Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Wonder of Dobbies

The wonderful Dobbies entrance
The wonderful Dobbies entrance
You know, I was down in Aberdeen again the other day on important Auchterness business and on my way back home I took some time out to visit Dobbies Garden Centre with Duncan, a business colleague. I needed some things for the garden - my big plan is to replace my lawn with artificial grass. It will demonstrate that as an Expert Planner, I am prepared to embrace new ideas and look to the future. The name AstroTurf has a science fiction sound to it that appeals to me. Most planners don't actually think about the long term these days - just 'enabling' the short term so again, your favourite expert planner is ahead of the game. Duncan laughed scornfully at my ambition.

As I drove from Albyn Place to the Lang Stracht I felt tension mounting as we negotiated each and every sponsored roundabout on the way. I felt a frisson of excitement as I always do when visiting any retail park. The crowds, the cash registers, the happy faces of satisfied customers - it's all tremendously stimulating. My driving became more and more erratic and I knew that the back of my shirt was soaked with sweat. I stalled the car at the Queen's Road roundabout but we eventually arrived safely at Dobbies. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Duncan laughing at me.
Better than an Andy Scott - a big man weeds his garden at Dobbies, Aberdeen
Better than an Andy Scott - a big man weeds his garden
 at Dobbies, Aberdeen

What a place! At the entrance there is a large sculpture of a figure weeding the garden - fantastic and better than an Andy Scott any day! Pure taste and style! Not a horse in sight!

First of all we went to the sumptuous restaurant where there was the most fantastic display of food. It was carefully themed in brown and red tones - all the cakes were either light brown, pink or red and covered in cream or icing. The hot food was brown too - not a green vegetable in sight. This is a very clever move on the part of Dobbies as they are of course catering for the plebs rather than people with sophisticated palettes - like me. I think this is what pretentious middle-class know-alls call junk food. So be it.

We ordered a coffee, a pot of tea and a couple of Empire Biscuits. “That will be £10.15”, said the wee lassie. I questioned the amount immediately! “Oops! I’ve charged you for three biscuits instead of two.” I’m a man of the world and I’ve seen this trick before - it’s one way in which poorly paid staff can supplement their wages!

I marvelled at the range of water fountains on display - just like the Ville d'Este at Tivoli. A hundred lovely fountains all bubbling away. Who would have guessed that there could be so many different styles - elephant’s trunks, little cherubs, fish, hedgehogs, poultry and pigs - all with water spouting from somewhere. I saw an enormous swinging treehouse made of rattan which could seat four people around a small dinner table as it dangled from a steel girder. It could be a great addition to my garden - a talking point and a wonderful piece of one-upmanship.

As we wandered round looking for my AstroTurf the scale of Dobbies success gradually dawned on me – I was in raptures, as any planner worth his salt would be. Duncan said it was just a wee nursery that had gone from being a caring local business - "inspiring gardeners since 1865" - to a huge industry that sells junk food and overpriced tat to the roughs. I disagreed and countered, stating that Dobbies current status was a huge achievement, a great day out for people who don’t care much about anything and who just wanted to relax with a bit of retail therapy. But it’s also a marketing triumph for the company and reflects well on the dedicated planners who grant their applications and therefore support The Enterprise. Firms like Dobbies are all part of the New Scottish Enlightenment and it is only right that planners approve all of their proposals without hesitation or delay.

We called in at B&Q Inverurie on the way home so it was a double treat for me! Duncan needed some paint to finish off his bedroom renovation that evening. I offered to help but he said he was fine - a woman was coming round later to clean his brush. He grinned broadly. It was only after I got home that I realised what he meant. I will make some suggestions to him about his behaviour in an email tomorrow.

I'm full of praise for Dobbies and will add the company to my list of Great Retail Regenerators like Asda and Tesco. I hope you agree. Best wishes for the week ahead from Auchterness – hope you have a great time planning something nice. Cheeriebye for now.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Hot topic at Houndwood!

Houndwood Crematorium

You know, they say there's no smoke without fire and I was amused this week to read about the power of one individual over the operators of a new crematorium at Houndwood near Coldingham in the Scottish Borders.

According to the Daily Record, which I read in the Auchterness Executive Toilet the other day, Dr Fraser Quin has threatened to enforce a 1902 law which states that funeral bosses must get approval from property owners living within 200 yards of their operation before they can fire up their ovens – and his house is 183 yards away so the opening of the £2million crematorium has been blocked. Like Glasgow School of Art only a few weeks ago, this is obviously a burning issue for Dr Quin but many of his neighbours see it differently - some have given the facility a warm hello while others are raking the ashes of resentment.

It is a strange tail. The new crematorium is housed in an old church which is a listed building. Regular Auchterness readers will know that the obvious answer to this would have been to demolish the building and turn the site into a development opportunity for housing. But sadly it was not to be - some bright spark got all fired up about this and before you could say 'towering inferno', the operators cooked up a plan which has now gone from the frying pan literally into the fire. They should have done their homework because now their ideas are toast!

Dr Quin doesn't want this facility and who could blame him. He's looking for £350,000 from the operators to buy his house. He is assuming they have money to burn. Many neighbours would doubtless follow suit as they will soon get fed up with the dreary parade of long faces and the smoke signals from the church getting their washing dirty, not to mention 'Angel' by Robbie Williams booming out daily from the humanist events of daft families with no taste.

This is a great story about how an individual - stubborn by his own admission but perhaps with time to burn researching his rights - can face down a silly proposal and in effect, fight fire with fire.

My hearty congratulations go out to Dr Quin - lang may his lum reek! Cheeriebye from Auchterness and have a great weekend.