Monday, 5 December 2016

John Donne: Poet of Love and Death

by Lizzie  Howe 

John Donne’s poetry proves that attitudes to love and death remain unchanged even after 400 years.

The poet was born on the 22nd of January, 1572, into a wealthy Catholic family who were the direct descendants of Thomas More. He grew up in and was shaped by the tumultuous period of the time in which Catholics were heavily persecuted simply for practising their religion openly. Donne’s own brother died in prison in 1593 after being convicted of Catholic sympathies. This often dangerous life that he led was inconceivably different to the life of many readers of his poems today. He was a complex character who even at some points appeared to recognise that in himself there was an aspect of a split personality: the infamous ‘Jack Donne’ of his youth (a passionate lover of women, wine and decadence) and ‘Dr Donne’ (the older and morally sound Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral). The experiences of his life, and the society in which he lived, could not be further removed from our lives today. Excluding the persecution and possible death that he risked every day that he continued to live his life as a Catholic, the England that Donne lived in was a chaotic one. Western medicine was not yet even in its earliest infancy, public executions were practiced daily and were attended by those wishing to be entertained by the torture and gruesome death of criminals, and England was constantly at war with the majority of Europe.

In the midst of this turmoil and bloodshed, John Donne was writing poetry that still resonates today with the modern reader.

John Donne was a remarkably progressive character in the 17th century. He felt that torture was a hindrance to the legal process and his poetry shows a greater respect for women than many of his contemporaries. However, he was still writing to reflect the attitudes of the day towards many important subjects. Two themes that he addressed regularly throughout his career were love and death; often intermingling the two in one complex poem.

Jack Donne, the earlier character that he felt he had assumed in his youth, was a poet who’s work was bawdy, irreverent and often bordering on blasphemy. The character of Donne at this time was no different from the young and wealthy playboys of the 21st century. He was described by one contemporary as “A great visitor of Ladies, a great frequenter of Plays, a great writer of conceited Verses.”. It is easy to find a kindred spirit in this young and light-hearted man who used poetry often as an attempt to gain access to the bed-chamber of a young woman. Although the medium and style of message used today by young men around the world is different, at its core the same principle still applies. His verses are often tongue-in-cheek and hyperbolic in an attempt to woo a lady into forgoing her chastity. In “The Flea”, Donne used the ridiculous argument of a flea sucking on the blood of both him and the object of his affections as a way to convince the lady to sacrifice her “honour” for him. These complex arguments are humorous but the basis of the poem (longing and lust) are easily read in this and other early poems by Donne. “The Good-Morrow” (often considered thematically to be one of Donne’s earliest works), explores love in a way that is realistic and moving. The wish for the lovers to remain together, isolated from the world and all of the responsibilities that it entails is something that has not changed for the last four hundred years and Donne effectively conveyed the yearning for this in a way that is still easily interpreted by someone reading it in this day and age.

Poem: The Beach

by Fenella Johnson

The sharks killed them,
those blood faced boys,
whose bodies were strung in triads like Orion's Belts by the shore,
like crabs on rocks
or coins on dead men's eyes,
the gaping mouths of their wounds
like avalanches of roses on nylon swimming costumes-
the others bowed penitential,gutter-mouthed,skin choked,
legless on the stones:
playing at men's sport beneath the abstract lustre of the sky,
we watched them for a long time,pretending to be alone.

Remember when you and I were
seaweed children,
hearts eager and floppy,
prune thumbed,
preoccupied with the shrug of salt
not yet tilting adulthood into loose limbed being:
and the ritual-
we would scatter with our speckled feet,
the mottled pebbles,
that scuttling dance of scavengers
to pick the perfect prize to place in our pockets,
to skim at the ocean in pithy fits of foaming rage.

Our dives never split the seams of the ocean
but we too would go shark hunting on the beach,
delivering our coarse curses and our war cries in all our glorious savagery
when we wheeled our arms vicious eyed as we threw-
and watched our makeshift weapons spin across the water
our hands above our careful wounded faces in poses of glamour.
One day you hit a woman bathing,
the glossy star of her mouth bled from the stone that punctured it:
I thought of tyres being let out when I heard her curious awful exhale,
it was the same noise the boys by the beach made
like cymbals clapping in throats.

Why Abortion is So Controversial

by Katie O'Flaherty

As it has been for longer than living memory, abortion is still a topic hotly debated by many, some questioning the ethics of the decisions, others looking for answers through science. And now, with Donald Trump publicly stating that he would de-fund the charity Planned Parenthood, due to his 'pro-life' beliefs, putting an ever more political spin on the debate. 

Over the years, it seems the primary contenders in this debate are the scientists, against a significant proportion of religious people. And even these 'sides' are not as black and white as they seem. A number of scientists disagree with the principles of abortion, and a large number of religious people also believe in the freedom of the individual to choose. 

In the UK, it is legal to have an abortion up until 24 weeks, yet many argue it is too late, as 'on a different floor of a hospital, a premature baby can be saved at a younger age than 24 weeks'. Then arises the question of when life really begins. Is it when the egg is first fertilised, or after the zygote has formed, or only during birth? And science hasn't provided a solid answer to this question, giving even more scope for debate.

On top of these other questions, the circumstances can drastically alter how many people view the morality of the abortion. Many abortions take place after rape, or if the parents would not be able to fully provide for the child due to health problems. Furthermore, many people would consider an abortion if they found out, before birth, that their child would have a debilitating disease, which may prohibit their quality of life, or limit their lifetime. And many others choose abortions because of an unexpected pregnancy, unplanned for, but which many argue that they could cope with relatively easily. 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Photography: Rooftop Sunset at PGS

by Tony Hicks

These pictures of sunset over Old Portsmouth were taken from the rooftop of PGS main building earlier this evening. 

The Euro, the EU and Brexit: What's Next?

by Oliver Clark

The world has been in a constant state of change from the dawn of time, yet the last 6 months have arguably seen the greatest change in global politics since the turn of the century. The vote to leave the European Union, a President-Elect Donald Trump, and this weekend's Italian referendum (which could have ramifications greater than many dare to imagine). After my recent article detailing the wrestling related exploits of Mr Trump, I decided that I should focus on the former and latter of these 3 decisions, with the common topic of the future of Europe.

One of my main reasons in arguing to leave the European Union was the economic and political instability that is occurring on the continent. Much of this instability is down to one key factor: the Euro. A project of economic integration, a political project with good intentions of bringing Europe closer together, has had dire consequences for much of the continent. I feel that this turmoil has no single easy solution, and that the focus of the European Commission over the coming years will be to save their currency from falling off the proverbial cliff. It is unquestionable that the views of the non-Euro member states, including Britain, would have had near to no say over decisions (and subsequent consequences) in this period as the Euro project is put before all, and that is why I am still elated by our decision to Leave. But how bad'y is the Eurozone doing?

The answer? Very bad. The Eurozone as a whole has had near to no growth in 10 years, a lost decade in terms of economic growth (a key aim of the original EU project), there is on average 11% unemployment across the continent and horrendous youth unemployment reaching levels of near to 50% in countries such as Greece, Spain and Cyprus. This astronomical unemployment has led to rapid rises in inequality which further halts economic growth. Even Germany, the pinnacle of all EU success, in spite of its enormous trade surplus, has managed a mere 0.8% average growth over the last 8 years. A large proportion of these problems can be put down to the single currency ideology, and while the present is certainly bleak for Europe, the future is simply horrifying.

It really did baffle me when reading about the original ideas behind the Euro. How on Earth was a common currency going to help countries with such differing values, ideas, economic structures and priorities come together? In times of economic downturn, the ECB (European Central Bank) must decide on interest rates to charge. How can a single interest rate be compatible for the ambitions of 19 different countries? The simple answer is that it cannot. There is a fundamental lack of institutions within the EU to help the countries who do not benefit from the centralise policies. One country that comes to mind is Greece.

Greece, if you have been living under a rock for the last 8 years, is in a spot of bother. Large amounts of borrowing after being granted EU accession, followed by a large withdrawal of capital after the financial crisis (and subsequent fall in business confidence) has left Greece horrendously in debt. I need not remind readers of the state of poverty that Greece has experienced in recent years, but this poverty, caused by rash borrowing (and might I add, lending) of money, has only been exemplified by the ludicrous policies taken by the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF, collectively known as Troika.

Short Story: Absence

by Holly Lawrence

“Let’s welcome now, please: Mr John Lennon and Miss Yoko Ono.”

A joke was made before he was even on stage: he was crouched and poking his head around a corner before he sprang up and walked out, causing the audience to intertwine laughter with the applause which always seemed to shadow his entrance. The clapping was everywhere he went, despite often being silent or communicated through looks instead of noise. It was as if his name was a cue which spurred different reactions from everybody but a reaction all the same. Legs crossed and buried under a blanket, I was cocooned on the floor of the lounge with my focus on the television. My eyes followed the greyscale figures as the camera jumped between them, trying to keep up with whatever they were talking about. People laughed at him as he made a joke about a pin or a badge he threw to someone, then paused for a seemingly long silence as she tried to explain. Her voice was quieter, not hesitant but possibly more fragile, as she went on; I wondered if they were really listening.

“Art is just a tag, like a journalist’s tag-”
Finally, he was speaking again. There was more character to his words although he still discussed badges. I guess it was his job to make words sound different if you thought of it that way, but the audience still seemed to be listening. Not clean cut like the presenter’s nor uttering like hers, the syllables managed to cut off the presenter’s feeble attempts at interruption.
-If you gave that to a child he wouldn’t have any preconceived ideas-
Everyone listened to him.
“-You stick it together-

And then she was talking again. I’m sure someone cared about what she was saying, but it was only natural for all eyes to be on him. He was an emblem for peace, an ambassador for change and he was a hero; no wonder they all seemed entranced. It wasn’t like back in the day when there were only Beatles questions because now he was John Lennon as opposed to a Beatle, however he was never quite the person I had expected him to be. As I tried to understand these conversations bigger than myself, my mother walked in. She was idly singing to herself a tune which I knew all too well- 'Hey Jude'- when she saw the television. Suddenly they were gone- now replaced with a facial expression I was all too familiar with but still confused by.
It’s time for bed, Julian.” It lacked the personality I had just heard in someone else. I sighed and looked back at the blank television, hugging the blanket tighter around me.
“He’s my father.” How had I never noticed the high pitched weakness of my own voice? Why now, after listening to the umpteenth interview, was I picking up on it? With a sigh, my mother sat down next to me on the cold wooden floor. I offered her some of my blanket but she shook her head and I noticed how tired she looked. How sad.
He’s also a hero,” She mumbled. “He’s an icon.” But how could that be?
“He’s my father-”
“Julian.” She interrupted. “It’s time for bed.”

Pregnant Teenager, Illegitimate Child and Homeless Refugee Family: Reflections on Christmas (3)

by Tom Fairman

Pregnant teenager? Check. 
Illegitimate child? Check. 
Homeless? Check. 

It must be Christmas.

If there was a vote on the favourite Christian festival, I am fairly confident Christmas would be top of the list by a clear margin - from Christians and non-Christians alike. What is there not to like about a new baby? Could anything be as harmless and inoffensive as celebrating the unlikely birth against all odds? Looking on at any Nativity scene, the main reaction is "Ahhh", compared to the reaction to  Good Friday ("Uurgh") or Pentecost ("Eh?"). And yet nice does not always survive a further bit of investigation.

Christmas is actually an incredible scandal masquerading as a nice celebration. Leaving aside the scandals of God becoming man and Jesus choosing to be part of that flawed institution called a family which we have covered already, there are many aspects that would have shocked the Jewish community. From the moment after the angel Gabriel had left Mary, she would have known her life in her community was over. A teenager bearing a child before she was married would have raise eyebrows even 30 years ago, which indicates how this would have been received by the Jewish communities 2000 years ago.

When the census was called and Mary and Joseph had to leave for Bethlehem, they had nowhere to go. There was no plan; the family had turned their backs and word would have spread to the extended family in Bethlehem too. They would have handed Mary over to be stoned and Joseph was under no obligation to support her, being a man and the injured party. Yet he chose to stand by her against the flow of public and religious opinion. This had left them outside of society’s norms and therefore society’s help. They were too stigmatised for people to be associated with, which left them homeless - homeless of their own choice not due to unfortunate circumstances. Why should society help them?
The wise men visited King Herod to ask where they could find the new King of the Jews because it seemed like an obvious decision. To consult the government and the people in power made common sense. They are there to serve the people and should have the wisdom to help. However the response was a genocide of young male children in the region, causing Mary and Joseph along with Jesus to flee to Egypt. An incredible journey to make, which now made them refugees fleeing from the barbarity caused by a government clinging to power. Sounds familiar.

There is also the issue of Bethlehem being seen as a place where nothing good can come from and in addition, there was the fact the shepherds were the first to see the Jesus, not the religious leaders; if you could not do anything else, you became a shepherd. All this makes Christmas so full of scandal, the Daily Mail would have had a field day. Why did God make himself known in this situation? Why was Jesus not born squeaky clean with a fanfare of human praise and comfort?

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Three Broadway Musicals I'd Like to See in the West End. And One I Wouldn't.

by Daniel Hill

Finding Neverland

In February this year I was lucky enough to go to the theatre capital of the world, New York. I was also lucky enough to see two productions on Broadway. One of them was Finding Neverland, which is written by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy. It follows the same story of the film by the same name starring Johnny Depp. The story of JM Barrie was welcomed onto Broadway with great reviews, and it has been announced that it will be transferring to London; however, the date seems to be constantly shifting, suggesting uncertainties of how it will be reviewed by a British audience. Gary Barlow is also interested in rewriting  the  score for its transfer over this side of the pond. Although it may not do as well as it has on Broadway, I am still excited for its run on the West End stage. Rumours for the cast have included Alfie Boe and Kelsey Grammer.


Although it has been in the West End previously (last production being 2012) I would love to see Cabaret back in a West End theatre. I was also lucky enough to go over to New York last year as well on the Drama Trip and we were taken to see Cabaret starring Alan Cummings who is no newbie in the role of the emcee. The production was full of exciting music and dance. The film itself is a must- see and the live musical is even better yet. I hope that sooner than later we get Cabaret back onto the West End Stage, even possibly with Alan Cummings in the role of the emcee again.

Fiddler on the Roof
Having seen a few scenes of the past PGS production, directed by current teacher Mr Robinson and starring another current teacher Mr Frampton (as a pupil) made me realise what an exciting production the musical is. As it is currently on Broadway at the moment, it would be great to see it back on the West End stage. It has been nearly 10 years since we saw this production professionally in the U.K. Slowly the odd musical does tend to disappear from public minds and eyes so it would be a shame if this is one of the musicals that starts to disappear over the next few years, especially after such an amazing run on Broadway.

And why I am not excited about Hamilton.

Photography: Rainbow over Latter

by Imogen Ashby

Electric Cars: Embrace the Future!

by Douglas James

Nissan Leaf
Electric cars. The next form of transport. Cheaper to fuel and comes with a massive amount off your taxes. More expensive, but when it comes to a car like the Tesla, it’s so worth it. Yeah, ok maybe it’ll all go to pot and the dream of a road without cars pumping all sorts of stuff all over the place will go down with it, but probably not. Look, it’s my opinion. And many others. I suppose, I am a bit biased, my father owns a Nissan Leaf, but I’ve always supported the idea, and why wouldn't you? It’s far better for the environment. I can’t really think of any cons apart from that they’re more expensive… at the moment. But whenever I say to people, “Oh, my Dad’s got an electric car.”, the reply is normally, “What if it runs out?”. Well that's the thing, even petrol cars can run out (believe it or not) and it’s the same thing, just a smaller range. The new Nissan Leaf can go for about 136 miles, but even the one we have, which has a range of round about 80, is plenty. That easily gets you from Southampton and back, then back to Southampton. From Hayling. We don’t need to go much farther than Southampton in the first place. And on the rare occasion that we do, we can either charge up at a charging station (people seem to forget about that) or take a petrol car. Nissan (I believe) offer a petrol car for ‘free hire’ for up to two weeks of the year. Doesn’t seem like much, but if you're going on a summer holiday to Scotland, then it’s ideal. What I also hear is that many people thinking it takes 8 hours to charge up the battery. Yes it does. From 0-100. If you plug it into a three pin plug. But if you install a fast charger at home (free from British Gas (at least I think it still is)) then it’ll take about 3-4 hours. From 0-100%. Which shouldn’t really happen anyway, if you’ve got your battery down to 0% you’re not a great driver. No offence.

Arguably the best fully electric cars on the market are the Tesla Motors cars. Their model S can do 409 miles without air con on, at 55 mph and using their smaller 19” wheels. It has been rated the safest car in the world, it’s nearly impossible to tip it over as the battery lines the bottom of the car, keeping the weight there. This also stops objects (such as lampposts) from coming into the side of the car and smashing into the driver. Both the bonnet and the boot are both containers (act as a normal boot would) and these act as excellent crumple zones. Not to mention their “Bio-weapon defence mode” filter stops 99.97% of ‘particulate exhaust pollution and effectively all allergens, bacteria and other contaminants’ from getting into the cabin. I don’t think they are legally allowed to say 100%, but we can assume this is the case. So basically, as the name suggest, you could drive it through a place infected by bio weapon… infection… stuff and you’ll be completely fine. This is the pinnacle of electric car technology, and just technology in general.