Dec 072019

Suzanne Kelly presents her annual Christmas tale.

Popular mythology would have it that the original Dick Whittington, born 1354 was born of poor parents; this simply wasn’t true.
Dick was wealthy and became mayor of London; that’s as far as it went.

Popular mythology would have it that Boris Johnson, born 1964, was born of average parents; this simply isn’t true.

Boris is wealthy and became mayor of London and PM: that’s further than it should have gone. Now read on.

A long time ago there was once a poor boy called Boris Whittington whose parents were so poor not all the children could go to English prep schools.

People at his school made fun of his great poverty and his foreign ancestry. He would learn from this.

Our hero was so poor he went to Oxford to study, well – maybe he studied less than some. He did however cut a fine figure for a poor foreigner in the Bullyton Club. He spent all his parents’ pieces of gold on the £3,500 outfit he needed to wear to go to Bullyton Club dinners.

Soon this awkward, sensitive outsider was accepted as being ‘almost one of us’ when he proved what he was made of, and burned a £50 note in front of a homeless person (who might have even been from ‘Bongo Bongo land’ as Boris called some countries).

Poor Boris wanted to better his life, and his fellow Bullyton club members told him of London, where the streets were paved with gold.

“Cripes!,” thought Boris

“I say, that sounds like the place for me, what?”.

So off Boris Whittington bravely strode to London town, carrying in a little handkerchief tied to a steamer trunk in a flotilla of moving vans all of his meagre worldly possessions. He was determined that he would go there and dig up enough gold from the streets to make his fortune.

One day he met a friendly hedge fund manager who was going to London who said he would give him a lift there, so off they went.  When they reached the big city Boris couldn’t believe his eyes, he could see horses, carriages, hundreds of people, great tall buildings, lots of mud, but nowhere could he see any gold.

What a disappointment. How was he going to make his fortune? How was he even going to buy a four-bed flat?

“But corrr! Look at all this Totty!” He thought, and set off to better himself.

By then he had married a pussycat who grew up in a castle in Perthshire; she was called Allegra Mostyn-Owen. This was very useful for a time. They both toiled in the news business for a time. But Boris realised he was destined for greater things, so he sold her on.

Being a man of great character, he decided to start at the bottom and deigned to take a trainee job at Ye Times newspaper.

Alas! Boris thought he would add a little excitement to one of his stories, and surprisingly Ye Times took a dim view of this, so much so that they gaveth him ye sack. The Times then continued its unsullied mission of printing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: well truth as The Digger (who was a sorcerer from the land of Oz) saw it.

After a few days he was so hungry that he collapsed in a ragged heap on the doorstep of a rag merchant owned by two twins Barclay Dee and Barclay Dumb.

Out of the house came a crook:

“How would you like to be a weekly columnist for the Daily Telegraph? We can pay you £275,000 for one column a week – but it’s a start.”

Boris thought long and hard of the sacrifices he’d have to make.

“I’ll do it! Jings! Crivens!” he said.

He suffered. Boris even had to cover an event full of Lefties in 1996. Now the Lefties were not really our sort of people, don’t you know. Some of them weren’t even white; they even let girls be Lefties, and some of those girls ‘dressed up like letterboxes’.

Worse still – the Lefties allowed ‘bum boys’ to join! Cripes! What would Boris write for the Daily Torygraph about this horrible scene?

“The unanimous opinion is that what has been called the ‘Tottymeter’ reading is higher than at any Labour Party conference in living memory,” he wrote.

And the Torygraph readers loved him all the more.

Alas! Boris was notorious at the rag merchant for writing his column during a brief window on Sunday afternoons before sending it to the printing press only just in time.

This left little time for editors to make changes and fact-check his claims, but happily, fact-checking was not high on the Barclay twins’ agenda. So, on Boris toiled, dreaming of better days. He started to wonder if he wasn’t destined for better things and an easier life, like going into politics.

Boris was ever so grateful to the Daily Torygraph’s Barclay Dee and Barclay Dumb but, alas, the editor was always very bad tempered and, when no one was looking, used to beat and pinch him.

Now while Boris was slaving away day in, day out toiling at his demanding job, he acquired a pussy. Her name was Miranda.

London was full of rats and fat cats. Boris realised that the more rats and fat cats he could catch, the richer he’d get. But Miranda really wasn’t much cop for improving Boris’ social standing, so she had to go.  Verily he got shot of Miranda, which opened the cat flap for lots of other pussies, and lo, they verily did make use of it; they were Petronella, Helen (with whom he had a litter of kittens) and most recently Carrie. Carrie and Boris are so fond of each other that to this very day, the sounds of cats screaming and breaking things can be heard from their happy home.

Soon Boris was attracting lots of pussies, fat cats and rats. And lo it came to pass that with the blessing of the Tories, the help of the Barclay twins, and a whole bunch of rats, Boris became Mayor of London.

But our story does not end there.

Boris spent millions on a garden bridge in old London Town; it was never built. The people didn’t care.

One day Boris met a very important fat cat – and the most true Brit in all of Britland: Nigel Farage.

Nigel hated the people from ‘Bongo Bongo land’, people who wanted to come to Britain (except Boris’ ancestors of course!), and the Lefties. And pretty much anyone who wasn’t a white British man.

Nigel made his fortune by representing Brit land in the Union of Europe. This Union of Europe was an evil organisation that allowed people to trade goods throughout European countries, work in other countries, live in other countries, and gave them something called Human Rights.

Worse still, it wanted to harm the fat cats and rats by not letting them give their money to seafaring merchants to take away to the lands of Island of Virgins and Bahamas and verily the lands where the Barclay Twins lived in the Island of Channels. Nigel took a big salary from Europe, and will take a big pension from Europe.

Nigel hates Europe. And so does Boris.

The two of them hired a great big red coach, and painted on it that Europe was costing 350 million gold pieces each week, which should be used to heal the sick instead. Verily the people who had read Boris’ wise words in the Barclay twins’ rag believed every word, and felleth for this hooketh, lineth and sinkereth.

Alas, it was not strictly speaking true.

How the people loved his racism, sexism, lying, propaganda and anti-Europe positions! Yes, Boris was destined for greater things still.

The evil, ageing hag-queen of London was clearly losing her ability to govern. Sometimes when she had to walk across a stage, she had odd convulsions that some mistook for dancing. The Queen of the May had held power for some time now, and had many accomplishments.

She buried news about a disastrous, expensive failure of the Trident rockets, had cut all services to the poor, and made the dying travel to centres where they were told they weren’t dying at all. Who could possibly pick up where she left off?

Yes, you guesseth correctly: Boris soon became the Prime Minister of all of England!

Now, being Prime Minister was even less work than being mayor was. There was always someone with a bag of gold or a perk or a pussy or two who wanted to help him out and do the work for him.

“Cripes! This is great!” Boris thought, as his collection of gold doubloons and totty continued to increase. But it was never enough.

Not long after, Boris heard the merchant twins and other fat cats he knew asking everyone in the Houses of Parliament if they wanted to send anything on board their ship, they thought they could sell. The ship was going on a long voyage to the other side of the world to a place called America and the captain would sell everything on the ship so they could all make some money.

Poor Boris, what could he sell?

Suddenly, a thought came to him

“Please sir, will you take the National Health Service?”

Everyone burst out laughing, but the merchant smiled and said:

“Yes Boris, just what I was thinking, I will, and all the money from her sale will go to you – and to all of us.”

After the merchant had left from the city Dick found there was a small group of peasants who were revolting because they were such smelly oiks.

They somehow objected to selling off the NHS, to Boris’ little white lies about the gold going to the NHS, to leaving Europe, to having their ill and dying being made to work, and their air and land being poisoned.

How would Boris deal with these rabble – especially as the captain of the guard had decided that Boris couldn’t just sweep them all away with the water cannons he’d ordered years before. So, he just closed Parliament down a few times instead.

Boris knew he had to do something to make himself more popular again, so he could keep being the Prime Minister.

He invented an immigration points system to keep the wrong sort out of the UK, threw people out who had come in the Windrush period, and this kind of thing made his peasant fans, Mr Yaxley Lennon and his mates very happy.

Verily, this distracted such peasants from caring about the honey and plenty of money wrapped up in a five pound note the fat cats were sheltering in the Offshore Trusts. But it wasn’t quite enough, and Boris had secret plans underway.

One such plan would happen right here in England; the other was being put into action by the merchant captain at the fat cat’s bidding.

Boris had denigrated women, grabbed them (in an English way – by the thigh, not their pussycats so that was OK); and said women in burkas looked like letterboxes. Sure, he had also said that seeing groups of black kids made him nervous, and black people had watermelon smiles.

But here was the genius plan: He’d just say everything he’d ever said or done was satirical, and the real racism was in the Labour party. After all, the oiks in the streets wouldn’t know what satirical meant and wouldn’t care as long as white people – white men – were still top of the food chain, what?

His old friends the twins and his old newspaper jobs would be delighted to print this story, and so it came to pass. BoJo (as he was unaffectionately known) and his press baron friends painted Labour as being villainous racists, while Boris was made to look like a saint.

Unsurprisingly, this pleased his peasant fans – like Yaxley-Lennon who was also known for violent arguments with women, hating non-whites, and blatant lies. Success! Result!

Across the other side of the world, the merchant captain and his ship had arrived at their destination, Washington.

King Trump and Queen Melania (who had been so poor she could only afford to wear boots, handcuffs and guns before her rise to power) were so delighted that they invited them all to a feast.

The captain had heard that like Boris Whittington, King Trump was a self-made man. Set out into the world on his own with just six million dollars in the 1980s and a family Ku Klux Klan background, Trump had to fend for himself with just a few mafia figures to help him – and that all turned out OK.

Except for a few bankruptcies, people losing their homes and jobs when Trump went bust, black people not being able to own homes in Trump castles, and the odd rape accusation or two (including from his wife Ivana).

But, believe it or not, when the food was brought in none of the ship’s crew nor captain would eat it.

“Oh dear” said the king stuffing a chicken leg into his mouth and wiping his hands on his golf trousers,

“Dontcha like KFC and Chick fil a?”

“No offense your majesty” said the captain,

“but we don’t allow growth hormones in our beef and bleach in our chicken. We don’t allow ground-up bugs in our chocolates (well, not in as high quantities as you do), and we don’t put lots of non-food chemicals into our food. Nothing personal – we just like to live.”

“Not to worry!” laughed King Trump,

“Everyone is healthy here – I’m 6’3” tall and only weigh 185 lbs… or is that 185 stone?”

Chewing on a KFC family bargain bucket, Trump continued:

“To show our appreciation for your country, we’ve agreed to take on the NHS contracts, and as a bonus, when you leave the Union of Europe, we’re going to be your new food trading partner. Everything’s all arranged – just ask President Boris.”

And they all laughed, and the real feast of edible foods was brought out.
The merchant ship captain looked at the huge banquet dais where Trump sat, and behind his thrown was a curtain.

Behind that was an athletic chap, shirtless, sitting on a horse. He seemed to be pulling levers and strings.

Before the merchant ship captain could ask, Queen Melania hissed in his ear:

“Pay no attention to zat mehn behind ze curtain!”

“But it looks like he’s really the one running the show and pulling the strings!”

“I really don’t care, do you?” she purred.

Clinking his plastic cola bottle with a plastic fork, King Trump signalled for the room to be silent for one of his speeches. The captain thought some of the King’s aids rolled their eyeballs.

“Welcome friends from Englandland! We’ve decided to help you out of the NHS – I mean help the NHS.”

“Right, we have even more gifts we want to give youse guys in Englandland” Trump continued.

“The reason you have these terrorists is because you let people immigrate – that means come in – to your country. You gatta do what we do here – when they get to the border, put ‘em in cages.

“Lots of money for getting the little ones adopted – believe me! And the amount of money you can get for keeping these vermin sleeping on concrete floors under foil blankets – ya wouldn’t believe me.”

The captain felt his smile recede as Trump continued:

“Then, you’d also be much better off if you’d all jes get yerselves some guns – yeah, good guys with guns. Not having guns is un-American ain’t that right Mitch McConnell?”

At this several old white men stood up; many clutching fists full of roubles. The man behind the curtain with no shirt laughed.

“You’re too nice over there too” Trump told the captain,

“The press – well, not Boris and his friends – the other press, and these foreigners, these people not following the right religion – you know you have to rough ‘em up a little bit, right?”

The captain felt some colour drain from his face as he started to make his goodbyes. He and all the fat cats had been happy to do a bit of profiteering off the NHS – who wouldn’t be?

But surely England would never stand for people being deported, mistreated and dying in custody? And no one in their right minds would want to see guns on London’s streets: what kind of a maniac would even propose such a thing.

Over 40,000 people were shot in this crazy Trump land last year alone; synagogues, churches had been burnt or vandalised, women were prevented from making decisions about whether to have children or not – with some even going to jail for miscarrying.

“But the worst thing about those Lefties?” Trump asked,

“They wanna get rid of Christmas! That’s right – no ‘Merry Christmas’, no trees!”

At this a group of TV preachers and evangelists ran to the king, and put their arms around him, proclaiming him ‘the chosen one’.

Whether it was the cockroach-infested chocolates or the bleached chicken, the captain felt his stomach turn.

After the feast, the captain and crew made their way to the harbour. They walked the streets of Washington, where dozens of homeless people slept or begged for alms. Some had been soldiers; some lost everything they had due to paying for medical bills.

Shots rang out; school children covered in blood and crying ran through the streets. The brave captain and crew barely made it back to the ship, and they weighed anchor, immediately setting sail for home.

As they sailed into the east, the captain sighed, safe in the knowledge such far-fetched things would never happen; Boris wouldn’t allow it.
When the ship returned to London, the captain was making his way to Boris’ humble home in Downing Street when a newspaper caught his eye.

“Legalise Handguns now! Says Farage”

“NHS will improve under US contracts!”

“Point system for foreigners Boris proposes!”

“Windrush man facing deportation kills himself!”

“Boris leading in polls!”

The captain stood looking at the headlines for a few minutes.

“Maybe the Union of Europe wasn’t such a bad thing after all.” he thought.

Slowing his pace, losing his desire to race to No. 10, the captain saw one ‘Leftie’ newspaper before he left the newsstand which read:

“Don’t forget to vote on Thursday 12 December!”

“No, no I won’t forget that” thought the captain, as he slowly turned from his course to No. 10, and headed home to ensure his voter registration card was at the ready.

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Oct 062017

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

A leading north-east legal firm has strengthened its teams of specialist solicitors in Aberdeen with three new appointments.
Mackinnons Solicitors, with offices in Aberdeen, Cults and Aboyne, has announced two promotions and one new appointment, each of whom will complement the firm’s existing legal teams.

Angus Easton, who recently completed a master’s degree in Maritime Law, has been promoted to the position of Associate within the firm’s commercial shipping team.

Mr Easton joined Mackinnons in January 2013 and his expertise covers areas of commercial practice with an emphasis on marine and business law.

Kim Harkness also assumes an Associate position working within the property and private client teams. She joined Mackinnons in 2013 and has worked primarily as an assistant to firm partner, Pat Gray.

Kate Longmuir has also joined the firm from Pinsent Masons and will be working within the corporate team advising on a range of commercial matters with emphasis on the energy and marine sectors.

Graham Jones, one of the firm’s senior partners, said:

“We are delighted to have appointed Kate to our commercial shipping team. She has considerable experience in legal matters relating to the marine and energy sectors and will be a great asset to us.

“As well as recruiting to strengthen the team, we are also very pleased to be able to promote talent from within. Angus and Kim have already made a significant contribution to the success of the firm and their promotions are well deserved.

“Each of these appointments significantly strengthens our teams of specialist solicitors as we look to build for the future and expand our existing client base.”

Established in Aberdeen in 1842, Mackinnons is recognised internationally for its long-standing expertise in fishing, shipping and marine law. The firm is also a leading provider of private client legal services with a team of experienced and specialist lawyers. 

Mackinnons offer a range of legal services including residential property, personal advice, wills and estate planning, commercial property, business and corporate matters, renewables, employment and dispute resolution in addition to its internationally renowned shipping law practice.

Its experienced teams of solicitors provide professional, pragmatic, bespoke advice for clients, whether they are multinational corporations, local businesses or individuals.

As part of Mackinnons’ 175th anniversary celebrations in 2017, the firm is raising money for The Fishermen’s Mission.

For more information about Mackinnons Solicitors and its range of legal and financial services, please visit:

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Sep 072017

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

Legal eagles from Aberdeen have been pushing themselves to their physical limits this year and have raised almost £6,000 for charities close to their hearts.
Three legal experts from Mackinnons Solicitors tackled gruelling individual challenges which took one to the top of the highest mountain in the British Isles while one ran the London Marathon and another took on the Highland Cross coast-to-coast challenge.

Sarah Polson, from Mackinnons’ dispute resolution department, Fiona Cheyne from the firm’s commercial and marine department and Mackinnons’ partner Martin Sinclair, who is a specialist in personal injury law, have raised a combined fundraising total of £5,975 for three different charities.

In June, Fiona Cheyne hiked up the 1,345 metre Ben Nevis with her Mum Elizabeth Copp and raised £4,610 for the PSP Association in recognition of the support the charity provides to her dad Andy Copp who has been diagnosed with the rare and as yet incurable Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD).

Fiona said:

“We had never heard of the PSP Association until earlier last year, when dad was diagnosed with the degenerative condition which limits his ability to talk, to walk, to grip and to swallow.

“The charity funds research into treatments and it’s hoped a cure can ultimately be found for both conditions. It’s thanks to the PSP Association that mum and dad have been given good practical advice and support in how to deal with dad’s condition. Their support worker keeps in touch with them over the phone and they value that greatly.

“To give something back, my mum and I decided to do some fundraising and laced up our hiking boots to reach the top of Ben Nevis which was a challenging and humbling experience.”

Earlier in the year, Mackinnons’ Litigation Associate Sarah Polson ran in the London Marathon after receiving a ballot place. For the firm’s 175th anniversary she decided to fundraise for the Fishermen’s Mission, Mackinnons charity of the year.

After months of training she joined the 40,000-strong field who ran the 26.2-mile course in April and raised £600 for the charity which provides support and welfare to fishermen and their families.

Sarah said:

“They say the crowds get you through the marathon in London and they really do. The route around London’s landmarks was lined with thousands of supporters handing out sweets and biscuits to keep you going and cheering you on.

“There were even brass bands, an orchestra and singers providing entertainment along the way. It was tough in parts but I survived and I’m already planning my next challenge.”

In June, Mackinnons’ partner Martin Sinclair raised £765 for several charities by completing the Highland Cross challenge.

The Highland Cross is a 50-mile duathlon, 20 miles either running or walking and 30miles by bike, which crosses Scotland between Kintail and Beauly.

The funds were split between both the Fisherman’s Mission and the Highland Cross nominated charities in the Highlands which benefit from the event.

Martin said:

“The Highland Cross is a terrific event and I’ve been keen to take part for a while. More than £4.4m has been raised through the event since 1983 and I was delighted to contribute in some small part to the ongoing success of this event.

“The amount of time and work put in by the teams of volunteers to run the event is enormous. The camaraderie amongst the competitors is another key factor in the event and seeing such a large cross section of Scotland as you cross helps to underline how good a nation we are.”

Mackinnons offers bespoke legal services for residential property, personal advice, wills and estate planning, commercial property, business and corporate matters, renewables and dispute resolution.

The firm, which also has offices in Cults and Aboyne, is also well known and internationally recognised for its long-standing expertise in fishing, shipping and marine law.

The firm’s experienced team of solicitors provide professional, pragmatic, bespoke advice for clients, whether they are multinational corporations, local businesses or individuals.

As part of Mackinnons’ 175th anniversary celebrations this year the firm is raising money for The Fishermen’s Mission throughout 2017.

For more information about Mackinnons Solicitors and its range of legal and financial services, please visit:

Mar 022017

With thanks to Guy Ingerson.

This weekend Scotland learned that the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and possible future contender for Labour leader, thinks the Scottish Independence movement is on par with the rise of far-right nationalism across Europe and the election of Donald Trump.

While the war of words in both the press and social media raged on, Aberdeen Greens grappled with being lumped in with the likes of the BNP.

Aberdeen Branch Co-Convenor and candidate for George St/Harbour ward Guy Ingerson said:

“Waking up of a morning to see Sadiq Khan compare pro-independence parties like ours with Donald Trump was frankly baffling and enraging. We Greens have been leading the fight against Trump and people like him since our inception. We seek to build bridges between communities, not burn them.

We call for Aberdeen Council and Labour leader Cllr Jenny Laing to clarify if she agrees with Sadiq Khan? Does she really thing pro-independence voters are bigots?”

Branch Co-Convenor and prominent independence campaigner Myshele Haywood said

“The vast majority of the independence movement has been internationalist and opposed to racism. We want an independent Scotland in order to be an example to world of what a sustainable and socially just society can look like. The movements Sadiq Khan is comparing us to are the polar opposite.”

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Dec 162016

OK, perhaps the link to Aberdeen Voice for this London show is a tenuous one. However, the Temperance Movement have a large, loyal fan base here who have seen the band in The Tunnels, The Lemon Tree, and the Beach Ballroom. If you’re one of those fans, here’s an account of the London acoustic show and a few comments from the band. By Suzanne Kelly.

The Temperance Movement always impressed from their first small shows through touring with the Stones and their current, seemingly endless world tour. Class, sincerity and promise are the heart of their rock, southern rock, blues and ballads. Quickly winning and deserving a fiercely loyal fan base, TTM must be among the hardest-working acts around. I am one of the lucky 300 to see them in London.

They’ve also kindly answered a few of my questions. For a start, knowing how busy they are, I wondered how and why they arranged these acoustic shows:

“Just that we wanted to do something a bit different with the material we’ve been touring over the last year or so, and more importantly we wanted an opportunity to play some more intimate UK shows and reconnect properly with our fans here having been away for most of the year.”

Fans on the band’s mailing list were alerted to three acoustic dates with one at London’s Bush Theatre. In order to outfox the ticket touts, fans had to earn a certain number of points to prove they were genuine and not scalpers. One of these ‘tasks’ involved watching a wild, wacky, stunning, fun video for Get Yourself Free. It was a case of earn your points, order your tickets and download them on a bespoke app, and you got in – if you were quick enough.

Arriving at the Bush, you were struck by its small size (only 300 tickets were available) and beauty it is a proper old-fashioned theatre with an ornate high ceiling just screaming out for some proper music to use its acoustics and that’s what we got. Next you might have noticed that peppered around the crowd were managers, Earache Records and other industry folks, and the band’s friends and relatives. It almost felt like we were crashing a private pre-Christmas thank you party from the band – and in a way we sort of were.

Out they came – Phil Campbell at a concert piano. And off we all went.

They took us to the Mississippi Delta. They took us to the San Antonio river walk, to dance palaces, to dirt roads in Tennessee. They took us to the 1920s, 1950s, 60s, 2016, and into the future. We got ourselves free.

A bit of an obvious question, but with so many different musical flavours, influences and genres that The Temperance Movement craft into their own unique works, it seemed prudent to ask them what some of their influences for this acoustic show were.

“Well there wasn’t a specific conversation in regards to these shows in particular, but we’re all fans of a lot of artists that are connected to this kind of show – Ryan Adams, CSN&Y, The Band, Bon Iver, Ray Lamontagne etc. ”

It wasn’t surprising that they mentioned both Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Band – these are acts that come to mind when you see TTM live. The CSN&Y harmonies and beautiful acoustic playing, and The Band’s energy at their live shows in the day, and their cornerstone pure American rock are definitely springs TTM has drunk from.

With a reputation for genuineness and a complete absence of artifice, The Temperance Movement and its guests had a night no one will forget anytime soon. Those vocal harmonies – not least on Chinese Lanterns. That beautiful guitar work – well – on everything – with such range and depth.

If you closed your eyes while listening to Only Friend, Lovers and Fighters, White Bear, you could be forgiven for thinking this was an all-American band composed of the finest blues and rock seasoned veterans and that you had to be in the US. The Temperance Movement dressed the part as well, most sporting jackets – all nicely suited and booted.

The venue had delicious acoustics for this night; the room was filled with golden harmonies, each note of the piano was heard, and I could go on. I really hope someone’s recorded these acoustic sessions; I’ll be first in the queue to buy a copy.

Phil remarked about how things seem different when you return to the UK after being in the USA for a long time. He altered the lyrics on I Hope I’m Not Losing My Mind; the song as recorded seems more an indictment of a selfish partner. At the Bush he’d turned it around into a kind of apology which certainly seems geared towards his partner and family.

Life on the road seems a likely cause for both versions of the piece. The band were asked how life on the road was treating them.

“We’re very aware of how lucky we are to be able to tour and make music, but it can also be hard at times, especially being away from kids etc. There are ups and downs like any job, but maybe they’re more extreme!”

This band’s only on its second album – but we got a look into the future when Phil performed a song that I’ll call ‘Children’ for ease of reference. It starts out with insinuations of disloyalty and neglect of loved ones, and then ‘I never want to write a song like that’ is the refrain. It was a homage to home life – something they must all be missing greatly. Behind these great musicians must be some great lovers, friends and family to keep them going.

Rejoice! Here’s a Christmas present for supporters – there will most assuredly be a third album:

“The 3rd album is definitely becoming the thing that we are all most focused on doing next, but as far as a direction or sounds for the album, it’s probably a little too early to say.”

Sadly, percussionist Damon has bowed out. One song Phil dedicated ‘to everyone who’s ever been in The Temperance Movement’.

Asked about this departure the band said:

“At the moment we’re just focused on playing the shows we have booked in for the remainder of this year. We’ve met a load of great musicians over our respective careers and we’re just looking at this as an opportunity which can help us shape the next phase of TTM.”

There were two cover songs in the evening were hugely enjoyed You Do It To Yourself (curiously dedicated to management – if I have that right) and Blur’s Tender which was another earnest rendition.

The only minor event to mar the night was swiftly brushed over. Is it easy to start a song on stage? Hell no. Possibly a song like Serenity – acoustically in particular – must require concentration as well as intuition. Alas – someone decided to use the first few bars to shout “Put that camera down!!” loudly. The band continued and full marks for that. It’s easy to understand the frustration some people have who come to experience a show like this, not to record it on an iphone. 

A little later Phil made a very gentle rejoinder to the interrupter – another man might have been more angry. Problem solved swiftly, elegantly; problem forgotten.

Serenity was as ethereal as Chinese Lanterns had been – such beautiful songs! I wondered how they’d deal with the crescendo in the acoustic format; the answer was very gently, but my mind seemed to still hear the electric guitars and emotion-packed vocals from the album. These songs, White Bear, A Pleasant Peace I Feel – in particular – these are songs which still create an emotional response however many times I hear them.

Here’s a youtube video to give you an idea.

Hearing them in a completely new way was something I wouldn’t have missed, and again, is really something that needs to be recorded and released. I want.

As the night drew on the enchantment grew. Everyone around me was silently soaking it in, smiling all the while.

Final encore? A pleasant Peace I Feel. Even if you ignore the moving lyrics, the music alone makes it one of the most uplifting, energizing, feel-good songs you’ll have heard in years. When the house lights went up, it went up on some seriously happy people.

Asked whether there was anything TTM wanted to say to their fans whether about the acoustic show or otherwise, they said:

“Just thank you for the support over the last few years, which is what these shows were about for us really. We tried to really make sure that tickets got directly to the fans, and we wanted to play some intimate venues to feel that connection.”

Here’s to their Aberdeen return.

Nov 212014

Paul Rodgers. Deborah Bonham. The Royal Albert Hall. Add in a Scottish animal shelter and the result was an unforgettable night of music, all to raise funds and awareness for Willows Animal Sanctuary. Suzanne Kelly caught the show and caught up with the generous people who made it happen.

Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia Kereluk Rodgers visited Willows a few years back, and became generous, hands-on patrons, who got to know the staff and the animals. Their hard work over the years has helped to make Willows’ future more secure. A horse-mad animal lover, rock and blues singer Deborah Bonham has also joined the Willows cause.

Her husband Peter Bullick, their band and their families likewise have come to Willows’ aid these past few years.

The artists involved are serious life-long animal lovers, directly involved in rescuing animals.

Paul Rodgers said:

“Such a unique charity that combines helping vulnerable people, with their Assisted Therapy Program, plus Willows employs four such people as well as provides a sanctuary before heaven for unwanted, abused, old and handicapped animals. Aiding people and animals is a win, win situation.

“As Patrons both Cynthia and myself are keen to support Willows to help them continue the amazing work they do in the community for mankind and animal kind.”

The generosity of all concerned reached a remarkable climax at the Royal Albert Hall on the 3rd of November: Paul and Cynthia organised a concert to benefit Willows. All profits are going to Willows; everyone who was at this show had a night of music which will not soon be forgotten.

Deborah Bonham commented:

“It was such an honour to be asked by Paul Rodgers and his beautiful wife Cynthia Kereluc Rodgers to appear at the Royal Albert Hall to help raise funds for Willows Animal Sanctuary and Assisted Animal Therapy. It was such an incredible night and one that I won’t forget. Willows is a charity close to my heart and to know that we have raised the much needed funds for them to survive the winter is fantastic. The work they do with animals and vulnerable people is inspirational, I’m so pleased I was able to help and be a part of it all.”

Deborah opened the show accompanied by keyboard artist Gerard Lewis. This was a new arrangement for the band, which normally features Peter Bullick on (blistering) guitars and mandolin; keyboard player Gerard Louis; on bass Ian Rowley; and the awesome Frank Benbini of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, filling in for regular drummer Rich Newman.

It would have been nice to hear the full line up at the RAH, but as it was, the arrangement of Deborah with Gerard showcased her voice in a way that really filled the hall to great effect. Her powerful lyrics and vocals reach some astonishing emotional highs and lows and were superb on the night.

Long-time follower Lorraine Adams Robertson attended with husband Michael. She said:

“Deborah was brilliant!  … and G too her keyboard player… her singing gives me goose bumps as always, and her voice makes me cry with emotion.” 

The strangers I sat next to volunteered how much they enjoyed her. I explained that she usually performs with a band: they are determined to go and see her, and pick up Spirit, the latest album.

Deborah’s set included a wide variety of her songs spanning several albums – Love You So, What We Got, Hold On, Grace, Duchess (sassy), I Need Love (haunting, passionate) and Stay With Me Baby. Her voice is what the Royal Albert Hall is designed for.  [Note – Deborah is currently recovering from an illness; best wishes for a speedy, complete recovery].

More information on albums and tours for the Deborah Bonham Band here .

Paul Rodgers has a career like no one else’s. His iconic work with Free, Bad Company and The Firm are not the full extent of his interests and talents.

The new Royal Sessions work showcases Rodgers’ powerful voice in traditional blues classics which he sings, accompanied by some of the world’s greatest blues musicians. He has gone back to the music that inspired him from the beginning, and paid it a stunning tribute. On his Facebook Page Paul wrote:

I forget how good these guys and gals are until I play with them again. Rehearsals were fantabulous, even if there isn’t such a word. We are all here in London and are ready to rock and soul.” 

The crowds were going wild for it. A favourite with fans, ‘Walk in My Shadow’ was astonishing with such a backing band behind it, and it was a pleasure to be there to hear it live.

Blues staple ‘The Hunter’ was powerful; an interesting arrangement of ‘Walk On By’ was thrilling, and ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love’ had us all in the aisles singing along. ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ was another standout: Rodgers was to record that for Jools  Holland a day or so later. The track can be found here

More on the landmark Royal Sessions album can be found here .

Willows supporters and staff are hugely grateful to the artists and producer (and MC and guitarist) Perry Margouleff who helped to make this show a reality.

Jenny Gray of Willows said

“Willows would like to send enormous thanks to our amazing Patrons Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia Kereluk Rodgers for their amazing support and generosity. Huge thanks to Deborah Bonham and Peter Bullick for helping make it a truly amazing night. These people have done so much to help Willows through a challenging time, they are genuine animal lovers and truly care about Willows. Thanks to all friends and family that helped on the night too. This fundraiser will really help the winter feed appeal.”

The funds raised from this night of wonderful music will certainly help Willows, but the charity needs to be able to rely on steady donations large and small in order to budget adequately.  Times are tough for everyone; they are very tough for animals. Pets are being abandoned at an alarming rate; horses and ponies too are being neglected and left without food and water.

Without charities like Willows, North East Scotland’s largest animal charity and a centre for animal-assisted therapy which helps many people, young and old (six of Willows employees are vulnerable people), the outlook is bleak.

If you missed the concert, but want a chance at winning some great prizes, here is your chance

Sign up to become ‘A Friend of Willows’ Help make a difference now!

If you sign on to become a ‘Friend of Willows’, at just £1 (2 US dollars) per week, by November 30, 2014 you are eligible to win:

Autographed Bad Company Guitar

Paul Rodgers Autographed Set List from The Royal Albert Hall Concert

Deborah Bonham Autographed Set List (from the Concert)

Paul Rodgers Autographed Royal Sessions LP or Cash Prizes

After careful thought, and with the help of all our supporters (and it will only work with your help) we hope we have found a way to get Willows a regular income. What we are hoping is that every ‘Friend’ who signs up for a minimum donation of £1 (2 US dollars) a week asks two other people to sign up too. It would quickly make a chain of regular donors, with each ‘Friend of Willows’ donating only a very small amount each month, the cost of a magazine or a coffee.

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Jul 312014
Eilidh Whiteford MP Peterhead Harbour (1)

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP.

One of the most frequent concerns voters raise with me on the doorstep relates to the future of the NHS in Scotland.

The fact that England’s NHS is being slowly but surely privatised and broken up is public knowledge, and it’s something citizens are justifiably concerned about.

The situation is, of course, different north of the border. The Scottish Government has resisted the stealth privatisation of our NHS.

Most of us depend on the NHS to meet our health care needs, and while it’s not always perfect, the evidence shows that the NHS in Scotland is doing a better job of meeting treatment time targets and cutting infections than other parts of the UK.

In Scotland, the end of prescription charging has especially helped those with chronic illnesses, and access to free eye and dental checks often prevents more serious and costly problems developing.  And of course, free personal care is enabling many frail or elderly people to live independently, thereby maintaining their quality of life and preventing more costly interventions.

Overall, the health resource budget has increased by 22% over seven years of SNP Government. That represents a major investment, with real results.

Nonetheless, there is still reason to be concerned about the impact that Westminster’s privatisation agenda will have in Scotland. The reason is the funding mechanism for the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament’s block grant is decided at Westminster, and is allocated on the basis of UK expenditure. When this goes up, the Scottish Parliament’s grant goes up. When it goes down, the Scottish Parliament’s grant goes down.

Our ability to spend is tied tightly to the UK Government’s own spending plans, and every cut the UK Government makes to spending on the English NHS has a consequential impact on our budget, Placing our NHS spending at the mercy of the UK Government’s priorities.

The Westminster Government’s Health and Social Care Act is estimated to result in £1.07 billion ‘savings’  between 2014-2020 – if this is taken from England’s NHS budget, this could result in a cut to Scotland’s budget of around £105 million each year.

Of course, tied in with this is the fact that politicians from all the main Westminster parties have already pledged to cut the Barnett Formula in the event of a No vote. This won’t happen before the referendum, but MPs from all parties have already said publicly that Barnett needs to be ‘reformed’.

Yet Scotland is consistently short-changed through Westminster spending priorities. In every one of the past 33 years, tax receipts in Scotland have been higher than in the rest of the UK; in the last 5 years alone we have contributed £8.3 billion more to the UK coffers than we’ve had back in public spending

The only way to protect Scotland’s NHS definitively is for the Scottish Government to take responsibility for its own budget. Scotland more than pays its way in the UK, and the current system of sending almost our entire revenue to London in return for pocket money is unsustainable.

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Oct 112013

As the Home Office trembles under the criticism of the Advertising Standards Authority ‘s (ASA) latest adjudication, Duncan Harley reports on one aspect of the Home Office’s campaign against illegal immigrants.

home office billboard3

The ASA received a total of 224 complaints related to the Home Office billboards.

The ASA has yet again proved itself to be a toothless tiger in the relentless quest for fairness and honesty in public domain advertising in the UK.
Most of the media are reporting that Home Office vans, replete with slogans on the sides proclaiming ‘go home or face arrest’ and ‘106 arrests last week in your area’, which were driven around six London boroughs earlier this year, have been banned by the ASA.

The facts, however, say otherwise.

The boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow were targeted by the Home Office campaign in July 2013 and advised readers, ‘We can help you to return home voluntarily without fear of arrest or detention’.

The posters were criticised by many, on the basis that the wording was likely to spread fear and unrest. Others such as Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper warned that the campaign was reminiscent of the 1970s National Front approach to racial tolerance, whilst some others viewed it as a throwback to the dark days of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood rhetoric of 1968.

Be that as it may, the campaign to persuade illegal immigrants to phone the Home Office to give themselves up drew extensive media attention from the outset and the resulting complaints to the ASA show that at the very least, some people in the UK see the advertising watchdog as a force for fairness in the face of misleading marketing campaigns.

Promogroup, the company who owned the vans on which the Home Office displayed the posters, also received a number of complaints about the campaign during its pilot week. Illustrative perhaps of how misleading the information on the posters might seem to some, Promogroup itself received several phone calls from illegal immigrants wishing to give themselves up.

reminiscent of slogans used by racist groups

The company has not to date revealed whether or not any of its drivers received surrender requests from concerned pedestrians during the week-long campaign.

The ASA received a total of 224 complaints related to this issue. These were from groups representing migrants in the UK, legal academics, members of the public and the Labour peer Lord Lipsey. Complainants challenged

  1.  whether or not the poster and in particular the phrase ‘go home’ was offensive and distressing because it was reminiscent of slogans used by racist groups to attack immigrants in the past.
  2.  whether or not the poster was irresponsible and harmful, because it could incite or exacerbate racial hatred and tensions in multicultural communities.
  3.  whether or not the claim ‘106 arrests last week in your area’ was misleading and could be substantiated.
  4.  whether or not the qualification regarding the areas the arrests occurred in was presented clearly, because it was not legible on a moving vehicle
  5.  whether or not the poster was misleading, because it implied that arrest was the automatic consequence of remaining in the UK without permission.

In response to the complaints made to the ASA, the Home Office claimed the posters were part of a pilot scheme run between 22 and 28 July 2013 which sought to encourage those with no legal right to be in the UK to depart voluntarily and to increase awareness of the voluntary departure route. It added that the material was similar in tone and content to previous material it had produced on voluntary departures.

The mobile billboards in question were part of the pilot which covered targeted areas and were designed to improve awareness of local immigration enforcement activity, so that those with no legal right to be in UK were made aware that there was a real and present risk of being arrested.

The campaign had targeted six London boroughs which the Home Office claimed have either significantly above average, or very low, uptake of the voluntary departure route for illegal immigrants.

Additionally, the pilot scheme was, said the Home Office, designed to test the media used and to identify which areas produced the highest response rate, to target specific areas where illegal immigrants or people seeking work illegally were known to congregate, and high streets.

there is nothing to prevent the government using the vans again

As for the 106 arrests issue, the Home Office supplied the ASA with data claiming that there had indeed been that number of arrests made in the areas targeted and elsewhere during a typical week preceding the campaign, that is, the week of 30 June to 6 July 2013.

The Home Office response also made the point that the poster did not suggest that arrest was an automatic consequence of remaining in the UK without permission, since voluntary departure was a viable alternative.

The ASA’s judgement of the complainants’ objections took the form of an individual response to each of the five points of complaint outlined above.

On point 1, the complaints were not upheld and in conclusion, the adjudicators felt that the poster was unlikely to cause widespread offence or distress.

On point 2, the complaints were not upheld and in conclusion the adjudicators felt that the there was no content likely to condone or encourage racial violence or anti-social behaviour.

On point 3, the ASA upheld the complaints on the basis that the figure of arrests had not been substantiated and had not related to the specific areas targeted in the pilot campaign.

On point 4, the complaints were upheld.

On point 5, the complaints were not upheld on the basis that the adjudicators viewed the risk of arrest to those living in the UK illegally was indeed real and that the posters offered information about an alternative option of a voluntary return home.

In summary therefore, two out of five complaints were upheld and the judgment is that the advert must not appear again in its current form.

The message to Her Majesty’s Home Office is quite clearly to do better in future or face the mighty wrath of the ASA!

Providing the Home Office reviews its use of font sizes and does some rudimentary checking of published statistics, there is nothing to prevent the government using the vans again and it has refused so far to rule out doing so. A government spokesman said:

We are pleased the ASA has concluded that our pilot was neither offensive nor irresponsible.

We have always been clear that this campaign was about encouraging illegal immigrants to leave the country voluntarily and was not targeted at particular racial or ethnic groups. In respect of the ASA’s other findings, we can confirm that the poster will not be used again in its current format.”

As for the ASA, the adjudication has been delivered but it will no doubt require to re-examine the issues should HM Government roll out a second campaign. On its website, the ASA claims to have sanctions available to persuade advertisers to comply with the Advertising Industry Code of Conduct.

The ASA advises that the vast majority of advertisers and broadcasters comply with ASA rulings and that for the small minority who don’t, there are consequences. The main aim is to bring about compliance with the Advertising Codes, it says, rather than punish advertisers. However, some of the sanctions at its disposal can, it seems, be very detrimental to those who choose not to comply.

The ASA claims that one of the most persuasive sanctions it has in its armoury is bad publicity, since an advertiser’s reputation can be badly damaged if it is seen to be flouting rules designed to protect consumers. Presumably the Home Office will be trembling at the thought of further damage to its already tarnished reputation.

The full ASA/Home Office adjudication can be read at:

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Jun 212013

Peacock Visual Arts is proud once again to be the Scottish partner gallery of the Standpoint Futures Residency Programme.

This offers artists working in Scotland the chance to spend a structured period of four to six weeks living and working in London, where Standpoint Gallery, an artists run gallery and studio complex in Hoxton, will, as well as providing studio and living accommodation, coordinate a programme of introductions to critics, curators and other artists.

There is also the possibility of an exhibition at Standpoint and, after the residency, of working with Peacock Visual Arts to create further new work.

The residencies will run from October 2013 to April 2014. Artists receive a modest per diem & travel allowance.

Deadline for applications is Monday 1st July, then interviews will take place at Standpoint on Monday 22nd July.

Application fee: £15.00

The panel will select 5 artists – one from Scotland, one from Wales, two from England, and one early career artist, who may be based anywhere in the UK.

To download more information from our website click here.

Standpoint website.

Standpoint Futures 2012 tumblr.

Nov 222012

Aberdeen students protest in London over education funding and youth unemployment. With thanks to Xander Brouwer. 

Aberdeen students joined over a thousand others from Scotland and tens of thousands from across the UK on the National Union of Students’ demonstration in London on Wednesday. They made the 24-hour, thousand-mile round trip to campaign against the impact of government policy and its lack of opportunities for students and graduates.

Anne-Claire Deseilligny, President of Aberdeen University Students’ Association, said:

“Today, many students will make the long journey from Aberdeen to march with others from across the UK and make a stand against disastrous decisions by the Westminster government, decisions felt right across the UK.

“While Holyrood can do more in many areas, you don’t have to look far to see that some of the biggest impacts being felt by students can be traced back to Westminster.  

“There is a crisis in youth unemployment, huge fees for RUK students, colleges losing their ability to recruit international students and the continued attempts to turn UK education into a market. All these are problems created by Westminster and need, ultimately, to be fixed by Westminster.

“We’ll be marching beside students from across the UK to make the point to the Westminster government that students and young people deserve better. They need to urgently reconsider their discredited austerity measures or risk consigning a generation to the scrapheap.

“They need to recognise that education and employment are the solution to a better economy, not something to put up barriers to, or shut people out of.”   

 For more information see:

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