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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…


Award-winning Tayside song writer Eddie Cairney immortalises Queensferry Crossing in tune

October 25 2017

An award-winning Tayside song writer who immortalised the 50th anniversary of the Tay Road Bridge in music last year has released an EP which pays tribute to the newly opened Queensferry Crossing over the Forth. Perth-born Eddie Cairney, 65, who now lives in Arbroath, has released an album called ‘Sketches o’ the QC’ which includes songs dedicated to the “isolated” workers who were employed during construction and contrasts the old Forth Road Bridge to the new crossing with its wind shields designed to keep traffic flowing during storms. © SuppliedTayside musician Eddie Cairney Eddie, who delayed the release of the album due to family illness and bereavement, said: “It’s just another quirky album like I did for the Tay Road Bridge. “As you can probably imagine, how do you write six songs about a bridge? “I usually end up using a process of creative journalism. I get a few facts or even just a single fact and then I let my imagination take over. “With each album early on in the writing process I draw a blank and think there’s nothing here I can write about but there’s always something to write about. “You just have to hang around long enough and it comes eventually. “I just took threads from here and there. I was going to call the album The Queensferry Crossing but thought that was a bit boring so I went for Sketches o’ the Q.C. “It introduces a bit of ambiguity. If you Google the name you get lots of drawings of court scenes!” © PAQueensferry Crossing Eddie was inspired to write Columba Cannon after reading an article about the general foreman for the foundations and towers. Eddie said: “It was the name that got me and that gave me the first line of the song “He is a bridge builder wi a missionary zeal” Has to be with a name like Columba!” Fishnet bridge was set in a meditative light, describing the bridge as a “thing of beauty that looks like a big fish net glistening high above the Forth but it is a symbolic fishnet with the song taking the form of an imaginary conversation with the bridge.”   “Midday starvation came from an article which highlighted the isolation of the workers working high up on the bridge,” he added. “If you forget your piece you’ve had it and you starve for there’s no nipping round to the corner shop for a pie. The article also said that a local pizza delivery firm regularly delivered a pallet load of warm pizzas to the bridge so that was “midday salvation”! Meanwhile, The boys frae the cheese is a play on words. He added: “I read an article that said The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) could have acted sooner and avoided the costly closure of the bridge at the end of 2015.” © SuppliedEddie Cairney Eddie is no stranger to music and song influenced by Dundee and wider Scottish history. In 2015 he featured in The Courier for his efforts to put the complete works of Robert Burns to music. With a piano style influenced by Albert Ammons, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim, and a song-writing style influenced by Matt McGinn, Michael Marra and Randy Newman, the former Perth High School pupil, who wrote the 1984 New Zealand Olympic anthem, has organised a number of projects over the years including the McGonagall Centenary Festival  for Dundee City Council in 2002. Last year’s Tay Road Bridge album included a tribute to 19th century poet William Topas McGonagall and also honoured Hugh Pincott – the first member of the public to cross the Tay Road Bridge in 1966. Thanks to The Courier, he also became one of the first to cross the Queensferry Crossing  when it opened to the public in the early hours of August 30.


Carrie Fisher’s Dashing White Sergeant on Dundee station platform

January 4 2017

Carrie Fisher went from a galaxy far, far away to dancing the Dashing White Sergeant at Dundee railway station, it has been revealed. The actress, best known for playing Princess Leia in Star Wars, died at the age of 60 on December 27, four days after suffering a heart attack on a plane. Her mother Debbie Reynolds died the following day after suffering a stroke. But is has now been revealed Ms Fisher enjoyed a trip to Scotland that culminated in a ceilidh on the deserted platform at Dundee railway station. Writing in The Times, journalist Roderick Grant recalled travelling around Scotland on board The Royal Scotsman with the actress. While The Blues Brothers star was one of the fee-paying tourists on the trip, he had been commissioned to write a magazine article about the journey. He revealed Fisher, accompanied by her French bulldog Gary, had been unimpressed by a visit to Glamis Castle — the Queen Mother’s ancestral home — because of the dim lighting within the building. But that did not stop her splashing out £500 on a cashmere dog coat from the castle’s gift shop before both Carrie and Gary took part in some Scottish country dancing in Dundee railway station. At midnight, an accordion orchestra led the 28 passengers on the £1,500 a day trip on to the deserted platform at Dundee railway station where they danced The Dashing White Sergeant and eightsome reels. Gilchrist wrote: “I partner Carrie, and Gary is here too of course, dashing in and our of the dancers’ feet. Carrie appears transfixed with joy by this simple pleasure.” Ms Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd broke her silence about the deaths of her mother and grandmother, who died within a day of each other, on Monday. The 24-year-old posted on social media site Instagram: “Receiving all of your prayers and kind words over the past week has given me strength during a time I thought strength could not exist.” “There are no words to express how much I will miss my Abadaba and my one and only Momby. Your love and support means the world to me.” ❤👩‍👩‍👧❤ Receiving all of your prayers and kind words over the past week has given me strength during a time I thought strength could not exist. There are no words to express how much I will miss my Abadaba and my one and only Momby. Your love and support means the world to me. A post shared by Billie Lourd (@praisethelourd) on Jan 2, 2017 at 10:09am PST A joint funeral is planned for the two actresses.

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

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.


JK Rowling has fans reading between the byline

July 16 2013

JK Rowling’s outing, this week, as the author of a new crime novel under the name Robert Galbraith, has propelled his/her book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, to the top of the best-seller lists. So what’s in a name? Quite a lot, as Helen Brown discovered… Writing about what you know is all very well, but making it up as you go along is what most writers of fiction aspire to do, so starting with your own name seems like an obvious ploy. Ms Rowling, of course, became JK in the first place, rather than Joanne, because savvy publishers reckoned that her target audience of young males might not accept a female name on the cover. Now, The Cuckoo’s Calling, from a respectable (and very well-reviewed) 1,500 hardback sales, has shot to the top of the book charts. Before the deception was discovered, critics like Val McDermid and Peter James hailed its style and “a major new talent”, which must have been very gratifying for Ms Rowling, who did it because she wanted the book to be judged for itself alone after the hype surrounding her first non-Harry novel, A Casual Vacancy. She’s not the first, of course. In the early 80s, Doris Lessing wrote as Jane Somers, to show how hard it was for unknown writers to get published at all. Famously, Stephen King created an alter ego, Richard Bachman, with a detailed back story, family and career. He started off, according to King, as: “a sheltered place where I could publish a few early books which I felt readers might like. Then he began to grow and come alive. When his cover was blown, he died.” Rowling’s Robert Galbraith, by contrast, looks set to continue, the real creator having found it “such a liberating experience” and “pure pleasure” to get genuine feedback. There is, of course, a bit of a difference between choosing a version of your name that will go down well with potential readers or broaden your appeal and actually hiding behind a nom de plume because you genuinely don’t want anyone to know who you are. George Orwell chose that name to get away from his privileged background when he was choosing to write about social injustice and gritty everyday life and also because it sounded “solidly British”. The late Iain Banks wasn’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes when he added an M to his science fiction novels, just signalling that he was aiming at a different audience. PD James was encouraged to use initials for her first books, although she never pretended to be anyone else, male or female, once she was on the way to becoming the doyenne of detective fiction. 50 Shades of Grey’s EL James also added an air of non-gender specific mystery to her tale of bad-boy bondage. By historic contrast, Jane Austen’s acerbic romances first surfaced as the creation of simply, A Lady, and Anne, Charlotte and Emily Bronte’s words appeared via Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell. As they commented: “We had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.” Smart cookies, these Brontes… It’s not a habit confined to the sensitive novelist, either. Ronnie Barker wrote under the name Gerald Wiley precisely because he felt his work wouldn’t be judged purely on its merits. He apparently even rejected one of his own efforts in a bid to maintain anonymity, although not the now legendary “fork handles” skit. Actors and actresses are well known for adopting stage names and pop stars aren’t immune although it’s easier to hide a literary voice than a literal one but not usually from motives of shyness or craving for privacy. You don’t call yourself Marilyn Manson, channelling both glamour and gore, if you fancy strolling down the High Street in blissful anonymity to pick up the morning paper and a year’s supply of Horlicks. The continually reinvented David Bowie (born David Jones, not to be confused with the Mancunian Monkee of almost the same name) may have disported himself as Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke and Aladdin Sane but also performed, without much fanfare, as part of the Tao Jones Index and Tin Machine. So simple or flamboyant? Minimalist or memorable? Maggie Smith (real) or Engelbert Humperdinck (assumed)? Me, I’ll never make it as a writer with a name like mine. Not of fiction, anyway, in spite of what you might think about the veracity of what you read under my byline in The Courier. Although not so very long ago, an American lady called Helen Gurley added her married name (Brown) to her given one and made a mint out of inventing Cosmopolitan magazine. Following that example I’d be Brown Mudie and I’m not risking morphing into a Muddy Brown for anyone. So thus far, dear reader, the only major way HB has made its mark in the world of words is stamped on a pencil.

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.

UK & World

Column on Nice Attack journalist wearing hijab sparks 300 complaints

July 19 2016

The press regulator has received more than 300 complaints about remarks by The Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie criticising Channel 4 News for using a journalist wearing a hijab to present a report on the Nice massacre. The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) said the complaints, which still have to be assessed, have related to accuracy, harassment and discrimination. Mr MacKenzie, a former editor of the newspaper, had questioned whether it was right that Fatima Manji, a journalist who wears the traditional Muslim head covering, should have been allowed to appear on screen during Friday’s Channel 4 News programme. Stating that he could “hardly believe my eyes” Mr MacKenzie asked in his Monday column: “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?” French-Tunisian father-of-three Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a hired lorry through crowds gathered on the the Promenade des Anglais in Nice to celebrate Bastille Day on Thursday. He killed 84 people and injured dozens more before he was shot dead by police. In a statement Channel 4 News said: “The comments published in The Sun today by Mr MacKenzie are offensive, completely unacceptable, and arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred. “It is wrong to suggest that a qualified journalist should be barred from reporting on a particular story or present on a specific day because of their faith. “Fatima Manji is an award-winning journalist. We are proud that she is part of our team and will receive, as ever, our full support in the wake of his comments.” Former Conservative Party chairman and foreign minister Baroness Warsi wrote to The Sun’s editor in chief Tony Gallagher, branding it a “divisive column”. In the letter, which she shared on Twitter, Baroness Warsi wrote: “Just as politicians should carry the responsibility for xenophobic and toxic campaigning that divides communities so journalists should be held accountable for ‘shock jock’ writing which simply perpetuates stereotypes, demonises and attempts to hold a whole community accountable for the actions of an individual.” A spokesman for The Sun said it was making “no comment” on the issue. The newspaper published an online article by Muslim writer Anila Baig. She reflected on Mr MacKenzie’s article which suggested the broadcaster had been deliberately provocative in putting Ms Manji in front of the camera on the day of the Nice attack. Ms Baig described Ms Manji as “a professional who has been working for the programme for four years, not someone dragged in off the street just because she’s wearing a scarf on her head”. Her article states: “The fact that Fatima can present a news bulletin and also wears a headscarf shows how great Britain is.”

Jim Crumley

Ripples and the ring of truth

August 7 2017

Skye again, otter watching again, a head-full of Gavin Maxwell again. Part of my life’s recurring pattern. And with every Skye otter, I remember something from Ring of Bright Water that staggered my teenage mind when I first read it, an account of Maxwell’s reunion with his otter Mijbil after it had been missing for two days. “I am aware that this scene of reunion, and the hours that for me had preceded it, must appear to many a reader little short of nauseous. I might write of it and subsequent events with a wry dishonesty, a negation of my feeling for the creature, which might disarm criticism and forestall the accusation of sentimentality and slushiness to which I now lay myself open. “There is, however, a certain obligation of honesty upon a writer, without which his words are worthless… I knew by that time that Mij meant more to me than most human beings of my acquaintance, that I should miss his physical presence more than theirs, and I was not ashamed of it… I knew that Mij trusted me more utterly than did any of my own kind, and so supplied a need that we are slow to admit.” Something locked into place then. I wanted this kind of writing in my life, this kind of emotional commitment to the natural world. It would be another 23 years before I began to write about the natural world for a living, but when I did it was with Maxwell’s words for a first commandment: “There is, however, a certain obligation of honesty upon a writer, without which his words are worthless…” But I did not choose his path. I have never adopted a wild animal. I only ever wanted to adopt something of their wildness, to become an acceptable part of their landscape, to acquire from them ways of coming closer to nature. But Gavin Maxwell – more than any other individual or circumstance – finally revealed to me the path I did choose. They say there is an otter territory for every mile of the Skye coast. I don’t know. I know many miles of the Skye coast, some intimately. And better by far than examining every mile of the Skye coast is to get to know one of its miles inside out and backwards, discover the preferences of the local otters, and wait for the otters to come to you. Isle Ornsay, early morning, and after an hour of sitting there is a new pattern on the water 20 yards offshore, made by an otter muzzle from which a vee-shaped wedge spills, grey ripples edged by white light. No sooner has he turned up than he vanishes. The same old frustration. Resist it, sit still. In 20 more minutes he is back in exactly the same place. He looks like a log floating at the speed of the current, but then he curves towards me, puts one forefoot on my rock, while his muzzle tests the air not 15 feet away. He has come to inspect me. Then he turns in his own length and leaves me a parcel of bubbles for a parting gift. And now I know he knows I’m here. I have proved to myself this one thing over and over again: if you can be still and allow nature to come to you, that is when nature is freest with her secrets. Another hour, then quite suddenly the otter is lying on his back in the water, eating an eel from his “hands”, even as the eel writhes. Otters like their food fresh. He dives, discards the eel half-eaten. Why? He resurfaces with a huge crab in his jaws. That’s why. But he cannot eat the crab the way he eats an eel, he needs a rock. He chooses mine, the same one he chose the last time, and a thousand times before the last time. He climbs out, drops the crab. I hear it hit the rock. I hear his teeth take hold of it. I hear the shell crack and I see it splinter. A small, brittle rain of crab shell falls. He takes a pace up the rock, turns his back on me, and the crab flakes start to fall again. Occasionally he looks over a shoulder at me. In 10 minutes, he has reduced the crab to shell sand. He steps off, leaves me a new parcel of bubbles… Gavin Maxwell wrote a simple epitaph to another of his otters, Edal. It appears on a small memorial cairn at Sandaig: “Whatever joy you had from her, give back to nature.” I picked a small stone from the Sandaig shore years ago, and I wrote those words on it. It is still on my bookshelves, so that his words are before me every working day of my writing life.