Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Review: 'A Beautiful Young Woman'

by Fenella Johnson

In López’s enticing debut novel, a man examines his childhood in hopes of better understanding his mother’s disappearance in the charged political atmosphere of Buenos Aires , during the military coup of the 1970s. He gains new understanding of his mother's activism, and in the process reframes the memories from his childhood in the political context of the time, coming to terms with a deeply felt loss.

Everything in Julian Lopez’s  debut novel ‘A Beautiful Young Woman’ is too much ; the Argentine summers, which become in the narrator’s mind one eternal blurred summer, are too oppressive and hot.The city of Buenos Aires is overwhelming in smell and sound : the characters are too lurid and sultry, the women obvious caricatures of telenovela actresses. Even the adjectives in the title seem excessive. This is fitting in a way, for the novel is written from the perspective of a child- no wonder then, that everything is too large and too vivid.But this largesse often serves to contribute to the sense that the plot will collapse under Lopez’s ambition. It is, at its highest points, both a study of a mother’s relationship with her son and an exploration of what it is like to live in the looming shadow of fear. However at its lowest, Lopez appears to be a author who is attempting to stuff a novel with more shocking moments than it needs : therefore it is, by the end, overcooked .

A 'Beautiful, Young Woman'  is  a novel seemingly about nothing and yet also about many things, driven not by plot but by the author’s obsession with memory as the plot returns again and again to a series of scenes from an Argentinian man’s childhood. The novel is not set in any particular time : it operates outside of it ,as a rumination on memory, and the narrator is simultaneously both a young boy, terrified  and alone, and the grown man, troubled  by what he can neither remember nor explain. Often deliberately confusing, the novel meanders, focussing on several images of the mother - dedicating pages to her hair, her hands, her mouth-, deliberately dissecting what it is to project an image of extreme femininity : ‘beautiful ,young’ conflicts in the novel with traditional ideas of motherhood. This means it is more like a loose collection of short stories bound together by a question that is even more omnipresent for it’s never being uttered :why? For the ‘beautiful young woman’ of the title is the narrator’s mother, whose abandonment of her child simultaneously defines and fractures him. And this disappearances, although ambiguous, has weighty cultural meaning : despite it’s never being outright stated, it is implied by the end of the book that she is one of the ‘disappeared’ (murdered) men and women who were believed to be left wing ‘enemies’ of the vicious military dictatorship that ruled Argentina during the 1970s and 80s and simply vanished during the so-called ‘Dirty War ’. The mother does frequently disappear on suspicious errands and the unnamed mother and son live alone in a cramped apartment where the doorbell is not to be answered when it rings : the novel often becomes not only a personal attempt to understand the disappearance of an individual, but nods to the nationwide disappearances - ‘“I tried to push myself toward a childhood without deceit, without suspicions, but it could not exist for any of us’. This is furthered by neither mother or son being named, allowing them to become symbolic of the many Argentines who either ‘disappeared’  or had to confront a disappearance.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Literary Redemption: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

by Isabella Ingram

The story of Iceland’s last execution in 1830 – in which a man and a woman were beheaded for the murders of two men on a farm in Illugastaðir, northern Iceland - has been mythologised in the country today. In the 200 years following its occurrence, the stories surrounding the double murders have inspired ten novels, a feature film and a pop song – whilst both the farm in which the murders took place, as well as the site of the execution, have become tourist attractions on Iceland’s “Illugastaðir ghost trail”.

For a story that has inspired so many other stories, there are remarkably few known facts about the Illugastaðir murders. It was reported that, on the 14th March 1828, a woman burst in on the residents of Iceland’s remote farm of Stapakot, with the news that the neighbouring farm at Illugastaðir was on fire, and that two men were trapped inside. When the fire was extinguished, however, it was found that the two men had not died from the flames, but had instead been stabbed twelve times and clubbed with a hammer. The woman had been one of the three murderers, and the farm had been set alight with shark oil.

It is perhaps not the details of the crime itself, however, but the gloomy, haunting landscape of Illugastaðir – with its sea-fogs and grey skies – that has captured the imaginations of so many. One such person is Australian author Hannah Kent, whose novel, Burial Rites, tells the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, one of the three murderers, in the days leading up to her execution, during which she was held in the home of a farming family from the village of Kornsá, due to the absence of prisons in Iceland in the early nineteenth century. Burial Rites was published after Kent won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2011, and has since become a global success.

Whilst Kent’s novel is one of many fictionalisations of the Illugastaðir murders, its portrayal of Agnes distinguishes it from many of the other publications on the subject. Burial Rites presents Agnes as the manipulated and abused servant of Natan Ketilsson, who was one of the two victims. The murders, furthermore, are instigated not by Agnes but by Friðrik Sigurðsson – who, motivated by jealousy, had brutally injured Natan, and was consequently executed alongside Agnes. Agnes herself, meanwhile, stumbles into the scene, and – upon finding Natan wounded and dying - is forced to finish the kill out of mercy: ‘“Do it!” I said. “Will you leave him slowly to die?”’. After this, she is quickly convicted and imprisoned, and the novel becomes a critique of the patriarchal nature of the contemporary justice system, which was compelled to condemn Agnes not for her crime but for the woman that she was, whilst the “young and sweet” Sigríður Guðmundsdóttir – or “Sigga”, who was also involved in the crime - had her sentence reduced from capital punishment to life imprisonment, because her nature more closely conformed to society’s notions of ‘femininity’.

Poem: Darkened.

by Holly White

Please come to me and see
My hands outstretched and cold
Walk to me with conviction
And darken those eyes and tilt your head
Hold your breath and I’ll hold mine
I’ll do it ‘til I faint
If it means the focus between us burns to
The ashes at our feet
And then I’ll get on my hands and knees to
Begin the devotion to hold each ash;
Overflowing in my pockets,
I’ll look up to see those darkened eyes
And then I’ll slowly stand and now you’re
Miles away.
And now I’ve lost you all again
Because I broke the gaze
To pick up my feelings -
Forgetting you can’t see my heart.
And you turned around
Seeing only games in my plea.
Please come to me and see
My hands outstretched and cold
Walk to me with conviction
And darken those eyes and tilt your head

Please hold onto me and see
The tears streaking my face
and the cold blood I have.
Please touch me with those darkened eyes, I beg
Please make me feel warmth. 

The Positive Aspects of Peer Pressure

by Grace Acklam

It has to be said that throughout the past decade and the many decades preceding that, that peer pressure has been mainly been affiliated with the teenage culture of self-exploration. There have been many news stories which have firmly slated teenage society as being ever more forceful and encouraging of bad habits and foolish decisions in the heat of the moment, including issues relating to alcohol and drugs. On top of this, the permanently growing social media platforms, through which we all choose to communicate and present the ins and outs of our lives to others like us, are heavily criticised for influencing the way in which we perceive ourselves.

Peer pressure has become something of a negative weight in every teen’s life, and it cannot be contested that this is the honest truth and that every teenager in this millennial generation will be feeling pressured in some way that our parents will not have faced in their adolescence. Take for example, being continually aware of our need to work harder and try harder and achieve better grades than the friend (that isn’t really our friend) who has boasted about their impeccable grades online. It cannot be denied that the burden of peer pressure is increasing twenty-four seven, and do not mistake me when I say fully understand that peer pressure is a bad thing with potentially catastrophic effects which we all endure whether being willing or not.

However, there are undoubtedly positive aspects to peer pressure that are very commonly overlooked and discarded, but which if we focus on instead of the negatives, may give us a different outlook on teenage society.

The first is that peer pressure can push us out of our comfort zones. Whilst is must be acknowledged that we can be pushed out of our comfort zones in both negative and positive ways, consider in this light that we are surrounded by people who make us feel comfortable and who we trust, and that they can see the potential we are unable to recognise ourselves; then by them pushing us beyond the boundaries we set due to lack of confidence, it can be almost always guaranteed that the outcome will be positive. Peer pressure can lead to new discoveries about yourself that you had told yourself did not exist simply because you were too afraid to leave the box you placed yourself in.

Film: '48 Hours in Chatel'

by Lottie Allen

Monet’s Gardens in Giverny

by Alex Porter

My photos of the lily pond and lilies at Giverny

While on holiday in Northern France, I was lucky to be able to visit Monet’s gardens and house in Giverny, Normandy.

Detail from 'Water Lilies' by Claude Monet

The Giverny garden is probably the most famous garden in France and around 500,000 people visit it every year to see where Monet, the famous French Impressionist painter, lived and worked. Many of his paintings were painted in the gardens, including his famous ‘Water Lilies’ ‘Japanese footbridge’ paintings, which are some of my favourites. Monet lived in Giverny from 1883 until his death in 1926; during this time, he created 2,500 paintings, most of them based on his beautiful and unique gardens.

What Does the Future Hold for Kyle Edmund?

by Oliver Wright

Kyle Edmund’s remarkable Australian Open run came to an end in a heavy defeat against sixth seed Marin Cilic in the semi-finals. The British number two lost to Marin Cilic 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, who now progresses to face either Roger Federer or Hyeon Chung in his third grand slam final (having won the US Open in 2014). Struggling with a hip problem throughout the match, Edmund achieved only two break points, both of which were in the first game of the evening, and a double fault on his opening serve immediately set him on the backfoot, leading to him eventually capitulating to the pressure losing the first break of the match in game six. Although Edmund made the Croatian work for his win, sending the second set to a tiebreak, he didn’t challenge the serve of the sixth seed regularly enough to provide any dangerous resistance, with Cilic dropping only five points from his first serve. Cilic’s aggressive style was too much for the 49th seed, with the vast difference in experience showing as he clinically finished the match in straight sets.

Despite the disappointment in not being only the fourth Brit to reach a Grand Slam final since tennis turned professional in 1968, Edmund can still be extraordinarily proud of his best run in a Grand Slam to date, surpassing his reaching the 4th round at the US Open in 2016. In his remarkable run, he managed to beat both 11th seed Kevin Anderson and 3rd seed Grigor Dimitrov, both of which were career-best wins at the time, highlighting just how incredible his progression through the draw was. He was however, dominated from the outset by Cilic, and although Edmund could have blamed the loss the injury sustained to his hip, with his difficulty shown through the medical time out and treatment he received for it, he showed great maturity and respect for his opponent’s excellent performance in describing the injury as ‘irrelevant’. Unfortunately, the problem with his hip will potentially disrupt his preparations for next week’s Davis Cup match against Spain, with Edmund unsure as to whether or not it will have fully recovered in time for him to make an appearance. This leaves for a nervous wait on a medical report for the Great British team that is strongly reliant on the man who will hopefully front their claim to regain the Davis Cup trophy won for the first time in 2015, in the absence of Andy Murray.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Village Tales: The Great Flood Fiasco

by Nina Watson

Rain pelted the walls of Bramble Cottage, and the windows were barely holding onto the panes with the ferocity of the wind blowing through them. Wendy looked worriedly at the tempestuous weather outside and huddled even deeper into her man-made fort of blankets and cushions on her sofa. Her husband Michael had gone out hours ago to get emergency food supplies on Wendy’s orders, for fear that they would have to take refuge at home away from the horrors of the storm, and she was beginning to hyperventilate over the thought of her husband drowning in a puddle. Waddling into the kitchen in her duvet ‘toga’, Wendy stirred the saucepan of beans she had left on the hob with a dejected flick of her wrist. Resigned to the fact that she was now totally alone, that storm Kevin had stolen everything from her, she glumly stared at the stale hunk of bread covered in burnt beans about to go in her mouth. The weather would probably cause a power cut soon and Wendy hadn’t the foggiest idea where her fuse box was, or, what a fuse actually did. She could see it now; stray cats yowling from their perches in what they thought was a derelict home, her beautifully upholstered armchairs tattered and barely standing and Wendy, sitting by the mysterious ‘fuse box’, eating tuna from a tin and still trying to figure out the instruction manual. Oh the shame, the horror, the terror! With a silent tear rolling down her cheek, Wendy chewed and chewed on that crusty bit of bread.


Leaves hit him in the face with a wet slap and Michael tried miserably to swipe them away. His galoshes were clearly not up to standard as he was accumulating a lovely community of river-dwelling insects between his toes and his trench coat wasn’t faring well either. The Tesco ‘bag for life’, however, was very well equipped at looking after the groceries, and the cheese biscuits (which according to Wendy were completely necessary) were still dry as a bone. He had passed a few lone rangers on his expeditions to the shops and they had all given each other an assuring nod as if to say, “carry on champ, you can do this. Think about the grief you’ll get at home if you give up”. Well, Michael was on that same homestretch now and the sight was a sweet one, only slightly marred by the deafening gurgle as he waded through the river, formerly known as Greenpine Road. What Michael didn’t see, however, was the little pothole at the bottom of the puddle he was struggling through. As he felt his ankle twist, his arms flail wildly and a mangled cry escape from his mouth, his only thought was to protect at all costs that bloody ‘bag for life’.


Wendy woke with a sudden start, the thud of a door and the meow of a cat rousing her from a restless sleep. Out of habit she reached to the left side of the bed to shake Michael awake also, but her hand was met with cold air and she made a mental note to follow up on the missing persons report she had tried to file hours ago. A note of fear ran through her as she latched onto the idea that a crook had taken advantage of the terrible conditions, and was currently trying to steal her fine china sheep figurines or, perhaps even worse, her favourite Swarovski beads that she had only just ordered from QVC. Remembering that it was 2018 and that this was the age of empowered women, Wendy quietly unplugged the lamp from the bedside table and held it out in front of her in the most menacing manner she could muster. Halfway through padding down the stairs Wendy heard a loud rustle, a squelch, another loud thwack and a low grumble. Utterly confused and scared (and still convinced that the robbers had hand grenades) she ran into the kitchen with a garbled wail, blindly waving the lamp in all directions. The pink macramé lampshade connected with a very soggy Michael, and Wendy opened her eyes to see him rubbing the spot on his forehead that she had just hit and clutching for dear life on to a bag of shopping! “Oh, Michael darling!” She cried as she flung her arms around his neck, “where on Earth have you been?”

“Out down shops, like you said. Quite wet out there ya’ know.” Michael slowly began peeling of the layers of clothing that had stuck to him and began wringing them into the kitchen sink. Wendy took the shopping bag from Michael and began to unpack as he flung the fifth twig from his hair out of the back door. “Michael, for God’s sake, you forgot the Brie!” Wendy said exasperatedly with her hands on her hips, “Well, you’ll just have to quickly pop out again tomorrow and get some. Honestly, I said buy the essentials and you waltz in here with hardly anything!” Michael decided to not try and get rid of the water blocking up his ears; he much preferred the muffled falsetto of his wife’s nagging that way.

The Failed Franchise of Tron

by Nicholas Lemieux

Tron legacy lightcycle
Famous Sci-Fi movie franchises: Star Wars, The Matrix, Back to the Future, Alien...Tron?

For those of you unaware, Tron was a Sci-Fi franchise invented by Disney back in 1982. At the time, the first two films in the original Star Wars trilogy had just been released to mass financial success. Hoping to capitalise on this recent influx of Science Fiction films, Disney started work on creating their own live-action movie they intended to become the next biggest Sci-Fi. 

Tron was primarily inspired by the arcade video game Pong and its primary intention was to create a movie set within the inner workings of a video game. The film starred Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn, a computer programmer who, whilst trying to prove a corrupt corporate executive has stolen his video game programs, finds himself transported into the digital world of a mainframe computer, where anthropomorphic programs are consigned to fight for their lives in gladiatorial games. Working alongside these programs, including the titular main character, Flynn must now find a way to not only escape from the software but to also stop an evil AI known as the Master Control Program, who seeks access to the computer systems of the US government and military.

Although originally intended to be a fully-animated film, Tron was eventually developed into a live action film with computer animation being utilised to create the digital world of the mainframe. Its effects, whilst a bit cheesy now, were revolutionary back in the 80s and today still comes across as being very impressive for its day. One could even argue that, as one of the first Disney movies that incorporated CGI, it somewhat paved the way for Pixar. When it was first released, Tron received generally positive reviews, with particular praise going towards its computer-generated imagery, but proved to be a general flop at the box office, grossing only $33 million worldwide, nowhere near the hit Disney intended it to be.

Women in Black

by Rebecca Stone

During 2017, more women than ever have started speaking out about their experiences with sexual harassment, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention or gender harassment.
            After the investigations into Harvey Weinstein's conduct, more people began to speak out about sexual harassment, leading to a string of allegations against other prominent men like Donald Trump, Kevin Spacey, Roman Polanski and others. The campaign known as “Me Too” encouraged a number of famous celebrities, female influencers and everyday people alike, including Reese Witherspoon, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence and many more, to tell their story and confirm a devastating and largely unspoken truth: that sexual assault and/ or harassment does happen, and is happening all over the globe, every day.
            The topic of Gender domination has also been breached. Women speaking out about their bosses using sexual coercion against them to continue their employment or for the victim to receive a promotion or pay increase. The phrase ‘quid pro quo’ comes to mind when talking about the ‘casting couch culture’. However, this action could be used both by the employer and by the employee so that they may receive the job. Men may question about where the boundary is between sexual coercion, where women are using their sexuality as an advantage for themselves and their future, and sexual harassment, the making of unwanted sexual advances, when questioned about this behaviour.
            In addition to this, the discrimination movement, when taken too literally, is used by some women, to alter someone’s decisions. Many women could complain about the gender discrimination to their sexuality in their job, and hence receive a larger salary, on account of the company not wanting to be sued for unlawful discrimination of gender at work.
            The discrimination movement should be women fighting for the equality of the female gender as a whole, and not just for themselves. It should not be taken as a loophole in to receiving what they want, nor should it be used for coercion.
            During the Golden Globes award, as part of the “Me Too” movement, women in the entertainment industry made a statement by wearing all-black dresses on the red carpet. The women expressed their solidarity through fashion, transforming “Me Too” in to “Time’s Up”. They were wearing black “not out of morning, but out of an awakening” says Salma Hayek, actress and producer. Several men also showed their support for the campaign by wearing ‘Time’s Up’ lapel pins.
            Some people appreciated the show of support and solidarity, others thought it to be empty and meaningless, and there were some who considered it a misjudged call to still (literally) shoulder the darkness they’d only just begun to escape. However, the sight of the red carpet swarming with black showed victims of assault and harassment that they should no longer simmer in the dark secrets and the shared silence, but to say “Time is up”, and embrace what they have so long tried to hide out of guilt and shame.


Photography: Winter Birds

by Tony Hicks

Food for Thought

by William Northeast

Schools, colleges and universities differ greatly from one another, but there are some things they all have in common. One example is testing. Whether it is testing your sporting prowess to an end of year chemistry examination; all educational establishments conduct tests. These quizzes or exams, can result in sleepless nights with students worrying about how they will perform. For years, students have been led to believe that revision is the most vital piece of preparation we can do to get the grades we aspire to. In addition, sleeping well and saving times for breaks and exercise also play a key role in improving test results. However, one of the biggest things students don't consider is their diet. What you eat and when you eat it may be the difference between passing the exam or getting that perfect test score you have dreamed of.

To function throughout a school day, sleep is necessary for the brain to rest and be ready to learn new information and facts. The right food and drink can help a student who is struggling to get enough quality sleep during exam periods. According to, the best four foods for the brain are blueberries, wild salmon, avocados and walnuts. Blueberries have recently acquired the term ‘superfood’ due to their antioxidants which preserve your ‘youth’. They have also been found to slow brain aging and are good at preventing neurodegenerative diseases. They also may reduce the risk of age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer's or Dementia. In effect, if you thrive to stay healthy, young and fit for longer, adding blueberries to your next meal is the way to go! In addition, Walnuts, Salmon and avocados are rich in omega-3 fat. As stated by the university of Maryland Medical Center, these fats and nutrients have been found to reduce risks of heart disease, cancer and arthritis! The body does not produce these fatty acids, so it is vital to include foods with omega-3 fats to prime the prime to aid memory and concentration.

One of the worst food groups to eat before exams is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates don't provide long term energy, therefore you may suffer dips in energy during exams, which could impact your results. Carbohydrates can also make you feel heavy and sleepy. Chocolate and sweet treats are equally poor nutritionally when preparing from and taking exams. They provide huge energy highs but again for only a short period resulting in even more bursts of reduced concentration. In addition, these treats are full of sugar and fats, which in the long term, are very bad for your dental hygiene if consumed regularly. In addition, students should avoid drinks with caffeine. One should also avoid ‘brain-blocking’ beverages such as alcohol and energy drinks which are effective at providing a short term boost but will lead to energy and concentration problems if drunk over a prolonged period. Trying new foods, even if recommended by parents, is not a good idea before exams as they could result in negative effects on your body such as diarrhea or sickness.

Protein rich foods lead to greater mental awareness therefore a protein high diet could help improve your exam preparation. Healthy food choices on exam day include eggs, nuts, yogurt and cottage cheese which will help you focus in your forthcoming test. Dehydration is key to why many students lack concentration during lessons and maybe the reason your test result dropped. A cup of tea or glass of water can greatly increase hydration, therefore an improvement in brain power will follow and thus your next test result may not be as bad as before. My younger brother has a slogan at his school regarding hydration; “the more you drink the more you think.”

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

'Darkest Hour': The Continuing Romanticisation of Winston Churchill

by Mark Docherty

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill is the man who won the War for Britain. His premiership saw an upturn in the fortunes of the country and he almost single-handedly kept the morale of the nation positive despite the horrors of wartime. When Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister, Churchill was the only man who could have taken power, and he duly stepped in to save the country. 

That is the view given in Gary Oldman’s Darkest Hour, anyway.

Churchill is a national hero and history will always place him amongst the great British Prime Ministers. In the modern era it is realistically impossible to criticise the likes of Churchill without being branded as unpatriotic. Social media is constantly rife with political activists arguing that Churchill is representative of their party’s positions and claiming that he would or wouldn’t be in favour of Brexit. 

However, while it cannot be denied that Churchill was an unqualified success as a war leader, his reputation as one of the great politicians in history is surely unrepresentative of his career as a whole. While historical films are not known for giving a wholly reliable account of the times they document, it is distressing to see the extent to which characters such as Churchill are romanticised by the public at large.

There is a valid argument to say that films such as Darkest Hour have no obligation to be true to history as their only responsibility is to entertain those who pay to watch them. This is true, and it is also true that a film criticising Churchill would probably be financially unsuccessful and be accused of anti-patriotism. Perhaps this casts light on a problem with wider society: if people learn about the past through semi-fictional films and films need to romanticise and exaggerate in order to make profit, history will always be looked upon in a nostalgic way, misleading generation after generation. 

Monday, 22 January 2018

Why Social Media Companies Are Becoming Too Powerful

Lewis Wells explains how major Social Media Companies are leading to the demise of start-up creativity, whilst simultaneously becoming all-powerful. 

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
It’s with certainty that I argue these companies are more powerful than both you and I could possibly imagine. Their creators are celebrities, and the organisations themselves are political advocates and players in global matters. In their respective early years, all were capable of their basic selling points: communicating with others, sending small messages, sending vanishing photos, all-accessible videos. All were so simple and concise in their respective creations, one could perhaps explain their uses 
quickly and effectively. Nowadays, they all “pretty much” do what the other does. By paraphrasing “pretty much”, I remind myself that I would have to spend hours differentiating between them all and clarifying my point as such an explanation would require precise analysis. Moreover, all are now in control of so much more, from their sphere of influence to how capable they are in strangling creativity in the modern era.

You may not ‘need’ them all anymore, as was formerly the case. Should you have to choose only one application among seven, it wouldn’t be such an emotional and perplexing task as it may have been several years ago. Now, via one app, I can pretty much do all I really need and want to do, said the average person in a recent survey. But why? Surely it can’t all be down to technical and creative superiority and that they all originated around the same time, in the same country. 

Well, it’s not as easy as that. 

With commanding on average hundreds of millions of compulsive users each comes great responsibility. I mean, governmental involvement, advertising opportunity, global influence, systematic bias. Each application is worth billions, should one wish to purchase, and each company enjoys valuable turnovers and successes on a regular basis. "To whose dissatisfaction?" I hear you ask. I mean, not everyone can be happy, can they? And how have they kept this up for so long, without valiant challenge? 

Going for Gold: Top Tips for Your D of E

by Izzy Sambles

Last term, a team of five of us set out to complete our Gold Duke of Edinburgh. To make the challenge even harder, we decided to do it on bikes. So, with all of this now behind us, we wanted to pass on what we thought are the most important items to bring on your Duke of Edinburgh award.

First things first, you must keep hydrated. Throughout Duke of Edinburgh, you are pushing your body through a physical challenge, so any fluid is essential to rehydrate your body and keep the morale up. However, every award you do will seem long and drinking plain water for the whole time can get boring quickly. Therefore, I found carrying around a Robinsons Squash’d (or any other similar product) really handy as it was very light and didn’t take up much space, but it also meant that I was drinking a lot more fluid than I normally would due to the contrast of squash and water.

Typically, when you think of a luxury on DofE, a special homemade sweet treat from your mother might come to mind or maybe a packet of your favourite sweets. However, Immy thought outside the box and on our practice, she brought along a three-leg folding stool. Not only was this easy to fit in a bag but, for the main expedition, she kindly got one for all of us. And so, after a few arguments about who was going to get which colour, when we set off in the rain on the first day of our actual expedition you can imagine how grateful we were that our bottoms remained dry when we stopped for breaks.

Looking down the list for what to pack, there is always a suggestion of dry fruit. Yet it is a bit like marmite: either you like dry fruit or you don’t. It is fair to say that Meg certainly did not fit into the latter category and at every stop she seemed to whip out yet another bag of dried bananas or raisins. She had such a large supply that by the end of the four days we began to question the size of her panniers and whether she had managed to gather any tips from Mary Poppins. This is not a complaint, as we soon began to realise how many arguments could be solved through eating this type of food and regaining our energy and brains. And, as they contained natural sugars, we felt that there was no harm in eating handfuls of these as a substitute for the artificial sugars found in sweet packets.

The main components of a bicycle are the wheels, frame, seat and chain. And, as Max found out, they can break. It was just after a very steep climb that he realised he could no longer peddle his bike and had to get off.

But what was the issue?

Photography: The Hilsea Lines

by Nicola Watson

Review: Star Wars Episode VIII- The Last Jedi

by Joe Brennan

Another year over, another Star Wars film seen. And with another Star Wars film, another heated debate between passionate fans ensues: specifically, between me and my friend Alex Gibson. We have very conflicting opinions: he didn't like The Force Awakens but loved Rogue One. But I loved The Force Awakens and didn’t LOVE Rogue One.

So who was right? Was this the best film since Empire or has it overtaken Attack of the Clones as the worst one yet? Well, here’s what I thought of it.

It somewhere in middle of both extremes, but that’s not bad. I loved it- it’s far stronger than the prequels and probably better than Return of the Jedi. I’ve seen it twice now, first on the Friday of its release in the Leicester Square Empire IMAX and then again on the Sunday in Portsmouth. The film was truly unique when it came to structure and character dynamic and seemed to break (or at least bend) every convention previously set up by Star Wars films while still staying true to its origins. Rian Johnson had the difficult balancing act of juggling so many characters, a darker tone and a sense of comedy that doesn’t detract from the seriousness of other moments. And save for a few missteps, he did a fantastic job. The cinematography and CGI are truly breathtaking, John Williams blows us away once again with an amazing new score (I’m currently listening to it every night to try and decide if it’s my new favourite) and the cast provide so many stunning performances.

The new, younger cast introduced from the last film are back and better than ever. A comedically snivelling Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux is slowly becoming my favourite Star Wars character as he perfectly plays off the conflicted angst of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. Daisy Ridley manages to convincingly display a facade of calm determination that often slips to reveal Rey’s emotional vulnerability- showing us once again why she was the perfect choice to lead a new trilogy. Oscar Isaac somehow managed to make Poe Dameron more charming and attractive than last time- he is joined, as always, by the increasingly adorable droid BB-8.

The Orig-Trig characters are back too! C3PO has more to do in this film and used his time to remind us what made him so iconically annoying! R2D2 provides a brief yet touching moment of spotlight and makes it very clear why fans everywhere love that little astromech. The ult favourites like Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb return as resistance leaders, although it could be said that neither were given enough to do; at least there’s potential for the next film...

Friday, 19 January 2018

How to Care For Yourself in 2018

by Claudia Bishop

I belong in the category of people who tend to, on the 1st of January, use the phrase “New year, New me.” Only recently have I realised how difficult it is to actually keep up with this new lifestyle that seems to spring itself onto me every year. So this year I decided, instead of creating a whole new me that, to be honest, wasn’t doing such a bad job last year, I would start this year off by caring for myself better. This is a useful resolution that can be achieved and make you much happier.

I know that last year I left all work until last minute (resulting in a lot of unwanted stress) so I have decided that this year I will try to avoid this by using an app that will hopefully stop my procrastination. This app is called “Forest” and is £1.99 and grows a tree for the amount of time you spend off your phone. This means when you open your phone and try to go to a different app, the forest app sends you messages telling you that your tree will die unless you come back to the app. It is an oddly satisfying way of getting your work done and stops you from procrastinating on your phone.

When you aren’t doing work, it’s important to do something you enjoy to take your mind off everyday stresses and worries. Whether it’s singing, drawing, dancing, organising etc make sure you enjoy it because it’s always important to have a release to get away from school/work.

Jeff Buckley and the Tragedy of Unfulfilled Potential

by Cordelia Hobbs

“I just want to have a completely adventurous, passionate, weird life” - Jeff Buckley

He certainly lived up to this self-made, self-fulfilling prophecy. Jeff Buckley made one studio album in his lifetime, entitled “Grace”, but maybe he was best known for his elegiac and deeply emotive cover of Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah”. 

Scott Moorhead, as he was known to his family, always difficulty lived in the shadow of his famous folk-rock father, Tim Buckley, who was absent for virtually all of his life. This angered Buckley; his father had died of a heroin overdose aged just twenty eight, having only met Jeff once a year before his death when Jeff was eight years old. 

Jeff Buckley's real and close parent figure was his step father, Ron Moorhead. Jeff Buckley's talent was ironically spotted at a tribute concert for his father. Wrinkled hippies swooned over his eerily similar vocals. It was as if a ghost of Tim Buckley had come down from heaven to perform one last time via the medium of his son. His music career shot off. Jeff Buckley, as he was now known, spent the early years of the 1990s after college doing covers of all kinds and developing some originals in Manhattan. Most notable were covers of The Smiths and Nina Simone but he explored every corner of music, even indulging in English choral composers such as Benjamin Britten. It is safe to say he appreciated the beauty and intricacy of all music. One recording of a night in open mic cafe, Sin-é, during these early years resulted in a live album, the only other full album we have left except Grace.

Grace may be my favourite album of all time and I’m not alone in this thought. Musical God, David Bowie, named Grace the best album ever made and considered it his only “Desert Island Disc”. I can see why. The album is unbelievably versatile, from the sweet, floating and awe-inspiring soprano notes of “Corpus Christi Carol”, demonstrating Buckley’s superhuman range of nearly four octaves and a tessitura (natural vocal range) alike to opera legend Pavarotti. At the other end of the spectrum we have the gritty, ineffable electric guitar riffs in “So Real”, showing Buckley’s wild and natural virtuosity that was born when he first picked up a guitar aged five and honed in those roadie years before. His most famous recording would have to be a cover of Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah”. Jeff Buckley describes the first time he performed “Hallelujah” at an open mic night as completely spontaneous, learning the chords just before his show. The recording has peaked at certain times after his death, most notably in the UK in 2008 after Alexandra Burke sang the song on the X factor, although it was never quite as popular while he was still alive. When you listen to the record itself, it’s easy to see why it's a hidden gem. Buckley has something haunting and hypnotic about his voice, the intertwined themes of lost love and religion are reborn in Jeff Buckley’s vocals and the meaning of the lyrics are drawn out in a whole new light with every listening. His incredible breath control is demonstrated near the end in which he holds a C note for a full twenty eight seconds with unwavering tone and quality.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Do Authors Reflect Themselves In Their Protagonists?

by Poppy Goad

When writing fiction, most writers draw upon the clichéd but sage advice to ‘write what you know’. 
Some simply explore their native milieu and insert a fictional plot, while others write a roman à clef, skirting the border of fiction and reality.  But how far does that statement transcend the setting of the story and diffuse into the characters? It is usually by coincidence that little idiosyncrasies of people the author knows end up becoming part of the characters they write, allowing them to create more vivid depictions of the world around us. It is also common for authors to base characters entirely on someone they know, perhaps as a tribute or merely because they fit into the story being told. However how much of the time do authors reflect themselves in their characters?

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas

It is widely known that classic authors like Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde reflected themselves in their characters. Hemingway explored his own life through fiction with the aid of his parallel self, called Nick Adams. He wrote 24 pieces of fiction on this character, later collected into a book called ‘The Nick Adams Stories’. Oscar Wilde was also speculated to have used himself as a basis for the character of Basil Hallward in ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’. Basil’s obsession with Dorian was seen as an allusion to Wilde’s homosexuality and relationship with ‘Bosie’( Lord Alfred Douglas). Later in his life, ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’ was actually used as a piece of evidence to prove his homosexuality in the trail to punish him for his sexual preference.  It is no wonder that authors are reluctant to mirror themselves in characters, or to reveal that they have, as doing so can show so much of who they are. Hopes, dreams and insecurities and fears can be voiced through paper and if a keen and meticulous reader is able to see it then the whole façade of the characters fictional origin is broken.

George Orwell and HG Wells
This being said, not all authors reflect themselves in such a vivid and vulnerable way. It is often common for science fiction writers to live vicariously through their characters through their fiction. This allows them to be the hero in their own story, writing their own future to escape from the constant uncertainty that reality can hold. Orwell, Wells and Huxley can all be seen using characters of similar depiction that mirror some of their own attributes. Middle aged men of unremarkable beauty and little to no talent or resounding importance, brought up to be the unlikely protagonists with idealistic and futile dreams of social change and revolution. However, in most of the fore mentioned author’s works these dreams rarely become a reality. In Orwell’s 1984 Winston becomes broken by room 101 into submission to find love for Big Brother, accepting the growing control over every life. Huxley’s protagonist Bernard Marx in ‘Brave New World’ is sent off to an island full of individuals with controversial ideas like himself so is isolated and secluded from the society he once hoped to understand, and Huxley’s second protagonist John (the savage) becomes a recluse on the outskirts of the city, eventually driven to madness and hanging himself. While Wells’s protagonist does seem to begin to change the society of social repression that he has found himself in, the protagonist, Graham is then suddenly killed at the end of the novel, leaving the story uncertain and unfinished, the reader never truly knowing whether the revolution succeeded – although we are led to believe that it did. 

These bleak endings do not seem to correlate with the idea that the protagonists were a reflection of the author’s own dreams of social revolution, although perhaps that they all ended without the exultant hero triumph was to attempt to reflect the harsh brutality of reality further through their text. Although this is all speculation it is interesting to see how a lot of the times the supposed ‘heroes’ do not come out victorious at the end of these story. This could further be a reflection of the insecurities of the authors that they are not able to see themselves flourish in this new colour and are vulnerable to the pessimism brought on by the fin de siècle(for H.G. Wells) and in the mid-1900s(for Orwell and Huxley).

Poem: Who's for the War?

by Jamie Bradshaw

A parody of Who's For the Game by Jessie Pope (see Pope's poem below the break) which was written during the First World War. Pope was criticised by soldier-poets such as Wilfred Owen for her jingoistic poems (published in the Daily Mail) that glamourised and trivialised war.   

Who's for the war, the giant bloodbath,
The screams of the dying young men?
Who's going to march down the nightmare path,
Knowing death beckons time and again?
Who will watch their friend be flung from their feet,
A bullet smashed straight through their skull?
Who'll watch their pal's face be covered by a sheet,
A victim of the everlasting cull?
Who'll look into the eyes of a petrified foe,
Ending them with a singe trigger pull?
Will you in a struggle strike the fatal blow,
Like a matador slaughters a bull?
So go, fight the war-
You may be alright,
But you may come back in a box
Is the war really worth your life's final fight,
Or are you all placing your heads on the blocks?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Doubtful Double

by Thomas Cracknell

On the 10th September 2017 Chris Froome won the Vuelta a España for the first time, meanwhile launching himself in the to the cycling history books as he became only the third man to win consecutively the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España and the previous double was 19 years ago. In completing this feat of history Chris Froome cycled 4264 miles over the course of the summer which, to put it in to perspective, is equivalent to riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats 5 times; he spent a total of 165 hours on the bike in one summer. Moreover, he is estimated to have burned 252,000 calories - the equivalent of 5,600 chicken nuggets.

So how did he do it? One speculation was the limited number of racing days leading up to the Tour de France. Froome’s mere 26 racing days do suggest perhaps he was more rested, prepared and ultimately focused on the Tour-Vuelta double with is comparatively low number of racing days on the run up to these two grand tours. However, on investigation its shows that, although 26 is low, it is only one day less than 2016 and 2015. On the other hand, there is the suggestion that it is purely Froome’s and Team Sky’s focus and goal setting on achieving this with this season being the first ever time they have declared openly this as their ultimate goal. In addition, it could be speculated with the Vuelta occurring after the Tour de France and as the final grand tour it comes as an afterthought to the world tour teams, so that the focus of Team Sky on this tour bucked that trend and allowed them to achieve the double. Finally, Chris Froome’s success is, without a doubt, a result of his killer competitive instinct and drive to win and succeed, as was best shown on the final day of the Vuelta which was set to be a procession for Froome. However, to deny his closest rivals the green jersey as well (points classification leader's jersey) Froome sprinted to the line where he ultimately claimed the green jersey as well.

However, his summer of success and riding in the yellow and red of the leader’s jersey has come to an end with a controversy casting his historic achievement in the doom and ‘Froome’ of doping allegations.

It began on the 7th September which coincided with the 18th stage of the Vuelta a España, where a urine sample taken by the UCI’s anti-doping body was found to be “adverse” with high readings of Salbutamol. But what is salbutamol and why has Froome taken it? It is a common asthma medication often found in inhalers, to reduce symptoms of asthma, and it can also be ingested orally. More importantly, it is not on WADS’s (world anti-doping agency) banned list of substances and therefore, does not require a TUE (therapeutic use exemption) to use; however it is monitored in urine tests and is only permitted up to and not exceeding a certain level, 1000 ng/ml. However, Froome’s sample from the 7th September was around double WADA’s legal limit.

So … on the face of it this saga is very clear cut. Froome produced a urine sample over the legal limit on a drug which is strictly controlled. However, it is not a simple as it seems. Due to salbutamol, not being an out and out banned substance by WADA it did not have to be publically disclosed when this sample was found. It was only due to an investigation by Le Monde and The Guardian which made this public knowledge.

So, what does this mean right now? 

The New Tourism: Space and the Deep Ocean

by Katie O'Flaherty

Mars and the Deep Ocean. Poles apart, yet both overwhelmingly unexplored domains with so many unknowns. It is estimated that over 95% of the oceans of Earth are unexplored, going up to nearly 100% for the deepest regions of the ocean, yet the ocean makes up 95% of Earth’s living space. Pressure in the ocean increases by around 1 atm for every 10 metres descended (the pressure in the Earth’s atmosphere is 1 atm), with the deepest ‘layer’ of the sea being the ‘Hadalpelagic Zone’, which is only found in the deepest sea trenches, as it only exists below 6000 metres.

Mars is around 142 million miles from the sun, and when Earth and Mars are closest together in their orbits, they are 33.9 million miles apart. Travel from Earth to Mars would take around 9 months in transit, and after landing there would be a window to return 3 months after, with another 9 months for a return trip, thus the round trip to Mars would take 21 months. Not only this, but there are only windows to launch to Mars every 26 months, which makes planning exploratory trips to Mars a very long-term, logistics-intensive task.

Yet the expense and difficulty of exploring space, and more specifically Mars, has not deterred humankind from attempts to explore and understand, as proven by the 6 current exploration missions being run just by NASA to Mars, the most recent being the ‘Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution’ (MAVEN), which left Earth on the 18th November 2013 and arrived on Mars on the 21st September 2014. NASA has a further two missions planned for the near future: InSight, and the Mars 2020 Rover.

For undersea exploration, a mixture of ROVs (Remotely operated vehicles), HOVs (Human occupied vehicles), and AUVs (Autonomous underwater vehicles) are used. ROVs have to be constantly attached to a cable, operated from the ship, while AUVs have no cable, but instead have to be pre-programmed before descent. HROVs (a new breed of hybrid vehicles) can have either a surface operator, or drop the cable and be unmanned. Funding for deep sea exploration, however, is minuscule compared to that for space travel, with $32 million each year put towards ocean exploration, compared to the annual budget for NASA alone being $19 billion.

Human Underwater Vehicle
The reduced focus towards sea exploration has led to a far slower rate of improvement of understanding. The vikings started to explore the ocean in the 1st century, and many other races had begun to explore the surface of the seas before that, whereas the first human-made object to orbit the Earth was the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 in 1957, with the first human space flight being in 1961 with Yuri Gagarin. In 1934, ‘The Bathysphere’ reached a record distance of 3,028 ft, piloted by a well-known adventurer called Charles Beebe, and to date the deepest a modern submersible can reach is 20,000 ft below the surface, thus showing how the rate of exploration and advancement is drastically slower than that for space travel.

New Year, New You

by Emily Stone

Starting off the new year with a resolution is a time-honoured tradition. More often than not, these resolutions fizzle out by the time February arrives. Fortunately Lent is just around the corner with added incentive to pick it up again. However, these changes towards the better rarely last the entire year.

Obesity is the modern day epidemic, sweeping worldwide. The World Health Organisation has presented statistics demonstrating the astronomical scale of the problem. Worldwide, over 1.9 billion adults were overweight in 2016. Even worse, 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese. We live in a world where the majority of the world’s population live in countries where problems resulting from being overweight and obese kills more people than problems presented by being underweight.

There are many root causes of this problem. Readily available fast food and ready-made food, may be easy and quick to cook or cheap to buy, but they contain high levels of fat and sugar in order to satisfy taste buds. Additionally, the obesity problem is only helped by more physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization. This new way of life is growing in the future, as work becomes less and less hands-on as technological advances makes it so. On top of this, no more is there a compulsory domestic science or cookery course in schools. Ignorance of how to eat a healthy and balanced diet is prevalent everywhere and this only exacerbates the problems.

That is not to say the Government is not trying. Last year a sugar tax was announced that will be implemented this Spring. Tax on drinks that contain more than 5 grams of sugar per 100ml will be levied by 18p per litre, while those with over 8 grams of sugar per 100ml will have an extra tax of 24p per litre. The Government claim the money raised from this extra tax will go towards the Department of Education for school sports. In addition to this, there is, in the works, an aim to ban all sugary drinks from hospitals, leading the way by example so to speak.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Review: 'The Last Jedi'

by Alex Gibson

Generating more than $450-million worth of global ticket sales in its first weekend alone, the Star Wars franchise was back with a bang with the eight episode of the main saga, The Last Jedi. Considering the film has been out in cinemas for approximately a month, I thought it would be an ideal time to give my review. It goes without saying, but spoilers ahead.

When Luke Skywalker announced in the trailer, ‘this is not going to go the way you think’, he was absolutely right and I must confess I left the cinema in a world a conflict - a theme that is ironically explored throughout the franchise. I didn’t know if it was a huge success or a downright failure, but one thing to note, it was most certainly different.

Let’s start with the positives as there were several.

As with many modern-day films, The Last Jedi was visually stunning, from Luke Skywalker’s residence off the coast of Ireland, to the vivid detail of Crait - it was wonderful. Combined with an unsurprisingly magnificent musical score by John Williams, one could not help but feel truly immersed in the Star Wars ‘universe’ once more.

Not only this, but some of the characters were also very good, showing that the new breed of actors are positive replacements for those in the original trilogy who we have some anticipation of letting go. For example, the acting of Oscar Isaac playing lovable rogue Poe Dameron was a definite standout for me, especially as we perhaps did not see as much of him in The Force Awakens as we might have liked. John Boyega was another who gave a promising performance, once again proving that he has a bright future ahead of him. And, of course, appearances by Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher (who both carried a considerable presence on-screen I must add) were moments that really encapsulated the transition between old and new.

In addition to this, certain scenes brought a thrill to the latest instalment of the saga, such as the moments when Rey and Kylo Ren appeared to communicate using the Force and when these two characters fought side-by-side against Snoke’s guards. The latter made up for the fact that there were no lightsabre duelling for the first time in the main story’s history.

Similarly with episode seven, this new film drew parallels with the original trilogy, namely the use of large, intimidating walkers marching towards a base. However, the fact that the film was different was refreshing and is a definite reason as to why some enjoyed it. It was also a reason as to why some detested it.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Comparing the Broadway and West End productions of 'Hamilton'

by Eleanor Williams-Brown

(source: Daily Telegraph)
In case you have lived under a rock and never heard of Hamilton, it is a musical based on the life and times of Alexander Hamilton. It has been the hottest ticket for the past two years - and is now getting rave reviews in London.

I have loved this show for nearly three years, since it was in the Public Theatre before its move to Broadway, and in conjunction to listening to the album innumerable times, I felt some trepidation and did not want to set my expectations too high. Moreover, several summers ago I saw In the Heights, Miranda’s first original musical, and was blown away by the life energy, joy and a free drink of piragua, all showcasing how beautiful Miranda’s productions could be. So, with the immense love I have for this musical,and the original Broadway cast’s presentation of the characters, the West End production had to hit a very high bar. But, luckily, this show did not disappoint.

At two and a half hours, it covers Hamilton’s life in the Caribbean where his father left him and his mother died, meaning at 11 he had to become a shipping clerk. At 15, his ‘Hurricane Letter’, detailing one which had hit the island, was published in a local newspaper and was so spectacular the residents of St. Croix raised enough money to get him passage to America.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Hamilton rose to become aide-de-camp to George Washington during the War of Independence. Constantly outshining everyone in each field he encountered, Washington appointed him as first Secretary of the Treasury. In his 15 year long political career, Hamilton had the first American political sex scandal, founded America’s entire financial system, suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion, founded the New York Post and the Coastguard, decided the third president, and annoyed Jefferson so much a two-party system developed with him founding the Federalists. His life was cut short after being killed in a duel by his friend turned rival Aaron Burr in 1804, which isn’t much of a spoiler as it features in the first song.

After a series of delays, the London production of Hamilton opened on the West End on the 6th December, and I had the joy to go see it on the 8th;

Whilst no-one can stand up to Leslie Odom Junior’s spectacular vocals, Giles Terara held his own, shining most especially in The Room Where it Happens. The same can be said for the main female protagonist Eliza Schuyler (later Hamilton), whose portrayal by Rachel Anne Go was good, but nowhere near comparable to the incredible Phillipa Soo, who originated the role.

But, for me, it was Angelica (Rachel John), Washington (Obioma Ugoala), and Hamilton who shone. Already my three favourite characters, I knew I would be watching them closely to see how they could live up to Renee Elise-Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson and the shows creator Lin Manuel Miranda’s performances, they had tough shoes to fill. However, they all certainly stood out in the own right; it’s almost incomprehensible how Jamael Westman could portray Hamilton’s emotional journey from hopeful, over-excited, loudmouth to a slightly more beaten-down man, tinged with sadness. Westman only had two theatre credits to his name before this show, which is shocking given his talent, tthere’s, no doubt after Hamilton he will accumulate many more.