May 222015

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


Tally ho! It’s been quite a week in the Granite City and wider world. Well done all you who voted Conservative!

The SNP is now on the move; not since the Covenanters has Scotland been so unanimous. A new Independence Referendum can’t be far off, so I hope you’ve all saved your ‘YES’ banners and Saltires.

Perhaps the best news is that nice Mr Farage tried to resign but they wouldn’t let him. Who else indeed could lead UKIP? Mr Fromage is indeed the man for the job, although I think they were considering a gay Romanian immigrant at one point.

That nice Mr Trump’s coyness and modesty were on display at the end of April. Well, on display in two obscure small legal notices in the back of the Evening Express.

I can’t imagine why, but the pre-application public consultations for a second golf course, 850 houses and 1900 leisure units, whatever they are, came and went with no publicity from the Press & Journal or the Evening Express. I suppose with stories vying for space, some minor issues like Trump building on the Menie Estate have to be overlooked.

‘Cow found in Field’, ‘Man wins Inverurie Rowie baking award’ and ‘three clothing stores may or may not open in Aberdeen’ trumped the Trump news. When alerted to these ads, I wrote to the contact address given for information. Sadly, the nice man hadn’t the time to get back to me. In fact he was too busy to get back to at least six other people who also wanted information in advance of the deadline in order to praise the scheme.

A cynic might think that the Trump organisation, spearheaded at Menie by the planning supremo, golf expert and beauty queen Mrs Sarah Malone Bates, were trying to sneak one over on us. But I’m sure it was just a case of not wanting to brag about these exciting plans that kept any news of them off the pages of AJL papers, except for those ads on the back of the EE.

I guess it’s now too late to get in your notes of praise for the scheme; it would be a pity if the Shire’s planning people thought that this lack of information were sufficient grounds to throw the exercise on the scrap heap. That would be just awful.

Despite having to re-write my original column ‘Hooray for the Liberal Democrat Landslide’, it’s been a great week. I’ve been part of the Aberdonian contingent at the Westworld Weekend in Crewe; the bands were Spear of Destiny, Theatre of Hate, Kirk Brandon acoustic, Folk Grinder and the Death Valley Surfers. The beer was just as impressive: bottles of Punk IPA AND BrewDog Abstracts Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 18. For some strange reason the bar ran out of Punk, I can’t imagine why.

Old Susannah extended her weekend with a night of Julian Cope at the Lemon Tree, where BrewDog also flowed. Cope’s a bit madcap and a bit behind the times. He joked that it would be good if those in power tried LSD. I’m pretty convinced most of them are tripping as it is.

When you’re having a great weekend, you want to prolong it. Therefore my sincere thanks to the guy who decided to have a cigarette in his plane’s toilet when my and other planes should have been landing at Aberdeen.

clearly he was a genius of some sort

What good sport it was to circle for an extra 30 or so minutes, to be told that a plane on the runway had smoke coming out of it, and that we might have to divert.

I had the great pleasure of seeing the suspect explaining himself to the six or so police who surrounded him as my flight finally filed through the airport. A woman PC was saying:

“You have been identified as the man who was smoking in your plane’s toilet.”

I wondered whether he were a famous movie star, international scholar, or perhaps even an ACSEF member. He must have been someone very important indeed who simply needed a smoke. His slightly dirty clothes, his stubbly chin, his knuckles dragging on the floor and his simian posture were just too good a cover; clearly he was a genius of some sort, disguised as a posturing, swaggering self-centred ignorant chav.

Then he spoke and in an instant I knew I was listening to an Einstein. He answered the woman PC thus:

“You’re kidding right?”

Old Susannah is only an amateur student of psychology and human behaviour, but I am reasonably certain the police weren’t kidding. They almost seemed angry for some reason, and they didn’t at all seem the Laughing Policeman kind.

She continued:

“I am not going to search you”

I suppose he must have previously baulked at that prospect,

“but one of my colleagues may want to. Empty your pockets.”

Again confirming my assessment of the man’s undeniable wit, and reaffirming my belief in his complete innocence he said:

“You’re kidding right?”

My own acting skills are little better than novice; but surely no one could have looked as perfectly innocent as this poor man. I’m sure he was set up. The faint whiff of cigarette smoke that was in the area surely had come from one of those policemen.

Then again, if someone as important as this man obviously is, needed a cigarette, then who are the Civil Aviation Authority, the police, Aberdeen Airport, several hundred people wanting to land, and a hundred people on his plane needing to travel to get in his way? I’d feel guilty if I’d inconvenienced our man.

Besides, imagine what a good adventure it must have been for those on his flight: to be airborne and smell smoke, and see it coming out of the plane’s toilet, just like it must have been for the doomed Canadian flight several years ago that started this unfair no-smoking on planes backlash.

It’s not as if anyone circling around was getting nervous with every new announcement that we might have to be diverted elsewhere, that a plane on the runway had to be evacuated and fire was involved.

No worries. It’s not as if anything terrible ever happens to planes or at airports. There weren’t any older people getting worried or upset; there were no stressed out ground crew. Just you and your smoke. Some people just can’t take a joke though, and as a second thought, maybe next time, if they let you fly again, you might want to look into this nicotine patch business.

And so, my sincere thanks to the as-yet unnamed 31-year-old man for giving me the thrill of a lifetime. Really, if I ever get the chance to repay your kindness, I’ll do so. A mention in my humble column will have to do for now. However, if I can find out who your employers are, I’ll be delighted to drop them a suitable commendation for all the fun you provided.

Also in the news there was an election. England wants five more years of David Cameron, and somehow failed to appreciate all that Nick Clegg’s done for them. Scotland wants the SNP.

The voting public has spoken. Some people are puzzled by some of the election outcomes and how votes metamorphose into fair, democratic representation in Parliament. As I’m one of those people, herewith some timely terms for those baffled by ballot box bamboozlement.

First Past The Post: (Modern Conservative compound Noun) A system of counting election results to allocate seats in the English Parliament.

I’m sure you’re as happy as I am at how the elections throughout the UK turned out. This is down to the exciting, but fair ‘first past the post’ voting system. It’s no more complicated than understanding how the Hadron Supercollider’s quest for the God Particle demonstrates that anti-matter underpins the known universe, why you never get all your socks back after doing a load of laundry, or the arbitrary nature of the offside rule, depending on who the ref is.

For those of you slower of wit, here is a bit of number crunching:a_fair_election_result_indeed

The sad thing is that there are some sore losers out there, who would change this system. Take for instance Electoral Reform UK. This band of brigands should be rounded up, and probably will be once that nice Mr Gove gets rid of this Human Rights nonsense, see below. Here is a quote from their radical website:

“[Most] people’s votes were essentially wasted. Of the almost 31 million people who voted on the 7th, 15.4 million voted for losing candidates. That’s 50% of voters who backed a candidate that didn’t win, making the vast majority of voters feel unrepresented. That doesn’t sound like democracy to most people.”

Talk about sour grapes. I’m sure we all feel well represented. If you want to contact Electoral Reform and tell them to leave well enough alone, you can do so here, which is also where you can sign their petition asking for electoral reform. But just ignore that bit.

Still, a system that would leave the beloved Liberal Democrats out in the cold can’t be fair. Old  Susannah is every bit as upset at the defenestration of the LibDems as you might think. Once the equal partners of Dave Cameron’s Conservatives, the chargers of tuition fees, and the slayers of the vermin roe deer, it’s sad to think these noble animals have been metaphorically shot between the eyes, just as they rightfully insisted was done to some 46 Tullos Hill Deer.

If I can stop sobbing into my LibDem logo-embroidered handkerchief long enough, I’ll send a consolatory email to Aileen HoMalone and ask her for a few words on this sad defeat. But back to the fairness of the system.

Special thanks should go to the 33% of UK residents eligible to vote who didn’t do so. It’s not as if getting the opinion of a third of the country’s voters could have made any real difference, not under First Past The Post anyway.

Thank you for staying home to watch the Heartbeat Omnibus, reruns of Neighbours, playing Grand Theft Auto 27 or whatever it was that kept you from spending ten minutes to pick the UK’s future direction. I’m sure those who didn’t bother to join in had very important reasons. Just like the reasons the important man had on that aircraft to smoke in the bathroom.

Human Rights Act: (Modern European Union compound noun) A declaration of inalienable freedoms each person should be entitled to, but never is.

As far as I can work out, this is some kind of wishy-washy left-wing Liberal law from 1998 that brought in the EU’s Human Rights declaration and enshrined it in UK law. It’s even supposed to make the NHS and the Police treat people as if they had rights, even people suspected of crime, just like that guy who smelled of smoke who came out of the plane’s toilet seen by many, who could only comment ‘You’re kidding right?’.

This has been problematic and a nuisance. It’s been implemented fully, as we can see in practice all around us.

We’ve got a war on drugs, a war on terror

The parents of Ashya King were arrested for taking their son for the successful medical treatment he had abroad, because the NHS swore out an arrest warrant.

The police officers who cleverly infiltrated various legal protest groups, sleeping with and impregnating women they pretended to love were only doing their job of course, but under Human Rights law, these women, who were probably criminals anyway, seem to be able to claim damages and child support.

There’s only so much a Conservative government can stand. They’re sending top gun Michael Gove in to correct this over-application of human rights. Any day now, all these freedoms we’re enjoying, like the right to protest the elections in London free from police harassment, may be a distant memory. Too right, too. We’ve got a war on drugs, a war on terror… there’s no room for sentimentality when it comes to breaking a few bones – sorry – breaking a few criminal gangs.

These rights include:

“These rights are: Right to life, right not to be tortured or subjected to inhumane treatment, right not to be held as a slave, right to liberty and security of the person, right to a fair trial, right not be retrospectively convicted for a crime, right to a private and family life, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of assembly and association, right to marriage, right to an effective remedy, right not to be discriminated against, the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s property, and the right to an education. The Act also imposes a duty upon governments to provide free and fair elections.”

If you want to see how hard it is to be a police officer, and the kinds of things they have to put up with from protesters, here’s a little story. It may look like the police are harming citizens who are on the ground at a protest against the Tories, but I’m sure it’s just some form of massage therapy I’m not familiar with.

As if anyone would want to protest against the Tories: we’ve just elected them by a landslide. Apparently.

I get why our rulers want to get rid of this education nonsense and privacy stuff, but since we’ve already got a completely free and fair election system, surely they’ve no complaint on that score. So for those renegades and anarchists who enjoy these so-called rights, enjoy them while you can.

Next week: That’ll depend on whether or not the Conservatives continue to allow political satire.

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

[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Jun 072013

By Duncan Harley.

Product placement, or embedded marketing, is as old as the hills.  When, in 1873, Jules Verne published the adventure novel Around the World in Eighty Days in serial form, shipping companies seemingly queued at his publisher’s door in order to be mentioned by name and brand in the next episode.

The Marx Brothers films were full of intended placements with items as diverse as Life Savers Candy in Horse Feathers (1932) and of course Harpo Marx’s famous escape from the villains in Love Happy (1949) on the old Mobil logo, the “Flying Red Horse”, following an exciting rooftop chase around billboards promoting General Electric, Fisk Tires, Bulova watches, Kool cigarettes, Wheaties and of course Mobil Oil.

Even Fritz Lang was guilty of the use of the genre and his film M (1931) includes a 30 second prominent banner advert for Wrigley’s PK Chewing Gum.

Coca Cola, BMW, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and FedEx feature in many movies. Oreos, M & Ms and Hershey Bars feature in many books. The Oreo Cookie Counting Book for example features a cover write up which says:

“Children will love to count down as ten little Oreos are dunked, nibbled, and stacked one by one…until there are none!”

TV of course is not immune to the product placement intrusion. In The Bill, which of course has nothing whatsoever to do with that old creaky duck joke about Donald and Daffy running out of condoms and asking for a supply of prophylactics to be sent up to their hotel room and put on their bill, features all the villains driving about in old fashioned Jaguar cars with the all the cops riding about in fast, sexy, souped up Fords.

The tobacco industry has long used Hollywood as a vehicle to market their wares with the Coen Brothers The Man who Wasn’t There being one of the most talked about recent offenders. In this 2001 classic, the lead character, Ed Crane played by Billy Bob Thornton appears to get through around six packs of Marlboro during the films 1 hr. 57 minutes running time.

The BBC reported as far back as 2001 that:

“Cigarettes are still prominently displayed in films, despite a voluntary ban on “product placements” a decade ago”

A study of the top 25 US box office films each year from 1988 to 1997 found the use of actors to promote cigarette brands had increased ten-fold.

Little may have changed with Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Katherine Heigl all portraying the weed in a flattering light, despite the proven health issues and the criticism from anti smoking groups who view the actions of role models in promoting smoking as blatant advertising on behalf of the tobacco industry via the back door.

According to a recent World Health Organisation study, tobacco is also portrayed in 76% of Bollywood films; India of course being a fast growing market for an industry intent on portraying its products as cool and very western in nature.

All that may be changing however and we might actually have UKIP’s Nigel Farage to thank for this.

Nigel, who is of course NOT an MP, is a keen smoker and is also very well known for holding his political meetings in pubs. He likes to portray himself and the UK Independence Party (membership 27,000) as a people’s movement led by jolly and jovial free thinking lads just like the man next door.

He recently held such a meeting in an Edinburgh public house and had to be escorted from the premises by the local constabulary after being hounded by protesters chanting phrases such as “Ukip scum, off our streets” and “Immigrants Welcome Racists Not”.

So why is the UKIP leader so unpopular? Could it perhaps be to do with policies? I asked several folk in the shire’s pubs if they knew anything about what the UKIP and Nigel Farage actually stand for.

His stance on smoking is of course well known. Smoking rooms in pubs they felt were a great idea though! One local man went so far as to say that if Nigel Farage were to walk into the pub that night and buy him a pint then he would give the man his vote! Another drinker felt it was worth a pint and a nip at the very least!

However on issues such as UKIP’s stance on the compulsory abortion of potentially disabled foetuses, the banning of gay marriage, zero immigration, reduced taxation, leaving the EEC, cutting the UK budget spending to 1997 levels, the building of more prisons, increasing the defence procurement budget, the scrapping of the Crown Prosecution Service in favour of allowing police alone to decide on prosecutions, the doubling of the size of the Territorial Army and increase in total armed forces numbers by 25%, the building of three new aircraft carriers and 50 more Lightning fighter jets, the building of four new submarines equipped with US nuclear missiles and the banning of schools from showing Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth they were somewhat less clear.

The membership of political parties is at best a very rough indication of popularity, but at the last count the Monster Raving Loony Party had 1,354 members, Labour had 60,000, Lib Dem 48,932 and the Conservatives 177,000. UKIP appears to have a mere 27,000 members in comparison.

Back in 2006, David Cameron branded Ukip members as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”. In early 2013 the Monster Raving Loony Party’s Lord Jug wrote:

“As the official party of protest, we the Official Monster Raving Loonies strongly object to use of the terms ‘fruit cakes and loonies’ when describing Ukip. We who seek the Holy Grail of Loonyism strongly object to the cavalier use of these terms.”

The product placement marketeers must be shaking in their boots right now at the thought of decades of money and hard work spent creating a suave and sophisticated image for tobacco being destroyed at one fell swoop.

As for Nigel Farage, he will be nodding sympathetically while sipping from a pint of beer and puffing on his trademark cigarette.


  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Sep 212012

Suzanne Kelly reports on the results of some important research presented at the recent Science Festival.

Aberdeen Science Festival had an amazing array of lectures, talks, trips and cabaret events which thousands of visitors enjoyed.

One of the more important issues covered was the very serious subject of second-hand smoke and its effect on children.  I took the  opportunity to talk to Dr Stephen Turner ( pictured ) of Aberdeen University and Rachel O’Donnell of ASH Scotland on a promising initiative to attempt to tackle this complex problem.

You smoke, or your partner smokes; you have a couple of children and a cat.  No harm in smoking around them in the house – just open a window and the smoke can’t bother them.  Can it?

You close the window when you’re done smoking.  You don’t smell much smoke and you can’t see any clouds of smoke at all, so there’s no risk to anyone.

The truth is that ANY smoke residue can definitely harm your children and your pets.  Smoke that you can see and other chemicals in smoke that you can’t see or smell are injuring kids.   About 85% of cigarette smoke is invisible.

You might not believe this to be true, but please remember the old ‘canary in a coal mine’ story.  Miners would take canaries down into the mines and if the bird suddenly died, either the oxygen was running out, or there was something dangerous, but invisible and scentless.  Things you don’t see can indeed hurt you and your children.

REFRESH is an intervention aimed at reducing the exposure children get to second-hand smoke which was presented during the Aberdeen Science Festival.  Dr Stephen Turner and Rachel O’Donnell were available to explain how they worked with smoking families when they did their research.  They were not trying to make parents stop smoking, but instead were making people aware what the consequences can be on children’s lives.  The full details are written in a paper called ‘REFRESH – reducing families’ exposure to second-hand smoke in the home:  a feasibility study.’

Families where young children were living with regular smokers were asked to take part in a study which would measure indoor air quality in their homes.  The personalised air quality data were presented to the smoker, then a motivational interview was held and positive solutions were suggested for cleaner, healthier air for the child.

There were about 60 Aberdonian participants in this study with each receiving four visits.  At the first meeting a questionnaire was filled in to get a picture of the household members and their smoking habits; saliva samples were taken for chemical testing and monitoring equipment was set up.  At the second visit the indoor air quality result was given to half of the households in addition to the motivational interview.

The chart below shows smoke levels in one study household.  

Any quantity over 25 micrograms of smoke in a cubic metre of air space is harmful; the higher the figure, the more harm.

When the smoker was asleep, the levels dropped to non-existent.  When the smoker lit that first cigarette, the levels went up to between 500 and 950 micrograms of smoke in a cubic metre of air.

Throughout the day, the smoke lingered – even when the smoker assumed the room was clear of smoke.

This came as quite a revelation for the smokers.  Here is what some of them had to say:

“Seeing the results made a big difference.  It was like a shock because I didn’t realise.  Like I don’t sit here and smoke in front of my child, I do it in the kitchen, but for the readings to be high like that when I’m not like anywhere near it, if you know what I mean, it’s like a shock factor to realise what it can do.  So I think that’s the best thing that like helped me.”

“I showed them how high it was, and some of them was like – you’re  joking?  And I was like no…”

“For it (monitoring) to be done in your own home and for you to know that the level of smoke is so high and you’re putting your children at risk of asthma, emphysema, all kinds of things, it’s quite shocking.”

One comment in particular shows the strength of the motivational factor provided by caring about children’s health:

“For me I think my son’s health, that’s my priority.  So I would like to think that all mothers would think like that, that their kids come first no matter what.  My bad habits shouldn’t be put onto my child.  Because I can’t stop smoking doesn’t mean he has to suffer.”

After one month the research team revisited the houses, repeated the air quality measurements and, this time, gave all the households their results.  During the month the air quality had not changed in the houses where air quality data was not initially given but air quality had improved by more than one third where the graph was used as part of the initial motivational interview.

  personalised measurements of smoke in the home, while shocking, can also be very motivational

The trial was not large, but its results show that a future, large-scale programme would be beneficial.  Like everything else, budgetary constraints are a factor.  The vast sums that the NHS has to spend treating smoke-related illnesses should be sufficient to show that prevention should be actively pursued as one solution to the smoking issue.

The study has shown that lay people can most definitely engage with science and can understand complex matters when it is presented using clear, audience-appropriate, audience-relevant formats.   Crucially, the personalised measurements of smoke in the home, while shocking, can also be very motivational.  As the paper concludes:

“…in almost all participating households, indoor air (quality) approached a threshold considered unhealthy, suggesting a need to reduce indoor air (quality) in many households across the UK, and that many people would benefit from such an intervention.” 

It seems that this combination of personalised data, positive suggestions and active participation of smokers might be the way to tackle smoke exposure to children.  It is hoped this small study won’t be the end of the matter.  The research goes on but, in the meantime, parents who smoke can create smoke free homes and smoke free cars to protect their children from the harmful effects of second hand smoke.

Smoking is still a social norm for many families but in the same way as drink driving and not wearing a seat belt are no longer acceptable, in future smoking will be considered as not acceptable by society.

PS for animal lovers –  according to Dr Turner, the incidence of feline leukaemia is twice as high in cats that live in a smoker’s home than for cats that live in a smoke free environment.

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