Monday, 30 December 2013

The Boy's Christmas Present

The boy's Christmas present from 'Grandad'
You know, I'm too softhearted sometimes. I bought the boy I quodcopter for his Christmas although it wasn't the expensive one that he really wanted and though it has a video camera it wasn't the £300 thing that he desired. I wrapped it up carefully and with great pride delivered it through the usual intermediary to the 'family home' - about 30 minutes drive from here.

I thought he would be pleased but apparently he complained that it wasn't the expensive one - the ungrateful little swine.

But worse was to come. On Christmas Day they went to a local park, or green space as we expert planners say, to try it out. My beautiful wife and her young lover actually set aside their carnal activities for once to take the boy out - as a family so to speak. The boy and his 'father' lost control of the quadcopter on it's first flight - it rose high into the air and the wind carried it away. It crashed onto the main road next to the park and was run over by a taxi - it was reduced to smithereens. Even worse, the boy apparently threw a stone at the taxi in his rage - there wasn't really any damage but the matter was reported to the police by the taxi driver - who was a woman.

Now the boy is blaming me for what happened. Ach well - I really don't care. Ochone Ochone - as they say up the road. I'm sure he only wanted it to hover outside girls bedroom windows and take videos. We will become closer again when he is a bit older - he will maybe call me Dad again instead of Grandad. Actually to look on the positive side, I have escaped this difficult period of his upbringing and a fair punishment has been visited on his keepers - if they could take a bit of time out from the pleasures of the flesh to notice.

Anyway this is probably my last post of 2013. I'm happy to be back writing again and all the abuse, criticism and insults I get just make me stronger and more able to say what I really think in 2014. I hope you and yours all have a happy Hogmanay and I'll be back soon with my New Year message and some more fascinating news, opinion pieces and exciting insights into the world of the expert town planner. Oh and 'thought pieces' too! 

Cheeriebye for now.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The year of town centres

A typical old Scottish town centre - horribleYou know, 2013 has certainly been the year in which planners were forced to admit to their failures in dealing with town centres over the past 40 years or more. The Scottish Government decided to do something about it through the Sir Malcolm Fraser Commission but we will have to wait and see how effective the recommendations will be. As I understand it, their approach is based on the idea that town centres are valuable when in fact, they are not.

My take on this is that town centres are in a mess because people want to shop in nice places like the totally unique Braehead near Paisley or the equally unique Silverburn close to the slums of Pollok in Glasgow. In fact all these great shopping centres the length and breadth of the country are completely unique! It's the market that determines where people will shop - not planners.

But as the Scottish Government says, it's not all about retail - there are other problems too. Drive into any old town centre tomorrow and you will see groups of overweight women gossiping on street corners. Quite often, they take up so much room on the pavement that pensioners have to walk round them in the gutter while they cackle away. This is disgraceful and inconsiderate! I recently thought I saw six large women gossiping at a bus stop in Elgin when I was there with the boy recently - in fact there were only three of them - I need new glasses but I’m worried about what might be revealed once my sight is restored. You can have as many hanging baskets as you like but if there are fat people ruining the look of your town centre and stopping people getting to it easily it you will struggle with a regeneration agenda - mark my words. Of course it is also a health issue!

Another serious problem with some old town centres is middle-aged men wearing shorts and sandals. You may have seen this sort of thing in your own town. Often these folk use bicycles as a sort of disguise and pretend that they keep fit and are part of a healthy living agenda - when in fact they are perverts. Sandalism is one of the creeping threats to our town centres and while it was ignored in the Fraser Report, sooner or later it will have to be exposed as the menace that it is. People will avoid a town centre if too many men there appear to be dressed in an over-casual manner - it gives the impression that a town prefers having a carry-on to focusing on entrepreneurialism and serious business activity. Frankly if someone turned up for work at Auchterness wearing shorts and sandals his coat would be on a shaky nail. I would certainly ask him to think very carefully about his future. Well he might not be wearing a coat with sandals and shorts but you know what I mean.

Finally there is the problem of card and candle shops run by dreary middle-class housewives - often as a hobby. The presence of these emporia is a sure sign that a town centre is on its last legs but they also act as spiders' webs for schoolboys, fishermen and farmers who are drawn into them by the feminine charms of mature ladies and the smell of incest and candles.  Planning authorities need to do more to keep these shops under control or banish them completely. 

Anyway, I've shared some of my views on town centres with a few friends and colleagues who suggested I publish them here. I hope you find my expert planner views to be refreshing and radical compared to the normal planning 'thought piece' from the RTPI echo chamber.

Hope you are enjoying your holidays and not eating too much!  I'll bet you've been out at the sales and hopefully you will have gone to one of our wonderful new out-of-town centres instead of one of the stuffy old traditional town centre that planners mistakenly bother about.  Remember, if you are passing Auchterness please drop by and we can have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit - and of course a wee natter about town planning! 

Thursday, 26 December 2013

A present for an arsehole - me!

A Christmas Gift for an ArseholeYou know, I'm well known for my tolerance but some people just push me too far. And here we are - things have descended to a very low level, haven't they? I received this Christmas Gift of moist toilet wipes from someone in the office on Christmas Eve. It came with a card that read:

"Dear Dave,
I thought long and hard about what to get you in the Secret Santa 
and eventually decided that this was
perfect for you. 
It is meant for arseholes and you fit the bill perfectly. 
I hope you enjoy using these".

from Secret Santa

Outrageous! Can you imagine the scene as I opened the gift to loud laughter from some and sniggering from others as we tucked into mince pies and mulled wine in the Auchterness Board Room. It fair took the gloss off the day for me and to be honest, when I got home I spent some time blubberin' intae ma keyboard. People can be so cruel.

Now while I think this was meant to be some kind of joke, I have ordered a rigorous investigation and have demanded a full report into how this could have taken place and who was responsible. I hope office funds were not used in making this ridiculous purchase as there are very complex procurement regulations governing all such acquisitions. As far as I am aware, Auchterness has no purchasing arrangement with Tesco although of course we would be very happy to look at building a relationship with such a prestigious supplier, possibly including a sponsored roundabout.

I know this is the season of goodwill but there is a limit to the amount of abuse and criticism I can take. Regular readers will be familiar with the appalling insults I receive by email as well as the many generous offers of pills, friendship and sexual services from inappropriate individuals. I can cope with all this but to think that someone in Auchterness would stoop to the same level is very upsetting. I was so upset yesterday that I placed a mince pie on the kitchen floor and stamped on it repeatedly. It was just a nuisance clearing up the mess though.

Happy Boxing Day everyone - hope you are having a great time.

Getting it off my chest

the suburban slum called Polnoon
You know, I felt a lot better after my expose and attack on the folk behind the cynical Planner journal the other week. But it was short-lived. A few days later, I received my personal copy of the Scottish Planner. I know that what follows here is rather boring if you don't get the magazine so my apologies for this. There is something of perhaps broader interest coming tomorrow but I have to get this off my chest now!

Initially I was over the moon - it seemed to me that The Scottish Planner was everything that the other journals were not. Our own wee tartan planning magazine! Then I noticed the article on allotments which amounted to nothing less than a personal attack on me. My Planning Advice Note published only a few weeks ago had been completely ignored! Clearly an hysterical response to my reasoned article, apparently written by two women who inhabit these dreadful places and whose husbands - or male partners - probably wear shorts.

As I leafed through the magazine I felt the presence of a dried up oatcake in my mouth. Alistair MacDonald’s last ever article as Convenor, a veiled attack on wind farms in South Lanarkshire and then the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning. My goodness but it seems that most of these awards have gone to buildings! Why? Is it because a planning department approved the planning applications for these developments? It's completely absurd! What possible other role could planners have played in these developments?

Then there’s a pointless article by the Head of Planning for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds discussing where housing developments should go. What’s it got to do with the RSPB? It’s none of their business! Housing should go where the market decides. This is mealy-mouthism taken to extremes. I condemn it!

It gets a lot worse on the next page where alleged former beauty queen and handbag expert Susie Stirling, Head of Plaicemaking and Design at the Scottish Government writes up some tosh about a place called Polnoon which aspires to be one of Scotland’s ‘Conservation Areas of Tomorrow’. Well don’t hold your breath for that. But it is a great piece of marketing mind you and it should be entered for an award on that basis alone. Well done to Mack and Mick for persevering with this crap.

Finally there is yet another article by the ubiquitous Nikola Miller. Honestly I had to give up after the second paragraph - I don't know whether to be dumbfounded at her youthful energy or horrified at the language of 'supporting, 'being confident in ourselves', 'celebrating success' and 'motivating presentations'. It all sounds like some Bible Belt preacher trying to get folk to go to church again.

Anyway, I knew you wouldn't expect me to be very cheerful over the Festive Season and that's the way it has turned out. I hope you had a lovely time on Christmas Day and that Santa was good to you.

I'll be back tomorrow with some news about a dreadful insult and gift I received for Christmas.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Shame and nausea

The shameful latest issue of The PlannerYou know, perhaps it is the approach of my seasonal depression or the arrival of another cynical issue of The Planner - the Business Monthly for Planning Professionals (Consultant Editor Huw Morris) that triggered it but I've been feeling a bit down this week. Quite honestly I blame The Planner with its nauseating stories of and by smug folk including President in the Wings, Big Cath Ransom.

The Planner devotes four self-serving pages to this insignificant person's life on the greasy pole - it's full of talk of  'performance appraisal', 'stringent checks', 'personal development plans' and 'taking ownership'. If I had been in Aberdeen I would have gone to Boots to see if they could give me something to take away the image in my head of a gravestone with 'RIP RTPI' written on it.  I settled for being sick in the car park.

Then someone has dragged Michael Heseltine - sorry Lord Heseltine - from the edge of his grave to talk about regeneration. There's a wee photie of Ed Balls and another of Planning Minister Nick Boles and two photographs of cows. That's it really. These good people are not hungry are they? The stench of elitism catches my throat hundreds of miles away here in Auchterness. I'm just grateful that we have decent well-intentioned folk up here like Sir Ian Wood, Dr Donald Trump and of course the man with the big pencil, John Halliday to make a real impression on our environment.
A senior member of the Royal Town Planning Institute
Once upon a time, town planning was considered to be a worthwhile activity and a respected profession. Now it is people orientated - but it isn't about communities or ordinary folk. It's about the people in the RTPI and the ridiculous idea that we planners want to hear about them. The Planner reflects this - it is full of strutting peacocks who slide up and down the greasy pole at the RTPI in their Marks and Spencer suits. I know it is hard to imagine a peacock sliding down a greasy pole in a suit - and I apologise for this - but while they are doing this, they are also bowing and scraping to folk with titles, money and power. They are busy feathering their own nests while the profession goes to cats and dogs.  The amount of brown-nosing in this rag is completely revolting.  You know, it gives me the dry boak to read about the selfish and pointless lives of the people in this journal.  

I was given custody of the boy for today - he was passed to me by an intermediary at 10:00 am. I know he can't be bothered with me any more - there was a time when we used to go to retail parks and enjoy every minute of it. Today he only wanted to talk about his Christmas present - he wants a Quadcopter and a GoPro Hero Video Camera.  I'm sure this isn't a good idea but I have said yes perhaps. He will be up to no good with it but anyway I decided that as a special treat for him we would drive to Elgin's magnificent Springfield Retail Park and see what we could find.
Elgin's fantastic new recycling centre where Huw ended up

But first, I insisted that we drove to Moray Council's new Civic Amenity Site or Recycling Centre with The Planner Journal and cast it into the general household refuse container - it's the best place for it. Huw and the gang have now nestled down with the rest of the rubbish there and I'm sure feel completely at home.

The trip to Springfield was a disaster and so embarrassing. The boy was apprehended by a security official at a store that will remain anonymous and told he was banned for attempted shoplifting last month. This is typical of him, his mother (my beautiful wife) and her young lover. We drove home in silence - but more of this later.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Goodbye Belvidere Hospital - and good riddance

The disgusting ruin of Belvidere Hospital
You know, I spent a lot of time yesterday on the Urban Realm website. I've sung its praises many times before. It's the go-to place for gossip and tittle-tattle about all things related to the marvellous Scottish property development industry and John Glenday, the Editor is one of the most incisive architectural critics around. Did you know that he once invited me to write for his august journal? Perhaps it was July - but anyway, I can't remember now. Sadly nothing came of it.

But to return to last night, my attention was drawn to a real story of our times - a short news summary about the demolition of a B Listed Ruin called Belvidere Hospital. It's pictured above. It's a slum building in a slum location - the East End of Glasgow where people's lives are so short they can't even finish paying the mortgage never mind worrying about rat infested old buildings on their doorstep. Just look at what they have to put up with! Developers Kier Homes were quite right to put a fence and barriers up round this sandstone wreck as it obviously is something that no one wants to visit or see - that was their first good move.

Their second good move was to employ RIAS Conservation Accredited Architects Hypostyle to demolish the building. As their website says, Hypostyle have no hangups about style, ideology or preconceived ideas. That is exactly what The Enterprise wants to hear from their servant architects. In the current economic climate, I would be surprised if they were not buried in work by developers the length and breadth of the country who want things sorted - from fighting gangs of sandal-wearing middle class busy-bodies to humiliating troublesome local authorities who are living in a past world. My little black book has a long list of architects who are prepared to bend right over to service their client's needs and I have added Hypostyle to this list. I also think that getting a Conservation Accredited Architect invoved in the demolition of a Listed Building is a very clever move. How can anyone object to that? Well plenty of people so it seems.

The comments section below this excellent article is full of ridiculous opinions from mealy-mouthed do-gooders who disagree with something that is actually nothing whatsoever to do with them. How dare they venture an opinion on this! This country is doomed if people like wonky, pablo and sven ever get their way. In my view Urban Realm should publish photographs of these anonymous commentators so that they can be exposed to proper scrutiny as Enemies of Enterprise.

My hearty congratulations go to Kier Homes and the excellent Hypostyle Architects for this important East End Initiative which in time will probably be seen as more significant than GEAR or a garage full of other delivery vehicles for regeneration.