely though, with anti-plagiarism software in existence, and with others making the connection between Fallon and purloined paragraphs, someone at the P&J involved in reading, proofreading and editing her columns might have had a sense of déjà vu?

Fallon on a Bruise

Alas for Carly, the cat is out of the bag, the jig is up, and the fact is copy that went out under her name in the P&J was appropriated from writers elsewhere in the UK without any acknowledgement, thanks or compensation. The word is that Fleet Street’s finest lawyers are rubbing their hands and sharpening their pencils in anticipation of compensation claims on behalf of the wronged writers and their publishers.

Fallon on Hard Times

The Bastion of journalistic ethics, The Aberdeen Press & Journal (Editor Damian Bates) has disposed of Mrs Fallon’s services after her plagiarism was proved beyond any reasonable doubt. Not only had this hack hijacked Heritage’s work, she’d also borrowed heavily (to say the least) from other writers including Guardian’s Lucy Mangan, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, Toby Young (The Spectator) and Jan Moir (Daily Mail).

Toby Young wrote ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People;’ there is some evidence that Mrs Fallon, if not copying this text, is at any rate applying its philosophy. Stuart Heritage’s Twitter account notes he’s had an apology from the editor of the P&J, but no word yet from Carly.

What were the complex subjects analysed by these writers  that were so difficult to grasp that stealing the material was the only solution to covering the issues examined? Whether Winter has more gravity than the other seasons, the joys of wearing a warm bathrobe instead of a silk kimono, and how is it that summer can fade to the winter months, and Halloween.

What should have been easy, simplistic musings from football WAG Fallon on common subjects became this unfortunate serial columnar kleptomania. Our average sixth formers could have come up with something original to say on these themes, but sadly, not Carly. Or did Carly indeed write these columns in the first place?

If she had used a ghost writer, or had a ghost writer foisted upon her by a publication eager to seize on her football-related popularity, then she wouldn’t have been the first a, b or z list sleb to be ghosted. At present neither Mrs Fallon nor the Press & Journal have commented on this possible angle.

Writing is – or should be – a highly individualised activity; the writer invests their time, research and skills into producing something that they want to be associated with. Stealing an author’s work is about as low as a fellow author can sink.

What would have been solicitor Carly Fallon’s first clue that plagiarism was criminal? Perhaps she missed class the day this would have been broached by her professors.

Then again, as long as there are tabloids like the P&J that dole out columnist jobs to celebrities first, then worry about writing calibre and credentials, and the small matter of having something to say later, we’ll keep valuing writing as an activity anyone can do, and one that is only of interest if the person doing the writing is famous, or bedding the famous.

There will inevitably be further fallout from the Fallon story; all that remains to be said is ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive’ – Sir Walter Scott (lest there be any doubt).

Image credit: © Antony Rufus | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Jun 212013
 

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

Tally Ho!  Summer time and the living is vibrant and dynamic.  Race for Life takes place in a fortnight; Duthie Park will reopen in style on the 30th; Willows is holding an open day on the 22nd, the Portsoy Boat Festival runs all this coming weekend, and much more is going on.

As soon as time permits, I’ll write about the RGU degree show held last Friday.  Visitors and staff alike were impressed at the quality of the work.

With the BrewDog Annual General Meeting days away, I can barely concentrate for excitement.

They are also releasing more shares, and no doubt my purchase of another two shares will throw my moralistic critics into a tailspin.

Not only that, but I have accepted my first ever ever gift from someone I’m writing about.

The piece should be in today’s Aberdeen Voice, and I am sure it will do as much to restore your faith in our police as it has done for me.

Anyway I initially refused the gift, but not wanting to upset my contact, I acquiesced and accepted it.  Readers will have to decide on their own how corrupt this makes me and how biased and obligated to my source I am.  I have accepted, as a gift for writing about something, a tiny piece of macaroon, and an (unopened) packet of popping candy.

I intend to share this at the Aberdeen Voice anniversary party; more on that eventually from our editor, Fred.

Suffice it to say Aberdeen Voice is now virtually 3 years old.  I shall wait by my mailbox for congratulatory letters and telegrams from old and new friends, from Neil Fletcher and Kate Dean to Stewart Milne and Donald Trump.  I keep trying to convince editor Fred Wilkinson to either marry one of the Trump children or open an erotic publishing arm to boost our standing and income, but he seems a little less than keen.

So Alas!  We won’t be in the same league as Aberdeen Journals anytime soon.  Still, I live in hope.

My BrewDog and journalistic freebies euphoria as been tempered by the surprise announcement that Aberdeen did not get further with its City of Culture bid.

You’ll never guess the suspected reason, so astutely pointed out in unbiased fashion by the 20 June Press & Journal.  They are 100% certain we’d have won this prestigious award if only we’d built a granite web over Union Terrace Gardens. I’m sure the culture judges simply didn’t do their homework.  I just hope they didn’t get distracted by our little hiccoughs regarding culture.

we shot our 70 year old herd of harmless roe deer, bulldozed their meadow

Did they care that we allowed the Foyer to close?  It provided structure and support to young people with problems while allowing established and fledgling artists to show their work with openings attended by many sections of Aberdeen society.

Did the culture judges care that in a town of billionaires and multi-millionaires no one would rescue – for a mere £5k – Limousine Bull?  Bull provided affordable studio spaces in Torry for new artists, held art classes, ran exhibitions, and improved the cultural life in Torry.

Did the judges care that while ‘transforming’ Aberdeen we shot our 70 year old herd of harmless roe deer, bulldozed their meadow which was home to many species and turned it back into a barren rubbish tip, studded with saplings destined to die?  Did they care about how we closed services to young, old and people with special needs and abilities?

Of course not – like the rest of the world, they wanted us to borrow £90 million, rip out the only city centre green space without tombstones on it, and build a bunch of ramps that went up and down.  And that’s why we lost.  I hope you feel as ashamed as I do.

This devastating loss of a prestigious award, which saw giant spiders in the streets of Liverpool costing only a million pounds or so is crushing.  Still, we live on.

Thankfully we are being castigated over the loss by arbiters of good taste, John Prescott and the Press and Journal.

Some folks suspect the P&J had a vested interest in supporting their advertisers’ granite web dream project.  Others still think the P&J and its sister the Evening Express contrived in subtle ways to gently, subliminally convince the public the web was the answer to our prayers, but I can’t find any examples of any such behaviour.

Where did our culture bid go wrong?  We had a guy painting himself different colours and sitting in the window of an independent record store that couldn’t afford to keep going.  We took web saleswoman Rita Stephen and put her in charge, ostensibly because she knows how to sell things like, er, the idea of a web.

John Prescott wants Barney Crockett to be ashamed

We have missed our one and only chance to be a city with webs that people want to live close to.  As the P&J suggests, we should ‘Hang Our Heads In Shame’.

And on that note some definitions.

Shameless: (Eng. adjective) to fail to, or refuse to acknowledge or display remorse, guilt or regret when conditions merit it.

When our betters tell us to be filled with shame, we would do well to obey.  When our conscience tells us we have done wrong, we should admit it and show remorse.

The Press & Journal want us to be ashamed for not building the web.  John Prescott wants Barney Crockett to be ashamed – Crockett suggested Aberdeen was edged out of the all-important Culture contest in part for being a rich city compared to the other contenders.

Who should know more about shame than Prezza and the Prezza and Journal?

Prescott, when not confessing his infidelities with his secretary, doing television programmes about ‘class’  and beating egg-throwing protestors, seems to have a new string to his bow – criticising his own party members.  As to the affair, his wife Pauline decided to stand by him after he admitted two years of cheating with one of his secretaries (which was OK, because it wasn’t love, so that’s all right).

Pauline Prescott stayed with her husband for the sake of the book, which earned a few pennies here and there.

It recounts John’s romantic marriage proposal (to the wife, not the secretary), which was delivered in a train toilet (hopefully one of those larger train toilets rather than the small ones).  So if anyone is qualified to tell Crockett and the web-resisters they should be ashamed, then it is Prezza.

Quite what the City of Culture judges saw in Dundee is a mystery

Also without sin and eager to cast stones is our own Press & Journal. By now Old Susannah readers know about the cosy relationship between its editor Damian Bates and Sarah Malone Bates, face of Trump golf in Scotland.

Bates’ faultless love life conduct and professional bearing dictate the editorial policy that allows him to use the P&J to tell us to be ashamed.  And that, as they say is a Result.

Quite what the City of Culture judges saw in Dundee is a mystery – they have an arts centre with programmes for all ages to create, discuss and view art, socialise and engage with each other.  They have embraced their old buildings and, in Brownfield sites created new spaces for the arts.

They have turned their waterfront not into an extended industrial harbour as is proposed for Torry’s remaining unspoilt coast, but instead created a pleasant, social meandering walk from restaurants and bars to historic sailing ships.  (If you haven’t visited the Unicorn or the Discovery, I recommend you do so).

Their shops are in part filled with small designers and local merchants who can afford the rates. They must have bribed the judges.  And not a web in sight.

I can think of one other cultural crack in our granite culture bid.  That is our disappointing crime culture.  The guilty know who they are – because the police shamed them in the P&J issue of 18 June.

Guilt: (Eng. Noun) responsibility, culpability for an event, problem or issue.

This car crime that plagues Aberdeen – the police know who’s behind it, and they’re doing something about it.  No, they’re not re-establishing the  Facebook page ‘Aberdeen Stig Boy Racers’.  You may recall this website which operated under the watchful eye of our police – over 400 people bragged about / supported/ joked about car theft, including posting ‘how to’ schematics.

Of course this was in no way a problem; the police never criticised it at all.  Perhaps they were using it as a handy way to detect crime.

It’s not the thieves who are at fault

Some might think preventing crime by having police doing the rounds, or by not allowing people to glamourise crime might have been a better idea, but there you go.

These Stig theft fans were only engaging in harmless banter.  The real culprits should hang their heads in shame.  According to the P&J 18 June:-

“Police blame careless owners for car thefts.’

Yes that’s right.   Those selfish, greedy, careless people who don’t lock their cars 100% of the time and/or who keep keys in their kitchens or near their front doors are guilty as sin.  They’re asking for it.

It’s not the thieves who are at fault; it’s the people who want to think their belongings shouldn’t be stolen from their garages or their homes.  Of course in terms of violence against women, the idea that women are ‘asking for it’ has been deemed offensive and inaccurate.

When it comes to car owners though – fair enough for the police to say they bring it on themselves.  That is what we call progress.

I’d like to ask everyone who’s ever not locked their car, everyone who keeps keys in their properties which could be seen by a thief innocently casing the joint and pressing their nose to the glass to do the right thing.  Turn yourselves in.

You can’t expect the police to be out on patrol everywhere (or indeed anywhere); they have some really dangerous people to deal with.  I don’t mean ‘one man crime wave’ Mad Max Milligan who at 17 has stolen over £15k’s worth of goods   He had a troubled background, and we need to cut him some slack.  I mean the really dangerous people.

Guilty as charged is one hardened criminal, a Mr. X.  I won’t name him for fear of reprisals.

He was given a lenient £300 fine for his first offence – although a custodial sentence would have been more appropriate.

I only wish they had cordoned off streets at the time and tasered him.

This man, seemingly a mild-mannered engineering graduate with no criminal record was spotted by eagle-eyed police camera operations at Christmas time walking our city streets with – a small corkscrew.

The offensive weapon, still in its plastic wrappings, was deemed to be an a massive security threat, and worthy of the fine imposed.  I only wish they had cordoned off streets at the time and tasered him.

I suppose the guilty party would have got off with a lesser fine, but he invented a ridiculous story, and claimed he won the corkscrew in something called a ‘Christmas cracker’.  Ridiculous.  If any of you out there are carrying nail files, corkscrews, pointy keys, knitting needles or hair pins turn yourselves in now, you too may get off lightly.

However, if you feel like walking into the £1 shop next to Moulton Brown and buying an air pistol and some pellets, the police are happy for you to do so, as long as you’re over 18 years old and are then obviously completely mature.

I’m just glad to know that somewhere, someone high up in our esteemed police force is deciding who to target, and the judicial branch is responding with appropriate sentences.  We can all sleep easier tonight – as long as there is nothing valuable in our kitchens, downstairs rooms or cars.

Next week:  more law enforcement news, BrewDog AGM, and more.

Bliddy Hypocrites

 Creative Writing, Opinion  Comments Off on Bliddy Hypocrites
Jun 212013
 

By Bob Smith.

The”P&J” wis ask’t tae leave
A  debate aboot eddicashun
They took iss aa tae hairt
As a slur on Press reputashun

A maun agree with the paper’s view
An they shudna hae bin chucked oot
Bit they’re bein a bittie hypocritical
Fin ither facts they’ve gien the boot

“Iss wis a maitter o public interest
An the pros an cons needed airin”
So says their ain opinion column
Yet TUT views they’re nae fer blarin

Cast yer myn back a fyow ‘ear ago
In the paper TUT cwid nae be vocal
Cos accordin tae the “P&J” editor
The organisation it wisna local

Noo  is his bin since proved
Tae be a richt heap o shite
There’s lots o local fowkies
Faa in TUT took up the fight

A wid say in the public interest
Tripping Up Trump maun be heard
Their pros an cons aboot Trumpie
Wi aabody shud be shared

So cum aa ye “P&J” hypocrites
It’s time tae pit things richt
An owerturn iss stupid ban
So TUT views see the licht

Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

May 312013
 

In the Financial Times on 24 May, Sarah Malone, Executive Vice-President of Trump International Golf Links, said, “10000 people played the course in its short first season last year and 11000 have already booked rounds in 2013, out of a total capacity of up to 25000”. Julian Baker looks behind these claims.

Aberdeenshire’s local authority and the Scottish Government have taken a big gamble in risking the wellbeing of an SSSI on the promise of new jobs from the Trump Organisation and a knock-on increase in tourism.

I have been following closely the volume of business this golf course is generating, by monitoring the online booking portal each evening.

This allows me to understand how many rounds have been booked for the following day.

So far this season, the course has been struggling to fill a third of its capacity. And this level of business isn’t necessarily earning the minimum green fee of £156 per person, since the word on the street is that quite a few bookings are for complimentary rounds via local businesses and for winners of raffles and competitions.

Looking ahead to the end of this season, I’ve logged the number of bookings showing on the online tool, and calculated that there’s a maximum of 7500 golfers booked in so far. That errs on the generous side. For example, that figure includes an assumption that the course is booked to its absolute capacity during the two midsummer weeks – 28 July to 11 August –  where the booking tool is not in operation. I’d expect that to be more like 6500.

So 11000 booked in already for this year? I don’t think so. And I doubt that it will rise to that level by the end of the year either, because the course appears to rely on golf tours which are generally arranged some time in advance of the event.

How many Aberdeenshire folk can afford £172 for a round of golf at the weekend? Run out of fingers to count on yet?

This calls into question the figure of 10000 bookings in last year’s inaugural season. Unless that figure also includes everyone who has used the driving range and bought meals and drinks, golf balls, and Trump-branded ball markers. Or waved when they drove past the entrance.

So how confident can we be that there will be 6000 new jobs arising from this golf development? Don’t hold your breath.

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May 272013
 

By David Innes.

The March and April meetings of the nascent Dickens Aberdeen group saw lively discussions of Hard Times Parts 1 and 2 take place, and the rest of that less well-known Dickens novel will be discussed at the group’s meeting on Wednesday 29 May.
The meeting will run from 1900-2100 at Grampian Housing Association, 74 Huntly Street, at its crossroads with Summer Street.

There is free parking adjacent to the building. Everyone is welcome.

Dr Paul Schlicke, a driving force behind the group, has also informed us of his delight that negotiations are well advanced for Dickens-related activities in July.

Professor John Drew of Buckingham University, project director of Dickens Journals Online, and Dr Tony Williams, past secretary of the Dickens Fellowship, will be in Aberdeen on Tuesday 9 July. They will be bringing for display the fabulous exhibition of 19th century journalism devised by Anthony Burton, emeritus curator of the collection of Dickens manuscripts in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

They will be giving talks that evening. Further details will be publicised as they come our way.

Keith O’Sullivan, Senior Rare Books Librarian of the University of Aberdeen’s Special Collections and Museums has been in touch to enthuse about the Wanderlust exhibition the Exhibitions Gallery. Details below are from the University’s website.

The exhibition at the Gallery of the Sir Duncan Rice Library features vivid writing contained in some of the travel journals and explorers’ notebooks held with the University’s Special Collections.

Wanderlust describes a yearning for distant places; an irrepressible compulsion to discover the unknown. Travel journals survive in many shapes and sizes. Spanning four centuries, not only do these writings give evidence of that compulsion to go beyond the horizon, but they also open an intimate window into lost worlds.

Gallery Opening Times

Monday to Friday: 10:00 – 16:30

Saturday 4 May – 1 June, inclusive: 10:00 – 16:00
Saturday 8 June – 7 September, inclusive: 10:00 – 12:30

Sunday: 12:00 – 16:00

scc.events@abdn.ac.uk

Dec 202012
 

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

It’s been a very busy week in Aberdeen and the wider world. Donald Trump had a full page ad in the Press & Journal mixing wind farms and the Lockerbie bomber.

Of all the ways Trump could have used his revelation that Salmond wanted The Donald to back the releasing of the convicted Lockerbie Bombing, no one could have predicted such a crass, unsuitable, insensitive ad as this – unless they worked for Trump.

Funnily enough, the Press & Journal which carried this ad refused to carry an ad opposing the City Gardens Project, or so I’m told.

This refusal was interesting, as Aberdeen Journals did manage to carry a pro-web advertisement (the so-called ‘Holiday Inn’ ad, featuring the Holiday Inn logo, yet the ad was placed without the blessing of the Holiday Inn head office, as my enquiries determined). Trump couldn’t have put in his objectionable full-page ad if the P&J had not accepted it.

Rumours fly that Trump’s right hand woman Sarah Malone may have some romantic interest with a P&J supremo. Surely not! While all this carry-on was being carried out, one Mr Bates of the P&J was praising his organ for its unflagging support of the views of ‘the little man‘.

As long as the little man in question is a billionaire, then I guess that’s true.

There are several things I was tempted to satirise this week, not least of all the environmentally catastrophic notion of extending the industrial harbour into Nigg Bay. Thankfully the Marine Protection Act is coming into force soon; this should stop such a destructive plan.

I also doubt the people of Torry will want to surrender their last remaining stretch of coastline in exchange for yet more heavy good vehicles on Torry’s streets.

Some coastal land was sold years ago, allegedly to help the council with its finances. In return, the people of Torry were going to get … toilets. This toilet scheme was seemingly flushed down the pan by the Harbour Board (which now wants more Torry property). Kate Dean was also instrumental in putting a sewage plant next to Nigg Bay; the air and water pollution aspects are well known to area residents.

The impact of more trucks and more industry in this part of the city will be bad for health, and what remaining wildlife, sea, land and air we have left. We have a bird population which is down 50% in a decade according to the latest surveys – and we’re talking about birds not found in other parts of the world.

But money and empire-building seem set to win the day again. It seems that like Menie, the SSSI at Nigg Bay has very little importance to those in power if there is money about.

However, I can’t think of much aside from guns at the moment.

I don’t feel like making any jokes or satirical remarks. It’s time for another look at what guns have done to the US, and what we can do about air rifles and BB guns here – and why we definitely need to license air-guns in Scotland at the least.

The Michael Moore documentary film Bowling for Columbine came out 10 years ago. It is a brilliant assault on those who worship assault rifles. Sadly, the NRA – National Rifle Association – is about the most powerful lobbying force in Washington, and they will not let the US tighten up gun legislation. President Obama may now have something to say about that, as this latest tragedy is causing considerable public anger.

If you didn’t know, yet another damaged soul has been able to get their hands on automatic weaponry, and has murdered in cold blood 20 children and 6 women in the US state of Connecticut. If he hadn’t been able to easily obtain automatic weapons, these children and women would still be here. That is the fact.

Some people would tell you the American Constitution clearly states people should be able to have guns. It actually says this in its second amendment:

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Where do we start on this? Firstly, this was written 200 years ago – people had muskets and similar types of guns. These were not as accurate as today’s guns, and they certainly were not automatic. A lone shooter would not have been able to take out 26 people in a short span of time.

Secondly, times have changed just a little bit. The Constitution and its Amendments were written following a war of independence, in which the British sought to control the revolutionaries’ weapons. It’s no longer relevant, just as passages in the Old Testament are no longer relevant (except to the odd fanatic).

At this point many people would point out, correctly, that American and British weaponry is being used all over the world. Make no mistake, I hate that as well. The exportation of weapons to corrupt and violent regimes is unacceptable of course. But that is a different story. This is about a nation gone mad, a nation which won’t allow Cuban cigars or unpasteurised milk products.

there are counties where it is mandatory everyone carries a gun once they’re a certain age

This is about a re-imagining of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, while at the same time the main thrust of the revolution was to guarantee that all men (and women) are created equal, and shall not be deprived unreasonably of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet these rights have been trampled into the dust.

People are not free in most states to marry as they choose. People are in some places not free to teach evolutionary theory, and creationism is given pride of place in science classes. And of course, the evil, horrible plant that is marijuana is totally illegal in most places – a bit of a blow (if you will) to ‘the pursuit of happiness’ for a small minority of people who’d like to use it for recreation, pain control, nausea control, glaucoma treatment and so on.

But while the US forgets or re-writes the basics, the NRA is free to insist that the Second Amendment means everyone everywhere is entitled to have a gun. In fact, there are counties where it is mandatory everyone carries a gun once they’re a certain age.

We recently saw the reports of a girl shot by her cousin on Halloween. She’d been dressed up in black and white, and the cousin apparently thought she was a skunk.

It wasn’t the first time or the last time someone trying to ‘defend their home’ with a gun shoots relatives instead. Teens that’ve snuck home late at night have been shot dead by paranoid parents assuming burglars were about. People have also had their own weapons used against them.

The inimitable Morgan Freeman has also weighed into the debate, reminding us that the media has to take a new look at how it reports these mass killers. The killer gets tons of news coverage, and sees their picture, life and crime scene spread across TV, internet, print and radio. An old and easily disproved adage goes ‘there is no bad publicity’.

To some of these people, like the gunman in Colorado who shot movie-goers, fame indeed seems to play some twisted part in their murders. Let’s not give them any publicity by name; let’s remember instead the victims.

Yes, such a move would cost money – the US could take this from its massive defence budget

America also seems to have a twisted love affair with imagery of girls in bikinis firing automatic weapons. This is adding sex appeal to weaponry designed to take out lots of life quickly. No one needs to prove they are a good shot if they have an AK-47 – you just shoot until you obliterate the target. Anyone but me see anything wrong with this picture?

What’s the answer? I’ve no idea. But would it be so bad to start with a gun amnesty?

These have been done in New York in the past, twenty years ago in fact, by New York entrepreneur Fernando Mateo. This was an admirable move. If so much as one life was saved by this initiative, it was worth doing. With the number of illegal guns handed in at the time, it is easy to conclude that many lives were saved. Couple a gun amnesty with mandatory licensing, yearly license renewals and yearly gun checks, and you could save a few more lives.

Yes, such a move would cost money – the US could take this from its massive defence budget. They’re still not able to adequately feed and clothe all of its citizens, but according to the Huffington Post and other sources, it spent some $695 BILLION on defence in 2011. It’s hard to see how present and especially future generations are going to forgive the world’s military for all of its spending on military hardware.

So – gun amnesty, tighten up licensing, make it more difficult to get and keep guns, and finally increase penalties for anyone with illegal guns, and anyone who commits a crime with a gun. Would it solve the problem?

The NRA are masters of spin and lobbying; their famous slogans include:

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and

“If guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns.”

Students of propaganda will recognise these kinds of reflexive slogans are catchy. Catchy they are, but do they stand up to any scrutiny? Of course not.

To the former slogan, obviously, (sadly) people can kill each other in many ways. But having a gun makes it a much simpler, surer and simpler matter. Having an automatic weapon makes it certain you can kill lots of people, quickly, and from a distance. I’d prefer ‘guns make it easy for people to kill people, and the NRA makes it easy to get guns’ as a replacement slogan. Not as catchy, but it is considerably more accurate.

To the second phrase – this is an attempt, also a tried and tested propaganda method, to instil fear. ‘If I don’t have a gun, an outlaw can get me!’ is the underlying message. Here are a few words from The Survivors’ Club which should make people think twice:

“In 2008 there were 680 accidental shooting deaths in the United States, with more than 15,500 shooting injuries. Most disturbing, perhaps, is the number of children involved in accidental shootings. Every day approximately five children are injured or killed on a nationwide basis as a result of handguns. The primary cause of youth-involved shooting rests with the fact that children find loaded handguns in the home – and natural curiosity leads them down the road to disaster.

“Each year approximately 100 people are injured or killed while cleaning a firearm and failing to exercise proper caution… Many accidental shootings occur because someone believes a gun is unloaded, points it at someone and pulls the trigger as a “joke”.”
See:  
http://www.thesurvivorsclub.org/extreme/surviving-accidents/accidental-shooting

Japan has managed to outlaw guns totally – and now has c. 2 gun deaths per year. Isn’t that an accomplishment to at least try to emulate?
See:  http://www.theatlantic.com-how-japan-has-virtually-eliminated-shooting-deaths

By all means have an armed and well-regulated militia (but hopefully one that needn’t cost over 600 billion dollars a year). These killers clearly are not well-regulated, and they are not in a militia. It’s time to think again.

It’s also time for me to move closer to home, for we have some air gun issues to deal with. If you live in the area, you will know that some people have been targeting animals for some time with air guns, blinding and wounding pets. Most lately, we have a field of horses in the Bridge of Don area being used for target practice so that idiots can get their kicks from wounding innocent horses.

Do I think things will get worse? Yes. Why do I think that? Because a newish discount/pound shop is selling BB-type guns for £6, and lots of ammo. Did I ask them to please not stock these items? Yes. They refused, saying they only sell to those over 18. Do we know any people over 18 who are less than mature? I do. Please feel free to share your thoughts with the manager; this shop is a few doors down from Molton Brown.

We now have a chance to regulate these kinds of weapons in Scotland. There is no way responsible owners of such guns can logically oppose tighter registration in the face of the violence against animals and people that has taken place.

You might recall a toddler was killed by such a weapon in Glasgow, one of the main reasons this legislation is coming about. We’re not talking about something that causes a small discomfort, we’re talking about speeding projectiles that destroy tissue and can even damage bone.

Here are a few words from Animal Concern Advice Line:

”Proposals for Licensing Air Weapons in Scotland

“[there is a] very important consultation which could be used to greatly reduce the number of air weapons in Scotland. As you know air-guns are the tools of vandals and sadists who take pot shots at pet, farm and wild animals and birds.

If you have had personal experience of air-gun misuse or if you run an animal sanctuary and have had to deal with animals shot by people using air-guns please mention that in your submission… If you have a pet why not forward this message to your vet? Most vets know just how much pain, suffering and death is caused by air weapons.”

“The pro-gun lobby will be doing all they can to reduce the impact of this initiative. Please take the time to comment – it will make a difference.”

Clearly not all air-gun owners are sadists – but since we have quite a few who are clearly are, then let’s get some control in place.

Please visit http://suzannekelly.yolasite.com/ to see how you can help and to read the Government’s document

Merry Christmas; Happy Holidays; Happy Chanukah – can everyone please stop shooting now?

Next week – a return to normal service.

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