Mar 282014

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

DictionaryApologies for the late running of this service; a fortnight ago I got tonsillitis, which I found over-rated.  Had to spend a week in bed (without any BrewDog at all – it was awful);  I’d been struck down just after another marvellous Moorings music moment with Kirk Brandon and Dave Sharp.

Thankfully I was back on my feet in time for the Aberdeen Jazz festival.  I caught both Gerry Jablonski sets, the first being in the Tunnels.  The Tunnels are surprisingly dark for some reason, and the atmosphere was very intimate – I felt as if I were in a New Orleans nightclub at midnight.

Jablonski was on great form, and an hour later, the band were doing another set on the Green, which for some reason was lighter as well as nicely crowded, considering half the city had driven to Glasgow for the football. 

Those who spent the afternoon on the Green had a choice selection of music, but the Jablonski band pretty much stole the day (and best wishes to the drummer, who wasn’t well enough to perform, and many thanks to the excellent stand in, DW).

Later that night the Joe Louis Walker Band was at the Blue Lamp; it was a rare treat to see blues done with such regal authority.  I couldn’t figure out why no merchandise was on offer, but I’ll soon remedy that with a trip to itunes.  Finally, this past Saturday I went with Julie to see Deborah Bonham at the Green Hotel in Mundell Music’s magical Backstage Bar.  Another intimate show, and a rare evening.  More on that elsewhere.

I also took in the Great Tapestry of Scotland currently on show at the Art Gallery; it is a phenomenal labour of love, and there are opportunities to add your own stitches to one of the panels. This massive series of beautifully stitched tapestries commemorates the good, the bad and the ugly moments in Scottish history; a section dedicated to those accused of witchcraft and executed really does show Scotland warts and all.

Then there was Sunday’s victory parade; congratulations to AFC on its well-deserved victory (as opposed to Arsenal’s wholly undeserved dissection at Chelsea’s hands, only made possible by ref. Marriner, who has basically admitted now that he didn’t have a clue what he was doing.  Perhaps he’ll be applying for the newly-vacated Chief Executive of Aberdeen post, except for his admission he made a mistake.

Defence spending is still a worry though. We’ve not got much of a nuclear deterrent for one thing

But the real reason I’ve not had a chance to write was that I’ve been very busy with my financial advisors. Since the Tories announced they’ll turn our massive budget deficit into a small surplus in record time, I’m wondering what to do with my new found wealth. We’ll all be a penny better off when  buying pints of beer, and can put even more money into tax-free savings.

Since we’ve all been able to save tonnes of money these past years, I thought I better get some financial advice on what to do with this massive cash windfall heading my way. Perhaps we’ve raised so much money between the bedroom tax and ATOS getting lazy ill people to work that the budget deficit will just go away.

They’ve managed to find some money in the treasury:-

£140m extra for flood defence repairs and maintenance

£200m made available to fix potholes

I think it’s a great idea that the Government will start thinking about potential floods; what a disaster flooding would be. I wonder where they got this flood defence idea from? If I can dredge up any facts on this flood defence budget, that will be more dredging than the ConDems ever did. Dredging rivers was deemed too expensive to do by some beancounter somewhere, and funding was cut. Nice to know we saved some money for a few years without any comeback.

As to the £200m for pothole repair, Result!

Only a spoilsport would point out that Which Magazine estimates the cost of fixing Scotland’s roads would be £12.93 billion. Old Susannah is not much of a mathematician, but what if we took some defence funds and fixed up some of our own wee social and infrastructure problems, and then got on with bombing the middle east for democratic reasons with the leftover money? Just a thought.

Defence spending is still a worry though. We’ve not got much of a nuclear deterrent for one thing, and unless you can blow up the planet a good few dozen times, no one takes you seriously anymore. The cuts have hit the neediest defence contractors to a serious degree; I’ll see if I can find a way for concerned citizens to donate to the military.

Of course there might not be cash in our armed forces for things like proper gear for people on the front lines in our little police actions around the world, but someone somewhere is making some money. Here are the grim facts:-

“Last month defence secretary Philip Hammond claimed to have balanced the budget for defence equipment over the ten years to 2022, outlining plans to spend almost £160 billion on new vehicles and kit [sad to say, but £160 billion just ain’t what it used to be – Susannah].

“The programme includes £35.8billion for submarines, including a replacement for the Trident nuclear system; £18.5billion on warplanes and drones; and £17.4billion for surface ships, including new aircraft carriers.

“Another £8 billion has been left unallocated to cover the risks of cost overruns. The programme meant that “for the first time in a generation the Armed Forces will have a sustainable equipment plan,” Mr Hammond said.” [hard to believe there could be cost overruns in the military – OS] for third-of-defence-budget

Again, I’m no mathematician (so I may apply for a job in government’s budget office), but £35.8 billion would buy quite a few Granite Webs at £140 million each.  It might even be enough to keep Valerie Watts looking suitably sun kissed for a year. And with that, it’s time for a few definitions, and a fitting send off for Watts-going-on.

Grit and Dynamism: (English Phrase used to describe the departing Watts) 1.  Grit – sandy, irritating substance.  2.  Dynamism – .

Alas, farewell, cheerio, bye-bye Valerie Watts. Was it our failure to win you a second City of Culture nomination that drove you from the Granite City? Was it hard to keep your natural tan going in our climate? Alas, we may never know.

The SNP are for some reason blaming their political opponents. Kevin Stewart said:-

“Mrs Watts came to Aberdeen with vision, dynamism and real grit and her resignation is a great loss to our city. I am sure that Mrs Watts will give her reasons for leaving, but I am sure that the dysfunctional behaviour of the Labour-led administration has played a part in her decision to go. ”

I’m sure it’s nothing to do with her handling of local issues from  killing our deer on Tullos Hill  or objecting to SNP’s Salmond showing up at Bramble Brae primary school during a by election. He was only there of course because of Piper Alpha, and nothing to do with publicity – at least I think the press release said something like that. Why is she leaving? So far she’s not saying.

A touching SNP letter appears in the 27/3 Press & Journal.  The tears are streaming down my face as I read it:

“Valerie Watts came to Aberdeen City Council with a formidable record and she leaves with the utmost respect of colleagues and citizens alike.  I will miss the competence and drive of Mrs Watts at the helm of the council.  She has left some very big shoes to fill.” – Christian Allard, SNP MSP for North East Scotland

She may be leaving big shoes behind. Somewhere, perhaps in a cupboard she’s left behind a 3,000 strong petition begging the city not to kill the deer; she certainly didn’t bother to refer to it when writing a letter of 8 July 2011 about objections to the scheme.

“The objections that have been received by Aberdeen City  Council regarding this project since January 2011 to 28 June 2011 total 244 letter or emails from 197 individuals/organisations. This includes letters/emails form 3 Community  Councils (Cove & Altens, Kincorth & Leggart, and Bridge of Don”

You might have thought handing in a petition to Aileen ‘HoMalone’ on national television would have counted as objections, but not if you’re Watts.

More on the lady in a separate article. I hope she doesn’t let the revolving doors of Marischal hit her on the way out.

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman: (Proper Eng. noun) Scottish government entity charged with overseeing complaints against Scottish local authorities and other duties.

You will be happy to know that, Aberdeen city still excels in some areas. In a 3 September 2013 letter to outgoing Valerie Watts, the SPSO ranks Aberdeen City Council the worst in Scotland for the number of complaints received in 2012/13 about its housing services, second in Scotland about how its planning services function, and third in Scotland for Social work complaints.

We also come 5th in Scotland for Educational complaints and 7th for Environmental complaints. Considering that George Copeland has for instance waited over 8 months to get a working front door fitted to his flat after the police broke it in while looking for a non-existent gunman, I can’t see why anyone’s unhappy with Aberdeen’s Housing bods.

As to the Environment, where else in the country will you find streets like ours for cleanliness, or more concern shown for the welfare of wildlife and the environment. You will be pleased that Aberdeen had the same ranking for complaints for housing, planning and social work in 2011/12.

Yes, we can be proud of excelling at something.

But that’s enough definitions on the sad occasion of Watts returning to Derry. From what I’ve read, she’ll be helping to increase passenger numbers at the airport, which has not noticed any increase in passengers from its gaining the City of Culture title. You could almost think this ‘Culture’ accolade was a hollow, expensive vanity award with little saving benefits. But surely not.

Next week:  more definitions.

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Aug 192013

A benefit concert has been arranged in aid of George ‘Dod’ Copland whose Aberdeen home was at the centre of a dramatic armed siege on June 7. With thanks to Ruaridh McAilein.

The concert featuring Oi Polloi, Billy Liar, The Bucky Skanks and T34 takes place at Audio, 14 Midland Street, Glasgow this Friday, Aug 23.

As reported in a previous Aberdeen Voice article, much of Mr Copland’s property was damaged or destroyed as police forced entry to search his unoccupied house following what was later reported to be a hoax call.

Mr Copland is still seeking an apology and compensation from the police.

Ruaridh McAilein, lead singer of popular punk band Oi Polloi told Aberdeen Voice.

“Dod has clearly been the victim of a significant injustice here. It’s extremely disturbing to think that something like this can happen in the first place but the fact that he has still not been compensated for either the damage to his property or to his reputation – not to mention the adverse effect that this must have had on his health – simply beggars belief.

“We’ve known Dod for the best part of thirty years now and can vouch for how willing he has always been to put himself out to help other people in need both through his community work and also in his personal life – and we also know how much pleasure he has brought to others over the years through his musical endeavours with Toxik Ephex – so the least we can do is to attempt in some small way to return the favour now that he finds himself in these straits after being treated in this quite frankly disgraceful way by the police.

“It’s a sad indictment on the state of affairs in Aberdeen that the authorities appear to have done very little to put right this clear wrong and that it is left up to other ordinary people like ourselves to help someone in this situation.

“On the positive side, when we first suggested the idea of a benefit concert for Dod it was greeted very enthusiastically indeed by the many people in Edinburgh and Glasgow who have come to know Dod through his musical performances with Toxik Ephex.

“He has a lot of friends all over Scotland, and there will be plenty of us coming together in Glasgow on Friday night to not only raise some much needed cash to help Dod repair some of the damage to his house but also to enjoy a night of excellent music and partying of the kind that Dod himself has so often provided for us over the years.

“We are hoping to not only collect a decent sum for Dod but also to show him that he’s not alone in facing what’s happened and that he is held in considerable affection by a lot of people throughout the country who have come to know him through his music.

“We also hope that further publicising what exactly happened to Dod will help keep the pressure on the authorities to apologise and properly compensate him.

“We’d encourage as many people as possible to come along for a night of great live music and to support the cause of a person who has spent so much of his own time over the years helping and entertaining others.”

Bands: Oi Polloi, Billy Liar, The Bucky Skanks, T34

Venue: Audio, 14 Midland Street, Glasgow
Friday Aug 23, 8pm
£6 on the door

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