It’s That Time Of Year Again

Who is Karen Meldrum?

Karen Meldrum is an artist from Inverurie, Aberdeenshire with numerous commissions, gallery exhibits. Karen studied at Grays School of Art gaining a first class honours degree in Fine Art and she’s since won various awards including the BP fine art award and the Royal Scottish Academy “Pillans and Waddies” Prize

Karen was asked to commission a painting by Greg’s mum for his 30th birthday. It was up to Greg what he wanted the painting to be and after drunkenly discussing options including him on horseback with cats, unicorns and Johnny Five from Short Circuit we came up with a slightly different idea…

It’s That Time Of Year Again

For 6 years we lived in a place called Rosemount Viaduct in the centre of Aberdeen and we had some great times there so we wanted to capture that. We took a Google Street View…

Rosemount Viaduct

…then decided it would be a cool idea to try and capture all seasons in the one painting divided into 4 sections…

Rosemount Viaduct

…we spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of time in the pub on  the corner – The Noose & Monkey and were quite often out on the corner smoking so we wanted that to somehow be added in. When I asked Karen if it was possible she obliged and asked for some photos of myself and Greg. Remember that these were the days before “selfies” and most of the time we were too drunk to bother about taking photos of ourselves so I dug out these ones…

We were all amazed and so, so happy with the final result – Karen came up with the title “It’s That Time Of Year Again” and I think that fits it so well…

Karen Meldrum

It’s That Time Of Year Again

It will soon be taking pride of place in our living room – we love it! The photo really doesn’t do it justice – it’s layered with various different materials and the colours seem to change depending on the light, it’s awesome!

Thanks Karen and Greg’s mum for such an amazing gift!

Karen Meldrum

Greg & Steve

 

My favourite part!

What do you think? Have you ever had a painting commissioned? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @SteveSays2014

Don’t forget to check out more of Karen’s work…

Karen Meldrum

Karen Meldrum

 

 

Travelling By Bus Advice

Stagecoach claim ‘fragile economy’ to blame for bus cuts

National bus chain Stagecoach are citing a “fragile economy” as one of the main reasons behind controversial cuts to bus services.

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I only recently passed my driving test so this won’t affect me but I used to travel by bus fairly often and I actually quite enjoyed it.

For those of us who still travel frequently by bus here’s some of my advice.

Be prepared…

Okay, so you’ve checked the timetable and you now know when the bus is due to arrive. You’ve checked where the nearest bus stop is and worked out what time you should leave so you can get to the bus stop in plenty time and you’ve then walked all the way to the bus stop.  It’s safe to assume that by now you know you will be getting on a bus quite soon so why, oh why, do some people still wait until they are standing in front of the driver to get their money/ticket ready.

Come on people, don’t hold up all the prepared people standing behind you in the pouring rain and BE READY TO BOARD!

Learn from air travellers – they practically wave their boarding passes above their heads like Olympic flags as soon as they enter the airport.

Be courteous…

If there is someone less secure on their feet than yourself waiting in the queue then please let them get on the bus first. Bus drivers are not usually the most considerate people in the world and they never wait until everyone is sitting comfortably before moving off. This is normally fine for people with a secure footing, however, for those not so steady on their feet, if they are not seated in plenty time they could end up kissing the back window in no time as the driver speeds off.

Give up your seat for....men with stick weilding penises, giant babies, hemorrhoid sufferers, armless ladies & ladies with lollipop breasts...

Give up your seat for….men with stick wielding penises, giant babies, haemorrhoid sufferers, armless ladies & ladies with lollipop breasts…

Always give up your seat for priority travellers. If you can’t grasp that concept then don’t sit in those seats in the first instance.

Choose your seat wisely…

If the bus is not too busy then keep at least one empty seat between you and the nearest passenger. Don’t invade their space unnecessarily.

If the bus is almost full then sit next to the first person with an en empty seat next to them. If you don’t then that person will be left wondering why no one will sit next to them…”Do I smell?”…”Do I look mean?” etc.

Once you have found your seat and are ready for your journey, don’t put your rucksack/suitcase/purse/kitchen sink on the seat next to you so that no one else can sit there – this is not a Forrest Gump movie  and that seat is not “taken”.

Your fellow passengers…

By all means listen to your iPod but don’t have it blaring. I don’t force people to listen to my taste in music so why should others be forced to listen to yours.

If you sit next to someone with headphones on – don’t speak to them. THEY CAN’T HEAR YOU!

If you must chew gum then just chew it. No one wants to see it so keep your mouth shut and don’t show it off. Don’t crack it and definitely don’t stick it under the seat when you are done with it.

What other people do on their phones is private so don’t try to look at the text message they are currently reading or writing however tempting it might be…

Don’t be gross!

What I mean by that is don’t pick your spots, your ears or your nose and most certainly don’t perform any other bodily function that most people consider an “indoor” activity and absolutely not appropriate for public transport.

Ssssshhhh – use your “inside voice”. No one else wants to hear how boring your conversation is so just take it down a notch or two, okay?

Have a pleasant onward journey…

If you know exactly where your end stop is then don’t press the “dinger” a micro-second after it’s left the stop before yours. Travelling by bus is not a quiz show. The fastest finger won’t get the opportunity to become a millionaire and everyone will still get off the bus safely even if you just sit on your ass and wait a few more minutes.

This is not a quiz show buzzer...

This is not a quiz show buzzer…

Never get out of your seat whilst the bus is turning around a corner. This will only ever end up with you falling over and most likely landing in some other passenger’s lap. Other passengers do not appreciate unwelcome lap dancers.

Thank the driver…

After all, they have provided you with a service.

On the buses...

On the buses…

Road Trip

Road Trip

When an opportunity of a road trip came up, travelling from Aberdeen to Tillicoultry, I had to try and capture the entire journey in time lapse format – there and back.

I’d seen it done in movies so armed with my camcorder and some cellotape to attach it to the dashboard (who needs expensive equipment?) off we went…

I really liked the results, especially the way the clouds move around. I struggled when deciding which song to choose because it had to be quite fast paced but also fitting to the video. Eventually, I picked “Escapee” by Architecture in Helsinki. It was a perfect fit and the title suggested an escape from city life to something much more relaxed.

Here it is – from Aberdeen to Tillicoultry in just over 5 minutes.

Oh yeah and don’t watch if you get car sick…

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @SteveSays2014

Things To Do In Aberdeen: His Majesty’s Theatre Tour

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Things To Do In Aberdeen: HMT Tours

If you are a fan of the theatre and always wanted to see a backstage tour then this is for you.

This is something I have wanted to do for ages and finally got around to it and I have to say it was well worth it and I would have happily paid twice the price.

The tour was very informative with the two tour guides Jane and Gladys a wealth of knowledge about the theatre’s 110 year old history and I learned a lot!

After the initial meeting in the foyer and a brief overview we were advised that as there were no shows on that evening there was an empty stage so we could take as much photos as possible. Had there been a show on with all the sets in place we would not have been allowed to take photos so in a way I’m glad there was nothing on.

We were taken through the new (and also fab by the way) 1906 restaurant and into the hospitality area where of course I was transfixed by the chandelier

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It was then on to the Upper Circle where I have sat on several occasions but this time it was much different. It was deadly quiet of course – we were the only ones in there. Fantastic but eerie both at the same time…

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Gladys and Jane kept sharing their knowledge and it was stunning to learn more about the history while effectively having this great theatre all to ourselves.

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Following a trip through the old foyer we then ended up in the Director’s box which I have always wanted to sit in but after realising that it’s a pretty poor view of the stage I’ve changed my mind…

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Although saying that, the view of the rest of the theatre from the box was quite awesome…

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We were now getting close to the most exciting place – the stage but first the stalls. I consider this area to be the best seats in the house…

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Even Greg was considering what he would write for his first script to rival Cats when he was sitting there all by himself pondering the sheer beauty of the empty theatre. Well, either that or he was wondering if he’d fed our cats before he left that morning…

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We passed the orchestra pit, the laundry room, the green room and various other rooms backstage and I was surprised by how little space there is – it must be hectic during performances but it was very interesting to see. Of course there was the obligatory ghost story about Jake the theatre ghost!

Finally, the stage and to be honest the stage itself wasn’t that exciting but I didn’t expect it to be and that was fine as I was mostly interested in looking out on to the theatre and the funny stories from Gladys about the  kept us entertained on the stage…

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Now, my only regret is that I didn’t get a photo from the stage of just myself or Greg being the only people sitting in the theatre as I think that would have been incredible. However here’s a view of the theatre from the stage…

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Greg on stage…

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Me on stage…

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Finally, the ultimate selfie…

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Thanks to Aberdeen Performing Arts and Gladys & Jane for making this a great experience!

What about you? Have you ever been on a behind the scenes tour of a theatre? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @SteveSays2014

Here’s the technical details about this amazing tour!

Under the guidance of enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers, visitors can explore His Majesty’s modern £7.8 million extension as well as the 100-year-old original building, designed by the legendary theatre architect Frank Matcham.
 
There’s an opportunity to get onstage and get a performers-eye view of one of the most beautiful theatres in Britain. Then it’s backstage for a glimpse of the inner workings of a busy theatre – and pick up some inside knowledge of its spooky past.

HMT tours run for approximately one hour fifteen minutes and involves stairs. Please contact 0845 270 8200 if you have any special access requirements.

For groups and schools please email tours@aberdeenperformingarts.com to arrange a visit. Meet at His Majesty’s Theatre box office at 10.30am – tours finish 12 noon.

Save Our High Streets – Union Street U Turn

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Save Our High Streets

Something needs to be done about the state of our High Streets. Especially Union Street in Aberdeen. I know there are all sorts of projects in “talk” stage but come on –  is it that difficult? The longer it is left in the state that it is then the worse it will get, surely?

I moved to Aberdeen almost 20 years ago and the main thoroughfare – Union Street – was a bustling city centre, a strong beating heart at the centre of Aberdeen – The Oil Capital Of Europe. That is a stark contrast to what it is today – empty units, bargain pound shops, betting shops and pawnbroker type shops.

I know the world has changed, the oil industry is facing tough times and the way we shop has changed. I accept that the increase of online shopping has resulted in the demise of major retailers such as Woolworths and also that most big retailers want to move into fancy new shopping centres such as Union Square. I have no problem with this and I quite happily spend most of my lunchtime wandering around the shops in Union Square. However, it is leaving these empty units on the high street and allowing other “pop-up shops” to easily take up the space.

 

So, Aberdeen City council have “plans” to rejuvenate Union Street by pedestrianizing it, creating a civic square blah blah blah. Wealthy businessmen such as Sir Ian Wood offered, on a plate, £50 million to Aberdeen City Council for them to go off and “decorate the city” but they couldn’t pull their fingers out and decide on what paint to even use and they lost the lot! I could have a whole series of posts devoted to the idiotic decisions of the council!

Now, “what if” I was in charge (yes, God help us all!)

U Turn

I would take a complete U Turn and go back to the olden days. I don’t mean re-introducing horses and carts or wearing top hats and tails to go shopping, what I mean is bring back all the independent shops to the city centre. All the little boutique shops that are hidden in side streets who have survived these changing and hard times need to come back to the front – that’s how Woolworths started off after all is it not? These type of shops offer unique products & services that can’t easily be found elsewhere and would surely bring back the bustle to our high streets.

Using Aberdeen as an example, shops such as Nova Gifts, Peapod, Juniper & Millsom and Main* to name just a few. Sure, the fact they are small may mean they cannot afford the rent it would cost to be on the high street, so, instead of the councils spending all their money on the coffee and biscuits they have during their “rejuvenation meetings” they could lower the rents for the units on the high street to an affordable price for these small businesses.

To back up the fact that this could be a success Millsom and Main have recently moved onto Union Terrace, 10 metres from Union Street and have seen a major increase in profit!

I would also spend the £2 million that the council want to spend on a deep clean on a much better investment and let the criminals tidy this up for free – bring back chain gangs I say.

Just my thoughts – but what do I know?

I think the image I have created sums up this post quite well. It is a photo I made of merging Aberdeen past and present.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and “your High Street”. Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @SteveSays2014

 

Celebrating Scotland: 10 Things I Love About My Country #7: Customs

 

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Should Scotland remain part of the UK now that we have been removed from the EU despite voting against it?

When we had the vote for Scottish Independence I voted to remain part of the UK because I was happy being Scottish, part of the UK and part of the EU. Now that it has been decided for us/against us to leave the EU my thoughts about becoming an independent Scotland have changed.

I am so proud to say I live in Scotland when I think of all the great music this amazing country has produced. So #7 in this series is Customs.

There is only one custom that I can really start with, one which is probably known world-wide as we do hold the biggest party for it every single year…

Hogmanay

This is the Scottish word for the last day of the year, according to the Gregorian Calendar, the 31st December. Hogmanay may be only one day but we Scots know how to party and we usually continue to celebrate right through the 1st January and possibly even on the 2nd as that is a Scottish bank holiday too.

Edinburgh holds the biggest Hogmanay party in the world and although I have sadly never been it does not stop me partying just as hard. Aberdeen used to have a street party but in recent years it has been restricted to just a firework display at the stroke of midnight. I always think they are the best fireworks I’ve ever seen but I’m usually so drunk by that time that someone waving a sparkler in front of me would probably seem to be like the most awesome thing ever.

A couple of years ago it actually snowed as the fireworks were going on and this was actually pretty amazing. I managed to “borrow” someone’s footage from YouTube and edited it and, well, I was happy with the results. The overlay of the ballerina may not be to everyone’s taste…

Aside from my tradition of getting drunk on Hogmanay this holiday has many other “sober” traditions. The famous song by Robert Burns, Auld Lang Syne, is usually always sang all over the world as the bells chime 12 but I have news for you world – you are all doing it wrong!

It is now common to sing this in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year’s Day, though it is only intended that participants link arms at the beginning of the final verse, coordinating with the lines of the song that contain the lyrics to do so. Typically, it is only in Scotland this practice is carried out correctly.

There, now get it right for this year – I will be checking.

A tradition that I vaguely remember and one that is certainly dying out is “first footing”. This basically means that the first person to set foot inside your house on the 1st January has to give you a gift. These gifts symbolise luck for the year ahead and used to be things like salt and coal – ahem, not a f****** gift! More recently though, gifts such as whisky, shortbread or fruitcake are thankfully more common place because quite honestly if you turned up to my house with some salt and a lump of coal you wouldn’t be getting your first foot in the door never mind the second one!

My best memory of New Year is from when I was young and all the family would go to my Gran’s house. There would be home-made soup, steak pie and alcohol (for the grown ups). We stayed for hours and every year the same stories were told of all the adult’s childhood memories. I miss hearing those stories…

 

Men in skirts. Basically that’s it and I’m sure many Scottish people would give you a Glasgow Kiss for saying that but it is what it is and I love them…

Kilts

Any time I am attending a formal event such as a Wedding, Ball or Christmas party I will wear a kilt. For those not up on their kilt knowledge there are many different styles as well as tartans. I don’t own my own kilt and hire one when I need to. Another Scottish tradition is Clans and they all have  associated tartans. I am lucky enough to belong to Clan McPherson and one day I will get around to researching my family tree further but I’ve only just got around to sorting the trees out in my garden so that can wait. I used think the McPherson tartan was bogging but thanks to the internet I may have changed my mind.

What do I look like in a kilt? You be the judge…

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Don’t we look smart..?

I have to give a special mention to the tartan I wore to a Ball last year – it’s called Rose Of Aberdeen and was designed by the company where I hire my kilts from, Millsom & Main as not only is it fabulous but the company itself is brilliant. The two guys in the shop provide the best service you could possibly wish for and I can’t recommend them enough!

What do I look like in a kilt by the end of the evening? Usually something like this…

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Kilts should definitely come with hats…

Her’s tae kilts and having the breeze aboot yer balls!

 

Long, snake-like monster – no, not what’s under my kilt, there is another big legend in Scotland…

Loch Ness Monster

Does it exist? Does it not exist? Who cares! Nessie is the ultimate folk story and has probably kept many people in jobs for the past few decades. I finally visited Loch Ness!

(I secretly hope it does exist and wish someone would just drain the entire Loch and then we will know for sure. I remember watching a very interesting documentary when I was growing up called “Family Ness” and that proved that their is not just one monster but a whole family so come on – get the water drained so we can meet them…

 

Other brilliant traditions of Scotland that I have never attended include the Edinburgh Tattoo, the Edinburgh Fringe and T in The Park but a Scottish traditional event that I have been to many times involves lots of spinning around…

Céilidh

Try to picture lots of drunken Scottish people dancing with people they don’t really know, to a dance that they don’t really know. Imagine “Auld Lang Syne” on speed. That’s a Céilidh. They are sooo much fun. A live band, with an accordion and you don’t feel anymore like a proud Scot than when you are “Stripping The Willow”…

I usually get it wrong, try to pick up someone who isn’t even dancing and get shouted at by the “head” person in our team. Such fun!

Wow, I feel really Scottish now. I hope you liked this wee insight into what we get up to behind closed doors.

Are you proud of your country? Let me know about it in the comments below or tweet me @SteveSays2014 and don’t forget to take a look at other posts in this series.