Jun 142012
 

Willows Animal Sanctuary announced two new patrons – Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia Kereluk.  The couple were at Willows answering questions, visiting the animals, even playing a few acoustic bars of Bad Company Songs last week.  Would the voice behind Bad Company, Free and The Firm be at home on an Aberdeenshire farm?  Yes, and then some, as Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly found out.

When I last spoke to Paul Rodgers it was for a split second while backstage when The Firm – Jimmy Page, Tony Franklin, Chris Slade and Paul Rodgers – were on tour in America, playing massive arenas and Madison Square Garden… I was a very lucky girl indeed.

When I saw him next, he was petting a cat at Willows, comparatively in the middle of nowhere.  Willows had just celebrated its twelfth anniversary, and in these troubled times is financially stretched.

The Rodgers’ have been supporting Willows and adopting animals there for some time, but what more could Paul and Cynthia do?   And how in the world did they find out about Willows to begin with?

Well, they had to be genuine animal lovers, there is no other way they’d wind up in this part of the world.  The press conference started and Paul launched straight into the subject:-

He jokes about finding Willows.

“I thought we were on our way to Sweden, and Cynthia persuaded me this was a shortcut.” 

Cynthia explains in a little more detail

“We were on our way to Sweden where Paul was going to perform with Sandi Thom. She told us about Willows before, and we wanted to see it.”

Paul continues

“This past Christmas we decided to give our nieces and nephews sponsored animals as presents.  I think half of them are still wondering where their gift is.”

The couple sponsored a dozen or more animals for life last year around Christmas time, which was when I recall first seeing their names linked to Willows.

Cynthia continues

“We spoke with Jenny about fundraising. We wanted to help, and we’ve come up with a few ideas.  No one wants to see it shut.”

 ‘Two wounded creatures’ as Cynthia put it, had found each other and helped each other

The ideas they launched include an international raffle to celebrate the twelve years of Willows’ operations – the top prizes include an acoustic guitar played and signed by Paul, a painted tambourine, other autographed presents, and two mystery gifts.

There will also be an online charity shop (donations needed) and the plan is to raise Willow’s profile, particularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Raffle tickets are on sale now, available online at http://www.willowsanimals.com/

Paul added

“I have a huge respect… I am amazed that they take in horses, donkeys, stick insects– ‘all creatures great and small.’”

Cynthia then brought up the importance of Willows to people.  She retold one particular story -there are dozens – about the animal assisted therapy Willows offers, and how it has changed, if not saved lives.  The story concerns a young boy who was anorexic, a rare but increasing problem for young men, who was involved with Willows therapy.

One day he arrived unexpectedly, just after Willows had accepted a very badly treated horse.  This particular creature had a fractured pelvis, yet its owners were trying to ride it.  The horse became understandably more and more ‘of a diva’ and when it was sent to Willows, the fracture was discovered.  By then the horse had little time or trust for people.

The horse was still in an upset state, and was in a field on its own.  Willows staff could see the young boy was going up to the horse and they were quite concerned as the boy didn’t know the horse’s sad story or condition.  Well, somehow the horse and the boy got along famously from the first minute they met.

‘Two wounded creatures’ as Cynthia put it, had found each other and helped each other.  The horse improved, and so did the boy, who is now living a happy, stable life.

 Cynthia has just been describing a cat they had, which had been hit by several cars in a horrible accident

The story of a little girl in a wheelchair was told; she was in a crowd visiting the sanctuary, and was having problems seeing what was going on.  A horse named Ninja put its head onto her lap and gently nuzzled her.  These may seem like little things to you and me, but for people who have problems, such little things can make an entire world of difference.  This is not sentiment, it is fact.

“There are over 300 animals here, and there’s a story for each one” Paul says, “and there’s a book in it.”  This thought gives me some ideas, we will see.

The Rodgers and Willows staff explain that the government does not give them grants any longer, due to the economic crisis and budget cuts.  They have had to be self-funding for the past year and a half.  Not exactly a great position when you are a last-chance sanctuary for so many unwanted wild, domestic and farm animals.

“The lives of animals are not something you can walk away from” Paul says, and that’s how I feel myself.

Before the press call got going, I had started to ask if the Rodgers had any pets.  I thought I misheard them, because I thought I heard ‘thirty-six cats’; (I put this down to my listening to too much loud music over the years).

“We had thirty-six cats at one point” Paul says – they were all rescued animals.

Cynthia has just been describing a cat they had, which had been hit by several cars in a horrible accident. This poor pet needed help with all of its needs, and it sounded to me like it wound up with the right people.  There is chez Rodgers, a Shepherd crossbreed which weighs 91 pounds, and currently they are down a mere eight cats. Somehow through all this it emerges that Cynthia is allergic to cats – my sympathies indeed, as I am too, despite having two rescue cats myself.

“We have had some interesting trips to Mexico” Rodgers says.

His experiences in Mexico are far from any rock star cliché – they go there and bring back abandoned cats.  They describe going back through US customs with several cats at a time, and because it is standard Food & Drug Administration procedure, they have to declare that the cats ‘are not for human consumption’.  Such are the workings of governments.   

“All of our friends have two cats now – we meet them at the airport and they just take the cats then.”

Well, you can’t say they’re not cat lovers.

The press call then takes a tour through Willows to visit the various animals, something I’d been greatly looking forward to doing again. I was on the lookout for some old favourites of mine.   Sandi Thom has adopted a giant, 18 hands high horse named McGill, who’s out in a pasture. We visit Arthur the cat, found living on waste ground in an empty paint can, the lovely three-legged Elly, and a host of other creatures, all warmly greeted by the Rodgers.

I ask Cynthia for a comment on what I see as being one of the biggest problems at present – people abandoning animals.  She has this to say:-

“People fall on hard times.  Reach out for help; don’t be embarrassed.  But you need to treat living things as you would like to be treated: pet ownership is a lifelong commitment.  There are those who will come behind and help.”

And on that note I leave her, tending to Arthur the cat that needs some medicine.   If you can come behind and help Willows, then please get in touch.

Coda:  Look out for Paul Rodgers performing with an orchestra works from his career.  Also look out for a Sandi Thom concert at Willows in July.
http://www.paulrodgers.com/news.html

 

Jun 072012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah comments on current events and enlightens us with definitions of some tricky terms with a locally topical taste. This week, more ABZ ‘A to Z’, some ATOS, and thoughts on the sad loss of a Voice colleague. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  It’s all been happening up and down the country, and whatever you think of the Jubilee, isn’t it grand that our ConDems have got the unemployed something to do.  Not only have they apparently been given important (albeit temporary) jobs as stewards at Jubilee events, but our government employment arm has combined this great work experience with a holiday.

Lucky invitees from the ranks of the unemployed enjoyed several days in London, camping under the stars (and a tiny bit of rain) to help run Jubilee events.  I have nothing against the Jubilee itself, and it is great to see people getting back to work.

Soon some of our lazier unemployed, including MS and cancer patients, will be given suitable jobs too; all thanks to our Coalition and ATOS, the kind (foreign) organisation which assess who’s fit for work and who’s not (and gives work to absolutely all of these people anyway).

While the layabouts got to layabout in lovely tents in London, it’s come to our attention that Conservative co-chairperson MP Lady Warsi was roughing it as well.  While this frugal woman would apparently stay in cheap B&Bs or kipped on a friend’s sofa  (as befits someone of her office), she’d put in expense claims for the maximum amount allowable, and seems to have travelled to Pakistan with a relative/business partner in tow.  Result!

Nothing wrong with having a bit of an earner now and then, as long as you’re not unemployed.  Voice readers might like to know Warsi’s never won an election.  Interestingly she was a ‘community cohesion’ guru of sorts (I’ll have to define ‘community cohesion’ sometime), despite some allegations that her election material was homophobic.  It is a funny old world indeed, and we are extremely generous taxpayers.

Old Susannah was up in the lovely town of Helmsdale for a long weekend.

This pretty coastal town is missing several tricks however.  There are no concrete high-rise buildings, no development plans, and not even a ring road.  There are several grassy areas with no granite webs planned, and the seashore doesn’t have any bingo halls, amusement arcades or huge factories.  And somehow, without so much as a single shopping mall, the people were friendly, cheerful and happy.

I met a lovely man nicknamed ‘Klondike Davy’ who took me panning for gold.  I say he is nice, but one or two people in the town have ridiculed him in the past apparently.  You see, he’s given prizes for the region’s highland games in the form of the valuable gold and garnet gemstones he’s found while panning.

The criticism from a minority, quite rightly, is that he’s given valuables and his time and efforts away for nothing.  People like that, or who give money to charities, run parties in Victorian Gardens and so on just aren’t stimulating the economy and are obviously mugs.

Apparently some of the lovely schools are in the wrong place, even after all the 3Rs strategic planning and expensive consultants

We don’t need great acts of generosity, children having fun, family days in parks with music – we need to encourage businesses to come to Scotland.  This can only be done by getting scroungers to work and by building granite webs.  Perhaps in 20 years’ time people will still remember having a great day out or winning a unique, valuable gift of gold.

Or perhaps in 20 years’ time people will still remember people being generous to a fault.  I know which I think is more likely.

Before we continue with our romp through ACC’s A to Z of its spectrum of services, spare a thought for our school children.  Apparently some of the lovely schools are in the wrong place, even after all the 3Rs strategic planning and expensive consultants.  I think we should close them all down and build new ones.

But if the children aren’t busy worrying about the unending cycle of exams they are expected to take, like so many dogs jumping through flaming hoops, another worry looms.  No, not lingering asbestos in Walker Road School, now completely clear of contaminants (I’m sure).  I can reveal that Aberdeen Football Club plan to give schools more unsold/unsellable tickets for the home games.

In this heart-breaking development, inconsolable youngsters were given the news they’ll be expected to pack the empty seats.  One young person, close to tears, told Old Susannah

“It’s bad enough to know that AFC is our team and that soon we’ll build an even more empty stadium near Loirston Loch, but to actually have to sit through a match will be torture.  Not to mention the cost of a coke and burger.”   

Reports that child welfare agencies may step in are as yet unconfirmed.  A further rumour suggests unemployed might be forced to attend games – but those surveyed so far have expressed a preference for sleeping in tents in the rain along the Thames.

Finally, Willows Animal Sanctuary needs help (the government only has funds for consultants), and it was such a pleasure to see a big help arriving in the form of Paul Rodgers and wife Cynthia.
(See article – ‘Willows Name New Patrons Paul Rodgers And Cynthia Kereluc’ in this weeks issue. )

The last time Old Susannah had seen Mr Rodgers (or ‘Paul’ as he said I should call him) was in the late 1980s, backstage at a concert for the Firm (if you don’t know – you should – Tony Franklin, Chris Slade, Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers).  John Bonham’s son Jason was the opening act (if memory serves this band of his was called ‘Virginia Woolf’ – but don’t quote me).  Good times.

The couple are animal lovers to serious extremes, as I’ll describe next week.  It was a pleasure to meet them and to visit all the animals at Willows (although I did forego the exotic insects).  PS – The New Ark also could use our support.

Right – on with some more listings from the Aberdeen City Council’s matrix of services.

H is for Housing: – but to examine the city’s housing services, policies and expenditures – to say nothing of properties sitting empty – will take a bit more than a column to sort.  Consider this on hold for now.

I is for Insects: – Yes, you guessed correctly – the link takes you back to the list of extermination services mentioned last week.  I wonder if in the jungles on the equator so many insects and forms of vermin exist as must do here in Aberdeen.

J is for Jobs: – Yes, you can work for the council, and as an added bonus, the city will give you its beneficial assistance when it comes to knowing what you can and cannot complain about in public.  The city has apparently told its employees not to get involved with protests over school closures, park destruction, turning Hazelhead into a recycling centre and so on.

The city kindly warns its employees what will happen if they turn whistle-blower, yet somehow seems not to tell them in what circumstances they are meant to be whistle-blowers (as covered previously).  I would have expected to see a great deal of jobs for exterminators and pest controllers given the coverage this issue gets on the website, but no such jobs appear this week.

There are jobs for trainee planners (which may interest some of our recently unemployed ex-councillors), and indeed a few vacancies for Freedom of Information Officers – hopefully filling these FOI posts will speed things up.

K is for Kerb: – Old Susannah wondered what would pop up when I clicked on the link for kerb:  would it be a reference to the wonderful, smooth, well repaired and dog mess free kerbs we enjoy?  Would it be a reference to our former councillor who was arrested for kerb crawling?

No – there is a procedure for changing your kerb.  Do you want to go wide?  Do you want to change it?  Well, there is a dedicated person and procedure.  Sleep well tonight in this knowledge.

L is for – actually lots and lots of things: – ‘literacy and numeracy’ spring up (good to know the city is numerate, even if it can’t keep track of its millions or the employees who have embezzled hundreds of thousands over the years), as does my favourite ‘Lord Provost’ (I wonder if the new one will be as frugal – and portrait-worthy as the previous?).  L is for Local Plan, Local Development Plan, Local Transport strategy and so on.

But L is for litter.  If you’ve wondered why our streets are the envy of Europe, it’s because of our policy:-

“…it is an offence to drop or leave litter in any public place even if thrown from a vehicle. City Wardens assist the local community in maintaining a clean litter free environment and are authorised to issue Fixed Penalty Notices should the need arise.” – Aberdeen City website

Well, I doubt the need will ever arise for a warden to issue a fixed penalty notice, but if you should ever encounter the rare spectacle of someone littering – like the guy wearing a council badge (he had dark hair and a beard) last Thursday evening who put his trash in the doorway of a closed store on Union Street), then call the city, the wardens will spring into action, and the litter will be cleared away.

But that’s enough for now on the alphabet.  Time for something a bit serious and sad.

One of the Aberdeen Voice Team has passed away; you might have seen something about this on Facebook or elsewhere in the Voice.  She will be sorely missed by friends, colleagues and her family.  It was an unforeseen tragedy.

Can I please please urge anyone who is starting to be unhappy for any reason at all or dissatisfied with their life to open up about their feelings at an early stage.  There is a friend, colleague or relative who wants to help you, I promise.  They would be devastated if they lost you – believe me.   If you’re too proud or too afraid to talk to someone in your life (which is totally understandable), then talk to a counsellor.  But don’t let things get worse.

Like any problem, the best thing to do is get on top of it while it is still small.  If things are already on top of you, then I’m begging you to do something constructive about it today.

A great deal has been done to break down the outdated stigmas attached to depression and other forms of mental illness.  It is not a sign of weakness; it is not a sign of inferiority.  Above all, it is something that can be dealt with.

Whoever you are, whatever side of the political or economic divide, you are valuable, you are needed, and you have contributions to make.  Do please remember that.

  • Readers are invited to add their views on any issue in this article in the comments box below. Note – all comments will be moderated.
Jun 072012
 

PAUL RODGERS, iconic rock/blues singer and songwriter from FREE, BAD COMPANY and THE FIRM, along with his wife Cynthia Kereluk, visited Willows Animal Sanctuary on Tuesday the 5th of June. Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly was on hand to meet the new patrons and say hello to some old friends.

Willows Animal Sanctuary received a huge boost when Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia announced this past Tuesday that they would be active patrons of the animal charity, which celebrates its 12th anniversary this year.

The couple spent a considerable time speaking to the media and to fans, sharing their (considerable) rescue animal stories, touring the facilities, visiting the animals – and crucially launching a raft of helpful fundraising initiatives.

To celebrate the 12th Anniversary of Willows’ services to animals (rescued or abandoned farm, domestic and wild creatures) and people (with animal assisted therapy), there will be a raffle, featuring prizes connected to and autographed by the new patrons. 

An acoustic guitar, freshly signed for the raffle by Mr Rodgers (or ‘Paul’ as he said we should call him) was used for an impromptu version of ‘All Right Now’.

The assembled press did not make for great backing singers it’s true – but it was a great deal of fun.  Other raffle prizes include:

  • a tambourine painted by Cynthia and signed by the couple;
  • a signed limited edition photo;
  • autographed CDS and DVDs;
  • two mystery prizes (but definitely not a horse)

AND a DVD will go to the first 50 people who donate £20 (so – do get in there!  – Willows website has details for donating via PayPal)

Along with their patronage and the anniversary raffle, the couple’s plans include:-

  •   an online charity shop – people are encouraged to donate goods (details tbc)
  •   an increased fundraising profile – the charity will increase its visibility, particularly in Glasgow and Edinburgh but internationally as well.

Willows, like other shelters, is under great pressures – economic downturn, increase in animal feed costs, unpredictable veterinary treatments, and unforeseen rescues all take a toll.  Despite the excellent results the animal assisted therapy delivers, Willows receives no Government funding at all.  As both Paul and Cynthia said, ‘We all want to see Willows continue.’

There is a full programme of monthly events, which will include a Sandi Thom concert on 15 July.  Ms Thom grew up in the area, is a long-time supporter, and has adopted several animals (including a beautiful, formidable 18 hand horse named McGill).

Thom was instrumental in bringing Willows to Paul and Cynthia’s attention.

Within the first few minutes of the press conference, it became clear Paul and Cynthia are committed, genuine animal lovers.

Their stories include homing more than a few rescue animals (36 rescue cats at a peak), and physically rescuing cats from Mexico (more on their experiences will be published next week).

This was their first visit to Willows, but it was clear they had done their homework, for they knew the majority of the animals’ names and the stories behind them.  For instance Cynthia knew several of the cats and had asked to see specific ones, and was soon tending to long-term resident Arthur, who needed some medication.

A clear favourite, a sweet three-legged cat named Elly seemed to be following Paul and Cynthia as we toured the farm.  They say that cats know who cat lovers are; it certainly seemed to be true.

“There are over 300 animals here, and a story for each one,” Rodgers said

“…there’s definitely a book to be written about Willows.”   

I do believe he’s right.

Sixteen year-old Kelsey was also on hand to help with the press conference; he gives some of his time each Sunday to come and help out – which is no mean feat with dozens of stalls to clean, hundreds of animals to groom, and a mountain of farm chores.  His favourite is a delightful pony named Amber.

Jenny Gray, Manager said “We are delighted that Paul Rodgers and Cynthia Kereluk Rodgers are visiting Willows Animals Sanctuary. We have talked extensively about the problems faced by Willows and it is wonderful that we are going to finally meet them! Willows is in trouble at the moment as we only have funding until the end of July.”

“Recently, we have been overwhelmed by the number of animals needing help and we urgently need more donations to help us to continue helping unwanted, abused and abandoned animals. We are entirely funded by public donations and receive no government funding.

“Unlike larger charities, we have no reserves of money and are desperately short of funds. We specialise in helping elderly or more vulnerable animals that have already been refused help by well-known large national charities. We can only continue to help needy animals with your support. 

“At present, Willows cares for over 60 horses, ponies and donkeys and more than 100 farm animals and birds, approximately 60 cats and dogs, 30 rabbits and many other small animals and reptiles. Many of these animals are very elderly, have been treated cruelly, neglected or are simply unwanted – Willows is their only hope.”

“We also have an on-going Animal – Assisted Therapy programme for vulnerable people in the community. This programme has helped many people gain confidence and new skills enabling them to seek employment or other opportunities. It has proved to be very beneficial for our clients’ on-going recovery and we helped hundreds of people each year. We need your support to keep this hugely beneficial programme going.”

PAUL RODGERS says:

“We are currently just down from 15 cats to 8 and have a 95 lb rescue dog, so my fingers are crossed that Cynthia does not fall in love with yet another set of sad eyes.Willows does such a great job, and we want to see how we can help them secure their future so that they can continue to care for, love and find forever homes for these abandoned sweet souls.”

Aberdeen Voice readers can contact Willows as follows (why not arrange a visit, adopt an animal and/or buy a raffle ticket?):-

Mar 012012
 

Aberdeen Voice photographer Rob and I attended Willow’s Animal Sanctuary Open Day on 25 February and had an absolutely wonderful time. Were it not for the snow which started when we were there, Rob would have had a hard time getting me to leave. Suzanne Kelly reviews a splendid day out.

It was a nice drive to Willows from Aberdeen; the countryside is beautiful.

Willows was well signposted, and a helper was on the main road to ensure people found their way.

It is a spacious and friendly haven for animals and people. Getting to know some of each was a pleasure.

I met Sue during the event, and she told me that when she and her husband moved to Scotland six years ago, they soon discovered Willows, had visited and supported them during that time and wanted to do more.

It was then that Kate found that there were like-minded people who really wanted to help, so they were introduced. Now they have a fundraising team who have thrown themselves into their task with a will.
Although they have only been together for about fifteen months, they have already raised over £9,000 through, to name but a few events, stalls at open days, coffee mornings and bingo evenings. The team now numbers eight, Sandy, Sue, Ann, David, Ashleigh, Leigh, Lorna and George.

There are many people who help with donations of prizes etc, and who help support the team in various ways. They have lots of new ideas for future events, so have confidence that the visitors will really enjoy themselves whilst supporting Willows

“Willows not only helps animals, but we’re definitely helping people as well,” Sue tells me, “We’ve seen people blossom.” 

The office has a noticeboard divided into several sections. There are general news stories and items about animal sentience.

Yes, they do think, and feel, and know both pain and fear as well as love and happiness.

One section was about the fantastic work Willows does in bringing people with special abilities together with the animals. Both sides benefit from this interaction.

We now know that people with conditions such as autism improve hugely through interaction with animals. Horses and ponies can provide unique, valuable therapeutic benefits.

Sue and I talk a bit more, and she tells me of a fairly new arrival, McGill, a gigantic horse at 18.2 hands.

“His owners had rented him out, and then of course, you never know whether there were any problems, and consequently, when he came to Willows he was very nervous. And he had some behavioural issues”, was how Sue described McGill.

Having worked with horses in my distant past, I was ready for a highly-strung encounter with a giant. Well, McGill was indeed a giant, but he had an unbelievably sweet temperament.

Rob and I stayed and stroked him for quite some time; many others did too. If this horse had had any emotional issues, they were a thing of the past. Sandi Thom has since adopted him. She originally had adopted another animal, but it had sadly passed away.

Well, we and families patted goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, ponies, horses and the most amazingly friendly selection of cats you could ever find.

The majority of them sat on a large hay bale, which the sun was hitting. They were all soaking up the sun and loved being patted.

I particularly fell for a little feline called Gingersnap, and another gentleman called Arthur.

Arthur had been living in a tin can in a bit of scrub ground when they found him.
Sadly, he lost both his ears to skin cancer, not uncommon in white cats. I was completely won over.

We finally had a chance to talk to Sandi Thom. Her family are from the general area, and they seem to have a love of horses going back generations. Sandi seemed genuinely glad to be there, and signed several autographs as we spoke.

She’d also donated a very gorgeous autographed acoustic guitar as a raffle prize. We mentioned the generosity of Paul Rodgers and his wife, who adopted some thirteen animals.

Paul has donated several signed copies of his new DVD for Willows to sell (yes, I’d bought one). Ms Thom commented that people she’d met in the music industry often seemed to have a soft spot for animals. She clearly did.

Before we left, we spoke to Mr and Mrs Reid, who seemed to enjoy visiting the horses and have been coming for quite some time.

If the snows hadn’t started and if we didn’t have a fairly long drive back to Aberdeen, I might have stayed until they threw me out.
If I didn’t already have two rescue cats which are just a touch on the needy side, I just might have adopted another.

Please visit the Willows website to learn more. Willows helps wild, domestic and farm animals – and people of all ages.

If you can help, please get in touch. http://www.willowsanimals.com/

Feb 032012
 

With thanks to  Jenny and Kate at Willows

Willows Animal Sanctuary  invite you to come along to an open day on 18 February from 12 noon to 4.00 pm.

Willows Patron Sandi Thom will arrive around 1pm, and autographed photos will be for sale with all profits going to Willows. Lush Aberdeen have generously donated a collection of treats to be raffled off.
There will be baked goods, ferrets and many more of the great variety of creatures that live at Willows will be on show – farm, domestic and wild animals are all given a shelter, and no healthy animal is ever put down.

In addition, legendary singer Paul Rodgers, founding member and songwriter from Free and Bad Company and member of The Firm; and his wife Cynthia sponsored 13 of Willows Animals for Christmas.

Paul said:-

“We heard the unusual story about the piglet Babe and her great escape and dug a little deeper to find that all of the animals were in need of sponsoring.”

Paul has also donated 100 copies of his latest DVD “Live in Montreux Paul Rodgers and Friends” featuring appearances from Queen’s Brian May, Journey’s Neal Schon, Jason Bonham and others.

Signed copies of Paul’s DVD are available at £25 from Willows online shop.  Details of Willows at http://www.willowsanimals.com/ and DVD details/order form at http://shopatwillows.com/shop/catalog/search?shop_param , so even if you can’t make it to Willows on the 18th, you can still get a signed DVD.

Willows Animal Sanctuary is the largest sanctuary in Aberdeenshire and will try to help any animal in distress. We operate a strict no kill policy and only euthanise an animal on veterinary advice.

We look after over 300 animals including around 60 horses, ponies and donkeys, approximately 60 cats and dogs and many reptiles as well as over 100 farm animals and birds.

We are totally dependent on donations, legacies and grants from benevolent organizations to keep the sanctuary running.

We are entirely funded by public support and receive no government funding. Unlike larger charities we have no reserves of money and are desperately short of funds. We specialise in helping elderly or more vulnerable animals that have already been refused help by well known large national charities, but we can only continue to help needy animals with your support!

The Animal Assisted Therapy Unit at Willows

Willows helps many vulnerable people with its animal assisted therapy programme. The concept of allowing rescued animals to help vulnerable people on the road back to health is very innovative and has been independently evaluated and shown to be highly beneficial.The therapeutic placements and corporate team building days include equine management, animal husbandry, therapeutic music sessions, drama, bushcraft and mediaeval re-enactment  Please contact us if you would like more details.

Willows Animal Sanctuary is situated on the road between New Pitsligo and Strichen (B9093)

 

Nov 082011
 

Willows Animal Sanctuary is raising much-needed funds tomorrow all day with a sale of gifts in Trinity Mall.

There are small ’stocking stuffers’, adorable soft toys, and photographs by noted photographer Nick Robinson of a wide range of subjects, all mounted and ready to frame.

Willows has to feed wild and domestic animals and with winter coming on, needs your support  Further information:

http://www.willowsanimals.com/

Oct 282011
 

Old Susannah reflects on what’s been going on, who’s got designs on our City, who’s doing what out of the goodness of their heart, and wonders if there’s enough ‘connectivity’ yet.  By Suzanne Kelly.

It was another busy week in the Granite City. Have been busy decorating cupcakes with Sweet Lily Adams (it’s a hard life), and trying out new Jo Malone perfumes (I love their Gardenia cologne, and the orange blossom candle is my favourite).

NB: Jo Malone has absolutely nothing to do with Ho Malone, although the idea of Aileen and I having champagne and canapés together of an evening is an enticing prospect.
She is meant to email me back about the financials for the deer cull (we might not have enough money to kill stuff you see– or it could be a bluff).

Once she does write back, I’ll suggest that the two of us go out for drinks and dinner. Watch this space.

I actually went to some shopping malls without being accosted by guards, and I tried to avoid looking at the six design finalists more than was absolutely necessary. It was truly a car crash of an exhibition:  I had to force myself to look, and then in horror could not look away again.  Whatever the organisers say, not everyone at the show is convinced by the scheme or any of the designs by a long way.

The show has had a profound impact on me as has the TIF application – I think of these things and unavoidably burst out laughing.  You have to hand it to these people  – the emperor has no clothes on, but thinks it all looks fantastic.  If you are free on 1st November, The Moorings is hosting its own alternative design competition – details on Facebook, where the alternatives are far more popular than the official site.

For some reason when I was back at the Academy shopping centre for the first time since my last little visit, my mind turned to the old Benny Hill show.

The other week when the guards were chasing me round the Academy and St Nicks (for taking photos), I could practically hear the Benny Hill theme tune in my head.  If you remember, the wealthy, ageing Benny Hill surrounded himself with pretty blondes, and promised everyone that they would be generously remembered in his will. In the end, almost no one inherited a cent.

What on earth made me think of a rich, older man making promises to leave money to lots of people (including blonde actresses) I couldn’t tell you. The mind works in funny ways.  I must have got something stuck in my craw.

Obviously it was not as vibrant as being in a shopping mall, but I took my turn on Tullos Hill Monday night (yes, we are keeping a watch on the hill – if you want to get involved, get in touch) and saw a solitary deer on two occasions. 

It was obviously vermin, as it was peacefully doing nothing.  I am sure this little vegetarian would have eaten thousands of trees of a single evening.  A well-meaning man had a dog off a lead – the dog chased said deer away.  The man saw nothing wrong with this, saying his (fairly small) dog would not be able to catch the deer.  True, but not quite the point though is it?

Please let your dog run free if it will respond when you call it back.  If not, well, then don’t.  Wild creatures can be petrified in these circumstances.  In the past week and a bit we’ve a child badly bitten by a dog, a dog attacking another dog, and a charming man using his dog to attack police.  It’s just as well we got rid of dog licensing, isn’t it?

But onwards with a few definitions.

Charitable:

(adjective) generous, unselfish, giving behaviour.

Many of us here at Aberdeen Voice help out our favourite charities and causes when we can. But our efforts are quite second rate when compared to the heroic, unselfish, self-sacrifice practiced by some of the City Council’s officers. Step forward Mr Gerry Brough and Ms Jan Falconer.

These two have been working in part on a voluntary basis to make sure that we get something built in boring old UTG.  It is very generous of their employer, Aberdeen City Council to allow them to toil away on the garden project.

It was Jan who spoke to the Torry Community Council about UTG some months ago (Gordon MacIntosh had a dinner to go to instead of seeing Torry), and she promised everything would be spelled out and transparent.

I am convinced she is right – everyone on the City Gardens Project and associated companies has everything perfectly clear. And once the diggers move in, the rest of us will see what’s happening too.  Here is a statement from a report, spelling out how she works:-

 “I have only recently started in this project and the work I have undertaken other than attending meetings is administrative. My hourly rate exclusive of on-costs is £26. I work an average of 50 hours per week making an average of 200 per 4 weeks I work while I am contracted to 148 hours (37 hrs per week). I regard all other administrative and desk-based tasks as taking place during this 11  additional unpaid weekly hours (52 hours per 4 weeks less 8 hours for a flexi-day leaving 11 hrs per week)–which represents a cost saving of £2288 since working on this project from 2 February 2011. (i.e. 11 hours x 8 weeks @ 26 per hour = £3,120). Outwith this is Community Meetings to which I attended the Torry Community Council Meeting for 3 hours in my own time representing an additional saving of £78. This is my choice as I wish the project to be a success whilst following the Council’s instruction”.

Again, the real philanthropist is Sir Ian Wood, without whose promise of putting something into his will, we would not be where we are today.  (Hmm – who’s supplying the office space, light/heat, printers, consumables for all these extra hours?  What is the EU working time directive?  Just curious.)

Mr Brough has occasionally become a wee bit heated when discussing the whole situation, and has written to some local opponents of the new gardens that they are just jealous of Ian.   Here is an example of Gerry’s unselfish nature, hidden behind the sometimes less-than-genteel facade:-

“My hourly rate, excluding on-costs, is £46. However, I work an average of 55 hours per week. Therefore, I would regard all other administrative and desk-based tasks relating to the City garden project as taking place during the 17.5 additional unpaid weekly hours that I work for the council – which represents a cost saving of £20,125 since 6 October 2010 (i.e. 17.5 hours x 25 weeks @ £46 per hour = . £20,125). Indeed, it would be possible to claim that all City Garden work is effectively more than made up for by this additional no-cost time input. Consequently, it can be argued that any input to the City Garden Project is effectively on a voluntary basis, at no cost to the council”.

Bargain!  Only £46  per hour, and he’s willing to work extra at that rate!  I am impressed!  In fact, the amazing report that these quotes come from can be found at:

…. it has some real gems – like the fact they see no legal problems with getting the land and only 10 Freedom of Information Requests had to be dealt with.  You will be amazed as you read this; please be my guest.

While you and I could never hope to equal these giants of giving, who expect nothing in return for their efforts (not even a private sector job or promotion of some kind I am sure), I will take a moment to say that many local charities for people and animals need your help now.  Check out Voluntary Services, Contact the Elderly, Willows, New Arc  just for starters.

They are all in need of money, goods and if you’ve none of those to spare, they need your time.  Obviously you won’t get a carpark named after you, but you might wind up chatting to great people on a Contact the Elderly event, help out with animals, or do one of a hundred other things worth doing.  If you can, then please do get in touch.

Neutrality:

(adjective) impartiality, indifference,

Aberdeen City will not – so some claim – spend a single penny on anything to do with the City Garden Project.  Its officers might be volunteering their time and sitting on boards, companies and committees about changing our dreary Union Terrace Gardens from something Victorian to something 1950s – but it won’t cost us.

The people in Aberdeen who brought us the BiD funding are completely neutral and indifferent to whether or not the City Gardens Project borrows 70 million (probably a wee bit more – say 100 million) through TIF Funding.

This is proved by the BiD people sending out a very smart draft letter for businesses to send.  Here are some extracts from the text that an Aberdeen City employee is sending to local businesses (text in blue is mine):

“I have been asked by ACSEF (to) highlight [sic] that additional support is also required from local businesses to ensure that Aberdeen City can access TIF funding”. 

Well, that’s neutral enough for me.

“We would be grateful if you could consider writing to Barry White, Chief Executive, Scottish Futures Trust, 11-15 Thistle Street, Edinburgh EH2 1DF in support of Aberdeen City Council’s TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) submission” 

Aberdeen City is only asking businesses to write to the Scottish Futures people; it’s not biased at all.

“The TIF being proposed by Aberdeen City Council would unlock up to £80 million to deliver a range of city centre improvements as part of the city centre masterplan. At the heart of the city centre regeneration is the City Garden Project, which has already secured a commitment of £55 million of private sector investment with a further £15 million planned.”

Nothing wrong with a little unlocking, I say.  Who can argue with this factual paragraph?  Yes, sounds quite impartial to me.

“TIF is an invaluable and innovative tool for stimulating greater investment and regeneration, achieving major city centre transformation, and retaining and attracting existing and new business investment. It is therefore vital for Aberdeen to be selected as one of Scotland’s six remaining TIF pilot projects” 

Yes, they are saying TIF is great and it is vital for Aberdeen to get TIF, but I’m sure they really are as neutral as they first claimed.

“We hope that you will demonstrate your support for the Aberdeen TIF submission by making it clear that the Scottish Government needs to demonstrate its support for Aberdeen City and Shire by investing in the regeneration of Aberdeen city centre which, unlike Scotland’s other major cities, has received little or no public infrastructure investment over the last fifty years.”  

Yes, it is only fair that Aberdeen gets its own tram fiasco by having a big infrastructure project.  I do seem to remember that Audit Scotland thought things were so messed up here that we weren’t supposed to do anything big for a while.  But you can’t fault the City’s claim of neutrality just because they are asking businesses to beg for TIF.

Some of you out there might be starting to doubt whether or not the Aberdeen City BiD people are neutral when it comes to the City Garden Project getting TIF funding.  This excerpt from a letter from a Bid Bod should end any doubt:

 “Aberdeen BID is entirely neutral with regard to the City Garden project …”

So yes, Aberdeen City Council and its BiD people are neutral, they are just keeping businesses in the loop, and giving them a letter of support to sign so we can borrow somewhere between 70 million and 100 million (depends who you ask, really) for your great-grandchildren to pay off for building Teletubbyland. Neutrality to match the volunteer work, you might think.

It might sound like it’s asking for help from businesses getting TIF, but they have said they are  impartial so that’s that.

One tiny part of this impartial letter requires a little more study:

I draw your attention to what might be a typo (or a Freudian slip) in this letter which I found amusing (underlining is mine)

“ACSEF is a public private sector partnership that seeks to grow the economy and enhance its quality of life through a joined-up approach. With the private sector standing shoulder to shoulder with the private sector, ACSEF has facilitated, influenced and delivered a variety of major projects that are helping the region and Scotland to meet its growth targets”

Is the private sector going to stand shoulder to shoulder with itself – or is that exactly what the creation of ACSEF with taxpayer money has created and what we should be grateful for?  Answers on a form letter, please.

Just to show that I too understand neutrality, here is a link to a letter you can send to Barry White.

Tell him you don’t want a giant worm or a monolith that will cost someone, somewhere down the line tens of millions – if not one hundred million pounds.  Tell Barry the designs are awful, and the city needs to attract people with excellent schools, great medical facilities, safe, clean streets, and support services for those who need them.

No one is going to live in our city because it has more parking, more offices or a few giant concrete ramps where once 400 year-old trees once stood.  Use this letter as it is; customise it, or send your own to :  Barry.White@scottishfuturestrust.org.uk

Next week:

The  mystery of the uncomprehending Chief Executive, and the Case of the Missing Postcards in which Valerie Watts only receives 35 of the hundreds of anti-cull postcards created – over 60 of which were hand delivered by Old Susannah to a security guard who commented ‘loads came in’ that week – and the week before.  Where are the missing postcards?  Did deer eat them?  Answers on a postcard please – or get one of the remaining postcards and send it to the City – pop into Lush for your card – and some very nice ‘candy cane’ soap.

 

Aug 242011
 

Compiled by Fred Wilkinson.

Willows Animal Sanctuary is holding an open day this weekend and hope as many people will come along and help raise money for their 300 rescued horses and other animals.
A registered charity, Willows offers dedicated care to abandoned and ill-treated domestic and farm animals, and operates a strict no kill policy.

The Animal Sanctuary has been rescuing animals from distressing situations since 1989 and whilst the number of animals needing help has risen enormously over time, the number and size of donations has dropped off dramatically.

It is hoped that the public will turn up in good numbers to enjoy a fantastic range of fun activities while at the same time provide a much needed cash boost for Willows as they strive to provide a comfortable future for the animals in their care.

Scheduled activities include:

*Live Music.
*Face Painting.
*Body Shop stall.
*Beastie Hoose.
*Gift Shop.
*Leeann’s Jewellery stall.
*New Living History.
*Coffee Shop.
*Lots of Tombolas and Raffles.
*Bottle Stalls.
*Treasure hunt.
*Home Bakes and preserves.

New for 2011!
Fascinating and informative living history displays and talks. Learn about the past in a fun way through practical demonstrations. These talks will show which of our rescued animals would have been around in historical times.

Date: Saturday 27th August.
Time: 11.00am – 5.00pm

Willows Animal Sanctuary is situated on the road between New Pitsligo and Strichen (B9093).
Reg. Charity No.SCO29625
Tel. 01771 653112
www.willowsanimals.com
email kate@willowsanimals.com

Notes:

In 1999 Willows became a recognised Scottish Charity and began to specialise in accepting animals that had been rejected by other charities as being unsuitable for re-homing.

Willows now provides a “last chance sanctuary” and most of the animals here would not be around today if Willows did not exist. We at Willows act as a lifeline for needy animals and offer them safety, rehabilitation and re-home those that are suitable. Willows offers dedicated care to abandoned and ill-treated domestic and farm animals.

Willows helps many vulnerable people with its animal assisted therapy programme. The concept of allowing rescued animals to help vulnerable people on the road back to health is very innovative and has been independently evaluated and shown to be highly beneficial.

For more Information on Willows and how to make a donation See: http://www.willowsanimals.com/

Jul 152011
 

New Arc’s Keith Marley talks to the Aberdeen Voice about New Arc’s activities and ways the public can get involved.

While some of Aberdeen’s great and good are spending their time and our money getting their portraits painted and throwing parties to celebrate the great occasion, the entire spectrum of people and animal charities are suffering cuts, and it will get worse.
There is no time like now to get involved with a charity of your choice, and The North East Wildlife & Animal Rescue Centre, better known as The New Arc would like your help.

The Northeast of Scotland has an abundance of wildlife and domesticated animals – but very few resources to cope with abused, injured and/or abandoned animals.  Willows in New Pitsligo is one, and the New Arc in Ellon is another.

Keith Marley from New Arc attended the Tullos Hill picnic in June arranged by Fred Wilkinson of Aberdeen Voice.  He entertained many of us with tales of rescued animals of all kinds.  He had once been called to a council flat – only to find it overrun with dogs, rabbits, cats, a parrot and the animal to be taken into care:  a very large pig.  He had to smuggle it out in a blanket to try and avoid embarrassment for its former owners; it was squealing, and kids on the crowded street asked what it was, and he said it was a sick dog.

Unfortunately not many of his stories are amusing.  People who are feeling the economic pinch are abandoning animals – some most cruelly.  A recent news story was that of a cat left in a locked box on the side of the road.  It would have surely been killed or starved to death in its small cage if not for a very eagle-eyed and caring passer-by.   The people who did this are still being sought by the Scottish SPCA.  Just as a reminder – animal cruelty and abandonment are completely illegal (as well as unacceptable to any thinking person)

Animal abandonments are increasing; the cost of driving out to rescue animals has risen with the cost of fuel, and the cost of feeding the hungry mouths at New Arc has risen as well.  Animal charities are in a lose/lose situation at the moment.

Keith would love volunteers to contact The New Arc; he would also love donations.  And ideally, he
would like people to get involved with fundraising:-

“We are asking for volunteers to form a fund raising group – Friends of The New Arc. FONA Ideally
we would like 2 groups, one based in Aberdeen and one covering the rural areas.

“The responsibilities of the fund raising groups will be to raise awareness of the work we do here
and generate fundraising ideas and assist in the coordination, management and implementation of those ideas into reality.

“If you feel this is something you could assist with either by sitting on the committee or by
volunteering your time to assist in carrying out the activities then please contact us by phone on 0796 2253867 or by e-mail at thenewarc1@aol.com

The New Arc will not destroy healthy animals; it seeks to rehome animals where possible or return to the wild as appropriate.  They are, unfortunately unable to take dogs, and at the moment cannot take any more cats.  They have a good number of animals which need homes, so if you can offer a suitable home to one, please do get in touch.

There are many animals which need to stay at the shelter for the rest of their lives – these animals desperately need sponsors.  New Arc also features a lost/found pet section on their website.  The website also offers useful tips as to how to assess and react to an animal in the wild.

There is no government funding – New Arc runs on volunteers and donations:  all monies donated go directly on maintaining the sanctuary and caring for the animals.  Here is a video of New Arc in action:-

Most young wild animals will have a parent or parents somewhere nearby; it is almost always best to leave a young wild animal alone – if you touch it, the odds are the parents will abandon it.  What might seem like an injured or abandoned wild animal to you or me may just be a fledgling.

If you do encounter an injured animal, there is also good guidance on what to do.  The New Arc seem to take calls ‘round the clock; I once needed Keith’s help and despite having a hospital appointment on the same day, he showed up to assess the problem I reported as soon as he could.

Please do visit the website at:  http://www.thenewarc.org/  and if you can help the New Arc, then please get in touch.

 

Oct 012010
 

Old Susannah gets to grips with more tricky terms.

A Quick Word on Willows Animal Sanctuary
Aberdeen City Council can find £200K for public relations firms to find out why people don’t want to get rid of Union Terrace Gardens.  Ian Wood can offer £50 Million to the City if it spends twice as much in getting rid of Union Terrace Gardens.  While the rest of us can’t hope to do anything as grand or important, Old Susannah would ask if anyone out there can please make a donation to Willows Animal Sanctuary in Fraserburgh which is in desperate need of money and animal feed (feed is being collected for all kinds of animals for Willows at Love and Roses, South Crown Street, Aberdeen).

Please visit http://www.willowsanimals.com to see what good work they do, and how you can help them survive.

The unfortunate reality is that when we are in hard, uncertain economic times, two things go wrong for animals.  Firstly, people cannot always afford to keep making donations to charities, and funding for many good causes from the private sector falls (which is why we are lucky to have such a compassionate, caring local government).  The second is that in hard times animals get cruelly dumped as people can’t afford food or veterinary care.  Willows is a major player in helping animals in the North East – please help if you can.

Property Maintenance
This may come as a surprise, but if you are a homeowner, then you should maintain your property.  Yes, really.  If you were unsure whether you should let your roof leak or your stairwells collapse, then Aberdeen City Council has come to your rescue.

Inspectors are visiting your streets as I write, looking at your gutters, stairs and slates, and if anything’s amiss, then a  dedicated team of inspectors will send you a glossy colour brochure and a letter telling you what you should do.  The keener inspector will ask to be let into your building, garden or home with no prior appointment.  (The phrase ‘Just say no’ springs to mind).

Old Susannah has received such a letter, advising that her building’s occupants ‘might want to look at their guttering’.  The letter helpfully says that the Council cannot force us to make any repairs – AT THE MOMENT.  Strangely enough, there is nothing to advise where the extra money will be coming from to make the suggested repairs.  It is gratifying to know that the Council can free up money and resources to tell private property owners what they should do.  Over the past few years I have seen people trip and injure themselves on the City’s hazardous, uneven pavements, and I know people who have waited months in Council flats for serious repairs including leaks.

A few years ago a woman was injured when her council flat ceiling fell in on her.  A certain local builder whose kitchen floors are prone to give way if too many people are on them,  may or may not have heard from the Council.  But as we all know kitchens are dangerous places, and only a few people should ever be in one at any given time.  I also understand from reliable sources  that there may be a slow-down on Council flat refurbishments and workers are being temporarily (?) laid off.  ‘Practice what you preach’ will appear in a forthcoming definition.

Project Management
Project management should be simple:  a project needs three things:  a budget, a timescale, and a ‘scope’ of exactly what the project should be, make, or accomplish.  About this time last year, NESTRANS (our friendly North East transportation quango/board) told an Aberdeen Civic Forum that it did not know how much the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route would cost or where the money was coming from.  It also could not say where the route would be going exactly.  Other than such trivialities, the AWPR will no doubt be a triumph.  The speaker did assure us however, that the project would happen in 2012.  Watch this space.

Bad Debts
The City Council HAS shown signs of improvement lately.  This year we are only (?) writing off £2.8 million pounds of ‘bad debt’ this year.  This is a vast improvement on the £11 million it wrote off a few years back.  It seems it’s just too hard to get money from some people who owe tax, parking fines, other fees – so we just declare it ‘bad debt’ and that’s that.  An affluent, economically sound city like Aberdeen can afford to do so.  Especially now that it has found some way to borrow £200 million worth of taxpayer’s money from the central government – which somehow is not going to cost us anything.  Well, unless you are a taxpayer.  Then you are loaning the City Council money.  No prizes for guessing that they want to put most of this into getting rid of  Union Terrace Gardens (sorry, building a prosperous civic square with parking and shops) – and have no interest in reinstating the many services it  has cut .