Friday, 26 May 2017

Fifty Years Ago Today: Sergeant Pepper

by Mark Richardson

It was fifty years ago today.

May 26th 1967 saw the appearance of a record that was utterly unlike anything people had seen before. It had a strange and jokey title, a cover that was full of unexpectedly familiar and unfamiliar faces all jammed together and it was by a band that people knew well but, well, this?  What is it?

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band absolutely came out of nowhere. No one had seen it coming, and when it did arrive it was utterly unlike anything anyone had heard or seen. Even the title was from nowhere: Paul McCartney misheard "pass the salt and pepper" on a plane flight as "sergeant pepper" and that set him thinking on the flight about whether it was an idea or if it could be a song. Out of that came the next step: how about it being a Band like the Beatles, but not the Beatles?

The group had reached the stage that they found being the Beatles almost intolerable. Ringo Starr refused to stay in the band unless they stopped touring, and none of them disagreed: touring had been unbearable, constantly underprepared and running from one venue to another, constantly assailed by friends and enemies seemingly everywhere, all wanting a piece of them. The studio was a sanctuary, and they were ready to make the most of it. They all wanted it make something that nobody had ever heard before, and supported by the producer genius George Martin, they did.

It had an incalculable effect. It remains the highest-selling album from the 1960s, it influenced countless bands thereafter, and it continues to represent some of their best ever work.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Celebrating Norway - "rømmegrøt og spekkemat"

by Sienna Bentley

The Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll the 17th of May in 1814, but at the time Norway was in a union with Sweden and for a few years in the 1820s King Karl Johan of Sweden actually banned the celebrations of the signing because the Swedes saw it as a provocation against Sweden and their royal family. The celebrations held on the 17th of May become a larger event when Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (the writer of the national anthem, “Ja, vi elsker dette landet”) took initiative to a children’s parade in Oslo in the 1860s.

Wednesday the 17th of May 2017 marks the most recent Constitution Day in Norway (‎Syttende mai (bokmål)), commemorating the signing of the constitution on that date in 1814. The celebrations are unique - marching bands, street parties, parades, traditional costumes and a ton of ice cream. While many countries around the world celebrate their national day with a military parade, ‎Syttende Mai is a party for everyone, especially for the children. The children’s parades entail marching, waving homemade Norwegian flags and carrying school banners. Children in Oslo pass the Royal Palace, where the royal family wave to them from the balcony.

Before they head out into the streets, many Norwegians will have a special breakfast which is often a potluck with their friends and neighbours, consisting of freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and champagne. There is a custom of “eat what you like”, so really it’s mostly junk food, but what is traditionally eaten at the family table often depends on where people are living. Near the sea and rivers, eating salmon and trout is quite common but in the mountain villages, it can be rømmegrøt og spekkemat (porridge and cured meat - it’s better than it sounds, I promise).

Men and women take this day as an opportunity to wear their bunad, which is the traditional costume. It is common to wear a bunad at various celebrations such as folk dances and weddings but especially during the May 17th National Day celebrations. They vary greatly, the different colours, styles and embroidery are to indicate where in Norway the owner's ancestry lies.

Theresa May and the Cult Of No Personality

by Fenella Johnson

In a political landscape where a politician who claims she keeps her promises calls an election she promised not to in order to obtain a mandate she already claims she has for a policy she originally campaigned against,and she is still between 9-13 points ahead in the polls two weeks before that election-well,you might argue that the perceived public character of a leader no longer matters.You might argue that as long as a leader has no significant personality quirks,meaning that there is no chance of gaffes on the public stage,then you might argue that Theresa May (a woman so devoid of personality quirks she has been nicknamed the Maybot by some parts of the media)is the perfect candidate for Prime Minsister.You might do all this while casting an eye to America and the Donald’s latest tweet.After all,Jeremy Corbyn’s unique political brand of man who dresses like a geography teacher with socialist tendencies masquerading as Labour leader has hardly done his party any good in the polls.Theresa May’s weakness is her strength.She is very-and I’ll be blunt about it-boring.Her lack of personality is her greatest asset,because you can construct whatever image you want on it.

The image the Conservatives have gone for is ‘strong and stable’-one presumes her PR department was undaunted by the fact that someone who has just performed a U-turn over a policy in their manifesto has,at best,a shaky claim to stability.The Lib Dems-who are suffering their own leadership problems with Tim Farron-have been unable to pin the title of ‘lunch snatcher’ on her,following the removal of free school meals from the Conservative manifesto;perhaps,one suspects because the majority of the press are supporting her campaign.The Conservative posters on the campaign trail have chosen to campaign with her name imposed in sedate,large letters and the party she is leader of in typeface you have to squint to see.(Labour are performing a similar trick,but the other way round.)Meanwhile,on her campaign bus-the same she used while campaigning for remain,in case you thought that politics in 2017 was no longer doing the satirist’s job for them-her name is resplendent and her party’s nowhere to be seen.This allows her to operate beyond the brand of the Conservative party and the negative connotations that-for many voters-come along with it,allowing her to project an aura of safety .Remember:strong and stable.It echoes back to the 1924 General Election and Stanley Baldwin,the Conservative Prime Minister of the day,campaigning on the slogan ‘safe pair of hands’(something which May has often referred to herself as).Theresa May doesn't want you to think she’s exciting or is going to bring change-she wants you to think of her as capable and calm.

And it works.The real reason Theresa May called an election is because she knows she’s going to win:it will be a failure,the way things look at the moment,if she gets a majority that’s smaller than 60 seats.In the age of viral politics,in the age of reality tv show politics,where the USA decided Trump was a greater storyline then Hillary Clinton and Piers Morgan is a person who continues to be employed, there is something undeniably attractive about someone positioning themselves-whether it is true or not-as the antidote to all this.As sensible,safe.Again,that idea of being ‘strong and stable’.Theresa May’s buzzwords and slogans are not calls to arms-Make America Great Again!-but empty,factual.Brexit means Brexit,whatever Brexit means.

Poem: Hillside

by Bryony Hart

Dedicated to all those leaving Whitcombe House this year

There was no warning: the hillside was bare, 
ripped and raped of years of growth.

On our pilgrimage past Pierre du Sacrifice, 
the mulch-sprung pathway undulated as usual:
well-worn steps, twenty years' worth, engrained into our gait. 

As we descended, the expectation of cool pine and eerie silence - 
the silence of thick tall growth that canopies out light from the forest floor- 
was whipped from our memory.

If only I had known - 

That final descent in April would have been savoured, 
relished and branded for future sensations sweet:
muscle-memory of suspended ground
made from years of pine needles;
light elbowing through cracks in the thick blanket above;
shards of light - moted and moving;
darkness, shadows and exhilarating fear;
unravelling daylight at the wood's exit ...

replaced by a barren and shocking absence:

Nash-like tree-stumps, fallen branches, withered leaves, 
not even a whiff of decay.
Beyond decay. Fresh. Raw. A pillaging. 

We tentatively stepped through the debris, 
soldiers emerging from gashes after intense gunfire, 
and we ran our hands across the land's wounds. 

Crouching, we counted forty clear rings. 
And again, again, again another forty rings
reverberated from the tight epicentral core
to the calloused periphery.

Her narrow six years were traced and compared;
our four decades lay wide-open and exposed. 

Forty years ago a young farmer plunged saplings 
deep into this fertile earth. 

Today the land lay bare. 

 Bryony Hart 28/10/16

Questions of love trilogy - Part One: Do You Love Yourself? II - How I Cope with my Body and Mind.

by Holly White

Being able to accept my body meant I could see my hip bones; that when I lied down in bed they were sticking far out and my tummy dipped into a valley and the two peaks stood as mountains either side. I'd see how much I could hold, trying to hook my fingers around in some attempt to assure myself I wasn't gaining weight. I'd look in the mirror and stand sideways trying to asses if they were sticking out more from the previous time I looked, only a few hours ago. I was transfixed by them and what the represented - bone sticking out meant I wasn't fat. And if I wasn't fat I was pretty. I wanted to be able to arch my back forward and see the perfect, repetitive rise and fall of my spine descending down to where my proud hip bones resided. From the top of the ladder my vertebrates mimicked, they would snake off into a V and form my collar bones; two bones that held the weight of my world on, I wanted them to be so prominent you couldn't miss. Stopping and staring as you trace them with your eyes, I wanted you to see the grace I held. The framework leading effortlessly up my neck and to my face. The face I scrutinised everyday, every glimpse of a reflection, every time someone looked at me, assuming they didn't like what they saw. My eyes too small, the blue not bright enough, my skin covered in imperfections, my nose disproportionate, my lips not plump enough, my cheeks to puffy or maybe too hollow, my smile crooked, my teeth tinged and wonky, my freckles looking stupid, my eyebrows not full enough, my jaw unflattering, my hair dull, my voice croaky. I could go on but I'll stop.

So many things to change, improve and perfect to my standard; if I didn't feel pretty then I wasn't pretty and then I wasn't capable of being pretty to anyone else. I didn’t develop an eating disorder and I didn't start hurting myself but I carried a constant reminder that I was never going to be able to be beautiful. It didn't seem to matter to me that my parents constantly told me I was, because that's what I expected them to say; I cared only for what the people who didn't have any obligation to my existence said. For the people who had no regular involvement, impression, voice or imprint in my life, I cared for most the way they viewed my body. And it was because they  weren't in my life long, for at the most a few hours, this was the only impression we had on each other. They saw me, they judged me, they dismissed me. I wanted so badly to have some kind of reassurance it was positive thoughts and then I could take some twisted form of gratification knowing a stranger approved of my body. My body they would never see exposed, or touch or be in constant contact with because they were a stranger - and I wanted their approval. I based my entire self esteem off of a stranger's opinion I could only guess at. Now I have been through puberty and reached the other side, whilst I am not an adult, I will take it upon myself to say I have matured over these years and don't build my esteem from such a method as the above.

It’s taken me a long time to pull myself out of the hole of denial but I write openly with maybe a completely clichè ideology, to somehow spread a little more love and understanding of ourselves. And I write for our blog because it's the only place I know so far for an audience that may work in a similar way to my own mind - we all come together in one giant hub of life combined with every feature (about to be listed) that are going through our systems at such a high concentration: work, stress, anxiety, friendships, relationships, jealousy, annoyance, sex, lust, drugs, hate, love, sadness, happiness, anger and want. It's everywhere. It's consuming and it is in us.

Acrylic Paint Landscape (Time Lapse)

by Imogen Ashby

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Short Story: Grace

by Lottie Allen

Glow is low and it's dimming,
And the silence is ringing...
I stroll down the shadowed street, again finding myself able to relate to the song lyrics. I sigh, my breath creating a flurry of warm clouds to erupt, as I make my way through the dark side of the sleeping city. Ordinarily, I wouldn't walk home this way but after the ordeal at work I'm running extremely late and I can't miss my appointment tomorrow morning. Therefore, I'm taking the shortcut home. Just as I round the corner, a loud noise startles me and I rip my headphones out in sudden terror. Then, shake my head at my unusually jumpy behaviour when I realise the noise was only Big Ben's distant signalling of 11 o'clock.
I hesitantly put my headphones back in, attempting to block out the world around me and suppress my rising fear but I catch a peculiar, glistening in the corner of my eye. The hairs on my neck rise and I get the unnerving feeling that I'm being watched, maybe I would even go as far as saying I'm being followed. But it's not like I even work in the agency anymore, I would have no reason for anyone to want anything from me. All my clients have long since passed away. Anyhow, I whirl around, the tension and suspense of waiting kindling the fiery flames of fear slowly growing inside me.
Nothing. Typical.
Jessica, you're just paranoid. Stop fretting, I tell myself, firmly. I need to get a grip. I'm about to turn around and resume my walk home when a hand clamps down over my mouth, I jump in shock but find myself unable to scream. I jerk my head up, bringing my left heel into my captors groin and hearing a groan. I throw my head forwards, sinking my teeth into their hand and try to turn in the now loosened hold on me. A strip of foul-smelling material is shoved brutally over my mouth and under my nose, forcing me to breath it in. I try to twist around to identify my attacker and thrash, my head makes contact with someone's forehead and they let go of me. But before I can have any satisfaction or triumphant from my small victory, I become acutely aware of my sluggish movements. In panic, I scream but it's muffled by the material over my face and it's not like anyone would hear anyway. I slump to the floor, both welcoming and fearing the inevitable oblivion as I lose consciousness.
Is it possible to be wide awake yet your body is unresponsive and asleep?
I guess, that's what a coma is. I try desperately to open my eyes and squint but even the smallest movement causes a shooting agony to dance through my useless body. I am distantly aware of a voice droning in the background and listen hard to understand the words. But I can do nothing, I can't even twitch my muscles to tell them I'm awake.
"Jessica? Jessy, I miss you. The doctors say you're in a coma and that there might be a chance that you can hear me but I miss you Jessy, so much. Did you know, you've been sleeping for nearly three months now?" That voice. It's strangely familiar yet entirely new and unfamiliar at the same time. And who is Jessy? It can't be me...can it? I haven't been sleeping for nearly three months!
I try to sort through my distorted mind to find any memory of who I am or where I could be. I think I'm at a doctors because the girl, whoever she was, said something about the doctor talking to her. That is if I am Jessy. It's like sifting through sand, my thoughts slip through my fingers before I have time to grasp them and I'm left with nothing. Empty, confused, lost. The more I try to summon up my memories the quicker the slip away. I don't care about anything else at the moment. Just two questions.
Who am I?
Where am I?
If I had the ability to move I would be furrowing my brow in confusion, creasing my forehead into a frown. I'm baffled. How can you forget everything about you? Of course, I still remember that I'm English but if you ask me who my parents are, how old I am or even what I look like I will be lost for answers. Confusion courses through me, how is any of this possible? I remember my education, my times tables, quadratic formulas but I am lost for words at who taught me, how I know or when I learnt this.
So many unanswered questions. And no answers. Whatsoever. I want to scream in frustration, all I want are answers, is it really so difficult? To remember things? Only one word, that one word that means everything yet nothing to me...


The Celtic Cross and the Human Desire for Darkness

by Isabella Ingram

The Old Portsmouth Road (crossing the Hindhead Commons) (image: National Trust)
In 1786, an anonymous sailor was murdered along the Old Portsmouth Road – an old turnpike route running from London to the Portsmouth Docks, and traversing the Hindhead Commons. The murderers, who had befriended the sailor in a pub in Thursley, later stripped him of his money and cut his throat, before being arrested some hours later at the Sun Inn at Rake. They were hanged – and remained hanging for three years – on Gibbet Hill, Surrey’s second highest point and of close proximity to the sailor’s stone; a gravestone erected to mark the spot of the sailor’s death. The hanging excited fears and superstitions that came to be associated with Gibbet Hill, and subsequently the construction of a Celtic Cross was funded by Sir William Erle – a lawyer, judge and politician – in 1851, to expel these notions.

Today, both the Celtic Cross and the Sailor’s Stone are situated in The Devil’s Punch Bowl, a popular National Trust property, and serve as tourist attractions along “The Gibbet Hill Walk”. The National Trust website invites its visitors to “find the spot on Gibbet Hill where three villainous highwaymen met their end”, and reach the Celtic cross, beside which a sign now dramatically reads, “criminals were hanged on the gibbet and their bodies left to swing in clanking irons until they rotted”.

It’s a gloomy story of murder and the viciousness of crime and punishment. When I went to see the Celtic cross, a small family was sharing a picnic about three or four metres from its foot. Their focus was, of course, on the incredible view ahead rather than the dark, Dickensian structure behind. But it still seemed odd – to me, at least, after reading the sign – that the site of a hanging had, just over two hundred years later, become a picnic spot. The image of the family and the cross seemed to indicate something about the modern, western world’s touristic nature, and its reaction to suffering in any form, be it historic or contemporary.

Why are human beings fascinated by the morbid? In an article entitled “Morbid Curiosities” by Eric G. Campbell from Psychology Today, it is suggested that the human fixation with “macabre occurrences” derives from a desire to recognize our own fortune: “At that moment, I understood the terrible wisdom of suffering…Affliction can reveal what is most sacred in our lives, essential to our joy. Water, Emily Dickinson writes, is ‘taught by thirst’.”

Election View: Should Cannabis Be Legalised?

by Thomas Locke

The Liberal Democrats have unveiled plans to legalise cannabis ahead of the General Election.

The Liberal Democrats have confirmed that they would legalise selling and growing cannabis if they were elected into parliament. The party would permit the growing of the Class-B drug at home and they would introduce licensed shops to sell the drug to those over the age of 18. It is already legal to consume small amounts of the drug in some countries including Portugal, the Netherlands and Norway. The legalisation of cannabis began in 2001 with Portugal being the first country in the world to decriminalise the use of all drugs.

Cannabis has been illegal in the UK since 1928 when legislation banned the drug for recreational use as an extension of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920. To this day, under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, producing or supplying cannabis is a criminal offence with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. Possessing the drug also attracts a maximum prison sentence of five years, although many argue that this law is not enforced. With the General Election coming up on the 8th of June, this could all be changed if the Liberal Democrats are elected.

Julian Huppert, the party’s Cambridge candidate, confirmed that the policy would feature in its upcoming manifesto, telling BuzzFeed News: "The market is run by criminal gangs and they have no interest in public health - the system is causing huge amounts of harm."

"The current approach is a disaster for young people, whose mental and physical health is being harmed by an increasingly potent product. There are no age checks, and no controls on quality or strength. ‘Skunk’ is widespread and the only ID you need to buy it is a £20 note.”

A Lib Dem source suggested that the Tim Farron-led party would also introduce social clubs across the country for smoking cannabis.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Politics of Eurovision

by Katie Sharp

Love it or hate it, the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the biggest international events. The 2016 Contest in Stockholm saw 204 million watchers around Europe (and Australia), making it the most watched event of the night in the majority of the countries taking part.

The Eurovision Song Contest (originally Eurovision Grand Prix) was created in 1956 in Switzerland to try to unify war-torn Europe through light entertainment, as it would give the countries in Europe a shared low-stakes event to compete against each other at.

However, owing to its international popularity, there are controversies surrounding the contest- particularly about politics. It is often argued that it isn't a competition of music, instead competition of who is popular and unpopular in Europe. Terry Wogan, the UK’s former presenter of Eurovision, stepped down from his role in 2008, saying “The voting used to be about the songs. Now it’s about national prejudices. We (the UK) are on our own. We had a very good song, a very good singer, we came joint last. I don’t want to be presiding over another debacle.” After the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War from 2003, the UK has failed to score very highly, entering the top 10 only once, in 2009. While it could be that the quality of the British contestants is the cause of this, it is most likely a result of the UK’s unpopularity in Europe after the invasion of Iraq, as shown by the UK receiving its first “nul points” in 2003, immediately after the beginning of the Iraq war.

The effect of politics is also shown in the “voting blocs”, where competing countries form alliances to vote for each other. These voting blocs were so influential that in 2009, national juries were introduced alongside the televote, providing 50% of the points for each country. However, the voting blocs are still recognised in Eurovision, as during the presentation of votes there is often booing from the crowd, particularly during the former USSR countries’ votes.

The Hidden Stories Behind the Most Iconic Photos of Our Time

by Naeve Molho

‘Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still’ - Dorothea Lange

Throughout our lives we are met with hundreds and thousands of images in magazines, books, adverts and all other media imaginable. Rarely do we think about the origin of these images.  We are censored to forget that the people pictured  are real people in real scenarios, brought to us on the glossy pages of a magazine, or through the scroll of a facebook newsfeed .  So what is really happening in these pictures? Who are these people? But most importantly what happened to them? 

Afghan Girl

Left: the original portrait appearing in National Geographic, right : Sharbut Gula today

The ‘Afghan Girl’ is one of the most famous portraits of all time, photographed by Steve Mcurry, and first appearing in ‘The National Geographic’ in 1985.  Likened to ‘The First World’s Third World Mona Lisa’ Sharbut Gula was 12 years old when she was photographed in Pakistan's largest refugee camp due to the Soviet Union invasion in 1979. After the release of the photo Sharbut was offered numerous modeling contracts including a chance to flee to the West yet she refused . Since the photo was taken she married Rahmat Gul at the age of 13 becoming a mother to 3 children while soon after becoming a widow, putting her survival down to ‘the will of God’. She suffers from Hepatitis and most recently received media coverage due to her 15 day jail sentence and fine in 2016 for using an unauthorised identification card. Her illness and ‘ international status as a symbol for refugees’ has been to thank for her early release back to Afghanistan as she could have been facing 14 years in prison.

VJ Day Times Square kiss

Add capA sailor and a nurse kiss in Manhattan's Times Square, as New York City celebrates the end of the Second World War  CREDIT: ALFRED EISENSTAEDT//TIME LIFE PICTURES/GETTYtion

 On August 14th 1945 renowned photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured a photo that would represent the end of the war and in particular VJ Day (Victoryover Japan day).  Many believe the photo represents the spontaneity provoked by   happiness in learning the war was over while numerous bloggers have suggested it is a glamorised picture of sexual assault.  The sailor depicted is believed to be George Mendonsa who had been with his girlfriend after spending two years serving in the Pacific.  Meanwhile the woman is said to be Greta Friedman, a dental assistant dressed in a nurses uniform.  Despite being noted as one of the most romantic images of all time Friedman revealed ‘ the kiss was not a romantic event but more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back. He grabbed someone dressed like a nurse because he felt grateful to those who had taken care of him’. This photo is romanticised through the viewer's imagination and individual interpretation rather than hard fact.  Sometimes the truth behind photos can in fact distort the image as the story changes.

The perfect Aryan

Add caPhoto: Ohad Zwigenberg, Yedioth Ahoronot

After having her picture innocently taken one day amidst the horror and misery of Nazi rule, Hessy Taft soon became ‘the perfect Aryan’ baby. TThe photo was published in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, postcards and posters yet little did everyone know, Hessy Taft was a Jew. In fact the photo had been sent by the photographer who had happened to photograph her weeks earlier stating ‘ I was asked to submit my 10 best pictures for a beauty contest run by the Nazis. I sent your baby's picture as one of them, a perfect example of the Aryan race to further Nazi philosophy…. I wanted to allow myself the pleasure of this joke.’ Hessey Taft,  now 80 and a chemistry professor in New York, fled Germany, shortly after the photo was taken, to Cuba.

Napalm Girl

You Are Just Like Your Parents

by Tom Fairman

As a parent, you often wonder what the future holds for your children. What are they going to be interested in? What mistakes are they going to make? Will they be happy? Where will they end up living? Who will they marry? Will they have children of their own? Will they have the same relationship with you as you have with your parents? Underlying these questions is an assumption or indeed a hope that you will see them grow up and that you will still be an important part of their life. You will never stop caring for them, but the relationship must change.
Having seen them grow up, make mistakes and known them inside out from a young age, there is a natural separation that must occur to allow them to become an adult. This can be a painful time and many of these wounds live with us for the rest of our lives. However, you can never change the fact that they are your child and you are their parent, no matter how distant you may feel from them. Your family is your family and always will be.
It is your history, your link to the past. It can explain character traits we have, how often do we hear people say we are just like our parents. Looking back into our past can be a fascinating experience, discovering the hidden stories and decisions that have lead us to be here today. As a society we have lost this love of history seeming destined to disassociate ourselves with previous generations, blaming them for the problems of today. Our generational history clearly mattered to St Matthew who takes the time to set out the genealogy of Jesus at the start of his gospel and our relationship with our parents mattered to Jesus.

Short Story: Heroes and Villains

by Ananthi Parekh

Yet again, it has come to this rooftop, me facing him while the city moves below us. Last time we were here I was to strong for him to fight. But I still haven't won, so here we are again.

I'm not sure how stubborn he has to be, I'm not sure how he still thinks he can take this city when I have succeeded in protecting it time and time again.

My power, which I have wielded since I was born, is the ability to heat any part of my body to the point of melting metal. Obviously being able to control this was something that grew with age. I have only just started to develope the ability to cool my body. But training can wait. I have a villain to fight.

A wisp of hair escapes my mask for a second before I realise it flying in front of my sight. Cutting my hair short became practical when I started to burn people with stray tips of my hair when I wasn't concentrating, now it's short it's easier to control, well, heat wise. I tucked the stray hair under the mask that covers my eyes before I see his shadow appear on the roof opposite.

His posture and smirk more cocky than usual, his leather clad torso melting into the night behind him. He seemed to have upped his game. His head remains slightly bowed as his smirk turns to a grin. His mask, similar to mine, covers the top half of his face and eyes, although his leaves his hair open to the air. Despite this seemingly obvious oversight he is one of the lucky few to have an extra little ability; he can alter his hair colour which, in a chase, is far more inconvenient for me than it is for hm. But for now his hair remains a dangerous shade of black. His shoulders tense like a predator as he analyses me as I do him, and for once, I'm scared.

Previously his recklessness has always been something I've used to my advantage. His main power can only really be described as metal bending, and although it seems cliche as any villain could be, unlike me is power was forced on him via the experiments of some even more cliche mad scientists. His specifics I don't know, but although his strongest material is metal, I've seen him bend rocks, control plastic and weaponize concrete when cornered.

But tonight is different. His gaze is calculated, his footsteps are careful and his stance is predatory. I scan his body, trying to find any signs of his attack. Unlike the more well known of our kind me and him have never spoken apart from letters and an odd terrified member of the public, the latter mostly from his side.

And right now I would try nearly anything to stop the squirming in my gut.

There it is. The slight twitch in his hand. I can tell he doesn't know I've noticed. I pull my mask further up my nose, subtly checking if my hands are hot enough. Glowing, ready.

Then it begins. His wrist flicks his arm forward as he throws what looks like a dagger towards my head. I duck sideways, catching it in my hands and moulding it in to a disc before swinging it back at him in a swift turn.

Should Ian Brady Be Buried on the Moors?

by Julian Davis

Ian Brady has finally died. After years of hunger strikes and ‘smoking the strongest tobacco’ he died on Monday the 15th of May of a lung and chest condition. The question of his burial was immediately raised. Brady wished to be buried on the Moors, the same place in which he killed and buried his victims, yet many believe his ashes should remain in prison so even in death he is still incarcerated.

This seems fitting due to the depth of his crimes; the torture and murder of 5 children: John Kilbride, Leslie Ann Downey, Keith Bennett, Edward Evans and Pauline reed. He and his accomplice, Myra Hindley who is already deceased, would kidnap the children, beat and torture them before disposing with their bodies on the moors. His horrific recordings of 10 year old Leslie Ann Downey were played in court to the shock of the jury.

Some argue that as it is Brady’s body he should decide where his ashes should be spread, yet the insolence of his wish to be on the Moors, to forever taint the land would be a slap in the face of the families of the victims who have already suffered too much. Many county councils have refused to cremate his body, not wishing to be associated in any way with Ian Brady.

Moreover, the lack of remorse Brady demonstrated for his victims, describing his acts as ‘petty crimes’, and refusal to reveal the burial site of Keith Bennett, frequently torturing the family with vague hints and promises, is chilling.

Brady had been transferred to a psychiatric hospital since 1985 and had reportedly been on hunger strike since 1999, though this was swiftly undermined by his barrister who claimed he ate toast and soup most days. He frequently expressed his wish to die, yet his pleas fell on deaf ears. In one sense, Brady will be glad about the media scrutiny over his death, a proclaimed narcissist, who enjoyed the attention over him, delighting over his infamy and enjoying his reputation as the man who brought ‘evil’ into Britain.

Which Parties Have PGS Pupils Voted For in the Past?

by John Sadden (PGS Archivist)

Mock general elections have been held at PGS for around a hundred years, perhaps longer - archive records are incomplete. However, the reports we have provide some insight into the political inclination of pupils over the 20th century.

The elections since 2010 have been open to the whole senior school; before then, the franchise was limited to debating society members and attendees only. The winning party, reported in archived copies of The Portmuthian, are listed below together with the results of some other debates which are included to provide some context.

1923 Conservative

1933 Conservative

1935 Conservative

1937 Debate: “The power of women has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished”. The motion was carried. The school was not co-educational at this time.

1937 Conservative

1946 Debate: “The result of the last General Election was a national disaster”. Carried. (This was the 1945 election which was won by Labour, and brought in the National Health Service, social care and public services.)

1949 Communist (beat Conservatives by one vote, Labour came third. The successful candidate shrewdly distanced his communist vision from the actuality in Russia)

1950 Liberal

The Digital Future of Tutoring

by Thomas Locke

Private Tutoring in conjunction with traditional teaching is one of the oldest professions dating back to the ancient Greeks where children would come together in small groups to discuss topics and exchange knowledge. The Socratic method, named after Socrates, is a form of teaching that allows the student to explore topics and use previous knowledge to find the correct answer themselves. Socrates, along with Aristotle, were renowned for their work in developing methods of teaching to increase a student's knowledge, with Socrates given the title of “The First Teacher”.

In the Middle Ages, children of wealthy families would be scheduled for private tutoring sessions with well-known teachers and scientists whilst those from poorer backgrounds would typically go onto become an apprentice and develop skills in a particular industry.

During colonial times, the education system developed and with the appearance of educational institutes, textbooks were used to teach a particular subject. However, these were often written in Latin and those wishing to study these particular subjects would have to study Latin, often with a tutor during one-to-one sessions. Tutoring was also used to prepare university students for the challenges they faced ahead.

Until recently, tutoring has remained almost identical to the colonial times where students would meet with a tutor for one-to-one sessions as a way to resolve their academic worries and increase their knowledge in a particular subject or topic.

However, times are changing.

We live in a world where technology is a fundamental part of our everyday lives, whether it be with the usage of digital financial intermediaries, taxi apps to get us from A to B or the possibilities of being able to control your home remotely from a mobile device. We are constantly connected to the digital world and it makes sense for entrepreneurs to take advantage of this growing industry and the technology already in place to launch a fresh concept or idea.

Take Uber, for example, the San Francisco startup that took the world by storm with operation in over 570 cities. Uber took the basic concept of a taxi service and transformed the booking process into an entirely digital service that utilises a mobile app to book and pay for taxi rides. Today, it holds a monopoly-like grip over the taxi industry and has been the cause of many drivers opting to use Uber to provide a taxi service.

Thursday, 18 May 2017


Mrs Morgan reflects on the first PGS Mental Health Week and presents some of the content of her talk: Resilience for Girls.

When Mr Williamson suggested to me that we run a mental health week I thought it was a great idea. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how successful and necessary an event it would become.
"Wonderful", "essential", "inspiring", "very moving" are just some of the adjectives used by pupils to describe the impact that the talks have had on them. Hundreds of pupils have heard from staff about a range of topics including depression, anxiety, mindfulness, resilience and supporting friends. We are hugely grateful to our courageous teachers for sharing their stories and helping us to create a school culture where mental health is openly discussed and a support network is firmly established. We finished the week with a talk from Katy Sexton, former swimming World Champion, who spoke very movingly about her experience of living with depression, how difficult it was for her to accept and how she moved through it.

Resilience for Girls

‘Imagine a sisterhood – across all creeds and cultures – an unspoken agreement that we, as women, will support and encourage each other. That we won’t seek to take advantage of another’s weakness or sit in judgement of each other’s shortcomings. That we will remember we don’t know what struggles each of us may be facing elsewhere in our lives and so we’ll assume that each of us is doing our best. That we will do the work to heal ourselves so that together we can create a more compassionate world.’

The quote above is from the book We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere. This book formed the basis of much of my talk for PGS Mental Health Week.

Mental health is often discussed in terms of conditions like anxiety disorder, depression and so on. However, whilst the majority of us will not experience diagnosable conditions, many of us will have our mental health knocked by everyday problems involving friendship, family or relationship issues, comparing ourselves to others, academic pressure and much more.
As a girl, I experienced many of these and as a woman, my struggle for resilience continues. What’s changed as I’ve got older is that I now have a history of resilience to look back on. I have the confidence that I can get through difficult times. As girls you have less of your own history to draw upon but try to have faith and trust in yourself that in future, the time will come when you will be in awe of your own strength.

So what is resilience?

Being a strong, resilient girl / woman is not about being perfect. You do not have to be invincible to be resilient.

For me, resilience involves courage but also vulnerability. It requires self-love but also the support and love of others around you. Resilience is about being successful but it also requires the ability to fail well.

A Chinook Lands In Portsmouth

by Tony Hicks

This is something I don't see every day: an RAF Chinook landing in front of me on Clarence Field in Old Portsmouth this afternoon.

Election Special: Interview with Portsmouth South Liberal Democrat Candidate Gerald Vernon-Jackson

by Mark Docherty and Tom Matthews

The most recent speaker to visit the school was Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Portsmouth South in the upcoming General Election. This was following on from last week when the Conservative candidate, Flick Drummond, came in to speak. Vernon-Jackson has long been involved in politics in Portsmouth, having been a city councillor and leading the city council between 2010 and 2014.

He was asked whether he thought the timing of the early election suited his party, and responded with a blunt “no. Let's face it, the Conservatives are going to win a majority in this election and there's no point in pretending otherwise. I was foolish enough to believe Theresa May in the eleven times she said she would not call a general election, but she has gone back on her word. Whatever she says, she has called the election because she feels things are starting to go badly for her government and she wants to secure a mandate before that. The other reason I think she has called it is that she wants an election while Jeremy Corbyn is Labour leader.”

Flick Drummond last week said that the Conservatives have given the NHS all the money they have asked for and that there is no crisis, but Vernon-Jackson disagrees with his opponent. He said “the NHS is definitely in crisis and it is being made much worse by the Conservatives’ policies on social care. This is an issue quite close to my heart as I worked in social care for a number of years. To give an example, there are currently 237 beds taken in QA hospital by people who could go home but have nowhere else to go because there is no social care and it costs between £400 and £500 per day to keep them in hospital. Flick Drummond rejected a deal to convert St James’ hospital, which is being emptied, partly into social care which would allow us to move people from QA to St James’, hugely relieving the strain on the hospital.”

Predictably, Brexit was a topic of discussion and Vernon-Jackson was asked about the Lib Dems’ policy to hold a second EU referendum on whether to accept or reject the final deal. He claimed that the initial EU referendum gave Theresa May a mandate to start negotiations with the EU, but that people should have a chance to choose whether to go ahead with Brexit once a deal is on the table. When asked whether he felt referendums diluted the role of MPs he answered “I would trust MPs with very little. Big decisions should be made by the people rather than MPs as MPs are in no better position to make choices than normal voters. The point of MPs is to represent their constituents: that's the problem with Flick, she puts her party before Portsmouth. She has never voted against the government, and that's something I would be prepared to do as that's the sort of person I am.”

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Mental Health Week 2017

by Chris Williamson

Portsmouth Grammar School launched its first Mental Health Week to coincide with a national drive to promote good mental health. Given how much it has been in the news recently, with the Royal Family, Lady Gaga, Andrew Flintoff, Professor Green and James Haskell, to name but a few, producing videos, discussion of mental health has never been more prevalent.

I was proud to have taken a leading role in the birth of this event and it all arose out of a conversation with Mrs Morgan looking to echo the success that PGS Pride has had. Given my issues with mental health, I felt it would be cathartic to try and explain it to pupils, to explain what it felt like, to explain what could be done to help. Initial conversations led to a great deal of excitement from both of us as to how successful this could be. That said, I don’t think any of us who took part expected the response we would get.

In the run up to the week I had been fairly confident about the talk I was to deliver about depression. Given I had run over it hundreds of times in my head in the previous few years I didn’t anticipate any nerves. In the week before, I received lots of messages of support and as the audience filed into the lecture theatre I suddenly became all too aware that I was about to reveal some really quite personal information in front of a group of children and colleagues (and friends) and that I was about to talk about some of my most deep-seated insecurities in a school when I hadn’t even been able to reveal them to some members of my own family.

The talk itself flew past and I failed to talk about a number of things I had made notes about. I was just glad that so many people had turned out. However, the response afterwards was incredible – some of the messages were incredibly touching and I never expected such positivity. Any anxieties I may have had that people would take the event the wrong way evaporated in the days following as the feedback was unanimously positive. It was a reaffirmation that PGS is a special place to be.
On top of that the film Fine was shown every day and I have not seen a better resource on bereavement for those who work with youngsters anywhere. Filled with touching scenes, moments of real sadness and characters that truly drew you in I cannot recommend seeing it enough. The pupils were, once again, the stars amongst the real stars who acted with them; Finn Elliott was incredible in the lead role, Freddie Fenton as the friend trying to help and Jazzy Holden perfectly, innocently, hesitantly and caringly delivering the chilling line of “Miss, his mum just died”. Cue a very big lump in my throat.

Ms Hart took up the baton with a brave and very personal talk about anxiety, yet again pushing out the boundaries of what adults talk about in schools. As those talking, we very much had the opinion that very little should be totally off-limits and we needed to display honesty and integrity throughout. Certainly the humanity on display hopefully encouraged the staff and pupil body of the acceptability to discuss a huge range of issues with members of staff. I know Ms Hart was also humbled by the responses.

Sessions on resilience and listening followed from Mrs Morgan, Mr Frampton and Dr King, sadly I was unable to make it to all those events but I know pupils valued the chance to hear about these two very important skills. I was very impressed with the questions, the thoughtfulness and the consideration for others.

The undoubted highlight of the week was listening to swimming World Champion Katy Sexton, MBE being so open about her battles with mental health issues throughout an elite sporting career. It was moving to hear the story of how someone who has made an Olympic final could consider themselves a failure. As Katy admitted, she was used to talking about her swimming, but putting the focus towards her mental health made her even more relatable. To see someone so successful put herself in such a vulnerable position, and be so appreciated for doing so, was a fitting finale to what has been one of the most exhilarating, emotionally exhausting and extraordinary weeks of my time at PGS. I hope this is just scratching the very surface, that it is just the beginning of a movement that will encourage openness, communication, discussion and, most importantly of all, improvements in our Mental Health. Happy and Successful, in that order – let’s make sure it happens.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Should Prisoners Have the Right to Vote?

by Lily Godkin

In the UK prisoners do not have the right to vote, although The European Court of Human Rights has stated repeatedly that denying prisoners the right to vote is a breach of their human rights, the governments within the UK have to some extent chosen to ignore this. Although the UK has promised obey the court's decisions, not the European government, nor anybody else for that matter, can by any means force the UK to change their laws regarding prisoner's and the vote.

So legally the European Convention on Human Rights states that ‘all may vote once they reach voting age, regardless of their criminal status’. Surely convicts are human entitling them to human rights? and if the courts intentions by sending them to prison is reformation and improvement, then this is not achievable by treating them as something lesser as then we can only expect them to live up to what we are treating them as, animals. These people deserve the right to vote for the party and leader that will affect their lives, they are trying to be fixed, not punished. Surely they will live under the influence of the government as much as we do as citizens on the outside world. So why are governments now considering letting 16 and 17 year olds vote and not considering prisoners? The reason we agreed to follow the laws of the European convention was to move towards a world of peace integration and respect for fundamental human rights, something that has served us well over the past seven decades, so why ignore this?

The Underlying Importance of Saints vs Arsenal

by Jake Austin

This match had a certain hidden weight to it. For both the traveling ‘Gunners’ and the defending Southampton with both manager’s jobs on the line both teams needed goals and points. Southampton, for another mediocre season and the dismal run of goalless performances since the defeat in the EFL cup final to Manchester United in February, and Arsenal following once again a disappointing season where Arsené Wenger failed to live up to the lofty pre season expectations of finishing inside Champions league qualification and challenging for the title instead of struggling for fifth place. This, combined with the Fact that Arsenal could not, for the first time in 22 years, finish above their London rival, Tottenham, added to the gravity and excitement of the end to end attacking first half of football at St. Marys. And, until the half time whistle blew it seemed that the season was over for both teams. Despite the quick flow of the game and the constant attacking threat posed by both sides, it seemed that once again Southampton would not be precise enough to score, and Arsenal would not deliver to expectation. This was made worse, through the injury of Alex Oxlade – Chamberlin in the 35rd minute who had been the focal point and Commander of Arsenal’s attack until his injury and substitution. Both teams, however lacked bite in their attack, and were generous in handing over possession, especially in the final third of the field, turning the game into a counter attacking repetition until the end of the first half.

This trend was completely transformed after half time with two different teams stepping onto the field. Arsenal began to show their dominance and smothered feeble Southampton inside their own half for the rest of the game. Arsenal, however, still failed to show their true class by wasting possession meaning Southampton were still able to launch threatening counter attacks. Arsenal however persevered and Alexis Sanchez scored a moment of magic through wrong footing two Southampton defenders and firing to take the lead. This momentum then spurred substitute Olivier Giroud to head in Arsenal’s second, minutes after coming onto the pitch, sealing the win and salvaging Arsenal’s seasonal chances.

This game seemed to be a microcosm for Southampton season with at times exciting, flowing football but their lack of precision and the absence of the “clinical edge” as described by Claude Paul, to score goals meant the injury depleted defence could only hold on for so long. The Game also showcased the two tropes of Arsenal, with the first half disappointment and inability to perform contrasting to the dominance of the second half that show cases the potential of Arsenal under Arsené Wenger and their ability to perform at an elite level.

You Have Four Minutes

by Tom Fairman

One interesting fact that has come to light this week came from Jim Messina, who was Barack Obama’s campaign manager. He states that the average voter only thinks about politics for four minutes each week and hence the message you have to get across needs to find its way into those four minutes. Cue endless repetition of meaningless catchphrases, bringing both ridicule and eye rolling from those whose interest is in politics.
There is a intense pressure on politicians then to make sure they are on script and do not do anything to deviate off message because they do not want to miss their window of opportunity. You can almost see it in their faces when they answer a question, trying to work out how they can fit it in. Sometimes they do not even try, and just say it anyway. Rarely do they get a chance to have another go and neither do we.
After His resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me?” as a way of allowing Peter to makes amends for his denying Jesus three times before his death. How much relief must he have felt to have been able to correct what he thought was his final mistake? When someone you love dies suddenly, there is always an element of regret, of wishing you had one last special memory or conversation, of feeling like there is some unfinished business. When you have the opportunity to be able to say goodbye to someone you love who is dying, you can feel unsure about what to say. You do not want to mess up your four minutes, just in case they do not come around again.
My Grandpa has cancer and he wanted to get all his family together to celebrate one last time, to create one more memory for us all. He is a man who has always had time to listen to our stories, our cares and worries. He is always there, available for as much time as you needed. He is a great story-teller too, longing to relate the family history and keeping those alive in our minds who have passed away, but also those we have never known. His stories will continue in our lives as he completes his. Also his faith and dedication are an inspiration to his family and he will be sorely missed.

Why I Would Vote SNP

by Georgia McKirgan

There are two problems with the title to this piece. Firstly, I don't turn 18 until September this year so I won't be able to vote in the General Election on 8th June and secondly, the SNP don't stand in non-Scottish constituencies so there will be no SNP candidate where I live. If both these obstacles could be overcome, I would vote SNP.

My starting point is that I'm worried about the effects of an ideologically-driven hard Brexit. The main reason for voting SNP is that a large group of SNP MPs in Westminster is the best way of forcing Theresa May into a softer kind of Brexit deal. The harder a Brexit deal that gets agreed with the EU, with the inevitable severe economic consequences, the more likely is Scotland to vote to leave the U.K. The more real Theresa May sees this threat to be, the more reasonable a deal she may try and negotiate. If she sees that the SNP contingent at Westminster is significantly smaller, see will think there is no political downside to a hard Brexit.

PGS Birds

by Tony Hicks

The Greening of Football

by Henry Percival

Today, for the first time in their 128 year history, Forest Green Rovers (FGR) won promotion to the football league. They beat Tranmere Rovers 3-1 in the National League playoff final at Wembley. There is something very different about this club however. They are almost 100% vegan.

Their chairman, Dale Vince, is a green energy industrialist, bringing with him his green ways to the club. Upon buying the club, Vince banned all red meats from the clubs menus for health reasons. Within a few weeks, all sale of red meat items at the club was banned. Since then they (club staff) have eaten vegetarian options and free-range poultry and fish from sustainable stocks. However, at the end of 2015, no animal products of any description were available at the club. If the players wanted a cup of tea, then they would have to find a substitute for cow's milk. This piece of action made the club completely vegan, and making them the only club in the world to do so.

This isn’t the only green thing that Vince has done. He installed solar panels on the roof of one of the stands at their ground, using the electricity generated to power the clubs lawnmower, which is also solar powered. The energy generated is also capable to power 25% of the clubs stadium. To top this also, the playing surface at their ground is completely organic. The pitch collects rainwater, which can be recycled and then used around the stadium. Any grass cuttings from the club are given to local farmers to help them condition their soil. Finally, the area around and outside of the ground has been turned into a habitat for wildlife through the planting of trees and and flowers.

Blue Skies Over PGS

by Tony Hicks

Images from the weekend.