Oct 132017

The final curtain at ARI.

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

That’s me back from ARI. It’s a fine place if you are just visiting if truth be told. If you are an inmate, then maybe that’s quite a different story.

I went in with an open mind. After all the nice admission nurse only asked me stuff about the months of the year and my CHI Number. Seemingly if you are old and ill, they need to check that you are not mad.

What the feck is a CHI, I wondered while reciting the months backwards from D to J.

“Who is the Queen?” she said. I reflected on the various times I have almost met the monarch and still had no answer.

How should I know? After all she – that is if she is a she and not an ageing robot – only asked me what a spurtle was. Or was that her dead sister Margaret?

Fortunately, she refrained on this occasion from asking the dates of the beginning and end of the first war. I had that in my sights. Well it really depends on whether you think that the war ended on Armistice Day in 1918, or on Peace Day in 1919 or in 1946 after the surrender of Japan. Revisionist historians all around the globe have been arguing the point for decades and who am I to disagree.

Whatever, I doubt if Royals eat porridge anyway. And, if they did, they would probably deny it.

The folk in hospital-land were mainly really nice.

When the queen came to open the Chelsea Roof Garden, they served cake on a red tray complete with a bowl of Royal soup and something called Balmoral Chicken.

The folk on the ward ate it if they could apart from the man in bed four who was on a fast – before a procedure.

Like in Ramadan, we all – apart from the man in bed 2 – tried to eat unsuspiciously lest bed four became jealous.

In the end it came down to the keeping of the Royal menus. Bed 4 donated his meal to newly arrived bed 1 on condition that the Royal menu was kept for him as a souvenir.

More fool him. The kitchen staff, who normally issued copies of the food order, had that day decided to keep the food trays pristine.

Not for us the usual check-list of what we had – often in a morphine-induced dream state – ordered. For today there would be no auditing of food and no chance of complaining about a mis-order.

In my case, I ordered Glamorgan Cheese something or other from the Duchy of Cornwall plus a bowl of Royal Game Soup.

What arrived was Balmoral Hen complete with a stuffing of Game Haggis.

It was fine. And I can’t really complain. In fact, in all of my ARI days – the food was fab.

The company was generally good and there was a fine view of the new Wood multi-story car park from the window of the day room.

The dark side of the coin …

Well, there was the blood man.

Sad and a relic of a former self, he made me feel humbled as he stumbled around the ward.

Here is his tale. Read it if you dare and reflect quietly that it could be you or yours in a future year:

‘After the bloodbath of the night before, all seemed quiet in the ward. The blond bigmouth in the corner lay curled up beneath his hospital blanket and the sun streamed in through the blinds at the far end. An occasional phone went and the buzzers summoned the bustling staff.

Us of us patients who could, slept or read. And, just above the hum of the air-conditioning, an occasional snore could be heard.

The blood-man, for that is what we called him after the night before, had quietened down and was brought back into the ward. Bigmouth continued to complain to anyone who walked past. Seemingly he had been a victim of the night before and had had to have his bed changed due to spilt blood-soaked urine. Shamefully he told the night’s tale to the relatives next day despite ample warning from bed four that all that happens in the ward, stays in the ward. Such abominable patients can be a pain.

Naked and full of good intentions, the blood-man had – in the best possible taste – become unpopular. But what he had done must remain secret, for if revealed then heads might roll and his unpopularity might become infamy amongst his peers. And, we shouldn’t countenance that at any cost.

Suffice it to say that he had lost both his Press and Journal newspaper plus a full three pages from the Daily Telegraph. The loss of the P and J was easily solved. They say they sell 60 thousand of the bloody things each day in Aberdeen alone and the man in bed two happily donated a copy to compensate the blood-man’s loss.

As for the Telegraph, we were all at two’s and three’s. After all, the blood-man’s wife had seemingly taken the missing pages.

“I can’t find three of the pages of my Telegraph” he had said.

“My wife has probably taken them. It’s exactly the sort of thing she might do” he concluded.

We, apart from the blond bigmouth – who was by that time AWOL and possibly meeting a friend with vodka at the lift on level three – remained sceptical. But, of course you never really know what’s going through a man’s mind.

Maybe Mrs Blood-man had it in for the man. Or maybe she was simply looking out for him. Or maybe it was all in his imaginary world of pain, urine and shit.’

Grumpy Jack.

P.S. A huge thanks to the folk on 209. You do it well.

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Jul 032017

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

(L to R) Sarah Harker and Moira Gash of DeeTour and VisitScotland regional director Jo Robinson.

A pair of Aberdeenshire entrepreneurs have launched a new tourist guidebook aimed at attracting more visitors to Royal Deeside.
Moira Gash and Sarah Harker, who run tour and activities business DeeTour alongside their own separate businesses, have created the Royal Deeside PassporTour, a pocketsize guide showcasing things to see and do in the Aberdeenshire valley.

The pair previously worked for tourism body Visit Royal Deeside.

Aimed at national and international visitors and locals alike, the 128-page book highlights the diversity of the area’s tourism offering. The guide was created after local tourism businesses called for this type of publication.

With stunning scenery, a wealth of locally produced food and drink, and an array of tourist attractions, golf courses and outdoor activities to enjoy, Royal Deeside has something for visitors of all ages. The book is designed to provide a comprehensive insight for those planning a trip to the area, while also acting as a guide and money saving tool as they explore the region.

Along with highlighting key tourist attractions and profiling the amenities and activities on offer in each of the main towns, the guide features interviews with local artists, tour guides, musicians, sportspeople and tourism professionals, helping to bring the region to life. A golf trail and a tea and cake trail each present further incentives to explore Royal Deeside, with participating businesses offering discounts to customers.

The history, heritage and culture of Royal Deeside and Scotland is also outlined, and a handy summary of Doric words will help visitors to grasp some of the basics of the distinctive north-east dialect.

Priced at £9.95, the Royal Deeside PassporTour provides purchasers with over £200 worth of savings through the 23 vouchers and two trails that it features.

The guidebook is also suitable for local families looking for inspiration for things to do during the summer holidays. Vouchers include 15% off at Go Ape at Crathes Castle, 50% off at Battlegrounds Paintball, two for one entry to Braemar Castle and 20% off day rover tickets at the Deeside Railway.

Co-director of DeeTour, Moira Gash, said:

“The Royal Deeside PassporTour aims to allow travellers to make informed choices as they plan their trip to Aberdeenshire and also act as a reference tool while they are visiting. Thanks to its royal connection, Deeside draws visitors from around the world and we’ve had interest in the guide from far and wide.

“Not only is it suitable for those visiting the area for the first time, but the huge savings offered by the featured businesses makes it a fantastic tool for locals. For families planning day trips during the summer holidays, the savings on offer at Go Ape at Crathes Castle and Battlegrounds’ paintballing, near Banchory, more than cover the cost of the book.”

The initiative has received the backing of VisitScotland, and was showcased at this year’s Royal Highland Show as part of the Aberdeenshire Village display, where it was given an enthusiastic reception from show visitors.

Jo Robinson, VisitScotland regional director, said:

“I think the Royal Deeside PassporTour is a great idea to inform visitors coming to beautiful Royal Deeside of the vast array of attractions, entertainment, locations and handy hints and tips, as well as locals looking for ideas for the summer holidays.

“Partnership and collaboration is at the heart of Scottish tourism and VisitScotland works with local industry to develop and deliver innovative initiatives that grow the regional visitor economy. We need to think big about Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire as a tourism destination to ensure we fulfil our potential – every visitor must get a quality experience, every single time.

“The Royal Deeside PassporTour reveals some of Aberdeenshire’s best-loved places as well as its hidden gems, and is a fantastic celebration of everything that this charming corner of the world has to offer visitors.”

Copies of the Royal Deeside PassporTour can be purchased from a number of businesses in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire or online at www.deetour.co.uk.

DeeTour is an Aberdeenshire-based tour and activities business that was established by business partners Moira Gash and Sarah Harker. The business provides bespoke tour and activity packages to help visitors explore Aberdeenshire. In 2017, DeeTour launched the Royal Deeside PassporTour, a new guidebook highlighting the wealth of things to see, do and sample in the region. The pocketsize book, which costs £9.95, includes over 20 vouchers that provide more than £200 of discounts at local business. 

Further information about DeeTour and the Royal Deeside PassporTour can be found at www.deetour.co.uk.

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Feb 172017

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside SNP councillor Geva Blackett (pictured) has hailed the start of the project to reinstate Ballater’s popular Old Royal Station, destroyed by fire nearly two years ago.

The B-listed building, owned by the council, was historically used by the Royal Family travelling to nearby Balmoral Castle and was hit by a fire which broke out in May 2015.

The building had been leased to VisitScotland for the last 15 years and housed a Visitor Information Centre, restaurant, museum, clothes shop and photography business.

Although much of the building was severely damaged by the fire, a replica Royal carriage survived, as well as various undamaged display cases.

Aberdeenshire Council committed to rebuilding the station and subsequently submitted a successful planning application to the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

There will be changes to how the internal space will be used – both the Visitor Information Centre and the restaurant will return and these will be joined by a library and an enhanced exhibition space. The Royal Carriage will be reinstalled as one of the main attractions.

The project, expected to cost in the region of £3million, is expected to be completed in December of this year, all being well.

The principle elevations of the original building will be reinstated matching the Victorian architecture and detailing, including Queen Victoria’s Waiting Room.

Commenting, Cllr Geva Blackett said:

“This marks the start of the restoration of this iconic building that plays such an important role in Ballater and indeed the whole of Royal Deeside.  Watching the first turf being dug makes me hugely optimistic that the fortunes of this beautiful village have turned a corner.”

Aberdeenshire Provost Hamish Vernal marked the start of the project by cutting the first turf with a ceremonial spade and wheelbarrow used to start the construction of Ballater Railway Station by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company in 1865.

He said:

“Ballater has had a tough time lately. The fire was a terrible tragedy along with the devastation suffered as a consequence of Storm Frank.

“However, I can see real progress with many shops open for business again and more and more residents returned to their homes.  Therefore, it is great to see another milestone achieved through the start of the construction work to redevelop the Old Royal Station.”

Morgan Sindall area director, Mark McBride, said:

“Morgan Sindall has a successful track record of delivering public sector projects and we’re proud to have been selected for one that has such significance to people not only in the local area, but across Scotland as a whole.

“It’s our first contract awarded through Aberdeenshire Council’s main contractor framework and we’re pleased to get work underway. 
“Ballater Old Royal Station has a rich cultural history and is integral to the region’s tourism industry. We’re mindful of the need to retain as many of the original heritage features as possible during the restoration process and confident that the finished building will be well received.”

The station was opened in October 1866 by the Great North of Scotland Railway and was the nearest station to Balmoral Castle. It closed in February 1966.

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Jun 302016

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

BVW Panto Horse TrialsResidents of a Deeside community are being called on to have sandbags at the ready – for a fun stunt designed to put a smile on faces as it prepares for its annual summer extravaganza.

Hundreds of sandbags were filled and put to use to try and defend Ballater from Storm Frank and the deluge it brought to the Deeside area in December last year.

Now with the floods firmly behind them, organisers of Ballater Victoria Week have come up with a tongue-in-cheek competition which they hope will raise a few smiles.

They are appealing to villagers to decorate leftover sandbags and share photos of their creations on social media.

As well as injecting a bit of humour, the novel competition points to how the community has galvanised and moved on following the flooding. The most liked picture on Facebook will be judged winner of best decorated sandbag – earning its owner £50.

“Just for fun we are inviting people to decorate a sandbag,” said Ade Scipps of the Ballater Victoria Week committee.

“There’s bound to be a few spare ones knocking around and they could be turned into a favourite character, use it to plant flowers, or whatever people like. We just want to cheer the village up and give people something to chuckle about as they go about their day. It’s a smaller scale creative competition which complements our scarecrow trail, which sees a weird and wonderful array of life-size scarecrows popping up in locations around Ballater.”

Ballater Victoria Week takes place from August 5-14 with its biggest programme to date.

As well as established favourites, like the vehicle parade and Sunday fayre, duck race, scarecrow trail, pantomime horse trials, ghost tours, films, quizzes, sports and music there are a few new events are in the offing too, like a Rio 2016 Onesie Party when villagers are encouraged to get into party mode by gathering together to watch the opening ceremony on a big screen in the V&A Halls and the ‘Weel Kirkit’ heritage walks led by a professional story teller.

Over the years Victoria Week has raised thousands of pounds for local causes and continually seeks to renew and refresh itself by reflecting current trends and initiatives.

It offers another chance for the community of Ballater to celebrate and enjoy some fun after the floods gave the area the most challenging start to the year.

DSCN2916With its close connections to Balmoral Castle, the Royal Family’s summer home, Ballater pulled out all the stops to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday earlier in June when hundreds of people of all aged gathered for the Happy Birthday Ma’am street party.

Organisers of Ballater Victoria Week hope to see the same show of community spirit with another well-earned opportunity for villagers to have fun and let their hair down. The annual party week has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 1987 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession, raising thousands of pounds for local charities along the way.

Among the highlights of the 10 day extravaganza is Ballater Highland Games which takes place on Thursday, August 11 and includes sports, hill race, Highland dancing and much more.

With Ballater Victoria Week enjoyed by both local residents and visitors alike, Richard Watts, chair of the Ballater Business Association is pleased to see it develop and grow in 2016.

“The resilience and determination to get over the floods has been quite remarkable and everyone is keen to get over the message that Ballater is back on its feet and is very much open for business,” says Mr Watts.

“Organisers of Ballater Victoria Week work really hard to put together an action-packed programme with events to appeal to people of all ages. Locals and visitors alike will be welcome to join in the fun and there will be plenty of cheer and chuckles along the way.”

Balmoral Castle remains a favourite summer retreat for the Royal Family, and Ballater is often referred to as the ‘Royal Warrant Town’, due to the large number of businesses that hold the prestigious mark of recognition to those who supply goods or services to the Households of HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh or HRH The Prince of Wales.

For more information about Ballater Victoria Week visit the website http://www.ballatervictoriaweek.co.uk/

BVA is also active on social media at http://www.ballatervictoriaweek.co.uk/

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May 192016

With thanks to Gemma Setter, Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Walk About Ballater3 A five star walking programme is one in a long line of events showcasing how Royal Deeside continues to keep moving forward after Storm Frank affected the area in December last year.

Walk About Ballater 2016 takes place from May 23-27 and will offer the chance to explore scenic Ballater and its surrounding landscapes by foot.

A fleet of local volunteers will lead each event, giving visitors access to an abundance of in-depth knowledge about the Ballater area and its history.

Taking place over five days, each of the five events venture deep into the heart of Royal Deeside entirely on foot. With a countryside full of majestic mountains, lush greenery and picturesque lochs, it’s not difficult to see why Queen Victoria fell in love with the area over 150 years ago.

The series of events will allow visitors to explore some of the Royal Family’s favourite locations when they holiday in Scotland. Crathie – where the Royals attend church when in the area -Lochnager – said to be Prince Charles’ favourite mountain – and the famous River Dee will all be seen on the walks outside of Ballater.

Wildlife and nature enthusiasts will also be spoilt for choice during the programme, as the area is widely known for being rich in flora and fauna. Walkers may even catch sight of a pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, a rare species in Scotland although Deeside remains one of its strongholds.

John Burrows of Walk About Ballater 2016 says that the series of walking events will allow people of all ages and capabilities to experience the area and all of its natural beauty by foot.

He says,

“The village of Ballater is set in such beautiful surroundings and the only way you can truly get a feel for the area is by walking through it. Five walks have been organised, with the first starting on Monday 23rd of May.

“Each day will bring a different location, distance and ascent. The days range from a gentle four hour walk providing fantastic views over the Dee valley, to an 18km trek with a 430m ascend up to the impressive Craig Vallich.

“We’re very proud to be able to offer such a wealth of scenery and walking routes. Those taking part certainly won’t be disappointed, as the whole landscape of Royal Deeside is just spectacular.”

Richard Watts of Ballater Business Association says,

“Walk About Ballater is the perfect way to kick start our summer tourist season, the walks are a reminder of exactly why visitors return to Ballater year after year. The event organisers have been working extremely hard planning the perfect walking routes which will showcase the very best of what this area has to offer.

“It’s wonderful to see locals get involved by volunteering their time to lead walks and provide background information about Ballater to visitors. The community spirit which has been shown throughout this year is proving that the only way is forward for Ballater.”

The programme runs from May 23-27, with the first scheduled walk set to take participants on an 18km (11 mile) circular route starting from Ballater through the Glenmuick estates. This route is expected to take five-and-a-half hours and will pass the old curling ponds, as well as the Royal Bridge.

With the opening of the newly refurbished Ballater Caravan Park on Friday May 13, there’s never been a better time to enjoy a walking break in Royal Deeside. More information is available from www.visitballater.com.

Walkers are welcome and can sign up on the day. For full details of the programme and times, please contact John Burrows at johnburrows1@btinternet.com

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Aug 282015

The Duke of Rothesay attended a ceremony on Sunday in the Lower Cabrach, one of Scotland’s most remote communities. He had come to lay a wreath at newly-constructed memorial cairn. Suzanne Kelly attended.

User commentsThe Cabrach is perhaps best known for its dramatic, beautiful scenery and for being the home of whisky.

The Gordon family residence is here in the sparsely-populated area, home to generations of Scotland’s first family of whisky.

The Cabrach cairn, in the Lower Cabrach area, is a new, beautiful dry stone monument to those from the area who fell not only in World War I, but in all subsequent conflicts.

Until recent research revealed the truth, it was thought that the number of those from the Cabrach who fell in the Great War was far less than one hundred. The truth emerged that perhaps some 300 lives were lost.

This was mainly to illness. When the recruits left the area to go to war, they had little in the way of natural immunity, and many were tragically killed by disease.

Prince Charles – the Duke of Rothesay as he is known in Scotland – laid a wreath and talked to an assembly of residents. This wreath was red poppies with three white feathers with a card which read:

“In special memory of those from the Cabrach, and the parishes of Rhynie, Lumsden and Dufftown who lost their lives during the First World War. Charles”

One of those present was John Gordon. As a young man of 16 in World War II, he was kept in the area to do essential agricultural work and to serve on the Home Guard. He told Aberdeen Voice:

“I joined the Home Guard; I got my medal about 10 year ago. This medal is the Royal Observer Corps. I was in and saw the bombing that happened in Aberdeen. The Germans flew over here too; they dropped a bomb on the Upper Cabrach. Aye, they put a bomb up there in the Upper Cabrach.”

After the Duke left, a second ceremony was held for the entire community with music and the Lonach Pipe Band and a huge spread of food. Photographs of the cairn in progress over the months adorned the community centre walls.

Marc Ellington spearheaded the project; funding for which mainly came from the Gordon family.

Ellington said:

“Each and every aspect of the construction of the cairn has involved members, both young and old, of the Cabrach Community working closely with master craftsman Euan Thompson, a specialist in traditional dry stone construction.

“As well as being one of the finest memorial cairns to be built in Scotland in recent years, this is an outstanding example of what a local community, working together with energy and determination, can achieve.”

Both Ellington and community leader Patti Nelson gave speeches and thanked everyone who assisted and who attended. Marc was assisted on the day by Gemma Louise Cook.

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Nov 282013

Burnhervie duncan harley tommy cat featDuncan Harley looks somewhat sideways at the sell-off of the UK Postal Service.

Recent headlines, such as “City banking giants will rake in nearly £17million in fees from the flotation of Royal Mail, despite accusations yesterday of having failed the taxpayer”, may not represent the complete picture.

Postman Pat’s cat is probably still licking her paws with glee. At an undervaluation of about 220p per Royal Mail share she can almost certainly afford to stock up on cat treats.

The Royal Mail shares famously opened at 330p each during the October 2013 sell off. Now valued at an enhanced 550p they represent a hefty profit indeed for the City fat cats. Do the math. It will probably amaze.

In addition, the City advisors stand to earn fees of 0.8% of the funds raised in the sell-off. Some such as Goldman Sachs and UBS have already received more than £12m in fees, with much more due when the 0.8% of the total sale fee is computed.

The government’s independent advisor, a Limited Company by the name of Lazard who are billed as “a global financial advisory and asset management firm that engages in investment banking, asset management, and other financial services primarily with institutional clients” has already received some £1.5m, with much more to come.

Around £12.7million has already been paid in fees to the seven banks involved in the privatisation. Much more taxpayers’ cash is likely to be paid out in the next few months in fees and commissions to banking advisors and institutions hired by the elected representatives of the UK, who have been charged with the safeguarding of public resources and ensuring good value for money in the sale of the Royal Mail business.

The UK Government was of course quite right to seek advice about the sale of Royal Mail. After all it is a 420-year-old UK business with some 100,000 employees, many of whom would become jobless should the share deal go wrong.

Burnhervie Post box Duncan HarleyIt seems however that the sell-off advisors to HM Government now expect to be paid for what for many seems like particularly bad advice prior to the Royal Mail flotation.

David Cameron has publicly backed the Margaret Thatcher Museum this week.
Seemingly it will be replete with memorabilia from the decade or so of that era. Empty villages, streets full of unemployed folk, destroyed communities and lost opportunities.

Some suggest that bus tours through the wastelands of the mining villages of Wales and Scotland might be a better use of the £43m cost of the museum project. Others wonder about Scottish Independence or even emigration.

Let’s hope that Cameron’s legacy does not include tours of the empty and desolate postal sorting offices of our towns and villages.

A parody of the Swiss bank Goldman Sachs exists at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx4poQw1mZo

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May 092013

By Duncan Harley.

It’s not just Donald Trump who gets into trouble for using misleading advertising (see Tilting at Windmills – Aberdeen Voice 18th April 2013). The Advertising Standards Authority investigates complaints on an ongoing basis.

In 2011, for example, they dealt with 31,458 complaints and investigated each of these to see if they seemed to breach the rules. As a result, over 4,590 adverts were changed or withdrawn.

Whether you are the boss of FCUK branded clothing or even Prince Charles the rules are there to be adhered to in the name of protecting the public from misleading advertising claims.

In essence the ASA’s role is to monitor and regulate the content of advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing in the UK by investigating complaints and deciding whether such advertising complies with the UK advertising standards codes.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) website claims that:

“The Advertising Standards Authority is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media. We apply the Advertising Codes, which are written by the Committees of Advertising Practice. Our work includes acting on complaints and proactively checking the media to take action against misleading, harmful or offensive advertisements.”

Set up in 1962 and funded by a levy on the advertising industry the ASA is the first port of call if you find an advert misleading or offensive.  Anyone can refer a complaint and the online complaints form on the ASA website is very simple to complete.

The ASA has a range of sanctions at its disposal as Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd found out when they were ordered to “not to make claims unless they could be substantiated with robust evidence and not to use misleading imagery”, after 21 complaints were received regarding an advert featuring a US wind farm plus a reference to “the release of terrorist al-Megrahi “for humane reasons” – after he ruthlessly killed 270 people on Pan-Am 103 over Lockerbie”.

Publicity in the form of numerous press articles appeared regarding this adjudication and although some marketing theorists may claim that even bad publicity is good publicity, it might well be said that the Trump advert raised concerns in Scotland about the interference of a foreign national in Scottish renewable energy policy making.

The ASA can also refer problematic broadcast advertisers to Ofcom

Apart from the negative publicity generated by the weekly ASA adjudication lists, the Authority can order advertisers not to advertise unless the CAP Copy Advice team has seen the advertisement first and allowed the advertisement to go ahead.

For example, the ASA told French Connection UK Ltd, which makes the FCUK branded clothing, to have all its advertisements pre-vetted by the CAP Copy Advice team.

The ASA can also refer problematic broadcast advertisers to Ofcom and if the ASA has trouble with a repeat offender, it can refer the matter to the OFT under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988.

Following more than 1,300 complaints to the ASA about the shopping channel Auction World.tv, the ASA referred the matter to Ofcom and the shopping channel went into administration following a £450,000 fine.

Mind you, both Trump and Auction World.tv are in good company alongside a wide variety of advertisers who have been deemed by the ASA to have misled the public.  This weeks ASA adjudication list includes upheld decision’s  regarding an ad for ”Dead Sea Kit”, a product that purported to remove wrinkles and featured text which claimed to unlock the secrets of anti-aging.

Cash Lady was similarly chastised for advertising pay day loans at a representative APR 2670% in misleading and socially irresponsible manner. The ad included the voice-over claim: “You could see your bank and fill in loads of forms, but there is an easier way to get a loan; check out www.cashlady.co.uk, with cash lady it’s simple to apply for up to £300. It’s dead fast too”.

In 2009 the ASA banned an Israeli tourism advert following over 400 complaints by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and members of the public after a map in the advert showed the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

The adverts read “There is probably no God”

In the same year Nestlé’s claim that it markets infant formula “ethically and responsibly” was found to be unsupported in the face of evidence provided by the campaigning group Baby Milk Action.

Perhaps one of the oddest complaints to come under scrutiny was the Atheist Bus Campaign in which Atheist groups aimed to place “peaceful and upbeat messages about atheism” on the side of London buses in response to “evangelical Christian advertising”.

The adverts read “There is probably no God” which prompted complaints from folk who no doubt thought that there probably is a god. Some of the complainants claimed that the advert was “offensive and derogatory to people of faith, who faced the prospect of having to decide if God existed in order to rule on the complaint.”

In a master stroke of diplomacy the ASA ruled that the advert:

“was an expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation.

“Although the ASA acknowledges that the content of the ad would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause serious or widespread offence.”

Diplomacy however was not in order when in march 2009, Prince Charles came under heavy fire when his Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture became subject to complaints and ridicule.

The claims to be able to detox the body and aid digestion when one or two drops are added to a glass of water were challenged and the product, which contains dandelion and artichoke, was variously described as “implausible, unproven and dangerous” by Professor Edzard Ernst of Exeter University and “outright quackery” by some others.

After investigation the complaint was upheld and the prince’s company Duchy Originals was told in no uncertain terms not to make misleading claims which it could not substantiate. The press were less kind and headlines such as “Make-believe and outright quackery – expert’s verdict on prince’s detox potion” appeared in the Guardian.

Next time you see an advert for an instant baldness cure or a land grab by some foreign state, you might like to take the time to consider filling in the online complaints form on the Advertising Standards website. After all, its you the public who are being misled.


Prince Charles accused of quackery: http://www.guardian/prince-charles-detox-tincture
Advertising Standards Authority: http://www.asa.org.uk/About-ASA.aspx
Snake oil: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_oil

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Dec 102012

Old Susannah casts her beady eye once more on the goings-on of the great, the good and the downright ugly! By Suzanne Kelly.

The chill in the air, a few days of snow, children behaving better than usual; this can only mean one thing.
Yes, it’s Christmas shopping time again. Seasonal goodwill is evidenced in every fight over a shopping mall parking space. The bon accord is clearly evident as women fight over the last sweater in the sale in the Bon Accord Mall.

Peace on earth is demonstrated as people elbow each other out of the way in each crowded shopping mall, or the strong nudge the weak away from the Apple Store’s latest product display, which will of course be replaced by a newer product the following week.

Christmas cheer is not very much on display for the residents of Hillside near Portlethen. It seems there will be no communal Christmas tree, as getting electricity to the site is beyond the technical nous of the local builder, one Mr S Milne.

The local authority, not at all resembling small-minded control freaks, have a policy where normally only one tree is permitted per area.

This year though, in a magnanimous gesture, they graciously allowed Hillside to have a tree as well as Porlethen! It is far too technically difficult to get electricity to the Hillside tree, however. Likewise there will be no lighting on the Hillside street lamps.

The lamps are made of a material which simply breaks up if hit by a car or truck – a safety feature, so I’m told (although how shattering lamp posts would stop a car careening into a house or person, or stop the streetlight itself from crashing down and injuring someone is a mystery to me).  So – no lights and no tree.

This tale reminds me how Common Good Aberdeen ensured their jubilee garden party in Union Terrace Gardens would have a thing called a generator to run the show, in case they had any electricity problems.

I guess Hillside residents have bigger things to think about than the tree, such as the infrastructure initially promised which hasn’t exactly been made manifest yet, either. Despite early promises and assurances, the unlit Christmas tree would have increased amenities available to residents by 100%. As Councillor Mollison put it back in September:

“I know residents are eager to get started so that there can be a social heart to Hillside, something that is missing at present. At the moment there are houses, houses and more houses.”

We shall see if many new amenities spring up with alongside the new developments coming our way in city and shire; I am sure the developers will continue their joined-up, philanthropic, community-focused, environmentally sound philosophies in all things they do. The worst part, of course, is seeing the hopes dashed of all the children who dreamed of seeing Stewart throw the switch on their Christmas tree.

Old Susannah had a pleasant week with Christmas drinks and dinner parties starting a bit earlier than usual. Perhaps most fun was an event held by Shelagh at Torry’s Oil and Glass art and craft business.

Children of all ages were able to make either a glass Christmas star or glass ornament for a £5 donation; a pound from each ornament or star went to the VSA. Shelagh raised over £50 for this worthwhile charity (well done, and thanks for the mince pie as well).

It must be time for some seasonal definitions.

Pantomime (noun) ancient entertainment form normally adhering to certain formulas, such as telling a fairy tale, having a heroine, a hero, a villain and a pantomime ‘dame,’ commonly held close to Christmas time.

His Majesty’s Theatre will hold its annual pantomime this year but it may be outshone by a bigger pantomime taking place over on Twitter: two comic characters slugging it out in traditional Punch and Judy form, rivalling anything ever done by the ugly sisters.

Donald Trump and Alan Sugar are having their own little show with an enthralled audience laughing along. Donald tweets that a grateful Alan Sugar should ‘drop to his knees’ (‘oh myyy!’) and thank him. Sugar says Scotland doesn’t want Trump – how cruel! (Accurate, but cruel).

Without a trace of irony, Trump demanded Sugar tell the public his real financial worth. No doubt The Donald will make a similar disclosure. Things escalated, and surely Sugar was worried when no less a figure of moral probity than Piers Morgan has sided with The Donald.Sugar has some wild idea that wind farms are not necessarily a bad thing.

Let’s just hope Sir Alan doesn’t mention the Glenfiddich, or things could get even uglier (although that is hard to imagine).

Glenfiddich (proper noun) a brand name of whisky, originating with the Scottish Grant family.

One Christmas day back in 1887 a terrible tragedy-in-waiting occurred, and the first ever Glenfiddich whisky came forth from the still. No doubt if its distillers realised this brand would one day be an affront to Scotland’s main benefactor Donald Trump, the still would have been smashed and the project scuppered.

This upstart brand of whisky insulted the Donald by allowing the Scottish people to pick their Top Scot of the year – and no doubt by a hoax or an ‘orchestrated campaign’, this year’s winner is someone Donald doesn’t like. Glenfiddich hasn’t been reasonable on this point at all. Firstly, letting the people decide what they want isn’t something you’d catch our local or national governments doing.

Secondly, the award surely should have gone to Donald himself, for all the good he’s done to our area by creating millions of jobs, stabilising our movable sand dune system, and bringing us much-needed popularity and publicity we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Previous Top Scot winner J K Rowling was once a Lone Parent, and we remember what a bad bunch these can be, according to a former government in Downing Street. Thankfully, David Cameron will be harking back to that earlier appraisal of lone parents. He’s sticking it to these feckless individuals in the new budget, quite right, too.

It also looks like that nice Mr Osborne will open up Scotland for business – by allowing gas companies to search for gas on the mainland. Why waste time with renewable energy when we can pump chemicals, untold reserves of water, and even explosives into our countryside. What are a few earthquakes or contaminated water compared to being ‘open for business?’

Anyway, the Scottish public were told by Trump not to buy Glenfiddich, and that he was banning it from his classy golf courses and hotels forthwith. The makers of the single malt tried to shirk their responsibility by saying that people choose the award winner, but clearly that’s just not good enough. The people of Scotland have since rallied to Trump’s call. They are buying Glenfiddich and Grant whiskies as fast as they can.

Old Susannah has no doubt the motivation for these sales is not to drink a toast to Forbes with Glenfiddich, but rather so people can empty the alcohol down the drains, showing their esteem for the poor, slighted Trump. And so it should be.

If you see me leaving the shops with bags full of Grants and Glenfiddich, it will be so I can dispose of them, not so that I can enjoy one of the most delicious single malts our area has to offer, created in a lovely distillery which still uses water power in production in a very environmentally sound manner. Heaven forbid.

Many people contacted Trump’s golf course to offer to take the offending booze off Trump’s hands, but alas – all such philanthropic requests were turned down.

Practical Joke (compound noun) a gag or hoax designed to embarrass or otherwise humiliate the object of the exercise.

We all love a good practical joke, don’t we? What could be nicer, particularly at this time of year, than making a fool of another person? Where’s the harm in setting up someone for, let’s say, a telephone prank? It’s not really illegal, so that means there are no problems (unless you let something like ethics get in the way).

A nurse committed suicide over such a prank lately. The ladies receiving the hilarious joke phone call probably panicked, thinking that they were going to get in a lot of trouble if they didn’t do what the pranksters wanted, believing for some reason that no one would call a hospital for laughs, thereby deterring nurses from taking care of people.

Then, realising they were made to look idiots, probably fearing for their future careers and dreading the onslaught of inevitable media intrusion, one of those involved took their own life.

But let’s remember, the radio station involved ran all this through their legal department, which didn’t see any legal reason not to interrupt nurses from hospital work (work which is probably usually kind of dull, and not at all of life and death importance like being a DJ), impersonate the most powerful people in the country, and in the process intimidate an immigrant to the UK.

The two DJs involved said they couldn’t have foreseen anything like this. I’m sure they spent lots of time working out the possible outcomes and permutations of their actions, as all practical jokers do in advance. It’s also fine because after the fact, the radio station in question is going to review some of its procedures – can’t say fairer than that.

Our laws might have something different to say about the situation, but as long as the station manager and station legal team are fine, who are we to nit-pick?

Finally, the DJs are each receiving counselling and medical care. Let’s hope no one calls their doctors or nurses with innocent, cute prank calls, now.

Next week: perhaps a story on Stewart Milne saving the day at Hillside and springing for a generator? Or, more likely, more local and national definitions.

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Oct 312012

With thanks to Richard Bunting.

Trees for Life has been honoured with a commemorative plaque from HRH The Princess Royal to mark its creation of a Diamond Wood in Inverness-shire to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

The conservation charity is planting the 60-acre Jubilee woodland of native trees at its Dundreggan Estate, to the west of Loch Ness in Glen Moriston.

The initiative is part of a Woodland Trust project to create 60 new Diamond Woods across the UK, each at least 60 acres in size, to symbolise the 60 years of The Queen’s reign.

The commemorative plaque was presented to Trees for Life’s founder and executive director Alan Watson Featherstone at a special reception at the Palace of Holyrood house in Edinburgh on 22 October 2012.

Alan said:

“We are delighted to be working with the Woodland Trust on this inspiring project. Our Diamond Wood at Dundreggan will be a natural and beautiful tribute to Her Majesty The Queen. It will last for hundreds of years and be enjoyed by many generations of people, as well as providing an important habitat for wildlife in the Highlands.”

The charity’s work at Dundreggan is a key part of its restoration of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest to a spectacular wilderness region of 1,000 square miles to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness. Although only a fraction of the original forest survives, Trees for Life has now created almost 10,000 acres of new Caledonian Forest at 45 different locations in the Highlands. It has planted more than one million trees, with a million more pledged for the next five years.

Surveys on Dundreggan have revealed over 60 species that are priorities for conservation in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan. The discovery of rare, endangered and presumed extinct species have established the estate’s reputation as a ‘lost world’ for the Highlands.

People can support Trees for Life’s award-winning work by purchasing dedicated trees to celebrate special occasions. A tree will also be planted for every recipient of a new ‘plant a tree’ winter gift card this Christmas and winter. The charity’s acclaimed volunteer Conservation Weeks offer opportunities to gain practical conservation experience in spectacular surroundings.

For information, see www.treesforlife.org.uk or call 0845 458 3505.

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