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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...


Exploring the signature tune of the Perth-based Royal Scottish Geographical Society

July 26 2017

A unique record of speaks at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in Perth is being preserved thanls to a donation. Michael Alexander reports. It has heard over 5000 talks during its 133 year history ranging from world famous explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton to the first man on the moon Neil Armstrong. Now one of two visitor books which record the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s distinguished history of supporting and promoting geographical exploration, research and education is to be preserved for posterity. The restoration work is being made possible by the donation of a donor which will ensure the older of the two books receives some extra refurbishment to secure looser pages and stabilise the binding. RSGS, now based in Perth, was informally founded in 1884 when one of the original signatories of the visitors’ book John George Bartholomew – of the Bartholomew map-making company in Edinburgh – came up with the idea for a national society of geography in  Scotland. He felt that Scotland was suffering from many missed opportunities for the development of geographical education, science, trade and political knowledge of the world. The 24-year-old introduced the idea to the daughter of explorer David Livingstone, Agnes Livingstone-Bruce, during a walk on the beach near her North Berwick home. She herself was a keen geographer with a particular interest in Africa, and they committed to starting a Scottish Geographical Society which was backed by Edinburgh University geology professor James Geikie and which was given royal status by Queen Victoria three years later. At the society’s first talk, all three formal founders signed the RSGS visitor book for the first time and began a long tradition that has seen the society record the names of the world’s most prominent explorers, adventurers and academics along with plenty of politicians, more than a sprinkling of royalty and not to mention publishing royalty – DC Thomson of Dundee-based Courier publishers DC Thomson & Co Ltd – who was awarded an RSGS fellowship (FRSGS). The older visitors’ book holds all of RSGS’ visitors’ signatures up until its move from Glasgow to Perth in 2008 with the newer book signifying a new stage for the society. Notable signatures featured in the old book include Sir Ernest Shackleton, RSGS Director 1904-1906 and world famous explorer; Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian, possibly the most famous polar explorer ever, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize laureate; Sir Ranulph Fiennes FRSGS, one of the most renowned modern-day polar explorers, RSGS speaker and RSGS Livingstone medallist; D C Thomson of DC Thomson & Co Ltd; Sir Edmund Hillary FRSGS, first man to climb Everest and also a Livingstone Medallist; and Neil Armstrong FRSGS, first man on the moon and RSGS Livingstone Medallist 1971. The new book includes the signatures of Alexandra Shackleton – granddaughter of Sir Ernest; Annie Lennox FRSGS – singer and Livingstone Medallist for her work with AIDS; Ray Mears – adventurer and TV personality; Neil Oliver – historian and TV personality, and Sir David Hempleman-Adams FRSGS – world renowned explorer, first man to complete the explorers grand slam (both poles and highest peaks on all continents), RSGS vice president and holder of our highest honour the Scottish Geographical Medal. It also features the signature of Rune Gjeldnes FRSGS – modern day Norwegian explorer and holder of our Mungo Park medal (lives in Hell, Norway!) Mike Robinson, RSGS chief executive, said: “From royalty to rock stars and politicians to polar explorers the number of lives and stories that make up the society’s history is phenomenal. “Our archives hold some of the best stories from the past 200 years but they all come together in the visitor books. “We are very grateful to a donor, who would like to remain anonymous, for volunteering to fund the refurbishment of our older book, this donation helps fund our commitment to the conservation of our collection”.

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

Perth & Kinross

Perth landmarks highlighted in ‘bird’s eye view’ painting is raising funds for RSGS

July 27 2017

A ‘bird’s eye’ view painting of Perth by an artist famed for his bright and quirky style  is being made available to buy with limited edition prints being sold and some of the proceeds going  to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS). The painting by Rob Hain, which captures the main landmarks of the city, was launched at RSGS HQ in Fair Maid’s House, Perth on Wednesday evening. Rob was inspired to create the painting after a meeting with RSGS chief executive Mike Robinson. Rob at first thought Mr Robinson’s suggestion was “a mountain too difficult to climb”. However, after he was invited on a tour of the RSGS HQ - the oldest residence in Perth - which concluded in the ‘Explorer’s Room’, he was completely won over and set about the task. “Three days were spent familiarising myself with the city, taking photographs and sketching a few notes, before I returned to the Wasps Studios in Selkirk to commence work on the canvas,” explained Rob. “Finding a suitable angle which included all the significant buildings in the city proved to be quite difficult, as I had previously feared. “Then I realised that the Tay has a natural curve that embraces Perth. Everything seemed to slot into place after that,” he added. Details in the painting, which aims to captures the spirit of Perth, features a number of local details to look out for including the Kilt Run, The Tay Descent, Perth Dragon Boat Race, bees on the roof of the concert hall, an explorer outside the Fair Maid’s House/RSGS HQ, wild swimmers in the Tay, the sculpture trail with Rob Hain’s signature hidden giraffe, the Scottish Charity Air Ambulance, the ship Inn (artistic licence has moved its location to the other side of the vennel) and The Courier office! Also featured is a Virgin hot air balloon, the Perth farmers’ market, a golfer en route to the island, the “scooter granny”, Paco’s ice cream shop, owner of the Bean Scene on his bike, the minister at St Matthews with his kayak – and much more. Large prints of the artwork are available from RSGS HQ priced £250 and the smaller print is £120. There is a limited print run on all of these on a first come first served basis with 75% of the proceeds going to RSGS and the rest to the artist. The original, unveiled at Wednesday’s private launch, is also for sale at £7,500. It has been put on display at Fair Maid’s House along with other images by Rob from all over Scotland. Mike Robinson, RSGS chief executive, said: “I absolutely love this painting. It represents a really dynamic, exciting and colourful vision of Perth by picking up on lots of real people and places.  I sincerely hope that people take it to their hearts and buy a copy.”

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.


Sir Ernest Shackleton shorthand mystery solved with the help of The Courier

May 12 2018

A mystery surrounding one of the great Antarctic explorers has finally been solved, The Courier can reveal. After consulting various experts and enthusiasts in Pitman shorthand, the Perth-based Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) has finally come to understand the notes written at the bottom of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s CV. The document was prepared by the polar explorer to support his application to become the then Edinburgh-based director of RSGS in 1903 – an application which was ultimately successful. The CV consists of a half page summary of his skills and experience, with several accompanying personal testimonials from senior figures from the world of geography, such as Sir Clements Markham, Hugh Robert Mill and Vice Admiral Aldrich. Robert Falcon Scott is quoted in the application, describing Shackleton as a “marvel of intelligent energy… never tired, always cheerful and is exceedingly popular with everyone…” However, the document, which was unearthed by society writer in residence Jo Woolf while raking through the RSGS archives last year, contained a mystery as there were shorthand notes in pencil which the society had been unable to decipher. In light pencil across the front page were notes the RSGS believed were taken during Shackleton’s interview, written in a version of Pitman shorthand. With the help of The Courier, the RSGS asked for public help in deciphering this shorthand. Now we can confirm the mystery has been solved. The RSGS were particularly grateful to Phyllis Cleghorn, Sarah Boyd, Margaret Fisher and especially former Courier journalist and retired RAF PR man Michael Mulford -  each of whom spent hours with the original manuscript and provided invaluable input in solving this mystery. The shorthand notes read: Line 1: Member Very popular in geographical circles in London Line 2: Later completed long course training designed for navigation Line 3: We probably all share his enthusiasm for next Antarctic visit Line 4: Considerable experience as a journalist down south [Antarctic] Line 5: Various relevant certificates RSGS chief executive, Mike Robinson, who now holds a position equivalent to the one Shackleton once did said: “When we found Shackleton’s CV in the bottom of a box in our archive, we were very excited. “It is a great insight to the man – showing his appreciation for careful presentation and good publicity, and the networks at his disposal. “Getting the shorthand deciphered has been fascinating, and we are grateful to the various Courier readers who have come forward to help piece the mystery together.” Sir Ernest Shackleton was a polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic and was one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration His first experience of the polar regions was as third officer on Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery expedition (1901-04) from which he was sent home early on health grounds after he and his companions set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S. It was during this period of leave that he applied for the RSGS job -although the society noted that he might not stay in the role of RSGS director for any real length of time, despite his claim that he wanted to settle down in Edinburgh and provide a stable environment for himself and his wife Emily. His experience as a journalist refers both to general articles he had written for the media, but also plays up the expedition newspaper, The South Polar Times, which he had so famously compiled and edited with the crew of the Discovery, and which informally records both the characters and adventures of the Antarctic voyage. During the second expedition (1907 – 1909) he and three companions established a new record finishing only 112 miles from the South Pole. Members of his team also climbed Mount Erebus and for these achievements, Shackleton was knighted by King Edward VII on his return home. Shackleton later turned his attention to the crossing of Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. Disaster struck during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition when its ship Endurance became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed before the shore parties could be landed. The crew escaped by camping on the sea ice until it disintegrated, then by launching the lifeboats to reach Elephant Island and ultimately the inhabited island of South Georgia - a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles and Shackleton's most famous exploit. In 1921, he returned to the Antarctic with the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition but died of a heart attack while his ship was moored in South Georgia. At his wife's request he was buried there.

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

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.

Perth & Kinross

Royal society centre to be re-opened by BBC television professor

April 7 2016

Television presenter Professor Iain Stewart, who is well-known for unravelling the mysteries of the universe in layman’s terms, will be in Perth at the weekend in his role as president of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Housed in the city’s historic Fair Maid’s House, the society’s visitor centre will be re-opened by Professor Stewart at 1pm on Saturday. The centre, which is open seasonally from April to October, offers visitors the chance to learn more about earth including viewing the planet from space. Prof Stewart is known for his entertaining and informative BBC programmes, such as Earth: The Power of the Planet and How to Grow a Planet, which captivate audiences with their easy to follow explanations of some of the most spectacular natural forces on our planet. “For over 130 years now RSGS has been compiling these amazing stories about our planet and there are amazing tales to tell within our vaults but actually it’s not all about looking back there is a real contemporary relevance for geography today from changes in the environment to changes in society, ” said Prof Stewart. “So I hope to welcome you in to be inspired and to support RSGS.” Gemma McDonald, RSGS communications officer, said: “We are very happy to be opening the visitor centre again and we hope that many local people will take the opportunity to visit us this year. “The centre is very informative and interactive, it’s really like Perth’s very own natural history museum.” The RSGS Visitor Centre has also recently received some updated educational panels as well as a new touch-screen interactive panel for its large globe in the appropriately named Earth Room so new and return visitors alike, as well as fans of Prof Stewart’s work, should find something to pique their interest. Members of the public are invited to drop in to the RSGS Visitor Centre at Fair Maid’s House, North Port, behind the concert hall, to explore and learn from 1 to 4.30pm Tuesdays to Saturdays. Entrance is free/by donation.

Perth & Kinross

Annie Lennox ‘honoured’ to receive RSGS award

February 13 2016

Scots singer Annie Lennox OBE is following in the footsteps of explorers and astronauts by having her humanitarian work recognised. The Perth-based Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) has announced she will receive their Livingstone Medal to mark her contribution and dedication to raising awareness of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Previous recipients include Neil Armstrong, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Sir Chris Bonington and Sir Edmund Hillary. The award also recognises her work as an ambassador for UNAIDS, Oxfam, 46664, Amnesty International and the British Red Cross, as well as special envoy for the Scottish Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The RSGS Livingstone Medal was endowed by RSGS co-founder Mrs Agnes Livingstone-Bruce in memory of her father, Dr David Livingstone, and was first awarded in 1901 to explorer Sir Harry H. Johnston. Most recently it was awarded to Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, for her services to climate justice and women’s rights. Mike Robinson RSGS CEO said Ms Lennox was a popular choice. “Our medal nomination process is open to the public but it is unusual to see a name put forward as often as Annie Lennox’s,” he said. “We are very happy to be able to recognise the outstanding contribution that Annie has made championing critical global issues over the past three decades, in particular in raising awareness of the plight of those suffering HIV/AIDS and of those living in the world’s most vulnerable areas.” The singer said of the decision: “I’m truly honoured to receive such a significant and historical award as the Livingstone Medal. “There have been numerous social and medical transformations since David Livingstone’s lifetime, yet there is still so much more to do before we can see the end of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has ravaged the lives of millions of men, women and children across every region of sub-Saharan Africa. “My contribution has been small, but my dream would be to see the end of AIDS in the not too distant future.” The RSGS Livingstone Medal will be awarded at a special event in Edinburgh on Friday March 18. Annie will be live in conversation with Sheena McDonald, sharing her story in her own words. Tickets will be available to RSGS members and then on a first come first served basis to the public. Contact RSGS on 01738 455 050 for more information.