Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Portsmouth Point

'Blue Christmas' by Kirsty Hodgkins

'Bauble' by Matthew Crichton

Christmas: A Time When Anything Is Possible

by Harry Dry

German soldiers (left) and British soldier (right) during the Christmas truce, 1914.
Carol Nelson writes that “Christmas is a time when you get homesick even when you’re at home”, describing how at Christmas you appreciate the people surrounding you more; although you are with them, you wish to be even closer to them.  If being surrounded by your loved ones at Christmas can make you feel homesick, the British, German, French and Belgian soldiers in the trenches during the First World War, who knew that they might never return home again, must have been feeling particularly alone. This makes the events I am about to recount even more astonishing and should people belief that at Christmas-time anything is possible.

The story starts at 8.45 on Christmas Eve, 1914,  in Ypres Salient. It could be seen from the British trenches that the Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches; they could be heard singing “Stille nacht, heilige nacht”, translated by the few German speaking in the British trench as “Silent night, holy night”. The British impulsively applauded and replied with a chorus of “The First Noel,” which was, in turn, met with applause by the Germans. Christmas carols continued, with the Germans singing followed by a British reply.

German soldiers then motioned the English over, gesturing “if you don’t shoot us, then we won’t shoot you.” It became clear that they were trying to signal a truce. British officers, fearing treachery, ordered their men to be silent and to reply no more to the Germans. However, military commands could not contain the Christmas spirit. Ignoring their officers, British soldiers called back, asking the Germans to walk across No Man’s Land unarmed as a gesture of trust. Amazingly, a German officer began to walk out alone and without a weapon; he was met half way across No Man’s Land by an English captain.

The captain returned, smoking a German cigar; he announced that there was to be no more fighting until December 26th, an order echoed by his German counterpart. As soon as the order was issued, groups of Germans were swiftly climbing out of their trenches into No Man’s Land to be greeted by British soldiers, shaking hands and wishing each other “Merry Christmas”. Germans who had family in Britain, France or Belgium were passing on letters for their relatives to “enemy soldiers” from those countries. Inspired by a Christmas spirit of generosity, men were soon exchanging badges, buttons, souvenirs, and food as gifts.

Later that night, a bonfire was lit and more Christmas songs were sung around the fire. Promises were made to meet again tomorrow. During the night the British worked on a football and challenged the Germans to a game on Christmas Day. Several games were played along No Man’s Land that day, with apparently hundreds from each side joining in. For the most part, the truce ended at midnight on Christmas Day. However, in certain locations it lasted up until New Year’s Day. In the places where the truce took place, nearly every soldier from each side, determined to preserve peace for as long as possible, remained out of the trench and up in No Man’s Land until finally summoned back by officers.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Taking Over at the Police and Crime Commission Office

by Eloise Peabody-Rolf

I attended Takeover Day at the Police and Crime Commission Office on Friday, 22nd November 2013. I wasn’t too sure about how the day would pan out, but I found it excellent – it was fun and very informative, and during the course of the day we took part in several activities designed to help us understand the responsibilities and activities of the Police and Crime Commissioner and his team.

The ‘Takeover Team’ consisted of eight students: three year 11 pupils from Oaklands School in Waterlooville, and five members of the Hampshire Youth Commission, ranging in age from 15 to 20.

We started the day with introductions, both of ourselves and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner from Rob Jarman, the Deputy Commissioner, who gave us an overview of what the OPCC does. We then had a tour of the offices and were introduced to the other members of staff who briefly described what they did. It was interesting to chat to the staff to learn about their roles.

Next we had the commissioning exercise, with 2 members of staff who work with Simon Hayes on allocating funding, Alan and Caroline.  In this exercise we learnt about the problems facing Commissioners when people or groups ask for funding, how they prioritise and decide who to award money to, as well as what the groups have to prepare and include in their submission to the Commissioner.  We were split into two groups both containing three members, one focusing on ‘Drugs and Alcohol Misuse’, and my group thinking about ‘Healthy/Respectful Relationships’.  After some discussion we presented our project proposal to the panel of Commissioners, briefly describing what we would plan on doing, our proposed pilot scheme, how we would spend the money, how we would find out if people are being affected, where and who we would aim our pilot at, and how we know if we have achieved our objective and helped the people being affected. We had to calculate the funding we would require from the PCC based on how long our pilot scheme would last for, prices for office supplies, who we would employ, etc.  The presentation felt a bit like Dragons' Den !  There was a big difference between the groups, especially in the amount of money being asked for. Our group focused on domestic abuse; we decided that children learn from their parents and if one or both of their parents is abusing them or their other parent, they could learn the behaviour was acceptable and they may copy the action, increasing the problem. We asked for £17,500 to run a pilot, whereas the other group asked for £200,000 to fund their proposal, a huge difference of £182,500.

We then had the opportunity to create and design marketing materials with Emma for the planned Police and Crime Commission Work Placement Programme, working in 2 groups of 4 people.  We came up with designs for a logo, website pages, and materials to advertise work placements, postcards and posters, which we then presented to the Communications team. This was great, as our ideas will actually be used on the PCC’s website and as promotional ideas!

Photography Club: Red Tinsel

by Florence Bishop

Sixth Form Centre: Laying the Floor

by Tony Hicks

Last images of the new Sixth Form Centre taken in 2013. This week, concrete was poured to form the floor on top of the old Biology block.  

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Photography Club: Tinsel B&W

by Adam Boxall

From the Archives: Doubt and Faith: Caravaggio's 'Adoration of the Shepherds'

by Tom McCarthy

The Italian Renaissance has given us its familiar icon of the Nativity of Christ. Mary and Joseph kneel in radiant light before the Christ Child. Shepherds approach bearing gifts, a lamb, a dove, a basket of eggs. Above the stable in a blaze of supernatural light angels dance and sing. From Hugo van der Goes, whose Adoration caused a sensation when it arrived in Florence in 1485, to Ghirlandaio (1487), to Botticelli (1500), to Correggio (1530), we see this familiar iconography. Moreover, each of these great artists has a theological intent.
With van der Goes, Mary and Joseph and eighteen other figures, angelic and human, clad in courtly elegance, seem to contemplate the sadness of the future – the death of Christ. Ghirlandaio, who saw van der Goes as an inspiration, has the Infant lying in front of a Roman sarcophagus with a Latin motto: “...the urn that conceals me will bring forth a god” – the resurrection of Christ. Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity has twelve colourful angels dancing in the sky and a trinity of angels on the roof of the stable. Another angel is leading three kings to adore, another leads three shepherds; at the picture plane, three angels embrace three human beings, as devils disappear into crevices in the earth – the theology of salvation. In Correggio’s Adoration, sometimes called Holy Night , the light source is the Infant Christ, whose light irradiates his smiling mother and dazzles an attendant nurse – “lumen Christi”.
In the centre of each of these masterpieces there is the Infant Jesus, with Mary and Joseph devoutly kneeling. Angels attend – a handful in Correggio, fourteen in Ghirlandaio, a legion in Botticelli. Each painting underlines an article of belief and appeals to the intellect, to reason.
With Caravaggio’s Adoration of the Shepherds, however, the traditional joyful topic of Christ’s Nativity takes on a sombre, sorrowful air. Giovanni Bellori, a contemporary and later biographer wrote of him: "The old painters, brought up in the tradition, were appalled... (There is) no decorum, no artistic sense. He painted all the figures in one and the same light and plane without any perspective”.
It was painted in Messina between 1608-9 for the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The first sign of its breaking with tradition is that, in this Church of the Angels, there are no angels, there is no heavenly light. Then, mother and child are not the centre of the composition. Instead in a wooden barn a donkey and ox stand patiently in the background. Off-centre, Mary, small and frail, lies on the earth, slumped, exhausted. The baby tugs at her face; she looks down and beyond him to stray straws glinting on the floor. Roberto Longhi, a twentieth-century champion of Caravaggio, says of Adoration:
He succeeded in completing for the Capuchins in Messina the exquisitely humble Manger Scene with Shepherds. ... The Madonna looks lost, holding the tiny child before the apprehensive gaze of the shepherds, as stolid as if cast in bronze. She is lying on a litter of prickly straw, hemmed in by animals as immobile as objects, while the merest glimmer of light seems to enter in, together with the surge of a distant sea. Set down in front of us, a sort of ‘peasant still life’ – napkin, loaf and carpenter’s plane in three tones, white, brown and black – is reduced to a forlorn quintessence”.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Sixth Form Centre: Finished Shape

by Tony Hicks

This week's update: the last of the steel, apart from walkway to Cambridge House. We can now see the finished shape, plus the steel sheets on the roof ready to fix in place. Some block work has also been started .


From the Archives: Why Christmas is a Bit Weird

by Oli Price

Before I start: this isn’t an attack on Christmas. I could never do that; it is my favourite time of the year. It’s just that I’ve been noticing that, as we get closer to the big day, everyone’s logical behaviour goes out of the window. And here I’m going to analyse it.

The Christmas tree: The Christmas tree came to Britain in the 1850s when Prince Albert introduced it to Victorian society; since then, it has become an essential part of the Christmas festivities. However, if you take a step back and look at the tradition of putting up and decorating the Christmas tree, you rapidly discover it is a bit strange. I mean, if at any other time of the year I were to bring a tree, predominantly an outside thing, inside the house, my parents would probably have me checked out by a doctor. However, once December hits, it’s not only acceptable to bring trees into the house, but it is also perfectly normal to decorate your new living room foliage with lights and a small woman on top.
Christmas music: Do not mistake me, I really love Christmas music; however, there are some absolute shockers out there, for example Robbie Williams’ Christmas single, Walk this Sleigh, was so atrocious it probably increased the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses for that year. Furthermore, Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas is a genuinely terrible song that wouldn’t get any air time if it didn’t have “Christmas” in the title; as such, every year this turd of a record is wheeled out and pumped through supermarket loudspeakers to my irritation.
The Christmas Jumper: On this matter, I’m going to make no apologies; I’ve never quite understood the appeal of the Christmas jumper. Furthermore, I had hoped that, like Christmas music, it would only have seasonal appeal, and that, once January hits, the Christmas jumper would go away for another year. However, sometimes this isn’t the case (see photograph above). Overall, these jumpers are incredibly naff and should only be allowed on Christmas day, if at all.
The Christmas Lunch: This is actually my favourite part of Christmas; after a day of drinking with breakfast (deemed acceptable on Christmas Day), bringing more plants (in this case, mistletoe) into your home and kissing people underneath them like a perverted gardener (also acceptable at Christmas), you finally sit down with everyone and eat an amazing lunch. However, thinking about it, even the Christmas lunch is a bit weird. I mean, sometimes you stuff the turkey you’re going to eat with another animal. The strange behaviour doesn’t end there: before the meal, each person at the table will set off some festive before-lunch explosives with the opposite diner, and, to add a weird element of competition to it, one of them will win a prize --- usually some tiny screwdrivers.

All in all, despite the fact that, from an outsider’s perspective, British Christmas looks pretty strange, my intention wasn’t to have a Scrooge-like rant about Christmas since I don’t know what we would do without it. So Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Photography Club: Bell

by Kirsty Hodgkins

From The Archives: Christmas Recipe for Gingerbread Biscuits

by Maisie Riddle

I chose this recipe to share with you because when I first made these biscuits they were delicious and I have never made any other gingerbread since. They are not too overpowering and are very tasty, especially for a Christmas morning!

75 g softened butter
50g caster sugar
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g golden syrup
2 egg yolks
250g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger

Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas 4.
Beat together the softened butter with the caster sugar until light and creamy.

Stir in bicarbonate of soda, golden syrup and the egg yolks until fully incorporated.

Sift in the plain flour, ground cinnamon and ground ginger then bring together with a wooden spoon.
Shape into two balls, knead until the dough comes together, then chill for 30 mins.
Roll out one ball at a time, to about 2 x £1 coin thickness. Stamp out shapes of biscuits that you decide, then re-roll the trimmings and do the same as above.
Lift dough onto greased baking sheets and bake for 10-12 mins until slightly risen and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
They will keep in an airtight container up to a week.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Photography Club: Santa Bear

by Kirsty Hodgkins

Remembering Peter O'Toole

Actor Peter O'Toole died on Sunday, 15th December, aged 81. His breakthrough role was that of T.E. Lawrence in David Lean's epic, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), one of the greatest films ever made.

In her essay on 'Lawrence of Arabia', Sheila O'Malley comments on O'Toole's "sheer mystery and odd-ness":

"O’Toole’s [performance] becomes more mysterious the more you watch it. But it’s all there in his haunting bizarre eyes, which seem to take in all that is before him, but also appear to be always looking deeply inward. At what, we can never know. O’Toole is playing The Man, but he is also playing The Myth."

Gay Talese's interview with O'Toole in 1963 captured the actor's intensity:

"He could still be wild and self-destructive, and the psychiatrists had been no help. All he knew was that within him, simmering in the smithy of his soul, were confusion and conflict, and they were probably all linked somehow with Ireland and the Church, with his smashing up so many cars that his license had to be taken away, and with marching in Ban-the-Bomb parades, with becoming obsessed with Lawrence of Arabia; with being an aesthete, a horse player, a former altar boy, a carouser who now wanders streets at night buying the same book ("My life is littered with copies of MOBY DICK") and reading the same sermon on that book ("...and if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves..."); with being gentle generous, sensitive, yet suspicious ("You're talking to an Irish bookie's son, you can't con me!").

. . . In three years at the Bristol Old Vic, he played 73 roles, including Hamlet . . . until he got the movie role in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. "Lawrence! I became obsessed by that man, and it was bad. A true artist should be able to jump into a bucket of shit and come out smelling of violets, but I spent two years and three months making that picture, and it was two years, three months of thinking about nothing but Lawrence, and you were him, and that’s how it was day after day, and it became bad for me, personally, and it killed my acting later.. . . 

 . . . Christ, in one scene of the film I saw a close-up of me when I was 27 years old, and then 8 seconds later, there was another close-up of me when I was 29 years old! 8 goddamn seconds! and two years of my life had gone from me! Oh, it's painful seeing it all there on the screen, solidified, embalmed," he said, staring straight ahead "Once a thing is solidified it stops being a living thing. That's why I love the theatre. It's the Art of the Moment. I'm in love with ephemera and I hate permanence. Acting is making words into flesh, and I love classical acting because...because you need the vocal range of an opera singer...the movement of a ballet dancer..you have to be able to act...it's turning your whole body into a muscial instrument on which you yourself play...It's more than behaviorism, which is what you get in the movies...Chrissake, what are movies anyway? Just moving photographs, that's all. But the theatre! Ah, there you have the impermanence that I love. It's a reflection of life somehow. It's...it's...like building a statue of snow...."

Gravity: from Newton to Einstein and beyond!

by Daniel Rollins

Dr Kazuya Koyama is a Reader in Cosmology in the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG) at the University of Portsmouth. His research interests lie in theoretical cosmology, particularly the origin of structure in our Universe and the late time acceleration of the Universe. He gave a talk on the 2nd of December in the DRT on his work on gravity, giving us a tour of the different theories of gravity and their faults, from Newton though to Einstein and finally his own theory of modified gravity compared to ideas about dark energy.

After his talk Sampad Sengupta and I interviewed him about his background, the next generation of physicists, the future of research, and philosophy and its place with science:

Sampad: What led you to study physics and the stars?
Dr Kazuya Koyama: When I was young I was interested in the universe and I wanted to study cosmology and I watched a TV program called the cosmos made by Carl Sagan. I think the primary school teacher showed us this video and I was very interested in in and since then I really wanted to study the universe. I first really studied philosophy because philosophy is one way to understand the universe, then I suddenly realised I needed physics to understand the universe. So I then decided to study physics at university, in fact I started to study physics at university, I didn't’t study physics at A Level or the equivalent in Japan. But then after that I was convinced that physics is a way to understand the universe.
S: What fields of physics are you associated with at the moment?
KK: Basically I am doing cosmology but my theory is based on particle physics, so many ideas are coming from particle physics. So particle physics is looking at a very small object but the theory of particle physics is the basis of the understanding of the universe. So I learn a lot from particle physics.
Dan: With extra dimensions and that sort of thing?
KK: Yes
S: You meet a lot of interns and students from universities across the UK, what do you think of the current generation of physicists? Do you find something different in them which they can develop in the future, can you see a spark?
KK: I don’t think there is much difference. I don’t really see a difference; I sometimes notice that the mathematical training is not so great compared to in the past. (Laughs) But that is how it is always; people always complain about the younger generation but other than that I don’t see much difference.
D: How do you feel about the direction of research at the ICG? Do you like where it is going, do you have any ideas where in 10-15 years research might be?
KK: In ten years we have this exciting new survey so I am interested in finding my own theory of gravity by then and I want to test my theory using that data. An exciting thing is that we can now test my gravitational theory using actual data so that will happen in the next ten years time, I feel that is really exciting. We will be able to test gravitational theory using cosmological data. This is completely new field in cosmology. This will happen in ten years time and in this it is very important to have a close connection between theorist and observers. The ICG is a very special place where we work together, there are a lot of good institutes having good observers, good theorists but they are basically separated and don’t talk. But in the ICG we are on the same corridor we talk every day that is very important and I think this corroboration between theory and observers can bring a very interesting future to cosmology.
D: How about cosmology in general, where do you think the next big idea or question is coming from?
KK: Well I think we already have enough questions, now is the time to answer them. In terms of dark matter it is probably not cosmology, but with particle physics we may be able to answer the question of the origin of dark matter. When we can detect dark matter, it is no longer dark matter. This may happen in ten years time so that is very exciting. It is very good for cosmology as if dark matter is not dark it is just unusual matter. So then we have to think about dark energy. This is very difficult and I’m not sure we can solve this in ten years time but that’s a good thing! (Laughs) We need to have a program!
D: You need a job!
KK: Exactly! So I think dark energy will be the focus of cosmology. My interest is again whether this is dark energy or modification of gravity.
S: To finish off: you stared by saying  you started in philosophy and then turned to physics as it was the tool you choose to answer the questions you had but at what point do philosophy and physics combine and how much do assumptions govern modern physics?
KK: That’s a very interesting question. At the moment for me philosophy and physics are to separate things it is very difficult to unify. But things like cosmological principle and think about Einstein and the idea of static universe, that comes from philosophy, there is no physical reason to believe that the universe is static so there is some prejudice in my mind coming from philosophy and that is very interesting to understand, why we have assumptions in our minds to me in the end it is a separate thing. It is very difficult to unify them. That is the reason why I didn't study philosophy.
D: So you think there is a use for philosophy to almost deconstruct the assumptions we make?
KK: Exactly, that is right, that is right.
S: Well thank you very much; it’s been great interviewing you.
KK: Thank you very much as well.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Merry Christmas to Portsmouth Point Readers

'Blue Christmas' by Kirsty Hodgkins

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of our readers, from the editors of Portsmouth Point .

Why Superstition Is Irritating

On Friday 13th, Charlie Albuery asks why, even in the twenty-first century, people remain so prone to superstition.

Full disclosure before we begin: I originally intended to approach this article as I do most, tear something down with words, ruthlessly lampoon something hoping to mildly amuse the majority of you, offending a small minority in the process. However, if I took that approach to superstition, what would there be to say? My whole article could be boiled down to: ‘Don’t do silly things because of bizarre arbitrary guidelines you’ve set yourself, based upon little to no reason.’

But that’s boring – and if there’s one thing I’m trying not to be for the next few hundred words its boring. So stick with me, here we go.
The philosopher Blaise Pascal once issued this famous quotation regarding the existence of God: ‘Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.’ In essence, one might as well believe because in that way you lose nothing, but by not believing (in the small chance the belief in question is real) the consequences may be great.

Now, I don’t know about you, but personally, I’m relatively happy with my mother’s back unbroken and the seven years of moderate luck stretching before me aren’t a particularly grim concept, so, following Blaise Pascal’s sound logic, I should become superstitious. So, largely (although not entirely) due to his incredibly cool name, we’ll roll with Blaise for a moment, shall we? Let’s consider what life would be like were I, and all of you by extension of course (as I am one hell of a trendsetter), to immediately begin to follow a life-system based upon a hastily arranged amalgam of the world’s most popular superstitions. Actually, no, that will never work; some are simply too ridiculous for us to follow. Allow me a moment to discount some of my biggest superstition-based bugbears.
First up –I am a hay-fever sufferer (and not a quiet one) and from around mid-June through to late August the phrase I hear most often is ‘God Bless You’. Whatever belief system you happen to follow, this is irritating. If you say ‘God Bless You’ and don’t believe in God then your words are empty and you are, at that point, essentially, wasting oxygen. If, however, you do believe in God and say ‘God Bless You’, then (a) you’re invoking your Lord’s name in vain and (b) what does that say about the Big Man Upstairs’ priorities? There are global poverty, starvation and disease to deal with! Yet you’re trying to waste his time on me because I have the sniffles? Just . . . just . . . don’t! Especially because I am immediately obliged to thank you for your impromptu blessing, to which the most common reply is ‘No worries’ or ‘It’s all-right’; at this point we’ve used THREE SENTENCES to discuss a sneeze, a function we all understand and should treat with total indifference. From now on, I want to sneeze and hear either ‘Oh, he sneezed, no comment’ or total, blissful, silence.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

My Top Five Christmas Essentials

by Charlotte Knighton
'Merry Christmas' (photograph by Florence Bishop)
I was thinking about Christmas the other day, and I was trying to figure out which of the many traditions my family has concerning Christmas are the most important to me. I managed to narrow it down to these five.

1. Giving and receiving presents- People can be as high minded as they like, claiming that getting presents isn’t why they love Christmas, but they are almost definitely lying. Everyone loves getting presents, it’s an undeniable fact. However I love not only receiving gifts, but also the excitement of picking them out for others, wondering whether my 19 year old brother will appreciate a Mini Dalek and then remembering that he still wants to be given Lego so is unlikely to turn his nose up at Doctor Who paraphernalia, picking out the adorable baby clothes for my little cousin, and trying desperately to think of something for my Granddad who doesn’t like surprises. Yes there’s no doubt that presents are top of my list.   

2. Getting and decorating the Christmas tree- A pretty obvious one really, the build up to Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without people disagreeing over which tree is nicest, then finally when we agree on one, realising it doesn’t actually fit in the living room and having to try and cut the base down. There are of course the traditional decorations made by myself and my brother when we were small, including the snowman which takes pride of place on top of the tree, which in recent years has been looking less than healthy.

3. Christmas dinner- Again fairly self explanatory, the usual mounds of turkey sausages, and my personal favourite, roast potatoes, with tons of gravy and stuffing and everything else… including brussel sprouts. No one likes brussel sprouts, and yet every year we have a small little bowl of them, and every year we have the same conversation: “Yes, we have cooked these. No we are not going to eat them. Yes we do this every year. Yes, next year let’s just not cook any.”  But of course we always do, it’s just one of those traditions.

 4. Watching all the Christmas specials- I love TV at Christmas, it’s always heart-warming, jolly and bright (Note: this does not apply to Dr Who. Dr Who is more likely to make you cry). There are some truly brilliant Christmas specials, such as Gavin and Stacey and the aforementioned Doctor Who, which the whole family can sit down and enjoy, having stuffed themselves at lunch. However there is the other end of the spectrum, shows such as Mrs Brown's Boys, which are truly the worst things you can watch in TV, but, as it’s Christmas, they must be watched whether you enjoy them or not, because that’s what we always do.

Photography Club: The Edge of Glory

by Ray Leach

Blank Canvas

by Katie Green

Down, down. Head over heels, still tumbling down, down. Stop. Motionless. I stared at my outstretched hand and slowly brought it back towards me until it was just inches from my face. This hand had pushed, pushed. The hand of a murderer. I recalled the look of anguish and astonishment at his betrayal on the canvas of his face as he twisted round in his final moment. The canvas that was now blank save for a few dribbles and spatters of blood that stood out in stark relief against his slowly paling flesh. I turned to to my fellow traitors with a grin of malice stretching across my face the fires of a man possessed danced in my bottomless eyes.

A Lucky Quest

by Ross Watkins

Four shadows flickered and danced down the mountain side. They came in descending height order, smallest at the front. They chanted merrily and joked between each other; and so they went about their journey, not knowing that it would throw them into a series of peculiar events.

The head of the largest turned to face the crimson sky. An overcast cloud appeared above, or it seemed to be a cloud… they all scarpered as an ivory dragon from the north kingdom of Alpinard, the home of the mighty white dragons, swooped down and perched on a rock. They all gathered in a conveniently placed cave and I believe this is a good time to introduce the odd bosh of races which formed this company. Next to the entrance was the company’s largest member, Grot. He was a swamp troll from the great southern swamps. He was small for a troll and it was because of this he was here in the first place, but that is another story. Huddled next to the troll’s rough hide was Brather the Dwarf. He was a stout Dwarf (if you can get such a thing) with a long brown beard. He had glinting sapphire blue eyes and was clad in tinted armour.  For it was he who had let the Dwarfs down when the men had come for their gold, for when captured it was he who told the men the passage into the great hold and therefore losing the battle. Even with this he considered himself to lead this company (even if the other disagreed) for he was scared (as every Dwarf was) for them not to go too far into the ground for the fear of falling through the void. Furthest into the cave was the goblin, Nigbit. He was green all over with a distinctive dark green birth mark on his left cheek. He was dressed in a brown robe with a sword strung at his hip.  In the corner, matting his fur was Thurin who was a werewolf with a personality disorder. The trouble was that when he was a werewolf (such as tonight) he behaved like a man and when a man he behaved likes a werewolf.

Grot juddered his blue head out of the caves entrance and then brought it back in. He turned to the three of them.

  “I think it’s gone,” he tried to whisper.

  “Yeah, well, why don’t you go out and we will see if you get turned into a stagnant mount of blue flesh,” Nigbit snapped back.

Grot squashed himself through the gap and onto the road which had been carved into the mountain side.   

  “All clear,” Grot grunted back to the others.

They all clambered their way out of the cave and made their way down the mountain.  Once on the valley floor below; they began their long and treacherous journey to the north. You see, each one had become out of favour with their respective races and one way to be re-accepted was to capture a dragon egg which could be held as a ransom so that the mighty dragons would not attack and pillage their lands. But all knew how hard it would be to get there and steal an egg. You see that even the mightiest armies had failed to penetrate the mightiest of all holds. But these three had learnt of a day in which all the dragons sleep (for reasons unknown). So the plan was simple: get in, get the eggs and get out of there. It was now the fifth day of the summer which meant that they only had three days until the dragons slept.        

Later in the day they were greeted by a clear evening sky. It grew ever darker as they journeyed the lifeless frozen plains. Thurin walked at the front gripping a map (for now he was a human). Every so often they would dive into cover as a glittering elvish patrol passed. Their journey continued until dark. Brather decided that they would stop and stay in a small copse of trees. They spent the evening recounting myths and legends to each other. It was not long until they drifted off with a smouldering lump of embers left. Nigbit took the first watch; the night seemed uneventful until Nigbit felt a fait tremble through the ground. He anxiously looked around; nobody stirred, so Nigbit thought that it was just him. Another jolt. Nigbit scarpered up a near tree. He looked onto the frozen plains with only the moonlight to aid with his search. Nigbit twisted his body to scan the plains; he suddenly leaped up and scrambled down the tree. He swiftly scurried to Grot and slapped the troll. Nigbit screamed.

  “River giant!”

  “By the tar swamps of Gurthur,” Grot said rising.

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Best of 2003 - 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

by Patrick McGuiggan

I recently read an article on The Point which said pop punk was "a forgotten genre". The news was especially upsetting for me, as I had already begun thinking about writing this article and "back in my day" pop punk was quite popular; bands like Blink 182, Green Day, Sum 41 and The Offspring all had varying degrees of mainstream success. Is the genre forgotten? Well, as Weezer put it on their first album..."Say it ain't so!" There are still successful pop punk stalwarts around today (a few mentioned below), but, on top of that, there are some excellent new bands in the genre like: The Wonder Years, Fireworks, and The Swellers, to name but a few.
Anyway, back to what I originally intended to write about. A few of my favourite albums have been re-released this year as 10th anniversary editions (they aren't all pop punk, I promise), which got me thinking...what were my favourite albums of 2003? I began putting together a Spotify playlist a few weeks ago because, well... I'm a bit sad like that.

There are a few of these albums which I have grown out of; they aren't quite as relatable to me now as they once were to  the 17 year old Mr. McGuiggan (we were very formal back then). Regardless, I still enjoyed the nostalgia of revisiting these albums and putting this list together. So here it is, the list that no one has been waiting for: my favourite albums of 2003:
1. Brand New - Deja Entendu

A dark and incredibly poetic pop punk masterpiece. It is still a regular in my car to this day, which says it all really.
Favourite song - Guernica
Favourite lyric: "The best part of what has happened was the part I must have missed/ So I'm asking you to shine it on and stick around/I'm not writing my goodbyes."
2. The Postal Service - Give Up

A unique and addictive indie/electro-pop classic. It is also still a regular in my car.

Favourite song: Such Great Heights

Favourite lyric: "I'll be your platform shoes/undo what heredity's done to you/ You won't have to strain, to look in to my eyes."

3. Cursive - The Ugly Organ

The Ugly Organ is dark, intense and original. Cursive are one of the best bands I have ever had the fortune to see live; Tim Kasher is a miserable genius.

Favourite song: The Recluse

Favourite lyric: "You gotta sink, gotta sink, gotta sink to swim/Impersonate greater persons/'Cause we all know art is hard/When we don't know who we are."

 4. Death Cab for Cute - Transatlanticism

It's hard to believe Ben Gibbard was able to release this album in the same year as the aforementioned Give Up. It is a beautiful and compelling album, which gets better with each listen.

Favourite song: A Lack of Colour

Favourite lyric: "There's no blame, for how our love did slowly fade /And now that it's gone, it's like it wasn't there at all/And here I rest, where disappointment and regret collide /Lying awake at night"

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Sixth Form Centre: The Steel Work

by Tony Hicks

There has been a lot going on this week . I have been told today that by December 20th all of the steel work for the floors and stair cases will be finished.


The Portsmouth Grammar School Fantasy Football League

by Patrick McGuiggan

I contacted pupils and staff over the summer to advertise the school's inaugural Fantasy Football League Season. For those of you who don't know, Fantasy Football is a game in which you have a budget to pick a squad of players and you then score points based on how well your selected team performs in each week's Premier League fixtures.
For example, if you refuse to include Aaron Ramsey in your team because you believe there is no way he can continue to maintain his current level of performance, then you'll be filled with regret each and every time he proves you wrong (63% of players worldwide have him in their team...I am not one of them). Or, if you can't stand Luis Suarez because of his undeniably long list of character defects, you'll be rather upset when he scores 4 times against Norwich and you aren't one of the beneficiaries (40% of players have Suarez selected in their team).
There are just under 70 entrants in this year's competition and I would expect there to be even more next year, given the number of pupils who have expressed an interest. I would also hope for a larger staff presence - we need your help!
As it stands:

I really should have posted this last week when I was still part of the Top 20, but, like my beloved Manchester United, I am sure to make a thrilling comeback...you'll see, you'll all see!
It is reasonably close at the top, with several players just one good week away from taking top spot. The prize at stake? Pride, honour (unless you have Suarez on your team), bragging rights, that is...unless I can twist Mr. Charles' arm between now and the season's end!
Results are below:

How Do Teachers Celebrate Christmas?

by Henry Ling and Kelvin Shiu

It's that time again, the coming of the end to the year and the jolly old time of Christmas, for  some it can seem a chore, but it's that one time when families are bought together and eating lots of food is encouraged, when we give and when we share. It can also be the time of the half-hearted smile as you open a present, only to find some crass old thing you didn't want but feel obliged to say "Thank you, I really wanted that".
So we decided to go round the school and ask a few teachers what Christmas is like for them, and to find out about their experiences.

Mrs Gladstone answered the questions like this: 

1) What's your favourite Christmas album?
A Christmas Present by Polyphony

2) What's your favourite Christmas song?
In the Bleak Midwinter

3)What's your favourite Christmas food?
Mince pies

4)What's the best Christmas present you've ever received?
 A skiing holiday

5)What's the worst Christmas present you've ever received?
A cactus, from someone who knows I'm afraid of them

6)What makes Christmas special to you? 
Seeing the family and Midnight Mass.

Mrs Williams responded as follows:

1)What's your favourite Christmas song?
I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas by Bing Crosby

2)What's your favourite Christmas food?
Cold turkey and pickles

3) What's the best Christmas present you've ever received?
My Meerkat pyjamas

4) What's the worst Christmas present you've ever received?
Wash bags and makeup bags

6)What makes Christmas special to you?
The anticipation and planning

Mrs Kirby,as she leaves us for a while on maternity leave, managed to give a last thought on how she finds Christmas, with the following answers:

1) What's your favourite Christmas album?
Any Christmas compilations

2)What's your favourite Christmas song?
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland

3)What's your favourite Christmas food?
Heated Mince Pie with Ice-Cream

4)What's the best Christmas present you've ever received?
The first bike I received

5)What's the worst Christmas present you've ever received?
A giant turkey baster

6)What makes Christmas special to you?
The build-up beforehand and the coming together of friends and family.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Photography Club: Shadows

by Adam Boxall

The White Widow

by Will Hall

With all the  'false widow' spiders in the news at the moment, I turned my attention to a different kind of widow.
Who is the White Widow?
Samantha Lewthwaite
The 'White Widow' is Samantha Lewthwaite, who was born in Northern Ireland. The 29-year-old British Muslim convert is the world's most wanted woman after being accused of allegedly ordering the killings of two radical Muslim clerics, two Protestant preachers, and three others with links to terror-group al-Shabaab.

She has been dubbed ‘the White Widow’ partly because, during the Nairobi mall attack, witnesses reported seeing a white woman in the mix of the al-Shabaab terrorists. The reason she has ‘widow’ as part of her name is because she’s the widow of 7/7 suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay. She is currently a fugitive from justice in Kenya, where she is wanted on charges of possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony and is the subject of an Interpol Red Notice requesting her arrest (a red notice is basically an international arrest warrant).