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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

Girl, seven, died when bouncy castle blew away at Easter fair, court told

April 17 2018

A young girl died when a bouncy castle that two fairground workers had failed to “adequately anchor” to the ground was blown across a park with her inside it, a court has heard.Seven-year-old Summer Grant had been enjoying a family day out at Harlow Town Park in Essex when the inflatable was blown away, Chelmsford Crown Court was told.Fairground worker William Thurston, 29, and his wife, Shelby Thurston, 26, both deny manslaughter by gross negligence and a health and safety offence.Tracy Ayling QC, prosecuting, said Summer was with her father, Lee Grant, and other family members at Thurstons Fun Fair on Easter Saturday in 2016, and that Storm Katie was expected to arrive by Easter Monday.“The weather was cold and windy,” said Ms Ayling. “Summer was playing in a bouncy castle that was one of the fair’s attractions run by these two defendants.“While Summer was in the bouncy castle, it blew away from its moorings, bounced 300 metres down a hill; having hit a tree, it came to rest.”She said Summer was rescued from inside the bouncy castle and taken to hospital but died from her injuries.The two defendants, of Whitecross Road, Wilburton, near Ely, Cambridgeshire, sat side by side in the dock as Ms Ayling opened the prosecution case on Tuesday.“It’s the Crown’s case that they breached the duty of care they owed to Summer Grant by failing to ensure that the bouncy castle, called a circus super dome inflatable, was adequately anchored to the ground and failed to monitor weather conditions to ensure it was safe to use,” she said.Ms Ayling said Summer’s father had heard a scream.“He turned and saw that the dome inflatable had lifted into the air, appeared to hit a caravan before flipping over,” she said. “He said ‘My daughter’s in there’.”Mr Grant ran after it but it was moving too fast for him to catch it, Ms Ayling said.Witnesses described seeing the bouncy castle “cartwheeling in the air, cartwheeling down a hill and only stopping when it hit a fence”.Ms Ayling said William Thurston was among those who chased the bouncy castle as it blew away and, when he went to help Summer, it appeared “she was very badly injured and struggling to breathe”.Summer’s parents, who lived in Norwich, paid tribute to their daughter at the time.Her mother, Cara Blackie, said Summer was a “bright, beautiful and most loving little girl”, and her father described her as the “most happy, polite and beautiful girl in the world”.The trial continues.

Perth & Kinross

“Now I’m raging” — LinkedIn ban for “swearygate” Perthshire shed-maker

January 17 2017

A Perthshire businesswoman who made a viral success of an "emotional" post about the toils of parents who work from home has had her LinkedIn account suspended without warning and £100,000 worth of contracts consequently jeopardised. Cara Mackay – managing director for Errol-based, family-run shed manufacturer Gillies & Mackay Ltd – posted an article titled 'how to f*****g work from home', which sought to relate to working parents in her position and generated over 100,000 views and 800 comments before being shut down. https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/perth-kinross/349627/perthshire-shed-makers-swear-filled-post-lights-boring-linkedin/ A minority of LinkedIn's more traditional users had taken umbrage at Cara’s forthright delivery. "Profanity is uncalled for and inappropriate," said Len Latona. "This person should be banned from LinkedIn." Glen Kyle said: "Despicable, insolent and arrogant, this author has all the makings of a 'back woods hillbilly.'" "There were some pretty brutal personal insults fired at me," said Ms Mackay. Upon noticing that she was no longer receiving messages from the network, which contained contacts vital to her business, Ms Mackay sought answers from LinkedIn. "Immediately I tried requesting a new password, that worked and then took me to the 'your account has been suspended' page. Now I'm raging," said Ms Mackay. "I wrote that article because I wanted to find real business people, who related to me because of how I run my life. "I wanted to find them and tell them they could just tell their story and be free to be themselves. I found those people and I believe that for some, ringing home the truth, made their f*****g day." The controversy surrounding Ms Mackay's post had brought about a spike in sales worth an estimated £100,000 to the business, which she now stands to lose if LinkedIn don't return access to the account. "I'm in the middle of courting six clients on very large projects on this platform, which are to be exported down south," she said. "Now they're going to be wondering where I've gone. That is behaving unprofessionally. "I have absolutely no way of contacting those six clients." Although the post had its detractors, there was a far higher proportion of vocal supporters for its tone. Ms Mackay believes she was taken offline for one simple reason. "At the last check it was at 100,000 views and I'm sure they were aware of it. If I was to pin point – I'd say it's probably got something to do with me saying f*****g. “Swearing is an emotional thing – especially in the Scottish dialect – not necessarily an aggressive or foul thing. The way we express ourselves sometimes requires these words." The defiant entrepreneur says will not be left browbeaten by the row. "I've money to make and an audience to serve. A revolution can't happen without the person who started it," she said. The ban happens to coincide with a new UK-wide initiative from the Transforming Mental Health charity, which encourages the public to 'swear' to take on mental illness in young people. A Courier poll inspired by the unconventional marketing post found that 57% of respondents are never offended by swearing, 38% are sometimes offended and 5% are always offended by it. Those wishing to pledge support for Cara's freedom of expression on LinkedIn are encouraged to use the hashtag #swearygate on social media. Despite holding a 'premium' account with the network, Ms Mackay has not received an explanation for the ban. The Courier contacted LinkedIn for comment but they are yet to respond. "This is how you handle it?" Opinion and support from the business community and general public alike has flooded in since Ms Mackay's account was taken offline. Denise Cowie raised the question: "Should LinkedIn have suspended [Cara's] account for 'objectionable content'? Or is it censorship?" https://twitter.com/dinnydaethat/status/821627405123063808 Forfar photographer Anne Johnston said: "Come on LinkedIn, get with the 21st century and restore Cara's account now." https://twitter.com/Annejphotos/status/821603649902276612 Ross Coverdale offered an alternative solution to the problem. "If LinkedIn dislike curse words they could easily star them out." https://twitter.com/radcoverdale/status/821625350992068613 Bristol literature event promoters Novelnights said: "I'm with writers, shed lovers and mums in supporting [Cara]." https://twitter.com/novelnightsuk/status/821669193359695873 Aberdeenshire marketing consultant BrandHouzz said: "For once you are getting people to pay attention to you LinkedIn, and this is how you handle it?" https://twitter.com/BrandHouzz/status/821646365872754689

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.

Business news

Building growth at Cala

February 17 2014

Scottish premium housebuilding group Cala remains on track to more than double the size of its business in three years after a surge in property market activity. The Edinburgh-headquartered firm, acquired by Patron Capital Partners and Legal & General last spring, yesterday said it is seeing a wave of new prospective housebuyers coming to the market as the UK’s economic recovery strengthens. The industry has reported a significant improvement in trading in recent months, with the Government-backed Help to Buy scheme cited by a number of firms as being at least partly responsible for an upturn in the fortunes. However, Cala’s premium market positioning has meant the scheme has had little impact on its bottom line. Chief executive Alan Brown said the upturn for Cala reflected in a better-than-expected increase in private sales and a 16% growth in the value of its land bank in the seven months to January 31 resulted from increased spending confidence among the firm’s target audience of middle- to high-income earners. “We have been in recession since 2008, in effect, and it was probably only in September of last year that things started to look more positive,” Mr Brown said. “That is five years of people being ultra careful about how they spend their money, and all of a sudden things turn around,” he added. The company’s central focus in the short-term is on delivering improved performance in its south of England based development portfolio, where demand for new housing has grown particularly strongly since the economic recovery kicked in. The firm, which saw pre-tax profits rise by more than a third to £12.5 million in the year to June, has set up two new north and south Home Counties divisions in order to achieve it goals. However, Mr Brown said Cala remained committed to expanding its Scottish-based operations. He said the firm had also created a separate division focused on Aberdeen, a market which continues to be inflated by the effects of the oil and gas sector in the north east, and had strong growth expectations for its other regional Scottish hubs. The company also retains an option on about 850 plots at Kirkcaldy as part of a wider housing development in the area. In response to the upturn in activity, Cala has significantly increased its workforce to around 400 a figure that excludes approximately 1,000 third-party contractors employed across the firm’s development sites and further recruitment is in the pipeline as the company works towards its goal of more than doubling in size by 2017. “We have increased (the workforce) by about 15% in the past six months,” said Mr Brown. “We are seeing strong current trading and are putting the building blocks in place for future growth. “If we increase the business in size by two-and-a-half times then there will also be a reasonable increase in jobs.”

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


‘Transformational’ period as housebuilder Cala Group hails record profits

October 21 2014

housebuilder Cala Group has announced record profits and significant land investment to provide a platform for further growth. The Edinburgh-based group’s total revenue for the year to June was up 22% to £294.2 million, and it is on course to deliver a three-fold increase by 2016. Pre-tax profit was up 117% to £27.3m, and gross margin from house sales for the year was up to 22.7%. Chief executive Alan Brown said: “This year has been a transformational period for Cala, with our excellent financial performance delivering record profits once again. “Following another year of significant investment in our land bank and our acquisition of Banner Homes in March, Cala is now an established top-10 UK housebuilder by revenue.” He said Cala’s development locations are of high quality, and no less than 81% of the group’s projected profit in the next four years will be from sites already owned, contracted or with deal terms agreed. This will provide the group with an excellent platform and a high level of visibility. Mr Brown added: “We have entered the new financial year in a very positive position thanks to strong forward sales and with a stable market backdrop. “I am very excited about Cala’s prospects for the year ahead, which will deliver our first year of significant volume growth since the implementation of our new growth strategy.” The group reported a significant investment in land bank, particularly in south-east England, and increased financial firepower through the backing of investment partners Patron and Legal & General. The acquisition of luxury developer Banner Homes in a £200m deal accelerated expansion plans, and Cala now has eight regional operating areas five in England and three in Scotland. The firm expects to boost sales at the enlarged group to around £500m in the current financial year as earnings continue to be boosted by higher average selling prices. The company which returned to profit in 2011 after successive losses during the recession has developed several sites in Tayside and Fife, and one of its current projects is St Mary’s Gardens at Kinnoull Hill in Perth. Mr Brown said that although the group is now heavily involved in developing sites in England, Scotland its spiritual home and Cala is looking for significant growth north as well as south of the border. “The original Aberdeen business has been floated off and it is in Edinburgh, where the company has its headquarters, that we will see a lot of further growth as well as in the west of Scotland,” he said. Cala is the latest housebuilder to report a good year as conditions for the industry improve.

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.


Sketching Dundee: Carl Lavia’s large-scale work is drawing crowds at McManus

April 13 2018

Self-taught artist Carl Lavia is on a mammoth mission to sketch the 69 cities of the UK – and his aerial pen drawing of Dundee is the latest to go on display. Londoner Carl – also known as Sketch – decided to draw the city of Birmingham in 2016 and that’s when he joined forces with photographer Lorna Le Bredonchel to form the ambitious project. He says: “I was always known as a person who was obsessed about cityscapes. I have been sketching since I was five and I was just compelled to draw cities.” So far, Carl has completed Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Dundee and is now at work on Stirling. As a child, he would find wrapping paper and draw on the back of the huge sheets, recording the sprawling fictional cities in his mind. He goes on: “This fascination grew to countries and I wanted to know what other capital cities were like. Another thing I was curious about was buses and their routes. If I saw a bus, I wanted to know where it was going and what the route would look like.” Carl’s journey to becoming an artist was unconventional. He has no formal training and would obsessively sketch cities while at school or work. In his 20s, he contracted Guillain-Barre syndrome, – a condition that affects the nervous system and can leave sufferers paralysed – but made a miraculous recovery. Following this, Carl, now aged 46, decided to take his passions more seriously, getting involved in the music industry and continuing to sketch. But, just like the roads in his mind, everything was inevitably leading to him doing something more with his art. “I wanted to sketch a real city because I had been drawing fictional cities. I wanted to challenge myself to draw a city that I knew well,” he says of Birmingham. Carl spent three months visiting Dundee, doing preliminary sketches, jogging, traversing its streets and discovering its architecture. From memory, he then drew the city in instalments which were then stitched together to form the finished piece. When the drawing went on display at McManus Galleries in February, it was announced it had been bought by local businessman Tony Banks. It has been well received by visitors to the museum – particularly locals – who have been treated to a new perspective of their city. While Carl’s dynamic drawing is an accurate record of the city’s roads and buildings, it is not a scale map. The city is actually much broader – but he wanted to include Broughty Castle. He explains: “I think I’ve shrunk areas and maybe extended areas as well.” “I am sketching all the time and I am thinking of it constantly.” Carl adds. “I try to capture the life of the city.” The large-scale sketch of Dundee is on display until August 2018. sketchnthecity.com