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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Dundee

VIDEO: Are these Dundee hopefuls the next stars of Britain’s Got Talent?

November 7 2017

A cast of hopefuls aiming to be the UK's next big thing flocked to Dundee city centre for this year's rounds of the Britain's Got Talent auditions. Around 100 performers including singers, dancers and even a fortune teller, showed off their skills in front of the cameras at the city's Overgate Centre. There were no celebrity judges at yesterday's preliminary auditions but that didn't stop applicants giving it their all in the hope of meeting them in 2018. The popular televsion show's talent producer Matt Scott said: "We are really excited to be in Dundee. "We've had a good turnout and we always find good people in the city. "Next we'll be heading north to Inverness, stopping at various cities and towns on the way." Vicky Serafino, a biochemistry student at Dundee University,  performed Georgia by Vance Joy. The 19-year-old said: "The song reminds me of someone I really like, so it's a good memory. "I normally just sing in my bedroom -  I've been doing it since I was a kid. "Around two years ago I started playing the guitar. "It would be amazing if I get through to the next stage." Taylor McCarthy, also 19 and a student, sang Rolling in the Deep by Adele. Despite her nerves, she said she thought her audition went well. Meanwhile eight-year-old Michael Johnson, a pupil at Mill O'Mains Primary School, showed off his street dance skills. His mum, Angela Brown, said: "I wasn't going to put him forward for this, but he kept nipping my head. "Every time he watches Britain's Got Talent he keeps saying he wants to be on it. "He's been dancing for two years with various clubs around the city and he loves it." Healthcare assistant Demi McMahon, 24, hopes to make singing her full time job one day. She said: "The audition was nerve-wracking but I want to do this as a career so I have to put myself forward. "It's so hard to just get a break. I would be so happy if I got through to the next stage."

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Politics

Benefits cuts plan passes first hurdle

January 9 2013

The Government’s plan for a real-terms cut in working-age benefits has cleared its first Commons hurdle, after heated exchanges between coalition and Labour MPs. MPs voted by 324 to 268 to give the legislation a second reading but former Liberal Democrat minister Sarah Teather rebelled and warned attacks on the poor could lead to the “fragmentation” of society. Labour branded the plan a “strivers’ tax”, as 68% of households caught by the below-inflation rise in benefits were in work. But Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith accused Labour of tying working families into the benefits system and “buying votes” by increasing handouts. The Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill limits rises in most working-age benefits to 1% in 2014-15 and 2015-2016 instead of linking them to inflation. Similar measures for 2013-14 will be introduced separately. A Labour bid to block the Bill and insist on a “compulsory jobs guarantee” was defeated by 328 votes to 262. Mr Duncan Smith said that since the beginning of the recession incomes for those in work have risen by about 10% but for those on benefits they have risen by about 20%. He said: “What we are trying to do over the next few years is get that back to a fair settlement and then eventually it will go back on to inflation.” But shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne claimed the Bill was a “hit and run on working families” who were paying the price for the Chancellor’s economic failure. “Millionaires will have £107,000 more from next year to help them heat the swimming pool,” he said. “It’s not Britain’s millionaires who are picking up the tab, it is Britain’s working families. This bill is a strivers’ tax, pure and simple.” Labour former foreign secretary David Miliband described the bill as “rancid” and claimed it was motivated by party politics. Ms Teather, who lost her job as children and families minister last September, hit out at the way the arguments over the below-inflation rise had been characterised as a division between “shirkers and strivers.” In the Autumn Statement Mr Osborne said the measure was about “being fair to the person who leaves home every morning to go out to work and sees their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits”. But Ms Teather said: “A fissure already exists between the working and non-working poor. Hammering on that faultline with the language of shirkers and strivers will have long-term impacts on public attitudes, on attitudes of one neighbour against another.”

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Angus & The Mearns

Britain’s Got Talent dream dashed for Angus Highland dancers

March 4 2013

The Britain’s Got Talent dream is over for a group of Angus Highland dancers. Despite lavish praise led by show judge Simon Cowell, and a standing ovation from a 3,000-strong Clyde Auditorium audience, the girls of Strictly Alba learned at the weekend that they will not be in the final stages of the ITV hit show. Naturally disappointed not to have been given the chance to shine in the live rounds of the competition after making such a big impression on the BGT judging panel in Glasgow, the dancers from Forfar and Kirriemuir are now looking forward in the hope that their choreography will make it to the nation’s TV screens when the show is broadcast later this year. They are hopeful Highland dancing will get a lift if the comments of chief judge Cowell are aired. https://www.youtube.com/embed/t84vbZ86dQc?rel=0 After watching the Strictly Alba team shown above in rehearsals he said: “I don’t normally like that sort of thing, but that was very, very good.” Fellow judges Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and David Walliams were similarly enthusiastic as the Angus group Linzi Elms, Leanne Wood, Robyn Hart-Winks, Emma Stewart, Holly Milne, Kirstin Stewart, Airlie McIntyre and Sophie Brown easily grabbed four yes votes. The girls’ teachers, Delma Wilson from Forfar and Nicola Grant from Kirriemuir, said they were hugely proud of what the group had achieved. Nicola said: “The girls had a blast on their BGT journey and we’re delighted they were able to show a really different side of Highland Dancing to a huge audience who absolutely loved what they did.” Delma added: “The audition day was a whirlwind of filming so hopefully Strictly Alba will make it on to the programme and we’ll be able to relive some of the excitement of that day.”

Dundee

Britain’s Got Talent stars visit Dundee dance centre

June 10 2014

Britain’s Got Talent dance stars Twist and Pulse have visited Dundee to see the progress on a new centre of excellence for dance and sport. The historic Manhattan Works in Dundonald Street will be the new home of charity Showcase the Street and will also host Dundee Football Club’s youth academy. Twist and Pulse, real names Ashley Glazebrook and Glen Murphy, met Dundee defender Cameron Kerr for a tour of the state-of-the-art centre, which is to open this autumn. The centre’s two professional standard 3G indoor pitches are ready for action and will be available for hire all year round to the community, sport clubs and organisations. The other part of the building will comprise modern dance studios and an area for private parties, and there are also plans to develop a roller hockey venue and a Scottish centre of excellence for disability sport. Showcase the Street chairman Fergus Storrier said: “Within our own charity we use sport and dance to develop the skills and confidence of young people. “We reach over 2,000 participants every week right across Scotland and that number will increase as we expand our activities in other areas throughout Scotland. “However, the fact that we have this fantastic venue at Manhattan Works absolutely cements our presence locally and will allow us to continue to support as many young people as possible and the wider community.” After completing the tour, a suitably impressed Twist said: “Both me and Pulse travel not just the UK but the world and there are very few venues like this that accommodate dance and sport, especially in a building this big and so well equipped.” Showcase the Street was set up in 2003 with the aim of engaging with children and young people from deprived parts of the city and has since spread its operations into several other local authorities. Its work has been supported by the Scottish Government and other bodies.

Angus & The Mearns

Angus dancers wow Britain’s Got Talent judges

January 31 2013

Scotland’s Got Talent and a group of Angus Highland dancers have certainly proved it. Strictly Alba were simply superb when the girls from Forfar and Kirriemuir put a modern twist to traditional dance in the latest Glasgow auditions of the ITV hit show Britain’s Got Talent. Their performance left entertainment mogul Simon Cowell and his fellow celebrity judges reeling. The eight-strong team from the Nicola Grant and Delma Wilson schools in Kirrie and Forfar delivered a contemporary choreography routine that earned them a standing ovation from the audience. Most importantly, however, it also secured four big ‘yes’ votes from Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams. The Angus dancers now go to London for the next stage of their BGT journey. The immaculate routine by Linzi Elms, Leanne Wood, Robyn Hart-Winks, Emma Stewart, Holly Milne, Kirstin Stewart, Airlie McIntyre and Sophie Brown was described by Amanda Holden as being like “Monarch of the Glen.in Ibiza”. Even Simon Cowell’s notoriously hard shell was easily cracked by the girls’ fancy footwork. His comment to them was: “I normally don’t like this sort of stuff, but that was very, very good.” The girls’ proud teachers said thereaction had left them breathless. “Between them they have won dancing titles all over the world, so we know how good they are, but they really proved that to the people that mattered they were blown away by all the judges’ comments and the crowd,” Delma said. Nicola said: “The whole day was an absolutely unforgettable experience hopefully we’ll have the chance to carry the flag for Highland dance on the London stage and have no doubts Strictly Alba will do themselves proud.”

Music

Susan Boyle: “I promised my mother I would make something of my life”

July 8 2017

Like every other teenage girl in the early 1970s, a young West Lothian lass called Susan Boyle enjoyed nothing more than putting her Donny Osmond records on repeat, and singing and dancing with a hairbrush in front of the mirror. Unlike the others, this youngster possessed a voice that would make her a legend and open doors she could only dream of. April 11 2009 – who could forget the dumpy, frizzy-haired, self-confessed “wee wifey” who walked on to the Britain’s Got Talent (BGT) stage to a backdrop of titters and sniggers from the audience? And then she opened her mouth and began to sing I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables. Pitch-perfect notes soared to the rafters as jaws dropped to the ground. Judge Amanda Holden described it as “the biggest wake-up call ever” and within hours the performance had racked up 300 million YouTube views. SuBo, as she was later to be dubbed, was ultimately pipped to the post by the group Diversity, there was still no doubt about it – a star was born. But that stardom hasn’t come without cost. “I’ve always said that before BGT, I was like an outsider looking in,” says Susan softly. “Life was quiet, I looked after my mother until she died. Money was exceptionally tight, I used to fret as to how I was going to pay for gas and electric. I lived hand to mouth. I was happy and I had wonderful friends and family but I just knew that there was something missing in my life. “I promised my mother I would make something of my life before she died. My inspiration for going on the show was to try and change my life for the better and also meet Piers Morgan,” she continues. Appearing on BGT took a physical and emotional toll on Susan. The day after the final she was admitted to The Prior rehabilitation clinic for three days of recuperation. “To be honest whilst I was pleased I had got so far in the show, I was devastated that it was over – I thought that was it and I would have to go home and go back and try and find something else to do,” she admits. “Never did I expect to have the career I have had over the past eight years.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deRF9oEbRso Her debut album, released in November 2009, became the UK’s biggest selling debut album, and Elaine Paige, one of Susan’s idols, called her “a role model for everyone who has a dream.” Susan has realised her own dream of singing a duet with Elaine  – once in 2009 and then in 2015 at the Glamis prom. “Elaine is a fabulous singer and a real pro,” Susan enthuses. Back at Glamis prom by popular demand, Susan says: “I can’t wait to perform at Glamis again. I had such a wonderful time last time and the Scottish weather held out – it was a glorious sunny day. The castle was absolutely stunning and, well, you can’t beat a Scottish audience. “I don’t know how to put it into words but when they start cheering or applauding it’s electrifying. I think it’s incredibly special having your fellow Scots there supporting you and expressing their joy. They really are just the best and the most vocal.” The theme of this year’s Prom is An Evening at the Musicals but Susan is giving nothing away. “I don’t want to spoil any surprises but I’m doing quite a few different songs. But I think – well, I hope – the audience enjoys them.” Never happier than when she’s singing her heart out she recalls a happy childhood filled with music and love. “My family were all very musically inclined – we were like the Scottish von Trapps!” she chuckles. “There was always music in the house and it was my brother Gerry who bought me my first record player. I used to drive my family daft with my singing! When I was a bit older I joined the church choir and I loved singing there as well.” From church choir to global singing sensation, Susan – who cites Ed Sheeran, Adele and Rod Stewart as her inspirations – enjoys travelling around the world to sing. “I love it. I love meeting fans from around the world and I also ensure that I have some time to go and see the local sights – I’ve learned to be a tourist at warp speed!” she laughs. “Life has changed beyond belief, travelling the world, meeting idols, performed and sung for extraordinary people. But ultimately I’m doing what I love – singing.” Touring and all the travelling it involves can be stressful for Susan but at least now she knows the reason why: after a lifetime of thinking she had learning disabilities she reveals how she reacted to the diagnosis of Asperger’s a few years ago – a condition that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. “I had a year to come to terms with it before making it public but it was actually a relief, the missing part of the jigsaw puzzle,” she says. “I don’t see it as a disability – of course there are situations that upset me more than non-Asperger’s people but I’m learning how to cope with all of that now and have strategies that help keep me calm. “Airports do stress me out, but then they stress most people out but I’m learning and trying hard to not react to triggers.” One such trigger occurred recently when a group of local youths attacked her in the street in her home town of Blackburn in West Lothian. She was unharmed but the onslaught inevitable left her shocked. Is forgiveness something she’s good at? “I am good at forgiveness,” she says. “They are kids at the end of the day, they should know better and I want to give them the opportunity to see right from wrong. I’ve been bullied off and on for years and it’s always been dealt with – I am always apologised to and I believe in not retaliating. I just wanted them to have the chance to correct their behaviour and pack it in.” There’s no doubt that this “wee wifey” is a brave and resilient woman, overcoming various obstacles to achieve success, and this is reflected in the tagline on her website: A Wonderful World. Is that something she wakes up thinking every morning? “Well, I’d love to say I am but no, not every morning,” she admits. “I try and be upbeat and positive and make the best of the situation, but I’m human and we have our good days and our bad days! I’m like everybody else. “In comparison to many people I’ve had it pretty easy. I’m independent and I try to be brave... that doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments where I shut the door and have a good old weep. I’m not superwoman.” Perhaps not but with another album coming up and more performances in the pipeline, Susan is showing no signs of slowing down. But there are still some important constants in her life. Back at home in Blackburn, West Lothian, she lives in the house she has always lived in and goes about her day to day life just like everyone else. “Day to day in Scotland I keep myself busy – I may walk to the supermarket or hop on the bus to Livingstone or Edinburgh,” she says. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBKim1tfU7o “I’ll cook, or if I have a performance coming up then I visit my vocal coach for rehearsals. I like being at home with friends and family, doing normal things, “I love my freedom and independence and being in Blackburn where I have lived my entire life means I’m just Susan back home – that normality means everything to me. Life is simple and low key at home but that’s how I like it- it ensures I don’t get too big for my boots!” The Glamis Prom is on July 15 See more at: www.glamis-castle.co.uk www.susanboylemusic.com

Angus & The Mearns

Meffan exhibition tells the story of Angus and the Great War

September 10 2014

The outbreak of the First World War and its effect in Angus is being marked in a new exhibition in Forfar. The exhibition uses iconic objects, artworks, poetry and slideshows to tell the history of life in the trenches, The Black Watch and of local recipients of the Victoria Cross. Visitors to the Meffan Museum and Art Gallery can also view a selection of war drawings by Sir Muirhead Bone, who was appointed Britain’s first official war artist in 1916. Photos by Kim Cessford.

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