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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...

Angus & The Mearns

Exhibition marks centenary of Angus artist James Watterston Herald’s death

October 14 2014

The work of a lauded Angus artist has gone on display to mark the centenary of his death this year. James Watterston Herald was born in Forfar on July 29 1859 and died in 1914 in Arbroath. And Angus Council’s collection of his work has gone on display at Arbroath Art Gallery in the town library. The son of a shoemaker, William Herald, the future artist was encouraged to pursue his ambitions from a young age. But he was described as a “bad yet dreamy pupil” at Forfar Academy. He then enrolled at Dundee High School where he was awarded a prize for excellence in drawing. He was fascinated by the paintings of Arthur Melville, one of the Glasgow Boys who was himself from Angus. Galleries curator Jim Boon said: “Herald is known mostly for his watercolours and pastels. “His watercolours are described as being decorative and imaginative. His work attracts many visitors, possibly due to his paintings of the local area and many local connections.” After a short spell in Edinburgh and 10 years in London, Herald took up residence in Arbroath around 1900, remaining there the rest of his life. Content to earn no more than a living and judged by contemporaries as a recluse, Herald quietly worked in his Commerce Street studio or his home in Bank Street. He expressed no interest in personal wealth, giving away sketches in return for a meal. He died on October 17 1914 aged 55, following a bad fall and a long period of ill health, and is buried in the Western Cemetery in Arbroath. One of Herald’s best-known works, the 1887 painting Kirriemuir Fair, was sold as part of Lyon & Turnbull’s winter catalogue last year, for an undisclosed sum. The exhibition can be seen during normal library hours and runs until November 1.

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

Collectors' Corner

Snake painting charms at auction

November 4 2017

TODAY’S ITEM has been shown in the premier league of art centres – including international exhibitions in Glasgow, Rome, London and Munich. Its owners have included a Lord Provost of Glasgow and the Johnny Walker whisky family. So, attention secured, let me tell you a little more about it. This is a fine watercolour by the ‘Glasgow Boy’ artist Arthur Melville (1855-1904), titled The Snake Charmer. You can see why. Often such works are in institutions – and, indeed, the Bonham’s auction catalogue notes state, “It is rare to rediscover important works by major Scottish artists, and this ‘lost’ work has not been exhibited publicly since 1939.” Signed and inscribed, measuring a handsome 32in x 25in, The Snake Charmer was painted in Bagdad, during Melville’s Middle East tour which he undertook from 1880. He is thought to have produced around 60 sketches during his stay, struck by Bagdad’s decay and squalor and inspired by its architecture, street characters and markets. He apparently draped a canvas sheet around his easel to keep the crowds at bay while he sketched. Melville, born in Loanhead of Guthrie, Angus, was an instinctive watercolourist and his work frequently presents the unexpected – note the tree, right, is washed in blue, and how the eye is drawn not to the central hypnotised snake, but to the excitement of the semi-circular group of watchers. Melville’s treatment of the snake charmer is, instead, more neutral and restrained. When he returned in 1883 to exhibit his watercolours in London, the Magazine of Art coined the term ‘blottesque’ to describe them. No surprise, then, that Melville has been named as the inspiration behind fellow Angus artist James Watterson Herald’s distinctive ‘washy’ style. Interestingly, the watercolour which Melville described as his most successful of those completed on his travels, The Call to Prayer, Midan Mosque, Bagdad, has never appeared on the market and its whereabouts is unknown. The Snake Charmer, one of three known works Melville completed on the subject, was included in Bonham’s sale in Edinburgh last month, where it eclipsed pre-sale hopes to take £26,250, inclusive of premium.   Picture: The Snake Charmer, £26,250 (Bonham’s).  


Farmer James seals deal

May 7 2013

A NORTH Fife farmer, who juggles agriculture with writing, is “over the moon” that he has secured a major publishing deal after years of his books being rejected. James Oswald, who has now had rights for his Inspector McLean crime mysteries books sold in three continents, will be launching the titles at a book signing in Waterstone’s, Dundee, on Thursday. James, of Fliskmillan Farm, nearNewburgh, conjures up plot lines for his Inspector McLean mysteries while tendingHighland cattle and Romney sheep on Norman’s Law overlooking the River Tay. At night, he retires to a static caravan with his four dogs to write the Edinburgh-set supernatural crime novels that have defied expectations. As reported by The Courier last year, James considered quitting fiction to focus solely on the farm after his books fell flat with mainstream publishing houses. Experts were forced to reconsider after the same books, self-published by James on Amazon, took the Kindle e-book market by storm in the UK and USA. Almost 350,000 readers have downloaded Natural Causes and the Book of Souls and publishers at last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair were queuing up to bid. Now rights have been sold in Germany, Canada, Italy, Brazil and Serbia and James has signed a three-book deal for UK rights with Penguin. The farmer told The Courier: “It’s hard to take it all in. It’s all happened incredibly quickly. I didn’t even have an agent. That’s the power of e-book publishing. “It’s a wonderful vindication of what I’ve been doing for the last few years.” Book signings will take place at Waterstone’s in Dundee on Thursday at 6.30pm; at Waterstone’s Dunfermline on Friday at noon; at Waterstone’s Kirkcaldy on May 25 at 12.30pm and at Waterstone’s in St Andrews on June 8, time to be confirmed. He said he had chosen Dundee Waterstone’s for the first launch because his good friend Russell McLean himself a crime author works there. James revealed he has already written a third Inspector McLean novel theHangman’s Song which he hopes will come out next year. James has spent recent weeks lambing. In fact during this interview, he has had very little sleep having delivered two sets of twins during the early hours. He is still living in his caravan and is waiting for Fife Council to give him permission to build a house. He added: “One thing that securing this book deal has done is that it means I might actually now be able to afford to build a house!” malexander@thecourier.co.uk


Games jam played out well in Dundee

September 25 2016

Dundee  developers have come up with new virtual reality games in just 24 hours as part of a competition. A games jam took place from 4pm on Thursday until 4pm on Friday at Tag Games, resulting in games prototypes with names like Spider Spider, Mouse of Horrors and Terminal Station. The developers also created their own answer to the famous Boaty McBoatface, with a game titled Vanny McVanFace. Virtual reality, a form of technology that simulates a player's presence in a replica of a real environment, is said to be the future of games with some VR versions already present in many living rooms. Tag's marketing executive Gavin Moffat said: "At the games jam, staff split into four teams of four people - a designer, an artist and programmers. "They then had 24 hours to design a game prototype. "You would struggle to design a full game in that time, although it could be done if you're extremely good and the game is simple. "But with a prototype, you could then spend months perfecting and polishing it into a full game. "Some really great ideas can come out of these jam - you have to be creative and work fast. It was a great event. "This time the theme was virtual reality. Virtual reality headsets are already being used but it's difficult to say whether they'll become the default in gaming. "It could be the case that it's popular for a few years and then people get bored of it, or it could remain popular. "However, it certainly has great potential." Over the past 20 years Dundee has become an international hub for games developers with the world's biggest-selling video game - Grand Theft Auto - starting life in the city. Games jam are popular events where games developers get together to brainstorm ideas and create new prototypes within a short space of time.


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.

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

Waterstones enters takeover talks with Elliott Advisors, according to reports

January 29 2018

High street bookseller Waterstones is poised for a new chapter after reportedly launching takeover talks with Elliott Advisors.The US hedge fund has entered a short window of exclusivity in which to thrash out a deal for the retail chain, which has drawn interest from a clutch of bidders, according to Sky News.The deal would mark seven years since it was snapped up by Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut from CD, DVD and video game retailer HMV Group. Waterstones faced an uncertain future when it changed hands in June 2011, but fears the e-book would spark a downward turn in traditional book sales have proved unfounded. Speculation that Mr Mamut is looking to turn the page on his Waterstones investment comes after the firm booked an 82% hike in annual profits to £18 million for the year ending April 29, up from £9.9 million over the same period the year before. The firm launched four new shops and 21 new cafes during the 52-week period, bringing its total estate to 274. While capital investment in the business rose 7% to £9.6 million, it also closed five shops and saw revenues slip 1% to £404 million. The price tag on the near 40-year-old bookseller was likely to be significantly lower than the £250 million eyed last Autumn, an insider told Sky News.While Elliott Advisers is better know as an activist investor, the firm is no stranger to the UK high street and still holds a stake in Game Digital.

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.