Jan 112013

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

An eventful and warm week has passed in the Granite City; many people settled back into their routine after the holiday break. Children were back at school, councillors were back at Marischal, people were back at work. Industry is booming.  BrewDog have lots of crafts beer on at their eponymous bar just now, and their shiny new factory opens on 19 January with the unusual fanfare you’d expect.

The car theft industry is thriving, too.  Career car thieves have been back at the coal face, and Grampian’s finest have likewise been busy, protecting us all from the likes of… Lesley Ross.

Ms Ross is considered dangerous – with a keyboard. After her Audi was stolen, she’d made posts on Facebook, according to the Daily Record, which were… offensive.

Apparently bad language was used! Off the top of my head I’m not sure if that has a mandatory custodial sentence or not.

She also wished that something bad would happen to the thieves!

The penalty for wishing ill on someone else was done away with after the last witch trials ended a few hundred years back, but with the ConDems in power and political incorrectness gone mad, expect witches to be hung in public sometime soon, along with ‘Lone Parents’ who have just seen their child benefits cut – that’ll teach them (but only the poor ones, mind).  The ConDems have released a document of their many triumphs; more on that later.

You might think that with thieves stealing in broad daylight and posting photos on Facebook there would be more arrests and convictions than we’ve seen.  Still, at least our finest men and women in uniform do have an interest in crime: they’ve racked up about three dozen past crimes between them.

They have convictions ranging from auto-related incidents to assault to (my favourite) perverting the course of justice.  I always think a little on-the-job training helps you do your job better, don’t you?

Finally, our guardians have managed to keep some 300 DNA samples taken from children.  Some committed crimes; some were completely innocent, yet the samples remain on file for all.  Never throw anything away they say; you never know when you might need it.  Good bye civil liberties and rights.

DNA samples don’t always do what they’re supposed to of course.  I recall a serious trial in Ireland.  The DNA found at the scene was cross-matched – and was found to belong to a young person who had absolutely no connection whatever to the crime or the crime scene; he just had a DNA profile similar to whoever was responsible.

there is some bad language on it in spots, and they’ll want to speak to people about it

Make sure you don’t accidentally leave your strands of hair on any public transport or in the street – you’ll be put at the scene of a crime before you know it.  Still, the innocent have nothing to fear; when was an innocent person ever convicted of a crime in the UK?

I hope Ms Ross has learnt her lesson. In the meantime, if the police have any free time from arresting journalists (like they did to Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney at Balmedie) or from keeping our streets the safe places they are, they might want to check out some Aberdeen Facebook pages.

There is one which tells you how to hotwire a car, and several which show stolen vehicles of all sorts. What will interest the police about this long-running site is that there is some bad language on it in spots, and they’ll want to speak to people about it. I guess Grand Theft Auto wasn’t a computer game after all, but training software.

Politicians and their changes of heart and mind have very much made the news; here in Aberdeen Willie  Young’s apparent U-turn over a new Bridge of Don crossing has eclipsed any national U-turns or reports on the coalition’s successes.  More on that later.

Here is a selection of relevant definitions in the news this week:

Coalition Audit Document: (compound Eng. noun) a report issued by David Cameron and Nick Clegg appraising their promise on their election pledges.   Found in libraries in the Fiction section.

As I mentioned earlier, the ConDems have put out a dossier of all their election pledges and how they’ve performed.  It has a lovely cover showing our happy, working multicultural Big Society in all its glory, and at only 122 pages is a snip to read.

If we needed any further stimulus to vote for them next time ‘round, here comes a little reminder of the great things they’ve done to us – sorry, that should be ‘done for us’.  You don’t even need to go further than the first page to see how they’ve succeeded:-

“We will reform the banking system to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis, to promote a competitive economy, to sustain the recovery and to protect and sustain jobs.”

Result!  Job Done!  I think we’ve all noticed how well the recovery is going and just how competitive our economy is.

But mainstream media can be cruel – the BBC website points out an example of a pledge which was not fulfilled.  I’m sure it was probably the only such pledge and that this is just the liberal, left, biased media taking a pot-shot at our Big Society bigwigs, but here it is:

  • Coalition Agreement 2010: “We will replace Air Passenger Duty with a per-flight duty.”
  • Coalition Audit 2013: “We announced in Budget 2011 that we would not introduce a per-plane duty, given concerns over the legality and feasibility of this approach.”

It’s not as if they broke any promises that were important (or more accurately haven’t had a chance to fulfil promises yet, as I’m sure all will be honoured).

U-turn: (Eng. verb) To change direction 180 degrees, particularly in a car (probably a stolen Audi in this part of the world)

Perhaps this term is best illustrated with a few examples:

  • ConDems in U-turn over Bookstart – free book programme for children which was to be axed before outcry from writers and the public
  • ConDems in U-turn over the ‘Cornish Pasty’ tax – a genius scheme to get revenue out of people who want hot food.
  • ConDems in U-turn over plans to scrap a ceiling on donations to charity
  • ConDems in U-turn over secret courts, killing birds of prey, selling off our forests, caravan tax…

It’s almost as if to save money for bankers and defence spending they were trying to squeeze the people at the less rich sector of the Big Society, but I can’t believe that is their intention, can you?

If you want further information, see the Guardian’s list of circa 30 other ConDem U-turns at http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/may/31/coalition-u-turns-full-list .  It should be noted that just because the Government’s done a few U-turns doesn’t mean it’s not going to honour its election pledges.  Eventually.

Third Don Crossing: (Proper compound Eng. noun) an Aberdeen City scheme to build a further bridge over the River Don.

Everyone’s favourite bastion of truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, our own Press and Journal have pointed out that Willie Young seems to have changed his mind.  Over the course of five years.  I wonder what could have caused this amazingly-swift U-turn on his part?

Well, we’re told he promised to prevent the Third Don crossing to be built when he wrote to a constituent back in 2008.

If you read the P&J story, it seems Willie also told said constituent that he couldn’t make any definite promise because he took the Labour whip (Grampian police are said to be investigating this case of whip-stealing).

Old Susannah is unsure whether or not this crossing is a good idea.  However, the previous government of Aberdeen was hell-bent on building on any green space we had in the city centre, or any patch of land they could flog for housing and offices, particularly if they could sell it at bargain-basement rates .

I’m sure they knew just what they were doing, such as when they approved 800 or so new houses at the Haudagain roundabout.  I can’t see any added traffic problems there, can you?

So here we are in 2013, with housing and offices springing up around empty offices and disused brown space.  Traffic is even worse than it was in 2008, and that’s saying something.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the brains (aka Kate Dean) in charge of planning in the previous administration ensured that there would be sufficient road infrastructure to deal with all the new builds or not approve them.  You could also be forgiven for thinking we’d have an affordable, reliable, frequent public transport system by now.  But we don’t.

I don’t have any idea why Young’s changed his position; but the intervening five years’ worth of development could play a tiny factor.

Perhaps Cllr Young should take a page from the ConDems’ book – or more specifically the Coalition Audit Document and not do any further U-turns.

That’s all there is time for, as I’m keen to get back to reading the Coalition’s little report.  You are too, I can tell, so here is a link to it courtesy of the BBC. 

In the meantime, don’t use any swear words, don’t wish ill on anyone, don’t let any of your goods get stolen, or the police will come calling.

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Dec 272012

By Bob Smith.

Some fowk doon in Stoney
Woke up tae flooded hoosies
Watter flowin a fyow fit deep
It flushed oot ony moosies
Rain cam poorin oot the sky
Rinnin doon fae field an park
The Carron burst ower it’s banks
Faar wis yon Noah wi his Ark?
Aroon Brigfield and the High Street
War hames fit wur warst hit
Drains they jist cwidna cope
Wi the watter, gunge an grit
Some local fowk war on TV
Like Alan Smith an Isla Duncan
In Isla’s food caterin placie
Her stock it took a dunkin
Ithers in iss bonnie place
Jist sooth o Aiberdeen toon
Showed gran community spirit
Gien grub, an the odd nichtgoon
So raise a gless o Glenfiddich
Tae thae gweed Steenhive fowk
As a toast tae aa their spirit
An tae annoy yon Trumpie gowk

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
Image credit: Judith Pullar

Jul 262012

With Thanks to Jonathan Russell  and Aberdeen CND.

Aberdeen CND invites you to mark the 67th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons.

In August 1945 the US dropped 2 atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We will release 200 peace lanterns on the River Dee to commemorate the 200,000 men, women and children who died.

There will also be short contributions from persons representing Student organisations, Trade Unions, Faith Groups and Civic leaders.

Date: Monday 6th August 2011, at 8.30pm

Venue:  the Fisherman’s Hut on the River Dee
(by Riverside drive – See map)

CND campaigns to stop any future mass destructions! We call on the Government to:
  • Scrap the Trident nuclear system. 
  • Cancel plans for the next generation nuclear weapons
  • Work for international nuclear disarmament

For further details contact:   www.banthebomb.org/AbCND  or telephone Jonathan on 07582-456-233

Jun 282012

By Bob Smith.

O Scotland ma Scotland
Iss lan o ma birth
Yer beauty astounds ma
Be it muntin or firth
Yer bonnie glens are quairt
Fair rushin are yer burns
Lazy are some rivers
Wi their twists an turns
Yer moods they can be varied
Fyles gey roch an weet
Afen saft an gintle
Like an ivver luvin geet
A mervel at yer wildlife
As fin the eagle soars
A watch the seals an wadin birds
As a dander alang yer shores
Yer winters  can be affa bleak
Grun happit wi ice an snaw
Bit in simmertime fooivver
There is a magic fit is braw
A luv life  here in Scotia
Noo lit there be nae doot
O her  beauty an her grandeur
A wull forivver spoot

 © Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
Image credit: HIGHLAND COW © Adrian Jones | Dreamstime.com

Jun 142012

At age 18 Declan Michael Laird is getting a remarkable reception in Hollywood.  He is on a scholarship to the most prestigious acting school there is, he is playing football with celebrity expats, and he is having the time of his life.  Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly catches up with Declan, and gets the gen on his story so far.

Declan answers the phone, and the first thing that comes up is weather.  Aberdonian readers don’t need me to tell them how this summer is going, but Declan’s interested.  “You’d be surprised – I do miss the damp weather sometime… the sun can get to you sometimes if you’re running around a lot.” he offers, “But I do love it, and I’m lucky.”

His voice is filled with enthusiasm (it sounds as if he is smiling and on the verge of laughing), and it should be.  He is in Hollywood pursuing a career as an actor.  Not bad for a teenager from Scotland.

I ask what he got up to today.

“I got up early, did some school work, then went to gym and tried to work out, then met friends for coffee – I’m off to class shortly.”

Class in this case being acting lessons at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre.

“I was playing for  Greenock Morton FC and left school at 16 – I wanted to be  pro player.  I never thought about acting .  I was on a pro youth contract. 

“I came to Los Angeles on vacation, and there was a workshop at an acting school.  I was with my dad, and said I’d go in and give it a shot.  I’d never had the opportunity back home.  I went in and I loved it – I felt I had a knack for it – I did it, loved it, came home from LA and told my family that I wanted to give it a bash.  

“I got an agent in Glasgow and my first audition was for River City.   This was only a week or so in [to being signed by an agent], and I got the part. I’d never even been in the school play!  I did the audition the way I thought it should be done.  I got the call the next morning to say I got the part.”

“It was all amazingly sudden,” Declan tells me,

“I went to the first filming and decided this was what I wanted to do – the cameras, the actors, being on set was amazing.  Football, which had been my aim for 10 years, suddenly fell to the back.  I did a few short films back home with independent filmmakers. 

  he said, ‘You would be the first person since Robert De Niro to get this scholarship.’ 

“In December 2010 I got a call from Stella Adler School – (from Milton Justice who is an  Oscar-winner documentary maker; he was the man who took the workshop).  I had no idea I was doing the workshop in front of an Oscar winner – maybe that’s why I wasn’t as nervous as everyone else.  He said he was impressed, and there was a place if I wanted to go to LA.  

“I was signalling to my mum and she said it would be too expensive.  But I told him l’d speak to my parents and call back.  So I spoke to my parents, and called back to say we couldn’t really afford it.  He sort of laughed and said ‘we’re offering you the place,  it would be a full scholarship’.  Just as I was about to get my words out – I was speechless – he said, ‘You would be the first person since Robert De Niro to get this scholarship.’  – I thought I was being punked”.

Declan continues:

“So at that point there was only one thought – I was going to go.  So, fast forward  they wanted me in January – but I was still 17 –so  I came in August.”

Laird has a manger and an agent, not something that your average teenager winds up with after a few months in Hollywood by any standard, and work is coming in.

“I’ve just booked a film with award-winning director Stan Harrington ‘Lost Angels,’ which  starts filming this month.  I start in July – I’m excited about that.”

And from the tone of his voice, yes, he is.  There are other call-backs and opportunities which we discuss.  I look forward to watching where he’s going to next appear.

“I don’t even know the name, but there’s a movie being made in Scotland and the casting director’s wanting  to ’Skype’ with me to talk about.”   

There are other international prospects in the pipeline, and it will be interesting to see what choices Laird makes.

“It sounds far- fetched when I tell people.” Declan says of his experiences.

Indeed, one of the reasons I wanted to get in touch was that his story sounded far-fetched to me when I’d first heard it from his father.  Parents do generally tend to exaggerate what their children are up to, but with hindsight what his father told me was understated compared to the facts.

We talk about football.

“The good thing is I’m playing football as well .   Vinnie Jones is the coach; there are a few guys from Hollyoaks.  A lot of British actors, models and singers are coming from the UK, and here there’s not a lot of opportunity to play. 

“Vinnie rounds up everyone he can who is able to play.  

“Mark Wright is out here making a documentary.  He plays in the team on Sunday, and the show filmed it – you’ll see me playing with Mark and Vinnie shouting at us.”

I ask about visits home – wouldn’t a teenager so far from home miss his friends and family?

“I’ve only been back once – I went back at Christmas.  It is difficult sometimes, but this is where  I want to be, and I’m very determined.”  I’m more than convinced of the determination by this point.  “ People think I’m about 25 – being here alone has matured me a lot.”

“Ross King has been really helpful – he does the Hollywood scoop.  He heard about me coming out here, got in touch.   When I first came I didn’t know anyone.  He’s introduced me to people, takes me to the studio – he’s been great.”

I come back around to football – after all there are just a few issues with Scottish football at present.   Would he still be following his team?

“I am a Celtic supporter.  I don’t watch all the games, but there is an Irish bar in Hollywood that  shows the  Old Firm games.  My brother is a Rangers supporter and my dad’s a Rangers supporter as well.” 

Not wanting to linger on Rangers’ future or any family football rifts, I get back to acting.“What roles appeal to you?” I ask as what must be a fairly predictable question. 

“A lot of people seem to think they can see me as a bad boy – could be to do with the accent.  But I like comedy – I like making people laugh.  But I’m open to everything.   All the good roles are the bad guys.”

 I can’t argue there, and think of De Niro’s ability to be a terrifying villain (the remake of ‘Cape Fear’ springs to mind) as well as his considerable gifts for comedy.  I have little doubt Laird will be another master of both.

Will he wind up another ‘Lohan’?  Will he be jaded before he’s hit twenty?  Will he keep up the enthusiasm and energy which will be essential to win roles and handle the ups and downs?  I think so – but I ask about it.

“My family are so supportive – you meet so many people out here whose family aren’t supportive.  You can be out of work;  you can be in work.  But they support me in every way they can.”

Declan’s keen to say hello to his friends and family


“If I could say a special thank you to Jim Sweeney, who lives in Inverclyde.  When I was first starting he helped so much and I really appreciate it.”

I ask Declan for any last thoughts.

“It is amazing what I’ve achieved in the last 8 months – the events I go to, the people I’ve met. I feel like it’s meant to be.  That  sounds cheesy – but I’m a great believer in things that are meant to be.”

  • Keep up to date with Declan on twitter at @DMLactor
Mar 302012

By Bob Smith.

On mither earth faar we div bide
Thingies noo are fair on the slide
On iss sphere in the universe
The gweed life noo is in reverse

Flora an fauna are aa in decline
As the human race dis undermine
The basics fer the warld’s survival
Yet maist fowk’s brains are in denial

We build an drill an pull oot trees
The polar regions nae langer freeze
The kwintraside noo aa tar scarred
As motorin groups they lobby hard

Mair an mair hooses biggit near toons
Coverin fertile fields we kent as loons
Rape an winter wheat full fairmer’s parks
Nae placies left fer the peesies or larks

Aathing noo maun be neat an tidy
In winter time things canna be slidie
If sna faas doon at the rate o faist
It’s look’t upon as bein a bliddy pest

Yet sna we need ti fill lochs an rivers
It melts in the hills an rins doon in slivers
So we can aa drink a draught o H20
The watter levels shudna be ower low

We cut doon rainforests so cattle can graze
Or palm ile is socht ti mak soap fer yer face
An fowk faa hiv bade in thae forests fer ‘ears
Throwen oot o their hames bi firms’ owerseers

Mither Earth provides us wi aa wi need
Sustainable? Aye bit nae fin there’s greed
We maun use less of fit Mither Earth dis gie
Some fowk in oor warld iss they canna see

I hiv some hope Mither Earth wull survive
As the younger fowk weel they div strive
Ti gither an protest aboot fit’s aa gyann on
Mither Earth micht yet see a brand new dawn.


© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”2012


Image Credits:
GRASSHOPPERS © Steffen Foerster | Dreamstime.com 
PLANET EARTH © Foto_jem | Dreamstime.com

Nov 112011

By Bob Smith.

A’ve waakit up ower Bennachie
Fae Mither Tap hae seen the view
A’ve suntered up the Brimmond Hill
In rain an fin skies war blue

A’ve dannered in bonnie kwintraside
Strode on a Schiehallion ridge
A’ve wannered throwe the Lairig Ghru
Fae Linn o Dee ti Coylumbridge

A’ve climmed up throwe the boulders
Ti win ti the tap o Lochnagar
A’ve aye been affa lucky
Fae the tap a’ve seen afar

A’ve rambled fae Loch Muick
Ti Glen Clova past Glendoll
A’ve dauchled near the Grey Mare’s Tail
Ti see the watterfall

A’ve gin throwe glens an valleys
Each his its ain beauty
A’ve stravaiged aa ower Perthshire
Near Loch Tay at Achnafree

A’ve traversed the slopes o Cloch-na-ben
An seen boulders as big’s ma hoose
The only thing a hinna seen yet
Is the kwintraside aroon Glen Luce

A’ve been on the tap o Peter’s Hill
Fin ye cwidna see fer fog
A’ve been on waaks fit war easy
An some they war a fair slog

Throwe the glen o the River Tanar
A’ve cam ti the slopes o Mount Keen
The walk ti git ti the boddom
Fair keeps ye baith fit an lean

The win his blawn throwe ma hair
The rain his made ma weet
A enjoyed every meenit o’it
Tho noo an agin a hid sair feet.

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”
Image credit:  © Maxim Tupikov | Dreamstime.com

Aug 242011

Aberdeen’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament group has held a memorial service marking 66 years since the nuclear attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War Two. Philip Sim attended the annual event and brings us the following account.

There was a healthy turnout at the event on the banks of the River Dee, where speakers and spectators alike braved the pouring rain and swirling winds.

The service included speeches from a range of political and community groups, including SNP MSP Maureen Watt, Nathan Morrison of the Labour Student’s Association, Gordon Maloney of the Aberdeen University Student’s Association, and Clive Kempe of the Green Party.

Hiroshima Memorial on the River Dee from Philip Sim on Vimeo.

Messages of support were read out from Tomihisa Taue, the mayor of Nagasaki, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, and Aberdeen North MP Frank Doran. Poems and songs were recited, all conveying the same broad anti-nuclear message.

After a minute’s silence, the group lit two hundred peace lanterns, one for each thousand people killed in the nuclear attacks on Japan in 1945, and floated them down the River Dee as the sun went down.

CND rallies were also hosted in Dundee, Ayr and Paisley, while people gathered to hear speeches in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens and Glasgow’s west end.

Aug 042011

By Bob Smith.

There’s ti be a public inquiry
Aboot a new brig ower the Don
Fit raised a puckle objections
Fae the residents o Tillydrone

Noo its thocht that maybe CPOs
Micht be used ti pinch fowk’s lans
A fair fyow bits o gairdens
Wid be teen oot o their hauns

As weel as kickin up a stink
Aboot the use o thae CPOs
Fowk in Tillydrone an Widdside
Are feart faar the traffic flows

Cars an larries fae aff the brig
Wull roar bye hoose front doors
Nae a thocht  fer folkies wellbein
As the car coont it fair soars

Eence they bigg mair hooses
Oot ower the Brig o Don wye
A fowerth brig crossin the river
Wull nae doot bi the cry

Noo here’s a thocht ma freens
An iss we jist maan speir
If aa iss happened  near Rubislaw Den
Wid plans git oot o first gear?

Support the fowk fae Tillydrone
Tell the planners ti back aff
Eence mair some in iss toon
Are threatened wi plans richt naff

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011


Aug 012011

With Thanks to Dave Watt and Aberdeen CND.

Saturday the 6th of August sees the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the world’s first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August the 6th in 1945.

Aberdeen CND will be holding a commemoration of the event at the River Dee on the evening of the 6th.

Previous years have seen an increasing amount of attendees at this event with representatives from political parties, faith groups and members of the public.

We will release 200 peace lanterns on the River Dee to commemorate the 200,000 men, women and children who died. There will also be short contributions from persons representing Student organisations, Trade Unions, Faith Groups and Civic leaders. 

All are welcome at the event and messages of support have so far been received from the Mayor of Nagasaki (see below), Scotland’s First Minister and local MP Kevin Stewart.

Message from the Mayor

“Today I would like to say a few words on behalf of the people of Nagasaki for Hiroshima/Nagasaki  Memorial Ceremony being held in Aberdeen.

“I would first like to extend my appreciation for the people of Aberdeen and their continued participation and support in lasting peace activities.

“At 11.02am on August 9, 1945 Nagasaki was devastated by a single atomic bomb. With 74,000 people killed instantly in the explosion and a further 75,000 who suffered injuries, Nagasaki fell into ruin. Those who narrowly escaped death were dealt terrible incurable physical and psychological wounds caused by the after effects of the radiation that they suffer from even today, 66 years later.

 “Through the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Memorial Ceremony, I hope many people of Aberdeen can deepen their general understanding of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and help us work towards realizing a world free of nuclear weapons and everlasting peace.

“In closing, I would like to extend my best wishes for the success of this event and for the good health of all the people who are gathered here today.”  – Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki.

Date: Saturday 6th August 2011, at 8.30pm

Venue:  the Fisherman’s Hut on the River Dee
(by Riverside drive – See map)

CND campaigns to stop any future mass destructions! We call on the Government to:
  • Scrap the Trident nuclear system. 
  • Cancel plans for the next generation nuclear weapons
  • Work for international nuclear disarmament

For further details contact:   www.banthebomb.org/AbCND  or telephone:   0787-904-6779