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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

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


Dundee University winter graduations held at Caird Hall

November 17 2016

The first of Dundee University's winter graduations ceremonies were held on Thursday, as graduands and their families descended on City Square. Two of the three ceremonies took place, with the remaining event due on Friday morning. Around 1,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students will have graduated across the three ceremonies. They are held for students whose courses finish after the traditional summer graduation will be recognised. However, they also allow students to reflect on their time in the city. One such graduate, Jonathan De Vries, moved from America to study his own country's history. Quickly establishing himself as a star student in the American History masters, the 35-year-old has now obtained a PhD in the subject. In addition to his academic success, Jonathan also found his future wife Jennifer at the university. Jennifer, a nursery teacher who was studying at the time, accompanied Jonathan to his graduation. Things could have turned out very differently for the couple had a very simple gesture not persuaded Jonathan that his future lay in Dundee. "I had completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville and had already decided to study in Scotland," he explained. "I had offers from several universities but as soon as I applied here I was given a Dundee email address. It felt as if I already belonged at the university and we had an established connection.” Jonathan’s PhD focused on the history of Kentucky. He noticed many historians tend to focus on the early settlers in America or established communities. "You’ve either got nothing, or you have Little House on the Prairie," he explained. "I wanted to find out how you get to that point. I tried to fill in that gap." As tradition dictates, successful students like Jonathan feel the tap of the Dundee bonnet in the Caird Hall at their graduation. The bonnet – spun, woven, dyed and embroidered for the university by the Dundee Bonnetmakers Craft – is used by the chancellor, Lord Patel of Dunkeld, to symbolically confer degrees on graduates.

Nature Watch

The Perthshire wildlife artist ‘at one’ with nature

April 1 2017

As a long-established British wildlife artist, Jonathan Sainsbury has spent a lifetime observing and drawing the natural world. And these days some of his greatest inspirations can be found in Perthshire where he and his wife now live. Michael Alexander met him at home in Comrie. The walls of Jonathan Sainsbury’s cosy farmhouse kitchen – within the former manse of the Episcopal Church in Comrie where wife Kate is a lay reader – are lined with drawings and paintings of wildlife. Here in the heart of Highland Perthshire, towards the western end of Strathearn, Jonathan has access to miles of open moorland and woods that have inspired recent watercolour and charcoal drawings of everything from black grouse to starlings. Years ago whilst living in his native England, and before he became one of Britain’s longest-established wildlife artists, Jonathan realised there was a commercial market amongst the London sporting fraternity for pictures of springer spaniels in the countryside, and he obligingly painted such classic images to make ends meet. Today, however, some of Jonathan’s favourite creations are those “unsaleable” paintings that he’s inspired to compose whilst roaming the Perthshire countryside. It might be a dead pheasant lying on the road with thrushes stealing berries from its split belly. “You can only paint that if you’ve seen it,” he says. Further afield, he’s been known to make a political statement by painting pictures of oiled seabirds. But what underlines all of his work is a lifelong desire to combine his love of art with his love of nature. A master of the “fleeting moment”, Jonathan’s atmospheric compositions might be inspired by that dead thrush he picked up on one of his solitary walks –  or a hare kept in the freezer until the time was right to draw. He might combine this with a sketch he made of a branch he saw when he visualised a small bird chasing spiders. But closer to home, Jonathan also finds daily, somewhat eccentric, inspiration from a wild starling that has befriended the couple and lives in a cage in their kitchen. The bird, which Jonathan calls Tweet and Kate calls Evan as in ‘eaven sent’, bathes in their sink and has breakfast with them each morning. Jonathan explains: “Kate was mowing the lawn a couple of years back and found a pink blob just before she was about to thrash it with the blades. “It was a two day old starling with its eyes still shut - looking like a little pink dinosaur! “She brought it in and put it on the Aga to warm up. He was asking for food.  Before we knew it we were out in the garden digging for worms and started feeding it. So when he opened his eyes for the first time and sees us, he doesn’t think he’s a bird – he thinks he’s a human! “He’s been an absolute joy! I’d let him out the cage but he’d just crap all over you!” adds Jonathan mischievously. Jonathan, 65, has had a close affinity with nature all his life, and traces this back to his “idealistic” upbringing in rural Warwickshire. Raised in Stratford-upon-Avon by his mother – a former RADA-trained actress – who used to manage the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and his father – a corn merchant who contracted polio after the war and struggled to walk thereafter - Jonathan has fond memories of growing up in a village that in retrospect seemed to be “stuck in time”. “It was a bit like Victorian England at the turn of the century with one bus a week” he smiles. “It meant I had this wonderful freedom that all young boys my age had. We went out the door and played. I used to catch things, trap things, dead or alive. – I didn’t really mind which. It was just life!” But it was that simple life that sparked his interest in nature. “Because you were small you were automatically down there with the animals, the bugs and the creepy crawlies,” he recalls. “I spent a lot of time in the village pond picking out newts.” Being dyslexic, Jonathan says that academically he was “no good” and would “never go on to become a vet or anything”. But he showed a strong aptitude for art before the age of five and it quickly became the centre of his life. “I used to get dead birds and take them to pieces to see how they worked!” he recalls. “Everybody knew that I was the kid – the strange boy – who used to go to school with animals in his pocket.” Jonathan’s teacher let him “sit in the corner and draw” in those early days. But it was when he experienced the “horror story” of boarding school in Warwick between the ages of eight and 13 that art – which was not on the curriculum – became his salvation. “I used to draw people I liked in heaven and people I didn’t like in hell. Then I was told I couldn’t do that because it wasn’t healthy!” he laughs. “You’ve got to remember it was after the war. It was like a Monty Python sketch. The mentality was ‘you are going to go to war and lay down your life for your country’. If you said you like drawing they said, ‘well not here you don’t’. It was basically effeminate or something.” Jonathan was relieved when his father let him go to his local comprehensive school at 13 where art was on the curriculum. It was around this time, in the 1960s, that he became aware of environmental issues – and the rise of the environmental movement – which he began to reflect in his work. It wasn’t until he left school at 16, however, and  went to art school in Leamington Spa, that Jonathan felt “reborn”. He admits he was a “bit wild” in those days. When he was involved in a near fatal car accident at 17 which saw the driver killed while he spent a long time in hospital, he came out a “slightly different person”. He later dropped out of the Byamshaw School of Drawing and Painting after four terms because it was “too narcissistic”. He went “back to nature” in the Stratford area, getting a job on a farm, followed by a job painting scenery sets at the theatre. But by the age of 23, he finally decided he wanted to go to art school “properly” and successfully enrolled at Leeds Polytechnic after impressing interview staff with his version of an ornithopter  – a life-sized owl you could get inside and (potentially)  fly! After graduating he started drawing wildlife for money – and the rest is history. After being taken up by a gallery in Cirencester – where he started drawing his springer spaniels – he met his wife to be in North Devon and was persuaded by the gallery owner to follow in the footsteps of Scottish animal painter Archibald Thorburn with a trip to Scotland. He spent that first night in the Comrie Hotel. Little did he know that a few years later the area would become their permanent home. Jonathan and Kate, who have lived in their current home since 2002, have three grown up children. Their son Louis, 30, who is profoundly brain damaged through meningitis contracted at birth, lives in Glasgow where he receives 24-hour care. He comes home every third weekend. Daughter Daisy, 27, born in St Fillans, is a fellow in French modern poetry at Oxford University whilst Minty, 26, who studied architecture at Cambridge, is herself now a full-time artist with an interest in heritage and buildings. Jonathan still likes to travel. He was in America last summer and this June he will take his Ark for Nature pop-up-pavilion to Inverness Cathedral, inviting schools, communities, arts groups, wildlife and countryside followers, to an exhibition that combines art for sale with wider reflection on nature. It’s Comrie, however, that he is so pleased to call home. “Inspiration is everywhere in Perthshire,” he smiles. “I like weather. I like snow. I like rain. I like all those things that give me pictures. And I also love Comrie. It's a fantastic community. As a place to live it's lovely. We are so lucky.” *This article appears in the spring edition of the Perthshire Living magazine.

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

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


Make-up artist Jonathan is reaching for the stars

March 24 2018

Jonathan Feeney-Brown tells Caroline Lindsay how a career in the beauty industry has given his life a makeover Jonathan Feeney-Brown is living proof that if you want something badly enough, you’ll get it. Despite not doing that well at school and leaving at the first opportunity, the 29 year old from Dundee is now a successful make-up artist and a Dior beauty ambassador. “High school wasn’t so great for me,” Jonathan recalls. “It wasn’t easy being gay in the early 2000s and I wasn’t a very confident teenager.” Despite a passion for fashion and beauty, he never thought he could be part of that industry. But fate had other plans. Working as an entertainer for Haven Holidays one summer, Jonathan realised how much he loved the hustle and bustle of getting ready backstage. Discovering that fake tan boosted his confidence inspired him to look for other products which helped enhance his appearance. “The more make-up and beauty products I used, the more I learned,” Jonathan says. Keen to learn more he enrolled on a hairdressing course at Dundee and Angus College in 2014 when he was 26. He did so well that he skipped a year and went straight into SVQ Level 3 Hairdressing. “I thought I would be the oldest in my class and get laughed at,” he admits. “But I made so many friends and absolutely loved it. “I won Student of the Year in 2016 and was the first male since 1977 to do so.” And that’s not his only accolade – he was also a finalist in the prestigious British Education Awards earlier this year. “That was amazing and it was such a different experience. I was really flattered that I made the top three finalists out of 125 applicants,” he smiles. “My family are so proud and I’m a winner in my eyes.” Jonathan’s own style icons include Marilyn Monroe “for her natural beauty” and Dead or Alive singer Pete Burns who died in 2016. “I love him because he was different and wasn’t scared to express himself through fashion. I always advise my clients not to follow the crowd just because it’s the cool thing to do. Do what you like and what suits you. “Knowing the colour wheel and how to conceal properly is a priority for me when doing make-up,” he continues. “It gives you the ideal blank canvas.” Jonathan hopes to graduate with an A in HND in make-up artistry in June and work his way up the Dior ladder. But his dream doesn’t end there – he wants to make a name for himself in the media industry. “I’ve worked with a few celebrities and hopefully I can add more names to the list,” he says. “And I have a few movies and TV shows that I’m working on later in the year.” However, what brings him the most pleasure is helping people feel good about themselves. “When I’m finished doing someone’s hair and makeup, I feel so proud to put a big smile on their face,” he says. His advice to anyone seeking to follow their dream is simple: “There are always going to be highs and lows in life but if you want something – go out and get it.” www.dundeeandangus.ac.uk  

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.

UK & World

Pilot pleads not guilty over Shoreham Airshow manslaughter charges

May 15 2018

A pilot whose plane crashed during the 2015 Shoreham Airshow, killing 11 men, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.Andrew Hill, 54, faces trial on 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence and one of recklessly or negligently endangering an aircraft under air navigation laws.The defendant, who is on bail, pleaded not guilty to all the charges relating to the crash on August 22, 2015.He wore a grey suit and blue tie for his appearance at the Old Bailey before Judge Richard Marks QC.The judge set a trial for January 14 2019 and confirmed the case would be heard by a High Court judge.The trial is expected to go on for up to seven weeks.The victims were Maurice Rex Abrahams, Dylan Archer, Anthony David Brightwell, Matthew James Grimstone, Matthew Wesley Jones, James Graham Mallinson, Mark Alexander Reeves, Jacob Henry Schilt, Richard Jonathan Smith, Mark James Trussler and Daniele Gaetano Polito.Hill, of Sandon, Hertfordshire, is accused of “recklessly or negligently” endangering a Hawker Hunter G-BXFI or any person on that aircraft contrary to Article 137 of the Air Navigation Order 2009.Judge Marks ordered a pre-trial review at the Old Bailey on a date to be arranged at the end of October.Hill remains on unconditional bail.


Opera singer Richard Angas dies aged 71

August 24 2013

Opera singer Richard Angas has died at the age of 71 after collapsing during a rehearsal. Angas was a principal bass with English National Opera (ENO) for 15 years and played the title role in Sir Jonathan Miller’s hit production of The Mikado. He collapsed during rehearsals for Opera North’s production of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes in Leeds on Tuesday and later died in hospital. Sir Jonathan said he was a “wonderful man” and a “brilliant performer”. Angas had recently reprised his role in a revival of Sir Jonathan’s production of The Mikado at the ENO and also performed in the Welsh National Opera’s Lulu, Wagner Dream and The Cunning Little Vixen earlier this year. “I owe a great deal to Richard Angas,” Sir Jonathan said. “Apart from the fact that he was one of the great performers in a long-lasting production of The Mikado, he was one of the most convivial professional companions whose company I enjoyed for many, many years.” Angas gave more than 150 performances as The Mikado and also played Alcindoro in Sir Jonathan’s production of La Boheme.

Motoring news

Rising repair costs and whiplash claims behind insurance rise

February 11 2017

Vehicle insurance premiums hit a record high last quarter, rising by more than five times the rate of inflation in 2016. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that tax increases, rising repair costs and increasing costs arising from whiplash injury claims were to blame. According to the ABI’s Motor Premium Tracker - which measures the price consumers actually pay for their cover, rather than quotes - the average price for private comprehensive insurance in Q4 2016 was £462. The highest figure recorded before this was in Q2 of 2012, when the average price was £443. The Q4 figure for 2016 was up 4.9% over Q3, equating to a £22 rise in the average premium. It was also found that the average premium for all of 2016 was 9.3% higher than the average premium for 2015. ABI’s assistant director and head of motor and liability, Rob Cummings, said: “These continue to be tough times for honest motorists. They are bearing the brunt of a cocktail of rising costs associated with increasing whiplash-style claims, rising repair bills and a higher rate of insurance premium tax. “While we support the Government’s further reforms to tackle lower-value whiplash costs, it must not give with one hand and take away with the other. The sudden decision to review the discount rate has the potential to turn a drama into a crisis, with a significant cut throwing fuel on the fire in terms of premiums. “Insurers are open to a proper dialogue on how to reform the system and urge the Lord Chancellor to engage with the industry about setting a rate that is fair for both claimants and customers.” Meanwhile, the RAC has released research that suggests not indicating when turning is our number one annoyance on the roads. Well over half (58%) of the survey’s respondents said failing to indicate was the top inconsiderate behaviour. It was narrowly ahead (56%) of those who thought middle lane hogging was the greatest driving sin.