Monday, 30 June 2014

Model United Nations: Preventing The First World War

Two days after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, a meeting of the "Great Powers" (a proto-Model United Nations) was called, chaired by Mr Lemieux in the august Willis Room, to seek ways to prevent all-out war.

Foreign Minister
Mr Lemieux began by noting the terrible news from Sarajevo and noting the context in which it took place, i.e. the occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian empire for the last six years, since 1908. He acknowledged that all parties would have their own perspectives and agendas, but that the purpose of this meeting was to try to avoid war happening - at a time of great international build-up of navies and armies as well as a proliferation of treaties and armed blocs. He hoped that the gathered representatives could resolve matters peacefully.

The Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, Charlie Albuery, began the debate by expressing outrage at how much his country had been wronged and pointed out that only serious sanction against Serbia would satisfy the Austro-Hungarian people. The militants responsible for the assassination were Serbian nationals and Serbia needed to be held to account.

Serbia's representative, Josh Arnold, agreed that the archduke's murder was a shocking event but argued that it was the consequence of the militarism of the Austro-Hungarian government and that Serbia would not accept any solution that did not limit the parameters of the coercive capacity of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

German Foreign Minister
Russia's Foreign Minister, Callum Grealish, pledged the country's support for Serbia, due not only to their Slavic links but also the need to protect a smaller power from the imperialist aggression of the Austro-Hungarian empire, which threatens, in Russia's view, the stability of Eastern and Central Europe.

The Austro-Hungarians responded that the Serbian government was complicit because it supported the same goals as militants such as the Black Hand gang. However, Russia replied that just because the Serbian government shared the goals of the militants did not mean that it supported their terroristic methods.

The United States Secretary of State, Katherine Tobin, sought to maintain the isolationist stance of the USA, wishing to remain neutral and at a distance from events in Europe. She acknowledged that, were American ships to be attacked in the course of a European war, that America might be drawn into the military conflict.
Russian Foreign Minister

The Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister pleaded with the Americans to take a more global view and to consider the consequences of a Europe-wide war for non-European nations in this age of technology and globalisation, but the American representative reserved the right to refrain from conflict unless US interests were directly affected.

France's Foreign Minister, Hugh Summers,intervened to confirm that it was willing to support Serbia as a nation seeking self determination against Austrian imperialism. France also expressed its concern about the aggressive militarisation of Austria's ally, Germany, and France's fears concerning its eastern borders.

Germany's representative, Caleb Barron, replied that it was equally worried about French designs on its western borders and Russian ambitions to the east. Most importantly, it wanted its Austro-Hungarian ally to receive justice with regard to the outrage in Sarajevo.

British Foreign Secretary
Julia Alsop, Britain's Foreign Secretary, echoed France's concerns about Germany's military build up and perceived imperial ambitions. She affirmed that Britain's primary concern was peace in Europe - but not at the expense of a balance of power and stability.

The Austro-Hungarian representative repeated his assertion that the assassination of the Archduke was an international crime and that Serbia should be held to account. He was not, at this stage, advocating war or boots on the ground, but suggesting economic sanctions.

The Serbian representative replied that there was no link between the Black Hand gang and the Serbian government; on the contrary, he pointed out, the government had provided intelligence about an alleged assassination plot to the Austrians and warned them to cancel the Archduke's visit. It was, he said, arrogant and irresponsible of the Austro-Hungarians to continue with the Sarajevo visit in the light of these warnings.

Mr Lemieux suggested that Germany held sway with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Germany's Foreign Minister replied that the Austro-Hungarian empire should not be restricted in its search for justice bearing in mind the revulsion felt in response to the assassination. The Serbs should be sanctioned for allowing such militants as Princip to flourish. Mr Lemieux asked whether Germany understood that Russia felt equally supportive of Serbia, but Germany said it did not recognise Russia's right to interfere in the Balkans.
Serbian Foreign Minister

The Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister noted that the Austrians and Hungarians were a proud people and unwavering in their search for justice following Sarajevo. If the international community failed to hold the Serbs to account, the Austro-Hungarians would be left with no choice but to resort to military action.

The Serbs responded that economic sanctions would only serve to increase radicalism and terrorism by creating so much suffering among people who were already under terrible economic and social pressure. Sanctions would be counter-productive. It would be better for the Serbian and Austro-Hungarian governments to set up a joint task force to deal with terrorist groups such as the Black Hand.

Photography: Blackbird's Nest

by Jason Baker

It’s location is a bit of a secret but did you know that there are baby black birds in our grounds?

Bucketlist: Cities

by Dom Baker

For the last two years, I haven’t been on holiday with my parents, and I’ve come to realise that without their help I’m relatively boring in organising my own holidays. On top of that, I haven’t ventured too far off the beaten track, visiting mainly standard holiday destinations, such as France and Italy. For that reason, I thought it useful to think about places and more specifically cities, around the world, to which I would love to visit. I’ve picked out 5 cities from the thousands across the globe that particularly interest me, and said a bit about why I would undertake the strenuous activity of holiday planning, to travel there and experience their cultures and lifestyles for myself.

1)      Rio de Janeiro

First things first, I promise that this is not in light of the World Cup. I’m not a football fan anyway so… Rio appeals due to its rich culture, breathtaking landscapes and energetic and vibrant buzz: embodying much of South America’s passion and energy. Rio is South America’s most popular city among tourists, attracting an incredible 2.82 million visitors every year, and it isn’t difficult to see why.  The second largest city in Brazil is home to features such as Christ the Redeemer, one of the most instantly recognisable landmarks in the world and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, as well as the iconic Maracanã stadium, Copacabana beach, and the thick Tijuca forest which is typical of Rio’s tropical climate. However, the culture in Rio goes far deeper than just tourist attractions; The Biblioteca Nacional is Latin America’s largest library, and an incredible piece of architecture commissioned by the King of Portugal back in 1810. Rio also has a strong music and arts scene, with the Carnival that takes places every February, and the Cidada das Artes (City of Arts), a cultural complex that was opened last year, and will become home to the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. Whilst there endless museums, theatres and carnivals to enjoy, I would also take a cable car up to the top of Sugerloaf Mountain,   which overlooks the city and Botafogo Bay. In short, the crazy, hectic and exciting South American lifestyle would draw me into Rio, but I wouldn’t be leaving in any rush.

2)      Rome

Despite studying Latin up to GCSE, I never managed a trip to the most impo.rtant city of its time, and this was definitely a missed opportunity. Rome is a city of huge historical and religious significance, and with that comes breath-taking architecture, right throughout the city. Prominent periods in Rome’s history have been Classical, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque, and the list of important buildings within the city is mammoth (so much so that it requires its own Wikipedia page). You have, for example, the Colosseum – another of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Pantheon – commissioned during the reign of Augustus, and of course the Vatican City.  In fact, out of the 45 UNESCO heritage sites in Italy, 12 are located in Rome. Furthermore, Rome is also packed full of art, with some of the world’s most treasure museums and galleries. For example, the Galleria Borghese, a magnificent seventeenth century villa, houses many Bernini sculptures, as well as other antiques and artwork ranging from Renaissance to Baroque. As well as architecture and art, Rome is also a fantastic city for shopping, eating and drinking. Via Condotti, barely 100m long, is home to a host of Italian designers, such as Ferragamo, Valentino and Bulgari. Throughout the city there are endless markets, delicatessens and cafes, where you can buy Italian and Roman delicacies, as well as famous white wine, from regions such as Castelli Romani and Frascati. Rome seems to typify Italian culture, with a strong emphasis on art, architecture, food and fashion.

3)      Budapest

Comprised of two cities: Buda and Pest that are separated by the Danube River, the Hungarian capital was officially created in 1873, although the first recorded settlement of the area dates to before 1AD. Today, Budapest is a lively city with lots going on, and its busy nature is what would really attract me to go and visit. The city’s largest cultural event is its Spring Festival that takes places in the last two weeks of March every year. This year the festival held around 200 events across the city, ranging from world-famous operas to DJ sets, and attracts people from all around the world. Much like Rome, Budapest is home to incredible architecture. The Chain Bridge, built in 1849 is of particular significance, as it aided in the city’s unification, being the first permanent crossing over the Danube. Other noteworthy buildings in Budapest range from the impressive Hungarian Parliament building, as well as the Matthias Church, and Buda Castle that overlooks the city. Due to Budapest central European location, there is a lot of foreign influence running throughout the city. During the Ottoman rule of the city in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, four large baths were built. These are open to the public for bathing, and despite having been renovated since, they retain their original appearance and atmosphere. Another benefit of the city’s diverse history, is that many cultural foods and specialities have survived. The city’s cuisine can vary from Jewish to Italian, Slavic, Austrian and Turkish, and is considered a melting pot in this respect. Finally, Budapest also seems like a wonderful place to relax, with a plethora of parks and lakes, as well as the Danube itself.

4)      Kabul

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Alive: A Review

by Marley Andrews

The eerie, dimly lit interior of the Square Tower set the scene for Friday night’s performance of ‘Alive’, a devised piece performed by sixth form actors and actresses and inspired by Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, as part of the Portsmouth Festivities. Having heard so much about it over the last few months of writing and rehearsing, I was both excited and intrigued to finally see the culmination of all of their hard work. To put it bluntly, I was not disappointed.
The Square Tower in Old Portsmouth was the perfect venue for the performance to take place, with the simple staging and striking black and white costume choices allowing the acting alone to take centre stage in what was an incredibly powerful and haunting piece to watch. Pete Rapp and Phoebe Ruttle’s portrayal of the The Creation and The Creator respectively were outstanding with the bitter relationship between the two keeping me hooked right until the very end. The audio and lighting added to the intensity of the performance, especially through the use of the repeated heartbeat at the start, and the inclusion of Chopin’s 'Raindrop Prelude', which brought back fond GCSE Music memories but also fitted absolutely perfectly to the climactic scene it was used in and was an incredibly moving yet disturbing moment in the play. By using the aisle between the audience as part of the stage, it further made you feel part of this intense story as the barrier between audience and performer had dissolved somewhat.
The best thing about it being a devised piece was that I had no idea what to expect, which further heightened the atmospheric and powerful performance given by the cast and left room for the actors to make the characters their own which was an enormous success. I left the venue both lost for words at how incredible it was, but also extremely proud to know such talented people.

Photography Club: Lost and Found

by Hamilton Forbes-Lane

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Legacy of the Great War

by Simon Lemieux

British troops, near Ypres, during the First World War
The commemorations for the centenary of the Great War are now well under way. We have already seen the inevitable sniping over the causes, involving some of our leading politicians: see the spat between Michael Gove and Tristan Hunt for starters, with a somewhat ill-informed Education Secretary coming off rather the worse. Still if he cannot come up with something more creative than blaming it on the Germans and challenging a proper historian (namely Hunt), what does he expect? But is there something more fertile when reflecting on the war than merely the hotly contested debate about who started it? Arguably, just as interesting is a discussion on what we have ‘lost and found’ both as a nation and as a global community as a result of this global conflict. What follow, therefore, are my own thoughts on this easily neglected aspect of the war. Some points are inevitably a little simplified and summarised for reasons of space, but hopefully the more astute readers will accept that.
T E Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia'), who played
a significant role in the fall of the Ottoman Empire
So where to start in our audit of gains and losses? First of all, consider the subject of empires and global superpowers. The war saw the destruction of three long-established Empires in Europe and the Near East: the Ottoman (Turkish), the Romanov (Russian) and the Habsburg (Austria Hungary) – all, arguably, were in terminal decline before 1914, but there is no doubt that the strains of sustained total warfare finished them off. In return, the world found new successor states created out of the rubble of these imperial entities. Examples of these artificial new creations included: Austria, Czechoslovakia and modern day Turkey. Also, restored to independence were states such as Poland and Lithuania, peoples with a proud history but victims of imperial expansion in the previous centuries. Europe also lost the Second Reich – Imperial Germany, created from the unification of 1871 and led by the Kaiser.
Arguably, too, this was when the sun really began to set on the British and French empires, the costs of warfare fundamentally undermining their ability to sustain their vast and unwieldy colonial collections. Great Britain saw the net sale of around £300 million of overseas investments. True, in the short term with the arrival of League mandates of ex-German colonies such as South West Africa (modern day Namibia) the British Empire had never been larger geographically. In reality, we lacked the resources and increasingly the will to keep the show on the road. World War Two would deliver the coup de grace but the rot set in after 1919.

Lenin and the October Revolution, 1917
But for losers, there were also winners.  The entry into the war in 1917 of the USA marked its arrival as a global rather than merely regional power. Yes, isolationism would characterise much of its foreign policy in the 20s and 30s, but the USA had done well financially out of the war supplying the allies with vital supplies and materials. Easily overlooked, perhaps (given the refusal of the Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles or to join the League of Nations in 1920), is the role the USA played in aiding the anti-Bolshevik White forces in the Russian Civil War from 1918. The real origins of the Cold War can be found in the aftermath of the First, not Second, World War. The composition of the Whites (in truth, a motley collection of autocratic nationalists with few genuine liberals or democrats among their ranks) also serve to remind us that, not for the last time, the mother of all democracies was quite happy to support ‘offspring’ with dubious credentials other than being sworn enemies of America’s enemy (in this case, Lenin and the Bolsheviks).

Adolf Hitler, 1920s
If the world witnessed the collapse of the main European outposts of monarchical autocracy, it also found new and arguably even crueller tyrants. In Russia the seizure of power by the Far Left and in Weimar Germany the political instability in part engendered by the Far Right set the scene for twentieth century totalitarianism. The roots of Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, with their self-proclaimed secular messiahs, lie in the debris of the Great War. A vengeful and embittered Germany would in due course find their saviour in an Austrian corporal for whom the experience of war provided a purpose and direction to his hitherto drifter lifestyle. In Russia, the creation of a communist one-party dictatorship under Lenin paved the way for Stalin to rise to power by the late 1920s. Under Lenin, the key ingredients of a communist secret police, merciless treatment of any opponents and bureaucratic party machinery were all established ready to be cynically manipulated in due course by the ex-trainee priest and bank robber from Georgia.
Part of this Bolshevik brutality was the execution of the entire Russian royal family in 1918. Yet on matters royal, in Great Britain we too lost and found a royal family. In an act of clever spin or desperate re-branding, the surname of the Royal Family was changed from the Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the reassuringly English surname of Windsor. During the war H. G. Wells wrote about Britain's "alien and uninspiring court", and George famously replied: "I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm alien." With an Order in Council in July 1917, his wish was granted. Not to be left out, other German titles held by members of the Royal Family were also patriotically dropped for more British-sounding titles. Thus for example, Prince Adolphus of Teck became Marquess of Cambridge.

Remaining with the United Kingdom, the war also heralded ‘lost and found’ in domestic politics. On the losing side was the Liberal Party. Having suffered a damaging split in 1916 when one of its leading lights, David Lloyd George - then Munitions Minister - replaced the Liberal leader Herbert Asquith as Prime Minister but not as Liberal leader; the party never fully recovered. Lloyd George remained PM with Tory backing as head of the Coalition Government until 1922, when he, in turn, was ousted by the Conservatives. Incidentally, this was the last Coalition Government until 2010, as those in the 1930s and 1940s were technically National Governments. Like the empires of continental Europe, the British Liberal Party was not without its considerable problems prior to 1914, but the War, if nothing else, acted as the catalyst in its decline and fall. However, if the British electorate lost a party of the progressive centre, it gained a party of the constitutional left in the form of the Labour Party. Although founded back in 1900, it was only in 1918 that it emerged as a fully fledged and properly constituted political machine. It also adopted its long serving Clause IV and socialist commitment to nationalisation, only ever partly realised and then dropped (sorry, re-worked) by Blair’s New Labour project in 1994. Well, if a monarchy can re-brand itself, why not a political party …
Alongside the arrival of a new political force in Britain, came full democracy. In 1918, the one third of men who still could not vote and women over 30 at last found their political voice. It is rather a simplification to argue that votes for women was achieved due to their war work, and there is an argument that in fact it slightly delayed it, but overall the suspension of the militant suffragette campaign in 1914 and the need for comprehensive franchise reform in 1918 to allow men who had been away at the front fighting to vote, undoubtedly helped gain the vote for women.

But it would be unfair simply to focus on gains and losses in the area of politics and empires. The social and belief aspects also merit discussion. The scale and horror of so much of the trench-based fighting, the sheer scale of casualties all round, put paid in Britain, at least, to any residual notions of nobility and romanticism concerning war. The Dulce et Decorum est view of warfare based on notions of duty and service fuelled by imperial pride was an early victim of the War. For many it soon became a lie, replaced by a more bitter tone, often critical (rightly or wrongly) of social and military superiors. General Haig was probably wrongly lambasted by some as the butcher of the Somme; modern historians have been more sympathetic towards his methods and tactics, but nonetheless those who survived the war were less likely than their forebears to be deferential and accepting of the status quo. The golden age of a Downtown-Abbey-style social hierarchy was no more. The number of domestic servants plummeted; numerous country estates were split up and sold in the years immediately after 1918. They were victims often of either death duties or the death of male heirs on the battlefields of Flanders or the beaches of Gallipoli. Junior officers drawn frequently from the ranks of the younger landed classes had the highest casualty rate of pretty much any group serving in the British armed forces.

The Shot Heard Around the World - June 28, 1914

A century ago today, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip. Within five weeks, the Archduke's assassination had led to the first world war.

One of the last photographs taken of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie before their assassination

"The Austrians had chosen an unlucky date for their visit. On this day, St Vitus' Day, in the year 1380, Ottoman forces had destroyed a Serb-led army on the Field of Blackbirds (Kosovo), putting an end to the era of Serb empire in the Balkans and creating the preconditions for the later integration of what remained of Serbia into the Ottoman Empire. The commemorations across the Serb lands were set to be especially intense in 1914, because this was the first St Vitus Day since the "liberation" of Kosovo during the Second Balkan War in the previous year. "The holy flame of Kosovo, which has inspired generations of Serbs has now burst forth into a mighty fire" the Black Hand journal, Pijemont, announced on 28th June, 1914, "Kosovo is free! Kosovo is avenged!" For Serbian ultra-nationalists, the arrival of the heir apparent in Sarajevo on this of all days was a symbolic affront that demanded a response.

The Archduke and Duchess, Sarajevo, June 28, 1914
Official security precautions were conspicuous by their absence. Despite warnings that a terrorist outrage was likely, the archduke and his wife travelled in an open car along a crowded and entirely predictable route. The espalier of troops who usually lined the kerbs on such occasions was nowhere to be seen. Even the special security detail was missing - its chief had mistakenly climbed into one of the cars with the three local Bosnian officers, leaving the rest of his men behind at the railway station.

One assassin, the Bosnian Serb Nedeljko Cabrinovic, threw his bomb. Whether the archduke himself saw the bomb and managed to bat it away with his hand or whether it simply bounced off the folded fabric of the roof at the back of the passenger compartment is not clear. At any rate, it missed, fell to the ground and exploded beneath the car behind, wounding several of the officers inside and gouging a hole in the road. The archduke responded with astonishing sang froid. Instead of leaving the danger zone immediately, he saw to the treatment of the wounded and then ordered that the cavalcade should continue to the town hall and then pass back along the Appel Quay so that he and his wife could visit the wounded in hospital. "Come on," he said, "That fellow is clearly insane. Let us proceed with our programme."

Gavrilo Princip
. . . Gavrilo Princip was at first caught off guard. Hearing the explosion, he assumed that the plot had already succeeded. He ran towards Cabrinovic's position, only to see him being borne away by his captors. By this time, Princip could see the Archduke, but the car was moving too fast for him to get a clear shot. Princip stayed calm - an extraordinary feat under the circumstances. Realising that the couple would soon be returning, he took up a new position on the right side of Franz Joseph Street, along the publicly advertised route by which the motorcade was to leave the city.

 . . . Following the bomb attack, it had been s decided by the Archduke's party that the motorcade should proceed from the town hall to the hospital straight back down the Appel Quay rather than up Franz Joseph Street as any further prospective assassin would presumably be expecting. But no one had informed the drivers of the changed itinerary. As they passed the bazaar district, the lead vehicle swung to the right into Franz Joseph Street and the car carrying Franz Ferdinand and Sophie made to follow suit. Potiorek upbraided the driver: "This is the wrong way! We are supposed to take the Appel Quay!" The engine was disengaged and the car (which had no reverse gear) pushed slowly back on to the main thoroughfare.

This was Gavrilo Princip's moment. He caught up with the car as it slowed almost to a stop. Unable to disentangle in time the bomb tied to his waist, he drew his revolver instead and fired twice from point blank range, while Harrach, standing on the running board, looked on in horror from the left. Time - as we know from Princip's later testimony - seemed to slow as he left the shade of the shop awnings to take aim. The sight of the Duchess gave him momentary pause: "as I looked, I saw that a lady was sitting next to him. I reflected for a moment whether to shoot or not. At the same time, I was filled with a peculiar feeling . . ."

Friday, 27 June 2014

Dark Energy: The Holy Grail of Physics

by Jeremy Thomas

PGS Y12 Physicists at Prof Sarah Bridle’s Key Note Lecture on Dark Energy at NAM 2014
Year 12 Pupils from PGS were given the unique opportunity to attend a professional, scientific conference as part of a sixth form open morning at the National Astronomy Meeting 2014. This is the Royal Astronomical Society’s premier, annual scientific event and was hosted by the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation  (ICG) at the University of Portsmouth. The sixth form pupils were able to listen to the first plenary lecture of the day at the Guildhall. The topic was the search for Dark Energy, the Holy Grail of Physics now that the Higgs Boson has been found. The lecture was given by Professor Sarah Bridle of the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. Professor Bridle explained some of the methods being investigated, such as weak gravitational lensing of early structures in the universe, which distorts the shape of galaxies and allows the effects of Dark Energy to be detected. Following this lecture to the whole conference, Professor Bridle kindly agreed to talk exclusively to the group of visiting sixth formers, answering some of their cosmological questions in more depth, as well as explaining her own career path and dual role as both mother of two and international expert on Dark Energy. 

Following this useful session, the pupils were able to visit the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) exhibition ‘Seeing the Universe in All Its Light’, which showcases some of the amazing technological developments behind the advances in modern astronomy. The exhibits included a one quarter scale replica of the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. Pupils recognised instantly the accommodation hostel for visiting scientists, which was used to film spectacular action sequences in the Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Other fascinating technological developments included mini robots, which can be moved around to place tiny mirror surfaces at the exact point where light from a specific object is being collected. There was also a scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope, presently under development, and interesting spin off technologies, such as the use of adaptive optics in medical imaging, where blurring due to moving body parts is similar to the atmospheric shimmering which affects astronomical images. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Stepping in to the Adult World . . .

by Zoe Dukoff-Gordon

Growing up is tough. When you're a kid, you can get away with doing your colouring at the dinner table at a restaurant, you can avoid the awkward small talk with distant relatives at family parties. You have less work and more play and you don't have to worry about the little things like getting to school on time or when to do your homework. I personally think our childhood isn't long enough; we only have four years of freedom before having to go to school which soon turns into university and then a career...

The transition from teenager to adult is something we all have to do but that doesn't make it any easier. I suppose the first step is choosing a university, which is a process I am in at the moment. I live in a small village in the countryside in the south of England so my home life is very sheltered. My brother and sister are much older than me so I never grew up with them which meant that I lost the buzz and chaos that having a big family can bring. Don't get me wrong I do go out! I've been in my fair share of festival mosh pits and seen enough rowdy drunks to last a life time, but all in all I've sort of been withdrawn from the bustle that a big city can give you. Given all this, I wanted to choose a university that wasn't quiet and secluded, but in a city. I wanted the liveliness and dynamic lifestyle that a large town can offer- I wanted a change.

London seemed like an obvious choice for me so this is where I began looking. I looked up London University's and liked the sound of Kings, UCL, Queen Mary and Royal Holloway and luckily they all did my course...

If you're a Year 12 student doing A-Levels or equivalent, you'll understand that choosing the right course is the most stressful yet exciting decision you have made so far. Having to narrow down your interests into one or two subject areas when you've barely experienced life seems ridiculous- who the hell truly knows what they want to do with their life?
It's something which is extremely daunting and requires a lot of thought and consideration - now is the time where you can do anything and be anything, so you can't rush it. Particularly if you're doing the IB or a really broad course, you have the opportunity to choose from medicine to writing. I think really it all comes down to a process of elimination.

Imagine all the university courses are represented by a tiny molecules of air in a huge balloon and you have to deflate all the air from the balloon bar one or two molecules - overwhelming right? You can reduce the area slowly by highlighting your dislikes and metaphorically deflate them out of your balloon. I study English, Spanish, Philosophy and Maths so anything science-based was out of the question. I'm tone deaf and get out of breath when walking up the stairs, so being an Olympic athlete or an opera singer could be crossed off. Although I'd love to be able to speak a foreign language and (I know, I'm a real geek) I enjoy maths, I wasn't interested in any further study so a languages degree or maths degree just didn't appeal to me. Suddenly my choices had reduced by over 70%.

This is just one way you can use to help choose the right course for you. To be completely honest, I was 'one of the luckier ones' as I knew from a young age that I had a real passion for English so this was always my basis to any further study.

Although I thought about psychology or philosophy and even law at one point, I always went back to English. It's something which I really and enjoy and even though I will never be the next Virginia Woolf, I love the subject and culture it brings with it.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Felipe VI y la Roja

by Liliana Nogueira-Pache

Felipe VI takes over as King from his father Juan Carlos
Nunca he entendido las monarquías. Ni siquiera cuando era pequeña me gustaban los cuentos donde el príncipe, porque siempre era un príncipe, conseguía salvar, porque parece que ese era su cometido, decía, salvar a las pobres princesas, siempre eran princesas huérfanas, salvarlas, repito, de sus malísimas madrastras. Porque el padre, vaya el rey, siempre acababa casándose otra vez.  Eso sí, con otra señora de sangre real y además o soltera o viuda. Con esto quiero decir que  no se casaban con divorciadas. Que es lo que pasa hoy en día.

Al parecer hay escasez de sangre real.

            La nuestra, la monarquía española, también tiene rancio abolengo, aunque haya padecido ciertas interrupciones. Unas veces por cambios de familias, tuvimos Habsburgos ahora Borbones.  O, en otras,  porque los ciudadanos no estaban tan interesados en la realeza. Más que los ciudadanos deberíamos decir los políticos, que son lo que se encargan de decidir lo que es mejor para los votantes. Vaya los ciudadanos.

La Monarquía esta nuestra se cortó allá por 1931 cuando Alfonso XIII decidió dejar la corona.  

Desde entonces parece haberse puesto de moda esto de dejar el trono.

Alfonso XIII era el abuelo de nuestro ex Juan Carlos I.  Bien es cierto que el abuelo no abdicó en su hijo Juan, o sea el padre de nuestro ex, sino que dejó el reinado y se fue  a Italia con el fin de ‘evitar derramamiento de sangre’, es decir una guerra.

No parecen muy visionarios nuestros reyes, he de admitir. Todos sabemos lo que ocurrió cinco años después y las catastróficas consecuencias de aquella sanguinaria guerra civil.

Y vaya lapsus monárquico que tuvimos: treinta y seis años de dictadura franquista.

            Decía que no entendía las monarquías. Hay variadas razones para mi falta de comprensión de este sistema de gobierno o representación de una nación, que al fin y al cabo es de lo que se tratan hoy en día estas vetustas instituciones. Pero para no alargarnos, me referiré solo a un par de asuntos, el genético y el de la legalidad. 

Creo que coincidirán conmigo en que el hecho de que mi padre, por poner un ejemplo, sea una persona excelente, inteligente, con buenas dotes de mando, altamente concienciado en todos los problemas que atañen no solo a su familia y amigos, sino a los que tienen que ver con la justicia y la paz en general, quiera eso decir que sus vástagos, vaya nosotros sus hijos, hayamos de heredar esas estupendas cualidades. No hace falta que mencionemos ejemplos, porque todos leemos la prensa o vemos la televisión, y no siempre es El Mundial de Fútbol lo que nos ocupa.

Quizá podamos tener la nariz de papá o los pómulos de mamá y, tal vez, tengamos el intelecto de alguno de los dos, o incluso de ambos, sin embargo no hay garantía alguna de que  eso vaya a ser así y que así lo siga siendo en las generaciones venideras. No, tampoco voy a dar ejemplos de casos flagrantes cometidos por nuestros reyes, porque los hay y de variada índole. Algunos graves.

¿Y qué me dicen de la legalidad? En nuestra Constitución refrendada en 1978, el artículo 14 refiriéndose a la igualdad ante la ley dice que, en resumen, “… todos somos iguales ante la ley sin que haya discriminación alguna por razón de sexo, raza, religión,...”  Pero el artículo 57, que explica la sucesión a la Corona, especifica que dicha sucesión “… seguirá el orden de primogenitura”, pero, y este es el gran ‘pero’, “se prefiere el varón a la mujer.”  

¿En qué quedamos? ¿No éramos todas y todos iguales ante la ley?

Aunque teniendo en cuenta, en el caso que nos ocupa, la situación con las hermanas mayores de Felipe VI, Cristina y Elena, pues… Reiterando así el asunto de los genes.

¿Cómo se puede tener un trabajo hereditario y en pleno siglo XXI?

            Claro que no me olvido de que Juan Carlos I  traicionó a Franco. ¡Gracias a Dios! Por supuesto que fue  un buen embajador para nuestros intereses comerciales y culturales. Para eso estaba.  Y sin duda fue una monarquía bastante austera. Somos un país pobre. 

Pero Felipe VI ¿Para qué? ¿Por qué?

La derrota de La Roja conmocionó al país en una medida que no logró hacerlo la proclamación del nuevo monarca. ¿Nos identificamos mejor con un equipo de futbol?

Y ahora que lo pienso, puede que así sea. Un o una futbolista siempre es alcanzable. Es una o uno de los nuestros. Si se tiene interés, ciertas cualidades, y se le dedica mucho entrenamiento, se puede llegar a ser un buen jugador o una buena jugadora. Ser una figura. Salir del anonimato y aun de la miseria. Se puede llegar a ser un símbolo, un modelo a seguir. Pero y sobre todo, ni Casillas ni Iniesta  heredaron su puesto. Por ejemplo.
Translation in English, below

Monday, 23 June 2014

PGS Wildlife

by Tony Hicks

A bit of wildlife at PGS: herring gulls with chicks; blackbird chicks, rodin and swallows -- all but a few examples of PGS wildlife.


Musings on 'Lear'

by Charlie Albuery

In my opinion, there is something uniquely difficult about staging a Shakespeare play. Everybody, or certainly everybody likely to attend a PGS Sixth Form production of King Lear has a strange kind of double-edged sword relationship with Shakespeare plays. They tend to approach them with both an air of familiarity, a belief that certain characters and plots should be represented in a certain way and yet often a nigh-on complete unfamiliarity with the piece as a whole, meaning certain plot points and almost any subtext have to be made almost excruciatingly explicit.
Take Hamlet as an example, even in an hour abridged version, everybody has a certain view of the ‘Alas poor Yorick’ scene and this has to be adhered to strictly to avoid their alienation (despite it being a relatively tangential scene in the grand scheme of things). Hamlet’s developing madness, on the other hand, has to be presented in way very unfaithful to Shakespeare’s original text in order to condense nearly three hours’ worth of subtle storytelling into half an hour or so. This leads to a bizarre but necessary mixture of full-on, almost-out-of-context Shakespeare and hand-holding, stripped-down storytelling.

This presents certain difficulties as a director of an abridged Shakespeare play, to fulfil both requirements of the standard audience member poor pacing is almost a necessity. These wonderful, complex sagas have to be presented as almost a greatest-hits package, with recognisable (yet often superfluous to the actual plot) moments and soliloquies loosely strung together by rushed exposition which takes the place of less iconic, but certainly no less vital and captivating, plot and character development scenes.

All of that said, directing King Lear at PGS has been a wonderful experience. I think these issues that arise naturally from the tackling of such an iconic piece can be overcome and that’s exactly what I and the rest of the cast and crew intend to do, should it be within our power.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Postcard from the Edge of the Universe III

by Jeremy Thomas

The lifecycle of a star is a very dynamic process, involving some of the most fundamental and spectacular aspects of Physics in our universe.  Whilst star formation is a slow process, dominated by gravity pulling all the ingredients gradually together, once a certain point is reached there is no going back and things get really exciting. Nuclear fusion in the core of the star throws out vast quantities of energy, turning matter into electromagnetic radiation, as described by Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2. Exotic particles fly out from the star, its magnetic field twisting the streams of material into contorted loops and jets randomly reaching out into space.

Life at the ICG has taken a similar turn this week, with huge amounts of energy pouring into the final arrangements for the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) next week. Even professors have been seen sweating over stacks of handout materials and recycling the cardboard boxes they came in. There are briefings for all the volunteers needed to guide and register the 500 or more delegates and research is on hold for a while.  A number of public events are being run at NAM, in conjunction with Portsmouth Festivities, including a free exhibition all week at the Guildhall; two evening lectures and a Comedy Supernova evening with Jon Culshaw, the famous Brian Cox impersonator, at Tiger Tiger:
My own week has been busy too, in a variety of different ways. I have continued with my own projects, but also had a couple of opportunities to attend interesting and worthwhile meetings in other parts of the country. The first of these was the Annual Meeting of the Heads of Physics at the Trinity Group of Independent Schools. This is always one of my favourite meetings of the year and I shall really miss it when I finally have to relinquish my Interim Head of Physics position next year. It was held at Hampton School, on the outskirts of London, where about 25 Heads of Physics gathered to discuss relevant issues in our subject and our schools. These ranged from the continuing decline in the number of numerical problems being set in Physics GCSE and IGCSE exams, to ideas for stimulating Physics trips abroad and my own, short presentation about my sabbatical and the projects that I am working on at ICG. We had extremely useful presentations from subject officers at both the OCR and AQA exam boards, who explained the changes to A-level Physics from September 2015. Fortunately these are very few and mostly linked to a much more sensible way of assessing practical work, which will make the courses more interesting and pleasant for all concerned.
I then spent two days away, travelling to Liverpool to attend a training day for teachers at the National Schools Observatory at Liverpool John Moores University:


PGS is already registered to use the NSO telescope, at La Palma in the Canaries, but the course has helped me to develop more ideas for PGS pupils to access it. In fact, we were privileged to be able to showcase some NSO activities at PGS, on BBC Sky at Night in March 2012, when my Year 7 and Year 10 classes were filmed and featured on the programme about ‘Citizen Science’. It was nice to meet up again with Professor Mike Bode, Director of the Astrophysics Research Institute at LJMU, who was interviewed by the Sky at Night team, sitting in front of the Celestial Microscope in the quad outside the PGS science centre.

It was interesting to visit a department with a slightly different research emphasis to ICG, although many of the staff know each other and collaborate on research projects. Several people I met in Liverpool will be in Portsmouth next week for NAM. AT the Astrophysics Institute, one of the big differences is that they build instruments and even design whole telescopes. There were electronics labs and dark room test facilities as well as the control centre for the Liverpool Telescope in La Palm. We had a quick chat with a technician on the mountain top who happened to be passing the web cam at the time.


Sixth Form Centre: Windows and Walkways

by Tony Hicks

As you can see, this week the glass has been put in on the walkway and more windows have been installed.


Friday, 20 June 2014

Poem for Friday: Broken Dreams

by Katie Green

Floating through time,

Forgotten and adrift,

The broken dreams go.

Crushed and shattered

By the harsh reality.


They resemble the lives of those,

That left them.

Tiny fragments, scattered and

Impossible to piece together,

Like the hearts that once held them.


They lend us some insight,

Into the ideals of a child,

A young woman,

A would be mother.


Precious few remain intact,

Swamped by those that are cracked,

Drowning out the light,

Of the stars that their,

Wishes were made on.




Wednesday, 18 June 2014

TED Talks – Because Procrastination Can Be Productive Too

by Julia Alsop

Apparently, 95% of us procrastinate.  In 1978, around 5% of the population admitted to being ‘chronic offenders’ – I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that this level has risen to 20% in 2014 (and still rising!). No doubt this rise is the result, primarily, of the Internet.

Many a time have we been told that we shouldn’t procrastinate and should retain our focus, but let’s face it – that’s a lot easier said than done. With websites like Buzzfeed offering us quizzes on which Game of Thrones house we’d be (FYI I’m House Targaryen) or plenty of yet-to-be-viewed series on Netflix, perhaps it is not at all surprising that you end up doing that essay in the early hours of the morning.

Whilst, obviously excess procrastination is not the best idea (still do your homework and revision, folks!), there are ways you can procrastinate constructively and usefully online, if you really MUST wait until the next ‘round’ number (because of course you just CAN’T start working at 19:37) before cracking out the books. My favourite tactic for this is simple: TED talks.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and as an organization promotes the spreading of ideas, which consists of short talks (30 mins max) on a massively diverse range of subjects (more than 1700 talks online), presented by world experts, creative geniuses and then people who have done something really special in their life. The speakers seek to teach you a little bit about what they’ve found or to make you think about something in a different way- just generally enriching.

For me, it offers just that little bit of knowledge or perspective which I think are so very beneficial in our understanding of obscure yet fascinating information – and in many cases, the talks can also be used to try to improve ourselves a bit too, or encourage us to embrace things that we might have seen as holdbacks to our own success. So if you’re going to procrastinate, why not learn something interesting at the same time?

TED even runs a few official conferences a year, and one day I’d love to attend, not least because of the talks but also the TED gift bags, famed for their exciting and generous contents. However, since I don’t have a spare $6000 knocking around for the ticket alone (Yeah, I know – it’s pretty steep), I’ll have to be content for now watching the talks on the TED website.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A Picture Paints A Thousand Words

by Phoebe Warren

Every night we perform the bedtime ritual. Clean our teeth, put our pjs on and clamber into bed. However, there is usually a momentary pause at this point, where we intellectually indulge ourselves with fresh information before we sleep. A person in such a routine may choose to read a book.

Yet for others even this is simply not a coherent option. Admittedly most of us now would seek where we placed our phone, (usually finding it is handily still glued to our palm), and browse the latest offers online, or indeed the Insta snapped hotel Spencer and Jamie have just checked into. Perhaps you may even proceed to upload your own edition to the newsfeed - in Early Bird filter of course. 

The reality is that, in our fast paced, instantaneous, demanding world, we need to be able to gather as much information about an event in as little time as possible, and arguably a book is no longer the viable option. Thus, Instagram provides the perfect, edited snapshot of someone’s day; prepped for us to quickly judge and scroll on down.
This cuts the viewing time of the 100+new Facebook photos added to an album down to a simple shot; so we no longer have to heave through the pointless blurred images Facebook users upload on mass just because they can. No- the Instagram user must be far more select with their photo choice and carefully caption with the right hashtags; don’t want to appear too eager with those. 

Ironically, Instagram is now owned by Facebook, so perhaps our endless editing is futile since our feed is not as independently crafted as we all believe.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Photography Club: Fountain

by Adam Watts

Sixth Form Centre: Scaffolding Gone

by Tony Hicks

As you can see now scaffolding has gone windows going in and cladding finished off you would never know there was an old two-floor building under that cladding.


How to Dress and Talk Awesomely: Why You Should Watch Suits

by Pete Rapp

I watch a lot of television. In fact, some might say too much – however, if I didn’t, then you wouldn’t be reading this article, so who’s laughing now, eh? American lawyer ‘dramedy’ (that’s a hybrid of drama and comedy) Suits is one of if not my favourite show on at the moment, and it has just returned for a fourth season. So, I give you 5 reasons why you should start watching immediately: this is me making the case for Suits (sorry, I had to fit a lawyer pun in there).


1.      The premise rules. Mike Ross is a college dropout and slacker, but he has a brilliant mind and photographic memory; Harvey Spector, on the other hand, is a smooth-talking, waistcoat-wearing, lady-wooing lawyer – in fact, he’s the best closer of deals in New York city. When a chance meeting leads to Mike dazzling Harvey, the genius finds himself practising law without a law degree, a huge secret he must keep hidden at all costs. If you’ve ever dreamt of doing something, but haven’t been able to for some reason, you’ll love this – there’s nothing you can’t work around.

2.      The looks. Good lord, this show is SO COOL. It’s in the name for crying out loud – Harvey at one point states that, as lawyers, they are judged on how they look by any potential client, so they have to fix up and look sharp 100% of the time. Not only is the style impeccable in the show, but literally everyone is gorgeous in it! Even if you somehow don’t like the plot itself, you can at least enjoy the eye candy. And some eye candy it is, too.

 3.      The personalities. Every character in the show is well written – the seemingly-emotionless Harvey has serious issues with family and relationships, while Mike was orphaned at a young age, not to mention strong and well-rounded female characters. Pearson Hardman, the law firm where the show is based, Jessica Pearson is the no-nonsense boss, in what is largely a man’s game. The show proves that women in television don’t just have to be attractive and fall over various men, but instead they can be very powerful and interesting personalities.

4.      The dialogue. Suits is filled with movie references – “show me the money!” and “Butch and Sundance” are referenced early on in season one – which help make fans get involved in the repertoire and universe of the characters, as well as keeping the show grounded in real life. It should also be noted that the putdowns in the show are stupidly good. For example, in the very first episode, the following conversation happens (I’m paraphrasing here):