The Northern Scot 17th August 2018
By Alan Russell
This isn’t so much about a particular place that is off the beaten track, rarely visited and even more rarely ever visited. No, it is about a few of the stories I read in a local paper while staying in Inverness for a couple of days in August 2018.
When I am visiting a town away from home I always try to buy a local paper to have a look through. Purely out of curiosity to see if the local paper in the town I am visiting covers the same sort of issues as the local paper where I live. It can also lead to an unexpected surprise as when I was in Jersey with my wife just before Christmas in 2017. We saw a Christmas Carol concert advertised at a local church the very night we had nothing else to do. It turned out to be one of the best evening’s out we shared for a long time.
THE NORTHERN SCOT NEWSPAPER
The ‘Northern Scot’ costs £1.25 a week and is published in tabloid form. I bought my copy in a corner shop in Grieg Street in Inverness. The shop no bigger than the average living room. It was jumbled high with stock on shelves at the sides of the shop that reached to the ceiling. Magazines, newspapers, basic groceries to cover for emergencies and a central gondola display stand laden with packets of crisps and sweets or ‘candy’ as North Americans would call them.e pages.
Back in the comfort and anonymous security of the hotel room I worked my way through th
MORAY’S CONNECTION WITH THE COLD WAR
Beyond the headlines on the front page about the closure of public toilets by the cash strapped local council in the Moray area, which is similar to a story running in my area of southern England, and a few pages in is a story linking the area to the Cold War.
I was aware that there are a few bunkers that were built as shelters in the event of a nuclear war kicking off during the Cold War. These bunkers were, as far as I know, were for the chosen few from Government, the Civil Service, the military and the emergency services to weather out the side affects of radiation. What I was not aware of, until reading the Northern Scot, is that there was a whole network of bunkers across the United Kingdom that were still being manned into the late 1990’s. The bunkers were not very big and their purpose was, in the event of any mutually assured destruction taking place, to be centres from which air quality and the strength of radiation could be monitored with the results being relayed back to what was left of central government. The bunkers would be manned by a couple of volunteers from the Royal Observer Corps and they were constantly stocked with enough food and water to last for three weeks.
The reason for this particular bunker in Carbach being newsworthy was that it was now opened as a tourist attraction.
£15.50 A MEASURE
The Macallan Distillery launched its very limited edition ‘Genesis’ whisky just before we arrived in Inverness. It was created to celebrate the opening of a new distillery in May 2018. The limited edition is so limited that it’s retail price was £495 a bottle at the distillery.
This story had the headline ‘New Whisky Causes Bottleneck Chaos’. Whisky investors and imbibers alike with a shared desire to own one of these coveted bottles queued in their cars from the distillery gates back along a narrow country lane. From even before the first crow of the predawn hour makes its first murderous call they lined up and in some cases camped overnight. The distillery was pleased that its Genesis whisky was so sought after but the locals were not too happy at the chaos the unexpected demand created on the roads.
During my days behind bars we always worked on the basis that a single bottle of spirits like gin and whisky would contain thirty - two single measures. With a price tag of £495 per bottle that means that a single measure of Genesis would cost about £15.50 which is more than High Street shoppers would be paying for a single bottle of blended whisky.
That pricing is nowhere near what Macallan would charge for a 72 year old bottle of their malt whisky which would set the customer back $60,000, yes that is sixty thousand dollars. By my calculations that would work out to $1,875 per single measure which I think would be quite hard for anyone to swallow.
The Macallan website stated that only 360 of the 2,500 bottles were on sale from the distillery. The remaining 2,140 would be sold through its outlets at airports in the Far East
I just hope the taste justified the price and the discomfort of queuing.
THE LOCAL SHOW
August is that time of year when there are local shows happening in most rural areas. In the Moray area there was the Keith County Show which took up three pages of the Northern Scot. Most of the three pages were made up of colour photographs. A stern looking judge eyeing up a bull. A proud family holding their silver cup and rosettes for their prize dairy cow. A young girl proudly walking her prize Shetland pony wearing a big smile and what possibly could have been her very first rosette.
Beaming smiles, good weather and particularly with the farmers showing off their livestock. These pictures hid the realisation that after the show they still had to return home to do evening milking, feeding and all of the routine and relentless tasks that farming entails allowing very little time to reflect on the glories of a warmth of a late summer Sunday afternoon.
THE LETTERS PAGE
Readers’ letters took up two centre pages. Most, if not all of the letters were about very local issues.
The first letter was about the lack of cycle paths in the area that was causing a restriction to the tourist industry. This is in sharp contrast to where I live near the New Forest where a majority of the locals are quite vocal about the incursion of cyclists into the area.
One correspondent wrote in referring to a brawl outside a pub in a local town. The tone of the letter was that this sort of behaviour would put tourists off visiting the area. “Is this the kind of behaviour we want?” And “Is this the kind of behaviour tourists expect to see?” The correspondent then urged that the Moray Council did something about this sort of spectacle. As if the council had the magic powers to wave a wand and stop bar room disputes spilling into violence on the street.
The area the newspaper covers has difficulty attracting medical and teaching professionals. One correspondent suggested that through the national taxation system that by increasing tax allowances this would be a way of attracting new people to the area. An interesting idea.
One letter described the bus services from the surrounding areas inti Inverness Airport as not very good. I arrived at the airport at about ten thirty in the morning and found out there is a regular and reliable service running during the day which only costs £4.40 for a single into the city centre. My homeward flight left at 0645 which meant I had to check in by 0600 at the latest. There were no buses at that time of the day and so I had to book a taxi the evening before with a fare of £22 for a twenty - minute journey. I was half expecting to have to pay a premium for the time of day but £22 is about the standard fare.
The only letter referring to anything vaguely outside the area of Moray was about FIFA and the recent World Cup in Russia. It was a bit of a rant about the ousted Chief Executive, Sepp Blatter, and how the Russians made sure that he was able to attend the World Cup as their guest.
The very last letter was from a reader who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. The correspondent was asking if there was anyone else in the Elgin area with the same diagnosis with a view to meeting regularly to share time, feelings and worries with in the Elgin area.
In Ringwood the letters page is dominated by this country’s ongoing turmoil over BREXIT at the expense of issues such as litter, aggressive cyclists in the New Forest and public toilets. Some subjects are universal. I am sure that readers living in the Moray area are just as concerned about BREXIT as people living in Ringwood but the difference in emphasis on the letters page has to be purely down to editorial choice. Toliets and cycles vs BREXIT?