Apr 142016

donprespicBy Suzanne Kelly.

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

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

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

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

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

“Wonder if it’ll have her looks?!

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

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

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

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

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

“Darling, Donald wants to give you a present”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damian was white now.

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

Sarah wrinkled her pretty nose.

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

Puzzled, Bates couldn’t quite find the words.

Almost as if she could sense his bewilderment she answered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 112016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps a few relevant definitions might help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In December last year, VS said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what he wrote back to me:

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

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

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Feb 252016

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

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

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

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

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

Reader Offer: 

Bottle OpenerThis splendid bottle opener is perfect for those bottles of expensive wine you drink after a hard day editing the paper.

Sprinting home in your Mazarati, no doubt you want to see your delightful wife greet you at the door with glasses, a bottle, and this exclusive bottle opener.

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

Meals not included.

£1,999 per person.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about it here! Really! Tally ho!

Send us your story – sheep on the road?

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

RowiesRollsPancakesthmCompetition! Aberdeen’s Prettiest Rowie!

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

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

And with that, one or two definitions

Pro Lifers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feb 202015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As described on one website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feb 122015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the story advised:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Valentine’s Day all.

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May 302014

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

DictionaryThe saying runs ‘a week is a long time in politics;’  and it certainly has been a long, eventful week in Scotland.  Congratulations to us all; we  now have new MEPs, including one UKIP member, a Scottish first.

Meet the new boss – David Coburn.  The Torygraph (sorry, Telegraph) quoted Coburn as saying:

“voters disillusioned with the Nationalists had coalesced around Ukip as a result and rejected the First Minister’s claim the BBC was to blame by providing extensive coverage of Nigel Farage to Scottish homes” 


Old Susannah is trying to work out how you can be gay and a UKIP MEP, when UKIP wants to stop same sex marriage. It’s almost as if there were some inconsistencies in this party’s policies and/or membership.

The new catchphrase on UKIP supporters’ lips is “I’m not racist but…”.  For some reason most of us want the freedom to have property abroad, move abroad and work abroad (if not keep our money away from the taxman by stashing it abroad). We just don’t want people from abroad doing that kind of thing here.

So, UKIP  has gained ground, largely at the expense of the Lib ‘no tuition fees, we’ve signed a pledge’ Democrats. I guess every very grey cloud has some kind of silver lining. Oh, and that nice man, Mr Inclusive, Nick Griffin has lost the seat the BNP once held.

But first, a quick word before definitions on a serious matter. There is a drug-related problem to be addressed, sorry to say. The P&J and its sister the Evening Express have been desperate for a fix lately, and have been experimenting with drug stories. Unfortunately too many drugs articles can cause reporters great confusion and difficulties in concentrating, thus leading to inaccurate, wild stories. Cocaine in particular can lead to a dangerous feeling over confidence.  In a very excited, highly agitated condition, the P&J reported:

“A MAJOR police probe has been launched after a stash of cocaine was found on a North Sea oil platform. Medics have drug-tested 150 workers on the Piper Bravo after a number of wraps containing white powder were discovered.

“The substance will be tested at a laboratory in Aberdeen today and is expected to be confirmed as the Class A drug.” https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/aberdeen/83802/suspected-stash-of-cocaine-found-on-north-sea-platform/

Old Susannah may only be an amateur writer, but I tend to write about things once they have been confirmed. The news professionals at AJL clearly have problems with doing lines. The head line in their story claims it’s cocaine that’s been found. Then the paper does some smaller lines which tell readers that the wraps (whatever that is) are expected to be confirmed as the class a drug.

I’m afraid it was snorts of derision all round other Scottish media when the truth came out, as alas! The wraps of cocaine turned out to be some kind of painkiller (and a legal one at that).

Unfortunately with drugs, there is always a comedown. The papers and their uber editor somehow hallucinated that cocaine was found on an oil rig. When they were forced to sober up a few days later, reality had set in, and they reported:

“An unknown substance discovered in packages on a North Sea platform was common pain relief medicine, tests have confirmed.

“Three small packages containing the substance were recovered from the Piper Bravo platform on Saturday.” http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/news/scotland/platform-alert-substance-medicine-1.385127

Confused hacks at the papers even have one article talking about unknown substances, but the same article has a photo captioned:

“FIND: An unknown substance found on board the Piper Bravo platform has been confirmed as a common painkiller” – http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/news/local/three-packages-to-be-tested-after-white-powder-found-on-north-sea-platform-1.380523

So you see, messing around with drugs because you think they may make you or your newspaper look glamorous or interesting can backfire badly, making you embarrassed by your behaviour for a long time to come.

Onwards with definitions as promised last week, although I find it hard to figure out if the governments want to protect our rights or spy on us, and be the only ones allowed to hold data on individuals. It surely can’t be the latter. Here are some definitions focusing on recent developments impacting on your right to privacy, your right to know, and press freedom.

‘Right to be forgotten’ : (Modern English legal phrase)- legal guarantee that in certain circumstances search engines will be forced to remove links from search results if they concern a private person who wants their past stories and deeds to be omitted from search results.

As the BBC reported,

“The Court of Justice of the European Union set a legal precedent on 13 May when it ruled that a user had the right to have links to web pages about him removed from Google’s results because the passage of time had made them ‘irrelevant'”

The Spanish man had complained that Google’s links to an auction notice of his repossessed home infringed his privacy. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27499601

Surely this ‘right to be forgotten’ could never be used to protect lawbreakers, people with violent pasts, or UKIP members who eventually realise they don’t want to be associated with UKIP views on homosexuals and immigrants?

Somehow the EU has decided that it is not the responsibility of people who publish information on the web to take it down, it is somehow Google’s responsibility for letting people know what’s out there that should be curtailed. Perhaps we’ll decide that librarians (if there are any left) are responsible for what gets into card catalogues and publishers are off the hook for printing information that someone, somewhere wants forgotten.

What are the implications – cost, practicality, data management for search engines? Is it even possible to enact this law? I guess these minor details will work themselves out with little fuss.

The BBC also reports:-

“Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, has attacked the judgement, calling it “wide-sweeping internet censorship”, adding that it would be difficult for search firms to determine what should be removed”

Surely our EU and national governments wouldn’t try and control the flow of information, would they?

At the same time the EU wants to control the circulation of information and retention records, UK / Scottish Authorites are going about things a little differently.

Yet another policeman has been charged with spying on an ex partner via the police database. I’m sure he was just trying to keep a friendly eye on her and her family; she’s probably flattered that she’s being looked after.

Unfortunately, the law says that such records are to be used for professional reasons only. But surely we can trust the police with our private information, especially now that the government is collecting more and more data on us all the time?

School children and younger are being arrested, and their DNA and fingerprints taken. Kind of conveniently, this makes it just that much easier for the police to keep tabs on us all from an early age, whether we’re criminals or not. You’ll also be happy to know that more and more police are carrying guns.  I’m sure you feel as safe as I do.

When it comes to sharing info, there is a new scheme afoot to keep records on people with violent pasts, and let potential spouses access these. There may be issues with who controls this data, what’s included or excluded, and who makes the decisions on what to release. But as long a the authorities in charge, then it will all work out fine.  I wonder what would happen if the police started looking at the violent, criminal activities of its own members?

Press Reform: (Modern English phrase) – the ConDem attempt at press regulation in the aftermath of the news of the world hacking scandal.

In the old days, the only check on government, politicians and the powerful was a free press.  However, one news corporation used some illegal methods to get stories.  Coupled with the fact our government is trustworthy and doesn’t need any investigation, the ConDems have decided we don’t really need a free press. As the Telegraph reports:

“Late on Friday, in yet another session from which press representatives were excluded, Mrs Miller and the other parties produced the final version of their charter. There were a few small changes, but crucially nothing to address the newspapers’ central concern, which was that the charter could be amended by politicians, effectively at will. (In theory, a high bar – a two-thirds majority of Parliament – is needed, but in practice this requirement is not entrenched and could be changed by a simple majority of MPs.)

“Any new press regulator would not itself be part of the state, but it would have to conform to the criteria set down by the state in the royal charter. These are fairly prescriptive already – but if they can be changed by MPs in future to make them tighter still, a decisive line has been crossed in political control of the press.”

Oh, and the ‘Mrs Miller’ quoted in the above paragraph is the same woman who was the culture secretary; she had to leave in disgrace after the media exposed a scandal or two she was involved with.  It’s almost as if she wanted revenge on the press. Miller also had an aide try and thwart press questions by a Telegraph reporter by intimating Miller was in a position of power over the press.

Private Eye, The Guardian, i, The Independent and The Observer (to name a few) did not dish out money to the police for scoops, did not hack into 150 phonecalls of Kate Middleton’s before she married Prince William, and did not hack into a missing schoolgirl’s phone, possibly compromising crucial evidence.

But you have to be fair when you’re in government – like when many of our major banks broke the rules, lost tens of millions of pounds, and falsified records. They were all soundly punished with measures ranging from taxpayer-funded bailouts, taxpayer-funded million pound bonuses for bosses, and absolutely no punitive regulations were at all.  One paper breaks the law (with it should be noted police complicity), and it’s time to cow the entire media.

With the banking sector, it is almost as if the friendships and overlaps between government officials and highly-placed financial executives resulted in the government turning a blind eye.  Funnily enough, the government is keen to punish all  of its critics in the publishing sector. I wonder why?

So in summary, you won’t be getting information from a free, unhindered press.  You probably won’t be getting all the search results you want from Google or Yahoo!  You’ll be getting information from the government, or at least the information government will let you have.  Seems fair enough to me.

Next week:  We’ll see if we’re allowed to publish

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Jan 242014

Voice’s Old Susannah writes from New York and looks at the ‘Deen from a slightly different perspective. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryGreetings from New York, which I guess is also a bit of a city of culture like Aberdeen is. A foot of snow fell here yesterday, which has led to strange sights. Trucks spreading salt and grit were immediately deployed to major highways and bridges. Ploughs worked round the clock clearing the major roads, then the smaller ones. Most schools were closed almost immediately after the snow was forecast. Things got stranger though.

City and town governments worked to ensure public pavements were cleared. Police were out warning motorists which streets shouldn’t be used yet, and news broadcasts gave on the spot updates.

Furthermore, recorded messages went out to all residents, telling them not to go out if they didn’t have to, advising of changes in trash collection times and so on. These recorded messages reminded people of both emergency and non-emergency telephone numbers.

Neighbours telephoned each other to see if anyone was in need of help or food. People got out and shovelled snow, ensuring that the walkways were all clear. New York, it’s a helluva town. I fondly remembered the past Aberdeen City administration, which ran out of grit, which it said was very expensive. Good times.

Perhaps a few New York and Aberdeen comparison related definitions are called for, all things considered I think New York City and State could learn much from  Aberdeen City and Shire.

Municipal Park: (Eng. compound noun) open ground, forest, beach, and other areas owned, run and managed by the public sector.

Long Island is a long, thin island perpendicular to New York. It may be fairly built up close to Manhattan with Queens being densely populated, but there is still scope for development. It has over 60,000 acres of beach, forest, meadow and woodland people can roam. However, I took a long walk on a beach, and I hardly saw any other people: this means land is being wasted.

There is a famous green space called Sunken Meadow, but I can’t find word of any plans to raise it to street level and build a public square on it.

Even without building a granite web, monolith or glass worms being built, tourists and locals seem to want to spend time playing, walking, exercising and indulging in sports in outdoor locations. Much of this land has been designated ‘protected open space’, which means no one can build on it, even if they have lots of money. I guess Long Island is closed for business and not very forward looking.

Donald Trump bid to do some work at Jones Beach

There is no local development plan created by planners and builders, and taxpayers seem to get a say what will happen.

Of course planning should be left to professional house builders, unelected groups like ACSEF and elected officials who instantly become planning experts after elections, just like we do back in Aberdeen.

Long Island has a private trust which works with the government to protect the green spaces; somehow these people cling to the idea that green spaces are good for tourism, public health, surrounding businesses and air quality.

Donald Trump bid to do some work at Jones Beach; initially an art deco building was going to be redeveloped. For decades there was a public restaurant on the beach, and Trump was going to come in, dig several more underground stories (on the beach, which sounds really exciting), and modestly call it ‘Trump on the Ocean’.  But Hurricane Sandy was given as the reason for the project falling through.

Oddly enough, other local businesses and structures managed to come back from the storm, but it proved too much for Trump. According to the Huffington Post at the time:

“The billionaire real estate mogul has abandoned plans to build a controversial $24 million catering hall called Trump On The Ocean because it’s, well, on the ocean, Newsday reports. Developers and state park officials are calling it quits on the restaurant, which was planned for New York’s Jones Beach park, citing concerns over future storm damage after the current foundation flooded.”

So, it seems that building on sandy coastlines that are occasionally hit by storms can be difficult, and moving sand and storms are sound reasons for Trump to cease construction plans and abandon promised developments. I’ll be glad to be back in Aberdeenshire where such a thing couldn’t happen.

Meanwhile back in the Deen, officials have commented on the news that the remains (legs actually) of deer were found on Tullos Hill and on Kincorth Hill earlier in January. The police were swift to correct a source who reported five deer had been killed on Tullos Hill; it was only four – you’ll all be as relieved as I am to know it’s a mere four, not five butchered deer.

With regards to the deer leg found on Kincorth Hill though, things get stranger. The person who found the leg ran into someone who claimed to be a ranger – but the ranger service claim no rangers were in the area.

it preserved the original external wall with its interesting architecture

Whether the deer were chased with dogs, shot, or otherwise killed and how much suffering was involved remains a mystery, but no doubt our ranger service and police will pull out all the stops to find out what’s going on and protect our wildlife.

You know, the wildlife that had no ‘natural predators’ according to our city officials and Aileen Malone, so that they had to be shot for the trees to be planted. At least we’ll soon have a beautiful source of lumber –  sorry community forest – that deer can live in, created by killing the existing deer and removing most of the gorse they could have potentially hidden in from whoever is killing them.

So, another ‘Well Done’ goes to those on the tree scheme. Cheers chaps. No doubt you’ll get some more awards soon.


Old Susannah visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the admission fees are optional, and dozens of schools were visiting. Oddly, there was construction work taking place to keep the building in good repair. There had been an extension built; this was a high ceiling extension with one glass side; it preserved the original external wall with its interesting architecture, yet made a nice large space for modern art.

It would of course been much more hip and happening if they had plunked a giant rectangular building on top of the existing structure, but it took Aberdeen to think of such a concept. In fact, the whole area is part of a historical district and local residents participate in preserving and celebrating the area.

Strangely, this was a natural evolution based on the artists who practiced in the area, the galleries, the high quality of the architecture and so on. If New York were better organised though, it would have a few dozen different groups, quangos and initiatives assigning names to different quarters arbitrarily, and then changing these names around every time a new shop or gallery opens or (more likely) closes.

See you in Aberdeen’s cultural quarter when I’m back – I’ll just have to figure out if it’s still on Holburn Street this week, or if the powers that be have moved it back to the HMT area or not.

I’ll definitely be in the Merchant Quarter to soak up the promised café culture.

“Described as the “beat and soul of Aberdeen” it offers some of the best dining experiences in Aberdeen, contemporary clothing shops and live music venues.”

There are dozens and dozens of small museums in New York State; many of these smaller ones are run by volunteers, and supported by private and public funds. Even the less profitable museums are retained because they are cultural assets. In short, these places and their collections should be sold to make more money. Raynam Hall for instance is a small white colonial house with exhibitions from the Revolutionary War.

Fundraising would not have worked here in one of Scotland’s richest cities

It’s small, there are no rides, and there’s not even a giant parking lot. The permanent collection will never be broken up, and for some reason local schools make cultural trips and take students to see Raynam Hall and other museums as part of their education. Sounds expensive to me.

Back in Aberdeen, we realise the value of our culture. We sell it. Thomas Glover House wasn’t pulling in enough money, so in 2012 its trustees sold furniture. As the Scotsman reported:

“Councillor John Reynolds, a former Lord Provost of Aberdeen who is one of the Glover house trustees, explained: ‘There was no money coming in and the curator had to go and the place had to close. And for the last two years the building has just been kept wind and water tight.

‘We had two options – either to sell the building or negotiate with the council for them to take it over. And that is where we are this moment in time.”

Mr Reynolds continued:

“We had to clear the place to save on the business rates which were quite exorbitant. We sold some of the period furniture – none of it Glover’s – which we had bought for the house and we put the important items we had collected into storage’.”

By the way, Glover was a little-known figure who opened up a small country named Japan to the western world; he was also involved in founding a small company called Mitsubishi. The house has been closed for two years. Yes, I guess in a poor city like Aberdeen John Reynolds was right – there were only two options – sell parts of the collection or close.

Fundraising would not have worked here in one of Scotland’s richest cities; applying for grants and loans from public and private sectors here and in Japan would not have been an option, either. Better not to have tried. But there is good news.

Glover made history; he introduced two cultures to each other, brought new art and design to the west, and made numerous contributions to Japan and Scotland. Therefore it is only fitting that his old house is to be relaunched as:

“a temple of good economic relations between Scotland and the Land of the Rising Sun.”

So, forget the Glover-related history, artwork, culture, etc. What we really need is a temple to economic relations.

If there is one thing that we do worship in Aberdeen, it is economics. Pity they didn’t think of turning Glover’s house into a temple to money earlier; no doubt that would have got the attention of Aberdeen’s great and good. Perhaps a Temple to Mammon could be built over UTG as well. There’s no word yet what form of worship will take place in the ‘Glover Temple to Economic Relations’, but I’ll keep you posted.

when the structures have sufficiently rotted, the land can finally be used for new offices or housing

In summary, New York has many small museums which get grants from the public and private sectors. School visits to these places help support their upkeep, and children get to experience the past and their culture first hand – they should of course be learning how to pass exams instead.

Such museums preserve aspects of culture and history, instead of being ‘forward looking’ and take up valuable land which could be developed instead.

By contrast, Aberdeen, the would-be city of culture, is a bit light on such field trips, has high business rates, and allows people to flog the contents of its historic buildings which are left to rot like Glover’s house and Westburn House; in a few years, when the structures have sufficiently rotted, the land can finally be used for new offices or housing.

New York’s government supports museums large and small, and I’m not at all sure if they even have a version of ACSEF at all.  Aberdeen instead pours money into worthwhile successes like ACSEF, which have the talent that’s made our retail sector what it is today.

We spend our tax money on really important things like bidding to be City of Culture and paying consultants to come up with great new city of culture proposed events like ‘gigs on rigs’ and the concert on the Dee which was to feature ships’ horns, water and horses, while our existing museums close.

It’s worth mentioning that there is one organically growing sector with a geographical area not planned out by ACSEF or Inspired: The Beermuda triangle is a reality. BrewDog and the Moorings started it with their copious selections of great craft brews; Six Degrees North and latterly Casc have opened their doors to take advantage of the growing interest in beer and the resultant potential for revenue.

This happened without any ACSEF think tanks, no outside consultants, and not even Rita Stephen. We’ve got a mini cultural/retail happening, and it’s happening because of a few innovators.  Who knows? Maybe the Beermuda Triangle will make it onto the official ‘quarters’ map one of these days.

Newspaper: (Eng. plural noun) a printed publication containing current events, stories; recent history as well as advertisements and editorials.

Old Susannah has been keeping up with the exciting news from Aberdeen as well as the more mundane New York goings on.

Here in New York, the papers vary widely in political outlook, making it very confusing to know what you should think on an issue. The New York Times, Newsday, The New York Daily News, The New York Post and a few other such minor publications vary widely in outlook, and not too many of these have lots of cute pictures of babies or newlyweds taking up the first few pages of the news.

The stories in newspapers such as the NYT and Newsday can’t be up to much; most of their pieces are available free online. You can subscribe to Newsday for instance and get both a paper copy and the full online version for just about the same cost of getting the web content of the Press & Journal (now a bargain at 1 year: £129.99).

Worse still, most of the New York newspapers print letters from readers on different sides of an issue, thus confusing readers. I can find no traces in New York’s newspapers of ‘Happy Tots’ competitions, and no articles at all about the important work ACSEF does or what its members’ opinions are. It’s as if the New York papers don’t pay attention to the important international news at all.

All in all, we have two interesting cities with coastal areas, meadows, forests, interesting architecture, and a mix of cultures. One city preserves its green spaces and historic buildings at all costs, spends money on ensuring children’s education includes culture, history and arts, has a wide range of newspapers giving different points of view, and favouring citizen-led initiatives to naturally shape policy and where culture and arts evolve naturally with public and private support.

Here’s hoping that New York will forget all that nonsense soon, and start thinking like our quangos and governments do here.

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Dec 242013

In her continuing series on the life of a pit photographer, Voice’s Julie Thompson pulls focus on The Bloody Marys Christmas Stocking at The Lemon Tree, Darth Elvis & the Imperials and Juicy Juicy Juice at The Moorings and The Lorelei, Brothers Reid and The Deportees at The Lemon Tree.

Marys1 - Credit Julie Thompson As Christmas is heading towards us at great speed, I went looking for seasonal musical offerings this week. Unfortunately, with two of the things on my schedule happening on the same evening, it meant a curtailed evening for both events.
Heading off to the Lemon Tree for The Bloody Marys, I encountered many more women than I am used to these days.

There was also an extreme preponderance of feather boas. Hardly surprising, given the nature of the reason we were all there. We were all there to party.

The Bloody Marys are a trio of guys who, considering what I had heard about them, were pretty sedately dressed in matching Christmas jumpers (a Reindeer pattern with a flashing red nose) for the first half of their set.

Marys2 - Credit Julie ThompsonI was waiting in the pit – which I had to myself – when they walked on and ripped straight into Fame, which quickly had the place jumping, followed by Disco Inferno & Mama Mia.

The stage was curtained by shimmering material, and a Christmas tree adorned the raised platform normally occupied by a drum kit.

Under the tree were a series of wrapped presents. Snowflakes dangled from the ceiling. All very festive.

My 3 songs were up so I wandered off up to the second tier as they began Pray – which they accompanied with choreographed boy band style dancing. At the end they had the first present giveaway – punters had to vote on who was the best dancer and the winner got to distribute a present to someone in the crowd.

I caught a glimpse of the contents of one of the parcels later on – they were limited edition Bloody Marys t-shirts.

Marys3 - Credit Julie ThompsonI went down into the dance area to get a bit of atmosphere before I had to leave for The Moorings. A Grease medley, Heart Attack, another Abba number, Hungry like the Wolf and Gloria later, I headed off, as Gimme Gimme Gimme began.

When I had arrived at The Lemon Tree, I bumped into someone I knew from a shop I frequent. I asked her how the second half went – apparently the guitarist & keyboard players reappeared in wee white frocks and the lead singer in an angel outfit. Stockings, wings, full make-up – the whole works.

It was a shame I missed the second half as it would have made for some fun photographs. Maybe I’ll be able to catch them next year.

So, a great gig for a girls night out and even the guys had fun – yes, I saw you there!

Darth1 - Credit Julie ThompsonSo, on to The Moorings and Darth Elvis.
I had timed my arrival to the estimated stage time for the main act, but I was lucky enough to catch the very end of the debut of Juicy Juicy Juice, as things were running a bit late.

I had time to grab a few shots and get my camera adjusted from Lemon Tree to Moorings settings.

Darth Elvis – now there’s a name that plays with the imagination.

From their Facebook page bio:

“Darth Elvis & The Imperials are a Star Wars themed Elvis tribute band from Viva Mos Eisley. In 1977 Elvis didn’t die he turned to the Darkside of the Force and ever since he has been playing music venues around the Outer Rim Territory. The time has come for the Dark King of the Sith & his band of Imperials to return to the Galaxy where he is best known.”

OK, right now I am going to give some major kudos to these guys – especially the drummer, TK4468, who was in full Stormtrooper gear.

Darth2 - Credit Julie ThompsonThey stay in costume the whole show.

Anyone familiar with the Moorings knows how hot it gets in there – sweatbox is the word I hear used most often by bands to describe the place  – so how these guys were not puddles of goo at the end, I have no idea.

The band – minus the lead vocalist – mounted the stage (it was actually quite amusing watching the Stormtrooper trying to bend his knees enough to climb up there) and began playing The Imperial March as Darth Elvis advanced through the audience, jingling bells.

Under the dark cloak wasn’t the bejewelled white Vegas suit I was expecting, but a red & white Santa suit.

So, it seems we have a Darth Elvis Santa tonight.

Between such numbers as Gungan in Disguise ((You’re the) Devil in Disguise), Viva Mos Eisley (Viva Las Vegas), Burning Sith (Burning Love), You ain’t nothing but a Nerf Herder (containing the memorable line “You ain’t never caught a womp rat and you ain’t no friend of mine.”) Darth distributed presents from a snowman stocking.

Darth3 - Credit Julie ThompsonI’m pretty sure he said one of the objects he tossed into the crowd was a tin of lube, but maybe my ears were playing up.

Of course there was the obligatory Christmas song – Merry Sithmas Everyone – and lots of laughs and singalongs.

It was an easy shoot, apart from the hood obscuring the face of Darth a lot of the time. All in all, a fun, totally non-serious but exhausting night.

My last festive gig was at The Lemon Tree with the ever popular The Lorelei – possibly my favourite local band – which I first encountered at Belladrum this year. Always a fun bunch, I’d been looking forward to this one. Sadly, Diane (who is currently cooking a new mini-Lorelei, due next year) was unable to join the boys on her viola.

Lorelei1 - Credit Julie ThompsonThe Lorelei – ‘Imagine a rock band and a folk band having a fight and the rock band just coming out best.

That’s The Lorelei!’

The stage area was decorated with tinsel and fairy lights and there were a few balloons scattered about the place.

There were two support acts before the main – The Deportees and Brothers Reid – both providing pleasant folk/rocky music to get us in the mood.

Before The Lorelei came on, I went to check with Captain Tom if it was ok to shoot from the floor after my time in the pit was up.

Lorelei4 - Credit Julie ThompsonHe was happy to let me do that and also said I could go behind the magic curtain (well, the side curtain that the band use) so I could photograph the shy and elusive Keith the drummer.

John came on stage and began to sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. There was a murmur from the crowd and I turned to see a white bearded Flossie (Mandolin/Fiddle) leading a dancing Rudolph through the crowd.

Beefy (Lead Guitar) & Jonny (Bass) hurriedly disrobed brown fur and the band joined John onstage. Keith the elf took the drum stool and away they went, 100 miles an hour as usual.

Lorelei5 - Credit Julie ThompsonSomething soft bounced off my head at one point and I looked around to see what was it was. Oddly, there was to be a lot more balloons about than there were between me walking down to the pit and now.
I had no idea where they came from, but better a balloon to the head than any of the other things it could have been.

My 3 songs were up as the pit started filling up with balloons, so I waded through them to the exit and took up position at the pit wall for the rest of the gig.

I’ll tell you this, it is really hard to keep a steady camera hand when you’re bopping to the music. I’ve been in The Lemon Tree quite a few times now – on some very busy nights – but this was the first time I had actually felt the floor bounce.

Reid2 - Credit Julie ThompsonThere were bets taken as to how long Keith would wear the elf suit before evaporating and we were treated to a striptease – with appropriate music – when he finally gave in.

The elf suit made its way across the stage and was thrown into the audience with a call of ‘Who wants to smell the drummer?’ This brought a reply of ‘We already can!’ The last time I saw the costume, it was being worn by a brave chap who may have been lacking a sense of smell.

There were explosions from confetti cannons but sadly the snow machine was not co-operating – which I’m sure pleased The Lemon Tree staff.

The crowd was fantastic, there simply to have fun, exchange some banter, sing along and dance.

The inevitable Christmas song was the Bob Dylan song It Must Be Santa (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8qE6WQmNus). A nice change from the typical songs you hear and oddly in keeping with The Lorelei style.

A great gig that really helped kindle some of my festive spirit, greatly lacking until now.

Deportees1 - Credit Julie ThompsonAs the evening came to a stomping close, I wandered over for a chat with Beefys wife, Captain Tom and one or two other folk before being politely asked to vacate the premises.

As I left, the brushes were out as staff cleared up the scattered remains of burst balloon skins and confetti.

Candy canes from the tree were being eaten by the bar staff, as this was the last event before Christmas.

I have some gigs lined up in the weekend between Christmas and New Year but George Mackie is proving rather elusive to pin down long enough for a chat.

Maybe I need a tranquiliser gun to slow him down a bit.

Have a very Merry Christmas, Festivus, Midwinter, Yule, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti – or whatever you may celebrate at this time of year – and I hope your New Year is a better one.

More Photos:

The Bloody Marys
Darth Elvis
Juicy Juicy Juice
The Lorelei
Brothers Reid
The Deportees

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Dec 242013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Suzanne Kelly

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

Picture – Christmas Tree Baubles

Credit: Ian Britton. Freefoto.com

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Dec 062013

In her continuing series on the life of a pit photographer, Julie Thompson reports on an extremely busy week, taking in Withered Hand, Charles Latham and Dear Lara at The Tunnels, Toxik Ephex  Downstairs @ The Malt Mill, Pallas , Hellhouse, The June Brides, and Stanley over two nights at The Moorings, Sweet and Slade at The Music Hall, and resumes her chat with Matt Jolly, in-house photographer at The Moorings.

Withered Hand -  Credit Julie Thompson Well, I’ve been a very busy bee this week/weekend.
Sleep? What’s that? Still, I got my first pass for The Music Hall – so another step up the learning curve for me.

As you can see from my schedule, I covered 5 gigs over 4 evenings, which left me with a bit of a gig hangover.

I’ll not talk about all of them in much detail but I will just mention that the Pallas gig is covered in an Aberdeen Voice review here.

So, first up was Thursdays gig (28th November) – Withered Hand, with support from Charles Latham & Dear Lara. I couldn’t help reflecting on the difference from my last gig at The Tunnels 1. Last time I was there, the place was a sweaty, heaving mass of folk all there to see the excellent The Temperance Movement.

Tonight, there were tables & chairs in place of bodies on the dance floor – an obvious clue that I was in for a totally different sort of evening.

Dear Lara -  Credit Julie ThompsonI usually keep my camera on silent shooting mode, which reduces the shutter sound significantly but doesn’t eliminate it. As the first support, Dear Lara (a young Glaswegian called David Lan) took the stage I was a bit concerned how loud my camera sounded to me, so at a suitable break I asked the table closest if it was annoying them.

They said they’d not heard a thing and that it was nice someone was there taking photos, which was reassuring.

Dear Lara describes his music on his Facebook as ‘music for when the party’s over’ and indeed it is very relaxing and peaceful to listen to him.

He was followed by Charles Latham, who from the start had me giggling.

Charles Latham -  Credit Julie ThompsonAn amusing, confident and somewhat irreverent American, he said he was asked along as support due to Withered Hand having covered one of his songs in the past. He has a naughty sense of humour which I liked very much.
Withered Hand (the stage name for Dan Willson) is an indie rock musician from Edinburgh. His first album came out on 2009 and he’s been keeping busy with shows featuring collaboration with his friends & colleagues and recording a second album with guest appearances from the likes of King Creosote & Frightened Rabbit, amongst others.

I had to leave before the end, as I wanted to catch the end of my next gig at Downstairs – a total contrast to the evening I’d had so far.

It was a punk night, which had, by the time I arrived, descended into chaos; chaos featuring feather dusters.

This was a 4 band benefit gig for Dod Copland, whose story has featured in The Aberdeen Voice previously.

Toxikhaos Credit Julie Thompson

I arrived about half an hour from the end and Toxik Ephex (well, their instruments anyway) were in full flow. Some of the band seemed to be taking a timeout as ‘audience participation’ was… well… occurring. Drums, guitar & microphones were all under the control of audience members onstage, along with others brandishing feather dusters.

General good humour abounded though, despite an overrun on curfew time and lots of spilt beer.

I’m about 9 weeks in from my first gig shoot now, and the newest newbie of the togs in Aberdeen. Matt Jolly, as we saw last week, has been shooting gigs for over 2 years now.

It turns out he has previously photographed someone that I met and shot at a private event last night, Ricky Warwick of Black Star Riders (which for anyone who doesn’t know, is a band created from the most recent Thin Lizzy lineup, as they felt uncomfortable releasing a new album using the Thin Lizzy name).

Matt_Jolly_at_work_MooringsI think Matt is currently most excited about his recent trip with Fat Hippy Records to Los Angeles, California.

He went along, at Captain Toms invite, to document the trip. Local talents Amy Sawers & Craig John Davidson went over to support Terry McDermott at the word famous Molly Malones for a showcase gig.

During this 5 day trip he accompanied (and photographed) them shopping for new guitars and, once the gig was over, took some time out to sightsee.

His thoughts on festivals – I went to my first ever this summer at Belladrum – he loves them. His went to his first at the age of 15 and thinks they are a great opportunity for discovering new bands & music that you might not come across normally.

He said:

“Attending my first T in the Park in 1998 and seeing the likes of The Prodigy and Beastie Boys was a pretty mind blowing experience at that age. This year I went to Download festival in England, traveling down with Semperfi and Akord to cover their sets as they played at the festival for the first time.

“They had all been before as punters but it was my first time at Download which was a fantastic weekend, I’m really grateful to the guys in both bands as they have given me some really great opportunities in the last 3 years.”

I asked if he had any tips he would share.

“Well, it may be obvious but the best thing to do if you’re just starting out is just get out there and take photos. It’s the only way you’ll learn and from there you can go on to develop your style and the type of photographer you’ll want to be whether it’s for a hobby, a part time job, or a full on career.”

I had hoped to obtain permission to shoot Hugh Cornwell (of The Stranglers) on the Saturday at The Lemon Tree, however, I was unsuccessful. So Plan B was enacted and I was off to The Moorings to see The June Brides supported by local band Stanley.

The June Brides, one of the first indie-pop bands, had chart success in the early to mid 80’s and split in 1986. They reformed in 2012 with pretty much the original line-up. There was much dancing and silliness that night – I think I spent more time people-watching than shooting the bands.

I’ve not got around to processing the shoot yet, as I have a huge backlog to plough through, but I will put some photos up on my flickr page when I finally cross them off my list.

Sweet - Andy Scott - Credit Julie ThompsonSundays gig featuring Sweet & Slade was a whole new ball-game to the previous venues I’d visited in the past few days – the beautiful Music Hall.

Having applied for a photo pass a couple of weeks ago, I finally got the go ahead a couple of days before the event. Surprised, much? Yes, I was.

I was also excited and a bit nervous. When I arrived I went to the box office prepared with an email printout in case my name wasn’t actually on their list.

Luckily  all went smoothly and I was in. While I was waiting for the place to fill up, I bumped into a couple of togs I knew, so there were 3 of us in total for the shoot.

There was no pit setup so we got to wander in front of the stage for the first 3 songs from each band. If anyone reading this was there in the front couple of rows, I’ll apologise now if I got in your way!

Sweet 1 -  Credit Julie ThompsonSweet was the first onstage – with guitarist Andy Scott, the only original member, getting the loudest cheers and we togs went to work.

They went down a storm but I was too busy shooting to notice the tiny old lady, who had been sitting near where we were hanging out when not shooting, had at some point decided to join us up at the front of the stage – she was dancing away, oblivious to us folk dashing about with the cameras. Good on her!

By the time Wig-Wam Bam began, pretty much the whole place was up and jumping about. Other old favourites followed – Block Buster, Ballroom Blitz – fun, toe tapping and well executed.

The ice-creams were wheeled out at the intermission and the tiny old lady had two – obviously needing sustenance after her dancing exertions.

Slade were next. They still have 2 of their original members – Dave Hill on guitar & Don Powell on drums.

Noddy Holder was replaced as lead by Mal McNulty (also on guitar) with John Berry providing bass and, also violin. What interested me about this was that Mal swapped his guitar for a bass when the violin was in use.

It seems the tiny old lady either wasn’t a Slade fan or she’d used all her energy in the first half. She didn’t leave her seat for Slade.

Slade - Don Powell -  Credit Julie Thompson

One problem when you have a high stage to shoot are the floor monitors – those short but wide black speakers that sit at the front of the stage in front of the band members  providing sound to them, so they can actually hear themselves.

With Sweet there had been spaces between them, which you could use to get full length head to foot shots of the band members. Slade filled those gaps with boxes. However, they did stand on them for time to time which gave us some opportunities; otherwise you’re somewhat limited on angles.

There was dancing in the aisles, dancing in the seats – most folk were up and moving at some point. They, of course, ended on an old favourite chart topper which, considering we had just entered December was not inappropriate.

Donning seasonal headwear for the finale, Mals Santa hat specially designed to fit over his original hat and Don wearing a large chimney hat with Santas legs poking out of the top, they belted out Merry Xmas, Everybody.

The big shoes & outrageous garb may no longer be there but there was still the glitter & long hair and it was a fun evening, one I suspect I’ll try to do again (hopefully better) if they return at some point. We all know the old saying about practise…

So, what’s coming next on my schedule?

Well, one was a bit of a surprise and a thank you for some work I’ve been doing elsewhere – an acoustic evening with Ricky Warwick at a private event at Musa, I’m waiting to hear about a gig at The Lemon Tree and I hopefully have a four band gig, with headliner Enuff z’Nuff, coming up at The Moorings (if my body hasn’t given in by that point).

Lastly I’ve decided George Mackie (one of the two I bumped into at the Music Hall) will be my next tog in the spotlight.

More Photos:

Withered Hand/Charles Latham/Dear Lara


Matt Jolly Photography on Facebook
Matt Jolly on Flickr

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