Jun 242020

By Suzanne Kelly.

Rob Scott’s ‘Zombie Cake’.

March 17 – a day that is usually given over to a stereotypical but good-natured outbreak of beer-drinking to honour St Patrick.

This St Patrick’s Day, the UK was poised to go in a lockdown to slow the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus. James Watt, co-founder of Ellon’s BrewDog, tweeted:

“At BrewDog we are doing all we can to make it through & protect as many jobs as we can. But we, like so many businesses have lost 70% of our income almost overnight.”

The growth of Brewdog is without precedent in the UK craft beer world, possibly without precedent anywhere.

In the beginning they were Watt, Martin Dickie, and a dog, selling 4 different brews at Aberdeen’s farmers’ market. They now employ thousands and have breweries in Columbus Ohio, Australia and Germany as well as their Ellon home.

From one Aberdeen Castlegate bar sprouted scores of bars on four continents. These bars are a key point of revenue – and just like that, all the UK’s hospitality sector was faced with the lockdown and all it implied.
This dog was not going to just roll over.

Sanitized News:

BrewDog first decided they would use their distillery to provide free-of-charge sanitizer for the NHS which had announced a shortage. They worked with the NHS and while the very first batch wasn’t quite strong enough (a BrewDog first), they’ve been pumping out sanitizer and packing it into any and all bottles and packages they can get. An NHS spokesman said:

“It’s heartening that firms like BrewDog are choosing to play their part, and helping protect our NHS workers on the frontline across Grampian.

“This serves as yet another example of the phenomenal support we’ve received from a number of businesses in the local community. By working together, and continuing to follow the government advice, we will get through this pandemic.”

The sanitizer is not for sale; BrewDog are now delivering some of it to North East Scotland’s nursing homes, and over 100,000 bottles have been distributed free.

Funding this initiative’s costs, and commenting on a government covid-19 scandal, BrewDog recently released a new product…

Barnard Castle Eye Test – Cummings’ Comeuppance:

While many of us were doing our part and following lockdown orders created by Boris Johnson and his advisers, he and his advisers seemed immune to these regulations they created.

BoJo shook hands with Covid-19 patients – later denying it- he caught the disease and passed it to others.

His unelected guru, Mekon-lookalike Dominic Cummings, decided that despite lockdown, despite being ill, and despite not able to see straight, he’d drive his family to stay with his dad (staying in a cottage on the property that seems to have no planning permission and for which no tax seems to be paid by the way. True: Dad owns a horse he named Barak because the horse is black and white: Racism is alive and well and in Barnard).

The country was outraged (save some Daily Mail readers) by these double-standards and all their implications. Watt told LBC Radio:

“If they’re asking the country to make sacrifices for the common good the government and its advisers should be abiding by the same rules.”

Following BrewDog’s longstanding history of ‘protest beers’ such as ‘Hello my name is Vlad’ (dig at Putin’s anti LGBT hardline actions), ‘Make Earth Great Again’ (a commentary on Trump) and more, BrewDog announced it would make a Cummings-related beer.

The name was put to a public vote, and within hours of being put on presale, ‘Barnard Castle Eye Test’ sold over 45,000 units: all profits going to the NHS hand sanitizer project.

Open Arms Welcome:

For many on lockdown, BrewDog provides a great online social resource, the BrewDog Open Arms https://www.brewdog.com/uk/onlinebar .

Every Friday at 6pm this virtual online pub opens up for a few hours of zany fun.

BrewDog told Aberdeen Voice:

“The Open Arms was started as soon as our bars shut so we could still bring our community together to be social and enjoy a beer. Since opening we’ve been blown away by the support and experience with over 100,000 people joining our sessions from all over the world.

“The Open Arms has hosted live music, virtual beer tastings, homebrew sessions, food & beer pairings and our weekly Friday session.

“We now have regulars joining us every week and, due to demand, have recently changed the Friday session to be unlimited entry via streaming on YouTube Live”.

Dawn Scott’s ‘Kamikazi Knitting Club’.

MCs Tim Warwood & Adam Gendle host the event and run a hilarious quiz with prizes randomly given out. James Watt and Martin Dickie are among the hundreds who attend. Musical guests have included Carl Barat from The Libertines and a host of upcoming talents performing from their homes.

It usually ends up with people dancing in their living rooms to the cheesiest of music, ending in Toto’s Africa (yes, really).

James and Martin announced, seemingly off the cuff that they’d give away £1,000 next week in beer vouchers for the best costume. Amanda Scott won the bar’s costume competition with a hyper-creative recreation of BrewDog’s ‘Homicidal Helpdesk Puppet’.

Runners-up included Jazza Crawford and Linz as ‘Super Bario Brothers’, while Rob Scott and his wife Dawn recreated BrewDog beer labels for ‘Zombie Cake’ and ‘Kamikazi Knitting Club’.

Rob said:

“I love the Open Arms Online bar…[it] lets us experience some of the vibe. We attend the Open Arms bar and afterwards we videocall each other and talk some more.

“Another reason I like the Open Arms is that I’m an introvert. This way I can take part of the experience on my own terms.”

Jazza said:

“Since the very first week both Linz and I have been enjoying catching up with friends and other Equity Punks in the BrewDog open arms.

“So far we have learned a lot more about the creation of some of our favourite beers and spirits. Learned how to cook some amazing dishes. Painted sharks and whales with Plague Fisher.

“Most of all our Friday night highlight is the quiz and after party. It’s been brilliant to have what feels like and escape from the home without actually leaving the house.

“I hope it stays after lockdown maybe as a once monthly catch up for the international friends that we have made through BrewDog.

“Brewdog Open Arms is a great community, it’s fun to see everyone and to hear James & Martin talk about the business and the new beers and sprits they’re making!”

The Open Arms session on 29 May featured a challenge which raised a massive £3,000 for the NHS. Sessions are occasionally held on other days, featuring beer yoga, recipes, virtual tasting sessions, and even an art tutorial from Craig Fisher, whose distinctive bold designs decorate BrewDog bars and breweries around the world.

Craig, who no longer works in-house for BrewDog, said:

“It’s been an awesome way to interact with the BrewDog fans who’ve followed my work, despite the current limitations.”

While many businesses are losing revenue, while many people are worried about finances, friends and lockdown, BrewDog is coming through with helpful initiatives – and it all started on our doorsteps in Fraserburgh, Ellon, and Aberdeen.

On a personal note, I am a shareholder (as I always disclose when I write about the company) – I’ve had many proud moments as such, but how they’ve handled lockdown’s challenges, but these initiatives re-set the scale and won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

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May 162020

By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally ho! Lockdown is bringing out the best in people; I’m getting more email than ever from lawyers of dead relatives in the Gabon and Bolivia than I never heard of, all wanting to give me money.

This is particularly heartwarming, as I’ve been singled out from the scores of relatives we apparently share in common.

All I need to do is reply with my personal details and a few hundred pounds and they’ll wire me millions. What a great thing the internet is.

Along with these generous offers I have email from people like ‘Claudia Hayman’ who emails saying I must pay her invoices immediately.

There is usually a ‘PAY NOW’ comment in Claudia’s subject line, and an invoice number – which means it’s genuine.

Funny though, she never says what service or item she’s invoicing me for, and Old Susannah must be getting forgetful, as I have absolutely no recollection of buying anything from her.

In the interest of saving time, I forward Claudia’s emails to people like The honorable Doctor Abraham Naki, who represents my deceased ancestor in Nigeria and who is about to transfer billions into my account. I tell Claudia that Dr Abraham will pay her invoices, as he apparently has US $8 million of mine.

By allowing them to talk to each other directly, I’m sure I’m making everyone happy while I stay well out of it.

Either I’m about to come into lots of money, or these people are scammers who have mistaken me for a run-of-the-mill Covidiot.

It’s ages since I wrote an Old Susannah column (thank god some may say), but I wanted No. 200 to be a landmark issue. I nearly wrote about poor misunderstood councillors Alan Donnelly and Jennifer Stewart.

He bravely continues to represent Aberdeen and won’t let a trifle like his conviction for sexual assault stop him collecting his remuneration – I mean bravely voting in favour of the ruling majority – I mean going to functions – er something like that.

And Jennifer; well, despite going to the newspapers with tales of her being bullied by unnamed councillors to the point of her being mentally ill, she didn’t let that stop her going to the press to stick up for Donnelly, questioning whether the sexual assault conviction was really a sexual assault (let’s hope the victim won’t find her remarks bullying).

But we are in lockdown, and it is time to write Column 200.

I’ve been doing lockdown, because I’m an overly-cautious, paranoid person who is too thick to realise I’m a sheeple, sleepwalking into giving government and vaccine companies my freedom for the rest of my life.

I’m clearly a stooge for following the ‘Stay at Home Save Lives’ NHS request when I could be throwing bar-b-ques and going to house parties. Or so some would have me think.

My lockdown has included BrewDog just as past columns have. I usually open my column with a quick look at what BrewDogs I drank in which BrewDog pubs.

I did this before I bought shares, I own shares now, and so do some 131,000 others. I bought shares because I wanted to see where James Watt’s and Martin Dickie’s dreams would go. They went large. Then Covid19 struck.

This is what they did next.

This photo shows me in my home-made BrewDog Neon Overlord costume (this being one of their brews a while back), which I made for the BrewDog Open Arms online pub.

Is it childish to dress up? Hope so. I will never stop enjoying such challenges when they come my way.

Like so many other businesses, BrewDog has lost a lot of income – c 70% since lockdown started. The Dog was not about to roll over and play dead though.

They immediately started making hand sanitizer in conjunction with the NHS. BrewDog has donated huge quantities of it to the NHS. Thanks BrewDog.

Elsewhere BrewDog has helped entertain, motivate and engage with people during lockdown that has reaffirmed every great thought I’ve had about them.

The online pub is a great place to virtually hang out with hundreds of others. On Fridays at 6pm there is normally a hilarious, frenetic quiz, a few words from Martin and James, and lots of silly dancing.

During the week there are other pub events too – eg beer yoga, virtual tastings, and (my favourite) art tutorials from the amazing Fischer whose art decorates BrewDog bars and bottles www.brewdog.com.

This photo is my feeble attempt at doing one of his iconic whale creatures – the tuition was fine, my execution not so much.

I’m isolated at home with my cats (nb just Sasha now; Molly passed away), but when the BrewDog Open Arms is open, I sing, dance and laugh along with others, and I dare say many of us feel connected.

I’m currently drinking my favourite readily-available BrewDog, Jackhammer, but I recently discovered their delicious Zealots Heart gin. Juniper, angelica; the smell is divine – divine to the point I’ve broken out my home perfume-blending lab and am making my own version of the scent.

But I digress, and it’s time for some definitions.

Covidiot:  (noun) person who displays traits of gullibility, illogic, selfishness and/or good old-fashioned stupidity. Collective nouns for group of covidiots include: a Brian of covidiots (see photo below), a pandemic of covidiots, a murder of covidiots.

Never before in history has so much factual information been available to so many for free. Never before has it been so easy to corroborate information and separate fact from fiction. But for many, where’s the fun (or profit) in that?

Here is a look at some of the sub-species of covidiot:

‘I’m a Genius’ Covidiot:

We’re all of us so stupid, listening to the NHS, the WHO and the CDC. We could be taking our health advice from Kevin in Stockport’s sister’s friend who knows someone who’s a nurse.

Genius Covidiot posts go viral, they feature audio recordings of an unnamed, unseen self-styled ‘expert’ who tells you that Covid-19 is just the ‘flu or that if you shine a UV light in your mouth, you’re invincible.

Then we have the even smarter Genius Covidiot.

They are bravely protesting against the lockdown with a breath-taking array of signs. In America, many are financed by the far right, including the charming Dorr brothers, who like guns and want freedom (unless you’re a woman needing an abortion, or a person who wants gun law reform).

Here are some of my favourite Genius Covidiots.

(Moran, if you’re out there, hope you’ve got a Brian now. I recommend May, Eno or Cox)



It’s Pennsylvania, by the way – something most people who live there know. And… it’s ‘people’ not ‘peaple’.









Personally, I don’t think we’re paying frontline NHS enough to flip burgers let alone deal with Covid19.

Imagine taking the time to make such a kindly sign, but not knowing how to use an apostrophe or the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’.









Paranoid Covidiot:

We see the Paranoid Covidiot in its natural habitat on both sides of the Atlantic, huddled together in protests. Many of them in the USA need guns because, well, rights.

To the Paranoid Covidiot the lockdown and coronavirus is all a government/Bill Gates/5G/Elon Musk/Leftist/Communist/Socialist/Illuminati/Vaccine company plot to permanently take away our rights and mandate that we be force-injected with poison, don’t you know?

If you don’t realise all this and protest, then you are not woke. On the other hand if you don’t attend mass protests, you may well outlive the Paranoid Covidiot all the same.

Survivalist Covidiot:

Also crawling out of the woodwork are the survivalists – a predominantly American type of covidiot.

They usually wear camouflage gear so they can blend into the background. They also wear unmissable bright red Make America Great Again caps so that they stick out to fellow Survivalist Covidiots.

Reading things like ‘Survival Times’ or emails from some guy named Sam, the Survivalist Covidiot should be able to survive every disaster known to man.

If you had taken their advice, you would now have an underground concrete bunker filled with canned food, turmeric and krill capsules, radiation suits and protein bars (and lots of guns and ammo and toilet roll).

If you had acted on some of their bulletins, you’d have stocked up on enough tinned Cheeetos and dehydrated tacos to last 15 years. Their missives warn that those who didn’t stockpile would be in terror during a crisis but the survivalists would be smugly safe.

And now that they’ve been asked to stay indoors for a few months to stay alive? The Paper Survivalist Covidiot is freaking out.

The ‘It’s all about me’ Covidiot:

This genre of Covidiot is typified in Kristin from Hastings:

“I’ve been going out and I don’t even have a sniffle,” she boasts online, advising that since she personally doesn’t know anyone who’s had it, then it is just a big joke.

If it doesn’t impact Kristin personally, it can’t be bad right? Kristin doesn’t know anyone who died? Let’s all go back to normal then. Thanks Kristin.

The WTF Covidiot:

The WTF Covidiots are the ones who’ve taken being a covidiot to new levels.

The ‘My Body My Choice’ covidiot has taken a pro-choice slogan, which would be fine, if not for the fact the highly-contagious virus can live for days on some surfaces, and a single infected person can infect scores, hundreds, even thousands in the case of South Korea’s Patient 31.

They are often American, almost always far-right.

This person supports Trump, who with his evangelical preachers oppose the ‘My Body My Choice’ mantra when it comes to abortion.

Thank you, mystery woman, for fighting for our right not to wear facemasks and freedom to infect others at large gatherings and all those they come in contact with; your contribution will not be forgotten.

Face Masks are controversial even among experts. Can they pose risks if used wrongly?Apparently.

Can they stop an infected person’s droplets infecting others? Seems so.

But dang, they’re just so uncomfy – and unflattering.

Thinking outside the box, a Kentucky woman has solved the problem.

No need to thank me for sharing this tip.


PS: do not agree to pull a bank heist with this woman.

The Head of State Covidiot:

I cannot express how I felt when Boris Johnson announced he had shaken hands with Coronavirus patients. Then he got criticised and said he hadn’t.

Then he fell ill.

Now he’s making speeches again. Thanks Boris. Where would the NHS be without you?

But in this pandemic, the greatest head of state covidit is undoubtedly Donald J Trump. I admire how flexible he can be – not afraid to change his stance from ‘zero cases’ and ‘just one person from China’ into recommending specific, as-yet untested drugs (which may add profits to the Trump family coiffers) and recommending that people ingest bleach.

You first Donald.

At the time of writing the valet who serves POTUS diet coke, Kentucky Fried and hamberders has tested positive.

I’m not worried for The Donald: evangelical preachers tell us Trump is God’s man on earth, and they’ve prayed for him. Bleach and prayers, that’s all you need – if you’re Trump.

The ‘I’ve found a new expert’ covidiot:

In times of pandemic, nothing’s more important than being the first person to push a radical theory or wacky pseudo expert.

So if your google search comes up with one chiropracter who has a radical theory about the disease, if you find a video from a woman denounced in her profession because she can’t run experiments properly – by all means share these peoples’ views on every social media page you can.

Join new pages, tell everyone how the world’s greatest minds are wrong/corrupt/in a conspiracy, but Dr Bloggs from Dumbarton or Muskeegee has the solution to the pandemic. That’ll help.

And if someone takes dodgy advice you’ve shared and falls ill because of it, well, that’s not your fault, is it?

I think that’s enough Covidiots for now.

Please isolate yourself from idiocy, please take any non-medical advice with a pinch of salt, do not buy all the toilet roll in the asda superstore, and please – don’t go to mass protests against lockdown, even if you do believe you have a right to a haircut or golf game.

Lockdown measures are designed to stop you joining the 30,600 dead in the UK and 279,000 dead worldwide – and taking others with you.

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Sep 222017

Duncan Harley reflects on Life, the Universe and Everything. A sideways look at the world and its foibles.

It’s been quite a while since Grumpy Jack made the digital front-page. In fact, I am struggling to decide whether number-nine is the correct nomenclature for this edition of the musings.

In number-one, I recall penning something about the risks of texting while driving. Number- two had me misquoting a local daily as having headlined on ‘Titanic sinks, North East man loses pound on Broad Street’.
In Grumpy Jack’s Corner No. 5, Full Metal Prince Harry, Chelsea Tractors and the SS Politician got the bullet alongside 264,000 bottles of best highland malt and a local Inverurie pub called The Butcher’s Arms.

Saville, Warhol and the Great Gale of 1953 all – in their turn – got a good kicking, and why not I hear you say.

A silly fall out with a fellow writer led to Grumpy Jack’s demise in – I think far off 2014. Or was it 2013? I forget. Suitable apologies have been made and neither of us can really recall the reason why. There surely is history.

So why, I hear you ask, is Jack back?

Well, it’s all down to the Lord Provost of Aberdeen really. A splendid chap by the name of Barney Crockett. He recently commented on a misleading post regarding the invasion of George Square on social media and, within Nano-seconds, a piece penned in far off 2013 came back to haunt me.

Picture the scene if you will. The “War to end all wars” has recently ended and the troops have returned home to discover that all is not well in Scotland-shire. There are few jobs for the returning heroes and working conditions are poor with low wages and a long working week.

The workforce which had been in reserved occupations manufacturing the arms and tools for war are unhappy with the cuts in the standard working week due to the fact that the war has ended and there is no longer much demand in France for barbed wire, bullets and explosives. Plus of course the Bolshevist revolution has taken place leading to the early demise of the entire Russian Royal Family via firing squad.

So, on Friday 31st January 1919, after a general strike by 40,000 workers in the industrial heartland of Scotland, there was a mass rally in Glasgow’s George Square.

Now the aim of the rally was to hear the response of the UK government to the workers’ demands so the Lord Provost, Sir James Watson Stewart, and the Trades Council President, Mannie Shinwell, duly entered the City Chambers to have a wee natter.

Sadly, things got out of control. As they talked, the police baton charged the assembled crowd.

A magistrate tried to read the Riot Act but had the document taken from his hands and ripped up and things just got from bad to worse. Seasoned troops from south of the border were instructed to open fire if required to do so and the failure of the police to control the riot prompted the Coalition Government under one David Lloyd George – of Lendrum to Leeks fame – to react.

After Scottish Secretary Robert Munro described the riot as a Bolshevist uprising troops armed with machine guns, tanks and even a howitzer arrived to occupy Glasgow’s streets.

The howitzer was positioned on the City Chambers steps facing the crowd, the local cattle market was transformed into a tank depot, machine guns were posted on the top of the North British Hotel, the Glasgow Stock Exchange and the General Post Office Buildings.

As is usual in such situations no local troops were used. The local battalions who had recently returned from France were confined in Maryhill Barracks while battle-hardened troops from south of the border were instructed to open fire if required to do so.

Amazingly, there was no major bloodshed.

There were broken heads that afternoon but the Southern soldiers were never ordered to open fire. The government of the day obviously decided that it would be a bad idea to provoke social change via bloodshed.

Activist and sometime MP, Mannie Shinwell and fellow trade union activists were jailed for a bit before a 47-hour working week was agreed. Things then smouldered on until the 1922 General Strike. But that’s another story.

The helicopter-door-gunner sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket kind of sums up what nearly happened in George Square in far off 1919:

So, and moving on, here is Jack some years on and suffering from retirement, ill health and old age. More words are on the way probably. Unless, of course, I die soon. I forgot to say that the NHS are out to kill me.

More next week – that is if I survive that long.

– Grumpy Jack

PS: Thanks for the memories Barney. We all love what you do. Keep up the Lord Provosting  – you do it well.

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Sep 012016

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

Abseil 2a

Hall Morrice’s intrepid trio, Richard Stephenson, Jasmin Corbett and Emma Crossan will be abseiling to raise money for Grampian Hospitals Art Trust.

Three accountants hope that a daredevil stunt will add up to a significant donation for charity when they take the plunge and abseil 60ft down the side of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary next month.

The fearless threesome from Hall Morrice LLP – Richard Stephenson, Emma Crossan and Jasmin Corbett – will take on the challenge in aid of the Grampian Hospitals Art Trust, which is a client of their firm.

They will be among dozens of brave fund-raisers lining up to carry out the abseil from one of the oldest healthcare buildings in Aberdeen on September 18.

It is not the first time that Richard has undertaken such a stunt – just a year ago he completed an abseil from the tower of the Aberdeen Conference and Exhibition Centre in aid of another of Hall Morrice’s clients, Transition Extreme.

On that occasion the height of the tower was 40ft but the added 20ft on the ARI building does not faze 29-year-old Richard.

He says,

“The last abseil was great fun: it was the first time that I’d ever done one, and I’m looking forward to the added challenge of that extra 20ft.

“I’m also really pleased that this time I’ll have company. Emma and Jasmin are both really excited to be doing it, and it’s great that we can do it as a team.

“We are always looking at ways that we can add value to what we do for clients, but this is certainly one of the more unusual ways of approaching that.

“However, we think the Trust does fantastic work that impacts on people from all walks of life in the communities we operate in, so we are only too delighted to support what they do.”

Grampian Hospitals Art Trust has been working to create a positive, calming and welcoming environment at hospitals and clinics throughout the region for the past 30 years.

The charity now holds the largest art collection within the health care sector in Scotland – some 4.500 pieces in total – and these are located throughout the Grampian area in order to make medical buildings less daunting.

In addition to curating the works of art, the Trust also organises special projects in some of the region’s hospitals where patients can create their own art to take home with them. This process helps patients associate the experience of being in hospital with something positive.

Hall Morrice partner Shonagh Fraser, who specialises in charities and the third sector, adds,

“We are all extremely proud of our three team members for volunteering to do this. It’s very brave and definitely goes above and beyond the call of duty.

“I think this just goes to underline the ethos of the whole firm in that we want to provide an excellent service, but want to ensure that we can support our clients beyond the services that we offer.”

An online fund-raising page has been set up to help the trio raise sponsorship money at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Hall-Morrice-ARi-Abseil-2016

Founded in 1976, Hall Morrice celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is one of Scotland’s leading independent firms of chartered accountants with offices in Aberdeen and Fraserburgh. Based at 6 and 7 Queens Terrace in Aberdeen, Hall Morrice can be contacted on 01224 647394 or at accounts@hallmorrice.co.uk

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May 272016

Eilidh and Gillian2With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford

SNP representatives have met with senior staff at NHS Grampian to discuss ongoing recruitment challenges in the north east.

Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford and Gordon MSP Gillian Martin met with managers on Friday, while Stewart Stevenson MSP has scheduled a meeting with senior representatives for next month.

Speaking after the event, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“This was a very constructive meeting, which gave NHS representatives an opportunity to brief MPs and MSPs on the progress NHS Grampian is making to deliver integrated health and social care services, new investments across the North-east, and efforts to tackle the GP shortages in some rural areas.

“I was reassured to see NHS Grampian taking the recruitment shortfalls so seriously at senior levels.

“Although there’s no quick fix overnight solution to what is a complex problem, lots of options are being pursued, including working with the universities to do more to encourage young medics to see General Practice as an attractive career, and casting the net wide to encourage GPs to move to the area.”

Gordon MSP Gillian Martin added:

“Today was very useful for me to meet all the members of NHS Grampian’s leadership team and to be able to put some questions to them about health related issues in Aberdeenshire East. We were able to have a very constructive dialogue about issues surrounding GP recruitment and new models of primary care, and I look forward to working more closely with them as we go forward “

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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.]

Oct 192015

Is the country in the grip of an organised crime onslaught? Old Susannah thinks so, and offers two bonus definitions, one courtesy of Aberdeen City Council. By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryTally ho, and apologies for the late running of this service. There’s been so much going on in the Deen that I haven’t had time to put finger to keyboard until now.

BrewDog Bar had its 5th birthday – hard to believe it’s been that long. Beer and brownies were served (in moderation).

I’m doing a speech there this Thursday when they launch a show of Bibo Keeley’s artwork. This feminist artwork was just too much for the Aberdeen College up the road, as per this Aberdeen Voice article. If you’re free, drop in before 7:30pm.

The controlled explosion on Aberdeen’s Fun Beach this week seemed to have caught press attention. If the local journalists like this kind of thing, they need only come to Torry close to Bonfire Night.

By close to the night, I mean 6 months before to 6 months after. In fact, someone’s exploding something just off Victoria Road right now. I guess it just goes to show that our safety people really are on the ball. If they’re not banning pets and plastic chairs from events, making people queue for hours to get into an event, or putting people barriers across roads, they’re blowing things up. Great stuff.

The Harbour Board still insists that it wants only to take complete control of Nigg Bay so we can have cruise ships coming in.

These cruise ships full of rich tourists must be the same hordes of rich tourists which failed to materialise at the Trump golf course. The place is nothing like capacity, and losses are expected to be around £2,000,000 this past year. But the cruise ships; I can see it now – ships pull in full of wealthy tourist, their bulging wallets clutched in their hands as they make their way through the barbed wire keeping us Torry loons and quines away from their ships, down Victoria Road.

The millionaires will stop for a quick sandwich in SPAR or to place a bet before making their way to Union Square Mall, the Rodeo Drive of the North East. Spending their money, enriching the multinational shops’ coffers, they’ll saunter back down Victoria Road, through the dirt, dog dirt, overfilling dumpsters, and wave fondly as their ship pulls out. It’s almost too good to be true.

But at this rate there won’t be any room for definitions, so I’ll get on with it. Sadly, we have a crime problem, and unfortunately, organised crime exists. People team up to rob the unwary or the vulnerable, to steal, to trick, to exploit for profit. Here are some of the schemes they use.

Numbers Racket/Numbers Game: (Modern English Slang compound noun).

Definition 1to use statistics / numbers deliberately slanted with the intent of deception to win an argument.

Old Susannah includes this definition just for completeness, there aren’t any examples of this kind I can find in our area. I tried to think of examples the other day as I sadly walked through Union Terrace Gardens, lamenting the £18,000,000 the Granite Web could have made every year as 6,000 permanent jobs were created, and tourists (possibly from the cruise ships coming to Torry) flocked to see the granite ramps.

I was still trying to think of any examples of a numbers racket when I found myself at the Trump International Golf Links Scotland last week. I struggled to fight my way through the hordes of millionaire golfers queuing up for a £200 round of golf as the permanent Scottish staff struggled to accommodate. Should I think of any examples of this definition of a numbers game, I’ll let you know.

Definition 2 (North American in origin) A lottery based on unpredictable numbers in the results of races, sports games, lotteries, etc.

I’m sure you’re as excited as I am about the new form of the National Lottery. It was great when they doubled the ticket price, but now that they’ve added an extra ten numbers, that means you have more choice! Result!

You can now choose even more numbers than before. Of course, your odds of winning are apparently as good as the chances of Donald Trump admitting that he’s got the world’s worst syrup on his head, or of a certain local billionaire paying the tax he actually morally owes. You have more chance of being hit by lightning than of winning a Lotto jackpot now. But it’s a nice little earner. For Camelot. And the government.

Some unkind folks call Lotto a tax on the poor. That’s nonsense. Besides, we’ve already got lots of taxes on the poor. There’s bedroom tax, fines for the homeless in some parts of the country, and a whole swathe of recent benefit cuts. Lotto’s really just a wee bit of psychological temptation for the poor. When I see people who barely have any money spending it on scratch cards, I’m as sure as they are that that one big win would make everything fine – if one or two people start gambling more than they should, it’s hardly the State’s fault, is it?

Protection Racket: (Modern English Slang compound noun) Practice of paying money in exchange for either not being directly attacked, or for getting assistance when it is needed. Often the person or organisation collecting the protection money will not come through when they are supposed to.

A modern version works like this. Jack works a 9-5 job and takes home £300 a week. The State says Jack has to pay for a scheme, called National Insurance. This is in case Jack ever gets sick, or needs help, or if he wants to keep eating when he is old. National Insurance is not classed as a tax by the way, so the racketeers can pretend they are not raising taxes if they raise National Insurance.

Jack gets sick. If and when he’s lucky, and if he lives in the right post code, he’ll get a great deal of medical help from dedicated professionals. If he’s in the wrong postcode at the wrong time, it will be a different story.

But things are changing. A number of American mobs are moving in on the UK protection racket, and want to get even more money out of us, by taking over the operations – literally. There are think tanks* coming up with papers and reports proving that we need to privatise the National Health Service which should be funded by our protection money – I mean National Insurance. They know they can bleed Jack for just that little bit more money.

Sometimes it doesn’t go well. Jill was taken ill – but she was overweight/smoked/drank too much/ took an ecstasy pill. There are some doctors out there who have let quite a growing number of Jills simply die.

Basically, you pays your money and you takes your chance. This is why many Jacks and Jills are now paying a further protection racket to try to get better odds of fast treatment (or just treatment at all). This link gives you a nostalgic look at how things have slightly shifted: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/10078062/why-do-we-pay-national-insurance

It’s not just a bad idea to get ill, it is a very, very bad idea to get old….

Pyramid Selling Scheme: (Modern English Slang compound noun) A financial fraud in which those who get in at the beginning are guaranteed benefit, but those who come in late – at the bottom of the pyramid – wind up losing out.

This National Insurance thing. It started out as a great idea, and it still is a great idea. Alas! The mob running it at present has turned the tables. They’d rather spend our tax and protection money ‘tooling up’ for when they have to go to war with the Middle East Mob, or wherever their gang warfare takes them next. Our money is not going on hospitals and pensions and protection so much as it is going on weapons. Lots of them. Billions of pounds worth. But that’s what the crime bosses want.

Anyway – you make the mistake of getting older. You’ve been paying into the pyramid scheme via your taxes and NI for decades. Not so fast: the bosses have moved the goal posts. You’re going to have to work a few more years. And as you get closer to that deadline, they posts move again.

The thing is – if the crime bosses keep buying all the lethal weapons and rockets they want with your money, and if people keep not dying but getting older – there’s not going to be enough money for your retirement. So they’re cutting back on what you were promised, little by little.

Decent place to live? Well, if you need a retirement home, they’ll take most of your money off of you before you can get into some kind of human (inhuman) warehouse. The people who are supposed to take care of you there are likely to be overworked, undertrained, and in some cases brutal. Your protection money is not likely to save you from the degradation, abuse or chemical coshing you are more than likely to receive.

So, we all keep paying in, we all keep trying to save. The goons that take our money and which will take those savings tell us they’ve got to rescue the banks or we’ll be in financial trouble. They say we need billions of pounds’ worth of weaponry to be safe. They say they need huge pay rises, incentive bonuses, and fat pensions.

Remember though, we are all in this together.

Next Week – probably a column of some sort from my prison cell.

Result!  Bonus Definitions!

* Think Tank: (Modern English compound  noun)– quick definition – a group undertaking research, often funded by those who want the think tank to reach a particular conclusion.

There are more think tanks about the NHS’s future than I can possibly list. Funny – most of these think tanks that are paid for by US healthcare companies are of the opinion the NHS should be privatised and run by, er – US healthcare companies.

wank tankWank Tank: (Modern Aberdeen City Council compound noun)

My picture shows a document Aberdeen City Council’s Housing Department sent out a form to a resident, which reads: ‘Pipes overflowing from the wank tank, water pouring out from the loft overflow.’

Old Susannah is debating whether or not to ask Peter Leonard, head of this department, for help with a definition. If any readers can help, please do let me know.

At least it’s apparently only water coming out from the loft overflow.

Pictures not required in this instance, thank you; tanks but no tanks.

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Sep 042015

With thanks to Tom Collins, Press Officer, Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MP MSP

Alex Salmond head and shouldersAlex Salmond MSP (Aberdeenshire East) has welcomed an update from the Scottish Government on plans for new integrated health and social care hub for Inverurie.

On 6 August, Mr Salmond lodged a Parliamentary Question at Holyrood asking the Scottish Government for an update on the £14 million project and also asked what action it and NHS Grampian are taking to keep the community informed of progress.

The Scottish Government’s Minister for Public Health and Sport Shona Robison MSP, responded to Mr Salmond informing him that NHS Grampian have published a paper with an update on the Inverurie Health and Care Hub and the Relocation of Foresterhill Health Centre.

The board of NHS Grampian has approved the outline business case for the project and the next stage is for it to be submitted to Scottish Government for review. NHS Grampian aim to have the centre completed by January 2017.

Commenting, Mr Salmond said:

“I am very pleased that NHS Grampian are moving forward with the plans for the much needed new Inverurie Health Centre. The £14 million project, which includes funding from the Scottish Government, represents the dedication the SNP has to improving health services throughout the length and breadth of the country. 

“It is good to see that the public are being kept up to date with developments with information readily available on their website, including timescales, costs and future meetings.

“I am very much looking forward to seeing the completed centre, which will be a more than welcome upgrade for Inverurie and the surrounding areas.”

In her reply, Ms Robison said:

“The board’s planned project programme will see construction begin in summer 2016, completion of the build and commissioning in December 2017, and service commencement in January 2018.

“A newsletter, published by NHS Grampian in June this year, provided the public with a report on progress with the project and outlined the programme.

“In addition, a public drop in session, the second such event, was held at the Acorn Centre in Inverurie on 30 June, giving the public the opportunity to view the latest concept design plans.

“Further public engagement is planned to be advertised in the local press towards the end of the year and public representatives continue to attend the monthly project meetings.”

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Aug 102015
Christian Allard MSP at the Scottish Parliament

Christian Allard MSP at the Scottish Parliament.

With thanks to Lee Robb, Caseworker to Christian Allard MSP.

Home Office planned changes to working visas could see a number of NHS Grampian staff sent back to their home countries.

This comes after North East SNP MSP, Christian Allard, requested information from NHS Grampian on what the UK Government’s proposed changes to the current Tier 2 Visa system would mean for the local health service.

The proposals mean that, non-EU citizens who earn less-than £35,000 per annum, could find they do not qualify for a UK working visa. NHS Grampian counted 10 staff members who fall into this category – including nursing staff.

The Royal College of Nursing have projected that such changes could cost NHS Scotland 3,365 nurses.

Commenting, Christian Allard said:

“People who come to this country and contribute, in the way that NHS nurses do, should not be treated like second-class citizens.

“The prospect of losing NHS Scotland staff as a result of the Conservative government’s planned changes is totally unacceptable. This will have an effect everywhere, including here in the North East.

“NHS staff play a vital role in delivering our health service. Their experience and dedication cannot be allowed to fall victim to a backwards agenda from the UK Government.”

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Jul 162015
Stewart Stevenson, Inverallochy dispensing kiosk2 2015

Stewart Stevenson MSP takes his turn on the new dispensing kiosk.

With thanks to Paul Robertson.

Stewart Stevenson visited the Post Office in Inverallochy this week to take his turn on the new piece of technology which is the talk of the town. The robot kiosk, developed in an Aberdeen University research project, is enabling residents to speak with pharmacists in Fraserburgh via webcam and receive medicines dispensed straight from the machine.

The trial examines how better services can be delivered to rural areas. Should the trial be successful, similar schemes could be rolled out in other parts of Aberdeenshire and across rural Scotland.

The robotic kiosk, which cost around £150,000 to develop, allows customers to speak to a pharmacist at Bairds Pharmacy in Fraserburgh via webcam. The kiosk is filled with a range of prescription and over-the-counter remedies which can then be dispensed as necessary.

Testing the new kiosk at the Inverallochy Post Office, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Rural communities sometimes struggle to retain local amenities so this trial is a very important step in ensuring that such vital pharmacy services can be provided locally and efficiently. It is important to our health, and to the health of our rural town centres, to have facilities on our doorstep.

“I am very proud that this trial is a product of the North-east from start to finish – researched at the University of Aberdeen and delivered for trial in Inverallochy and Fraserburgh. I would encourage my constituents to make use of the new easy-to-use tool and I will follow the project with a keen interest.”

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May 222015

Aberdeen-based artists Brian and Bibo Keely have turned a major life event into an exhibition of portraiture and sculpture which is optimistic, personal, educational and aesthetically wonderful.  By Suzanne Kelly

Brian and BiboWhen local artists want to exhibit, more and more of them are going to Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are several reasons for this. Many feel disenfranchised from a conservative Aberdeen arts matrix populated by those who hold the purse strings, those with money and those in government. Outside of Aberdeen arts flourish from the grassroots in an artist-led organic fashion. It is rumoured that here for instance, those who created Aberdeen’s lamentable ‘City of Culture’ bid invented contrivances of their own without input from our existing musicians and artists – to the point that one Culture supremo had to have WASPS explained to them (briefly, WASPS is the largest organisation helping artists work in affordable studio space in Scotland).

Art that comes from personal experience, from research and work independent of a pro-government agenda will always trump art sponsored and commissioned (whether directly or tacitly) by those in power. It is no wonder the arts community Scotland wide decided that ‘gigs on rigs’ and a one off concert for ships horns, orchestras and horses were events that had little real merit or support from the local practicising artists. We have seen several arts practitioners pack up and move south. This trend must be reversed – possibly the best thing that could happen is for a clean sweep of the existing cabal of people handing out grants from our arts fund to people they very often know. In the meantime if artists are not voting with their feet and moving (like Fraser Denholm, creator of excellent film ‘Run Down Aberdeen’), they are certainly taking their work south where it can be shown in galleries that are often artist-led, to be seen by fellow artists and a more international (and dare I suggest it) less conservative audience.

Torry’s Anna Geerdes has had a very successful show in Glasgow’s Compass Gallery two months back; visitors from several countries and many Scottish cities visited and bought her surrealistic, beautifully-executed work. Also showing work that is beautifully executed, personal and relevant is Brian Keely, currently exhibiting in ArtVillage in Glasgow.  ArtVillage “revives historic High Streets that have suffered decline by creating vibrant, successful cultural centres” – which certainly sounds like the kind of initiative we need here.  Such initiatives are common in many cities south of the oil capital of Europe; it is a pity that while we have the occasional temporary ‘pop up shop’, there are empty spaces on our high street serving no purpose which could be given to artists’ collectives (such as poor Limousine Bull, which had to close because it needed a paltry sum to continue after an arts funding fiscal reorganisation:  no money could be found).  It is just as well we have a few less conventional venues which exhibit fledgling and established artists’ work such as our private galleries, BrewDog and Under The Hammer.  But we could and should be doing more.

On With The Show
But I digress.  The point of this piece is to highlight how heart patient Brian Keely has taken from his experience and created a collection of portraits, and how his wife Bibo reflects her experience in her sculpture.  The official programme explains further:-

portrait by Brian Keeley“Brian Keeley graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1984. He has worked extensively in community film and video, and as a digital video editor. He taught English as a Foreign Language in Germany for many years and, before his illness, he was a secondary teacher of Art & Design in Aberdeen.

“Bibo Keeley’s artwork has been exhibited in numerous collective exhibitions and also solo exhibitions, in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK over the last few years, and following this life-changing experience she has embraced her artistic career and in 2015 will begin a BA (Hons) degree course in Fine Art at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen.

“Brian & Bibo were married in the Intensive Care ward at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, Clydebank, when Brian was not expected to survive any longer.”

 A video of the exhibition can be found here

“Brian’s portrait paintings pay tribute to his wife Bibo, and to the medical professionals who saved his life during months in Intensive Care and and who helped him recover following his eventual heart transplant.

“Bibo’s sculptures respond to her experiences during this time, and her photography documents her husband’s recovery and recuperation.”

The many canvas portraits capture a number of personalities and characteristics of those who Brian and Bibo encountered in their dealings with the NHS, but there is an optimism, and a refusal to resort to gross exaggeration or distortion of facial features.  The portraits are fond portrayals.  Brian says of his experiences:-

brian keeley self portraitAlthough I already knew that I wanted to paint portraits from these photographs, I did not know if I would even walk again, let alone be able to hold a paintbrush.

“The photographs were an important way for me to connect with the subjects during this short window of opportunity between surviving the transplant and leaving Intensive Care.

“Painting these 25 portraits gave me a clear focus and a creative goal during my rehabilitation.

“It was an important part of my recovery, and I wanted to fix this period in time.”

Bibo’s sculptures seem to reflect the inner emotional rollercoaster the two of them must have been on; there is a demonic figure; there is a tender family grouping, there is a work which seems to show the transformation such major surgery must mean physically, mentally and emotionally.

In Brian’s words:-

“The exhibition seeks to raise awareness of the issue of organ donation, and the terrifying numbers of people who suffer from heart disease and heart attacks.

“These issues are particularly current as Anne McTaggart MSP is currently in the process of bringing a Private Members Bill to the Scottish Parliament that would see the introduction of a ‘soft opt-out’ system of organ donation in Scotland.”

This interest in the issues surrounding organ donation is of course personal, but Brian and Bibo are often found in Aberdeen at events where art meets social problems, be it exhibitions at Easter Anguston Farm, artists’ gatherings, and premiers of documentaries about important issues. They do what artists should do – look for issues and problems, react to them, help where they can, and create artifacts that reflect what is going on and how they feel. It is these kinds of artist that communities need more than someone whose art tells them how great things are in the eyes of their patrons. Let’s hope we are not about to lose more talent to cities that appreciate genuine talent more than we seem to.

Event info at: www.facebook.com/artvillagescotland