J Fergus Lamont, Arts Correspondent and author of “Talking Bollards: Aberdeen in the year of Covid-19”
It was with the jaunty stride of a man who has newly opened his chocolate advent calendar that I headed into the town centre on Thursday, keen to see what changes the pandemic had wrought to that most highly regarded local artistic fixture, the Aberdeen Christmas Village. You may not have heard of it for it has received little or no previous publicity, but with the latest iteration opening this week, I had to see what delights it would hold this year. Well, it gets you oot of the hoose.
Upon reaching its usual location of Broad Street, I discovered a Christmas Village transformed – where once the area thronged to the screechings of terrified locals being flung around by fairground rides, this year local art prankster co-operative“Aberdeen Inspired” have cast aside crass commercialism for a silent street of Christmas illuminations, a neatly ordered paean to Scandinavian minimalism, if you will, refreshingly devoid of little huts, helter-skelters and Glaswegian bratwurst purveyors. Instead, as in the deserts of Judea, as in the carol, all is quiet, all is bright.
To enter this space of simplicity, one passes through a striking illuminated gift-wrapped gateway which is leaning to one side at a precarious angle. This structure, struggling to hold up in the face of adversity, is clearly a metaphor for the year we have all had. Passing through this crooked entrance, one reaches a trio of illuminated Christmas trees standing sentinel outside Marischal College. Their classic simplicity is nicely counterpointed by the terrifying giant lit-up Santa Claus that squats atop a block of concrete next to them, serving as a gaudy reminder that commercialism is never far away, even in this strangest of years.
I followed the trail of illumination round into Union Street and beheld a further vista of Christmas lights, plus another trio of 10ft trees taking up the space of the Spaces for People. I stood awhile in silent contemplation of all those who have sadly not reached this festive season, before pondering what the festive lightbulb budget must be. Then, thanks to a combination of the eye-watering figure I estimated, the cold winter air, and my gratitude to still be here, I wept.
Jonathan M Lewis, local head teacher
As a quite remarkable term here at Garioch Academy draws to a close, we all welcome John Swinney’s recent clarification that the Christmas break will NOT be extended, and will run as planned.
Mr Swinney has become something of an enigma to us educators. He seems to ping pong between delivering utterly demoralising news one day and joyous and life-affirming the next. This week’s announcement that ensures pupils and staff will be back in the Garioch Petri dish on Tuesday January 5 has been very well received – particularly by parents!
Some had previously been in touch, imploring me to tell them how to keep their children occupied once the TV had gone back to normal and Cash in the Attic had replaced World’s Strongest Man on a Wednesday afternoon. Little did they realise that, had the pupils spent those extra days at home, they would not have been idly gnawing at the lone Turkish Delight left in their selection box! Quite the opposite, in fact, as they’d have been put to work via Garioch Academy’s emerging remote learning platform.
My colleagues have spent the handful of spare minutes they’ve had since schools went back in August honing their IT skills. We have learned much following some informative dry runs last week, and if needed our remote learning service is ready to go at a moment’s notice.
I’ll admit, some of the trial lessons raised a few eyebrows. I don’t think Mr Gibb’s S4 maths class will forget the sight of him teaching the sine rule in his dressing gown. And Mrs McAvinue in RMPS will surely never again forget to remove her headset before answering nature’s call mid-lesson. But, with those teething problems now very much ironed out, parents can rest assured that Garioch’s impeccable standards will be maintained in any eventuality.
Prof Hector Schlenk, The Bogton Institute
As a scientist I am always pondering big concepts, such as the effects of gravity, the nature of light, and how many pairs of long johns I am going to have to buy if I am going to have to keep working from home throughout the whole of winter. Recently, I have been considering the meaning of words. Consider the apparently straightforward phrase “a substantial meal”. In the context of a telephoned order to an Indian takeaway, this would require nothing less than an aloo ghobi, a chicken bhuna, naan bread, three poppadums and a tray of pickles. Yet in the altogether different context of a visit to the local pub, it turns out that a Scotch egg will suffice. Aren’t human beings terrible self-serving knaves? Sorry, I meant, isn’t the versatility of language wonderful?