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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...

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.

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

Paul Whitelaw reviews

TV reviews: In The Dark + Storyville: This Was My Dad

July 15 2017

IN THE DARK + STORYVILLE: THIS WAS MY DAD - THE RISE & FALL OF GEOFFREY MATTHEWS IN THE DARK: Tuesday, BBC One STORYVILLE: THIS WAS MY DAD – THE RISE & FALL OF GEOFFREY MATTHEWS: Monday, BBC Four Even with the best will in the world, which it frankly doesn’t deserve, I can’t imagine drearily formulaic new crime drama IN THE DARK gripping this thrill-seeking nation over the next four weeks. Swedish actress and Ripper Street star MyAnna Buring adopts a passable Manchester accent to play Helen, a pregnant police officer who feels compelled to return to her somnambulant, rain-sodden hometown for complex personal reasons. The husband of Linda, her childhood best friend, has been arrested on suspicion of abducting two teenage girls. One is eventually found murdered, while the other remains imprisoned in some sort of rural dungeon, of the type killers always have access to in dramas like these. This unpleasant situation is compounded by the fact that Helen and Linda have long been estranged due to whatever the hell is going on in a mysterious series of enigmatic flashbacks, of the type troubled detectives always have in dramas like these. Helen thinks Linda’s husband is innocent, ostensibly on the watertight grounds than an outwardly ordinary man with no prior convictions wouldn’t one day decide to commit such a heinous crime. However, it doesn’t take a Sherlock to work out that Anna’s conclusion is partly based on her need to reach atonement with Linda. Despite containing the basic levels of intrigue one would expect from a pot-boiling thriller, the central mystery and hints of backstory just aren’t compelling enough to sustain interest. The characters aren’t engaging and the pace is too slow to keep enervation at bay. Even a late-in-the-day cameo from Matt ‘Super Hans’ King as a flamboyant coroner – that’s the first time I’ve ever placed those two words in that particular order – couldn’t elevate it. Writer Danny Brocklehurst has written some solid TV dramas in the past, including Ordinary Lies and episodes of Jimmy McGovern’s The Street, but inspiration has run dry here. Also, the opening scene in which pregnant Helen was punched in the stomach by a benefits-cheating “pram-faced” drug dealer left an unpleasant taste in the mouth. It was as if Brocklehurst had, Twin Peaks style, suddenly been possessed by the evil spirit of Katie Hopkins. The later revelation that Helen’s dad is in a stable gay relationship seemed to come from the mind of a different writer entirely. Life is such a sad, mysterious riddle. That, in essence, was the message behind STORYVILLE: THIS WAS MY DAD – THE RISE & FALL OF GEOFFREY MATTHEWS, a moving, sensitive and immersive documentary in which BAFTA-winning filmmaker Morgan Matthews chronicled the last ten years in the life of his affable yet complicated father. It began in 2015 with Morgan visiting Geoffrey on his death bed, before flashing back to 2005 when they met up for the first time in a year. This was typical of Geoffrey’s relationship with his six children, who – it was hinted – had become estranged from him due to his heavy drinking. As Morgan admitted, making this film was a way of ensuring contact. Geoffrey and his eccentric partner Anna were constantly on the verge of bankruptcy. Despite their respective family traumas and innate sense of regret, this vulnerable couple clearly loved each other. Anna became increasingly distraught when Geoffrey became seriously ill with emphysema and cancer, as she faced up to the inevitability of life without him. The film was essentially a chronicle of Geoffrey’s decline, as his children attempted to make peace with him. The closing scenes in which they travelled to Canada to meet the father that Geoffrey never knew underlined the importance of maintaining family contact and knowing your place in the world. Life really is too short. Despite its personal flavour, this beautiful film struck a universal chord. TV HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK IS LOVE RACIST? THE DATING GAME Monday, Channel 4, 10pm Sociologist Emma Dabiri examines racism in Britain through the prism of modern dating. She gathers a group of single volunteers to find out if there’s more than meets the eye behind the choices people make using modern dating apps. ADDICTED PARENTS: LAST CHANCE TO KEEP MY CHILDREN Tuesday, BBC Two, 9pm This insightful two-part documentary visits Britain’s only family rehab centre, where parents addicted to drugs or alcohol arrive with their children in an effort to improve their lives. It begins with four mothers making a last-ditch attempt to become sober. THE SWEET MAKERS: A TUDOR TREAT Wednesday, BBC Two, 9pm Four modern confectioners travel back in time to discover what life was like for their Tudor predecessors. While learning about how our national sweet tooth developed, they get to work on a sugar banquet featuring dishes that haven’t been made for hundreds of years. THE MASH REPORT Thursday, BBC Two, 10pm This new topical news show comes from the team behind popular satirical comedy website The Daily Mash. Time will tell if it becomes the long-awaited UK version of US political satire behemoth The Daily Show. Don’t hold your hopes up. FILM OF THE WEEK SEXY BEAST Friday, Film4, 10:40pm This superior British crime drama stars Ray Winstone as an ex-con enjoying sun-kissed retirement in Spain, when suddenly everything goes pear-shaped with the unwanted arrival of a violent psychopath played by Ben Kingsley. This terrifying hardman forces Winstone’s character to return with him to Britain for one last audacious job. It’s a stylish, dynamic thriller in which Winstone reminds us that there’s more to him than B-grade gangster fodder, while Kingsley is an utter revelation in a mesmerising role a million miles away from his famous turn as Gandhi.

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


Award-winning Tayside song writer Eddie Cairney immortalises Queensferry Crossing in tune

October 25 2017

An award-winning Tayside song writer who immortalised the 50th anniversary of the Tay Road Bridge in music last year has released an EP which pays tribute to the newly opened Queensferry Crossing over the Forth. Perth-born Eddie Cairney, 65, who now lives in Arbroath, has released an album called ‘Sketches o' the QC’ which includes songs dedicated to the “isolated” workers who were employed during construction and contrasts the old Forth Road Bridge to the new crossing with its wind shields designed to keep traffic flowing during storms. Eddie, who delayed the release of the album due to family illness and bereavement, said: “It's just another quirky album like I did for the Tay Road Bridge. https://youtu.be/Z6BblA_Zev4 “As you can probably imagine, how do you write six songs about a bridge? “I usually end up using a process of creative journalism. I get a few facts or even just a single fact and then I let my imagination take over. “With each album early on in the writing process I draw a blank and think there's nothing here I can write about but there's always something to write about. “You just have to hang around long enough and it comes eventually. https://youtu.be/a9NyQAFjDsY “I just took threads from here and there. I was going to call the album The Queensferry Crossing but thought that was a bit boring so I went for Sketches o' the Q.C. “It introduces a bit of ambiguity. If you Google the name you get lots of drawings of court scenes!” Eddie was inspired to write Columba Cannon after reading an article about the general foreman for the foundations and towers. https://youtu.be/y_y1y8oV7vo Eddie said: “It was the name that got me and that gave me the first line of the song "He is a bridge builder wi a missionary zeal" Has to be with a name like Columba!” Fishnet bridge was set in a meditative light, describing the bridge as a “thing of beauty that looks like a big fish net glistening high above the Forth but it is a symbolic fishnet with the song taking the form of an imaginary conversation with the bridge.” https://youtu.be/dJgsl2WQ5G0   “Midday starvation came from an article which highlighted the isolation of the workers working high up on the bridge,” he added. https://youtu.be/Dme-bfCXHRI “If you forget your piece you've had it and you starve for there's no nipping round to the corner shop for a pie. The article also said that a local pizza delivery firm regularly delivered a pallet load of warm pizzas to the bridge so that was "midday salvation"! Meanwhile, The boys frae the cheese is a play on words. https://youtu.be/phtQ2-Xx1I0 He added: “I read an article that said The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) could have acted sooner and avoided the costly closure of the bridge at the end of 2015.” Eddie is no stranger to music and song influenced by Dundee and wider Scottish history. In 2015 he featured in The Courier for his efforts to put the complete works of Robert Burns to music. With a piano style influenced by Albert Ammons, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim, and a song-writing style influenced by Matt McGinn, Michael Marra and Randy Newman, the former Perth High School pupil, who wrote the 1984 New Zealand Olympic anthem, has organised a number of projects over the years including the McGonagall Centenary Festival  for Dundee City Council in 2002. Last year’s Tay Road Bridge album included a tribute to 19th century poet William Topas McGonagall and also honoured Hugh Pincott – the first member of the public to cross the Tay Road Bridge in 1966. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y51tixl9GEs Thanks to The Courier, he also became one of the first to cross the Queensferry Crossing  when it opened to the public in the early hours of August 30.

Scottish politics

Labour figures eyeing up independence are ‘living in fairyland’, says party veteran

August 23 2016

Labour grandee Tam Dalyell has said those in the party warming to Scottish independence on the back of the Brexit vote are “living in fairyland”. Former First Minister Henry McLeish and David Martin, who is Labour’s longest-serving MEP, are among the senior Labour figures who have said they could be converted to the independence cause. Official Scottish Labour policy is to oppose a second referendum on secession until at least 2021, but leader Kezia Dugdale has been accused by some quarters of softening her pro-Union stance. Delivering his assessment of those in the party shifting towards independence, Sir Tam told The Courier: “They are living in fairyland. I think they are wrong. “McLeish and others had better realise that there is no chance of an independent Scotland being admitted into the European Union. “No prime minister of Spain would allow it and nor would the Germans.” Mr McLeish, who led a Scottish Labour government in 2000/01, said earlier this year the party must abandon its strategy of “just saying no to independence” and advocated a “new alternative of real home rule”. Mr Martin, who is on Ms Sturgeon’s Standing Council on Europe, has said independence is “worth considering” if Scotland cannot retain access to the single market. Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley revealed last month that he would not oppose a second independence referendum, saying the Brexit vote had shifted the debate. His boss Ms Dugdale reprimanded on live radio yesterday saying it was “wrong” for Mr Rowley to take that stance against party policy. Sir Tam, who was an MP in Scotland for 43 years and a fervent Unionist, called on MPs from all parties to block Brexit. “I believe it is up to every member of Parliament to do the right thing and to vote against the triggering of Article 50,” he said. “I would hope the House of Commons blocks Brexit and I have very strong views on this.” He said the referendum result does not have to be enacted because “people were lied to and misled by (Boris) Johnson and others”. “You look at what Brexit would mean for places like Dundee, and the damage it could do to universities like Dundee, and I am very angry about it,” he added. Article 50 is the legal mechanism through which member states leave the EU. Political and constitutional experts disagree on whether Parliament has to vote on whether it is triggered.

Angus & The Mearns

Angus fugitive given £109 million order by tax enforcers

March 30 2016

Tax enforcers have imposed a joint £109 million confiscation order on a fugitive Tayside fraudster and his on-the-run dad. Geoffrey and Gareth Johnson are the subject of international arrest warrants after absconding prior to their trial. HMRC has now told the fugitive pair that they must pay £109m immediately or a default prison sentence of 14 years will be added to their sentences. The father-and-son pair were part of an 18-strong crime gang that stole £20m in a mobile phone VAT fraud. They were involved in the carousel fraud, which stretched across Andorra, Dubai, Hong Kong, USA, Switzerland, Portugal and the UK. The investigation by HMRC led to four criminal trials between 2012 and 2014. The 18 gang members from Cheshire, East Sussex, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, North Wales, Staffordshire, Scotland and Spain, were given jail sentences totalling 135 years. Gareth Johnson, 48, formerly of Turin, Forfar, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2013 after being tried in his absence. He was the principal controller behind Tectonics Holdings which played an integral role in the fraud as the money laundering arm of the operation through personal UK and offshore accounts. He also had control of Coast Logistics which was another company used in the fraud. Geoffrey Johnson, 72, of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being tried in his absence in 2014. HMRC said he was instrumental in laundering the criminal proceeds of the fraud and greatly benefited from them. Co-conspirator Sarah Panitzke, 42, of Barcelona, Spain, was ordered to repay more than £2.4m or serve more time in jail. Panitzke is also on the run. Alison Shelton, 43, of Staffordshire, who is serving a nine-year jail sentence for her part in the fraud, was ordered to repay £83,000. Forfar man Albert Amritanand was another part of the gang and was sentenced to five years in jail in 2013. He paid back half-a-million pounds to the public purse following a similar confiscation order imposed last year. Kevin Newe, assistant director with HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said: “Confiscation orders totalling more than £114m have now been made in this case, and these latest rulings show that criminals may think they can escape justice by fleeing the country, but our investigations to reclaim their ill-gotten gains continue. “We are determined that crime gangs such as this one should be prosecuted and then made to repay their criminal profits.” Since sentencing, other gang members who profited from the fraud have appeared at Kingston Crown Court to face individual confiscation orders.

Couple renew legal fight to keep pet dog in their luxury penthouse

January 25 2018

A couple who want to keep their “lovely” pet dog in their penthouse apartment have taken their fight to the High Court.Gabby and Florian Kuehn were banned from keeping Vinnie, their Maltese Yorkshire terrier cross, at their flat in Limehouse, east London after they moved there in 2015.The Victory Place management company, which represents residents in the gated 146-flat complex, said there was a no-pets policy as part of the lease, except in special circumstances.Despite the couple arguing there was a “therapeutic benefit” gained from living with Vinnie, the company’s board of directors refused to let him live on the premises.The couple challenged that decision at the Mayor’s & City of London Court, but lost their case in February last year.Judge Donald Cryan ruled the couple’s case “comes down to ‘I love my dog'”, but said that did not mean they should be given permission for him to live in the flat.Mrs Kuehn, 46, a recruitment consultant, and her 43-year-old banker husband appealed against that ruling at the High Court in London on Thursday.Their lawyers argued the board had “pre-determined” their decision to refuse the couple permission to keep Vinnie and the decision-making process was therefore unfair.David Phillips QC, for the Kuehns, said it was clear the board had discussed the matter and made up their minds before meeting with the couple.But Christopher Heather QC, for the management company, said the board was entitled to take account of a vote by 75 residents in support of the policy on pets – with only the Kuehns voting against.He also said the couple had been asked to produce some medical evidence to support their claim about their pet’s therapeutic benefit, but they had not.Sir Geoffrey Vos, hearing the case, said there were “strong views on both sides” and he was “surprised” Vinnie was not in court.He added: “It is a very simple case.“I know it’s about a lovely dog called Vinnie and that can be taken into account.”The judge reserved his ruling on the case until a later date.


Where’s Geoffrey? Campaign to find Anstruther’s missing duck

March 23 2018

The mysterious disappearance of one of Anstruther's most famous residents is ruffling feathers in the east neuk village. "Missing" posters have sprung up across the community, appealing for information on the whereabouts of Geoffrey the duck. The web-footed friend has been missing from his usual spot on the beach since Saturday, leading to bafflement and general upset locally. A campaign to find him has led to the creation of a Where's Geoffrey Facebook page and the #wheresgeoffrey hashtag on Twitter and people have been asked to report any potential sightings. While it may sound quackers to some, Geoffrey's disappearance has caused a serious stir. Anstruther mum-of-two Kirsty Black, one of those co-ordinating the search, said the duck was a well-loved village character. "He has lived on the beach for five or six years and all the locals know him and feed him," she said. "I saw someone lifting him on Saturday and nobody has seen him since." https://www.facebook.com/1839334959452178/photos/a.1839786002740407.1073741828.1839334959452178/1839785876073753/?type=3 Kirsty received a phone call on Thursday afternoon from a woman who said she had taken Geoffrey home on Saturday to offer him B&B after noticing he was limping. "She released him on Monday and he flew off," she said. "Nobody knows where he is now as he doesn't fly far and he doesn't do water, despite being a duck." Kirsty added that her two children Harris, 8, and Isla, 6, were missing Geoffrey terribly. "We used to feed him three times a day," she said. "He's very friendly and we're fond of him and we would just like him back."