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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...


Simple Minds aim to get parade alive and kicking

February 16 2018

Scottish rock legends Simple Minds have joined the Maggie’s Penguin Parade as an official sponsor. It’s a “Glittering Prize” for the cancer care charity, which will benefit from funds raised by the public art trail and eventual auction of the 80 giant penguin sculptures. Jim Kerr, lead singer, said: “We’re delighted to be sponsoring a penguin in this year’s Maggie’s Penguin Parade and to be involved with such a worthwhile cause.” The band will play in Dundee as part of their Grandslam 2018 Summer Tour on September 9. They have selected artist Fiona Sutherland, a graduate of Dundee University, to design their penguin. City-born Fiona has worked as a sculptor and art teacher since graduating in fine art from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in 1986. Now living in New Zealand, she has produced many public art pieces on display in Queensland, Australia and Nelson in New Zealand. Her often quirky art style is influenced by her Beano artist father David Sutherland. The Penguin Parade has already proved to be a success after selling out of sponsorship in four months. Fundraising manager Annie Long said: “Support from across the region has flooded in – from shops to hotels, global companies to family-run construction companies and now rock legends Simple Minds.” Earlier this month, the names of the 80 artists selected to paint the penguins were revealed. The designs themselves will remain a well-guarded secret until the parade trail launches on June 29. Blair McCafferty – who contributed an Oor Wullie design for the 2016 Bucket Trail – is one of the selected artists. Another is Brodie Hart, a computer arts graduate from Abertay University. Dr Caroline Erolin, a medical artist at Dundee University usually found creating facial reconstructions for anatomy teaching, contributed her idea believing it would be a “fun challenge”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljIQo1OHkTI   Aberdeenshire-based artist Lindsay Allardyce’s eye-catching design was inspired by her love of traditional Scottish and Nordic folk design and a trip to Shetland. The inspiration for teacher and illustrator Karen MacAllister’s idea, Tick-Tock, came from childhood memories of Dundee and the Wellgate Clock in the 1980s. Charles Jencks, co-founder of Maggie’s centres and a celebrated landscape designer, showed his backing for the project by contributing his own penguin design. Artist coordinator for the penguin parade, Suzanne Scott, will paint the design on his behalf. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu4j_aGgxXM It costs £2,400 a day to run Maggie’s Dundee, a centre which offers free practical, emotional and social support to those affected by cancer. The centre received more than 12,000 visits in 2017 – around 50-70 people a day. And since 2016, there has been an increase of 15% in visits from people newly diagnosed with cancer.  


REVIEW: Simple Minds acoustic tour launch at the Caird Hall, Dundee

May 18 2017

It took 20 years to come about, but Simple Minds finally kicked off their first acoustic tour with a sparkling performance at the Caird Hall in Dundee last night. Frontman Jim Kerr, pictured, joked with the crowd that their stripped-down set happened because “A man in Switzerland offered us a lot of money,” but then quipped that because they were in Switzerland they should ask for chocolate as well. “So we asked for two Toblerones.” Jim was on top form, joking with the crowd, remembering playing the Caird Hall in 1984 and introducing the band as if they were playing for Scotland. https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/lifestyle/entertainment/music/429215/photos-simple-minds-acoustic-tour-launch-caird-hall-dundee/ Dundonian bass player Ged Grimes, who has been with the band for seven years was the star player, Jim said. But the music was seriously good, with the refined arrangements creating a more laid-back sound from the mainly seated six-piece line-up. The crowd was on its feet for staples Promised You A Miracle, the obligatory big singalong for The American and Glittering Prize, a sublime version of Someone, Somewhere in Summertime, the pounding Waterfront and a massive dance and hands in the air moment for hit single Don’t You (Forget About Me). There were a few surprises too, including a cover of Bowie’s Andy Warhol and a solo spot for backing singer Sarah Brown. The band have found a way of doing the acoustic thing without losing their essence and the songs loved by millions now sound more organic but just as powerful and sonically epic.

Farming news

Aberdeen-Angus DNA test hailed by Victor Wallace

February 13 2015

The adoption of a new DNA test to authenticate the pedigree of all Aberdeen-Angus calves will put the breed in the vanguard of genomic technology, retiring Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society president, Victor Wallace, told a packed annual at Stirling. The society has decided to collect blood samples using special ear tags which incorporate a small uniquely identified receptacle. As the tag is inserted soon after birth the small amount of displaced tissue and blood is captured ready for future DNA testing. Responding to criticism of the society’s decision to use only one company, Caisley, for the collection of samples, Mr Wallace insisted Caisley was the only ear tag company which had the technology to meet the society’s required specification. “We invited a number of ear tag companies to tender and some didn’t bother to reply while others couldn’t meet the spec,” said Mr Wallace. “It is a simple and inexpensive system which most breeders are finding easy to use.” The aim is to collect blood samples from all bull calves to enable the sire of all calves to be verified in the case of any uncertainty or dispute and to authenticate beef being sold as Aberdeen-Angus.” The move by the society has been welcomed by major supermarkets selling Aberdeen-Angus beef. Mr Wallace added: “This process was extensively and rigorously tested with management and council visits to the manufacturers in Germany and the completion of field trials. After this process it was brought back to council and unanimously approved. “Like all changes, there has been some resistance but I am convinced that putting the society in a position to be leading in genomic testing can only be a good one. “We should be leaders, not followers.” Mr Wallace admitted that a £34,000 re-branding exercise carried out over the past year, which included the dropping of the society’s long-established black, green and yellow colours, left room for “significant improvement”. The issue, particularly improvement to the website, would, he said, be addressed in the coming year. The decision to prop up the pension fund of chief executive, Ron McHattie, by £120,000 in four tranches was defended by new president, David Evans, who explained that it was a “catching up” operation as the funding of the pension had not been addressed for 11 years and annuity rates had halved in that time. Mr Evans, who works as a financial adviser, runs a 60-cow pedigree herd in Cleveland with his wife, Penny, and has been chairman of the society’s breed promotion committee. He is planning a series of open days throughout the country this year to promote the commercial attributes of the Aberdeen-Angus breed. “There is a huge and growing demand for certified Aberdeen-Angus beef with the active involvement of most of the leading supermarkets in the UK and registrations in the Herd Book are at a record level and continuing to increase,” said Mr Evans. “But we can’t stand still and it is important that the breed adopts all the latest technology to take the breed forward in the future.” New senior vice-president is Tom Arnott, Haymount, Kelso, while Alex Sanger, Prettycur, Montrose, was appointed junior vice-president.


Simple Facebook meesage leads to bags of kindness

April 11 2016

Women in need are to be gifted handbags of essential items and little treats, thanks to a single post on social media which has snowballed. Nicki Bradwell from Fife asked a few friends to help fill bags with items such as deodorant, tissues and sanitary products for women who use the Dundee soup kitchen where she used to volunteer. Her friends asked their friends and her Facebook message has grown into a movement called Bags of Kindness (Scotland) with more than 300 members. Ladies from all over are now busily stocking handbags to be taken to the Eagles Wings Trust soup kitchen and hopefully other causes including Fife Women’s Aid and Homes4Good. As well as items like hairbrushes, soap and toothpaste which most women take for granted, the bags will contain a little treat such as a lipstick or chocolate. They will also bear a message reminding the recipient that they are “lovely, awesome, wonderful and have a purpose”. Nicki, 32, of Cupar, said it was incredible to see her message to eight friends spread so quickly. She said: “Everyone was so quick to respond and were so willing to help. “People are really excited to be involved and it has already led to discussions about how it will continue. “I hope this is just the beginning of something. “Such a wonderful community has grown quite by accident.” Nicki and husband Chris, who have a two-year-old son Jack, volunteered for Eagles Wings Trust for several years when they lived in Dundee and Nicki said she would often see women come in who had no means of washing or grooming themselves. She said: “I cannot imagine being homeless and not being able to stay clean and dry. Especially at that time of the month, I can’t imagine not being able to afford to buy sanitary products. “We are all women and the same thing could happen to any one of us.” Handbags are being dropped off at several collection points in north-east Fife and Dundee, including Eagles Wings Trust, Amy Annand Florist in Newport and Wee Kingdom play centre in Cupar, to be distributed to women who need them. Art teacher Nicki, who also runs her own design business, said: “I hope this will help them to realise that they are still valued.”


Gallery: Simple Minds at the Caird Hall

April 3 2013

Simple Minds played a sell-out greatest hits gig to thousands at a packed Caird Hall in Dundee on April 2. Nearly 30 years after their last performance at the venue, the chart-topping band delighted 2,200 fans by performing songs from their forthcoming album, Celebrate The Greatest Hits. The show was the first homecoming gig for Dundee-born bass player Ged Grimes, who is also founder member of Dundee band Danny Wilson and played with Deacon Blue.

Angus & The Mearns

Another chance for Simple Minds tickets

October 15 2013

More tickets for Stonehaven’s Hogmanay gig by rock legends Simple Minds have gone on sale. The boost for north-east music fans came after organisers finalised crowd space with Police Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council. Gig bosses from Open Air in the Square meet regularly with involved authorities to ensure the New Year event goes smoothly. The last batch of tickets will help event organisers to meet escalating production costs. Volunteers behind the event are also seeking company sponsorship. And businesses are invited to take advantage of big-screen advertising that will be on show at the Hogmanay celebrations. Stonehaven Festival and Events is offering VIP packages that would include tickets, a meal at the Carron Restaurant in Stonehaven, an all-seated covered guest area and refreshments. The organisers have stressed that no tickets will be available at the gate on the night. Fans were warned not to turn up without buying their tickets in advance and reminded that all children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. The concert will run in tandem with Stonehaven’s fireballsceremony in the Old Town’s High Street. Tickets for Simple Minds are available at www.oaits.org

Angus & The Mearns

Simple Minds to celebrate Hogmanay in Stonehaven

May 30 2013

Stonehaven is set to have the best Hogmanay party outside of Edinburgh after Scots rockers Simple Minds said they would join the celebrations. The band will set Stonehaven alight as they headline the town’s Open Air in the Square event against the backdrop of the traditional fireball swinging parade. That has already sparked a race to snap up hotels and tickets from across Europe and as far afield as the USA. However, as a bonus to locals, 1,000 tickets are to be released at Stonehaven’s Feein’ Market on Saturday at the reduced price of £20. After that, tickets will be £30 plus booking fee. A spokesman for the band said they were looking forward to bringing in the New Year with fans at the famed Hogmanay event. The rockers scored a string of hit singles and are perhaps best known for their 1985 hit Don’t You (Forget About Me) from the soundtrack of the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. Last year’s Hogmanay concert, featuring Scottish favourites the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Blazin’ Fiddles, attracted a crowd of more than 5,000 revellers, despite horrendous flooding in the days before. David Lawman, a member of the Stonehaven Festivals and Events Committee, said: “This is simply a dream come true for us. “We are thrilled and delighted these music legends have agreed to come to Stonehaven for our big Hogmanay party. Last year when we revealed our plans, they said it couldn’t be done. “But with a great deal of effort from our small but dedicated team of volunteers, we pulled it off in grand style, staging a Hogmanay party that was a complete sell-out and second only to Edinburgh. “This year we will be bigger and better and once again help boost Stonehaven’s economy. “Already two of the town’s hotels are fully booked and requests for tickets have been received from the USA and Europe and we hope to provide all age groups with a memorable night.”

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