There are a few things you should know about Aberdeen. One is that the city is made of granite and therefore has a very high background level of radiation. The locally quarried grey granite used in the buildings sparkles like silver due to the high mica content and the city is known as The Granite City or The Silver City.
The other thing you should know is that Aberdeen is Gaelic for pneumonia.
Well, that's not really true - it means "at the confluence of the river Don with the sea'.
but you get the picture. It is a bitter cold place.
As you may have gathered I have just returned from a world tour of Aberdeen, four events over two days, a drive of 550 miles which probably sounds nothing but three days before we set off Aberdeen was annexed from all civilised society by huge snow drifts. The librarian pointed out that it was sunny one day last year... they refer to good weather as 'a remission'.
Aberdeen is the oil capital of Europe, the third most populous city in Scotland and the natives are a hardy breed. There has been human settlement there for the last 8000 years. Remnants of a two thousand year old settlements can be seen spotted around the hills, like this 1600 century fortress where only the front door remains.
This is a fairly typical Aberdonian building in a place called Inverurie and while the lovely gray pallor gives a very light city landscape, it doesn’t exactly warm the soul. I read that Aberdeen features an 'oceanic climate' and 'that it is far milder than one might expect for its northern location.' I read that with a huge degree of tourist guide cynicism then I read the next sentence. 'although statistically it is the coldest city in the UK.' So it is official. It's baltic.
In high summer it has nautical twilight that lasts all night. You just won't notice it because of the driving icy rain that will be stinging your eyes and your tears will blind you.
Driving around to small libraries in the outlying areas, the names of the villages gave us a sense of the of historical romance about them Oyne, Weet, Clart, Insch. One of my favourites is 'Fettercairn'. I also like a place on the road up to Aberdeen- Findo Gask, very Tolkienesque. As we made our way through drifts the economy of the countryside became very evident. Sheep, more sheep, distillery, wild deer, pheasant, more sheep. More sheep. That's about it
We did notice that these small hamlets have an intense amount of house building going on, it became a talking point at events- the commuter belt of Aberdeen is stretching far now, the economy is bouncing. Wikipedia says that Aberdeen was the 54th most liveable city in the World, as well as the third most liveable city in Britain. All I can say is that they must have different criteria to me!
In 2012 HSBS named Aberdeen as one of the eight 'super cities' that will lead the recovery of the UK economy. The heliport in Aberdeen is one of the busiest commercial heliports in the world It was the only city in Scotland to receive this accolade as the rest of us are still looking at increasing dole queues, half built houses, ever spiraling heating bills and starting to feel rather Cypriot about the whole thing. I've also read that one Aberdeen postcode has the second highest number of millionaires of any postcode in the UK while 20% of Aberdonians live below the poverty line. Like most of these situations, the millionaires will not be native, but those on the poverty line certainly will be.
The weather was intensely snowy, blizzardy and just on this side of dangerous. We stopped listening to the sat nav as she confidently instructed us to turn left- onto the road with the huge warning signs, Road closed, ski gates closed, peril beyond this point, beware of low flying motorcycles. Yip, we were confused about that last one as well.
Between events we drove around Aberdeenshire on roads with no other traffic. Slightly eerie to be so close to a major city (20-30 miles) and drive without passing another car or seeing another soul. At one point we joked that the world had ended in some terrible nuclear incident, and nobody had told us. So either everybody was just somewhere else or.... Aberdeenshire is empty.
Crime readers are probably most familiar with Aberdeen as the setting of Stuart McBride books and a fair bit of Ian Rankin's Black and Blue is set in Aberdeen, furry boot town as he called it.
I must go there again some time. In the summer.
Next week I am hoping to do an all action blog on location in Loch Ness.