Aug 262014

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

DictionaryTally Ho! There is much ado in the Granite City; Friday is the Public Meeting concerning the future of the former St Nicholas House site.

Of course the beautiful, iconic, vibrant, dynamic creative glass-box office and retail development is a foregone conclusion; it will go ahead. It may take a chunk or two out of property that is part of the Lord Provost’s House, but at least we’ll have new places to shop.

As I say, whatever speakers say in their 10 minutes of allotted time, nothing will change; the plans are unchangeable.

Then again, it was a meant to be set in stone that the land at Loirston Loch was to be kept pristine green and serene as a wildlife habitat. It’s now being surrounded by more urban sprawl.

Old Susannah was allowed 10 minutes to come in and speak about the plans for the former St Nicholas site, but as the plans are made, somehow I don’t think I’ll speak after all.

You could be forgiven for thinking that planning in Aberdeen is a ratchet which can only be torqued in favour of developers’ wishes and construction projects, and never towards conservation, clean air and green space. But there you go.

On the other hand, it may be worth showing up to this meeting, for surely some people will be speaking of the crucial need for a civic square. Sir Ian Wood will doubtless remind us of his passion for a civic square. Aberdeen City Gardens Trust and ACSEF affiliate Tom Smith will surely be leading the charge to demand we take this opportunity to  make the public gathering space that he desperately wanted the ACGT to manage.

Stewart Milne will renew his impassioned, selfless case for a city square or granite web as well, which clearly had nothing to do with his then need for parking spaces for Triple Kirks (also now to be a glass box office complex). Perhaps this is an unfair comparison for me to make; after all Union Terrace Gardens is bigger than the area now under consideration.

I’m sure it is a complete coincidence that UTG is common good land worth a small packet and that ACSEF, Wood and the ACGT were so keen to get their hands on it. I guess we need a civic square (whatever that is) an outdoor theatre (great in winter no doubt) and so on – but only if they’re to be built on top of open, green spaces owned by the people.

It’s not as if I think the city’s officers don’t listen to the public or formulate plans and carry them out no matter what. But considering the deer cull and tree planting at Tullos, I could be forgiven for thinking so.

On a less contentious note, I saw the amazing, singular Jeremy Paxman in his Edinburgh Festival premier. For some reason he was acting nice; guess it was all part of the show for clearly he must be scathing and sarcastic all the time. The tickets had sold out quickly for some reason or other.

At one point he explained why he wasn’t always nice and kind to elected officials. Apparently, there are some elected officials who are dishonest, inept, bumbling, self-serving and dishonest. I’d never have thought it. At least we’re safe from that kind of thing in the Deen.

Clearly we don’t always appreciate the saintly self-sacrificing nature of our elected officials, experts and public figures.  Perhaps a few timely definitions may help engender more respect from us for our betters.

But first:  a competition.  A bottle of BrewDog to the first correct answer pulled from the hat on Friday:-

Q1. Garden Talk: Match the person to the quote

  1. wanted  “to create a hub, a focal point for future generations, which will draw together the retail and cultural aspects of the city.”
  2. asked “that it be noted that every week the councillors of the Monitoring group have asked for the ‘no action’ option to be part of the public display and this has been passed on to the Management Board by Mr Brough. The Councillors stated that they were very disappointed that this [voting to keep the gardens as they were and improve them] was still not an option.”
  3. “This [Granite Web] ingenious and inspiring design for Aberdeen’s key public space gives the city a new social landscape but one rooted in its extraordinarily rich heritage and natural assets.”
  4. “Right enough, there have been more people in the gardens recently but they seem to go in to have their photograph taken and wave placards, rather than to play draughts or spot trains as they did many years ago.”
  5. “there would NOT be a ‘no action’ option [to vote to leave the gardens alone ]at this stage because the feedback was part of a tendering process to select the best of six designs [allowing the public to reject the scheme would, of course, saved the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds and a divisive referendum.  no one outside of private company ACTG has seen all of the votes or been allowed to count the votes against the scheme cast]”

a) Morris the Monkey – fictional character used by BiG Partnership to promote building in UTG (presumably either no one else wanted the job, or a fictional character was all they could afford to explain the benefits of a £140 million pound granite spaghetti junction).

b) Sir Ian Wood the Monkey (Scottish Enterprise, Wood Group, Wood Family Trust).

c) Sir Duncan Rice the Monkey – chair of this, that and the other and the design committee.

d) Gerry Brough the Monkey – long-gone ACC employee gently persuading us to have a granite web (and nothing but a granite web) known for his gentle temper and soft words.  Missed by no one.

e) Councillor West.

Q2. How many times over the years has First Minister Alex Salmond visited the Menie Estate residents to hear concerns living under Donald Trump’s stewardship of the estate?

a) 10
b) 20
c) 0
d) 0 – but he will accept an invitation to visit and will come to see Anthony Baxter’s and Richard Phinney’s new film ‘A Dangerous Game’ on 5 September in Aberdeen

Q3. Mixed bag:  match the number to the fact

  1. 5,847
  2. 7
  3. 1,378
  4. £50,000,000
  5. £50,000,000
  6. more than 16,000
  7. £15,000,000 approximately
  8. 65,000

a)  Approximate amount of money sitting in The Wood Family Trust to be used for charitable works (eventually).

b)  Number of people signing David Milne’s petition asking for an investigation held into propriety and handling of planning permission granted to Donald Trump at the Menie Estate.

c)   Number of people who voted for the granite web during the UTG design consultation.

d)  Amount of money shielded by tax from certain oil giant’s empire’s offshore payroll scheme.

e)  Sum of money pledged by Sir Ian Wood to create Granite Web.

f)   Number of people in Scotland reliant on food banks according to one charity.

g)  Number of people who voted for the winter garden design during the UTG design consultation.

h)   Number of people who turned down David Milne’s petition on Trump

Q4. How much oil do we have left?

a)  24bn barrels of oil could be recovered – First Minister Alex Salmond.

b)  12 – 24 billion barrels of oil potential  – Sir Ian Wood, report of February 2014.

c)  ‘Sir Ian claimed there are about 15bn to 16.5bn barrels of recoverable oil left, and that the figure from the White Paper is 45% to 60% too high’.

d)  “hard-pushed” to extract 15bn barrels – Melfort Campbell.

e)  no one really knows for certain – everyone else.

And now time for one brief but poignant definition

Suffering (English gerund) the state of being in pain, discomfort, hardship

Never let it be said that Old Susannah turns a blind eye to the hardships faced by some of our older people, and the forces that conspire to break up families.  With today’s economic problems, some men are having to slave long, hard hours and travel extensively to keep their families together.  I am of course thinking about our depute Lord Provost John Reynolds, his wife and family. And so are you.

It all started innocently enough; some spoilsports were questioning the necessity of some of the wee trips the depute was going to make. Well, quite rightly Mrs depute Lord Provost wrote a letter to the Press & Journal. Standing by her man, she explained:

“I am his wife of  nearly 45 years [you can feel the pain], I have supported his work as a councillor and kept quiet when things have been said that upsets us as a family.

“Your piece has changed all that and I will not sit back and let you make it appear he is going off on ‘cooncil jaunts’. ..During his years as Lord Provost, 70 hours weeks became the norm… John was asked to take on the role of promoting Aberdeen and its oil-related industries abroad because he is passionate about the city and everything it has to offer.”

Alas! One of his upcoming trips to the US to go to a conference was booked on the assumption the conference was yearly, not biannual. But it’s going ahead anyway, so we can demonstrate ‘we’re open for business’ according to Jenny Laing, Council Leader. Reynolds said

“because it was approved there was still business to be done in Louisiana, doors that can be opened for Aberdeen businesses particularly, but also bringing Louisiana companies with their technology over to Aberdeen.”

One killjoy, Cllr Yuill said:

“we should remove this visit on the basis that the committee agreed to it based on inaccurate information.” 

I’m sure any private sector business wouldn’t mind finding out its employees were jetting out to non-existent events without any disciplinary action being taken. And if a person booking travel at taxpayer expense doesn’t have time to check out whether the conference actually exists that they’re booking someone to travel to, that’s pretty understandable as well.

It’s not as if the council has never taken decisions based on inaccurate information before, is it?

In my part of the world, the private sector has to watch costs. Bring in business? Private companies  send out literature and presentations are made in teleconferences. Touting for business on spec? The internet is cheaper and just that little bit more environmentally friendly. It’s just that little bit easier to spend taxpayer money isn’t it?

We are assuredly open for business. Perhaps the depute Lord Provost will find our next Donald Trump on one of his jaunts, or another businessman determined to take the small boats off the tiny harbour in Cove. I can’t wait.

But while Reynolds is looking for business in America, it’s just a shame that his family life has had to suffer. The drinks receptions, the public events, the hospitality – all very wearing after a bit don’t you know.

Perhaps we should not have forced him into being a councillor, being a depute / Lord Provost. So if you’re a nurse working double shifts, an oil rig worker, in the police, fire department or in teaching, just think how comparatively lucky you have it. Perhaps if things get rougher, you’ll see a few of our hard-done by councillors on your next visit to the food bank.

Next week: A new version of who’s who in the city and shire – what councillors are in what quangos and groups; what businessmen have cosy links to what politicians, and more.

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Jul 212014

By Ken Hutcheon.

Provost Skene's House by Stanley Wright

Provost Skene’s House – Credit: Stanley Wright

The date for lodging any comments/objections to the Marischal Square and/or Provost Skene Developments has now passed with 146 formal comments/objections having been received by Aberdeen City Planning Dept.

The Council are now considering whether to have a public hearing regarding this development.

The Planning Committee will meet next Thursday 24th July to decide.

Unfortunately it appears that leading councillors are confident they can push this present development plans through WITHOUT a public hearing. If we can get enough councillors to understand that they should be voting to support the wishes of the people that put them in power we can achieve a public hearing to get the developers to think again.

The developers can surely produce a far more innovative design that will open the magnificent view of the shining granite of Marischal College and the historic frontage of Provost Skene’s House for generations of Aberdonians and tourists to the city.

To condemn the centre of Aberdeen (the silver city) to a series of boring square boxes which hide the beauty of Marischal College and Provost Skene’s House is a terrible act of vandalism by our council.

Anyone who is understandably concerned regarding this development should email the Councillors for their area to suggest they vote to hold a public hearing. Over 1100 Aberdeen citizens stated at the exhibitions of this development they do not want these plans to go ahead.

To find your councillor and their email address, the easiest way is to put your postcode into the Aberdeen City Interactive map.

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Jun 232014

Provost Skene's House by Stanley WrightBy Ken Hutcheon.

The Marischal Square Development objections closing date may be gone, but MUSE developers have further plans in mind.
Proposals to remove the historic archway, stairs and wall in front of Provost Skene’s House are being considered. The plans can be viewed here.

This is despite the fact that on MUSE’s own website it states:

“Provost Skene’s House will be at the heart of the Marischal Square project……. The role and setting of Provost Skene’s House will be given special consideration in the new development. It will be protected from the demolition then re-opened at an appropriate time.

“Money is being set aside for conservation work.”

There is also a picture of Provost Skene House as it is now, complete with arch and surrounding wall, on that page. Presumably the money that is being set aside is for the removal of part of the frontage of Provost Skene’s House.

You still have time, till 3rd July to comment on, or object to these changes.

You will find more information on my website at Note reference for this plan is 140755.

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May 092013

By Bob Smith.

Boxes, boxes, boxes
Is aa we nooadays see
The “darlins” o modern architects
Be it Aiberdeen or Torquay

Thingies like yon Rubik’s Cube
O a Uni Library biggin
Leukin like the pint his run
A think it’s bliddy mingin

Union Square, o michty me
It’s jist aa steel an gless
Oor toon’s in the hauns o Philistines
Creatin a maist affa mess

The city skyline is fair important
Says Aiberdeen mannie Eric Auld
Seen throwe his artistic ee
Marischal Square it leaves him cauld

Fowk noo are fair upset
At fit they see gyaan on
Aa in the guise o progress
In the toon twixt Dee an Don

“Progress is jist the exchange
O ae nuisance fer anither”
So wrote  yon Havelock Ellis
Writer, Doctor an life giver

Boxes are fer storin things
Bit nae the human race
Stop biggins fit are jist bland
Dinna chynge oor city’s face

Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Image credit: Corporate Tree 2 © Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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May 022013

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

Tally Ho!  This past week there was an astonishingly great fashion show by Gray’s School of Art second and third year fashion students, held in The Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen.
It was professionally organised, smoothly and elegantly run (with a great reception), and the work on show was by any standard advanced beyond the expected level.  More on that elsewhere in Aberdeen Voice.

Let’s take a bit of a break from Mr Trump this week I think.  Besides which, he’s about to issue writs to the Scottish Government and I’m really scared!  If Donald doesn’t want windfarms, Donald will take us to court!

When a law abiding man like that takes legal action, you know he’s not doing it frivolously.  I’m sure he’s got a point:  hardly anyone’s signing up for golf at Balmedie, and it’s almost as if the 6,000 jobs that were created might be in peril. 

This lack of golfers could be due to the sandstorms, hailstorms, rain and cold weather, but far more likely people are staying away in case they’d have to see a wind farm offshore.  If I’m going to spend £195 for a round of golf, then have a £100 lunch for two consisting of a few burgers, fries and coffees, I don’t want to be looking at windfarms, either.  For that kind of money, I want Led Zeppelin performing live.

I hear the Mayday march might be cancelled this year.  Since all of the labour force is now doing so very well under the Coalition Government, the unions decided there is no need for any display.  Things are almost as great as when the entire town marched against Kate Dean.

There is also to be a party and events in Union Terrace Gardens that afternoon, but since it is so full of criminals and drug smugglers, I’m sure we’ll all be too afraid to go there.  If only we could have had the granite web.

The beautiful granite-clad concrete web may be toast now, but then again, we look set to get some very fetching, brand new glass-box office buildings soon.  Really, how do these trendy architects come up with these great designs?

These happening, nearly modern buildings will replace St Nicholas’ House.  The complex will blend right into the local architecture of Marischal College and won’t stick out like a dated pastiche predictable cheap sore thumb whatsoever.  No doubt these glass box office buildings will look absolutely state-of-the art near the Milne Triple Kirks glass box office buildings and won’t seem old dated and dirty in 3 years or less.

Given the seagull and pigeon populations, this may be a good time to open a window cleaning business.

Norwich decided to encourage some peregrines to nest in their city centre

Speaking of Triple Kirks, poor Stewart certainly has had his difficulties lately.  He may have failed to get Scottish football teams to vote with him despite his use of reasoned debate, but at least he showed the city centre wildlife he was boss.

You may remember how Stewart Milne, saviour of Scottish Football and tasteful developer arranged to have the long-settled peregrine falcons ‘discouraged’ from nesting in the Triple Kirks site when he took it over.  Well done Stewart.

Unlike clever, business-orientated Aberdeen, Norwich decided to encourage some peregrines to nest in their city centre.  The people of Norwich surprisingly find their rare peregrines and the newly-hatched chicks a source of interest, tourism, pride and education as they and the wider world watch the birds on cctv.  More info here: .

The RSBP believes there are fewer than 1400 breeding pairs in the UK.  With as many as that around, it is no wonder the previous Aberdeen City Council administration didn’t discourage Milne from discouraging the birds.  We need more office buildings you see.

As there is clearly not enough building work going on to placate important local contractors, some still cling to the possibility of turning Union Terrace Gardens into a parking lot/shopping mall, which we so desperately need.  What other explanation is there for the continued existence of the limited company which is the Aberdeen City Gardens Trust?

They’re still listed as an active company at Companies House, with directors Tom Smith, Lavinia Massie and of course Colin Crosby.  (I wonder how they managed to get so much positive Granite Web coverage in Chamber of Commerce publications?  Perhaps as a board member, Colin could help field the answer to this mystery.)  Then again, Colin is also on the Aberdeen Harbour Board, which now seeks to expand into the remaining coastal greenbelt.

An ambitious man, Colin; he’ll make us all rich yet.  Well, some of us rich anyway.

Between the ACGT, ACSEF, the Harbour Board, the Chamber of Commerce, Brewin Dolphin, and the board of Robert Gordon’s College, it’s a wonder Crosby hasn’t dropped any balls.

 we are all so weak-willed we’ll do whatever is made easy for us to do

For some reason I’m reminded of an episode of Dr Who in which invading aliens try to build monstrosities all over any green space they could all in the name of profit, although I can’t think why that should spring to mind just now.

Yes, it’s men like Colin who disprove the otherwise sound, logical government experiment in Nudge Theory.  I’m sure we all know what this important Nudge Theory is, but I’ll get onto it with a definition or two anyway.

Nudge Theory: (modern English jargon phrase) Behavioural theory that people are inherently lazy and need to be pushed into doing what is best for them.

The Nanny State lives on, and thank goodness for that.

It’s like this:  only the Colin Crosbys, Stewart Milnes and other rich businessmen aren’t lazy – the rest of us are.  Worse, we are all so weak-willed we’ll do whatever is made easy for us to do.  This highly-scientific theory is now a government triumph!  Result!  Not only is it part of the reason the country’s doing so well, but it’s also going to  be launched as an initiative!

And you thought there was no good news around.

The BBC covers this marvellous development, and supplies examples of what might otherwise sound like idiotic psychobabble.  For instance, if manufacturers put a label on a bottle of wine to the effect that the average person drinks one glass of wine a day, we’ll all follow suit and do just that.

School children will start eating healthier at lunchtimes too.  Why?  Because we’re going to put the tastier junk food items in locations that are more difficult to reach than healthier options.  This logic is brilliant!  You can see examples of how this works in the shops today.  Since lad’s mags, fags and booze are kept out of reach no one buys them because they’re too lazy to do so.

It’s clear this Nudge Theory is going to take off; it’s so easy to understand.

This scheme is going to make the government millions as well as make all of us safer and less stressed by having to think for ourselves.  I personally look forward to having my laziness used to steer me into good behaviour in this subtle manner.  It’s not at all Kafkaesque or Orwellian for the government to spend our time and our money on getting us to fall into line and be good.

But the really good news is that this will be a ….

Partnership Model: (modern English jargon) A business entity or company formed by government and private enterprise.

Well, since forming in 2010 the brains behind this great Nudge Theory scheme have really come together to ambitiously turn this scientific theory into a money-spinner.  Old Susannah has to wonder if people are inherently lazy, then what sets the people behind this Nudge Theory Partnership Model and their work to go into business with their scheme apart from the rest of us lazy, weak-willed populace.

I guess that they’re just smarter, better, brighter than we are.  Only to the worst kind of lazy cynic would this great humanitarian scheme look like a brazen wheeze and ploy to earn money for old and unnecessary rope.

Here’s what the BBC, lazy as they are, were able to find out:-

“It could become the first of “dozens” of elements of Whitehall to be spun out, as Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude plans to shake-up the Civil Service.

“A spokesman for Mr Maude said: ‘We are in a global race for the jobs and opportunities of the future. To get Britain back on the rise we must find innovative ways to deliver better services more efficiently’. [Old Susannah wonders if Mr Maude was too lazy to make his own statement to the press, and had to be ‘nudged’ into releasing a statement by this spokesman]

“’It’s great news that the world-renowned ‘nudge’ unit is spinning out from central government. As a mutual they will combine the benefits of private sector experience and investment with the innovation and commitment from staff leadership.  This accelerates our drive to make public assets pay their way. We hope to support dozens more new spin outs over the next few years. This is a whole new growth area and Britain is leading the way.”

Well, I’m impressed.  We’re going to make money out of exploiting people’s natural fecklessness.

The government will join with a private company (no doubt one completely unrelated to any government ministers, tax avoiders or big business interests or lobbyists.  Then, they’ll sell the scheme back to the government, which will demand government offices buy into it.

Lazy?  I guess you could say fecklessness is off and running as a way to make profits.  Or something like that.

Group Four changed to G4S, and did a splendid job running the Olympics

I wonder what this great wheeze will wind up earning for the taxpayer over the years?  Undoubtedly we’ll all be better off.  Otherwise, they’ll just tell us we’ll be better off, and we’ll be too lazy and/or too stupefied by our one glass of wine a day to bother to find out the real story.

If I could only motivate myself to do some work, or even to open another BrewDog.

Ages ago the Government started privatising everything, and look how well that’s turned out.  For instance, Group Four security started running various prison services.  These went so well, Group Four changed to G4S, and did a splendid job running the Olympics without any problems at all.  Could the government complain if things went wrong?

Not really – the contracts were sewn up very well, government and private sector overlaps tended to help each other out or at least look the other way if problems arose, and lobbyists were always on hand with sweeteners to keep the cogs well oiled.  And so it will be with the private/public money-spinning Partnership Model, which will industriously make money out of the fact we the people are lazy.

Nudge Nudge wink wink indeed.

With the Mayday march about to take place, I think we should extend an invitation to the brave, pioneering, hard-working men and women behind Nudge Theory and the Partnership Model to come and join in.  I have no doubt that if our teachers, carers, volunteers, firemen, etc. could meet the Nudge professionals, they’d understand just what real hard work is.

I was going to write about the latest in relation to the standoff between the press and the government over press regulation.  I was going to write something about Trump, windfarms, and golf, but I realise that I’m just too lazy to do so.

So it’s off to watch some television until I fall asleep, and hope the government will give me some clear pointers on what to do and what not to do, but without me having to even know I’m being steered to do the right thing, as decided by the Nudge Theory think-tank.  As long as I don’t have to think too much, or do much, that’ll suit me fine.

Time for my one glass of wine.

Next week – more fecklessness, or possibly some recklessness.

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Aug 242012

Voice’s Old Susannah looks at events over the the last week … and what a week it’s been in the ‘Deen. By Suzanne Kelly.

‘SHATTERED!’ roars the Press & Journal headline following the council’s decision on Wednesday not to pursue a £92 million pound loan to build the Granite Web.  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth; most of the wailing stemming from Jennifer Craw’s insistence on putting her feet on the back of the seat in front of her as she sat in the public gallery.

What was agreed was the madcap idea of trying to fix the Gardens and our existing facilities.  Surely if that sort of thing worked, people would already be doing it. No, a Granite Web was the only thing that was going to save our town’s economy.

We are apparently doomed to being a ghost town.  Unfortunately no one’s told this to the many companies moving into the area.  Shame.

Without further ado, here are some definitions relevant to this week’s news stories…

Online Bullying: (mod. Eng. noun) the use of electronic media to harass, intimidate or ridicule.

Those on the losing side are quite rightly using Facebook and email to hound, vilify and harass those who voted for the modest independent compromise motion. There has been a Facebook page set up calling Barney Crocket ‘The man who killed democracy’.

Absolutely. He got elected, did what he said he and his party were going to do, and reminded everyone why the referendum was a sham won by a slim margin in favour of those who saturated the public with lovely brochures and endless radio ads.

The content of these ads promised the earth, billions of pounds of income, and 6,500 new jobs. Sadly, some people remained a little sceptical that these were achievable, even though the P&J said they were.

The official campaign organisations didn’t spend as much so they couldn’t win; just because the guidelines told them what their limits were for spending and ad content, there was no reason they couldn’t compete fairly with the wishes of a billionaire and a multimillionaire.

But back to this Facebook page. All those people are queuing up to smear Crockett and his like-minded councillors; well, fair enough.

It was almost as if he were trying to lump all the opposition together and tar them with a very sinister brush.

Obviously the page in question is not in any way connected to the BiG partnership or any of its student interns, Jake the Ghost, or Morris the Monkey – for that would be playing fast and loose with Facebook and PR professional association rules. And that just wouldn’t happen – except for the time that it did, of course, during the referendum.

The important thing for us Aberdonians to remember about online bullying is when it is or is not a good thing. It is perfectly acceptable to use social media and emails to hound people like Crockett and Boulton, who clearly don’t care that businesses are departing Aberdeen in droves and the four horsemen of the apocalypse have been seen near Tillydrone.

But when someone rich and important like Tom Smith is subject to online bullying, then it is a matter for the police. Unfortunately when Tom went to the press, something he now says he didn’t want to do, he mixed online bullying together with people having online conversations which didn’t involve him, as well as with the very illegal crime of computer hacking, which carries a potential jail sentence.

As we since learnt, there was no crime committed, even though he told us there was in a Press & Journal front page article days before the referendum.  It was almost as if he were trying to lump all the opposition together and tar them with a very sinister brush.

How exactly this timid soul was forced to go public with his story remains a mystery. Was he bullied into it?  Anyone with knowledge of the media handling would be welcome to explain it to me.  But as it stands, it seems like Tom was rather left with his foot in his mouth, or something like that.

Olive Branch: (Eng. noun) an offering of peace or conciliation, usually offered after an argument or an altercation.

I’m afraid that a Mr K Flavill has much to answer for. He had the bad humour not to accept the olive branch which was kindly offered to him by the City Gardens Trust supporters, post-referendum. The headline ‘Olive Branch brushed aside’ painted this villainous arts sector worker in his true colours.

However, as the definition of ‘online bullying’ above clearly proves, there are circumstances in which something can either be desirable or not.

Since the City Council has agreed on a measure which will save the Gardens, improve the Gardens, save the businesses on the back of Belmont Street, improve the Lemon Tree and other features of the city’s cultural portfolio, an olive branch is clearly inappropriate.

I do hope no one will suggest that the Granite Web’s supporters should accept an olive branch and work to improve what needs improving, if that is possible without a Web and a £92,000,000 debt.  An olive branch in such circumstances can’t be an option.

Sensory Soundscape: (noun, very very modern English) {NOTE:  definition known only to Prof. Paul Harris of Gray’s School of Art}

Well, along with not getting our bosque, we will not be getting the ‘Sensory Soundscape’ that Prof. Harris spoke of lovingly in his address, as he put in his deposition in favour of the Web.

He was involved for 18 months with the project as well as the ‘cultural working group’. He spoke to us all about the Web giving us an ‘all-embracing sensory experience’, as well as ‘seamless connectivity’ to boot. And we don’t get to have our ‘sound trails’ either. Obviously you can’t have ‘sound trails’ without a ‘sensory soundscape’.

Old Susannah is now done with her excellent diet, although I could really shed another pound or two, but thank you to all at Temple Aesthetics.

Why am I telling you this?  Because as soon as I can get out from under my mounds of UTG-related research papers, I will be heading for my own personal sensory soundscape and sound trails:  YES – I am heading back to BrewDog Aberdeen just as soon as I can manage.

Soundgarden will probably be providing the sensory soundscape as I get a pint of either ‘Dead Pony Club’ or ‘Hello my name is Ingrid’, God willing. You want an all-embracing sensory experience? Brewdog will fix you up on that score AND still give you change from £140 million.

Irony: (Eng. noun).  A  concept of humour which Americans cannot understand. 

Sadly, being American-born I have little sense of irony, and arguably even less sense of satire. However, friends suggest two examples to try and help me.

The first concerns a writer called ‘O Henry’. One of his short stories involved a poor newlywed couple trying to get gifts for each other for Christmas. The wife sells her hair to buy a pocket-watch chain for her husband. Meanwhile, he has sold his watch to get her a set of beautiful hairbrushes.

The second example I am given comes from our very own HoMalone. When the deer cull was first suggested as the only possible way in which the non-existent, arbitrary trees were going to thrive on wind-and arson-swept Tullos Hill, Malone wisely turned cold-hearted ( uncharacteristically of course) and refused to listen to the thousands of petition-signers and the three community councils that told her in no uncertain terms not to kill the deer.

She also prevented myself and Andy Findlayson (now a Councillor) from speaking about the deer to the Housing & Environment Committee which she chaired.   Her reason for not listening to the people was on the important point (or some say technicality) that she had a verbal report on the deer at the meeting, and not a written one.

Yesterday as I sat in the gallery, I listened to Aileen Malone say how important it was to listen to the people and to give them what they wanted.

Perhaps I will eventually learn the definition of irony.  Maybe Councillor Findlayson will have some thoughts on the subject too.

Fudge: 1.  (noun Eng.) a delicious, sweet, rich concoction. 2. (verb, Mod Eng) to try and obscure the truth, evade,  or move the goalposts in some way.

Senior Statesman Callum McCaig accused the Motion to forget TIF, and just fix what we have with far less borrowing, of being a fudge. Surely nothing would ever be ‘fudged’ by the Web devotees?

Aside from changing their minds and not letting the public say no to the whole scheme when the consultation was live, and aside from disregarding the public choice of garden design, I’m sure that’s true.

There was also the little matter of hiding the actual companies who received tens of thousands of pounds from PR and advertising work on the Web by billing the City via the Chamber of  Commerce. No fudge here.

Except for blanking out details from the Garden Project committees’ meetings, apart from hiding the identities of those who spent a fortune on the secretive, unofficial pro-Web campaign – some of whom stood to gain if the thing went through – no fudge going on at all.

Final word of thanks.

None of these long months of fighting to keep our only green city centre space would have been possible but for this one man. This man’s actions brought us 18 months of bitter conflict, and he deserves all of our thanks. Thank you indeed former Provost Peter Stephen.

If you hadn’t used your tie-breaking vote to go against the tradition of keeping to the status quo in tie breaks, we would not have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money pounds on committees, PR, advertising, design shows, ‘stakeholder events’ and so on.

When people today complain that democracy has been killed, it’s good that your conscience is clear. You may or may not have taken a late-night visit from a few rich people before the original vote, but hey, I’m sure you would have been as open to any of us paying you an evening call to discuss the city’s future, too.

Next week:  An Old Susannah column with improved connectivity, forward-looking and dynamic, wholly democratic and transparent, offering value for money and stakeholder engagement, complete with a total sensory soundtrail experience.  Or maybe just a few more definitions.

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Jun 222012

Voice’s Old Susannah comments on current events and enlightens us with definitions of some tricky terms with a locally topical taste. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  I’m not sure if this past week was more vibrant than it was dynamic or more dynamic than it was vibrant – but it’s been good on the whole.  Gray’s School of Art degree and fashion shows took place, I went along to the Sunday movie at The Moorings, and there were lots of cocktails.

RGU was interesting; for some reason just as we arrived, I was puzzled as my friends abruptly scarpered in different directions.  I was told later that I’d been standing next to HoMalone, and my friends didn’t want to see what would happen next. Not that I would have confronted her; I would have said “Hello!  My deer!”, or asked her where she got the fluorescent mustard coloured blazer she wore at the vote count.

She was probably searching for the Gray’s designer who made clothing out of fur, or the jeweller using bone, or so I would imagine (NB there were some imaginative uses of fake fur on show – why use dead animals for decorative reasons?).

Before the RGU fashion show, Gray’s Head of School made a speech, concluding that Gray’s and RGU were firmly behind Aberdeen’s bid for the highly coveted ‘City of Culture’ title.  Hooray!

There were several interesting artists and designers on show; I particularly liked jewellery by Sarah Sidwick.  In a written statement Sarah claimed:-

“Body image dissatisfaction is on the rise, with more pressure than ever before put on both women and men to obtain society’s projected ideal beauty…. I believe we should all start taking the growing problem of bodily image dissatisfaction more seriously and question our view on what makes someone ‘beautiful’.

We all have different ideas of what is beautiful I guess.  As long as someone’s not to fat or too thin, or too tall or short, and doesn’t show any sign of ageing – and wears lots of designer gear, it’s safe to say they are beautiful.

For anyone who likes to watch a movie without interruptions or without listening to other people’s mobiles going off every five minute, I’d suggest the Sunday Movie at the Moorings Bar.  The lights are dimmed around 4pm-ish, the doors are locked, and the audience is quiet.  Last week’s movie was called ‘Dazed & Confused’.

Old Susannah found some of the film’s references difficult to follow, and was puzzled that the young people in it seemed to smoke roll-up cigarettes with excessive frequency; I can’t imagine why.

There were a few occasions for cocktails this week, and my first visit to 99 Back Wynd won’t be my last.  There is a ‘Painkiller’ cocktail which is delicious, and they have violet-flavoured alcohol, which I love.

  Saturday 23 June is nearly upon us, and the biggest party Union Terrace Gardens has ever seen will be on

Possibly best of all is that BrewDog is offering cocktails.  Beer cocktails.  BrewDog craft beer  cocktails.    These spirit-lifting cocktails include Pretty in Punk, Saint’s Delight, Hardcore Pornography and Orange Tide.   A girl in BrewDog had selected about 20 bottles of different beers to take away; she told me it was a birthday present for a friend.  I told her my birthday is 9 July.

And I launched an eBook this week.  It’s a very short work entitled ‘Old Susannah’s Handbook of Modern Manners – Part One’.  It is available on kindle via Amazon.  The introduction is available to read for free, but after that it gets a tiny bit sarcastic.  It is yours for about £1.90, and should I sell any copies, then 20% of any profit will be split between four animal welfare/sanctuary groups. No doubt the City of Culture Bid Committee will be interested.

It can be found at

Seeing as the City of Culture is the topic on everyone’s lips (why, I can barely sleep!), I will include a few relevant definitions.  Before that, just a reminder that Saturday 23 June is nearly upon us, and the biggest party Union Terrace Gardens has ever seen will be on.  Hope to see you there.

But amid all this fun, the Freedom of Information people wrote to me this afternoon about some of my deer cull questions.  It seems that despite public observation to the contrary, warning signs were posted at each and every entrance during the weeks the shooting took place.

The signs said ‘forestry operations’ were in effect.  Obviously, forestry operations meant hunters were shooting rifles and a lethal risk existed.  By the way, 23 deer were shot, none were just wounded (so the city says), and all were ‘clean kills’.  However, to shoot 23 deer, 33 rounds of ammunition were fired.

I put my hands up (especially if confronted with a high-powered rifle) – but if 23 animals were shot instantly dead, doesn’t this mean an extra 10 shots were taken?  Did it take more than one shot to kill the poor (hand-fed in some cases) creatures?  Did any bullets miss – therefore meaning there could have been some serious accidents?

Feel free to ask the City yourself about the cull, the correct warning signs as to lethal risk, and the 33 rounds needed to kill 23 deer.

Now onwards with a few definitions

Culture: (noun, Eng) 1.  the collective qualities, traits, idiosyncrasies that give an area, a group or a nation its individuality.

A Ms D Morgan sent a letter to the Press & Journal last week; in it she noted that Aberdeen has closed nearly a dozen of its museums and/or sold collections over the past decade and a bit.  We recently flogged off some of the Thomas Glover House artefacts as well.  And about time.

No one is interested in history, old buildings or old paintings; people want to see sharks in fish tanks, skulls covered with diamonds, and granite webs.  The sooner we can get more vibrant and dynamic the better.  This is how it works.

  • Sell off your old stuff.  Sell old trees for lumber in Hazlehead Park and use the money to plant trees on Tullos Hill (irrespective of the existing ecosystem, peoples’ wishes, or the fact the trees won’t grow).
  • Shoot the deer that lived on the hill and sell their carcasses for game meat.
  • Let your old buildings either rot, get burnt down, or just sell them.  Then you have cash in hand.
  • Close museums; throw any books you find in Marischal College’s basement museum into a skip.
  • Buy some trendy new art, and get lots of consultants in.
  • Build new venues, even if the existing venues have to be subsidised by the taxpayer.
  • Borrow lots and lots of money over what you got by selling the family silverware.
  • Give money to consultants.
  • Borrow more money.
  • Set up some private companies, preferably with the established quangos which you’ve helped to set up.
  • You will need more money.  Cut funds, stop benefits, close schools, pressure libraries.
  • Ask arts practitioners in the area what they want, and ignore those who are politically awkward, not dependent on you for funding, or who want a slice of the new pie.
  • Set up lots of meetings, think-tanks, new groups.
  • Select a random area of the city to be the quarter for arts.  Impose this new geography.  Then sit back and wait for the public’s grateful thanks, and grants to roll in, and tourists in their thousands to appear, hopefully generating the £122,000,000 you promised people your granite web and new ideas would bring in each year.  If you build it, they will come.

I do not think Aberdeen can be rivalled in its ambition.

City of Culture: (noun, mod. English) title bestowed upon a UK/European City by vote. 

The irreverent magazine ‘Private Eye’ has previously pointed out how Liverpool, previous City of Culture, spent a great deal of money on events which sadly people weren’t sophisticated enough to appreciate or support, and wasted a fortune.  But Valerie  Watts, our Chief Executive, came from Derry.  Derry won City of Culture, and she wants another similar victory here!

Only a minority of negative people in Derry think that money was wasted on this award.  £12  million or so was needed for Derry’s ‘Millennium Way’.  If you and I haven’t heard of it, it is because we are uncultured.    Here is some criticism of what I am sure was a brilliant idea:-

But suddenly as I read these old stories, everything fell into place for Old Susannah as she remembered one of the huge white elephants of Liverpool.  Actually, it was not a white elephant

We have seen some of our quangos and LibDem / SNP politicians desperate to build a giant granite web.  I can now reveal the reason we are desperate for the giant web is that a city of culture must have:  A Giant Spider.

City movers and shakers in Liverpool,  (home of the Beatles, Echo  & the Bunnymen, classical performers, painters and sculptors) decided to ignore all that art nonsense and get really cultural – with a giant spider called ‘the princess project’.  The spider’s cost was nearly £2,000,000.  What a bargain!

Why DaVinci, Mozart, Bach, Turner and so on ignored the cultural importance of a giant spider is beyond me; I guess we’re just more enlightened now.  But ‘Liverpool Culture Company (in turn funded by the city, the Arts Council and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport) decided to get a giant Japanese spider.  I guess Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan were not available at the time.

Who were the creative geniuses behind this entire ‘city of culture’ invention?  Who wanted a giant spider above classical arts and indeed before serving the needs of the Liverpudlian citizen?

The entire concept of a Department of Culture, Media & Sport was an ancient dream we can thank Tony Blair for.  One of the first Ministers for this crucial cabinet post was the talented David Mellor.  He was famous for having his toes sucked by Antonia de Sancha, as reported widely at the time.

Was it a Shakespearean scholar, Tom Stoppard or another luminary who helped devise this spider scheme and run Liverpool’s year?  Indeed:  it was creator of Brookside Close, Phil Redmond, who was Liverpool Culture Company’s artistic director. To quote Wikipedia, which is quite accurate on this story, Redmond said :-

“At £1.5m I think it’s (the giant spider) actually cheaper than (booking) Macca (Sir Paul McCartney) and it has got us on the front of the South China Morning Post. So it’s good value for money.  However, the project has come in for criticism [whatever for? – Old Susannah asks] in some quarters: the UK mental health charity Anxiety has highlighted the potentially traumatic effect of the production upon those suffering with arachnophobia, and the TaxPayers’ Alliance has called the artwork an “outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money”.

The vast majority of the public response was … that “The Liverpool Princess’ performance was the highlight of the city’s Capital of Culture 2008 celebrations.”

I can well believe that was the highlight, remembering some of the other non-events Private Eye covered.  There were cancelled performances, people giving work to acquaintances, and all sorts of dubious goings-on.

None of that could happen here however.

Patronage: (noun) to support, pay for or otherwise assist an artist, project, sportsman, etc.

In a far distant past, the fine artist was paid by the rich to portray the wealthy patron in a favourable light.  The artists were obliged to do as they were told, but often they left clues behind in their work to say how they really felt about their patron (stone masons would leave small caricatures behind in the back of their work).

Later, the role of patron switched to the State.  If your artwork pleases the government, you get grants.

For instance the man who was paid £9,000 (or so) to paint our Lord Provost told the press:

”I think he ( Provost Stephens) is a really nice man.” 

Well, he would say that wouldn’t he? It’s not like he feels any obligation to the system that commissioned him; or that would mean we have the state controlling what artists do – heaven forbid! – whereas the negative, fault-finding, duo of Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney were denied grants from Creative Scotland, as ‘no one would be interested in a documentary about Donald Trump and the Menie Estate’.

Thankfully, by letting the government dish out money to the artists they like is that we can try to prevent another ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ from getting made.  I wonder how many people with similar projects which were turned down didn’t find the resources to realize their artistic visions.

Thankfully, we will never find out.  Another benefit is we don’t have to think too much about what is good or bad art – the state chooses for us.  Result!

Old Susannah has already been a bit longer-winded than she had intended; apologies.

Next week:  No Creative Scotland commissions for me.

Jun 222012

The Olympic Torch may have left the Granite City but this week an Aberdeen-based charity will recognise the worthy efforts of 25,000 unpaid carers who ‘carry a torch’ for someone who is ill, frail or disabled in the city and shire. With thanks to Claire McBain.

Aberdeen City Council, VSA’s Carers’ Service and NHS Grampian hosted an Olympic-themed celebratory lunch on 19th June to mark Carers Week 2012 and to honour the personalities behind Aberdeen’s thousands of hardworking and unpaid carers who metaphorically ‘carry a torch’ for a relative or friend.  Carers’ Week runs from 18th – 24th June, 2012.

VSA will also reach out to local carers with pop-up information stalls across the city, highlighting services that help balance vital caring roles with other commitments. 

A recent Carers’ Trust poll revealed that 60% of unpaid carers found their mental health was affected by their role.  Fittingly, the theme for this year’s Carers’ Week is In Sickness and Health.

Diane McCabe, Director of Social Care and Wellbeing at VSA, said:

“Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire carers deserve gold medals for their hard work.  There’s not just one local champion, they’re all our local heroes.

“By getting involved in Carers’ Week 2012, we can highlight and improve conditions for the 25,000 unpaid carers in Aberdeen city and shire, some suffering health and career problems as they try to look after sick or disabled relatives without help.

“We want to make life easier for these torchbearers and those they look after.”

According to Carers UK, there are nearly 6 million carers in the country.  The Scottish Household Survey, conducted by The Scottish Government in 2010 reported 657,300 carers north of the border, more than 25,000 of which live in Aberdeen City.  Within this, there are an estimated 2,240 Young Carers in Aberdeen and far more ‘hidden carers,’ both adult and child.

Diane continued:

“Many suffer due to a lack of understanding about what they do.  Some don’t even recognise themselves as carers.”

Christine Carle has used VSA’s Carers’ Services for more than 16 years.  When caring for her daughter with additional support needs, her son fell into the role of ‘mummy’s help.’  The Young Carers’ service, for her son, was her first contact with VSA.

She said:

“All children rely on their parents to look after them so you don’t realise you need the help.  You think it’s just part of ‘being mum.’  You just get on with it.

“I wouldn’t be where I am now without VSA’s Carers’ Service.  I’ve reached several milestones I didn’t think would be possible.  I’ve now got a job for the first time since my daughter was born.  Help and support makes such a difference to your own health.  The happier you are in yourself the better you are for looking after someone.

“It can be a big step picking up the phone, or walking through the door for the first time.  But I’d urge other carers to get in touch.  It will open so many doors.  It’s been a godsend to me.”

Christine’s son, a local councillor, is now 22.  Her daughter is 18 and, along with Christine, will continue to use VSA’s Carers’ Service for a long time.

Aberdeen Lord Provost George Adam, who was a speaker at the Olympic-themed lunch said:

“Carers are the unsung and unpaid heroes in our community.  All face different circumstances looking after relatives, loved ones and children who have needs that must be met in different ways.

“The two things they all have common are a selfless devotion to those they care for and determination to make lives as good as possible for the people who rely on them.

“We, as a city, can’t hold carers in a high enough regard.  It is vitally important that we raise awareness of the work they do and highlight the support and representation that is out there for them.”

For more information about Carers’ Week events visit

More information about VSA’s Carers Services, can be obtained by visiting their headquarters at 38 Castle Street, Aberdeen, calling them on 01224 212021, or visiting their website at  

May 312012

Voice’s Old Susannah comments on current events and enlightens us with definitions of some tricky terms with a locally topical taste. By Suzanne Kelly.

Result!  I am sure we have all been dancing in the streets as our benevolent UK coalition Government has decided NOT to introduce a tax on heated Cornish Pasties!  What a relief!  I feel much better now about the Government writing off millions of pounds in tax owed by Vodaphone (and others).  You can’t say the ConDems didn’t look after us.

And here in Aberdeen, the P&J have launched a fantastic survey proving beyond any doubt that people still want the web at all costs (well, £140 million at a minimum).

We were blitzed by hugely expensive print and radio advertising saying the web will improve our lives, make us rich, and give us thousands of permanent jobs.

We were asked to pity poor Tom Smith (of ACSEF, City Gardens Trust, etc. etc.) who the press said had been the victim of harassment and illegal spying in the run-up to the referendum.  We were not allowed to examine the voting records for evidence of potential fraud (even after people joked/boasted about selling votes) – but the referendum should be obeyed at all costs.

We don’t have the actual visuals showing what the web will look like when the ramps’ security features are up – but don’t let that worry you.  We don’t have either a business plan, or architectural plans, and we can’t afford it – but let’s just go ahead anyway, as that will make Sir Ian happy.

Of course Labour always said they did not want a referendum and they pointed out it is not legally binding.  Labour also said that if elected they would scrap the CGP – and miraculously they got elected.

Old Susannah would like to end any ambiguity regarding issues on which public opinion matters:

Public opinion does not matter on: Loirston Loch, cuts to services for the elderly or specially abled, school closures, policing, street cleaning, community centre management, programmes for young people; Tullos Hill and its deer; common good land; Redmoss green spaces; grounds of Cove Bay FC; Don Crossings and Union Terrace Gardens improvement.

Public opinion matters on:  Putting a granite web over Union Terrace Gardens and chopping down its trees

I hope that helps.

Aside from Poor Mr Milne having problems with his fans revolting and Portlethen trash accumulation, the sun shone, and people in their hundreds flocked to the FUN Beach, in order to leave litter, barbeque grilles, paddling pools and rubbish in the sand.

Old Susannah asked a guy to dispose of his empty redbull can the other day; all I can say is at least he didn’t curse me out and just ignored me instead.  Here’s to the people who join the organised beach cleans, and to the people who keep places like Torrymelinos clean on their own.

Now that we’re back to our usual weather, it’s time to get on with a look at Aberdeen City Council’s internet pages and its A-Z list of services.  Visiting the Aberdeen City Council website and trying to find a service?  You can easily look up any information you want alphabetically.

Old Susannah takes a romp through the city’s website listings and brings you highlights :-

A is for ‘3Rs’  – (NB: I make ‘3’ starting with a ‘T’. But let’s not split hairs). This great 3R scheme sees the city doing yet more PPI-type deals in which private companies perform a service or build something (like a school) and lease it back to the City for massive sums of money.  It’s as if I sold you my flat for a fraction of its value, paid you to fix it up for me, and then paid you to rent it back to me for 10 times its value.  Bargain!

Most of the rest of the UK has moved away from this disastrous concept (invented in part by our dear ex-Treasurer, ex-PM Gordon Brown in order to keep debts off the books and make the financial picture look rosy).  But here in the Deen, we’re still embracing it, with our ex-Lord Provost seemingly quite proud of his services to the 3Rs (3Rs stands for Readin’ Ritin’ and ‘Rhithmatic – to use the spelling taught in the new PPI outsourced schools).

B is for Bats – Normally you might expect a city council proud of its environment to tell you that bats are a unique and endangered species it is proud to have within its city limits, and that bats are protected by EU as well as national laws.  But the A-Z tells you nothing of the kind.  It tells you about pest control, and how much the city wants for getting rid of all sorts of critters:-

  • Insects £56 + VAT
  • Rodents [Domestic] £78.50 + VAT per course of treatment
  • Rodents [Commercial] £56 + VAT per visit
  • Bed bugs £74.50 + VAT per visit.

I suppose the difference between domestic and commercial rodents are whether or not they have ACSEF membership.

Of all the city’s money-making, nickel-and dime schemes, this one seems to be both expensive and extensively recommended, as you will see.

Aberdeen seems happy enough to scare and scatter bats in Union Terrace Gardens by allowing HMT to throw massive fireworks displays at Hogmanay.  (What was wrong with the beach as a venue one wonders?)  Doubtless the rangers were consulted and saw nothing wrong with lighting fireworks over UTG.

Then again they are happy to plunk a 21,000 seat stadium in an SAC at Loirston, and happily arranged for the eradication of our pesky deer.  So what if bats, the peregrines,now ‘discouraged’ from their usual roost at Triple Kirks by Mr Milne, and other animals living in the park were exposed to fireworks?

We might be about the only town centre with this mix of animals anywhere in Europe, but we’ve got webs and offices to build, so let’s use subtle tactics like fireworks to get rid of our annoying wildlife. Again, using any of the tons of empty offices buildings isn’t nearly as important as ensuring construction companies can make lots of dosh.  So – mind the bedbugs.

Sadly, the council omitted to say how much it charges to kill your deer.

C is for Civic Receptions – like the one we just held for the outgoing Provost.  I never did get my invitation to this £4,000 tradition, which could not possibly have been cut back on.  Then again, me and another independent candidate never got our passes for the vote count.

C is also for Cat – the link on the City’s website will for some strange reason take you back to the page where you can get pest control to get rid of your rodents.  Hopefully our more bloodthirstier council personnel haven’t started exterminating cats just yet.  (I can’t wait to get to ‘R’ to see if there is a ‘rats’ listing – but it looks so far like it is politically correct to say ‘rodent’, not ‘rat’).  Note ‘C’ is also for ‘complaint’ – but doubtless no one needs to complain to the city about anything.

D is for Debt Counselling – Old Susannah is not sure she’d take financial advice from a city which hadn’t known it was over £50,000,000 in debt some years back, which had written off £11 million in bad debts in the recent past, and was cutting back on essentials but buying portraits and sending Lord Provosts off to Japan.

However, if you are a football club owner and builder who needs to know how to stop losing money when your team plays or needs help shifting ‘luxury’ flats – do feel free to use this service.  D is also for ‘dog’ and ‘dog fouling’ – at least the ‘dog’ link didn’t take me to the pest control site again.  As to dog fouling – as I stay in Torry, I really have no idea what this means.

E is for Earwig – yes you guessed it – which takes you back to the vermin control pricelist.  Quite frankly, I would probably look in the yellow pages before I went to the City’s site for info on earwigs.  Speaking of earwigging, Old Susannah is hearing some very interesting stories emerging from LibDem HQ.  Can the Liberals lose any more members?  Maybe it can.

E is also for Environment – Were you expecting info on air pollution, the polluted burn at East Tullos (more on that next week), EU environmental projects and protection placed on animals?  Well, the link for ‘environment’ takes you to:

And what does it say about conservation areas?  “Conservation areas are designated by the planning authority as being areas of special architectural or historical interest.” – so it’s only the build environment we seem to be concerned with at the council.  That would explain quite a lot.

F is for Freedom of Information – yes, the council are proud to explain what your rights are, and what the law says.  I cannot tell you how swiftly, accurately, completely and transparently all of my FOI requests have been answered.  But do watch this space.  I am expecting some more info soon – hopefully sooner than my request about property sold to Milne-related companies and contracts these companies also won from the city.

That only took a  year and the Information Commissioner’s involvement.  Sadly, the FOI team at the city were found to be in the wrong on five different counts on that one.  Yes, F is also for five.  F is also for ‘feral cats’.  Yes, you have guessed correctly – the council’s website  for ‘feral cats’ takes you back to the pest & vermin control site.

There must be an awful lot of killing planned for this town.  Yes, F is also for fleas, flies and foxes – all of course linking to the vermin control page.

G is for ‘Green Space Audit – believe it or not, green spaces are open, usually green (! really!) spaces  in and around city centres.  We have a strategy.  One which is supposed to …

“…  provide attractive and appealing places throughout the city, particularly in those areas identified by the open space audit as low in quality. However within a context of serious financial constraint, it promotes innovative and radical ways of maintaining and managing these open spaces.”

Presumably within our serious financial constraint to manage our green heritage there is a fair amount of room for turning meadows into barren rocky hills,but no doubt Tullos will be tree-covered soon, even if it is a few months since the gorse was largely destroyed, shooting deer (and lots of other things too by the sounds of it), and especially borrowing 90 million pounds to put a granite web over a valley, and turn its earth into a stadium, with seating from the destruction of ancient trees.  Yes, that’s quite a strategy.

Well, that’s enough alphabet for now.  I’m going to go celebrate with a Cornish pasty, heated as hot as I can make it.  Oh, and a new BrewDog prototype beer:  American Saison.  This delicious offering is made from leaves and berries (like the Cair No Mohr wines I adore).

Next week:  more of the city’s website alphabet – and some head-scratching over the city’s wiping £26 million of debt off for the AECC.  Hmmm.

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Apr 162012

Old Susannah reflects on the probability of  the Tullos Hill deer cull having been carried out, examines the role of key players, and presents some definitions we may become more familiar with as the local election looms.

Well, it’s been another interesting week in Aberdeen. I hope everyone had a pleasant Easter vacation, and things were as vibrant and dynamic (or otherwise) as you wished. I spent some time in the Coventry and Evesham areas, where all sorts of interesting things were going on.

I went to a pub where people played backgammon, cards and/or played folk music. I went to a meadow in the hamlet of Inkberrow, where the Plantlife charity is protecting some important wildflowers and animals in a delightful meadow.

I went to a bluebell wood near Evesham where deer, people, dogs and trees all managed to coexist without shotguns. This part of the world even has road signs to warn motorists that deer may cross the road – what an idea.

Sadly, even if the Council cut down on hiring consultants and throwing parties for itself, we might not need any deer crossing signs at Tullos – the number of deer which have been killed is unknown, but in a report I received a few weeks ago, buried on page 67, are the plans to kill off virtually all the bucks and most of the does we have.

The pre-planting cull happened, with a jolly hunter explaining to a hill-walker source of mine that deer ‘are basically rabbits with long legs’.

Might as well just shoot everything; we’d probably be able to make money from it somehow. Sigh. I guess we’ll just have to accept that the City and paid deer-kill supporter/tree planter CJ Piper know what’s best. We’ll just have to leave the main forces behind the cull (Aileen Malone, Pete Leonard, Ian Tallboys and Chris Piper) to get on with it. It would be a shame if any upcoming protest would add to the sea of newspaper and TV new items which have brought this situation to a larger audience.

Why do I pick these four people out, you might wonder?

Aileen Malone has always been the poster girl for the deer kill/tree scheme, appearing in press when it was just going to be a tree plantation. Did you see the lovely picture of her this week in the Evening Express? She had on a hard hat (you might think that was unnecessary) and was behind the wheel of a mechanical digger. Glee was in her little face.

However, when the cull became public knowledge, she suddenly became camera shy.

Chris Piper is  our expert who, having been paid £44,000+ so far, is confident we can plant trees successfully! Result!

Pete Leonard must have writer’s cramp from all the emails he’s put out repeating that ‘the consultation was robust’ and ‘deer need to be culled’.
He also managed to find time to singlehandedly determine that no funding was available for keeping Tullos as a meadow (which it already is).

Leonard wrote that a meadow would be more expensive than another tree planting, even though the tree scheme cost you and I at least £87,000 so far.

Old Susannah just found out that we are paying £480 pound per day for clearing the site, and the work is ongoing. Chris Piper is our expert  who, having been paid £44,000+ so far, is confident we can plant trees successfully! Result!

CJ Piper & Co might not show up in Companies House when you do a search, but they show up as author of a paper as to why we need the trees (it’s for the community you see, and to save a tiny bit of C02 – eventually). Writing a paper to keep the cash coming in, he’s endorsing the proposal which will make him more money: another result!

Ian Tallboys is a bit of the strong silent type – when it came to building at Loirston Loch and in the fields at Cove anyway. He’s certainly standing up for his right to use his licenses (shooting and meat management) when it comes to these trees. There is little evidence that rangers or anyone else maintained the weed-choked trees dying in tubes at St Fitticks and on Tullos (and at Seaton) – but everything will be fine this time. Sure it will.

But now on with some definitions. The elections loom, and with elections come a number of strange beasts…

Butterfly ballot: (noun) – a type of paper ballot in which the actual voting is done on a folded page, pamphlet-like ballot (the two open pages are like a butterfly’s wings; the voting is done where the butterfly’s body would be).

Let’s remember (as covered in this column a long time ago now) that your ballot is totally secret, so there is no need for any folded butterfly style paper. You are assigned a number, you get a numbered slip of paper when you go to the poll, and a list is made. Absolutely no way anyone will be able to track how you vote. Voting is just as safe and private as sending an email.

But back to butterflies. We won’t have to worry about butterflies very much going forward, as we’ve destroyed most of their habitat for housing (while existing properties sit empty), for trees ( which aren’t going to grow), and for a football stadium (which might not exactly be what the fans want).

Rumour has it that a certain city employee, meant to safeguard nature, is about to apply to cut down some ancient trees on their land. This is very surprising – Old Susannah would have thought the man in question would have skipped getting permission and just chopped the offending trees down straightaway. More on that another time.

Dark Horse: (Noun) – a relatively unknown candidate, seeking victory over their more established and better known rivals.

Well, the upcoming Aberdeen elections have no shortage of underdog, dark-horse candidates. The ballot papers are awash with Independents (including yours truly). It’s almost as if some people have had quite enough of party politics. The phrase ‘dark horse’ had to do with keeping details about your horse’s abilities secret before the animal raced.

I wonder if we have any candidates who like to keep secrets about animals from an unsuspecting public? Am I Malone in thinking we might?

Stalking Horse: (phrase, English)

1. person or thing designed to hide someone’s real intentions.

2. a candidate wanting to change the leader of a political party who stands only in order to provoke the election so that a stronger candidate to come forward.

3. a hiding place traditionally made in the shape of a horse behind which a hunter hid when stalking prey.

We can’t have an election without a stalking horse, can we? All sorts of interesting tales reach Old Susannah about how HoMalone became head of the LibDems. Was a stalking horse involved, and if so, who? Who was a weaker candidate that Malone?

Putting all that aside for now, we all hope that Aileen and Mr McCaig have mended their fences, kissed and made up. Their coalition was in peril not that long ago, and in pre-election skirmishes in the past both political parties have been less than kind to each other.

Whatever happens this time at the poll, let’s just hope we can get the same, sound, reliable, honest coalition we’ve been enjoying here for these past few vibrant, dynamic, smart, successful years.

As to the third meaning for stalking horse, well, we could always ask Ranger Bigboy how his deer hunting has been going, and if he favours the use of a cardboard cut-out, two-dimensional figure to hide behind. Not that I am insinuating that Ms Malone is a stalking horse in this sense of course.


(noun – modern English) A vehicle used by a party to transport its leader or other senior figures around the country to rallies or to meet the people.

Some candidates go around in open top cars. Some of course travel in style, like when our shy and retiring (well, retiring anyway) Lord Provost gives his LibDem heir apparent lifts in the Civic Car. Much classier, even if the taxpayer picks up the bill for any emergency candidate trips to schools to pick up children.

On the subject of our Lord Provost, he has been a very busy man of late. No, not with his trip to Nagasaki to visit one of Aberdeen’s many twin cities (oh, the dreary pains of fulfilling office). Our LP has been handwriting dozens and dozens of letters, exhorting his constituents to vote for candidate Steve Delaney. This was later referred to by Delaney as ‘an error of judgment’.

Maybe one of the servants should have been despatched for the child in question so that the canvassing could continue.

Well, that’s all the definitions we have space for. Remember, you only have about a week to get yourself on the electoral register. Get all the gen from

Next week: More Freedom of Information requests and hilarious answers