Sep 122013

3KslimmerPicBy Bob Smith

The Triple Kirks is noo “The Pint”
The pint o’t a dinna git
As far as a can see fowks
Jist anither design fit’s shit

A “cheese grater” o ae wa’
Twa fish tanks side bi side
Tho’ the kirkie spire it seems
Is bein’ alloot tae bide

Mair office space in oor toon
Fin flats wid be mair eese
Efter 5pm an’ at wikk eyns
Human activity wull a’ cease

Affordable hooses is fit we need
Yet verra fyow cum intae bein
Fit developers class affordable
Ither fowk jist are nae seein

“The Pint” wull cum tae pass
O’ aat there’s little fear
Cos some fowk in the cooncil
Awkwird questions winna speir

A biggin wi little tae commend
Jist anither St Nicholas Hoose
In 30 years wull’t be pull’t doon
Cos it’s nae langer fit fer use?

A’ seen as farrer progress
Bit iss a jist fail tae see
Anither blicht on the skyline
In the toon twixt Don an Dee

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

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Apr 072011

Voice’s Old Susannah casts her eye over the events of the last 6 months and the stories, and terms and phrases familiar as well as freshly ‘spun’, which will be forever etched in the consciousness of the people of Aberdeen and the Northeast.

As there are so few interesting local, national or international developments in the news lately, (earthquakes, wars, radiation, armed robberies, Aberdeen Council wheeling and dealing notwithstanding), this looks like a good time to look back at some of the terms and issues covered in Old Susannah’s Dictionary Corner over the last six months.
The column looked at Change Managers, Continuous Improvement, Climate Change and Dangerous dog owners and dogfights.  What has happened to the heroes, villains, good, bad and the ugly?  Well, let’s see…

Animal Crackers

Let’s Go Clubbing:
Cast your mind back – do you remember Donald Forbes, golfer and fox batterer extraordinaire?  What’s become of him?  First he told us he had clubbed the fox (which was later found in such a horrible state it had to be put down, to the disgust of 99.95% of the members of Forbes’ golf club).

Then Forbes said he was in ‘mortal danger’ from the fox and therefore swung his club near the fox, but did not hit it.  How this tame, well-known fox was going to harm Forbes other than stealing a sandwich from him remains unclear. How the fox was injured fatally also remains a mystery, as Forbes says he did not do it.

Sources tell me Forbes will soon have his day in Court – keep your eyes on the Aberdeen court circular during the month of April.  Truth will out.  Maybe.

Licensed to maim:
Like-minded animal lover, top oilman, and gunslinger Mr Mervyn New, you will remember, took his gun to work and quite rightly shot some horrid gull chicks that had the nerve to be in a nest near him.  One bird was dead outright, the other suffered in agony until the SSPCA could have it put down.

Maybe we should all bring guns to work?  On the plus side I bet Mr New looks quite macho with a gun.  It would be cruel to suggest he might have a complex against his parents for naming him ‘Mervin’ so I shall say nothing on that subject.  My emails to his local and head office have gone unanswered or have been returned marked ‘delivery failure’.  It is almost as if Marine Subsea UK do not want to set the record straight or answer any questions on their guns-at-work policy.  Maybe some of you readers can get an answer out of them.  I will try again when I have made progress on…

…The Tullos Hill Roe Deer:
In a style that would make Highwayman robber Dick Turpin blush, the City have told animal lovers to pay up £225k by 10 May, or the deer get shot. It was all most democratic; they voted on it, except they did not bother to mention the cull to the citizens. Scottish Natural Heritage point out unwillingly  (see articles elsewhere in the Voice) that alternatives to gunning the deer down do exist.  During this ongoing saga

It is heartbreaking to see these dumb animals going about their usual routines, visiting their favourite drinking holes, unaware of the doom awaiting them

Cllr Aileen Malone proved she could not count; she announced that ‘about one’ person in Aberdeen wrote to her against the cull.  She later apologised for this understandable mathematical error – but I do not believe her apology was as public as her P&J statement about there only being ‘about one’ objector.  I can however say that at least 500 people have signed various petitions and that is a conservative figure (like me).

It is heartbreaking to see these dumb animals going about their usual routines, visiting their favourite drinking holes, unaware of the doom awaiting them.  Nevertheless, at the next possible election, there will most definitely be a cull of Councillors.

The Council had handled the proposed tree planting in its time-honoured way; it held a consultation.

Democracy Inaction

That’s right – the City asked us mere citizen taxpayers what we thought of the tree planting on its lovely website, and gave us until the end of this past January to comment.  Just because the City forgot to mention the cull is no reason for the consultation not to be valid, after all, without consultation we would not have our design competition coming up for…

…Union Terrace Gardens:
Back at the time how exciting it was – ACSEF were visiting shopping malls and businesses, giving   presentations on a wonderful new way of re-imaging the gardens – turning them into a concrete slab with underground parking.   Despite producing a brochure (costing about £300k of our money), which showed exactly that type of outcome – large squares of concrete, one or two tiny trees in planters, and happy people walking around in nice weather, the public vote was against it.

Who would have guessed that the public simply did not understand how important this was to Ian Wood’s future, sorry – to our economic prosperity. So, we will get a design competition instead. Someone already got money earmarked for the rival, earlier, clearer, subtler Peacock plan – money which was intended to be used by Peacock.

I was concerned just last week about the coalition as they are fighting at the National level. However, Councillor Irene Cormack wrote to me to say that this is perfectly normal at elections

No one knows anything about how the money was approved for expenditure; no one knows what goes on inside ACSEF (the online minutes do not give any history or details on this saga worth having).  And the worst part is, people have actually organised to protest against having shops and parking.

How else will Stewart Milne’s lovely plans for Triple Kirks work?  Answers on a postcard please.

The Press & Journal on 6th April continued a welcome new trend – they are questioning the handling of the UTG situation in an excellent editorial well worth reading.

Public Image:
In a past Old Susannah Dictionary Corner, I was heartened to hear that Kate was going to get an image and publicity makeover by the LibDem team who gave the world Nick Clegg.  Here we are about three months later, and I think the results speak for themselves. What do you think of the new Kate?  I think the results of Nick’s influence speak for themselves.

Kate’s complaint at the time was that people always complain when things are going bad, but they never compliment the City Council when things are going well.  I asked readers for examples of things that went well, but have received not so much as a line.

You might remember some months back when I was worried about our local LibDem / SNP Coalition arguing about how many Council jobs to cut.  Nine hundred with no consultation?  Six Hundred?  Ask for ideas?  Cut nothing and then keep quiet?  Those must have been exciting times for the staff at St Nick’s.  I was concerned just last week about the coalition as they are fighting at the National level. However, Councillor Irene Cormack wrote to me to say that this is perfectly normal at elections. I hope nothing will interfere with how things are working here. In fact, soon all will be perfect, once everyone moves into…

…Marischal  College:

In fact, she is known to have sent out e-mails claiming victory, because no one has complained/objected to the stadium lately (hint hint!) But it is not over yet, watch this space

Charities are short of funding, schools are closing, and elderly and vulnerable people are at risk from a host of problems. No matter:  we saved Marischal College. The Council told us that they will not  disclose what the alternatives were or what they would have cost – it is copyrighted so they claim.  We saved Marischal by gutting it entirely, throwing Victorian books into a skip (I have a source who confirms this), and we’re putting in brand new furniture.  £60 to 80 million well spent I say.

Loirston Loch – a nice place for a game of football:
Despite lack of consultation with the relevant local Councils, little support from Football fans, and opposition from local residents, follically-challenged Stewart Milne (of ACSEF and AFC fame) got the green light to build a red-light stadium in the Greenbelt land of Loirston.

Scottish Natural Heritage weren’t bothered (despite SAC land status, protected species and RSPB objection); Brian Adam MSP was ecstatic, and Richard Baker MSP was ignored.

Kate Dean was the impartial convener of a marathon hearing on the matter, which was always going to end favourably.  In fact, she is known to have sent out e-mails claiming victory, because no one has complained/objected to the stadium lately (hint hint!) But it is not over yet, watch this space.  If there has not been too much dialogue at present, it is because of the massive legal points being researched prior to the battle royale.

Conclusion – A Brighter Outlook:
The most important thing to remember when considering the recent past is that we now all have A Brighter Outlook.  I know this, because the City Council put it in their literature.  It is an ACSEF slogan, it is how the City does business, it is all brighter.  After all, how much darker can things possibly get?

Next week:
Since ACSEF benefited so much from its new logo and ‘A Brighter Outlook’ slogan, Old Susannah is getting a makeover.  I do not know exactly what to expect and what the Voice editors have in mind, I just hope I will come out looking as cool, modern and with it as ACSEF does.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the very nice/interesting/excellent e-mails and comments.

Clock Ticking For Triple Kirks And The Peregrines

 Aberdeen City, Articles, Community, Featured, Information, Opinion  Comments Off on Clock Ticking For Triple Kirks And The Peregrines
Mar 252011

In January 2011, Richard Pelling posted a blog entitled Triple Kirks Nonsultation?’ about what was going on at The Triple Kirks site. At this stage, the plans for the site had already been subject to intense local criticism, inspired a poem and had even received a bit of a national mauling in Private Eye (Eye 1279, page 16). Richard now brings us up to date.

In February,  Stewart Milne Group (SMG) submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) screening option request to determine if they would need to carry out an EIA prior to submitting plans – to which we of course made comment.

It turns out that given that the site is less than 0.5 hectares in size and “does not fall within a sensitive area”,  no EIA is required.

So, the presence of the Schedule 1 listed Peregrine Falcons on site apparently does not merit any special attention and no study of the potential impact on them is required. Sad.

While on the subject of the majestic Peregrine, it is worth pointing out that the registered address of SMG is, ironically, Peregrine House in Westhill. Want more irony? Of course you do! One of the items cited in the Corporate Social Responsibility section of the SMG website is Protecting our Native Birds.

With the pesky matter of the requirement for an EIA out of the way, the plans for the proposed development were duly submitted to Aberdeen City Council in March.

Now on the aforementioned Corporate Social Responsibility section of the SMG website, I was pleased to read the following :

“Protecting our Heritage – Historic buildings are a vital part of this nation’s heritage, and one particularly close to our heart”.

So in line with this statement, would the final plans represent a volt face, meaning that Archibald Simpson’s Triple Kirks site would be treated in a sympathetic manner? Would the soaring A-listed spire now be afforded the respect it deserves? Nae chance. Perusal of the application on-line – P110303 – reveals that they look remarkably similar to those being peddled during the nonsultation exercise – quelle surprise.

Surely the site deserves more than the bland and insipid glazed shed that that some would say desecrates the Triple Kirks site and detracts from the surrounding historic streetscape? Why bother to give a building A-listed status if it can be treated with such disregard? Please check out the plans and then make your comments on the application – you have until 31st March 2011 to do this.

Remember that if you commented in the initial nonsultation exercise or in response to planning application P110056, you need to do it all over again for this one – P110303 – in order to make your views known.

If you have concerns on the impact on the spire, it would also be worth contacting Historic Scotland directly – I’m sure they will have something to say in response to seeing the plans anyway – but it’s good to let them know that you care about the fate of the Triple Kirks spire (Historic Building No. 19940).

As for the fate of the Peregrines, if you are worried about how this development may impact them it is certainly worth contacting Scottish Natural Heritage to express your concerns. The SMG website shows that they have apparently been funding some RSPB projects in Scotland, so could this mean that the RSPB may be reluctant to stand up for the Triple Kirks falcons? If you are an RSPB member perhaps you might consider dropping them an e-mail to ask them to fight for the falcons.

Anyway, whatever you feel like doing, please do it … the clock is ticking on Triple Kirks! So as the saying goes, act now or forever hold your peace.

As a footnote, it was nice to see the Rosemount Review report that :

‘ Rosemount Community Council rejected new plans to develop the derelict Triple Kirks site last night. The community council concluded that the new designs were “not in keeping with the area”. ‘

Maist Cooncillors Wid Mak Ye Cry

 Aberdeen City, Articles, Creative Writing, Opinion, Satire and Humour  Comments Off on Maist Cooncillors Wid Mak Ye Cry
Mar 182011

By Bob Smith.

(Ti bi sung ti the melody o “Ghost Riders in the Sky”)

As I gid waakin ower the wye doon bye Union Street
The scene fit I could see wid mak ye bliddy greet
Aathing noo are multiples wi jist the odd local shoppie
Nae ony sma businesses or cafes ained by the Giulianottis

Noo on the scene cams Sir Ian Widd he is a local chiel
Treatin aa the fowk wi disdain as tho they’re bliddy feel
Wi a vision fer UT Gairdens we fin affa hard ti bear
The bonnie trees an shrubbies oot the grun he’d like ti tear

Numpties  yi Ohhhh
Numpties yi Yaaaay
Maist cooncillors wid mak ye cry

The Acsef gowks an the cooncillors hiv noo backit iss scheme
Ti cover ower the gairdens an realise oor Widdie’s dream
Despite the public votin no an sayin jist bugger aff
Leave oor bonnie gairdens, yer ideas they are naff

Up pops wee Stewartie Milne wi plans for the Triple Kirks
Sir Ian Widd’s ideas fit in wi his so he thinks we’re stupid birks
A biggin fit’s nae pleasin, jist fu o gless an steel
Aa the architecture roon aboot wid loss it’s great appeal

Numpties yi Ohhhh
Numpties yi Yaaay
Maist cooncillors wid mak ye cry

They’re pluntin trees on Tullos Hill for us aa ti enjoy
Yet cullin o the resident deer iss seems a stupid ploy
Oor cooncillors ti protect the trees winna spend ony dosh
They’re  thinkin o the venison steaks, ti bi served ti them as nosh

Oor cooncillors they hiv nae sense, fowk noo think  they’re mad
Lossin  the grant for the Peacock scheme iss wis maist affa sad
It’s nae the only thing the cooncil’s tint, they’ve lost the plot as weel
Nae wunner Aiberdonians think the haill damn’t lot are feel

Numpties yi Ohhhh
Numpties yi Yaaay
Maist cooncillors wid mak ye cry

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2010


Union Terrace Gardens – Their Use And Value To Aberdeen City

 Aberdeen City, Articles, Community, Featured, Information, Opinion  Comments Off on Union Terrace Gardens – Their Use And Value To Aberdeen City
Feb 252011

By Mick Miller.

Over the months that the debate over the development of Aberdeen city centre has raged, one argument often fielded by those in support of the City Square Project is: “Union Terrace Gardens aren’t used.”
This raises the issue of “use” – what does it mean for a space to be used?

Here are some reflections on this.

Firstly, Union Terrace Gardens (UTG) are used. They are used by people, like most parks and open space, when the weather is good and people have the free time to use them. They are used regularly by people who live in the city and own a dog for example, or who have no garden of their own. They are used by office and shop workers when the weather is good and the need to take lunchtime relaxation is fulfilled by sitting in the sun rather than perhaps a stroll around the art gallery or shops. I know this because when I worked in Aberdeen city centre I used to struggle to get a seat in UTG on a sunny lunchtime!

They provide safe space for families away from traffic concerns. Union Terrace Gardens are used at the weekend by those who live close, and not so close, as recreation and relaxation space. They are used by visitors to the city who value them as part of their visit ‘experience’; that is as a part of what makes Aberdeen distinct as a place to visit. The above photograph  shows quite clearly the gardens in use on a good sunny Saturday.

Of course they are used in many other ways. They act to define the city space, to give a ‘green heart’ to the surrounding city scape. Because they are sunken they give a unique perspective on the city . Looking up from the garden towards His Majesty’s Theatre and St Marks with the Wallace statue in the foreground is one of the defining views of Aberdeen. Like the UTG itself Aberdeen would not be Aberdeen without it.

Ornithologists can spot the peregrines that nest on the ruined steeple of Triple Kirks. Bat lovers can gather at dusk to watch these enchanting mammals flit in and out of the gardens lamp light chasing their prey in a silent whirlwind. It takes a long time for a park space to achieve the diversity and richness that is UTG – destroy it and it would never be recovered.

Just by being there, Union Terrace Gardens are used. This is in common with all city centre garden space. The photograph attached shows Princes Street Garden in Edinburgh.

Not packed – but valueless because of it?

One would hardly think so.

Edinburgh residents would never contemplate decking over this space. The gardens in Edinburgh are as much a part of the City as the Castle.

Of course Edinburgh do utilise the garden space in a far better way than Aberdeen. They are maintained better; at Christmas they are bedecked with lights and an ice rink installed. Aberdeen Council used to do this sort of thing too but over the years have allowed UTG to fall into disrepair. This represents an appalling neglect of a valuable public asset.

UTG is of course not used in a ‘commercial’ way. The commercial interests that would likely dominate any development on the site would doubtless seek to maximise the value of the space primarily in terms of monetary and commercial value. The City Square ultimately must ‘improve’ the space in this regard in order to have any chance of viability.

This discontent with Union Terrace Gardens seems to have some link with the need for Aberdeen to emulate somewhere else. But why?

Sir Ian Wood has argued that he wants to see a combination of a mini – Central Park (as found in New York City) and an Italian piazza. Central Park, co-incidentally, was established in 1873 – just about the same time as Union Terrace Gardens, give or take a few years . It serves a population of some 1.7 million people – and that’s just Manhattan without the other 4 Boroughs that go to make up New York as a whole or the tourists that frequent the city.

It has more in common with Union Terrace Gardens in terms of maturity, make-up and value to the community than anything that the much touted design competition for the city square might come up with. Central Park has history that makes it what it is today.

The piazza concept should give cause for concern. Wikipedia describes it thus:

“In Britain piazza generally refers to a paved open pedestrian space without grass or planting”.

Piazzas work in Italy and other Mediterranean countries because they have long hours of hot sunshine and, more importantly, a historical significance that embeds them in the country’s culture. You can’t import them into a place that has no connection with the way of life that they reflect. Look at the upper deck of the St Nicholas Centre to see how it works in Aberdeen.

This discontent with Union Terrace Gardens seems to have some link with the need for Aberdeen to emulate somewhere else. But why? Where Aberdeen has attempted such an approach the results have been dismal. Go to any of the shopping malls including the horrendous Union Square and you could be anywhere, in any shopping centre, in the UK.

Meanwhile the old E&M premises, an icon of Aberdeen, crumbles its way through another winter. The City Square Project will have the same effect; stripping away yet another facet of Aberdeen that actually makes Aberdeen, well, Aberdeen! As a consequence adding to the catalogue of destruction that has over the years de-valued the city’s architectural significance; eroding that which makes Aberdeen a unique and beautiful city.

Mick Miller, 9 February 2011.

Dec 232010

“We will protect and enhance the city’s wildlife and biodiversity and preserve the land we manage.”

By Ahayma Dootz.

I had almost lost count of the days we had spent struggling through the overgrown wilderness of Allenvale in search of my ancestor’s tomb when D’oad returned from a scouting trip with alarming news. It seemed that this land was indeed inhabited. A few miles ahead he had spotted signs of a small village or ‘clachan’ nestled in a clearing by a small river which he assumed to be a tributary of the mighty D’ee – possibly the Holb’urn.

“The fowk seem tae be peaceful,” he said. “Ah believe they’re the people ye thocht ye saw back at Sk’inner’s gravestone. Ah heard music.”

We decided to approach cautiously, offering trade goods  – ‘tees’, baseball caps, t-shirts from Trumpistan and the like – in exchange for information and fresh supplies. Little did I suspect that this encounter would completely change the nature of my quest!

It was several days later that D’oad and I sat with the headman discussing our plans. It seemed that cousin Walter had also encountered these people. Five years earlier, a man answering Walter’s description had wandered into the village babbling about ‘lost treasures’, a ‘hidden garden’ and a ‘red spire’.

He had been well-equipped but exhausted, and half starved. While he recovered his strength he had told of how, long ago, his own people had once lived in these lands and that while searching for his ‘roots’ he had come across information concerning his family’s lost ‘birthright’. Some fabulous treasure which had mysteriously disappeared causing the time of turmoil that local legends call the ‘Hard Times’.

The headman, G’illie, shook his head.

“Oor aul’ fowk kent a bittie oboot this.”  he explained while D’oad translated ( these people were riddled with the ‘doric’.). “Afore oor fowk turnt their backs on a’ they mad gods – K’ooncil, D’ean, Ah’ksef   an’ the ithers – we kent fine that the tribute gaithered ower the years had disappeared – aye, that the treasury wis toom!”

He explained that there had always been rumours of how this wealth had somehow been hidden in a secret valley called the ‘Gairdens’ guarded by a tall tower –the ‘red spire’. It appeared that after finding Mary McWalter’s tomb, cousin Walter – always prone to obsession –  had gone off in search of these lost riches and that after his arrival here he had pressed on, heading north towards ‘T’oonhoos’.

Despite the corrosion I could make out a shield flanked by two blurred upright figures

I considered my position.  Returning home empty-handed had never been an option for me – Walter and I were family after all – but I knew the native bearers would not venture further no matter how many ‘gowfba’s’ I offered. I was delighted, however, when D’oad offered to accompany me.

G’illie allowed us to study old maps and consult with his storytellers then, supplied with fresh provisions and information,  D’oad and I prepared to follow the Holb’urn north. As we packed, I asked him why he had decided to continue this uncertain journey. Beckoning me to follow, he walked over to an ancient bench which stood outside G’illie’s hut. Looking closely, I realised that although the seat was made of wood, the frame was cast-iron! D’oad pointed to what seemed to be a coat of arms on the backrest. Despite the corrosion I could make out a shield flanked by two blurred upright figures.

“That is the auld symbol of the ‘Deen,” he said, “Div ye see thae twa craturs either side o’ the shield? They were the ancient guardians o’ the ‘Deen – some wid say they’re only myth, ithers that long, long ago, such things walked this land. There is a legend amongst my people that if ever they are seen again, then the lands o‘ Deen shall be healed –  united once again – and returned to their former glory! Noo, ah’ve heard rumours of sightings tae the north. Jist rumours, mind, but if there’s ony hope at a’ then….” , he tailed off.

“But what on earth are they?” I asked.

He told me.

“Aaaaarrrgh!!!” I screeched, “That’s disgusting!” I recoiled from the bench. ”Surely not! Not even here in this benighted land! I mean, medical science…I mean…” words failed me.

D’oad frowned, looking puzzled for a moment; then his face cleared.

“Na, na, na, ya deef gype.” He exclaimed.” Nae lepers, ya bluidy eedjit! Leopards, min, leopards! Muckle big spotty cats, ye ken?” he began to laugh uncontrollably. “Lepers!”

Sheepishly at first, I began to giggle.

Dec 182010

By Bob Smith.

Gless an concrete aroon the spire
Raising hackles an causin ire
Thae designs fer The Triple Kirks
Aa drawn up by stupid birks

I can only think some philistine
Drim’t iss plans wid be fine
Nae thocht for fit wis roon aboot
A bonnie skyline gien the boot

Gless boxes seem a the rage
Architects nae langer sage
Foo muckle spent ti dream o iss
Some I think  are takin the piss

Aneuch’s aneuch I hear fowk cry
Will plans be passed on the sly?
Stewartie Milne ye maan be jokin
At thae designs fowk are boakin

We are telt they’ll aa fit
Wi Widdies plans fit are shit
Ti build ower the  bonnie UTG
Please fae idiots lit us be free

If ye think ma creeticism ower the score
Jist  myn fit’s geen  on afore
St Nicholas Hoose an Union Square
It’s time ti shout nae mair! nae mair!

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”2010