Monday, 14 January 2019

Size: It’s a Personal Thing

by Shapol Mohamed

We love to boast about big things like the size of our economy, and politicians love to boast about big cuts and big spendings. But, how would you know something is big or not? How would you know that £300 million or £400 million is a lot? How would you know that 32,000 airstrikes are a lot?
When Tony Blair was campaigning to become Prime Minister he promised that the government would spend £300 million over five years to create a million new childcare places. Any number with an -illion at the end is undoubtedly incomprehensible. However, is £300 million to provide for a million places a big number? From that one million places that will be created, it will mean that each place will get £300. Divide it by five years to find out how much each place gets annually and you are left with £60 per place. In a year, there are 52 weeks and that means each place is worth £1.15 per week. Is it possible to find childcare for £1.15 per week? Maybe in parts of rural Uzbekistan but not in the UK. So, £300 million is not a big number in this case.

Recently, the chancellor Phillip Hammond announced £400 million extra funding for state schools. Again, the number seems unimaginable; you sense the mental fuses blowing at anything about the price of a home. In the UK there are ten million students at state schools that means each child gets a one-off bonus of £40. Therefore, in this case, £400 million pound is not a lot for state schools. Perhaps, if children started dressing as potholes then schools might get more funding because in the budget more money was allocated to potholes than to improve schools.

The UK has also been actively involved in carrying out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria alongside with its allies. In Iraq, 15,000 airstrikes have been carried out and in Syria 17,000 airstrikes have been carried out according to Airwars. The reason why airstrikes are being carried out is to combat ISIS. At its very peak (2014-2016), ISIS had between 20,000 and 25,000 members according to the CIA. So, that means if each airstrike had killed a single ISIS member that would have meant that not a single ISIS member would be left. Unfortunately, they are still left. So, if airstrikes didn’t kill ISIS members who did they kill? The answer is innocent children, innocent mothers, and innocent fathers. According to Airwars, nearly 30,000 innocent civilians have been killed by airstrikes. That is innocent civilians, not ISIS members. I think airstrikes can be good at times but they should not be used in cities where innocent civilians are killed. They should only be used in the battlefields which are mostly desert and not cities. Furthermore, each airstrike costs £500,000. This means that in this case, 32,000 airstrikes are too much and I think the money should be spent elsewhere like our schools.

The Origins of New Year’s Resolutions

by Rebecca Stone

The start of January, appropriately named after the two- faced Roman god Janus (one face looking back, one looking ahead) is the time to look through the past year, and cathartically answer the question: how will you change yourself this New Year? For some, this may be to give up chocolate, or to work harder, or to start exercising regularly. However, looking back to approximately four thousand years ago, the original New Year’s resolutions would have been extremely different.

The first recorded origin of New Year’s resolutions can be traced back to the ancient Babylonians. Although their New Year began in what is our March, a more appropriate time for a year to begin, with the planting of new crops, they were seen to have started the tradition of making promises to one’s self and the gods. To celebrate the new year, a twelve-day festival, called Akitu, would be held, with sacrifices to their Pagan gods. The Babylonians also made promises to pay their debts and carry on observing their religious practices through the next year. If they kept these promises, they would please the gods and the gods would bless their year, and harmony would rule over the land, as well as the new king they appointed at this festival.

Similarly to this, the ancient Egyptians made sacrifices to their god of the River Nile, Hapi, for a fruitive and fertile year. The Romans, after Julius Caesar altered the ten-month calendar to the twelve-month Julian Calendar, starting on January 1st, made promises of good conduct to the god, Janus. In the mid-eighteenth century, Christians viewed New Years as a time to look back at their failings from the past year, and make resolutions for the future. John Wesley, in 1740, introduced the Watchnight Service on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, for readings, prayer and singing.

What Would a Secular World Be Like?

by Anushka Kar

There is always the question, after studying and understanding religion, what the world would be like without the concept. Would we be better off without worshipping a higher being, or would we simply be confused, searching for something else within our universe to dedicate or ponder our lives upon? Would we be more at peace, or at war? Would we be surrounded by more love, or hate?

After reading and analysing poems by both Larkin and Duffy -in particular ‘Water’ and ‘Prayer’- the question of whether a secular ‘religion’ would be just inbetween what the world perhaps needed was raised in a discussion I had. A religion not based around a higher being, but the concept of the maintenance of unity by a common human need, and ethical reasoning. Interpretations of the poem ‘Water’ by Larkin suggest that with a religion constructed around a common need for humans (water) and secularity, unity naturally falls into place. The concept is very much controversial to those who are in faith, but has an appealing simplicity to it. Would it be possible to live so simply, or would complications arise due to human nature?

Friday, 14 December 2018

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Editors of Portsmouth Point

The Portsmouth Point editorial team wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Image by Thomas Beattie

We hope that, over the holiday, our readers enjoy journeying through the 'Destinations' issue of Portsmouth Point magazine (published today), whether embarking upon a leisurely browse or a dynamic binge-read.

You may, of course, begin at the beginning, proceeding purposefully to the end, or you may choose to dip in at random, exploring the magazine in all sorts of different directions.

If you are travelling over the festive season, we hope that the printed magazine can help engage or divert you on your way to your ultimate destination.

Best wishes,

The Editors
December 2018

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Poem: 'More'

by Anushka Kar

You couldn’t get enough of her.
When the greased dishes,
Still not polished to the edge
Laid dead against the side.
So you’d tell me

When the stacks of lined paper
And heeled shoes
Rested beside my bed
all without purpose,
You’d tell me,

When mornings were late-
much like the night before,
my bed still unkempt
Or the floral scent of chemicals
still in the basket,
You’d tell me,

There an evening,
You thought you’d lost me.
But I came home;
‘I always do.’
Busy, I was
Yet somehow she crept forward,

Her name said, called, demanded
more so than mine;
Maybe it was thrilling,


Musical Composition: Blizzard

Benedict Blythe introduces his new musical composition, 'Blizzard'.

(with thanks to Jeremy Cooke for his technical expertise)

Should Toys be Segmented by Gender?

by Honor Davis

I would and actively do argue that the need for gender market segmentation is increasingly irrelevant in everything but hygiene products, contraception and (arguably) form-fitting clothing. The definition of gender is "the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women" [Wikipedia]. The trouble with having two pretty boxes to tick is that history has shown, time and time again, that that structure does not work.

For example, Hijra and Two-Spirit are gender identities found in multiple ethnic and cultural groups dating back to before the eighteenth century. These identities are often considered to be comparable to gender-nonconforming identities, as they do not coincide with Western gender constucts. In addition through the fourteenth century 'a' was a gender neutral pronoun which is still used in some English dialects that are alive today; people not identifying with binary genders is not a new concept whatsoever. Before the early twentieth century, clothing worn by infants and children lacked any sex definition. This shows that gender constructs are ever-evolving and are not genuinely necessary in society.

Furthermore, the very term 'gender market segmentation' implies that gender can be segmented at all and is not in actual fact a spectrum, redefined by every individual. How can the market account for every, single person's gender identity?

A case study of Lego shows Lego's advertising to become more and more gender normative from the founding basis that lego is for all. Lego had been failing to sustainably increase sales since 2003, and thus in 2008 launched a four-year market research project into why Lego had failed to reach a sector of the children's market. Lego Friends was subsequently released in June of 2012 and received significant backlash -amounting to a petition signed by thirty-five thousand people- for enforcing gender stereotypes, yet despite this it was seen to be successful with children nonetheless. To some the sales recorded would entail that Lego friends had been exactly what was needed, but the sales acceleration had begun before 2012. In 2008 Lego earnt 1.6€ billion and in 2010, 2.2€ billion. This proves that the revenue increase had already begun three years prior to the Lego Friends release in 2012.  The sales jump seen in 2011-2012 was from 2.5€ billion to 3.1€ billion, however, it may be said that this can be put down to other releases made that same year.

In 2012, Lego released; Lego Friends, Star Wars: Battle of Hoth, a range of firefighter and police equipment lego, Avengers action figures and much more. The most notable children's toy released would definitely be the Team GB sets in wake of the 2012 Olympic Games. Conclusively Lego Friends can not be put down as the reasoning for a sales increase seen in 2012, as there were so many other factors. In addition there was evidently no benefit from enforcing gender norms but the opposite (in light of the petition formed rejecting the Lego Friends sets).

To summarise, gender market segmentation is (and has been) potentially harmful to enforce onto children and also financially unnecessary. With so many ways -that are possibly more profitable- to advertise a product, there is no reason to use the form that has the power to cause harm, furthering gender normativity and the exclusivity of binary genders.

“Io Saturnalia!”

by Rebecca Stone

The celebration of Saturnalia
Before the birth of Christ, there were many festive celebrations around the time of the winter solstice that had been occurring for hundreds of years. Saturnalia was the oldest, and most popular festival of the ancient Roman calendar. The pagan celebration for the god, Saturn, was held on the 17th December in the Julian calendar. By the late Republic (133-31 BC) the festival had lengthened to finish on the 23rd December. Saturnalia was a celebration of gift-giving, gambling, feasting, and role-reversion. The social norms regarding hierarchy and classes were overturned and everyone celebrating in this festival wore a simple and plain tunic, so that class was not asserted. Saturn, to whom public sacrifices would have been made during this festival, was the Roman god associated with agriculture, wealth, and liberation.

During the festival, shops would close their doors as well as courts of law and schools, and the people of Rome would gather in front of a large stone statue of Saturn. Priests would perform a sacrifice outside the temple in the main forum, and remove wooden cloths from the statue’s feet, symbolising the loosening of liberation. This marked the official beginning to Saturnalia. Near the stone statue of Saturn, a wooden statue of the God would be brought out by the senators of Rome, and carried to a large outdoor banquet area. The senators positioned the god on a large recliner. With the god positioned to look over the feast, the banquet would begin, and the wine started flowing. All the citizens of the city could enjoy the feast, and the class system was upended for the day. There were gladiatorial games held during the day. To continue the theme of social disarray, all classes could fight, and there were often games of women fighting, and even dwarfs. Not all romans found these games very tasteful. There were some who detested these games, and tried, if they could, to not participate, for example, the famous orator, lawyer and philosopher, Cicero.

Tony Hicks is in the News

PGS' Marshal, Mr Tony Hicks, is an accomplished photographer whose work has graced Portsmouth Point blog and magazine over many years.

He has also had many of his images published in Portsmouth's local newspaper, The News over a long period.  This week, The News has celebrated Mr Hicks' work with a special feature that showcases some of his most popular work. The images are also featured in The News' web version, which you can find here: