Jul 082014

Stewart Milne tall by Dave HarrisonBy Bob Smith.

Stewartie Milne wints ti bigg
Hooses doon Pitfodels wye
Aa ti bi class’t as luxury
Wi prices fair sky high

‘Ere is a need says Stewartie
Fer mair hooses o es kine
A fyow mair luxury hames
Wull suit Aiberdeen jist fine

Awa an bile yer heid min
It’s the laist thing we div need
Biggin mair owerpriced mansions
An only affordable ti ae creed

Fit aboot biggin some hoosies
Aat’ll help the first time buyers?
An nae jist pander ti the likes
O big business types an lawyers

Oor streets are paved wi gold
Fowk fae oot the toon are telt
So Stewartie maan be hopin
Aat ess hooses wull seen be selt.

Bigg ‘em quick-price ’em heich
The motto o fowk like Mr Milne
Nivver myn the puir buggers
Still on the property treadmill

It seems aat oor toon planners
Beery their heids doon in the sand
An dee nithin aboot the less affluent
Faa need a wee helpin hand

Bigg ‘em quick—price ‘em lower
Wid dee a lot mair fer the needy
So Stewartie Milne gie es a thocht
An dinna be sae bliddy greedy.

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
Images from original artwork by Dave Harrison.

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Dec 242013

ChristmasTwas the night before Christmas and all through the Deen
Nae een were stirrin, ye ken fit Ah mean?

ACSEF members were nestled all smug in their beds
Visions of brown envelopes danced in their heids
Lady Helen in her kerchief, and Sir Ian in his cap
Had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap

When out on their lawn there arose such a clatter
Ian sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.
Away to his window, he flew like a flash
Hoping no one would try robbing his cash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of granite to objects below
When what to Sir Ian’s beady eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer:

“There’s no right of access to land near my home
“I’ve got lots of money so you’ve no right to roam!”

Twas a little old man with a red suit and beard
“Could this be a communist?” Ian Wood feared.
Santa approached, getting out of his sled
Turning to Ian, this is what he said:-

“Perhaps greed and age have made you grow thick
“For as any fool knows I am St Nick.
“I’ve come to the Deen to reward the good
“On second thoughts I could skip you, Ian Wood.”

“The thing is, with the greedy things that you do
“I just don’t think that I can believe in you.”

At this Ian faltered – he so wanted presents:
“Hold on now Santa, I’m not one of the peasants.
“Let’s talk for a moment so I can explain
“How you can maximise your capital gain.”

“Pay your elves’ wages from an offshore tax haven
“Hoots Santa – think of the dosh you’d be savin’.
“Perhaps you should start a ‘Claus Family Trust,
“And there’s ‘Venture Philanthropy’ – yes, that’s a must.”

“No taxes to pay and you’ll save lots of money
“Stop giving away gifts for free – it’s not funny,”
“Just because poor people put up a tree
“Doesn’t mean you should give gifties for free.”

Santa sighed, saying “Thank you indeed Ian Wood
Christmas“I think though that you just might be up to no good.
“If you paid your taxes, if you weren’t so greedy
“I dare say that others might not be so needy.”

“I’ll bid you good night; I’ll say no more.”
“But do say hello to your close friend, Mrs Craw.”

Donner, the lead deer, was slightly perplexed
“Well Santa, which house will we fly to next?”
“Let’s go to the Milne house since we are quite near.”
And off flew St Nick, the elves and the deer.

“Santa, this heated driveway is quite nice,
“It’s totally clear of all snow and all ice.”
Stewart Milne’s ‘eco’ house had some curious features
This driveway was welcome to Santa’s cold creatures.

“Just one gift for Stew, here, do have a wee look”
St Nick was clutching a nice brand new book
“What is it called?” asked a curious elf
“Football for beginners” – Santa laughed to himself.

“I don’t know that Stewart kens much o the game
“He cares more for money, still all the same
“In the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of Yule
Christmas“This book may help him ken the offside rule.”

Away the deer flew with the sled full of gifts
“Hey,” Comet said, “D’ye ken Milne wears lifts?”
All the deer laughed until it was clear
That towards Aileen Malone’s house they were drawing near.

“Don’t be afraid of that witch” Santa said
“Who as we know had your comrades shot dead
“Deer, if anyone needed the loo,
“We’re over Malone’s house. Yes I think this will do.”

Over Malone’s roof they arrived in a twinkling,
And soon every reindeer and elf started tinkling.
“There are those politicians who will tell you, by heck
“that really it’s raining as they pee down your neck.”

“So do your business – relieve yourselves here.
“In memory of 36 Tullos Hill deer.”

The deer did their business and some of them tittered
“With only 5 LibDems she must be embittered.
“At the election her side got quite trounced.
“Change course for the Bates’!” St Nick announced.”

ChristmasAnd soon Santa stood on the Malone-Bates roof
“No wonder that these newlyweds were so aloof
“No news in the press of their marriage was blurted
“To ensure their financial interests weren’t hurted.”

Perfect gifts for these lovebirds Santa had found;
Down their chimney Santa jumped with a bound.

But just as our Santa started to speak
He was scared by a monster which started to shriek.

Santa stared at the thing which wore a night gown
Could this be some kind of a beast or a clown?
Its hair was in rollers, its eyes were cucumbers
Its face was green mud: “You interrupted my slumbers!”

“You’ve got ash on my carpet! Turn around and get out!”
The hideous thing did shriek and did shout.
Santa twigged who it was, she normally looked fairer
It was ‘The Face of the Deen’, the lovely bride Sarah:

“In order for my great beauty to keep
“I need many hours of deep beauty sleep.”
“Oh Sorry,” said Santa, “my fair beauty queen
“I ken now why you are the Face of the Deen.”

“From me you will not hear any further peep
“Clearly you’re behind on your beauty sleep
“I’ve just some small gifts for you two then I’ll go
“Back to my sleigh outside in the snow.”

“I’m amazed at the way you two work close together
“Let’s hope that there won’t be any stormy weather
“Like when the course fell into the North Sea last year
“And the cold’s perhaps wrinkled your sweet face my dear.”

Sarah said, “I’ve got an old man and he gives me  presents,
“My beautiful face put me above other peasants
“He pays me to run the world’s greatest course”
(Mrs Bates showed  not even a sign of remorse).

“Well then Sarah, I’ve two little gifties for you
“A gallon of wrinkle cream, och aye the noo,
“And a book you should read , it’s called ‘Golf can be fun”
(For she hadn’t a clue when all said and done).

“No need to thank me, I’m just here to serve
“And I do think you have got the gifts you deserve.”
As the sleigh left, its bells made a sweet tinkle
Sarah ran to the mirror to check on her wrinkle.

“All these liars and cheats, they do make me cross
“But let’s pay a visit to Sarah  Bates’ boss”
The elves were astounded- “Santa don’t be a chump”
Santa answered “I do have one giftie for Trump.”

Donald was home, counting his money
And planning a trip to somewhere quite sunny:
“Where can I go next to get a good thrill
“With lions and tigers and bears I can kill?”

The Donald thought people loved him – the great hunter
But everyone thought: ‘what a horrible c*nt’ – (Er,
sorry ‘bout the language but thinking of him
Makes my blood pressure rise and me head start to spin).

The Don said “I built this course for my auld Scottish Nanny”
St Nick replied “Now just you listen here, mannie
“I’ve got a list of who’s nice and who’s naughty
“Or arrogant, scheming deceptive and haughty.
“No gift for you – no ifs, ands or buts
“But please take a voucher –it’s for ‘Supercuts’.”

Izon Security arrived on the spot
They’d been spying on locals – they do that a lot:
Christmas“Get out of that sleigh and let’s see your ID!”
Santa replied: “Are you talking to me?”

“Get stuffed you great b*stards” Santa said with a hiss
“Has the right to roam been reduced to this?
“You’ve no right to spy or to hassle good folk
“And this golf course is really one heck of a joke.”

With a jingle of bells St Nick and his team
Flew over the Great Dunes of North Aberdeen
“Come on deer and elves, there are good folk in need
“The ones who are victims of all this crass greed.

“The ones who are teachers and nurses and such
“They get paid very little yet do very much
“The children who don’t have enough food to eat
“Aberdeen may be rich, but some live on the street.”

“There are people who help the sick and the poor
“Some help animals too, and of this I am sure
“Those who help others with no thought of themselves
“They are the real saints, the real Santas and elves.”

Santa and his team spent the rest of their night
Giving out presents to good folks’ delight.
ChristmasAsk yourselves this “Am I naughty or nice?”
If you’re a bad one, take some advice.

Flaunting your wealth, and harming others
Ruins the chance that we have to be brothers
If you can help, then you should get stuck in
Greed, don’t you know is a terrible sin.

It’s never too late to fight the good fight
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

– Suzanne Kelly

– . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . – . –

Picture – Christmas Tree Baubles

Credit: Ian Britton. Freefoto.com

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Nov 142013

By Bob Smith.

Union Bridge & Terrace 1900 flat

In een o Scotia’s bonniest cities
Live fowk fae fair git on yer titties
Wintin the toon tae chynge it’s wyes
Wi ugly biggins tae be the prize
Leuk at oor glorious granite face
Fou o character an fou o grace
Fin the sun shines on the steen
Ye ken yer bidin in Aiberdeen
Union Street biggins they jist micht
Be in great need o a gweed dicht
Tae reveal the silvery granite glint
Aat generations o fowk hiv kent
Bonnie parks an gairdens are aa aroon
There’s een in the cinter o the toon
Bit a local mannie fa his lots o cash
Wid Union Terrace Gairdens like tae trash
The toon it staans twixt Don an Dee
Twa rivers fa flow tae the sea
Throwe kwintraside they pass first
Syne feed the grey north sea’s thirst
A toon full o majestic spires
A city aat his some deniers
An wint the toon mair tae be
Like Houston or New York maybe
Bit Aiberdeen needs tae be Aiberdeen
Wi the couthiest fowk ye’ve ivver seen
Faa in their toonie tak great pride
An winna be takken fer a ride
So Widdie, Muse an Stewartie Milne
Tho’ fowk micht nae wish ye ill
Jist bugger aff an leave things be
In the bonnie toon twixt Don an Dee

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

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Oct 112013

By Bob Smith.

The Marcliffe t’is closin doon
It’s gyaan tae be nae mair
Some fowk wull be sorry
Ithers jist winna care
Mr Spence he is  tae retire
Say’s he’s gyaan oot wi a bang
Wi lots o things tae celebrate
Wull Trump compose a sang?
The mannie his bin aroon
The hotel gemme fer a fyle
An naebody can argie aat
The Marcliffe his some style
A’ve bin ‘ere at some waddins
Wis leuk’t efter wi great care
Bit the price o a roon o drinks
Wid gie the Rockefellers a scare
Yet a canna help thinkin
Fit wye’s it closin doon
Cwid it nae be cairry’t on
Bi Ross, a Spencie loon?
The toon needs gweed hotels
O ess we’re aye bein telt
So fit wye is ess een closin?
Fit wye cwid it nae be selt?
Priced ersels oot the mairkit?
Even in ile rich Aiberdeen
We’ll nivver ken the answer
Meybe times they are mair lean
Wis the askin price ower muckle?
Did ess scare hoteliers aff?
Or his the roomies nae bin full
Fer tae justify aa the staff?
Is Mr Spence jist affa shrewd?
An he’s oot tae mak a killin?
Kennin fine aat property developers
Tae pey his price they wull be willin
Fin the Marcliffe it closes
Mr Spence he wull be free
Tae wanner ower tae Menie
An meet Donald on the tee
He micht be a Trump supporter
Bit in retiremint a wish ‘im weel
Ae thing he his fair proved,
As a hotelier, he’s nae feel
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
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Sep 272013

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


Tally ho! Has the Deen ever seen a fairer summer? It’s not faded out just yet, and the parks are still full of people. Union Terrace Gardens were full of revellers for the Rainbow festival.
The mythical drunks and junkies said to loiter there are as much in evidence as the transparent giant boy who floated over the lurid flowerbed in the Granite Web drawings.

Hazlehead is filled with people, including motorists who don’t give a damn about parking on the grass, as well as thieves who’ve stolen a metal plaque.

More on this and other thefts shortly.

Gerry Jablonski & The Electric Band had a great night last Friday at the Lemon Tree; Techfest has rolled into town with a 20th anniversary birthday party and a programme of events that couldn’t be broader. 

I hope to make it to the talk in Cruickshank botanical gardens on Friday. There was a talk about what to do if there is a zombie apocalypse; I missed this, but it couldn’t have been that much difference from some of the previous administration’s full council meetings.

Alas! I wasn’t quick enough to get one of the limited planetarium tickets, and because of other commitments I had to miss BrewDog’s ‘Science of Brewing’ talk which took place Tuesday.

I consoled myself considerably when I discovered two of BrewDog’s new offerings. A new light beer ‘How to Disappear Completely’ is filled with flavour yet low in alcohol content.  Then there is  ‘Misspent Youth.’  The bar staff told me it was rich, creamy and tasted of coffee and plums. They were right. I’ll be back for more of each soonest.

Alas!  Everything that’s not nailed down, everything that is nailed down, and even the nails are being stolen in City and Shire. The epidemic of thefts all around us is alarming. If the police are recovering stolen goods, I hope they let us know about it, for the news at present is all about the thefts. Metal drain and gutter  covers are going faster than cut-price cider.

Cars are being stolen at a rate exceeding sales of the new Grand Theft Auto V game. One car was stolen twice in the space of a few hours; you’ve got to give those thieves points for daring.

Your more ambitious thief is ripping their employer off, be it restaurant, the council or oil company.  People in supermarkets are treating self check-out lines as optional. People are stealing pets in broad daylight. Your more intellectual thief is plagiarising poetry, and having the nerve to win poetry contests.  Award-stealing poet Allen has had to return a prize; he was caught stealing other poets’ material.  The BBC quotes Allen as saying :-

 “I accept that I did plagiarise certain poems (although it was genuinely not my intention to deceive)”

It’s OK then – he was only stealing, not trying to fool us.  Phew.  Here’s a poem for him:-

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue
I Think You’re A Tea-leaf

Och Aye Tha Noo. (copyright 2013 Old Susannah)

we all know what great places care homes are

Here in Torry, people have stolen not only drain covers but bricks – and a section of a stone wall. Worse, serial fantacist and idea appropriator Jeffrey Archer has a new book out to boot.

What’s going on? Why is it going unchecked? Who stole the pen I was just using a minute ago? Time for some timely theft-related definitions, as well as one timely definition for good measure.

Old Fashioned Policing: (old-fashioned English phrase) to keep the peace by intimidation and physical force.

Ah, the good old days. There was of course never any crime or social problem in the past, because in those halcyon days, police were not adverse to beating the daylights out of people, or scaring them out of their wits. Ah, the good old days eh?

I was surprised to read the tale of Ross-shire policemen Ovenstone and Kelman, who are in a  bit of muck because of two teenage girls.

The policemen, both in their early 30s decided the girls needed a bit of old-fashioned policing for acting up at a care home.
http://www.north-star-news.co.uk/News/Ross-girls-threat-cops-sentenced-24092013.htm .

Now we all know what great places care homes are, and how every child that winds up in one is no good. Well, the kindly policemen decided to use some initiative. They handcuffed the teenagers, drove them to a remote farm, intimidated them, made them walk without shoes through manure.

Now, if you can remember back to your teenage years, think what it would have been like if two uniformed, weapon-carrying angry policemen handcuffed you and made you do things that were outside of the law. Yes, you would have been scared into becoming a model citizen. There was of course no chance that this harmless escapade would have caused any lasting psychological scars.

Kelman, was given credit in court for bravely saying ‘that’s enough’

Sadly, the courts have taken action against the police.  Shocking, isn’t it. Of course there will be no custodial sentence, because that would serve no purpose. And here Old Susannah was, thinking that the deprivation caused by a jail term, and the message this sent out had some value.

No doubt this logic will be applied in the future to those with and without uniforms equally.

One of the braver cops, Kelman, was given credit in court for bravely saying ‘that’s enough’ at the end of the ordeal. I think he should get a medal. He didn’t stop anything; he was there, but he said ‘that’s enough’. Again, perhaps this logic will extend to those who are accessories to crime. For reasons unknown, Ovenstone decided to leave the police.

No, you just don’t get policing like that any more.

Theft – Pretexting: (Modern English phrase) – to gain entry to premises, to con, to deceive with the intent of stealing.

Hard up for cash? Need a little extra spending money? Why not do what Charles Skinner did, and trick your way into an 80 year-old woman’s house?

Pretend you’re there to do some work (as if you did any work), read an electricity meter, whatever. If your victim’s been dumb enough to let you in the front door, then they kind of deserve to be robbed, don’t they?

An Aberdeen pensioner is now having problems sleeping after Skint Skinner did just this to her, and once in her home stole money from her handbag.

Old people will have lots of money after all, and sometimes they forget they have it (like the hospital patients you hear of now and then that are ripped off by their ‘carers’.  In fact there have been a few thefts recently in the ARI – gold chains, money, etc.; I’m sure this won’t be upsetting to patients and their families in the least.

thieves stole a commemmorative plaque from Hazelhead park

After all, you probably have a good use for the money – like your drug habit. What fun is an old person going to have with their cash anyway? If they wind up injured or emotionally upset, that’s not really your problem is it?

Besides, if you have had a tough childhood, a drug or alcohol problem, then it’s not your fault, and a decent lawyer will get you a reduced sentence, probably with the taxpayer paying.

Yes, pretexting your way into someone’s house can be a nice little earner.

Metal theft: (Modern English phrase) The theft of goods for their metal/mineral content and/or the stripping of metal from property.

Times are indeed tough; the value of metal is shooting through the roof (no doubt the roof’s lead has been stolen from the roof by now). Time to get some tools, a truck, and go nick some metal.

As mentioned, thieves stole a commemmorative plaque from Hazelhead park. Well, if the park is for everyone’s enjoyment, why not theirs?

Rail commutes will have notice no less than 4 recent disruptions on the Aberdeen to Inverness line:  thieves have been stealing the cabling used in the signalling system. To lose copper cables to thieves once is unlucky. To lose your cables a second time is a bit careless. To have your copper stolen a third time begs the question ‘are you paying attention?’ 

Somewhere there are scrap metal dealers who are taking this material in

To lose cabling a fourth time implies incompetence. As to the thieves, well, the cabling is just there for the taking apparently. What’s the worst that could happen anyway? A potential train crash can’t outweigh the need to steal some copper wire.

Somewhere there are scrap metal dealers who are taking this material in. There must be a few clues when people go to sell plaques that are inscribed to the people of a city, or miles of copper wire. But none of these metal yards seem to be coming forward.

ATM Theft: (Modern English Phrase) to steal cash dispensers.

In the old days, the ones cops like Kelman and Ovenstone might have yearned for, a thief would just have waited for an unsuspecting person to use an ATM, and then either make note of their card number, and steal the card later – or just beat the cash withdrawer senseless once they had the money in their hand. These days are gone.

Need to supplement your metal theft income? Get a truck round to an ATM, and just steal the whole thing. In this line of work you get to travel as well – New Deer, Bieldside, Inverurie. Sounds pretty good to me.

Auto Theft: (English Phrase) the theft of a vehicle.

Well, the police do have this covered nicely in our area. Of course cars are stolen, driven  in a stylish stuntman manner, and then often set alight, in one case cheering up some shoppers at a supermarket not long ago.

The police are blaming car owners for keeping car keys in their kitchens.

Car thieves taught admirers and young apprentices how to hotwire cars

Granted, you have to lock your homes and your cars these days. But even if you do this, if the keys are in your locked house somewhere they can be found, then it seems you’re pretty much guilty of being an accessory to any resultant theft.

We did have the exciting Stig Aberdeen Boys Facebook page not long ago; it had hundreds of members.

Car thieves taught admirers and young apprentices how to hotwire cars, how to steal motorbikes and so on. It’s a shame it was taken down, but Facebook decided promoting crime wasn’t something it wanted to branch out into. Shame.

There is No Honour Among Thieves: (English saying) A proverb advising that thieves are not to be trusted.

Well, it does my heart good to say there is always the exception that proves the rule. In a recent court appearance, a noble, brave robber (who had assaulted and threatened his victims and acted as part of a team) has refused to name his co-workers.

The man in question did tell the court he was very sorry indeed for upsetting people and taking their money, but ‘he is the only one going to jail’ for the spate of robberies he and his mates committed. I’d love to tell you his name, but someone seems to have stolen my notes.

For reasons of space, I’ll leave it there. There have been people embezzling from public and private sector employers; people stealing from charities, people stealing from the old and the infirm.

In Torry people have stolen bricks and even a bit of a stone wall. It just goes to show you, when you need to earn some money, there is always a way. (Did I ever tell you about the rich property developer who did a deal with the City over land in Kingswells, and then tried to keep £1.7 million pounds’ worth of profit)?

PS – pet theft is most definitely going on. Be vigilant.

Next week:  more definitions.

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Sep 122013

It’s been another event filled week in city, shire and country, but at least the weather has been amazing. By Suzanne Kelly.


Last Sunday I took a long drive with some friends through Banchory, then down to Drumtochty and Stonehaven. We also stopped into one of the NEOS (North East Open Studios) venues.

Even though it was past closing time, Katrina McIntosh showed us in to her very enviable loft gallery/painting space.

Her gallery space is crammed with a wide variety of work, and I was pleased to see so many ‘red dots’ indicating sales. Safe to say we enjoyed her work.

Animals, especially highland cattle stared back from canvas; there were some very evocative red pepper paintings (already sold) using painting techniques to great effect to convey the vegetables’ skins; I particularly liked some of her paintings of birds.

The NEOS experience is all around us; visit Katrina’s webpage here:
http://www.northeastopenstudios.co.uk/neos/p-memb-viewentry.php?entid=48 and the overall NEOS website here:  http://www.northeastopenstudios.co.uk/neos/index.php .

Other studios will be investigated over the three weeks the event runs.

The weekend was capped off beautifully by a BrewDog visit; the hopinator (a magical device BrewDog occasional attaches to its beer lines and fills with whatever takes their fancy: (herbs, tea, chilies) had been filled with lemon rind, and the already magical elixir, Tongue Tied, was running through it.

The result was a summery, sunny, citrusy refreshing drink that was undoubtedly the Pimms of the beer world (I do like a nice Pimms).  I even put ice in it, which may have upset traditionalists. Don’t bother looking for it now; it’s been quickly drunk.  Do feel free to ask BrewDog to do it again.

I also had a nice visit to Under the Hammer, where some of my paintings are still on show, and a trip to the Moorings one night was a good occasion to let the hair down.  There are many good bands heading to the Moorings soon; I for one can’t wait for the 30th anniversary tour of Spear of Destiny, and local(ish) act Pallas returns in November with a new album. So yes, we do have culture on tap in our area.

Oh, and I spent a few happy hours in Union Terrace Gardens on Saturday afternoon; the benches were all full; people were enjoying the pleasures of being in a city centre park. Children played; the air didn’t reek of car exhaust fumes; and surprisingly few druggies or criminals were about.

Music, art, craft, theatre…we certainly have some creative minds and talents in our area. Outside of the arts, some of our local worthies show creativity I can scarcely believe. We have masters of invention and reinvention, and their sheer perseverance is astonishing. This week Old Susannah looks at a few such people and the odd (very odd) institution, and marvels.

But first, I bring you a shocking story. No, not Cat Cubie’s recent column on the groundbreaking premise that it’s OK to be a geek, but something nearly as important.

A dodgy land deal in Scotland? Hard to believe, but the BBC reports:-

“Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has raised concern over a controversial government land deal struck with a businessman. She said taxpayers’ cash was used to buy land in Paisley from John McGlynn in 2008 for £840,000, which was later sold back to him for £50,000.Ms Lamont asked First Minster Alex Salmond to justify the transaction when she raised the issue in parliament.” 

Well, this is a huge embarrassment. You wouldn’t find this kind of thing in Aberdeen. No, when we do a land deal with a dodgy businessman, we would never bother with such paltry sums of money. Considering our own Stewart Milne looked set for a tidy £1.7 million ‘windfall’ from our council, it is clear we’re the more affluent area.

We are also definitely the more creative area, as rather than buying and selling for a loss, we sold for a massive loss, and at the same time coincidentally awarded Milne contracts for projects worth a nice packet. Had the other bidders for this work been given the chance to offset a low bid and resulting low profit margin against making a nice sum off of a land deal, they too could have seen a good cash flow.

If I were one of these bidders, I might be cross enough to call a lawyer.

Without any further ado, I present herewith our masters of reinvention. When it comes to invention; I think you will agree that some of them truly can be called Mothers.

The New Statesman: Kevin Stewart, Fiscal Wizard (with a few memory issues)

Kevin Stewart is now far away from his Kate Dean lapdog past. It’s a few years since his heroic role in ACC’s cuts to services to vulnerable people, and simultaneous generosity to land purchasers (see above for instance). No, Kev is now in power as an MSP, and as such can tell us what the current council is doing wrong.  The P&J quote this elder statesman frequently in its pieces critical of the new administration; I’m sure you hang on his every word as much as I do.

That mean Willie Young seems to dislike Kevin insinuating the current administration has cooked the books.

Kev just might be something of a masterchef in this area.

Carrot Top Kev was around when we accidentally sold so much land for so little profit that we set yet more records. Audit Scotland couldn’t decide whether the councillors involved in the deals were incompetent (surely not!) or dishonest. The police were therefore asked to investigate, and as if by magic, no problems at all were found. Phew! Yes, things were different when Stewart and Dean ruled the roost.

His SNP biography has also got a different take on events; it’s funny how the passage of time can make things seem even rosier than they were:  Kev’s biography reads in part…

“Finance & Resources Committee [was] — something of a poisoned chalice, for he was soon made aware of the Council’s £50million debt, incurred over the years by profligate and incompetent administrations. Showing considerable courage and tenacity, Kevin Stewart succeeded in making the necessary savings in the Council budgets — without which the city would have faced near bankruptcy — and his efforts were recognised by the electors of Aberdeen Central in the Scottish General Election. He stepped down as a councillor in May 2012.”    http://aberdeensnp.org/node/1

Could those ‘profligate and incompetent administrations’ have anything to do with the fact Kev had been serving(?) the city since 1999? Obviously not.  As to those ‘courageous’ cuts, Old Susannah guesses Kevin’s courage casts a shadow over the comparatively small courage shown by the people who had to get along once he and Dean cut their essential services.

Choices might want to send him a copy of ‘The Wrong Choices’ – an excellent documentary highlighting Kevin and Dean’s courage; Willie Young might want to consider the accusations of ‘profligacy’ lodged by the SNP on this epic Stewart Biog page.

It seems this experience has given Kevin the expertise and experience necessary to criticise Young and the current administration. Do bear this in mind when he next appears in print criticising ACC’s current government, and be grateful for his encouraging words and finger-pointing:  he does know what he’s talking about.

Indeed, when it comes to reinvention, and a bit of historical amnesia, Kevin has few peers. One however is the shire’s sweetheart, Gillian Owen.

Gillian Owen:  Campaigner for Free Access (just not for all)

Take comfort people of Menie! Fear no more, photographers and journalists: an Aberdeenshire champion of your access rights has presented itself in the form of Cllr. Gillian Owen. Your right to roam is in good hands.

Well, she might not care about the many infringements of legal access rights on the Menie Estate (I’ve not read a word from her about the treatment meted out to Susan Munro, Alicia Bruce, Baxter & Phinney, etc. etc.) , but you can’t say she doesn’t care. ‘Access Issues at Inverurie Bus Stop’ is the Inverurie Herald’s headline heralding the advent of this access champion:-

“I have been fighting for better protection for our children as they walk to school but BEAR have gone too far, a resident has brought to my attention that pedestrians no longer have an access to the bus stop at the shortest point.”

Yes, there is a stretch of roadway that now has a girder on it, probably 10 yards long.  Perhaps this is an infringement on peoples’ rights to get to the bus stop quickly. Perhaps it is just a girder to stop people driving off road. In any event, your freedoms are assured.

Evening Express – Broken Heart Mender

In the distant past, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Evening Express was a mercenary tabloid desperate to please its advertisers, to serve the needs of its proprietor and his family (ignoring unflattering news stories now and then), and to sell as many papers as possible via an endless stream of beautiful bride/baby/pet/toddler/senior accountant competitions. You would be wrong.

It’s really an agony aunt wanting to make us all feel better. It’s a completely different paper to the one that called the shire councillors ‘neeps’ for voting against Trump; it’s a different paper to the one that gave a slight edge to the pro web factions. It’s actually a peacemaker. I for one believe it is taking the peace more than making it.

This selfless paper is going to fix our broken hearts. No, not about your first love – something much more important: not having a granite web.

They want your opinion, and that’s pretty big of them I must admit. In a poll that will in no way be twisted to suit a pre-existing agenda, one which is by happy coincidence the same as the big advertisers, you can have your say on fixing the city.

I can’t wait to see the resulting statistics. Tea leaves, ouija boards, tarot cards all point to a result which sees everyone in town unanimously voting to turn the gardens into something other than gardens. We shall see. Here is where you tell them what you want:  http://www.panelwise.com/surveys/GQY4-9MNZ/E459228E/?F81A7F46I3201664

Of course, the paper can draw on its own expertise for how to revive the flagging city centre; it is doiing all it can to revive its flagging circulation.  This of course will some time soon include investigative journalism, objective writing, and presenting points of view which differ from the editor’s.

In the mean time, there have been job cuts, and more are quite possible.

No doubt the city government will instantly implement whatever plan this scientific, objective poll says is what we want.

Back when the Trump consultation for the initial planning permission was live, scores of emails arrived which used the exact same phraseology about the benefits the course would bring. This wasn’t some sort of organised ACSEF campaign I’m sure; it must just have been great minds thinking alike.

I’m sure that no such distortion of the results will happen to this poll. In fact, I am sure that if the public demand that the Express shares its raw data, minus any personal data, they’ll be more than happy to do so.

Well, with the parameters of what might/might not wind up in UTG continuing to change by the second, I will comment on that never-ending story soon. Do keep telling your elected reps – those of you who live in the city – what you do or don’t want to see happening.

Next week:  the (un)surprising decision of the Petitions Committee regarding Trump at Menie.


Alas!  In the midst of all this great weather and great things to do, the abandonment and ill treatment of both people and animals continues.  If you want to help in our area, Mrs Murray’s Home, Willows, Blaikiewell’s, The New Ark and the Scottish SPCA are filled to capacity and need both donations and loving homes for animals.

If you can spare some time and energy, Befriend a Child (city and shire) could use your help, too http://www.befriendachild.org.uk/  – among other worthwhile charities and groups.

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Aug 232013

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

I had a break last week, and spent a great deal of time on GISHWHESH (greatest international scavenger hunt the world has ever seen).  This is the annual international scavenger hunt / charity / random acts of kindness event.

There will be a television programme eventually, after judges and show host Misha Collins pour through thousands of homemade videos and photographs, created by people all over the world.
Thanks very much to everyone on my team and who helped me here in Aberdeen. Pensioners and veterans were helped by thousands of GISHWHESH participants, who also had fun engaging in crazy (harmless) stunts.

If you saw a giant asparagus spear being thrown as if it were a caber, then that would have been down to us.

Many thanks to Under the Hammer, North Silver Street, for having me and Neale Bothwell hang some of our recent paintings; and thanks to Mrs B for some amazing canapés.  The show is up for another fortnight in case you’re interested.

After GISHWESH I went to BrewDog this Monday, expecting a quiet drink and to do some writing.  However, brewers from  Oskar’s in Denver, Colorado were being celebrated and the place was packed.  It was nice to meet the brewers; BrewDog often have guest beers, and invite the brewers over to visit.

Oskar’s have a particularly nice, varied range on offer in BrewDog; I recommend their port-barrel brew.  Nice people, great beers, wonderful conversations.  And all the best to Kenny in your studies.

Anyway, I was astonished to see an Evening Express headline on the 19th “Crime Doesn’t Pay – NE Crook Still to cough up £1 million.” 

Naturally my first thought was that the Evening Express had turned coat on its friend Stewart Milne.  It turns out they were referring to some  crook that owes the council less money.

It seems a collection of dodgy master criminals from fraudsters to illegal fishermen owe lots of money, and we may try and collect it.  Hopefully it will take less time and taxpayer money to get money from them than it will from Stewart Milne.

It’s quite a coincidence that this recent pro granite web puffery that’s blown Syria, Egypt and other issues off the P&J’s lead pages has also stopped the AJL press from saying much about Stewart Milne.  I guess, “millionaire builder and ACSEF member finally forced to pay City back for dodgy land deal”, is not as important as, “billionaire still wants granite web and is throwing a tantrum yet again”.

Since the P&J don’t have enough space to devote to Stew, I’ll be happy to step in to support them, and tell you all about it.

Time for some definitions.

Master Thief: (compound English noun) someone with plans to steal item(s) of value, often through fraud, confidence trickery, smooth talking, persuasion

He might not have been much good as a joiner, but our very own Stewart Milne nearly made the Master Thief Hall of Fame.  If you’ve forgotten, the old city council regime decided it would be wonderful to sell him land in Westhill for a fraction of the value, then sit back and get a share of the sale proceeds when the land was either developed or sold on for a vast profit.

What were they thinking?’”, an unkind soul might wonder.

I’m sure it made perfectly good sense not to sell the land on the open market, getting a profit from a fair sale price.  Instead, our canny then government decided to sell this land to Stew when he and his companies were winning bids for work from the city, by putting in lower bids than any other competitor could match.

The city for some reason fought very hard to reveal the property deals

What Stew did next was brilliant.  He sold the land all right – for a loss – from one arm of his empire to the other. Despite his dragging the city (and thus the happy taxpayer) through to the highest court in the land, he’s still a lovable rogue, and we continue to give  him money for houses, and pay to go see AFC play.

If you wish to refresh your mind on the details, this may help  https://aberdeenvoice.com/2011/12/foi-prevails-the-quest-for-milne-property-deals/.  The city for some reason fought very hard to reveal the property deals; I can’t think why.

It’s almost as if he were being handed a profitable land deal with no one else being considered for it when at the same time that profit could provide a handy offset for the low bid work.  It would be interesting to go back and look at the cost over-runs if any for the work he had been awarded.  When I get a moment, I just might do that.

By the way, around this time, Audit Scotland couldn’t figure out whether Aberdeen City Council was incompetent – or something worse.  It seems to be true that if you steal something small you go to jail; if you steal something big you get away with it.

Some heartless people are saying he should be thrown out of ACSEF.  Surely though, being conniving, money-hungry, duplicitous and having no respect for taxpayer money are prerequisites for ACSEF membership, not reasons to be expelled from this respected quango.  Stew doesn’t have to cough up until the end of this year; doubtless he will want to pay sooner.

Master Plan: (Compound English Noun) An overriding scheme.

When not stealing money from us, Stewart Milne has devoted his time to ACSEF, and to going to the press last week to tell Aberdeen City it needs a masterplan.  He wasn’t trying to deflect attention away from his financial activities, I’m sure.

Here’s to seeing the details of the Milne Masterplan

Presumably Milne’s master plan will involve renovating existing buildings, bringing brownfield sites back into use, and regenerating empty, urban spaces.  His most recent contribution to a master plan looks to some like urban sprawl.  His homes near the Cove Roundabout are the most perfect family dwellings you can imagine.

The air quality at rush hour may play havoc with junior’s asthma, but that’s just a small price to pay to live in the lap of luxury.  Just don’t let the cat out of the front yard, don’t let junior fly his kite close to the electricity substation or the dual carriage way, and for heaven’s sake don’t come home in the dark or tipsy.  For all the houses look eerily similar, and you could wind up in the wrong one.

Ah, it all made so much more sense when he thought he’d pave over Loirston Loch.

Here’s to seeing the details of the Milne Masterplan.  I can hardly wait.

Mastermind: (noun) A gifted person who supplies the strategy for a project or job.

Step forward Mr S McGee, recently arrested here in the Deen.  During the course of his discussion with the police, he decided it would be a great idea to spit blood at them.  Strangely, this plan didn’t endear the police to him.  Oh well, I guess you can’t always guess what’s the right way to behave.

Masterpiece: (noun) An outstanding work of art of great skill and quality.

You will be as glad as I am that all the renaissance of interest the P&J has for the Granite Web means we can see some artwork which is truly iconic, vibrant, dynamic, connected, etc. etc. fit for a smart successful Scotland.  Yes, those beloved drawings of the Granite Web in its acid tones are back.

The giant floating boy hovering over the outsized flowers; the woman reclining at a 45 degree angle on the wedge of grass-topped concrete floating over the outdoor stage; the bosque; the whole lot is back.  £5 says there will be another picture or two in tomorrow’s P&J.

I am sure the granite web would have looked exactly like the lovely drawings.  No graffiti, no litter, no drunks (which apparently come from the park and fill the high street in the hundreds when it’s Saturday night; where else would these people come from?), no one throwing  things from the apex of the daring web.

Then again, the drawings don’t show us the minor details.

No means of ventilating the underground car park, no explanation as to how trees will grow in shallow soil over the underground car park, no hint of any safety features over the web or protecting the outdoor stage (my favourite; I was so hoping to hear a Beautiful South cover band in February while I sat in the seats, surrounded by hundreds of Aberdonians and high-spending tourists ).

No – that’s what’s best about these masterworks – they leave the little details like those to the imagination.

And there we leave it for now; I have just a little bit of work to do regarding that nice Mr Trump and his course.  I wonder – do you think he’d consider putting a granite web over his MacLeod course?  I’m sure it would look as elegantly classic as anything else built there so far.

Next week – more definitions, and if the P&J print more pro-web news, I’ll happily stay on the bandwagon as long as they do.

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May 022013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unlike clever, business-orientated Aberdeen, Norwich decided to encourage some peregrines to nest in their city centre.  The people of Norwich surprisingly find their rare peregrines and the newly-hatched chicks a source of interest, tourism, pride and education as they and the wider world watch the birds on cctv.  More info here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-22368516 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you thought there was no good news around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nudge Nudge wink wink indeed.

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

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

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

Time for my one glass of wine.

Next week – more fecklessness, or possibly some recklessness.

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Jan 242013

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

Another busy week in Aberdeen passed in a flurry of activity, culminating in the excellent BrewDog party celebrating the new factory opening. Live band Little Kicks were great, and so were the BrewDog crew.
A team assigned to the outdoor barbeque were positively heroic; hundreds were fed delicious food irrespective of the raging snow. A good time was had by all.

In the news this week are several stories involving common sense. Firstly, the elegant, ladylike, cerebral polymath Helen Flanagan, celebrated Coronation Street actress and model, told the press she is unhappy at being thought of as being a brainless, big-breasted airhead.

She has illustrated her intelligence and sensitivity with acts such as posing with a gun to her head days after a US gun spree left dozens dead. 

Also supporting the view of her as an intellectual, the article in which she claims to be a misunderstood genius is accompanied by a photo of her half-dressed. Brains, and talent, too.

Like most of us, I’ve been watching the ACSEF website with great anticipation for the the latest meeting minutes just as eagerly as I wait for the next episode of Coronation Street. I’m sure that when I last looked about a fortnight ago, there were only the June 2012 minutes out. But to my great joy and excitement, I see that the September AND October Minutes are out! Result!

These minutes, recently added to the hallowed ACSEF website, serve as a reminder to our elected officials to not step out of line. It is important they understand power structures and their place in the system.

ACSEF is, quite rightly, calling Barney Crocket to in effect ‘explain to the class’ how it will be possible to renew our city centre if we don’t turn our only green space into a concrete – sorry granite-clad concrete – web. He and Gordon McIntosh must do so at the December ACSEF board meeting.

Just to clarify, Barney is the leader of the duly-elected majority in local government, and ACSEF are quango hangers-on, some from self-promoting business backgrounds and others from yet more quangos, paid for by city and shire taxpayers.   I guess Barney better learn his place. This is what the minutes said (but no doubt you’ll rush off to read them, too):

“Councillor Crockett… confirmed Aberdeen City Council’s alignment with the ACSEF Action Plan and vision [what is that?], but highlighted the need for the ACSEF Board to take account of the City Garden Project decision.

“The Board questioned how the desired outcome of regenerating and improving the attractiveness of the city centre, which the City Garden Project had sought to deliver, might be achieved without this and other key linked projects.

“The critical importance of anchoring the oil and gas supply chain in the area for the long term and role city centre regeneration could play to support this was stressed.   It was suggested and agreed that a presentation and paper be provided to the December Board meeting outlining how the City Council planned to address the aim of city centre regeneration.”

I am very pleased our elected representative has to explain to ACSEF, including Stewart Milne, why Milne won’t be getting the web he relies on to make his beautiful glass box Triple Kirks offices a huge success (with parking). I might not be clever enough to be able to see how a granite web will anchor the oil business here (where it needs to be logistically anyway) – perhaps I should ask Helen Flanagan to explain?

Elsewhere the minutes show that ACSEF plans to dictate policy to the city and shire councils whether on housing or education. We can all sleep easily.

By the way, I’d actually love to stop writing about the web, or The Thing That Wouldn’t Die as it is more affectionately known.

Trouble is, the Press and Journal, and the other ugly sister, the Evening Express, won’t let me. They are going to try to print an article every other day forever on why the web will fix the problem of the changing face of retail. And all it will cost us is our Common Good land, fresh air, environment and our only city centre free recreation ground.

Yes, people around the world will stop going to visit Niagara Falls, the Taj Mahal and the Louvre and come instead to Aberdeen’s web, where they can shop in brand new, multinational shops. It is always a joy to see those acid-pastel coloured fantasy web sketches showing floating giant children over flowerbeds in a landscape free from any litter, graffiti or crime.

Makes my day. Keep running those beautiful photos and comments from leading businessmen, and I’ll keep praising them as they deserve. Today, it’s Mr Koot’s turn to be singled out for my admiration).

Multi-tasking: (modern English gerund) ability to competently do several things simultaneously.

You really have to hand it to Mr Koot, Taqa company’s supremo in Aberdeen. He’s found the time to tell the P&J this week how embarrassed he is by our city centre, and how the granite web is the answer to all our prayers. He told us this a few times now, but somehow it’s still newsworthy.

I conclude he must be a socio-economic whizz able to predict future marketing trends, concluding that internet retail is not the way to go, and shop-building is where it will be at. I am grateful, as we all are, for his relevant input into the web debate (even if some of us wish it would finally just go away).

He even generously wrote to his employees at the time of the referendum, telling them in a nice paternal way to vote for the web. Some people might equate getting an email telling them how to vote as taking serious liberties, coercion, intimidation, and using employment as a platform for propaganda.

I’m certain, however, he had nothing but the employee’s democratic rights and best interests at heart. This is what he wrote to staff in February before the vote:

“From a business point of view, this project is very important to economic and employment prospects in Aberdeen. It will help attract new energy industries and new companies to the City, and will provide a new city heart with significant garden, recreation and cultural amenities, with no additional cost to the Council Tax payer.”

Wow – you get something worth £140 million for free!  Why didn’t we do that again? Not only does he have the time to analyse what’s wrong with Aberdeen and tell people who depend on him for their livelihoods how to vote, he successfully runs Taqa, the Abu Dhabi oil firm.

Why do promotional web articles keep appearing with giant photos in my Press and Journal?

I guess anyone can drop the ball. As you might have noted in the news, Taqa had a wee problem this week when hydrocarbons escaping from one of its platforms in the North Sea caused an evacuation and a shut-down of the North Sea Brent pipelines. This was rather large in the news from 13-15 January.

Still, this talented master of multi-tasking found time to run the oil firm and campaign strenuously for the granite web since at least 2010. In fact, less than one week after the financially disastrous Taqa North Sea incident, Koot still found time to get into the P&J to say how embarrassed he was by our city centre, and the web was the answer. I guess you have to decide where your priorities lie – a huge North Sea oil problem and its aftermath, or the web.

Taqa is sending Koot to Iraq.

Just one more thing: you could ask yourself: “Why do promotional web articles keep appearing with giant photos in my P&J?” Is there perhaps a public relations agency, toiling away with no thought of monetary reward but interested in getting a web built?

Is there a PR agency writing these releases getting paid from somewhere, perhaps the unelected group Vote for the City Gardens Project (aka Stewart Milne and mates)?

I personally hope we find out that ACSEF is paying for all this, using our taxpayer money where it will do the most good. Perhaps we should ask our elected officials to look into this? We could ask ACSEF, of course. I’m sure they’ll be happy to clarify.

Gross misconduct: (Eng. compound noun, legal) severe negligence in the course of one’s given duties.

We have seen in our area nurses struck off for drug offences, abusing patients, stealing, even having inappropriate relationships with psychiatric patients. Two stories of nurses were in this week’s local papers.  One was a nurse who found a child wandering around, presumably after being left alone in a car.

Details are unclear; she should have called the police and stayed with the child it seems. She did, however, ensure the child’s safety.

Elsewhere, a convicted wife killer, suspected of also killing his first wife is fighting for his nursing license (should he ever get out of jail). Proven to be a mercenary, cold-blooded killer and pathological liar, he thinks he should be allowed to continue in the caring profession.

One of these has been struck off permanently; one will have some form of hearing from the Royal College of Nursing.

The Nursing body wants to remind everyone how seriously it takes striking a nurse off like it has done in this case, and told the press such action is never taken lightly. Can you guess which nurse’s career is over?  That’s right, the murderer may remain, for now, a nurse; the other person has been struck off. Great system we’re running here.

Time for me to get back to the ACSEF website! More next week, perhaps a look at the serious mistake Glasgow’s made by rejecting designs for George Square. Have they ever considered the benefits of a granite web, I wonder?

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Jan 032013

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

Happy 2013 and Tally Ho! Revellers gathered in Stonehaven for the annual fire festival to ward off evil spirits; in related news, it is thought developer Stewart Milne was not in attendance.

Sadly, it seems his companies were unable to provide a Christmas tree for their Stonehaven development. No doubt schools and infrastructure will prove easier to deliver.

Crowds also gathered in Aberdeen for a fireworks display (which was not great for the wildlife by the way) around Union Terrace Gardens.

The masked ball, the Jubilee tea party, the previous year’s Christmas party and fireworks…  you could be forgiven for thinking UTG is able to be a focal point without even having a granite web.

Christmas is the season to be grateful for what you have and for performing acts of charity.  It might have been blowing a gale, but Feed the Deen managed to hand out warm clothes and serve a hot lunch at Café 52 before Christmas. 

Some generous people who didn’t know about the event in advance promptly went to the shops and returned with brand new goods for Aberdeen’s poor and homeless.

Still, a solution to local poverty seems to be at hand. No, not any local billionaire philanthropists helping out, but instead a sympathetic plan to make begging illegal.

As ever, in order to punish one or two ‘professional’ beggars, the idea seems to be to outlaw begging altogether. Aside from the professionals, other people go into the begging line of fundraising for the glamour and excitement. Alcoholics, runaway children, people with mental health issues, people who have been made poor should all be penalised.

Surely we have plenty of easy-to-access support programmes? Look at how well ATOS is treating people with special needs and abilities.

New estimates suggest that over 400 Scots could face bankruptcy each week in 2013 (but not bankers, obviously).  We’ve done a great job of hiding child poverty – no doubt we can make half the population invisible as well when homelessness increases. However, we can’t have poor people spoiling a day’s shopping for the rich, who might have to think about poverty when they see begging.

I like this idea of penalising beggars; we could get them to pay fines if caught – another revenue source for us. Result!

Speaking of charity, there is no word yet on when Africa will receive its £50,000,000 from the Wood Family Trust

Not only is this a great ploy which goes hand-in-hand with the season of giving, but this mentality of penalising all in order to stop a minority of wrongdoers has some other great applications elsewhere. For instance, intrepid police officer David Hamilton, (secretary of the Tayside branch of the Scottish Police Federation), has suggested callers pay 50p to report emergencies to stop misuse of the service.

I can’t think of any problem with that scheme, can you?  We could give it a trial for a bit, and then introduce a specific tariff for the kind of crime being reported – £0.50 for suspected burglaries, £1.00 for street robbery, £3.00 per assault and so on.

Old Susannah had to make a 999 call just before Christmas  concerning a car incident (details can’t be disclosed as yet). Clearly I should have been charged for helping the person(s) involved. Next time I’ll ask the victim I’m trying to help for some money first. I’m no businessperson – I should have asked them to refund the cost of the mobile phone calls I made, too.

Speaking of charity, there is no word yet on when Africa will receive its £50,000,000 from the Wood Family Trust.   However, the last WFT accounts show the Trust had an income of £29,000,000.  Their expenditure was some £2,355,000.

Old Susannah is still trying to get her head around how getting Rwanda’s plantation owners to grow more tea adds up to a charitable act. Is taking more land away from the very limited agricultural land available an act of charity? Are rainforests cleared to grow this charity tea? Are the people actually going to benefit and not the land owners once this scheme lifts off?

Perhaps some of the WFT staff, paid over £400,000 last year could enlighten me.  When they do, I’ll share the good news with you. However, it’s a little too complex for me to understand just now, just as I can’t understand why the Trustees (i.e. the Wood Family) seem to believe that it would

“…be operationally sensitive to disclose any further remuneration information in respect of these individuals [people getting pensions from the WFT, that is].”  

Well, charity does begin at home. I’m sure it’s all for the betterment of Africa’s poor, and if it involves the destruction of unique, crucial wildlife habitat, then we’re just exporting the Aberdeen philosophy of green space management to Rwanda.

Concerning our remaining green spaces and animals, anti-deer, pro-forest lobby (aka Scottish Natural Heritage) have put out a new report on the evils of deer.

They believe shooting and culling are the answers, or deer might eat trees

It has a great big list of reference documents, so it must be accurate (even if there are no footnotes so you can’t tell what sources support which claims). They give guesses for the number of deer/car incidents in Europe (very high indeed); and they believe that eco-tourism is overestimated especially when it comes to deer.

They believe shooting and culling are the answers, or deer might eat trees. How Scotland ever managed without SNH and these reports is anyone’s guess. Obviously every tree seedling should always reach maturity and not be part of the food chain whatsoever – like it’s always been.

I’ll read this great report and will let you know what I think of it later. It is clear SNH loves forests. It is not clear how it feels about less important issues such as meadows, SSSIs, SACs and so on.

Judging from comments on the last Old Susannah column and comments made about SSSIs, it seems that a little refresher course on Scotland’s natural heritage is in order. Some people think these are empty terms, and how right they are. We have things in Scotland which are not found anywhere else, and I don’t just mean Aileen Malone and shopping malls.

We have great landscapes, marine environments and forests – all ripe for making lots of dosh right now.

The SNH, guardians of our Natural Heritage and of our right to blast animals with guns, are responsible for our natural landscapes. Let’s see what protection is given to our environment, built and natural, and what it means in practice by way of a few definitions.

SSSI (Examples:  Menie, Nigg Bay): (Eng. Abbreviation) A Site of Special Scientific Interest, a recognised designation with legal implications.

In the words of England’s Friends of Richmond Park,

“Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are the country’s very best wildlife and geological sites. They support plants and animals that find it more difficult to survive in the wider countryside where they are often under pressure from development, pollution, climate change and unsustainable land management.

“SSSIs need active management to maintain their conservation interest, and it is illegal to carry out certain potentially damaging operations on a SSSI without consent from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or reasonable excuse” – Marilyn Mason.

Richmond Park is arguably London’s largest parkland. It is vastly underused, of course. People come from around the world to look at the famous Richmond deer herd which lives in it, and they don’t even want to shoot them.

There is no web. Ancient trees which could be used for outdoor theatre seating or just cut down to plant new trees are left to stand doing nothing more than cleaning the air. I will suggest the Friends of Richmond Park contact Aileen Malone and Ian Tallboys for suggestions on making Richmond Park more like Tullos Hill.

Balmedie was a SSSI. It had this island’s one and only moving sand dune system and associated flora and fauna. This was not to be changed or damaged per the law covering this highest of all environmental designations.

Therefore, Alex Salmond over-rode Aberdeenshire’s sovereignty, and told his (then) pal Donald Trump to do as he pleased. No doubt those promised 6,000 jobs for local area residents will be advertised in a day or two. Still, Trump is helping to feed the poor. A sandwich and a few drinks can be had at the course for less than £100! (£85).

Bad news: it seems Mother Nature is not as keen on the golf course as she is on the former ancient SSSI. The weather seems to be undoing some of Mr Trump’s great work, and that would be a shame.

Likewise there are two SSSIs at Nigg Bay. Naturally this means the Harbour Board should be allowed to extend into it for industrial marine purposes. Torry’s old fishermen’s cottages were sacrificed for the current harbour many years ago.

Kate Dean later gave us the lovely sewage plant. Torry was later coaxed into selling coastal lands it owned to help ACC out. Let’s just get rid of the only remaining unspoilt Torry coast and its SSI status (which in part was to do with some boring old geology unique to us with historical importance, not to mention the wildlife).

Once green space is given over to industry, it is virtually lost as green space forever

Benefits will include increased lorries through Torry, more pollution, and no doubt ‘jobs creation’ (even though we don’t have bad unemployment figures). I for one am getting bored of living in a suburban area with a nice coastline – I want more industry.

Air pollution levels near the existing harbour are, by the Council’s own reporting, below European standards for clean air and have been for some time. This is due in part to the road traffic (much of which is directly connected to the harbour).

There is also the lovely pollution from the ships themselves; if you don’t believe me, take a stroll near the Moorings next time a ship is belching black, oily smoke into the air. It will save you the expense of buying cigarettes.

Once green space is given over to industry, it is virtually lost as green space forever, so you don’t have to worry about environmentalists and evil tree-chomping deer any more. Green space might be good for our lungs, our health in general, our wildlife, absorption of excess rainwater, and so on. Still, economic prosperity trumps all. Let’s keep building.

SAC (Examples:  Loirston Loch, Dee River area): (Eng. Abbreviation) A Special Area of Conservation, legally protected status attached to an area.

Here is what Ms Mason has to say about SACs:

“SACs have been given special protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive in order to provide increased protection to a variety of wild animals, plants and habitats, as part of global efforts to conserve the world’s biodiversity.  The effect of all these impressive designations on visitors is that they must not do anything that would damage the Park’s wildlife… Despite the restrictions, it should be a matter for local pride that we have such an important and beautiful natural habitat here on our doorstep.”

Proud to have important and beautiful natural habitats on our doorstep? Clearly Ms Mason’s not from around here.

The best use for SACs is development, which the previous Aberdeen City Council’s Kate Dean was pleased to approve left, right and centre. She saw no reason to prevent Stewart Milne from building a 21,000 seat stadium for his club (where the average attendance is ever so slightly lower than 21,000 – about 50% lower) over an under-used bit of land.

We might have lost a few endangered species and some more fresh air in the process of increasing our urban sprawl, but we would have had another football pitch. The new stadium supporters said that they were creating wildlife corridors. If you count taking a vast wildlife area and turning it into a small corridor surrounded by industrial area, then indeed they were.

As you might  recall, 100% of the fans were in favour of going out-of-town to watch AFC play, even if there was not going to be enough parking for them.  My favourite part was the fleet of 80 buses which were going to take fans from the town centre to Loirston in fifteen minutes’ time. Sure, that was always going to work. Hopefully we can put up a factory or something there soon.

Clean air, clean water, enough green space for people and wildlife to enjoy – best leave that sort of thing for the next generation to work out. We have concrete to pour, identikit houses to stick up, and money to make.

Common Good Land: (compound Eng. noun) an area of ground owned jointly by the population of an area, often left in trust or deeded to the public.

No less a person than Robert the Bruce left common good land to us in the form of  Union Terrace Gardens. This was an amazing example of foresight. He must have known that ACSEF could have made some money out of it, and that Ian Wood’s statue could have stood proudly and deservedly alongside statues of The Bruce. Why build on boring brown field sites and bring them back into use, when VAT-free land is ripe for the taking?

SSSIs, SACs – clearly all these designations are protected by our national bastion of environmental soundness, the SNH, operating free from any politics or special interest group pressures. SNH said yes to Loirston, they said yes to Trump at Balmedie and they said yes to changing Tullos from a meadow into the luxurious forest we now have. Let’s see how else they plan to protect us in the future.

Next week – more definitions, and a 2012 review

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