Nov 212014
 

Paul Rodgers. Deborah Bonham. The Royal Albert Hall. Add in a Scottish animal shelter and the result was an unforgettable night of music, all to raise funds and awareness for Willows Animal Sanctuary. Suzanne Kelly caught the show and caught up with the generous people who made it happen.

Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia Kereluk Rodgers visited Willows a few years back, and became generous, hands-on patrons, who got to know the staff and the animals. Their hard work over the years has helped to make Willows’ future more secure. A horse-mad animal lover, rock and blues singer Deborah Bonham has also joined the Willows cause.

Her husband Peter Bullick, their band and their families likewise have come to Willows’ aid these past few years.

The artists involved are serious life-long animal lovers, directly involved in rescuing animals.

Paul Rodgers said:

“Such a unique charity that combines helping vulnerable people, with their Assisted Therapy Program, plus Willows employs four such people as well as provides a sanctuary before heaven for unwanted, abused, old and handicapped animals. Aiding people and animals is a win, win situation.

“As Patrons both Cynthia and myself are keen to support Willows to help them continue the amazing work they do in the community for mankind and animal kind.”

The generosity of all concerned reached a remarkable climax at the Royal Albert Hall on the 3rd of November: Paul and Cynthia organised a concert to benefit Willows. All profits are going to Willows; everyone who was at this show had a night of music which will not soon be forgotten.

Deborah Bonham commented:

“It was such an honour to be asked by Paul Rodgers and his beautiful wife Cynthia Kereluc Rodgers to appear at the Royal Albert Hall to help raise funds for Willows Animal Sanctuary and Assisted Animal Therapy. It was such an incredible night and one that I won’t forget. Willows is a charity close to my heart and to know that we have raised the much needed funds for them to survive the winter is fantastic. The work they do with animals and vulnerable people is inspirational, I’m so pleased I was able to help and be a part of it all.”

Deborah opened the show accompanied by keyboard artist Gerard Lewis. This was a new arrangement for the band, which normally features Peter Bullick on (blistering) guitars and mandolin; keyboard player Gerard Louis; on bass Ian Rowley; and the awesome Frank Benbini of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, filling in for regular drummer Rich Newman.

It would have been nice to hear the full line up at the RAH, but as it was, the arrangement of Deborah with Gerard showcased her voice in a way that really filled the hall to great effect. Her powerful lyrics and vocals reach some astonishing emotional highs and lows and were superb on the night.

Long-time follower Lorraine Adams Robertson attended with husband Michael. She said:

“Deborah was brilliant!  … and G too her keyboard player… her singing gives me goose bumps as always, and her voice makes me cry with emotion.” 


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The strangers I sat next to volunteered how much they enjoyed her. I explained that she usually performs with a band: they are determined to go and see her, and pick up Spirit, the latest album.

Deborah’s set included a wide variety of her songs spanning several albums – Love You So, What We Got, Hold On, Grace, Duchess (sassy), I Need Love (haunting, passionate) and Stay With Me Baby. Her voice is what the Royal Albert Hall is designed for.  [Note – Deborah is currently recovering from an illness; best wishes for a speedy, complete recovery].

More information on albums and tours for the Deborah Bonham Band here http://www.deborahbonham.com/ .

Paul Rodgers has a career like no one else’s. His iconic work with Free, Bad Company and The Firm are not the full extent of his interests and talents.

The new Royal Sessions work showcases Rodgers’ powerful voice in traditional blues classics which he sings, accompanied by some of the world’s greatest blues musicians. He has gone back to the music that inspired him from the beginning, and paid it a stunning tribute. On his Facebook Page Paul wrote:

I forget how good these guys and gals are until I play with them again. Rehearsals were fantabulous, even if there isn’t such a word. We are all here in London and are ready to rock and soul.” 

The crowds were going wild for it. A favourite with fans, ‘Walk in My Shadow’ was astonishing with such a backing band behind it, and it was a pleasure to be there to hear it live.

Blues staple ‘The Hunter’ was powerful; an interesting arrangement of ‘Walk On By’ was thrilling, and ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love’ had us all in the aisles singing along. ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ was another standout: Rodgers was to record that for Jools  Holland a day or so later. The track can be found here http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/records/nzq2fj.

More on the landmark Royal Sessions album can be found here http://paulrodgers.com/release/the-royal-sessions/ .

Willows supporters and staff are hugely grateful to the artists and producer (and MC and guitarist) Perry Margouleff who helped to make this show a reality.

Jenny Gray of Willows said

“Willows would like to send enormous thanks to our amazing Patrons Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia Kereluk Rodgers for their amazing support and generosity. Huge thanks to Deborah Bonham and Peter Bullick for helping make it a truly amazing night. These people have done so much to help Willows through a challenging time, they are genuine animal lovers and truly care about Willows. Thanks to all friends and family that helped on the night too. This fundraiser will really help the winter feed appeal.”

The funds raised from this night of wonderful music will certainly help Willows, but the charity needs to be able to rely on steady donations large and small in order to budget adequately.  Times are tough for everyone; they are very tough for animals. Pets are being abandoned at an alarming rate; horses and ponies too are being neglected and left without food and water.

Without charities like Willows, North East Scotland’s largest animal charity and a centre for animal-assisted therapy which helps many people, young and old (six of Willows employees are vulnerable people), the outlook is bleak.

If you missed the concert, but want a chance at winning some great prizes, here is your chance

Sign up to become ‘A Friend of Willows’ Help make a difference now!

If you sign on to become a ‘Friend of Willows’, at just £1 (2 US dollars) per week, by November 30, 2014 you are eligible to win:

Autographed Bad Company Guitar

Paul Rodgers Autographed Set List from The Royal Albert Hall Concert

Deborah Bonham Autographed Set List (from the Concert)

Paul Rodgers Autographed Royal Sessions LP or Cash Prizes

After careful thought, and with the help of all our supporters (and it will only work with your help) we hope we have found a way to get Willows a regular income. What we are hoping is that every ‘Friend’ who signs up for a minimum donation of £1 (2 US dollars) a week asks two other people to sign up too. It would quickly make a chain of regular donors, with each ‘Friend of Willows’ donating only a very small amount each month, the cost of a magazine or a coffee.

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Apr 182013
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Some weeks ago, a lamb was brought to Willows Animal Sanctuary near New Pitsligo. It had been found nearly dead, half drowned in a stream.

Tender loving care by the person who found it nursed it back to a state of health, and it continued to recover at Willows, all the while being hand fed and tended to frequently.

It recovered, and is now an adored pet for the many people, especially children who benefit from the Animal Assisted Therapy which Willows offers.

This should be the end of the story; the animal was saved, helped to recover, and has a home for its life being adored at a sanctuary.

However, if one local farmer has his way, the lamb will be seized, and Willows charged with theft and hauled to court.

Outraged animal campaigners and users of Willows’ facilities are appealing to this farmer.  After all, there is absolutely no proof where the animal came from.  It was found in a stream far from any farms.  It had no marking/brand/dye.

Court action will mean cost for Willows.  Appealing to this farmer’s better nature seems like a slim hope however.

As the Aberdeen Voice  Editor Fred Wilkinson reacted:-

“I think the idea of a sanctuary for rescued animals handing over a rescued animal to someone who has no more interest in the creature than how much fat and growth hormones he can stuff into it and sell it purely for it’s weight as a corpse is quite disturbing. “

It is hard to believe that anyone would claim a lost animal is theirs without any evidence, threaten and intimidate a charity with court and police, all to remove a rescued animal from emotionally vulnerable people who have bonded with it – but that is what is happening.

Footage of the lamb playing with a rescued dog, and other information can be found on Willows page on Facebook where you will also find related information.

The Facebook page also has a photo of the sheep; anyone who is opposed to the removal of this animal is urged to share the photo on Facebook to increase awareness; the campaign is called ‘Spam This Lamb’.

Aberdeen Voice is in touch with a variety of animal welfare organisations on this matter as well as the Blackface Sheep Association; we hope to report a happy outcome in the days to follow.

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Apr 122013
 

On Saturday April 1st, Paul Rodgers, Deborah Bonham and her band (along with special guests) returned to The Venue in Chichester to raise the roof one more time for animal charities including Willows Animal Sanctuary in Aberdeenshire.

Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia are Patrons of Willows which takes in a massive number and variety of welfare cases from cats to pigs to horses.

Currently they are home to 300 animals.

Deborah Bonham and her husband guitarist Pete Bullick have adopted both of her dogs from Mount Noddy which specialises in dogs and cats.

Cynthia Kereluk Rodgers and Deborah visited the Cat & Rabbit Rescue Centre near Chichester and were impressed with the care and handling of their two hundred cats! So a donation will be made to them as well.

Rock memorabilia were the hot items in the live auction with two Autographed Led Zeppelin Posters bringing in £500 ($763.00 ) and £850 ($1298.00 ).The highest grossing auction item was a Bad Company autographed guitar including tickets to a concert this summer in the US bringing in £1100  ($1679.00 ).

The biggest surprise of the evening was when Elaine and Chris Fairfax from Animal Friends Insurance handed over cheques to the tune of £15,000 ($22,888 ) to be divided equally between the three charities.

Jenny of Willows Animal Sanctuary commented:-

“We are absolutely over the moon to have such wonderful, lovely talented people supporting Willows Animal Sanctuary! It means so much to have dedicated Patrons. Paul Rodgers and Cynthia Kereluk Rodgers are such kind hearted and beautiful individuals and care so much about animal welfare.

“Our thanks go to all that helped with the fantastic concert: we know it took a lot of organising and many dedicated volunteers. Deborah Bonham and Peter Bullick are also amazing. Thank you both so much for all the time and energy you have put in to this concert. Everyone at Willows thanks you all from the bottom of our hearts.”

Deborah Bonham performed some songs from her new CD Spirit (limited edition pre release CD Digipak out now on tour ahead of the September CD, Vinyl and Digital release) during her 1 hour set. To the fans’ delight Rodgers played a 90 minute set of songs from just his Free catalogue, some he had not performed in 40 years!

Paul Rodgers said:-

“Once again the evening was a huge success. Our fans and friends come through every time- it’s quite amazing. Now Willows can breathe a sigh of relief as this funding will see them through July. Thanks to everyone from the fans, musicians, volunteers to all of the musicians and artists who donated items.”

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Apr 052013
 

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

Spring has sprung; all is well; everything is vibrant and dynamic in the Deen and elsewhere.  (If you don’t have any benefits or are on a low income  – then welcome to what the media has dubbed ‘Black April’.  Maybe this means we’re all going to be in the black soon?)

First of all, I had the most wonderful weekend in years – if not ever – down in Chichester.  Willows Animal Sanctuary and Mount Noddy  animal centre were charity beneficiaries of a benefit concert featuring four bands.  If we had things like this here, we’d be the undisputed chief city of culture.

The opening act, Basis,  was very impressive:  not least because they were aged 12 – 15.  They were all fantastic, but the leading vocalist was great, and the girl on bass was quirky, talented and had serious stage presence for someone so young. 

If people their age are writing rock music like this, then rock lives.  They were followed by a jazzy duo called Acoustic who were again highly talented.

I didn’t know what to think in advance of the next act up, Deborah Bonham.

I always disappoint myself for expecting impossibly high standards from some performers.  By the time her set was finished, I felt as if I’d been emotionally clobbered, totally uplifted, enlightened, made tearful and joyful on a wild roller coaster ride at warp speed.

She is undoubtedly the sister of the late, great, unequalled John Bonham.  Deborah Bonham is also undisputedly a performer with a spirit and strength completely of her own making.  There is a new album out, Spirit.  Buy it.  And whatever you do, go see her live.  She should be in Kinross on 5 May.  Expect a proper album review from me shortly.

Then there was a set from Paul Rodgers.

I’d seen him in Bad Company in the 70s, in a few mega concerts in Madison Square Garden in the 80s and 90s with the Firm (Jimmy Page, Tony Franklin and Chris Slade).  The voice is still note perfect, and I genuinely think he was having a great deal of fun.

The audience was wild.  The entire place was singing ‘All Right Now’ – the final encore.  Rodgers’ duet with Bonham was astounding.  Money was raised; awareness was raised.

The real backbone and driving force behind the night was undoubtedly Cynthia Kereluk, Paul’s wife.  I’m reasonably certain she was in two places or more at any given time – on stage doing the main auction; running the silent auction; taking payments for items won, socialising and making sure things ran smoothly.  It should be noted that a main reason that Paul and Cynthia are involved is none other than local girl Sandi Thom, who grew up near Willows, and is a long-term supporter of this great charity.

these people are all committed animal lovers who gave up their time, money and possessions happily

Let’s just say Old Susannah had the time of her life while helping in some small way to help Willows and Mount Noddy.  Believe it or not, it is possible to throw a great musical event without backing dancers, 27 costume changes or artists flying around the space on wires.  You just need talent.

You may well wonder why a concert for Willows was taking place at the opposite end of mainland Britain; fair question.  The answer lies with Willows patrons, Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia Kereluk.  The Chichester concert is a yearly event, but now with the new Willows patrons on board, the artists involved graciously decided to raise funds for them as well.

Many of the auction items were the artists’ own treasured personal mementos; these people are all committed animal lovers who gave up their time, money and possessions happily.  Again, this old cynic was moved.

A lovely lady named Hazel knitted a legion of beautiful scarves and gifts; her husband ensured everyone (including me) had transport to wherever they needed to be.  The audience were treated to a fantastic evening, and responded with great generosity and enthusiasm.

I am still overloaded with positive feelings; it is only the behaviour of Iain Duncan Smith and the ConDems and the plight of Blaikiewell’s horse sanctuary that can bring out any satirical writing in me this week.

Blaikiewell horse sanctuary may be turfed out without a new home or suitable financial help to aid the construction of the AWPR.  More on this unacceptable development to follow.  Thanks to those politicians and others who are starting to look into the solution:  I am confident one will be found.

Time for a few definitions stemming from this week’s current events.

Black April: (modern Eng. compound noun) term given to welfare benefit cuts to be rolled out in the UK.

I hope you’ve not all got too comfortable and cosy with your high living standards, because things are going to change around here (well, for most of us anyway).  The ConDems have decided that simply put, there isn’t enough money to go around.

First, there are the bankers we’ve had to bail out over sub-prime mortgage and LIBOR rate fixing scandals (A National Audit Report indicates bankers still owe us now, after repayments, fees and interest a mere £456.33bn, per http://www.guardian.co.uk/credit-crunch ).

Then there is Trident and other completely essential military defence expenses (around £39 billion per year, according to a recent BBC piece – http://www.bbc.co.uk/21271670 ).  Old Susannah admits we need to spend lots on defence.  At present, we only have the capacity to blow the planet up a few times over, and we need to defend all of these spare bedrooms that invading armies will covet.

Then there are those deserving multi-millionaire individuals and companies which are having a hard time sheltering money from the tax man abroad (Vodaphone apparently avoided paying £700 million in tax (best to read Private Eye for more on that story); the amount of money Ian Wood is thought to avoid in tax by moving some employees’ payroll offshore is about £15 million per year).

Then of course, there are the people who are on benefits; this costs around £207 billion pa (according to the bbc article above). This last group is of course the largest group and the most impoverished.   Of all the above groups, someone’s going to have to start paying their fair share.  Well, it wasn’t going to be the bankers, the military or the rich, was it?

If we don’t protect the Wood Group, Vodaphone, Trident and so on, things might get bad for the economy, as opposed to how great things are now.  Here’s how the ConDems are  going to solve our problems.

Bedroom Tax: (modern Eng. compound noun) – a newly-implemented tax whereby benefit claimants in the UK will pay extra tax for having more bedrooms than they ‘need’.

Is there a housing shortage?  This seems likely – many wealthy people can’t have more than a few houses in the countryside and a few pads in big cities because of the demand for housing.  Are you one of the selfish scroungers stopping the rich from owning more homes?  Well, your hour is at hand.

A mere £14 pounds per week as a penalty for this waste of space will come out of your benefits to penalise you for your luxurious extra bedroom.  Too right.  I was speaking to the friend of an elderly woman on a bus this week; she had been assigned a  council flat with two bedrooms (and in luxurious Tillydrone as well).

At the time she was told to take this great flat or go to the bottom of the waiting list.  She foolishly took the flat, not anticipating this logical, fair tax would come in.  Finally, we’re getting her and people like her to pay up.  The country should be back in the black in no time.

Of course there are some factors to consider:  are you sharing custody of a child who will stay with you sometimes?  Are you recovering from illness and need a sick room and extra facilities?  Maybe you are disabled and have a spare bedroom used for equipment/rest/carer needs?  Well – who cares?  You’ll all be stumping up the extra tax.

Old Susannah thinks this logic should be extended.  Why have separate bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms at all?  Should older or smaller people have any big spaces at all?  Couldn’t children just be kept in hallways, or perhaps we could all go back to sleeping, eating and living all together in one big (but not too big) room?  Horses can stand sleeping up; perhaps we could build some human stabling.  The Japanese have very trendy sleeping pods for commuters; I’m sure we could do something like that here.

I think there are more savings to be made, and I’m sure as soon as Iain Duncan Smith gets his vintage car parked at his mansion, he’ll have time to think of more great money savers.  But you have to admire his greatest concept of all…

The £7 per day budget: (modern political compound noun).  The idea floated by Iain Duncan Smith that it is possible to live on £7 per day – if you have to.  Why wouldn’t we take budget information from a government which spends about £46 billion a year on interest payments?  Read on…

Are you tired of trying fad diets that don’t work?  Well, the government does want us all to avoid obesity and avoid smoking and alcohol.  All they’re really doing is making it easier for us to live healthier lives; I can’t see what’s wrong with asking some people on benefits to live on £7 a day.  All you’ll need to do is get a bit imaginative, and that also is a good thing.

It’s important to remember that almost everyone on benefits is some kind of a cheat, wastrel or scrounger.  Sure there are some retired people who have had to spend their life savings on care/medical treatment; there are people who have been disabled from birth or from accidents.  Still, it’s best just to treat everyone equally in today’s society, and it looks like Iain Duncan Smith (IDS to his friends, if any) wants to treat all on benefits equally.  Seems reasonable.

I also know of a person who lost a limb.  At a recent ATOS assessment, and despite their doctor previously spelling out the situation completely, they were made to undress to prove that they weren’t hiding an extra limb.

Obviously doctors can get things like that wrong, and the guy could have grown his limb back and therefore be fit for work and just shirking. Can’t be too careful at these assessment centres, and if such assessments are just a little bit degrading or humiliating, or if they deem people fit for work who really aren’t, well I guess no system is perfect.

Anyway, here are some  helpful suggestions; you’ll never go back to spending as much as £7 a day again.  IDS says he’s already had to do just that, and that he could do it again.  Of course he could.

If you have a pet, best to just abandon it somewhere

Work out a budget.  £7 a day is a massive £0.29 to spend each hour.  If you don’t mind sleeping say 16 hours a day, you’ll wind up with £0.87 per hour.

Eat healthy.  Water is free; make the most of it.  Water is a great drink and makes a great soup.  Add dandelions and other plants from the roadside.  Don’t boil the water though; that will cost you.   If you have a pet, best to just abandon it somewhere.  They won’t wind up injured, dead, starved, or run over, and you’ll have a delicious selection of their leftover food to eat.

Avoid the bedroom tax – get someone to take a sledgehammer to your interior walls so you just have a studio flat.

Go to shopping malls.  You’ll be warm, you’ll get to look at the latest fashions.  You can try the goods in the mobile phone and computer shops so you’ll be up on the latest technology.  Watch televisions in electrical goods shops – saves on energy at home.  You’ll save on heating as you stay in the mall moving from bench to bench.  You’ll be able to forage for food leftovers, too.

So, you’ll have food, somewhere warm to be, and entertainment.  Bus fare could be a problem though, so best walk anywhere  you need to go.

Ensure that your clothes don’t need replacing; stop  using personal grooming products to save more money, and remember – newspaper makes great insulation under your clothes.

Supplement your income – do you have any extra gold or silver to sell?   Tooth fillings perhaps?  Get to a pawnbroker and get rid of any family heirlooms.  Organ sale might not be legal here, but you can still get money for participating in medical experiments.

Better yet, or if you are IDS:  fill up the Morgan classic car before you have to go a week on £7 per day.  Get one of the staff to lend you some money.  Go stay with a rich friend.  Go on a trip representing the ConDems and get all your expenses paid.  Submit expense claims for your parliamentary work.

You see?  It’s really going to be easier than you think.

Next week:  How to either live on £7 a day, or instead demand your elected officials show a spark of human compassion towards those in need, close tax loopholes, and stop participating in a pointless arms race.

Sep 072012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah looks at events over yet another vibrant and dynamic week in the ‘Deen. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  I hope everyone’s had another exciting week in  Aberdeen.

The Science Festival has kicked off, attracting visitors, scientists and lecturers from around the world.
It is most kind of them to visit Aberdeen– we have a garden that’s not at street level and we don’t have a web – we should be most grateful to them.

We should be grateful to BP as well, which is investing £100 million in the area.

Old Susannah discovered beer cocktails at BrewDog this past week.  They are gorgeous, and very enjoyable in these trying times.

I am amazed BrewDog chose to open its brilliant bar and factory in our area when we didn’t go for the granite web.  It’s almost as if the gardens were not a factor in their plans.

The more cynical among us wonder:  Would businesses really prefer operating here if we were £92 million in debt and had a giant city centre construction zone for at least a year?  If you listen to the SNP, some LibDems (funny, HoMalone doesn’t seem to be the charismatic leader we all thought she was) and ACSEF, then the answer is yes.

The petition to ask Sir Ian to spend his wealth to Africa instead of the web is now one week old.  Please do visit, read, and hopefully sign at www.gopetition.com/sir-ian-send-your-£50M-to-africa-as-promised   No doubt the mainstream press will take the story of this petition up any day now.  After all, our local papers wrote about the MASS demonstration planned by pro CGP activists when the figure was around 200.  Guess the Wood petition is about to be massive, too.

And massive and genuine thanks to Lush shops throughout Scotland; last weekend they raised hundreds of pounds to benefit Willows Animal Sanctuary.

Finally, Morris the Monkey has a new pal in Si the Seagull, new mascot for AFC.  Word has it that the fans are not necessarily impressed by this development, but I’ll wait and hear what Si himself has to say when he starts working for BiG and promoting the web.

On with a few definitions.

Union Terrace Effect: (modern English phrase, attributed to F. Wilkinson) – scheme in which powers that be allow a building, park or structure to decay deliberately, until such time as there is an outcry for a new replacement to be built- which is what the desired outcome was to begin with. 

Old Susannah heard this term recently, but can’t think of a single historic building, museum, school, terrace gardens or Tullos Hill that would fit this definition of something left to rot so it could be sold off / developed.  If I think of anything, I will let you know.

The Itemiser: (mod Eng noun) a portable particle scanner which can detect microscopic traces of a variety of substances.

We will all be safer soon!  Result!

traces of the drug (cocaine) can be found on any bank note

First, we are considering building a giant ‘state of the art’  prison soon – yet another construction job coming our way!  Secondly, the police now have a portable scanner which can find particles on a microscopic level of things like cannabis (!) and hard drugs.

They plan to go from bar to bar and search people here and there, for traces of drugs.  Anyone who’s been in contact with these substances (except for politicians, the wealthy, successful creative types, celebrities, etc) will be thrown in jail – where tons more drugs and interesting career training opportunities will freely available.

There is just one flaw in this cunning plan of searching citizens for microscopic evidence of crime, and that is this little fact:  90%+ of all paper money in circulation in the United Kingdom has traces of cocaine and/or heroin on it.

Old Susannah can’t begin to imagine how or why that should be – but next time you buy something in a bar, use coins rather than folding money – or it might just be off to jail with you.

The Daily Mail was one of the many news media that reported the presence of drugs on currency; it wrote:-

“A senior analyst at the FSS, the largest provider of forensic services in the UK on behalf of police forces, says traces of the drug (cocaine) can be found on any bank note regardless of its geographical location.

It takes just two weeks for a new note to pick up the drug… “

Read more: http://www.dailymail/Every-British-bank-note-contaminated

So to sum up, anyone with traces of drugs on them is either:  a)  a drug fiend who should be locked up, and/or b)  someone who has £5, £10, £20 or £50 pound notes on them.  We will all be safer if these types are all locked up.

If anyone’s worried about any bothersome civil rights issues over this type of presumed guilt / mandatory search, infringement of freedom, they could always organise a protest.

Witty Kevin Stewart is making a stir once again.

Except that Gordon McIntosh is proposing to the Council that we get rid of such things as protests, or at best only allow them in the Castlegate, where any crowds can easily be kettled.  Thanks, Gordon.

Anyone suggesting his latest report (which also recommends charging groups for holding events in parks as well as banning protests) is over-stepping his remit will be locked up.

King Midas: (ancient Greek mythological figure).  Midas was magically transformed so that everything he touched turned to gold.

Witty Kevin Stewart is making a stir once again.  Back in the day, he told the people in care homes, schools, Choices, etc. that we all had to be ‘reasonable’.  Then he cut their services off and closed their schools.

ACSEF was of course allowed to flourish, city real estate was sold at bargain basement prices, and we wrote off millions of pounds in bad debts.  Reasonable indeed.

Kevin had a wonderfully clever sound bite this week, aimed at Aberdeen City Council’s web-rejecters.  For the benefit of those who have stopped reading it, the P&J wrote:

“MSP Kevin Stewart claimed the administration had an “inverse Midas touch” hindering future private investment in the city.”

As mentioned before, I guess someone forgot to tell BrewDog, BP and a host of other businesses about the hindering future private investment in the city.  But as painful as it is to correct him, I feel I must remind Kev the moral of the Midas story.

King Midas was not a bad man per se; but he loved wealth and lived for gold.  So far, so good – if you’re an ACSEF member.

Kevin Stewart forgot part of the legend when making his brilliant comment

As a reward for his kindness to a Satyr, he was granted a wish – he wished that everything he touched would turn to gold.  At first very happy to be surrounded by his new wealth, Midas soon learnt that he could not eat, as his food turned to gold.  Then he touched his daughter, and she turned to gold as well.

Kevin Stewart forgot part of the legend when making his brilliant comment.  Midas realised his folly in thinking gold and wealth was more important than the environment, living creatures and of course his own daughter.

Midas was cured of his lust for gold, and once cured of the Midas Touch too, he retired to the countryside to enjoy nature. It was almost as if something in life was more important than wealth creation.  Ultimately, the moral of the Midas tale is that the environment and people are more important than gold.  How backward-looking is that?

I’m sure that this ending of the story would horrify our average Chamber of Commerce member, who would gladly have brought their golden daughter to a pawn shop to flog as scrap metal.

In an uncharacteristic slip, neither Kevin nor our local press found time to mention that Kev was on the City Gardens Project Management Board when writing about Labour having the Midas touch in reverse.

Some people might think his connection to the project is relevant to his attack on Labour, but that would just be jumping to the conclusion that a person on a board of a project would want the project to go ahead.   (And that would be as silly as assuming someone in a football supporter’s club might be biased towards the football team).

You might expect this service-axing champion of the people to advise fiscal restraint now until we truly got on our feet again.  You might even think he’d advise restoring some services ahead of web weaving.

No, Kev would prefer us to borrow £92 million on this real estate speculation which he supported as a board member.  (Note – I suppose I should just call it ‘TIF Funding’ like the professional reporters do; if you call it ‘funding’ rather than a ‘loan’, it sounds better and safer, doesn’t it?)

Amnesia: (noun; medical term) forgetfulness; loss of memory.

Isolated pockets of amnesia have hit our business community, press and government.

these ‘industry chiefs’ and our press forgot how rosy things looked earlier this year in a moment of mass forgetfulness.

Kevin forgot to flag up his direct involvement in the CGP project when he criticised Labour for cutting the web.  We’re told by ACSEF, pro CGP politicians, the Evening Express and the Press & Journal that the future is all gloom and doom, and no businesses will come here without the web.

They say we’re ‘closed for business’, we’re ‘frightened’, we’re ‘embarrassing’.  (It’s not that we’re being environmentally-friendly, economically prudent or aesthetically intelligent – no, we’re in the wrong if we don’t want the golden web).

And yet as recently as February of this year things looked so much better.  This is what the Press & Journal had to say back then:-

“Aberdeen is in prime position to help drag the UK economy out of recession, experts revealed today.

“The city has more start-up businesses than anywhere else in Scotland and will suffer fewer public sector job losses than anywhere else in Britain, says a new report.

“Aberdeen was named as one of five cities which Cities Outlook 2012 said was well-placed to aid recovery from the current economic gloom.

“Last night industry chiefs said the Granite City was an ideal location for new firms to flourish.”

I guess that is only true if we have a web though.  Either that or these ‘industry chiefs’ and our press forgot how rosy things looked earlier this year in a moment of mass forgetfulness.

We’re also being told by the guardians of accuracy, PriceWaterhouse Cooper that we need to attract 122,000 people to work in Aberdeen’s energy sector in the next ten years.  Funny, the £71,000+  they earned from web-related consultancy doesn’t get much of a press mention either – yet more amnesia, I think.

So amnesia-wise – Kevin and the press forgot to mention his involvement with the CGP when he attacked Labour; PwC forgot to mention in the press the money it made over the web so far when supporting it, and the media forgot its reports earlier this year as to what a great future Aberdeen has.

Do I think these people and institutions are possibly dishonest, scheming, colluding, corrupt or greedy?  Certainly not – I just think they have selective amnesia.

Additionally, BrewDog and BP forgot that the city cannot survive without the Granite Web when they committed to the area.  Yes, amnesia is at epidemic proportions.

And there we shall leave it until next week.

PS  very best wishes to Declan Michael Laird for his film premier; have a great time tomorrow night and a good trip back to LA. 

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Aug 312012
 

Lush Aberdeen in conjunction with eight other Lush stores throughout Scotland is holding a ‘Willows Weekend’ in association with Willows Animal Sanctuary and Animal Assisted Therapy Unit.

Willows work tirelessly to look after over 300 animals including almost 70 horses, donkeys and ponies approximately 60 cats and dogs and many reptiles as well as over 100 farm animals and birds.

They specialise in helping elderly or more vulnerable animals that have already been refused help by well-known larger national charities and are totally dependent on donations, legacies and grants from benevolent organizations to keep the sanctuary running.

Willows Animal Sanctuary is the largest sanctuary of its type in the Aberdeenshire area and it is a constant struggle for this non-profit organisation to raise the enormous funds needed to feed, house and provide veterinary care for the many animals under their protection.

Their Animal Assisted Therapy Unit has benefitted many disabled and vulnerable people in the community and this service has become a highly valued aspect of the Sanctuary.

Deborah Cowan, store manager for Lush Aberdeen had this to say:

“We’re thrilled to be able to provide this opportunity to raise much needed funds for Willows, and we’re really excited that all nine Scottish Lush stores have come on-board to support this wonderfully worthwhile charity. We will have flyers in store that have information about Willows, as well as info about a few of the adoptable animals looking for their forever homes.

“Willows have also kindly provided footage of the sanctuary and the animals which we will be playing instore. “

All proceeds excluding VAT from sales of Charity Pot hand and body cream on Saturday and Sunday the 1st and 2nd of September will go to Willows to help support the amazing work that they do.

Lush Aberdeen will be providing in-store activities on the day and are encouraging people to bring in any old pillowcases and clean plastic shopping bags. These will become the stuffing for the pillowcase mattresses that the Team will make for the many cats and dogs and other small animals that call Willows their home. They are also encouraging people to donate any pet food that they can spare.

Deborah also stated,

“All people have to do to show their support, is come into any Lush store in Scotland this weekend and purchase a Charity Pot hand and body cream. Lush make no money from this beautiful product, and for this weekend only, all proceeds excluding VAT will go to Willows. We have 3 sizes to choose from and to say thank you for your purchase here in Aberdeen, customers can make their very own Space Girl or Blackberry Bath Bomb!”

The stores taking part are: Aberdeen, Glasgow Sauchihall St, Glasgow Buchannan St, Glasgow Braehead, Livingston, Dundee, Inverness, Stirling and Edinburgh.

Many of the above stores will also advertise the event on their shop Facebook pages so to find out about what is happening in your local area, use the Facebook search function to find your local shop.

Find out more about Willows at their website: http://www.willowsanimals.com/ The Charity has regular open days that are a perfect day out for the whole family.

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Jul 262012
 

Willows Animal Sanctuary are holding a fundraising event at Aberdeen’s Inchgarth Community Centre on Saturday July 28th.

All are welcome at a family fun day to help raise funds for Willows.

There will be stalls with –

  • Cupcakes
  • Home bakes
  • Scentsy candles
  • All sorts (bags, purses etc)
  • Face painting + Glitter Tattoos
  • Hand-made cards

PLUS LOTS MORE STILL TO BE CONFIRMED

There will also be –

  • Raffles (with some fabulous prizes which have been donated in aid of this event)
  • Lucky dips
  • Guess the birthday
  • Bouncy castles
  • Food and drinks

We have also been allowed the outdoor space to hold a car boot sale.

Willows Family Fun Day.
28th July, from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm

Inchgarth Community Centre
Aboyne Place,
AB10 7DRAberdeen

Jul 202012
 

Aberdeen Voice’s Old Susannah can barely contain her excitement over the imminent Olympics, and reviews the week’s past local events. By Suzanne Kelly.

Yet another exciting week in the Granite City has just passed. I had a great weekend with Anthony Baxter, the Milnes, Susan Munro, photographer Alicia Bruce and more at the Belmont on Saturday.

Baxter’s award-winning documentary, You’ve Been Trumped has returned, and at the Saturday evening show Menie residents and director Baxter did a lengthy Q&A session. I enjoyed the additional footage on the windfarm controversy and other updates. The film still makes me angry, it must be said.

Oddly the residents have a completely different take on what is going on at the estate than the Shire’s Clerk of Works – I wonder why?

If you’ve seen the film you will remember shots of trees being buried in a giant excavation. The Clerk wrote to me months back and advised that this hadn’t happened. So there. I sat next to David Milne during the screening; we are both amazed at the unprecedented way this documentary is doing the rounds. Next stops are New York and LA.

Don’t bother looking for any news of You’ve Been Trumped’s return or its many awards in the local press: you will be searching in vain.  If however you want a nice picture or two of Ivanka Trump, you’ll be well rewarded. We are all as good as rolling in money and new jobs now, I’m sure.

Sunday was a great day to visit Willows; Sandi Thom performed a lovely acoustic set in a barn packed with peacocks, peahens, cats and people of all ages. I like her voice, I hadn’t appreciated her guitar skills until I saw her play. You can’t fake it unplugged with an acoustic guitar. Even the animals were attentive. The Willows is a wonderful place to visit – and a great place to support.

Later in the week Old Susannah and Aberdeen Voice editor Fred met with some legal consultants. Do watch this space, particularly if you’ve ever had doubts about the legality of some of the previous Aberdeen City administration’s decisions. I even had a nice long chat with a councillor or two about some of the issues of the day. There may be some developments coming in the near future.

Tomorrow there is an event in Union Terrace Gardens. In the words of Dorothy from Common Good Aberdeen:

“There is to be a very interesting and moving event taking place in Union Terrace Gardens this Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 2 p.m. T.A.C.T. Bereavement Support are to hold their service of remembrance for loved ones, with a Book of Remembrance being opened. Quiet observation and reflection would be the order of the day, and what better place to have it. Common Good Aberdeen will be there to support in the form of helping with the afternoon tea.”

Hope to see you there.

Despite all the running around and events, I’m managing to stick to the diet programme I’ve been put on by Temple Aesthetics. It is called the Alizonne diet, it seems to be working a treat, and I do get a variety of flavours in the meals I eat on this plan.

The problem is, my visits to BrewDog are out for now (unless I go there and drink water and coffee – and with the best willpower in the world, I’m not sure I could do that just yet). Still, I’ve lost 5½ pounds in the first week. I hope to be back to normal eating habits soon. And normal drinking habits too.

This week I have to admit that I got a bit jealous of the lucky few who attended the opening of Trump’s golf course at Menie. I’ve had a look at the goody bag they took away.

Wow. Not only did I miss out on the free toothpaste (I think that’s what I saw) and golf goodies – but I have to do without an embroidered baseball cap as well. Shucks. It was clear that this collection of goods was put together by an imaginative billionaire with the highest standards of class and taste.

Even though I didn’t get an invitation or a bag myself (I wonder why?) I will still try and get ‘Trump’ baseball caps for Anthony Baxter and the Menie estate residents; I’m sure that will make everything seem better.

But let’s move on with some definitions.

Miscalculate: (verb, Eng.) to incorrectly estimate a quantity or a situation; to fail to appreciate all relevant variables when making decisions.

For all those Olympic fans out there (I presume there are some, even though there is evidence coming in to the contrary), it seems that a few little errors of judgement may have been made.  These involve the demand for tickets, and the all-important security arrangements.

Firstly, despite our Prime Minister pleading with us to agree that the games are great for the UK (he doesn’t want us to call them the ‘soggy’ Olympics, we should think of these as the Great Olympics; do make sure you think accordingly), not all of us seem to be keen on the games.  The football matches, which we have all dreamt of for years, are not exactly selling tickets quite as quickly as expected.

This minor miscalculation means that sales have been overestimated by around half a million tickets, depending on who you talk to. The BBC has this to say on its website:-

Organisers said there had been around one million football tickets left but these have been cut in half by reducing capacity at stadiums. A spokesman for Locog said: “We are planning to reduce capacity across the venues by up to 500,000 tickets across the tournament This will involve possibly not using a tier, or an area of a ground, in some of the venues.”

I hear they might want to hold one of the games in my back garden to cut costs.  Old Susannah is no economist of course, but if there are one million football tickets left unsold from an event that was supposed to make tons of money, does that mean we might not make quite as much money as we thought?  Even if the tickets were £1 each (they were not), that is one million pounds less than expected.

G4S, has said that it ‘regrets’ taking on this contract.  I’m sure they do.

But I don’t want to be negative.  I guess people are skipping football tickets in favour of the more important, exciting events, like women’s 10k three legged race or the men’s McDonald’s hamburger eating contest.

I am sure the sponsors won’t mind a little bit that a few million people less than expected will be there to look at their logos and be impressed at sponsorship for the events.

The other wee bit of miscalculation seems to involve how many security personnel would be needed. After all, we have to make sure that no one is allowed to bring in their own food and drink to the stadium village; the sponsors would be up in arms, and sponsorship is what the games are all about.

It seems that the firm that won the security contract have got their sums wrong, and every able-bodied police person in the UK is being told that they must go down to London to help out.

Don’t worry about the crime issues locally or the cost to the taxpayer: Cameron has already explained that the Age of Austerity will last until 2020.  If we have to stump up a few million pounds in police overtime, and the rest of the UK is hit with crime waves, it’s a small price to pay for finding out who is the best 50 yard dash runner in the world.

The firm which altruistically won the work for Olympic Security, G4S, has said that it ‘regrets’ taking on this contract.  I’m sure they do.  Having only secured a contract worth an estimated £57 million or more, depending on who’s doing the calculations, or miscalculations, they can hardly be blamed for small hiccoughs.

They might not have hired enough people, not arranged sufficient training or obtained uniforms, offered salaries below industry standards, but they couldn’t have been cutting any corners for reasons of profit.  After all £57 million doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to; it would barely get you half of a Granite Web.

The Home Office, which usually gets everything perfect, has also fallen a bit flat.  They had no way of knowing that lots of people from around the world would be coming to compete in London.  If the occasional terrorist suspect has got through the Border Agency without a hitch, I guess that’s fair enough.  I will try and remember that the next time I see a granny or a little child being body searched at the airport.

  Tom Smith says economist Mackay just doesn’t understand economics.  Good enough for me.

These little miscalculations demonstrate that this kind of thing can happen to anyone.  Except that it will not happen with the Granite Web. We don’t exactly know what’s proposed to go in the gardens.  We don’t have any working drawings available to the public showing how the ramps over the gardens will be safe, but they will of course have to be enclosed, barbed wire being a cost-effective solution.

We don’t know what the negative impacts will be on the existing city centre businesses, as the streets are clogged with construction vehicles and construction dust, if the thing is allowed to go ahead.  If only there were some other Scottish city that had started an open-ended civic project using many layers of public/private companies, then we could get a handle on the potential problems.  But I can’t think of a single example.

Failing that, we must rely on PriceWaterhouseCooper’s projections of 6,000 totally new jobs appearing and £122 million pouring into the city every year until 2023.  It all sounds so precise, doesn’t it?  Of course there was some economist named Mackay, but Tom Smith says economist Mackay just doesn’t understand economics.  Good enough for me.

So, since the economy is in such great shape, this is a great time to take an Olympic-sized leap of faith, get rid of the city’s only lungs, the UTG trees, clog the streets with construction vehicles – and of course borrow £92 million to pay for it.  It could all either go vastly over budget like the trams in Edinburgh, or turn out to be not quite as lucrative as £122 million flowing in per year.

The Olympics overstated the financial gain case, but this is Aberdeen:  the web will be a profitable, problem free project built to budget and completed without a hitch in no time at all, not like these amateurish cities London and Edinburgh.

Same Sex Marriage: (mod. English phrase) Situation in which two consenting adults of the same sex agree to enter into a marriage contract.

Readers of a sensitive disposition might wish to stop reading. This will be a shock, but there are people out there who apparently are not heterosexual.  Some of these people want to have long-term, legally-recognised partnerships or even marriages with their beloveds.  Clearly this is wrong.

The SNP were going to consider this issue, but have developed cold feet.  And too right.  What kind of a society would we have if people who loved each other could get married as they wanted?  Let’s stick to what we know works – a society where some six out of ten marriages end in divorce and separation.

  Actors are exactly the kind of people who go in for this kind of wild behaviour

On what the kids call ‘social network’ websites, there are a number of protagonists claiming that it should be their right to choose who to be with.  Top among these is one Mr George Takei.  He may be remembered for his role as ‘Sulu’ in Star Trek television and film appearances.

Actors are exactly the kind of people who go in for this kind of wild behaviour.  Elton John too has a ‘same sex’ partner.  Just  because they are intensively creative, intelligent, witty, generous men who have entertained millions for generations is no reason to think this kind of thing won’t mean the entire breakdown of society, or even the planet.

It is clearly our business what consenting adults get up to, so let’s put paid to any same sex marriage ideas here in Scotland – Scotland, arguably the home of modern philosophy, invention and upholder of the Rights of Man.  Next thing you know, we’ll have men going around in skirts.  God forbid.

Confidential to a certain councillor

I am very glad to know that you are having doubts about the private companies set up to carve up the Common Good land of Union Terrace Gardens.  You have confided that you are not sure the financials stack up, and you wonder if this isn’t either a vanity project, or a ‘jobs for the construction boys’ deal.

As you have those doubts, you will have to err on the side of caution, and reject any plans to start any project over UTG at this time.  If you vote to go ahead, you are going against your own better judgment.  I am glad you have these doubts – and as long as there is any doubt, the project must not proceed.  Don’t listen to me:  listen to your own common sense.

Next Week:  Old Susannah wants your gift suggestions for Ian Wood’s retirement.  What do you give the billionaire who has everything?

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Jul 192012
 

Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly reports back from Willows on last Saturday’s Sandi Thom concert and with an update on Willow’s inhabitants.

The weather changed every hour last Saturday, mostly from heavy rain to light rain – but that didn’t deter crowds of animal lovers from heading to Willows Animal Sanctuary to hear Sandi Thom.

Morgan, age 11, visited her favourites including Snowy the goat, and cats Fluffball, Fred and Frankie.

Fred likes to climb on people, and so too does Fluffball (as I later found out: having bent down to tie a shoelace, I became a perch).

The cats were in their finest form, all wanting lots of attention:Arthur,  the cat who had been found in waste ground living in a paint can; Ella, the three legged cat (Paul Rodger’s wife Cynthia is particularly fond of this sweet-tempered feline); Bailey (a fluffy Bailey’s Irish Cream coloured cat) and the rest.

Two new arrival cats were in cages awaiting trips to the vet.  Their owner had been caught in the act of dumping them at Willow’s entrance recently.  Willows staff and I discussed the alarming rate in people abandoning their animals and in particular the kittens left near Mrs Murray’s Home – in a box sealed with cling film.

It was only a miracle they were found before they died from dehydration and suffocation.

What some people are thinking these days defies description.

We need places like Willows, New Arc and Mrs Murray’s to be sure – but we also need to make people aware that when they abandon animals, they are not only causing a great deal of suffering (emotionally physically) to a formerly-loved pet – they are breaking the law.

Thankfully there are also the kind of people who support Willows and other animal shelters, and today’s crowds were an amazing bunch of generous, animal-loving, caring people.

Sarah Norris told me she’d first come when she heard of Paul Rodger’s visit, and has been five times since.   Although she and her family live nearby, they were not aware that Willows welcomes visitors until then.

Mr Norris said:

 “the benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy should be publicised and much better funded.”

 Many people of all ages have benefited from interacting with animals at Willows.  He continued:

“Paul Rodgers, Cynthia Rodgers and Sandi Thom have done very well to raise awareness – if not for them, we might not have visited.”

I knew Sandi Thom would be doing an acoustic set in a barn; I had not expected it to be literally packed to the rafters.

People were seated and standing, and a group of peacocks were on the barn’s beams.

The animals seemed to be listening in –  a black cat was seated quietly in one of the paying seats, watching and listening to Sandi intently.  Being there in this atmosphere was quite an experience.

Sandi later told me that she hadn’t done anything acoustic of this nature before, which surprised me as it had come off perfectly.  There were familiar hits of hers, covers, and material from a forthcoming album.

“I enjoyed myself; it was my first acoustic public performance, and it was a nice break for me.  Playing up close and personal like that reminded me of the meanings of the songs.” 

She brought up the new patrons,

“I was glad I could invite Paul and Cynthia to be patrons; their kinship with animals is amazing and genuine.”

Sandi was soon off to tour all the other resident animals, and spent a good deal of time with the 18 hand gelding McGill which she’s adopted.   We were guided by Willows staff as well as several cats which followed us for more petting; they were greatly enjoying the attention.

Many of the cats here are unsuitable for family adoption for a variety of reasons; Willows was their last chance.  In fact many of the animals here were abandoned or confiscated, and  they would have been put to sleep by local authorities if not for finding a home here.

This is true of the newest arrival – a beautiful, tiny Shetland pony foal.  Its mare and two other Shetlands were abandoned and were due to be put down but Willows said they would take them.  So the pregnant mare has a new-born foal and a new life.

Clearly all of this takes a great deal of money – there are over 300 animals (‘all creatures great and small’ as Paul Rodgers put it on his last visit).  There is no government funding for any of our regional shelters – and they rely on our support.

Willows has several raffles on the go, animal adoption schemes, and a programme of upcoming events (details http://www.willowsanimals.com/ and on facebook via the ‘Help Save Willows Animal Sanctuary’ page.

I finally braved the reptile house – and was pleasantly surprised by a selection of beautiful reptiles and amphibians.  Many people had bought such pets thinking they would be easy to care for – most are not, and so they wind up at places like Willows (if they are lucky).  The Giubarelli family were enjoying these creatures and their visit.

Before it’s time to leave there is just time for another tour around the animals, then it’s time to say goodbye to Kate, Jenny and all the volunteers.  It’s been a brilliant day despite the weather, and everyone heads home happily, as the cats settle down for a rest, and the staff finally get a rest as well.  Until next time.

Jul 062012
 

Willows Animal Sanctuary is pleased to announce that Sandi Thom will perform an unplugged show at the sanctuary’s open day on 15 July. There will be a raffle, tombola and refreshments. Signed photos of Sandi will be available to supporters making a £15 donation.  

Willows is also delighted to announce the birth of Free Spirit, the first foal to be born at the charity in twelve years.
Free Spirit was born to Carly, a rescued native Shetland mare who was part of a welfare case on the islands. She was one of three animals found abandoned, starving, covered in lice and other parasites.

Once they were seized by the authorities, Willows was asked to help to save the ponies. Free Spirit is our symbol of hope for the future. We have named him after Free, Paul Rodgers’ band.

We want to thank everyone who has helped Willows in its recent difficult time. The support has been wonderful. We are not out of the woods but we have various funding potentials on the horizon. Our patrons Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia are supporting a raffle to help raise money with twelve unique prizes including a guitar and tambourine signed by Paul.

Our other patron Sandi Thom’s fundraising gig at Willows on 15 July will be an opportunity to meet her and get her autograph. Tickets are available from Willows.

We are looking forward to a more positive future with the help of the fantastic public. On behalf of everyone at Willows, thank you!

Willows is open as a Visit Scotland attraction each Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 11.30am-5pm with last admission at 4.15pm.

Sandi Thom
Live and unplugged at Willows Animal Sanctuary
Sunday 15 July
Doors open 1pm
Tickets £12 in advance, £15 on the door and £18 seated.

Available from Willows Animal Sanctuary
01771 653112
email kate@willowsanimals.com