Jun 072013

David Innes reviews Dr Fiona-Jane Brown’s new book which is published this month.

This eagerly-awaited book has been trailed for quite a while, but at last Hidden Aberdeen is unveiled, in more ways than one.

First impressions are quite surprising.

Although written by an academic, Hidden Aberdeen is no wordy narrative; neither is it a history text.  It’s not even published in portrait, all of which gives it a welcome air of informality.

The cover is attractive – plain white with colour thumbnail photos of several of the mysteries on which the author sheds light inside.  It almost demands to be opened.

Dr Brown employs no stuffy language, neither does she let her explanations of each of the city’s historical and cultural features stretch to over 500 words.  Call that a page and a half.

Yet, the economy of language deployed and the open writing style will give readers enough insight to the subjects featured to encourage them to find out more for themselves.

Further research is made easier by the provision of a detailed and comprehensive bibliography.

So, this is more a guidebook than an in-depth investigation into hidden Aberdeen, structured geographically to allow its users to walk easily and quickly between the city’s mysterious but often highly-visible landmarks.

Anyone working in the city centre, or Old Aberdeen, for example, will be able to explore more than one nearby attraction and still have time for a lunchtime snack.

It would spoil the fun of exploration to list here the features Dr Brown enthusiastically introduces.

An idle half hour’s stroll, with a copy of Hidden Aberdeen tucked into a handbag or pocket to discover the city’s little-known physical history, will be time well spent by anyone with a sense of heritage and civic pride.

As has been demonstrated in the past couple of years, there are many around who have passion enough for their city to want to fight to retain its character.  For them, and for those just keen to broaden their knowledge, Hidden Aberdeen is an indispensable resource.

You can meet Dr Brown and have a copy of Hidden Aberdeen signed, at WH Smith, St. Nicholas Centre, at 13:00 on Saturday 8th June, or at Waterstones, Union Bridge (Trinity Centre) at 18:30 on Tuesday 18th June.

Hidden Aberdeen – History On Your Doorstep and Under Your Feet is published in hardback by Black and White Publishing and costs £9.99 from all good bookshops.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
May 312013

This has nothing to do with Derek McInnes keeping secret a raft of new players destined to bring the Dons trophies next season. Rather, it’s “a fascinating look at the history of the Granite City”, according to Black and White Publishing, learns David Innes.

“From Dr Fiona-Jane Brown, folklorist, educator, storyteller and founder of Hidden Aberdeen Tours, comes a book that will open your eyes to the hidden, the forgotten and the abandoned remnants of the past which lie under your feet as you walk round the city today.”

Our review copy is being digested by one of the Voice team, who almost qualifies as a forgotten and abandoned remnant of the past, and that review will appear in Voice very soon.

You can get your own copy and meet the author at the same time, as she’ll be greeting the public and signing copies of Hidden Aberdeen at WH Smith, St Nicholas Centre on Saturday 8 June and at Waterstones, Union Bridge on Tuesday 18 June.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 102012

Local folklore will tell you of a night, some years ago, of Antarctic-proportion blizzards and mini-Himalayan snow drifts, somewhere on the A9 between Inverness and Wick. To help assure the well-being of travellers, locals being far too sensible to venture out on ‘sic a nicht’, the local police had a patrol out at the start of the affected area, preventing would-be Ice Road Truckers from venturing into the blin drift. 

One traveller was determined that he had to get through. The cops were equally adamant that he should turn around and seek shelter for the night away from the freezing trunk road hell beyond the road block. As he pleaded his case, from nowhere came a vehicle, lights ablaze and wipers working double time, before disappearing into the whiteout ahead. The traveller’s protests that this vehicle had been allowed to venture beyond the official barrier was waved away by the bobby, “That, sir, was the P&J van.”

News has broken this week that the twin local institutions of The Press & Journal and Evening Express have entered consultation with 59 transport, circulation and finance staff in Aberdeen and Inverness over redundancy, writes our Business Correspondent.

Ellis Watson, CEO of DC Thomson Publishing commented on the BBC News website,

We have been working hard to assess how our business can meet the challenges of the dramatic changes in the publishing industry and the turbulent economy.

“We are one of the last publishers in the country still distributing our own titles. The cost of producing and distributing to market is ever-increasing, which is why we’ve had to make this decision to outsource, rather than to see our business decline.

“We are working with our affected staff members to ensure the best possible outcome for each individual during this difficult period.

“By facing the challenges head-on and investing for a new era, we will maintain a strong position on the news stands and continue our important role as an employer for the future.”

In the P&J’s own Business supplement, Mr Watson was more forthcoming,

“We are actively considering the option of outsourcing to a third-party provider for the distribution of our Aberdeen titles”.

The piece credited to Ian Forsyth reveals,

Newspapers would be delivered and collected by an external provider; likely to be John Menzies.”

Voice contacted a staff member likely to be affected by the outcome of the consultation who said,

“Alarm bells rang when The Courier and Telegraph distribution was outsourced to Menzies. When we asked them, managers said there were no plans at that time for Lang Stracht. That would have been late last year, or early in 2012. In fact, we had understood that when the costs of keeping distribution in-house were compared with the costs of outsourcing, our own transport was the cheaper option.

“The Dundee outsourcing started in July. Staff were asked if they wanted to move to Menzies under TUPE, but enhanced redundancy terms were attractive to them which meant that most left.

“We expected this, but thought that we would have had longer notice. The Dundee staff were given three months, but because there are under a hundred of us, only a month needs to be given.

“We’ve been told that the company wasn’t in a position to comment on enhanced redundancy terms just now, but that if there was no rocking of the boat, the company would consider enhancing the conditions.”

This will inevitably mean that Aberdeen Journals’ most visible presence in local communities, the ubiquitous (once red, now blue) transit van will disappear as the distribution service is outsourced.

No more ducking in Northern Road in Kintore as a tightly-rolled consignment of the latest edition is flung expertly on to the newsagent’s doorstep by a passing, yes passing, P&J van and consigned to the past will be stories such as that featured in our opening paragraphs.

  • Comments enabled – See comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.