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Showing posts from January, 2019

Seaside Cafe Hell - by Duncan Harley

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The steep stairs to the coastal café would put off the unwary and the signage is at best confusing. Indeed, even finding this hidden gem would put the most determined macaroni and cheese aficionado to the test. From the outside, it looked inviting. From the inside, it was less so.
Mind you, this was some months ago and things may have improved.  After all that much maligned 'Hook Line and Sinker' chipper @ Portsoy is now ranked better than it was.

It's all to do with customer care really and Chef Ramsay would probably agree that an entrance sign advising that there is “Room for only 60 patrons at a time” and “Please wait here to be seated” might be a scare-away issue.

Waiting is usually not an issue – in a 5-star restaurant- but this Banff place is not, by any stretch of the imagination even 2 star.

Not that the food is sub-standard. The place serves up good and hearty beach-side-café favourites. Macaroni-and-fries and Big Breakfasts sit solidly within a menu boasting Cullen S…

Rock of Ages @ His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen - Duncan Harley Reviews

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Fans of rock-opera unfettered by notions of either plot development or political correctness will be delighted with this cheesy as hell piece of rock n’ roll debauchery. Landing like aliens upon the Aberdeen stage, the cheap gags spewed forth amongst a feelgood pseudo-rebellious and occasionally offensive script. 
A duo of Cleese-like goose-stepping Germans vie with a bevy of gyrating strippers for supremacy as a thinly spread plot tells of unrequited love and vaunted ambition. Brassy, glitzy, brash, raunchy and ultimately inhabited by pretty much all of the seven dwarfs, the show makes a mockery of correctness.

Rock of Ages women exist in a bubble of Ann Summers lingerie while the guys generally get to leer and swill beer.

But thankfully, the musical score makes up for the disappointing dialogue and from the opening call “Are you ready to rock?” to the closing anthem Don’t Stop Believin’, at least the music makes sense. And that probably is the saving grace of Rock of Ages. That is …

Fiddler on the Roof @ HMT – reviewed by Duncan Harley

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Anti-Jewish pogroms in the not-so-far-off days of the Russian Empire were quite common and reached new heights during the period 1903 to 1906 when a series of state-sponsored ‘demonstrations’ affected many settlements in the Ukraine and in Bessarabia. Thousands of Jews were reportedly killed and many more thousands displaced as a wave of violence backed up by harsh laws targeted Russian Jews. Tsar Nicholas II was not known for his tolerance of either dissidents or minority groups and in the political turbulence of the times the Jews made for a convenient scapegoat.
Married to a granddaughter of Queen Victoria he was referred to by Trotsky as having been “more awful than all of the tyrants of ancient and modern history”. Aberdeen’s Bon Accord Magazine was more succinct when, during a state visit to Balmoral it reported that “When the Tsar is at home, we do not hesitate to call him a tyrant. Then in heaven’s name, why – when he visits his grandmother-in-law, should we play the hypocrite …

Gordon Bennett - by Duncan Harley

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Well that’s me off to pen book three. The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire was a good first stab at the history of the north-east and, although I say it myself, made for a good follow-up on those well-researched Leopard Magazine features.Next, of course, is The Little History of Aberdeenshire - due out on March 1st - which I hope might make it onto the dusty bookshelves of those who appreciate popular history on a local level.

With a working title of ‘Long Shadows – more tales from the north-east’, the next work is likely to include the Garvie murder, much more about Tomintoul and of course a take on Gordon Bennett. Gordon, of course, went on to found the New York Times while his well-loved son inspired the popular epithet ‘Gordon Bennett’.

Garvie-wise, I have already been given a comment – which I may ignore - suggesting that sleeping dogs might lie. The participants are now graveside although one, Sheila, was until a few years ago often seen walking her dog along the boardwalk @ Stonie …

Cowgate – By Duncan Harley

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As the Scottish National Party publicly bicker amongst themselves over who said what to who in the muddle over the sexual harassment allegations against a former First Minister, I have to wonder if the independence movement is heading towards an inglorious end. Many Scots had high hopes when in far off 1967 a bi-election in Hamilton saw a so-called safe Labour seat swing to the SNP in a landslide victory which saw the party take around 46% of the vote over Labour’s 41%.

As a new-voter in those heady days, I well recall the scene when Winnie Ewing emerged from the counting office – in the assembly hall of St John's Grammar School – to loud applause.

Widely heralded as a watershed in Scottish politics, the Hamilton victory spawned a new pride. Not only had a woman emerged as a voice for Scotland – remember, these were the days of the male-dominated Scottish Office stranglehold on everything north of the border – but a measure of Saltire seemed at least possible.

Then came Margo Mac…

Fording the Urie – By Duncan Harley

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I visited Old Rayne today. Not my favourite place to be honest since it brings back difficult memories. I lived in the village some years ago and when forced by chance to drive past it, I tend to avert my gaze and block out ghosts.

But no matter. Little did I know that some decades on from a trip across the water – well the River Urie actually – a blast from the past would come back to haunt me.

Wiki informs that ‘The River Ury is a small river in North-east Scotland situated in the Garioch area of Aberdeenshire. Its origins are close to Bennachie, approximately 25 miles to the northwest of Aberdeen. The river runs for approximately 15 miles before meeting the River Don at the south edge of Inverurie.’ And that would be about right. Mind you I am unsure about that spelling since the Urie appears within many local books as Ury and the source of the Don tributary is subject of debate.

It’s a powerful river, despite its size, and over many years the Urie has meandered at will over the …

Mensa – by Duncan Harley

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Seemingly anyone who has shown they have an IQ in the top 2% can submit evidence of this to join Mensa. I have never joined Mensa. Not that I can’t afford the application fee – some £26.87 plus VAT or other – it’s just that I can’t make head nor tale of the admission process.

“Does your child prefer Charles Dickens to Cbeebies, or do they find school boring and unchallenging? You could have a bright spark on your hands!”

“There are many confusing notions about what giftedness is and is not. Indeed, in several respects, the life experience of the gifted individual seems paradoxical.”

“Mensa hosts a limited number of group supervised tests at centres around the British Isles. This package provides you with a rounded assessment of your capabilities, for a one-off fee of just £24.95. We also offer schools the chance to test their pupils aged over 10 and a half.”

Oh really?
Seemingly ‘Mensa is the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. It is apparently a non-profit organization op…