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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...

Amber Lights

Scotchmania rules the roost

July 9 2016

What never fails to amaze me is the enthusiasm for Scotch whisky I see in other countries. Indeed, Scotland sometimes seems to be the one nation that is losing pride and passion for its national drink — whereas, go overseas and in many places Scotchmania rules the roost. I have just spent a week in Germany, where enthusiasm for whisky and Scotland generally verges on the boundless. What is astonishing, too, is that the enthusiasm is German-generated, and not the result of any hefty efforts by VisitScotland. One can debate that Germans’ enthusiasm for Scotland dates back to the 19th Century, when a wide group of artists, composers and writers saw our wild landscapes as dramatic settings for romance and mystery. The German poet Theodor Fontane — in an amazing mix of fact and fable — even wrote a tragic poem blaming the 1879 collapse of the Tay Bridge on the Three Witches from Macbeth. Back to whisky. German enthusiasm is best seen at their countless annual “Whiskymessen”, or trade fairs. Some are vast events that attract the Diageos and Pernod Ricards of the world, others are for the specialist whisky bottlers and importers, plus firms that specialise in one-off bottles of rare malts unearthed in some collector’s forgotten cellar in the darkest Dolomites. Best of these is Whisky Fair at Limburg, near Frankfurt, where every year I do presentations on whisky history. Once the day’s presentation is done, I can browse around the 60-plus stands looking for interesting malts to sample, often at knockdown prices. There are so many that to try them all would seriously endanger the liver. So I draw up a short list and hope some malts that didn’t make it will still be there the following year. I can only urge any whisky enthusiast to visit Whisky Fair (renamed Whisky Festival for 2017), always held on a late-April weekend. Nearest airports are Frankfurt and Cologne, both with on-site rail stations whence superfast trains whisk you to Limburg in minutes. But be forewarned: local hotels tend to get booked up a year in advance, so start planning now and good luck.  

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


Scottish Wildlife Trust says Lady the osprey’s eggs have failed to hatch

June 8 2011

There was sad news for wildlife lovers as it was confirmed the UK's oldest breeding osprey's latest batch of eggs have failed to hatch. It had been hoped that Lady would successfully breed for the 21st consecutive year after laying three eggs at Loch of the Lowes in the spring. But staff at the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve near Dunkeld broke the sad news that old age may finally have caught up with the bird, thought to be 26 years old. Trust Perthshire ranger Anna Cheshier said, "We were optimistic about a successful hatching for the osprey this year but sadly all three of the eggs have failed to hatch. "Ospreys live an average of eight years and are estimated to produce 20 eggs during that time so it's incredible that this individual osprey is now around 26 years old and has produced 60 eggs in her lifetime." She added, "Unfortunately, it may be that her age has affected the fertility of the eggs this breeding season. We have also had terrible weather at the reserve, which inevitably puts the eggs at greater risk." The trust had been hoping to satellite tag the chicks and preparatory works for the tagging and tracking were under way. This work will now feed in to the relaunch of the project when next year's brood hatches. SWT stressed all money donated in support of the satellite tagging project are held as a restricted fund and will only be used for this purpose. Anna said, "It does mean that we will need to delay our project to satellite tag osprey chicks too, which was planned for them fledging and migrating to west Africa in August. "But we haven't written off our amazing osprey being a mother again just yet, as we hope to have more chicks hatching during the breeding season in 2012 and believe with Lady anything is possible. "All going well next year, we will continue with the project. In the meantime, the pair of ospreys are likely to remain in the area and make for an early migration when the season dictates." Wildlife enthusiasts across the globe have been following the breeding season online thanks to a blog and streaming nestcam at www.swt.org.uk.

Readers' letters

April 8: Lessons we can learn from River Tay beavers

April 8 2011

This morning's letters look at the River Tay beavers and wildlife management, taxation, fuel prices, and road safety in Fife. Lessons we can learn from River Tay beavers Sir,-I read with interest your article 'Call for halt to beaver damage' (April 6) regarding the acceleration of beaver damage on the lower River Earn, reported to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) by an angler. As with other wildlife, most notably deer, whether the felled trees are viewed as damage or not is only really the concern of the landowner involved. SNH maintain that it is legal for landowners to kill or remove beavers if they deem it necessary so, officially, there is no problem here. If the landowner thinks he has a problem, SNH say he can do something about it. Others will dispute this and the legal position does require to be clarified. This is why the River Tay beavers are important. They will force us to address these issues much sooner than the official Scottish Government reintroduction of beavers into Argyll and everyone will benefit from that, whatever their views on beavers might be. There is little point in calling for a halt to the beaver damage as the Tay beavers do not read The Courier. What we need is a pragmatic approach from government to this issue which allows us to learn how these animals will interact with other land uses and provides landowners with a workable mechanism for dealing with problem situations. Ultimately, all our wildlife should be managed locally according to local circumstances and sensitivities, not by a centralised quango in Inverness. Scottish Natural Heritage are all over the place on this issue and do not have the answers. We will have to look elsewhere for those. Victor Clements.1 Crieff Road,Aberfeldy. Victorian species cull Sir,-I agree in part with Eric McVicar's letter (April 5) about culling non-indigenous species but he shows a severe lack of knowledge in some areas. For example, beavers are a native species, as are bears and wolves. The absence of these animals is solely down to Victorian bloodlust, which saw the eradication of a vast number of species worldwide simply to amuse bored aristocrats. This has left us with a red deer population held on estates causing genetic diversity issues and out of control numbers, due to the lack of natural predators. I believe he is referring to Japanese knotweed, not Japanese hogweed. If Mr McVicar is a teacher then I fear for his pupils as he seems to be giving out wrong information and failing to teach them to check their facts. (Mr) J. Phillip.3 Lyninghills,Forfar. March of indirect taxation Sir,-Your editorial (April 5) and related article on the launch of the Scottish Conservative election manifesto for Holyrood misses an important fact. The fees or graduate contribution to the sum of £4000 is for every year of study. Parents and students can do the maths. Common sense it may be for Conservatives but, for those affected, it will feel very much like indirect taxation much favoured, as many of your readers will recall, by the Conservative governments of the 1980s and 1990s. Iain Anderson.41 West End,St Monans. Motorists need fuel transparency Sir,-We were conned in the Budget last month. The petrol companies had predicted the one penny reduction and had already upped the price by three or four pence. So is it now possible for the UK Government to do two specific things to regain some credibility? First tell the fuel retailers to instantly removed the ridiculous 0.99 they tag on at the end of their main price and, second, make it a rule to give the displayed price per gallon and not per litre. After all, cars in particular are sold with predicted miles per gallon consumption (admittedly often optimistic) not miles per litre. And if motorists were to see immediately the true cost of fuel for their car, instead of ridiculously having to multiply the litre price by 4.546 to find out, they would most certainly be more cautious with their travels and work a lot harder at reducing petrol/diesel consumption. Having been conned a few weeks ago, vehicle owners are surely entitled to some honesty now. Ian Wheeler.Springfield,Cupar. Wind farm risk to road users Sir,-I feel compelled to reply to your article regarding Fife's fatal road crashes. With 10 out of 13 fatal crashes in 2010 happening on rural roads, the most common contributory factor given in your article was failure to observe the road properly. My concerns are related to the plans submitted to Fife Council for the giant wind turbines on Clatto Hill. The road that runs adjacent to the proposed site is the C30. This rural road demands your full attention and concentration while driving in either direction. With the road being narrow, it requires even medium-sized cars to slow down or pull in when passing. The road has several vertical crests and sharp vertical curvatures which would make the turbines appear suddenly then disappear just as quickly. As this road has seen many accidents over a number of years, this would surely add another driving distraction to an already dangerous road. Norman Moodie.Craigview,Clatto Farm,Cupar. Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to letters@thecourier.co.uk or send to Letters Editor, The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.

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.

Angus & The Mearns

Gingerbread tribute to the Wee Red Town

October 14 2013

When Libby Jones was invited by Bank Street Gallery owner Susie Clark to exhibit at her gallery in Kirriemuir, she became intrigued by the history of the town. As well as Kirriemuir’s most famous son and Peter Pan author JM Barrie, she discovered the town had also been home for a time to AC/DC singer Bon Scott, Victorian mountaineer Hugh Munro, and 19th century writer Violet Jacob. She found the town had been a hotbed of witchcraft in the 16th century and is also world famous for its gingerbread and decided to combine all these elements. Ms Jones went on to craft a boxed set of prints, which also doubles as a card game. She said: “This tongue-in-cheek edition of 10 boxes, of 20 cards per box, features Kirriemuir characters presented on a slice of gingerbread on a plate. I have also made a poster featuring all the 10 characters in the game.” Visitors can see images of Edinburgh Castle with fireworks, wildlife such as gannets, and artwork made after a visit to Antarctica. Londoner and master printmaker Ms Jones exhibited work from her sub-zero stay at a Discovery Point exhibition in Dundee last year. Children can see her work Cooking the Climate, a comment on global warming, which consists of a microwave oven and slideshow with rotating polar animals. There is also a fossilised mobile phone in a second installation, Fossils of the Anthropocene an exploration of the traces that might remain of civilisation in 50 million years’ time. She is also exhibiting a selection of her woodcuts, linocuts, collagraphs and screenprints at the gallery. The exhibition runs until November 8 and opening hours can be found on www.bankstreetgallery.org, or by telephoning 01575 570070.


Wildlife enthusiast spots beaver in Invergowrie

June 9 2010

A wildlife enthusiast from Invergowrie "couldn't believe his luck" when he made a rare sighting of a beaver while carrying out his early-morning paper deliveries. David Leckie (45), who works at the Forum Centre pet shop, was travelling his usual route when at 4am on Friday he came across the aquatic rodent sitting on the banks of a stream. "I usually spot a lot of wildlife around that time such as deer, foxes and mallard so I am always on the lookout," said David. "I was coming down by Alastair Soutar Crescent and Greystane Terrace when I saw the beaver beside the water munching on some vegetation. "It was like a huge rat with a large flattened tail. "I couldn't believe it! I stood there for a couple of minutes and then went to get my camera but it wasn't there when I got back." The former Camperdown Wildlife Centre volunteer then contacted the Dundee zoo which told him they had given away their collection of beavers many years ago. "I know that pairs have been released into the wild in Argyll but I didn't think they could travel that far and I wouldn't have thought it was someone's pet!" David added he would be taking his camera in future in the hope of capturing a snapshot of the beast. "I am amazed to have seen a beaver in Invergowrie. I'm not 100% sure if it will stick around but hopefully I'll manage to get a picture of it." In May last year, four pairs of beavers which are not native to Scotland were formally released in the wild at mid-Argyll's Knapdale Forest as part of a trial reintroduction of the animals to the UK. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are overseeing the pilot project, which aims to determine how beavers will cope in Scottish habitats and assess their impact on the country's environment by monitoring them over five years. However, a spokeswoman from the SWT said the beaver could not have belonged to its set. "Beavers do travel some distance to find a mate but it isn't one of ours," she said. "It is not viable that a beaver could travel from mid-Argyll to the Dundee area in such a time period. "There have been sightings of feral beavers in other areas of the country but they may have escaped from private collections." Picture used under the Creative Commons licence courtesy of Flickr user gainesp2003.

Farming news

Profession that’s a privilege

October 1 2016

Autumn is a very special time of year for me. As a farmer I’m in the privileged position to see the countryside around me and its resident wildlife preparing for winter. Pulling on my boots this morning I could hear the sound of wild geese overhead on their migration south. The red deer rut is well underway and it's great to see the stags in action rounding up their harems of hinds. The hills all around are ringing out with stags roaring. There is no better entertainment than to listen to their impressive sounds on a still evening. Bryan Burnett and a team from Radio Scotland visited us last week to do a short interview for a program called ’My Dream Job’. It made me reflect on how very lucky I am to be farming and doing a job I love. One of the questions I was asked was how I came to be a farmer? I explained that I started work after leaving school, with a major local employer, the Dounreay Atomic Energy Authority. Very quickly I realised that there were people in the world who did not enjoy their work. From the start it was an alien environment from what I had been used to in growing up on a hill farm. My short time at Dounreay gave me enough impetus to go to agricultural college. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Auchencruive but I am also glad to have experienced a job other than farming, even if it wasn't for me. Lack of job satisfaction or enthusiasm are words that could not be applied to the group of shepherds who I joined last weekend, for the annual ‘North Tup Tour’ of flocks of North Country Hill Cheviots bound for the October sales in Lairg and Dingwall. I was a bit of a lightweight as I only managed one twelve hour shift and missed out on the North West section done on the previous day. There were many impressive tups on show, giving plenty opportunities for even the most discerning and hard to please shepherds from throughout the country to obtain top quality new bloodlines for their flocks. Through the course of the day I took pictures of every group of tups that I visited and also of the countryside we drove through. I put it all together on a slideshow along with music from a great young Scottish band called Heron Valley. In the first twenty four hours of posting onto FaceBook it had been viewed five and half thousand times and shared by forty eight different people. I think I may have overdone some of the tourist shots as one of the comments left was that the North Coast 500 could be renamed North Country Cheviot 500. Ultimately flock masters in the north have to work that wee bit harder to persuade potential buyers of their stock, that the long trip to the North Highlands, historically the home of the North Country Cheviot breed, is well worthwhile.

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