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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...

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

UK & World

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.


Calum’s photographs offer a magical mystery tour of the McManus

July 7 2017

A down-at-heel office space becomes the Swiss alps, with Napoleon on his charger; a dishevelled bedroom morphs into a lake with a white swan; a sitting-room becomes a roost for pigeons or a set for Robbie Burns; an artist’s studio transforms into a space inhabited by Bonnie Prince Charlie, with fancy-cakes replacing the colours on the artist’s palette. These are just a few of the fantastical works in a major new exhibition by artist Calum Colvin, which opens today. In Museography: Calum Colvin Reflects on the McManus Collection, the internationally renowned artist has positioned a number of his intriguing photographs within the gallery spaces, allowing them to comment upon, and relate to, selected permanent displays throughout the galleries. “The starting process of my work is a 3D studio set,” explains Calum, who is also head of contemporary art practice at Dundee University. “The set is adorned with every kind of everyday objects – from furniture, ironing boards, gramophones and wallpaper to books, prints and even monocycles. Then I paint my subject, whether it’s a scene, an episode or a portrait,” he continues. Born from a realisation of the love that local folk have for this “gem” of a museum, the exhibition reflects on Dundee and its place in Scottish, British and world culture, using elements relating to the landscape, history and the people from early times to the 20th Century. “There is a strong historical link but also the notion of value in everyday items is at the heart of what I do and I hope I can help people look at the McManus collection in a different way,” Calum reflects. “My work is narrative -driven and it would be great if they get a sense of context between the two.” The exhibition comprises around 20 of Calum’s works, some of which have been created especially for the McManus, while others have been adapted from previous works and presented in a different way. The end result is magical – stunning works, almost like puzzles or riddles, challenge the two-dimensionality of photography. “I like revisiting things,” says Calum. “When the DCA first opened in 1999, I was the first artist on display in there. One of my works included The Common Runt, depicting roosting pigeons, and I have since shown it all over the world. Now, though, it’s part of the new exhibition so it really has come home to roost,” he smiles. Calum’s works use symbolism and metaphor, allegory and analogy, and it’s up to the viewer to put their own interpretation on them. “ “I think my work is quite simple but it can take people a long time to come to terms with it because it is so fantastical,” says Calum. “Familiar objects become fascinating and mysterious. In each photograph, the more you look, the more you see.” His ornithology works, including his personal favourite Mute Swan, can be found in the natural history gallery. “I thought back to everyone, including me, who had grown up with the stuffed animals and it struck me that the ornithology images fitted in perfectly with that,” he says. The exhibition took around two years to come to fruition. “Normally I wouldn’t commit to a show without a five-year run-up at least,” he explains. “But the deadline generated a kind of energy and it came together quite quickly. I’m exhausted but happy!” Museography: Calum Colvin Reflects on the McManus Collections: The McManus Museum and Galleries, Dundee, until October 29. Free entry. www.mcmanus.co.uk and www.calumcolvin.com  

Perth & Kinross

Perth property boom sees homes sold in seven days

April 8 2015

The property market in Perth has become one of the hottest in Scotland, with homes going under offer in an average of just seven days. The country’s biggest solicitor-estate agent Aberdein Considine said that the pace in which properties are changing hands is almost unheard of and similar to levels in Aberdeen during peak periods for the oil and gas industry. The firm’s announcement comes as Perthshire Solicitors Property Centre (PSPC) also revealed an upturn in the local housing market. Its first quarter sales totalled nearly £30 million with 61 properties being exchanged in March, compared to just 48 the year before. James McKay, who heads up Aberdein Considine’s Perth branch on High Street, said the spring market in the city had been fuelled by low mortgage rates. The change from Stamp Duty to a new Scottish system the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax has eased the tax burden on those buying homes below £300,000, making it a true “buyer’s market”. Mr McKay said the average price of a detached home is now just less than £260,000 in Perth and Kinross. “As a national firm, we get a good feel for the market across Scotland,” he said. “What we are seeing in Perth at the moment is the type of market we usually only see in Aberdeen. “In the north-east it has become usual for homes to go in six to 10 days. However, it usually takes a bit longer in Perth. “Our average on the market-to-under offer timescale in Perth was just six-and-a-half days in March, which is remarkable.” He added: “Areas including Oakbank, Viewlands, Craigie, Kinnoull and Scone are particularly popular at the moment. “Buyers appear to be keen to buy in these areas due to schools, bus routes and access to services. The middle market between £100,000 and £250,000 is particularly active.” Mr McKay added that low mortgage rates appeared to be the driving factor. “There is every sign the Perth market will continue to remain active in these areas,” he said. PSPC manager Anne Begg said: “We are delighted to see, in black and white, the promising sales statistics from the first quarter of the year.” She said that although March had seen a boost, overall sales for the first part of 2015 were slightly down. “The good news is that the average price tag being achieved is ahead of this time last year. Values really are holding their own, which is promising for those considering selling up this spring.” Ms Begg said that people were queuing for the firm’s Help to Buy open morning. “With winter in the past, we’re seeing lots of evidence that countless people are ready to make a move,” she added.


Bay Fish and Chips links up with colleagues for charity lunch

April 28 2016

Calum Richardson, of the award-winning The Bay Fish and Chips in Stonehaven, is joining forces with Edinburgh-based restaurant, Ondine, to host a charity lunch with all proceeds being donated to The Fisherman’s Mission. The lunch will see Calum join Roy Brett, Chef Proprietor of Ondine, Gary Welch from Welch Fishmongers and Mel Sinclair, an Orkney-born Private Chef working in Cannes, to create a lunch to remember. The lunch will raise money for the brave fishing communities across Scotland who continuously risk their lives to ensure the freshest catch. Diners can tuck in to the fresh taste of Calum’s sustainable fish and chips, sample a variety of oysters, shucked by Mel at the horseshoe Oyster Bar and enjoy Ondine classics. All supplies will come directly from Welch Fishmongers, which has three shops across Edinburgh. Mr Richardson said he was delighted to be bringing his classic fish and chips to the capital and helping raise money for this worthy cause. “I want to support my friend Roy in his efforts to recognise the incredible sacrifice our fishing communities make to put fish on our plates,” he said. When the risk of losing a loved one is just part of everyday life and the worst does actually happen, who wouldn’t want to help?” The Bay Fish and Chips is already a market leader when it comes to sustainability, provenance and environmentally friendly business practice. Calum’s high standards in all areas of his business meant that in 2013, the popular Stonehaven eaterie was the overall winner of the National Fish and Chip Awards.

Business news

William Smith finds buyer for five footwear stores

April 9 2013

A buyer has been found for five footwear stores owned by troubled Dundee shoe firm William Smith. The move by independent retailer Begg Shoes & Bags safeguards four DE Shoes and one Footwear Factory outlet in the north of Scotland. The takeover secures the jobs of around a quarter of the 200-strong Smith workforce and significantly increases the size of Begg’s estate from three trading outlets one of which is in Perth to eight. “DE Shoes in Elgin, Inverurie, Kirkwall and Lerwick, and Foot Factory in Peterhead have been successfully transferred to Begg Shoes & Bags Ltd,” Smith’s managing director Robert Sinclair said. “The five transferred stores will continue to trade under the DE Shoes/Foot Factory name for the foreseeable future, but customers should understand that they are now owned by a different company so there may be some changes in due course.” The fate of the other workers in the Smith group is likely to become clear after a 90-day consultation period ending on April 19. Mr Sinclair said: “I would like to stress that we are continuing to consult with interested parties looking to take on any of the remaining stores as going concerns.”

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

Family Matters

A great escape to Scotland’s furthest corners awaits couple

June 22 2016

Actor and motorbike addict Steve McQueen once said: “Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.” And while biker Calum Laird isn’t quite such a fanatic, he’s taken McQueen as his inspiration for a tough charity venture. Retired journalist Calum (he was the editor of Commando comic books) and wife Liddy, both 59, from Newport-on-Tay, aim to complete more than 1,000 miles in just two days on one motorbike, a BMW 1200GS, taking in four corners of mainland Scotland (Mull of Galloway, Ardnamurchan, Thurso and Peterhead) between June 25-26 to raise funds for a school in Uganda. Calum explains how the crazy endurance plan, named the 48-Hour Fence-Loupers project, was born. “Liddy, a local dentist, formed The Uphill Trust, a small Scottish charity, three years ago with a very simple aim — to build and maintain Uphill Junior, a small rural school for three 12-year-olds in western Uganda,” he said. “The charity has made huge progress in less than three years and if that pace can be kept up, the school could soon be running on its own. “However, it really needs a security fence round it. Steve McQueen’s best-known motorcycle moment was the famous fence jump in The Great Escape, so it occurred to me to roll the two together – bikes and fences. There was no chance we were going to replicate McQueen’s jump (or loup to use the Scottish word) so an endurance trip around the four corners of Scotland seemed the next best thing.” And as Uphill School is at 5,000ft above sea level, the couple plan to go past Leadhills Primary School — the primary with the highest altitude in Scotland. Thanks to generous sponsors, the couple are approaching their goal of £1 per mile, which will give them enough to pay for the fence. “I’m looking forward to two days on a bike, on Scottish roads, in good weather with my best pal on the back seat,” says Calum. “Mind you, if it rains, it might not be too much fun. Then there’s the possibility we might end up having to walk like cowboys for the week after the run. Oh and there might be midges.” To donate visit: www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/48HFL. For more information, go to www.uphilltrust.uk.

UK & World

Plea postponed for man accused of PC Gordon Semple murder

June 29 2016

The plea has been postponed in the case of a man accused of strangling and dismembering a police officer he met on gay dating website Grindr. Italian Stefano Brizzi, 50, allegedly murdered 59-year-old PC Gordon Semple at his London flat some time between April 1 and April 7. Mr Semple was originally from Inverness in Scotland and had been with the Metropolitan Police for 30 years. He went missing on April 1 and his remains were discovered a week later after a neighbour alerted Scotland Yard to a "smell of death" coming from a property on the Peabody Estate in Southwark Street, south London. Recorder of London Nicholas Hilliard QC has already set a provisional date for Brizzi to face trial on October 18. The defendant appeared before the Old Bailey judge by video link from top-security Belmarsh prison. Wearing sunglasses and a white and beige tracksuit, he spoke only to confirm his name. Prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC asked for the plea hearing to be put back to September 9. Judge Hilliard agreed the new timetable and remanded Brizzi in custody until the next hearing.