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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...

Motoring news

Blistering new Alfa Romeo SUV

November 15 2017

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the fastest SUV in its class, according to its makers. Evidence for the claim is a remarkable 3.8-second 0-62mph time from the newcomer, a top speed of 176mph and an SUV-record-setting lap record of 7 min 51.7s around the legendary 14-mile Nurburgring circuit in Germany. It goes on sale in the UK from the summer of 2018 and is Alfa Romeo’s first high performance SUV. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrU00xoUy8A The new model will target the latest generation of performance SUVs, including the forthcoming BMW X3 M and F-Type SVR, as well as the well-established Porsche Macan. The Quadrifoglio will sit at the top of the Stelvio range, Alfa Romeo’s first SUV which went on sale in September. There’s no word yet on how much the new model will cost but industry chatter is it’ll be around the £65,000 mark. That more or less matches the premium applied to the Quadrifoglio version of the Alfa Romeo Giulia salon over the most expensive standard version, the Veloce. The current top of the range Stelvio Milano costs £45,390. Under the bonnet lies a 2.9-litre turbocharged V6, which produces 503bhp and 600Nm of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Helping to deploy that power is a ‘Q4’ four-wheel-drive system. For the most part the Stelvio Quadrifoglio will be a rear-wheel-drive car, but up to half the engine’s torque can be transferred to the front wheels when needed. Indeed, the all-wheel-drive system includes torque vectoring to individually control power delivery to each wheel while carbon-ceramic brakes will also be part of the Quadrifoglio specification. The car will be distinguished from other Stelvio models by exterior modifications including additional vents on the bonnet and flanks, side skirts, large body-coloured wheel arches and quadruple exhaust finishers. The interior will feature extensive use of leather, Alcantara and carbon fibre trim. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJHN_LNNzog&list=PLfw_isEyHQQH-fmJyEqVvTVEXAg1oCYcL The “Quadrifoglio” badge is Alfa Romeo’s performance sub-brand. The Giulia Quadrifoglio is a super-saloon that shares some of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s technology. With Jaguar developing an “R” version of its F-Pace and BMW creating “M” versions of its X3 and X5 models, it seems we’re heading towards something of a golden age for performance SUVs. That also means this Alfa will have some very stern competition indeed – and that’s without mentioning the already-available Tesla Model X, an all electric SUV that can get from 0-62mph almost a full second sooner than the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Plenty of people love the growl of a big petrol engine to the silence of an electric motor, however, and Alfa Romeo has no shortage of fans. I suspect its latest model will do well. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk


A tragedy or a farce? FMQs takes a Shakespearean twist

November 5 2015

Alex Johnstone is a politician who doesn’t shy away from giving a quote to journalists but, it is fair to say, he has never been described as a Shakespearean figure within Holyrood. Not the case, argued the First Minister. He is in fact “King Leer”. In what was perhaps the most bizarre distraction technique ever used in the Scottish Parliament’s debating chamber, Nicola Sturgeon accused the MSP who will now surely be known as “the beast of the north east” of “leering at me in that strange way”. One female politician reckoned such a description was unfair. “He’s just a bit glaikit,” she said afterwards. Damned with faint praise or what? Urged by Conservative Murdo Fraser to “join us and rule out higher taxes on families and businesses” on the back of Labour’s plans to make middle earners pay more to restore tax credits, Ms Sturgeon bought time to “recover my composure”. Amidst the guffawing, no answer was forthcoming. A theme was developing, even as the sensible stuff was debated. To cut or not to cut, that was the question twice from Kezia Dugdale, once from Jackie Baillie and an inaudible number of times from Neil Findlay, heckling from the backbenches in his usual spirited manner. No answer arrived from the First Minister. SNP ministers will wait and see what the Chancellor outlines in his Autumn Statement before putting forward costed and serious plans. “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” would seem to be the Scottish Government’s attitude when it comes to deciding whether or not to mitigate tax credits. The days do indeed creep slowly along until we find out how big George Osborne’s U-turn on tax credits is going to be. And every day that’s already happened has taken us seemingly further away from an answer from the SNP. It was all chaotic, all very noisy and quite good fun. The Romeo and Juliet love-in of the Trident debate could not have been further away. On bonfire night, it was less the revolutionary spirit of Guy Fawkes and more the madness of Macbeth which seemed to possess our elected representatives.

Jim Crumley

The skylark: poetry in motion

April 18 2017

Skylark, have you anything to say to me? The question is Hoagy Carmichael’s, the opening line to one of my very favourite songs, and a jazz guitarist’s dream. As a (very) part-time jazz guitarist who leans towards it often, as well as a nature writer for whom larksong and larkflight have been stopping me in my tracks since childhood, guess what I have been doing these last few days of burgeoning spring? Larksong and larkflight have been tools of biology and evolution for who knows how many millennia but for a handful of centuries they have also been the raw materials of a great tonnage of poetry. Norman MacCaig for example: “That sprinkling lark jerked upward in the blue…” “Sprinkling” is inspired. That skylark climbing above me in the Ochils sprinkled the hillside with discarded notes. And yes, that arguably un-poetic “jerked” is a spot-on observation of the nature of the rising flight. Splurges George Mackay Brown for example: “A lark splurges in Galilees of sky…” Who but such a poet with such an ear and such an eye for nature’s particular Orcadian cadences would bracket “lark” and “splurges” side by side in the same line? And: “…what peltings of song!” He wrote that about skylarks too, for that drenching downpour of larksong en masse when “sprinkling” is just too genteel for what falls to earth from the zenith of those tall columns of song. And then, of course, there was this: “Hail to thee blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert, That from Heaven, or near it, Pourest thy full heart In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.” Percy Bysshe Shelley, the crown prince of skylark poets, certainly knew the value of a belter of an opening verse with which to beat his readers about the head. To a Skylark layers imagery as thickly as semi-quavers in a climbing yard of larksong. It may be a bit picky to challenge his ardour and his palette with a sliver of doubt, and so challenge posterity’s acclaim of the poem, but I am pretty sure I spent longer accumulating that doubt than he did listening to his single skylark – if indeed a single skylark is what he heard. Heard, please note, not saw: “In the broad daylight, Thou art, unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight.” Shelley cannot see the skylark he immortalised. So how sure can he be that he is hearing only one skylark? New song I have very good eyesight and very good binoculars but in one hillside hour of concentrated watching and listening, I realised often the song of one skylark was replaced or at least overlapped by the new song of another, closer to me or lower in the sky and therefore louder. But Shelley gave no clue that the possibility had occurred to him. It is possible, of course, there was only one skylark singing and he heard the song from beginning to end, but he did not even tell us that he listened to the whole song. The skylark was still singing when his poem ended with a plea that still resonates with nature poets who were ever stopped in their wandering tracks by a singing skylark: “Teach me half the gladness That thy brain must know, Such harmonious madness From my lips would flow. The world should listen then – as I am listening now.” The sheer weight of numbers of skylark poems puts it in a league of its own. The roll-call also includes John Clare, Wordsworth (twice), Gerald Manley Hopkins (twice), Isaac Rosenberg, C Day Lewis, George Meredith, James Hogg, Christina Rossetti, Goethe and Ted Hughes. Thomas Hardy also wrote a poem about one of Shelley’s two skylark poems (the famous one), so technically you could say that was a skylark poem poem. Hopkins used to visit his grandfather’s house in Croydon, as a result of which there is now a pub near the house called The Skylark. Talk about immortality. Symbolic role And then there was Shakespeare, who was forever invoking skylarks in some symbolic role or other. Romeo and Juliet have a conversation in Juliet’s bed chamber (or perhaps just her bed) about whether the bird they can hear is a nightingale or a skylark. If it is a nightingale all is well and Romeo can linger a little longer; if it’s a skylark then it’s time he got his skates on, and his clothes of course. Ted Hughes was, reliably, more unromantic. His skylark had: “A whippet head, barbed like a hunting arrow…” And then there was Carmichael, who fashioned something of a miracle in the way he fused his melody and the lyric written jointly with Johnny Mercer. Richard M Sudhalter’s biography of him, Stardust Melody, observes: “Its most memorable feature is the bridge, or middle section… there is not a phrase, not a moment, in which it resembles the bridge of any other popular song.” You might say the same of the skylark itself.


‘In fair Dundee, where we lay our scene’ Film-maker gives Shakespeare classic a local twist

May 20 2013

The most famous love story ever told has been transformed into Dundonian, with a local cast and crew and filmed entirely in Dundee for less than £400. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has been reworked by Dundee film-maker Glenn Millar, given a local flavour and a new title as well to reflect its new location. Tambo and Juliet receives its premiere at DCA this week and has proved so popular it sold out within hours of the tickets going on sale last month. Glenn said: “The 200 tickets sold out in 36 hours, they went on sale a month before the premiere and we could have sold it out three times, I think. “So I’ve organised another showing at the Hannah MacLure Centre on June 1 and also at Generator on June 10 as part of Westfest. Both of those are free entry though.” Auditions for Tambo and Juliet took place in April last year after an appeal through The Courier for budding actors to go along to the Deaf Hub and try out for the film. https://www.youtube.com/embed/vHXY8MC0IZk Dozens of people applied and Glenn was amazed at the quality of some of them. “The auditions were great, we wanted real Dundonians with thick Dundee accents to take part, and we actually got some really good people. “I was absolutely thrilled with the quality, from aspiring young actors to some with no experience at all, including volunteer members of staff at the Deaf Hub. “Matthew Reilly was one of them, he tried out and was a natural and he’s now the star, Tambo. “His face was just right and he sounded totally natural and he was wonderful to work with, totally reliable and he put a lot of would-be actors to shame. Juliet is played by Melissa Paterson, she’s only 18 but she looks even younger, they both look really young. “The whole filming process was a joy, it was nice to show off bits of Dundee too, being Dundee-centric I went out of my way to show the city off in a good light. “Basically, we’ve stuck pretty faithfully to the plot, it’s the Leonardo di Caprio version in Dundonian.“ Tambo comes from Pentland and Juliet lives in the Hilltown, and most of the action goes on in Balgay Park, Dudhope Park, that line between both of them.” Glenn shot to prominence in 2000 after blazing a trail through the Cannes Film Festival with his debut full-length movie, Godsend, which cost around £150 to make. This time he estimates the cost to be a few hundred pounds, “probably no more than £400 and that was mostly hall hire and sandwiches for the crew, if you can’t pay people then at least you can feed them,” he says. “After these showings we’ll send it off to a few festivals, then the DVD with the subtitles and then online and ultimately YouTube. “The aim is as much about the project as the end product, it’s worthwhile, it brings people together, bringing new skills and new abilities. “The point behind it is that, as usual, I’m always out to prove that you can produce an interesting piece of film work for almost nothing. The end product is not proportionate to the cost.”


Irish actor Milo O’Shea dies aged 86

April 5 2013

Irish actor Milo O’Shea has died in New York, aged 86. The Dublin-born star was well-known for his roles in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, cult classic Barbarella and his performance as Leopold Bloom in an adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses. He also appeared in US TV series Cheers, Frasier, the Golden Girls, St Elsewhere and the West Wing, while in the UK he starred in the BBC comedy Me Mammy. Irish Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan described the character actor as a giant of both stage and screen. O’Shea lived in New York since 1976 and is survived by his actress wife Kitty Sullivan, sons Colm and Steven and grandchildren.

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


Monday Matters: What’s in a name? Quite a lot, as it happens

April 30 2018

William Shakespeare was, and I'm not overstating this, a bit of a wordy chap. Many regard him as the greatest writer in history due to the breadth of subjects he covered, his unparalleled understanding of the human condition and the hundreds of words he invented, from assassination to zany. More relevantly, given the outrage over a set of eye shadow bought in Dundee this week, he had plenty to say about both make-up and names. Hamlet reprimanee Ophelia for wearing make-up by saying "God has given you one face and yet you paint yourself another" while in Romeo and Juliet he has his lovestruck heroine ponder "what's in a name?" Of course, if Juliet were a real 13-year-old and living in Dundee today, admittedly two rather large ifs, she might be asking herself what it means to wear a shade of eye shadow called MILF rather than whether or not it is acceptable to date a Montague. High street chemist Boots has been selling a range of make-up that, in a desperate bid to appear edgy, has used a series of highly sexualised names for some of its items. These ranged from shades of eye shadow like homewrecker, foreplay and safeword to lipsticks with titles like dominatrix or booty call. This, at first glance, might all seem like nothing more than a bit of harmless, if risque, fun; the cosmetic equivalent of a saucy seaside postcard. But given these products could easily fall into the hands of young children, it is not prudish to say the names were unacceptable. It may seem like a giant leap from make-up to pornography but the internet has made the latter ubiquitous and its impact on relationships, and attitudes towards women generally, is dangerous. Studies have shown this is distorting how many young people, of both genders, view sexual relationships. By using terms like MILF, the company behind the product risks normalising, or encouraging, those unhealthy attitudes. Boots, and manufacturers Revolution London, have agreed to change the names in future. But their decision to use those names in the first place shows that folly and ignorance, as Shakespeare once said, remain mankind's common curse. And rather than making anyone involved contemporary and cutting edge, it's made them as cheap and desperate as those names imply.


Dundee ravers could star in Romeo and Juliet-style documentary

October 5 2015

A Dundee club owner is calling on all ravers to help him complete a Romeo and Juliet-style documentary about music bringing people together during the troubles in Northern Ireland. Business man Tony Cochrane and friends decided to film a documentary about their efforts to stage major dance festivals in the country during the 90s. The initial project was about Mr Cochrane and his team’s struggles to persuade apprehensive DJs and artists to enter the country during a decade often marred with violence. After much filming and research, however, Mr Cochrane realised his documentary, Dance Love and Harmony, documented something much larger a divided nation united through music. Mr Cochrane said: “We used to do a lot of raves in Northern Ireland during the 90s. “The initial documentary was about a bit of a road trip and us trying to convince DJs to come to the country because some people were a bit scared of what was going on in Northern Ireland at that time. But the more people we spoke to, the more the story got bigger. “It grew from a story about a road trip to a story about Protestants and Catholics from divided communities coming together and getting on. “Some people told us they had never met a Catholic or a Protestant before, so it really was a case of dance music bringing everyone together. “We heard some stories of people meeting at raves and getting married. “Cross-religious marriage wasn’t common back then. “Music was like a breath of fresh air for the country.” Having filmed scenes for the documentary in Ibiza’s superclubs, Mr Cochrane and his team will now film Dundee’s revellers. Filming in Club Tropicana/Vogue on October 15, Mr Cochrane has requested that clubbers with any 90s-styled rave clothes dust them down and wear them for filming. He said: “I’m from Dundee myself and the club owners said we could film in the club before it opens on the night. “We’re looking for people between 18 and their mid-20s to get out their old rave outfits that they’ve hidden away and come and get involved. “We’ve already filmed in Ibiza to gain some footage for the reconstruction of some stories and now we’re filming here in Dundee. The whole project has been very exciting.”

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.