Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Why Did Father Christmas Choose Reindeer to Pull His Sleigh?

by Eloise Peabody-Rolf

Out of all of the animal kingdom why was the reindeer chosen by Father Christmas for this momentous annual task?  Surely an elephant who can carry much greater loads would’ve been better? Or, if we’re going on the magical lines, a dragon or unicorn? 

The task needs a creature that can fly quickly across the night sky, but also is big enough to pull the heavy sleigh overflowing with gifts, and has plenty of stamina to get around the world in one night!
So why reindeer?

Reindeer (also called caribou) vary in size and weight in accordance with their gender and age, but generally are around 1.2-1.5m at the shoulder and weigh anywhere from 100 to 300kg. In the wild, they live an average of 15 years, and love to eat reindeer moss!

There are a number of reasons which could contribute to Father Christmas’s choice of the now- beloved reindeer, I’m going to give you four …

dashing through the snow
For starters, the reindeer are fast when running; although (‘officially’) they can’t fly, they can still cover a great distance in a short time, the reindeer can run up to 50mph, especially when fleeing from predators. In their natural environment reindeer can cover great distances; when they migrate, they can travel up to 3,000 miles in a year. Even though this distance is impressive, as Father Christmas’s reindeer, you would have to go around the world approximately 187 times in one night, and, with the world being about 25,000 miles in circumference, that’s quite some distance - and probably why they spend the rest of the year busily munching on moss.

Reindeer have very big feet!  Their hooves have a big surface area to support their body weight on snow, and the underside of the hoof is hollowed out with a sharp rim which therefore means that when the reindeer land on the roof they can keep their balance, and not slip while waiting for Father Christmas to go down the chimney and deliver presents.

Photography Club: Waiting for Santa in Smith Common Room

by Rebecca Arnold

Boscombe at Christmas

by Lucy Smith

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

An Alternative Christmas

by Lucy Smith

So around this time of year, a compilation of tracks is dusted down for a season’s intense airing at every given opportunity, leaving the public gorged, satiated, and, quite frankly, sick to the back teeth of it all come the start of January, not to be heard for another ten or eleven months or so. I’m talking, of course, about Christmas music.

Wandering round my hometown of Derby, the familiar selection has been laid on thickly at every turn: battling through the local shopping Leviathan, having a coffee in a café, even in Parksafe car park, a multi-storey once voted one of the ten most secure locations in the World. You all know what I’m on about- "Fairytale of New York" (singer Shane MacGowan was born on Christmas day, y’know!), "Stay" by East 17 (which isn’t actually that Christmassy, despite a few bells), Wizzard, Slade, Mariah et al. Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat ad nauseam. The thing is, to someone like me, who isn’t all that fussed about Christmas, these songs only serve to irritate and simply heighten everything I dislike about this season: the consumerist greed, the swarms and hordes of people everywhere, the forced jollity, and the way everything seems to start just slightly earlier and be just that little bit more commercial than it was the year before.

That said, there are some real gems you are unlikely to hear on the radio (and, thankfully, not for the reason that Another Rock and Roll Christmas has fallen off the mega-pop Christmas A list….) So, without further ado, I’d like to take you through ten of my favourite , slightly offbeat Christmas tunes I hope you’ll enjoy. In no particular order…..

1.   Saint Etienne- "I Was Born on Christmas Day"
Saint Etienne occupy an odd space musically. Often bewildered-sounding lyrics of life as a grown up in a big city, with more London-based references than, well, the Tube map, paired with indie credibility, yet somehow still SO danceably, unashamedly pop. This one is no different with Tim Burgess from the Charlatans providing backing vocals, with some classic Christmas bells making an appearance.

2.    Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters- "Mele Kalikimaka" (Hawaiian Christmas)

The Andrews Sisters hold a special place in my heart. When I was a very young child, my Grandma used to put their records on and I used to stand on her feet whilst she danced me round her dining room. The utter deliciousness of the close female harmonies, probably owing in no small part to them sharing their genetic material, took me back to a different time, then as now. This one has Mr Christmas, Bing Crosby, on it, so you think you’d hear it a bit more. I suppose the green, leafy evocation of Christmas surrounded by palm trees, summed up by the slide guitar introduction, is somewhat at odds with Bing’s usual "White Christmas". But at least you know how to say “Merry Christmas” in Hawaiian now!

3.   Half Man Half Biscuit- "All I Want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit"
A yarn about a schoolboy who goes round to play Scalextric at his mate’s house, and ends up playing Subbuteo instead. It all, inevitably, ends in tears and tantrums, and, as a cautionary note, our protagonist ends up collecting his benefits from his mate as a grown man. This song really has nothing to do with Christmas, bar the title, so, as a bonus fact, I will tell you that the game Subbuteo takes its name from the Latin word for the bird of prey the hobby, Falco subbuteo.

4.   The Knife- "Reindeer"
A dark, chugging slice of electronica from the Swedish duo’s eponymous first album. This song tells of Christmas from the perspective of the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh, travelling through moonlight and shadows with their heavy burden.

5.  Laura Marling- "Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)"
I struggle to fathom the maturity of Marling’s songwriting for one so young. Released when she was just 19, this song paints a timeless pastoral image of rural England covered in snow finishing on a reminder that all things must pass. Simply beautiful.

6.   James Brown- "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto"
Christmas Day 2006. I woke up all alone in a bedsit flat above a fish and chip shop in Durham, hopped in my L-reg Mark III Ford Fiesta to drive to my family, and turned on the radio to the news that the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Mr James Brown, had died that day. James recorded a whopping three Christmas albums during his career, including 1968’s A Soulful Christmas which contains this funky piece of Christmas social commentary.

Photography Club: Tinsel

by Susannah Shlosberg

Monday, 22 December 2014

Langstone Harbour and the Hayling Ferry at Christmas

by Lucy Smith

The Price of an Education: Should We Take It for Granted?

by David Danso-Amoako

We may take our education for granted, but in other countries you could be killed for seeking an education. That’s how powerful it is. 

In history, by not educating others, the rich man would have gained more money because others could not reason against him or her. This is mainly shown in religion when the clergy would tell poor people that, in order to have your sins forgiven, you have to pay your way into heaven by using pardons which you paid for. The money paid for a pardon would be used as profits mainly for the rich clergy bishops and abbots. The Bible was written in Latin, so the uneducated poor could not understand it and were easily duped by the rich people.  

A current example of paying the ultimate price for education was seen last week in Pakistan, where 132 innocent children were massacred because they chose to go to school and receive an education. The reason the Taliban gave for this massacre was, in one word, 'vengeance'. They justified their actions by saying this was to avenge the death of the children by the Pakistani army. World leaders have truly condemned the act of violence committed in this military school, the attendants mainly children of the soldiers. 

However, this threat isn’t isolated. In Nigeria, over 200 girls in school in Chibok were kidnapped in April by Boko Haram, which means in English “Western education is forbidden”. This caused the rise of the hashtag Bring Back Our Girls, a campaign trying to bring them back alive. Some in the school already knew this was going to happen, so took their children away from school. But those children who didn’t know this were kidnapped and forced to change to Islamic beliefs. While a few of the girls have managed to escape, the fate of the majority remains unknown.  

But if you think we have been defeated in our cause for education, look no further than Malala Yousafzai, who survived, with help from the UK, a bullet to the head from the Taliban and is now the driving inspiration for others to go to school in dangerous areas like Afghanistan and Pakistan. This year, she has been awarded a Nobel peace prize for her efforts. On her eleventh birthday she gave an inspirational speech in which she said “the pen and the book are our best weapons.”
If we give the poorest countries education for their children, we will not only be giving them a chance in life, but we will help the country because we are giving them in essence home-grown talent. This will therefore help them boost their economy and the employment rate.

So what is being done about the education problem? 

Photography Club: Santa and Friends

by Jake Griffiths

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Fracking: What’s all the Fuss?

by Alex Boden

Areas of the UK where it would be possible 
economically to extract shale gas.
The ‘controversial’ process of Fracking has been all over the news lately, with messages emphasising its dangers and risks to our countryside and taking the governments attention away from renewable sources of energy. However, is it as bad as environmentalists are making out and what are the benefits?

‘Fracking’ – is the process in which shale gas is extracted from fissures in rock below the Earth’s surface. It is unlike conventional sources of fossil fuels, which migrate upwards from where they have formed through permeable rock until they reach an impermeable layer, forming oil reservoirs.  Which are then drilled into to extract the oil and gas. Shale gas, on the other hand, is the gas that forms in impermeable shale and cannot migrate upwards. This traps gas molecules within the shale, which can be extracted using the Fracking method of extraction, which involves drilling down into the shale layer and then drilling horizontally along the shale layer. Fracking fluid is then injected, which is made up mainly of sand, water and chemicals. The fluid is injected under high-pressure and opens up the fissures, releasing the trapped gas allowing it to be extracted, making it an unconventional method of extraction.

Fracking has many advantages economically for the UK. Taking the USA for example, extracting shale gas via Fracking has significantly reduced gas prices and expanded oil production. This has given North America oil and gas security for at least the next century, allowing the USA and Canada to be self sufficient on oil and gas resources for the next few generations. A similar level of oil and gas security could be achieved by the UK if Fracking were allowed to take place, and in light of these huge benefits currently enjoyed by North America, why not?

The gas security that would come with it would allow there to be enough funds for more research and development of renewable resources for the future in the UK. If extracted the shale gas would be worth approximately worth £4.2bn a year to the exchequer. Allow there to be short term economic gain now while the Shale gas lasts, creating a more stable economy for renewable sources of electricity to be invested into by the government for the future. Such as in Norway, where the revenue from the selling of their North Sea oil has been invested in renewable resources, 99% of all energy is produced via hydroelectric damns for example. Providing a convincing argument for the benefit of extracting Shale gas to allow investment of renewable resources for the future, money the UK government lack currently. Thousands of real jobs would also be created in the process of building the Fracking sites, and in their use while extracting the shale gas. Again, showing the economic and social advantages of extracting shale gas.

Using shale also has benefits to the environment compared to conventional coal power stations in the UK. As it generates around half the CO2 emissions of coal when used to create electricity. Although, still creating green house gases, would be at a less harmful level than coal powered station emissions. However, cannot match renewable sources of energy in this sense. But linking back to the earlier argument, the extraction of shale gas would allow there to be funds for the establishment of renewable resources as the main source of energy in the UK in the future. So perhaps not in the short term, but in the long term the extraction would benefit the environment.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Photography Club: Stocking

by Martha Emerton

Review: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

by Holly Govey

Possibly one of the most intriguing, captivating and thought-provoking novels I have ever read, Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood, discloses the haunting story of controversial painter Elaine Risley as she vividly reflects on the events of her childhood and the way in which they have shaped her personality. Albeit unique, her story can be amplified to represent the perpetual construction of identity, where the notion of humankind’s paradoxical relationship with the past is mirrored by Elaine’s disorientation as she struggles to integrate lost aspects of herself. In this way, Cat’s Eye explores many ideas which correlate to my identity, allowing me to draw implicit parallels between events in her childhood and that of my own life, thus facilitating the novel as an interesting and insightful read.

Elaine’s strongest memories are of Cordelia, the worst perpetrator of a trio of girls, whose actions tint her perceptions of relationships and her world, echoing Sigmund Freud’s belief: that much in adult identity is formed in early childhood. However, in contrast to this novel he states that these childhood ordeals can be constructive, stating that “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” Conversely, the bullying Elaine suffered throughout her childhood, which instigated her depression and the decline in her perspective of self worth, continued well into her adult life. This idea is further sustained with her reflection on the significance of these events on her present life as she reiterates that, “Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life sized.”  This epitomises the impact of childhood trauma and also the way in which children can easily stray from reality, causing them to hyperbolise events due to their distorted perspective of the world, thus imploring us to question the reliability of Elaine’s account of her childhood.

Atwood presents the development of relationships and the process of growing up as the impartial observations of an entomologist looking at a bug under a microscope (alluding to Elaine’s scientist parents) and this detached narration mirrors Elaine’s attempts to isolate the recurring memories of her past. Girl culture is a prominent theme in this novel, emphasised by the persistent presence of certain ideas, for example, the culture of fashion scrapbooks, makeup, of dating etiquette, relationships with brothers, and of knowing your place in the hierarchy of female friendship. These concepts are universal, thus allowing me to relate to Elaine's experiences and the way in which she hardens to this girl culture, becoming a sharpened and bored high-school girl with a "mean mouth," not impervious to this culture of women but simply afraid of it. The effect of these societal pressures renders Elaine apprehensive and creates in her a sceptic who trusts no one due to the wounds inflicted on her from her childhood

Furthermore, this novel also highlights the ubiquitous existence of human consumerism, a theme popular in many of Atwood's novels, advocated through Elaine’s realization of her needs of material entities; purses, nightgowns and makeup. In the crux of her relationship with these three cruel girls, Elaine starts consuming herself, chewing on her hair, biting the skin around her nails and the hard flesh on the bottoms of her feet. In spite of this, Elaine stays with these girls because, a childhood spent with malicious friends is better than a childhood spent alone, especially for girls. This belief may elucidate Elaine’s actions as, at the summit of their cruelties, after the girls torment her to her breaking point, she takes all of her hard-earned babysitting money, quits her babysitting job, and spends all the earnings on candy, which she gives to the girls. They consume it, and in a way, Elaine feels consumed, as she mistakes this for love and they take up her mind and attention yet destroy her internally. This vicious cycle of consumerism echoes the nature of our society, both in financial terms and relationships as the effects of girlhood literally eat away at a child until she is nothing but the product of her environment.

The novel is rooted in Canada in the mid-20th century, and includes an exploration of many contemporary cultural elements, including feminism and various modern art movements. Atwood portrays the Feminist Movement from the perspective of one who lived through it, by depicting a protagonist who finds herself threatened by the strength of the feminine rabble that zealously lead the way, albeit she experiences scratches of guilt for ignoring the call to sisterhood. Elaine feels she is not worthy to join the cause because she is stubbornly heterosexual, unforgivably fond of men and a mother, and states that “Forgiving men is so much easier than forgiving women” emphasising her bias towards males, which may originate through her traumatic experiences of female relationships throughout her childhood years. Although I appreciate those who changed the world for the better, I don’t think I would have had the requisite anger or courage to promote change had I been alive at the time; however, it is interesting to perceive an alternative perception of this era.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Merry Christmas from Portsmouth Point

Wishing all of our readers and editors a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Portsmouth Point

Lights by Susannah Shlosberg

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Teachers' Perfect Christmas: Dr Richmond

Dr Richmond

What is your favourite Christmas song/carol and why? 
'Mary's Boy Child' by Boney M: The line "Mary's boy child Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day/And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day" still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

What is your favourite Christmas film and why?
'The Wizard of Oz'. I just love it. I think Judy Garland is just terrific in it.

What is your favourite Christmas book or poem and why? 
I love 'The Polar Express'

What is your favourite Christmas food/drink?
 Goose or duck which are traditional in German households. Turkey is so dry and tasteless! You should swallow it down with lovely Gluhwein, or Mulled Wine in English.

What was the best Christmas gift you ever received?
The last Christmas present my father gave me before he died in 2005 - the deposit to help me buy my first home as I had been renting for 6 years

What do you most look forward to about Christmas?
As a committed Christian it is, for me, a real celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. I know this sounds so uncool these days, but I don't care!

My Problem With Christmas

by Will Hall

Now, before I begin, I am not proposing myself to be the Grinch who stole Christmas, and, just to make things clear, I do absolutely enjoy Christmas and it’s one of my favourite times of year. But - and it’s quite a big but - I do have a few grudges that I think a few of you may share with me, and they do drive me around the bend sometimes:

1. People getting over excited about Christmas too early
I think many of you will agree with me when I say that far too many people start getting very excited about Christmas when it’s still mid-November. Personally, Christmas is a celebration that should occur during December from the start of Advent and not really any  earlier. I was walking home on the 29th November to find a very keen household with all of their decorations up. These weren’t just ordinary decorations either; they had gone the full nine yards and I was just thinking to myself ‘Why?’ over and over. I really don’t understand how people spend so much money, time and effort putting up these decorations.

2.  People taking Christmas too seriously
Again, there are quite a number of people who take Christmas too far. Christmas should be a time of relaxing and enjoying spending time with family and friends. Yet there are always people who get really stressed about the whole event and have to make sure everything’s perfect. I’m not suggesting that no thought should be put into buying presents,  but you can see the negative impact the whole buying process has on certain people, especially parents…

3. People caring too much about presents
Black Friday
Christmas seems to be more about materialistic goods than much else now. I was very concerned when a Yr9 said to me (and I quote) ‘I count all my presents to make sure I have more than last year’. Now I was very shocked at first when I heard this but I think it really does show how egotistical some people are, and how the number of presents they have is honestly the most important thing to them. I’m not suggesting the clichéd statement about our generation being heartless people is at all true, but it does worry me the way some people view the importance of presents at Christmas
As this will most likely be posted at the very end of the term, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and I hope you all enjoy some time away from school.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Photography Club: Blue Christmas

by Ella Garratt

Short Story: King Arthur- The Battle of Camlann

by Anushka Kar

The Battlefield

It was a maze. A maze of corpses; this battle was like no other – and King Arthur happened to be in it.
 And then there was Sir Bedivere, ah the poor chap – he just hated the word ‘war’ or ‘battle’ itself. So as you can imagine, the sight in front of him forced bile up his throat. But he had done many a battle – it was a game now. So he did it for Arthur.
  Besides, King Arthur had fought many battles more, so he solved every direction, step and turn like an equation. It was as if his eyes were souly placed on Mordred; anyone within a two metre radius was struck with Arthur’s sword.
The Excalibur.
The sword that no King was worthy of.
No king but Arthur.
And as he strode towards his competitor, the scent of metal on metal consumed his lungs.
 As assumed, one smug knight decided against his own thoughts and edged towards the king from behind. Not surprisingly, Arthur was exceedingly sharp and spun on his heel so fast that he was nose to nose with his opponent.
Eyes ablaze, he growled, “I wouldn’t.”
The force of his words sent a rush of fear surging through the opponent’s body as he recoiled. But as the king took a step back he collided with something – someone. Without a word, the conflict between the two began as their swords clashed.
 As if on cue, the air polluted with darkness and a cry of death, so painful, pulsated in the ear; enough to torment the mind with repulsive thoughts. But all Arthur could hear was the thump of his heart in his head as he fought for his life.
And his competitor you ask?

The return of Excalibur
His call for Bedivere set the knight alert as he broke into a sprint towards his King. “Arthur!” he cried. Almost immediately, he spotted someone heaving for a breath. “Arthur?” he questioned with dread.  The grass beneath him swayed in the light breeze, but as Bedivere slowly gravitated towards the ground, his jaw fell open as his face appeared plain with shock.
“Bedivere,” the king choked, his voice ragged, desperate for more oxygen.
“Yes, my king?” answered Bedivere, a little too quickly.
“Go… go and return The Excalibur – my sword,” croaked Arthur.
“Of course, my king – but where?” asked Bedivere hurriedly.
“Not where, but whom; The Lady of The Lake,” the king corrected.
“I see,” frowned the knight as he paused, not quite sure what to say. “But must I leave you like this?” he questioned.
“If you are as swift and fast as what I know…then yes. Now go brother,” breathed Arthur.
 At this, Bedivere bolted for the lake, left with a horrified expression on his face and a sword clamped in his fist.

The temptation of Excalibur
By now, Bedivere had an assortment of bruises and scratches all over his face, but he didn’t care. He only willed to throw the sword into the lake and return to his king. Only, as he lifted the sword up and swung his arm back, he caught a glimpse of light at the tip of the sword, tinted with a particular shine. Unfortunately for him, the temptation was far too great as he dropped his hand down and sagged his shoulders. He twisted the sword in his palm and scanned every detail, lined with saffron diamonds; his eyes flashed with fascination. But then the trees suddenly rustled, bringing him back to reality as his expression turned to determination. The temptation of the Excalibur was still in the back of his mind as he realised something: he could hide the sword. The knight skimmed his surroundings as he thought with persistence. Oddly enough, while Bedivere was in his own dreamscape, the water lay completely still – but then a ripple appeared, and Bedivere found himself intrigued. The lake appeared to be as clear as the tears that threatened his eyes when he envisioned Arthur, but everything else was a blurred haze. Step after step, the knight caught himself as he paced towards the lake without a care. Slowly, he angled his arm as he dragged it back and with rapid movement suddenly hurled it across the lake, forcing it out of his hand. Promptly, before the sword could go any further, a hand broke out of the water and grasped it without fail. Mystified, Bedivere mused what he had just visualized as the Excalibur submerged under the water.

The three queens
“My king, I must now take you to the three queens that await you,” puffed Bedivere.
“You have returned the Excalibur?” asked Arthur
“How can you only think about the sword, Arthur?” seethed Bedivere.
“You did not answer the question, Bedivere.”
“Yes, my lord – I have returned the Excalibur,” sighed Bedivere.
 There was a deafening silence as Bedivere pondered what more was to be said.
“Bedivere,” croaked Arthur, setting him alert. “I believe you were going to take me to the queens.”
“Forgive me, Arthur; if you must know, I’m not quite the expert in these situations.”
At this, Arthur laughed with warmth in his voice -probably his last one- “How could I forget? You never were quite the one for bloodshed.”
“Indeed,” replied Bedivere as his mouth twitched into a smile.
Without another word, he carried his king down the ridges leading towards the queens. The rocks seemed to weather away more easily than expected as Bedivere planned every step ahead of him.
 After about half an hour, the knight spotted the three queens, all with hopeful eyes. But as he edged closer to them, Guinevere, Arthur’s queen, wailed out in anguish.
“Arthur!” she shrieked, “What happened?”
“Mordred happened,” answered Bedivere, as he laid Arthur on a bed of silk.
“What?” whispered the queen with fear.
“I said Mor-”
“I heard what you said,” she snapped, cutting him off.
“Right. Well I shall meet you later to place Arthur on the barge,” replied Bedivere as he flinched with hurt. But Guinevere only sniffed, and with that, Bedivere turned away leaving the queens’ in their grief.
 The sun shone upon the king’s face as the queens murmured their prayers in misery; everything was a dull mirage. It seemed as if they were all in a different realm: the trees were modest but soulless, the grass was lifeless with a sickly green cast, and although there was every royal colour imaginable sitting beside Arthur, they glowed a bleak, sombre hue.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Photography Club: Gift

by Ella Garratt

Rejecting the Rose-Tinted Spectacles

by Isabel Stark

The Persistence of Memory
About 11 months ago, for some time I experienced monotony to my life: a rhythmic passing of time and the same dependable thoughts and feelings all served me well in my (then) current situation. This continuity, which I cherished and loved, did lead me into a rather hazy and confused perspective on life. Within this short period of philosophical evaluation of my life I became alienated from my surrounding world to an unhealthy proportion…

Glass Tears by Man Ray (Wikiart)
Part1- Rose- Tinted Spectacles: The faithful and loyal rose-tinted spectacles! Oh, how naïve I was. The everyday life that we all are subjected to was enough to fulfill my curiosity and existence. I enjoyed studying wonderful poetry and the small social life I possessed was the centre of my existence, for some, the relatively minor topic of not becoming a prefect seemed earth-shattering- I now realised it will not at all make any difference to my life except wearing a slightly better tie. School was something I never wanted to leave, nothing could compare. Theory of Knowledge is not a subject I would have taken out of choice, nor one in which I am particularly opinionated or vocal; however, the scepticism and questioning applied to life within those Tuesday lessons has left me not looking through the rose-tinted spectacles I once thought I wore and suited.

Part 2- Daylight: After, well I should say during, a spate of glandular fever mixed with the lethal existential crisis (that had already begun to develop no thanks to T.O.K) I slipped into contemplation of my life; everything became dissatisfying. Alas, the tears I cried were not Man Ray’s famous glass ones or Belle's diamond tears over La Bête in Jean Cocteau’s surrealist film.  

Dare I say it, I realised I had become bored with current conservative ideologies that engulfed me. No one really cared about Jean Cocteau’s or Man Ray’s genius. People, I realised, had been politely nodding their heads with no idea of Surrealism, Dadaism and its importance. The prospect of an anthropology degree was being met with confusion. The worthless value a surprising number of people hold, of any form of arts-related education infuriated me. Instead of finding solace in a creative outlet such as writing, I felt as if all my efforts to express myself were in vain being brutally suppressed by that of the bourgeoisie. Life being so broad was being wasted; the most precious gift to give, the gift of time, was being wasted on an environment I felt unworthy…I was in my very own Persistence of Memory.  The cosmos around me was melting just like Dali’s expression of the Theory of Relativity. 

I was seeing life in its harshest light, no filter of glasses to tint my world a rosy colour; this was pure, unadulterated, bright, damaging sunlight. Of course to change my perspective I couldn’t put the rose tinted spectacles back on, I had already worn them and it was clear they would never suit me in the same way again. I pondered other ways to gain an alternative and less bleak outlook. I felt compelled to partake in something radical and shocking I just wanted to be seen as a maverick for my surrounding society. So I signed a petition to Save the Arctic. It was a tame rebellion against the establishment but albeit important. The realistic yet surreal nightmares I meanwhile experienced greatly disturbed me but left me learning for that paradoxical life. I was alone, suspended in infinite space and darkness except to be contained by an elaborate bird cage. This turned out to be the wonderful and fragile Paul Hamlyn Hall Bar at the Royal Opera House. Looking through the crisp panes of glass up at the stars, serenity passed over me until the brightest flash of light shot through the black surroundings. The glass shattered. The delicate panes crumbled into fragmented spikes, each tumbling thorough the air.

I woke up.

Part 3- Hallucinating: To cheer myself up I watched La Belle et La Bête a classic Jean Cocteau film, its surrealism appealed to my state of mind and I immediately uncovered one of many books we have on modern art and began to look in greater detail at the Dadaist and Surrealist movement. The exploration of the unconscious and dreams juxtaposed with reality seemed like an ideal way to view the very real yet complex and bizarre world we live in. It made perfect imperfect sense. The only lighting within La Bête's castle comes from the candles held by the candelabra made of humans arms, which means that everything else is in totally darkness and not visible, the floor, the walls, the ceiling, the hovering stairs- this lack of boundaries really allows us to feel as if we are not only inside the castle but also trapped inside a lost and limitless mind which is paradoxical in itself. This was very similar to my own feelings, trapped within a certain pattern of life but totally lost within myself. 

A dear friend, aware of my situation gave me a physical pair of ‘Rainbow’ glasses; they use the diffraction of light to show rainbows. It gave me the sense of being within my own surrealist world. The world around me was physically there and, naturally, was realistic but the distortion of colours and shapes allowed for a dream-like quality which blended both reality and dreams together as if in a permanent surrealist world. 

Photography Club: Merry Christmas

by Millie Smith

The Grouper Complex

by Sophie Parekh

Observing the common man in his frivolous routine seemed to get the somewhat dusty cogs in my brain turning, so I settled back into the English language and decided to document my observations. (n.b. This may or may not have had anything to do with reading Stephen Fry’s ‘The Liar’, which will make your heart and your stomach ache in sorrow and mirth respectively; I should probably continue with the actual subject of the article now, shouldn’t I?) However, it still remains that the daily antics of the human race are rather bizarre, pitiful and at times hilarious, to say the least. I shall demonstrate my point with a painfully familiar example:


1.       An exchange of light, playful, teasing remarks; good-natured raillery.

2.       To address with banter; chaff.
Verb (used without object)

3.       To use banter.
Verb (used with object)

“Yo mamma’s so fat, when she went to Sea World, people thought she was the attraction!” Usually followed by jeering, cries of “OH DAYUM!” or “Someone get this kid to the burn unit!” and other ‘witticisms’ (note the inverted commas) referring to the ‘burn’ generally puns based around the word ‘burn’ and/or other general profanities. This may be a rather feeble example of a ‘burn’ or ‘banter’, but it demonstrates my point adequately enough. ‘I didn’t realise you had a point’, I hear you mutter, looking puzzled at your computer screens, but there is one! Jubilations and exultations all round methinks. My point is: why do humans engage in these acts of humorous, explicit and offensive displays of teasing? To what ends?

Not being an anthropologist, behavioural psychologist or neurologist, I felt I was perfectly qualified to pontificate on the subject, and so I shall climb aboard my soap box and set sail across the spouting mists of controversy.

During the many displays of this phenomenon we colloquially call ‘banter’, I have noted a number of different symptoms, if you like. Firstly the recipient of the banter, or the banteree, tends to squirm uncomfortably and sometimes desperately makes an attempt to pass the banter over to someone else. The main person instigating the banter, or the banterer, always looks as smug as a Disney villain when gracing the world with their witticisms. The people also partaking in the banter, or the banterage (as in entourage, I’m obviously just too witty for you all) are often making loud exclamations, such as the ones we say earlier, (OH DAYUM etc.). Finally, those passively observing the banter, or the onlookers, they are either embarrassed or smirking, but not wanting to get involved for fear of the banterage turning on them.

So, again, I ask you why? Why does the banterage group together behind the banterer? Why to the onlookers only look on? Why does no one side with the banteree? 

I propose the Darwinian-like theory of the Grouper Complex © (you can’t steal it, I already copyrighted it, mwahaha).

This is a grouper:

Rather attractive, don’t you think? The ‘grouper’ reflects the idea of people ‘grouping’ together in a ‘group’ and attacking anyone outside the ‘group’ (Gosh, group sounds really weird now…). 

Photography Club: Christmas Tree

by Susannah Shlosberg

Teachers' Perfect Christmas: Mrs Morgan and Mr Frost

Mrs Morgan

What is your favourite Christmas song/carol and why? 
The first Band Aid track is my all-time favourite. It was an historic moment and a brilliant song that really made a difference.

What is your favourite Christmas film and why? 
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is a great film to watch a Christmas. It always makes me cry and makes me realise how lucky I am.

What is your favourite Christmas book or poem and why? 
‘A Christmas Carol’ is still brilliant.

What is your favourite Christmas food/drink? 
I love it all. My mum is an epic cook so it’s all about the food and drink. Mulled cider always goes down particularly well and fried turkey sandwiches for breakfast on Boxing Day cannot be missed.

What was the best Christmas gift you ever received? 
I got a car when I was 17. That was the beginning of my freedom and I loved it.

What do you most look forward to about Christmas? 
Now I’ve got kids, it’s all about them. I’ve never stopped loving Christmas, but having kids makes it so much more exciting. I can’t wait for the look on their faces when they see that Santa’s been on Christmas morning!

Mr Frost (Gap Year Student)

What is your favourite Christmas song/carol and why? 
'Ding Dong Merrily On High'

What is your favourite Christmas film and why? 
'The Snowman'

What is your favourite Christmas book or poem and why? 
King John's Christmas

Monday, 8 December 2014

Photography Club: Blue

by Susannah Shlosberg

Teachers' Perfect Christmas: Mrs Cross and Mrs Williams

Mrs Cross

What is your favourite Christmas song/carol and why?
God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman

What is your favourite Christmas film and why?
It’s a Wonderful Life – Christmas does not truly begin until I have watched it.

What is your favourite Christmas book or poem and why?
King John’s Christmas by A.A. Milne

What is your favourite Christmas food/drink?
Port and Mince pies

What was the best Christmas gift you ever received?
Merlin who came on New Year’s Eve

What do you most look forward to about Christmas?
The excitement of Christmas Eve

Mrs Williams

What is your favourite Christmas song/carol and why? 
'Oh, Come all ye Faithful' – I can still remember singing it at my Junior School carol services.

What is your favourite Christmas film and why? 
'The Snowman' – it reminds me of when my children were toddlers and used to watch it in wide-eyed silence.

What is your favourite Christmas book or poem and why? 
'Be Nice to Your Turkeys at Christmas' by Benjamin Zephaniah, especially the version put the music and sung by PGS.

Photography Club: Fire Tree

by Jake Griffiths

Are We all Inherently Racist?

Today, in Western society, we consider widespread racism to be an issue of the past: that only a minority of the population are still participants in such behaviour. Yet, is it that uncommon to hear an ethnic community area in a large city being suggested as a ‘bad’ or dangerous area? Or for airport security to harbour more suspicion over Middle Eastern or Muslim passengers? No, it isn’t and still we claim that racism is a notion of the past, that it is no longer present in the mass population. Perhaps we can claim that conscious or chosen racism is fast becoming outdated, but there appears to be an inherent tendency within everyone to paint every other ethnic group with one, fatal brush.

Okay, perhaps you are sitting there still doubting my question. Well let me perform a test on you. Imagine an African child: the setting, its clothing. Don’t just continue reading; actually take a second to form the image in your mind. When I was asked to do this as part of a lesson, only two in the class did not imagine a black child in large baggy clothing, many envisioning the child to be suffering from illness as well. Only two envisioned something other; one imagined a child of Egyptian descent, the other a white African. This approach, or image, the majority holds is not necessarily their fault; rather, it is a result of the media's input in our lives. Every year, we see impoverished African children crying and ill on our screens in multiple charity appeals (such as the Band Aid Thirty appeal, which Georgina Buckle examined in her article last week). How can society truly move forward from these mindsets when the images and stereotypes are being fed to us almost constantly?

On the news, most nights, we are told stories about ‘Muslim countries’, even though using this one label to describe them all is extremely inaccurate. This particular issue came to my attention through social media: a clip of Reza Aslan, scholar of religions and professor at California University, condemning the use of the term ‘Muslim countries’ by CNN news reporters as ‘stupid’. His argument is clear: the use of the term ‘Muslim countries’ does not represent the truth. “They have had more female heads of state in Turkey,” Aslan argues “than [they] have had in the United States.” Which, when we use the term ‘Muslim countries’, we say is exactly like Saudi Arabia, “one of the most, if not the most, extremist Muslim country in the world”. Aslan
counters, “in the month we have been talking about Isis… Saudi Arabia has beheaded 19 people.” The human flaw seems to be this trend to take one fact we hear and then understand it to mean that every country under that same religious majority does the same.

'Kiss Me Kate': Closing Lines

by Hattie Hammans

Following this year's highly successful school production of 'Kiss Me, Kate', Hattie Hammans, a member of the cast, talks to the two lead roles and the director.

Lewis Mackenzie - male lead (Fred Graham). Despite only starting at PGS in September last year, Lewis has previously played roles in three productions. ('Mack and Mabel', 'King Lear' and 'Alive'.) He also took part in House drama for Grant, playing Lee Mack in 'Not Going Out'.

What was your favourite thing about your part as Fred? Did you like your character?
I love playing Fred, I think if he was a real person I would 100% go out drinking with him. Probably take him to the Balti… But, in all seriousness, I loved playing such a masculine role, he was so powerful. And with Fred, I could do funny, sad, heroic, sing and do hip thrusts without being judged.

What was your best moment, in rehearsal or on stage, of the production?
On stage, definitely. ‘Where is the life that late I led!’ And when I came back from surgery and saw how well everything was coming along in my absence.

And lastly, will you be auditioning next year?
Hopefully, yes.

Emma Read- leading lady (Lilli Vanessi). Emma has been in four PGS school musicals: ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, ‘Sweet Charity’, ‘The Producers’ and ‘Kiss Me, Kate’. She hopes to attend drama school next year after she has completed her final year at PGS.

Although it’s a long time ago now, how did you feel when you were cast as Lilli?
I was so so happy! 'Kiss Me Kate' is one of my favourite musicals and having the chance to play Lilli Vanessi, who I’d wanted to play for ages, was just amazing. She’s like the biggest diva ever!

What did you find was the most challenging part of the play?
Probably trying to throw stools, plants and various other objects without injuring the orchestra, the actors or destroying the set. That was actually quite hard because, at one point, when I’m up on the balcony in Act One when I throw plant pots, seeds and a stool, I just wanted to hurl the stuff as far as I could, but obviously I couldn’t do that… I actually managed to break a light in ‘I Hate Men’ when I threw a stool from one side of the stage to the other... I get into it!

Will it be difficult to say goodbye to Mr McCrohon as a director?
Yes it will be very sad! He has been so inspiring to all of us! It will be a real loss to see him go. I have to say, I wish him the best of luck with the future, and I hope our paths will cross again.

Finally, any tips to anyone auditioning next year for the musical?
Go for it, be versatile and have fun!

Mr McCrohon- PGS’ well-loved Director-in-Residence for the past two and a half years.

JP, what did you find was the most challenging aspect of ‘Kiss Me, Kate’, as a Director?
The challenge with any big musical production is ensuring that it works as a whole piece. Bringing all the many elements involved together is at once the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of the process. Everything has to feel seamless and contribute to the themes and momentum of the piece … which is what I hope we achieved!

What was the funnest part of the play to direct?
It is a gift of a show to direct and I had a great deal of fun contrasting the two ‘worlds’ that the play inhabits – the ‘real’ backstage one and the onstage ‘Shrew’ scenes. Bringing out the nuances of the brilliant script, music and lyrics with the pace and momentum they deserved was a joy with some great full-cast and ensemble sequences such as the opening, ‘Bianca’ and the finales to each act – and all those elements are encapsulated in the scenes between the principals. Lois and Bill’s sparky relationship was a real pleasure to work on with Pippa and Pete, the pacey and heightened Shakespearean scenes with Baptista and the suitors joining the primary principals contrast wonderfully with the backstage scenes with Cam, Bex, Rob and the crew (including our well-played new ‘love triangle’ between Paul (Declan), Hattie (Graihagh) and Billie (Jess)!) and the verve of the dancers and ensemble. The General’s sub-plot was delightful and  ‘Brush up your Shakespeare’ with Rob and Rory saw me grinning (and crying with laughter!) through rehearsals whilst, at the very heart of it all, the scenes involving Emma and Lewis’ characters, Fred and Lilli, were so fulfilling as every part of the spectrum is covered – fast-paced comedy (verbal and – later – physical!), theatricality, glowing romance and moments of heart-breaking vulnerability. They – and every member of the cast – delivered every moment magnificently. Sorry … Long answer!!