Thursday, 28 June 2018

Gender Inequality in Choral Singing

by Cordelia Hobbs

‘. . . As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.’ (1 Cor 14:33-35)

Only 50 years ago, every cathedral in the country had exclusively male choirs with the lower parts being adult men and the higher parts being predominantly boys aged 4-14. We have finally seen girls choirs being integrated into part of the weekly routine of cathedrals and churches up and down the kingdom, most are only about 10 years old with only three Anglican Cathedrals left with no female chorister of any kind; Oxford, Hereford and Chichester. These Cathedrals choose to uphold the “tradition” of the boy chorister or treble. In response to that I would say, why pick and choose what traditions to uphold? If pure cathedral tradition dictated the lives of cathedral goers, women should stay silent and shave their heads as per Corinthians; as if women are purely an object to be possessed by a man. It is my opinion that the argument of “tradition” is not only illogical but hypocritical, has sexist undertones and is ultimately self destructive.

‘...If a woman does not cover her head, let her hair be cut off. And if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.…’ (1 Cor 11-6)

As we know for a fact as people of a fairer and more egalitarian society, this treatment and opinion of women is not acceptable, nor am I suggesting it is taken into account in any of the Cathedrals named who remain without girls. However there is still considerable evidence that women’s rights are being threatened. On the brighter side, we have seen developments in the pursuit of gender equality over the past few decades with the first female bishop, Libby Lane, ordained into the Church of England in 2015 and the introduction of the first female at St Paul’s last year, who sings the alto line after over 1000 years of a all-male choir.

Although there have been some steps in the right direction, it must be said the treatment of said girls choirs in Cathedrals is far from equal. It is commonly the case that boys perform much more frequently, have larger practice rooms, priority staffing, singing lessons, higher and unequal payment, are first choice at the most prestigious events and generally have more funds and effort invested into their experience as choristers at the expense of the girls. Many cathedrals complain of insufficient funds but surely the rates boys are paid can be split or half sacrificed in the name of equality? However small or insignificant the margins of inequality, it is still inequality based purely on tradition and the genitals one happens to be born with. This injustice is a common problem and a hot topic of cathedral politics. It is an increasingly regular occurrence that girls are given the privilege of a choir however that is about where equal treatment stops. Remarks such as, “there is no chance of a choir football team either” are still made. This one in particular by Richard from Wraysbury, England who commented under a BBC article apropos of girls in cathedral choirs. Richard, it might be wise to think before you type and, last time I checked, women still have functioning feet so don’t be too sad.

Carrots: The Answer to All of Life's Problems

by Mozhy Hosseini-Ashrafi 

We like carrots. Carrots are tasty, and vibrant in colour. A carrot is the perfect food; crunchy, sweet and full of nutrition, rich in beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin A, potassium and antioxidants. The carrot is a vegetable easily appreciated by all ranges of people.
Although usually orange, carrots can also come in purple, black, red, white and yellow. They have a single origin of Central Asia, from the wild ancestors in Persia. Initially cultivated for their aromatic seeds and leaves, carrots were presumably selectively bred to produce a sweeter root for consumption purposes. Later in World War II, Propaganda was also used to promote carrots as methods of improving vision in the dark, when city blackouts occurred. This myth comes from the substantial source of Vitamin A in carrots, which is beneficial for eyesight, however, carrots do not improve vision.

The solution to all problems; carrots provide food for the hungry, trade for the poor, colour to a boring salad and a title to rambling essays. Carrots can be many things, but they cannot do. They are an object; a thing, they don't have opinions to be considered. Carrots have no conscience. We speak so boldly about doing everything to make this one life we have count, but carrots spend their one life simply existing.  They are alive and growing, with offspring, adapted to survive and yet they don't have the ability to appreciate the supposed 'one life' they are granted. The simplicity of the life of a carrot is both beautiful and terrifying, and one we have not properly considered.

The standards we hold ourselves to are more the expectations of those around us than our own true aspirations. To quote the iconic song 'All Star', '[it] didn't make sense not to live for fun.' Ticking a generic box does not equate personal fulfillment, and we can't afford to live someone else's life when our own is so short. ‘Only shooting stars break the mold’ but no one mentions the isolation of success that being a ‘star’ holds.

What if all we were in life is a state of being? What is so wrong with simply being happy with existing. The drive to become richer, stronger, more beautiful is endless and therefore futile.The desperation to sustain some form of memorable mark on the earth seems pointless when you are not there to appreciate it. Justifications of existence is like a quest for treasure that may not exist. Sometimes, instead of trying to justify everything we see and do, we need to stop looking for these answers, stop existing and start living.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Play: 'Hot Tea'

by Poppy Goad

MARTIN: I’ve brought you some tea. (Puts tea down on side table next to Alice)
Don’t drink it right away though because it’s hot. You might burn your tongue.
(M sits down on the sofa next to Alice who is in a chair next to him – he carefully sips his tea – he has a nervous agitation about him)
(A looks to the cup of tea next to her)
ALICE: Oh, you brought me tea. (She takes a sip)
It’s hot. You could have warned me that it’s hot. I’ve burnt my tongue.
(M does not respond, he just stares forward slowly sipping his tea)
M: (Still staring forward) Al.
(Looks at A)
Al I’ve got to tell you something and I want you to really listen, do you understand? Al? Do you understand what I’m saying?
A: (Does not look at M – seems in her own world) It’s so nice outside. The garden looks really lovely. We should get the sprinkler out for Hannah, she loves playing in it. Where is it, we should go and get it now.
M: Al, Hannah’s up in Manchester now. Do you remember? She’s a teacher now, she teaches history, just like your sister did. Do you remember?
A: (Looks confused for a second) Oh. Right.
M: Al can you look at me. Alice, could you look at me please?
(A turns to look at him)
M: I need to…Um, there’s something I need to, to, to tell you.
Do you remember last Christmas? Hannah came down, and she brought that girl she was dating who wouldn’t eat meat, or maybe she just didn’t eat turkey. And I’d made that huge turkey, and for some reason none of us really ate any of it. I think it was because she would stare at us like we were eating a puppy if we did.
(Laughs slightly uncomfortably) PAUSE
Anyway. We had all that turkey left over, and I said we’d give to the Colman’s. They had their daughter over, Ga –
(DOOR BELL interrupts him)
(Martin goes to answer it)
M: Hi.
G: I’m –
M: Gabi, no of course, I remember you.
G: It’s been a while.
M: You must be here for the Turkey.
G: Yeah, although I don’t know why you have spare. (She walks into the room)
M: Oh, er, we’ve had a vegetarian staying. (Goes and gets the turkey)
G: Ugh, they’re the worst aren’t they.
M: (Awkwardly laughs)
(Hands Gabi the Turkey)
G: Thanks. God, this place has not changed at all. I remember right there was where I hit my head after sliding down the stairs.
M: You were always the wildest of Hannah’s friends.
G: (Laughs)
M: No, I liked it. You were always talking and chatting. None of her other friends wanted to talk to me.
G: Well I like talking to you.
M: (Changing the subject) So, are you just staying down here for the holidays?
G: No actually. London got a bit too much, so I decided to just come down and stay with Mum and Dad for a bit, you know, clear my head.
M: Oh, that sounds good –
G: You know what they say, change is always good.
M: Right –
G: And who knows, maybe I’ll find something fun to do here.
M: Well they have just reopened the ice-rink.
G: (Laughs)
M: Well, thanks for taking that off our hands, we would never have eaten it anyways.
G: How is Alice?
M: Oh. She’s good. I mean there are some bad days, but… (His voice trails off)
G: Right.
It was great to see you anyway. And thank you, for the turkey.
M: Course, no worries. I hope you aren’t too bored staying round here. (Laughs)
G: I’m sure I won’t be.
(G leaves through the front door)
M: After that I thought about her a lot, just thought about her. About how her hair smelled like that cheap off brand shampoo you can get at the supermarket; how her nails where bitten down so that the skin around them looked raw; the sound of her laugh. I didn’t even care that I was thinking about her; I wasn’t doing anything wrong – just thinking.
We ran into each other all the time; at the post office; at the hardware store; saw each other putting out the bins from across the road. It was so silly; every time I saw her I could feel myself going red. Blushing, at 52! (Laughs)
It was like I was in school again, like when I first met you…It was those moments, I guess, well I’m not sure, I mean, it could have been…
But we started planning to see each other.
I would kiss her and my whole body would tremble.
(M seems to drift into his own world)
(G comes to him and starts kissing him on the cheek tenderly)
G: We should go away somewhere.
M: Hmm?
G: You and me, we should just pick a place and just drive, without looking back.
M: (Laughs)
G: I’m not kidding! Imagine going to France, or Italy. Oh, imagine going to Rome! (smiles mischievously)
M: (Laughs) Rome?
G: Yeah! We could eat Italian food, we could go sightseeing. Oh! Think of how much pizza we could eat –
M: You know Italian’s don’t actually eat that much pizza. Italian cuisine is much more pasta based.
G: You’re spoiling it!
M: No, it’s a nice fantasy.
G: It doesn’t have to just be a fantasy.
PAUSE (M doesn’t respond)
You know when I was living in London I was always going away somewhere on the weekend. I once ended up in Edinburgh singing Elton John with a dozen quilted men at this pub I just walked into.
M: Are you trying to make me jealous?
G: Maybe. (Tracing a finger up and down his arm)
M: I did crazy stuff too you know.
G: Oh really?
M: Oh yeah. I once went on a road trip round France and intentionally missed out Paris just to spite the travel brochures.
G: You’re crazy!
(They both laugh)

Photography: Summer Moon in the Afternoon

by Tony Hicks

Photography: At Sea

by Tony Hicks

HMS Queen Elizabeth leaving last month:

Small boats sailing out of the Camber:


Monday, 25 June 2018

Photography: Sunrise and Sunset at PGS and Portsmouth Point

by Tony Hicks


Sunset at Portsmouth Point:

Photography: Fuschias

by Nicola Watson

The History and Myths of Delphi and the Oracle

by Rebecca Stone

Many people know of the myths and legends of the ancient city of Delphi. That the Oracle of Apollo used divine power to answer the question of the person willing to travel to the mountainside sanctuary on Mount Parnassus. Questions from the prediction of the outcome of a certain war, to whether their child would reach old age were asked. The Oracle gave vague, riddled and cryptic answers which were often misinterpreted.

Delphi was a religious sanctuary, sacred to the God Apollo. Originally, the sanctuary was named Pytho, after a snake which Apollo was believed to have killed there. Delphi was also considered the centre of the world, for in Greek mythology, Zeus released two eagles, one to the east and another to the west. Delphi was the point at which they met after encircling the world. This is represented by the omphalos which stands outside of Apollo’s temple and marks the spot where Apollo killed the python.

The process of asking a question and receiving an answer was a lengthy one. The Oracle herself (usually called the Pythia or priestess) would first have to perform acts of purification, such as washing the nearby Castalian Spring or burning laurel leaves. Next an animal was sacrificed. This was usually a goat. Finally, whoever wanted to ask the question would present the Pythia with a pelanos (a sort of pie) and would then be allowed to enter the inner temple to receive the long-awaited answer to their question. Above all this, predictions only occurred on certain days per year. The Oracle usually presented her answers in a drug or natural-gas induced state of ecstasy. 
Probably one of the most famous stories of Delphi was that of the King Croesus. Croesus was the king of Lydia. Faced with war by the Persians, Croesus travelled to Delphi to consult the Oracle on his course of action in this battle. The Oracle, told Croesus that if he went to war with the Persians, a great empire would fall. Reassured by the Oracle’s prediction, Croesus went to war against the mighty Cyrus, king of the Persians. However, the Lydians were routed at Sardis and it was the Lydian empire that fell (also a great empire). This showed that the oracle could easily be misinterpreted by the unwise or over-confident.

Historical research of Delphi has shown that the city did actually suspend a few wars. Although the Oracle herself may be a woman who has inhaled a few too many natural fumes, Delphi itself was a safe-haven and a no-mans-land. No fights between different country men could occur there. Because of this, while waiting to present their pelanos to the Pythia, friendships were made between the different people, even some who were at war. These men went back to their countries and petitioned to resolve the issues between them, because of the friendship they shared while in Delphi.

As well as the Oracle and her predictions, Delphi was also famous for the Panhellenic games, which was a collective term, as the name suggests, for four major sports festivals in ancient Greece. These games were the Olympic and Pythian Games (held every four years), and the Nemean and Isthmian Games (held every two years). Each game honoured a particular god. The Olympic honoured Zeus, as well as the Nemean which also honoured Heracles. The Pythian Games honoured Apollo, and the Isthmian Games honoured Poseidon. Delphi was most famous for hosting the Pythian games. Participants could come from all over the Greek world, including the various Greek colonies from Asia Minor to Spain. However, participants probably had to be fairly wealthy in order to pay for training, transportation, lodging, and other expenses. Neither women nor non-Greeks were allowed to participate, except for very occasional later exceptions, such as the Roman emperor Nero.

Britain and Her Relationship with Her Former Colonies.

by Zoe Rademacher

“The empire on which the sun never sets”, this phrase, once the proud description for the British empire has since been tainted with a sour note. Following the death of the last true colony (Hong Kong) in 1997, young Britons have gotten into the habit of only seeing one side to colonialism. Though it is important to recognise the crimes committed against native peoples living in colonised areas. It is also important to see the long standing effects that britain has had on its former colonies, and the commonwealth.

To begin with, some Countries which were once colonised by Britain have since become more successful, when compared to their counterparts in the same area. This however is only true for those countries who have chosen to uphold the systems and values the british had set up there, such as in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and America. Two of the most successful regions in Asia were also once colonies, such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

One of the most important civil rights to have been upheld in britain for a number of years is the right to a fair trial. Aside from Singapore all of the aforementioned countries maintain a Jury system, the significance of the Jury system being that it shows a respect of civil rights. The Jury, an English custom since the 12th century has been the backbone of success within these countries. When a state recognises all her citizens as equal within the eyes of the law she can then truly become a Success.

Alternatively, countries who have since won their independence from Britain, and have refused to acknowledge the good with the bad have only held themselves back. Much of the African and Middle Eastern territories, which arguably suffered the most during British rule have taken this path. But for the furtherment of their own countries perhaps forgiveness, and acceptance is the only path forward to becoming more prosperous.  

Photography: Fauna and Flora at PGS

by Tony Hicks

There has been an albino squirrel in the Quad over the last week:

An adult and young goldfinches:

Friday, 22 June 2018

Does Intense Schooling cause Myopia?

by Emily Stone

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a refractive error, which means that the eye does not bend or refract light properly to a single focus in order to see images clearly. The disorder causes close objects to look clear but distant objects to appear blurred. It is the leading cause of visual impairment that affects on average 30-50% of adults in the United States and Europe. It can be inherited and is often discovered in children between the ages of eight and twelve. However during the teenage years, when the body grows rapidly, myopia may become worse. Patients with myopia have a higher risk of developing a detached retina, and a serious condition has a higher risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.

Recently, a study has shown a possible link between the intensity of schooling and the onset of myopia. As societies have developed formal education systems, incidences of myopia has increased from around 1% to as much as 80- 90% in young adults. There is a direct correlation between rapid increases in the prevalence of myopia and rapid changes in access to education. An example of this is in East Asia after the Second World War and in China at the end of the cultural revolution.

Looking at East Asia in more detail, there has been a trend of increasingly early onset of myopia in the school years in East Asia This is probably due to early intense educational pressures such as homework at preschool level, combined with little time for play outdoors. As a result, almost 50% of children in East Asia are now myopic by the end of primary school, compared with less than 10% in the British ALSPAC study. The number of people affected by myopia is expected to increase from 1.4billion to 5 billion by 2050, based on existing trends. This would affect around half of the world’s population.

Whilst researchers have long been aware of the correlation between myopia and education, it has not been clear whether increasing exposure to education causes myopia, myopic children are more studious, or socioeconomic position leads to myopia and higher levels of education. However a new study by researchers at the University of Bristol and Cardiff University used a technique to Mendelian randomisation in order to prove the causation between myopia and education.

Monday, 11 June 2018

BBC Radio 2 500-Word Challenge Final

by Samir Patel

The grand final for the BBC Radio 2 500-word challenge was held at Hampton Court Palace this year. The event was hosted by Chris Evans with performances from John Newman, Bastille, HRH Duchess of Cornwall, a choir, a musical fanfare and many more.

Although my story wasn’t selected as a top 50 in the challenge I did get tickets, so I could attend the event. It happened on the eighth of June 2018 from 6am to 10am.

At 5am they made a queue so the 3,000 people attending could wait in a line. By half past everyone had arrived, and the line snaked back and forth, but it was a good rest for everyone after the long journey there.

There were two categories 5-9 & 10-13 years of age, and there was a bronze, silver & gold award in both categories. The stories were fun, entertaining and often politically correct.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Review: Machinal

by Daniel Hill

Based on a true story, Machinal is a play by Sophie Treadwell which is told through episodes and was the single play that was published within her lifetime out of the thirty nine that she wrote. The Almeida Theatre stage is transformed as Natalie Abrahami, whose recent work includes Wings at the Young Vic and Queen Anne for the RSC, directs this thought provoking play.

Sophie Treadwell’s play tells the harsh story of Ruth Snyder (or Young Woman) who was the first woman to be executed by Electric Chair at Sing Sing Prison in New York. We see Young Woman go through her life as she seems almost trapped within certain situations including, work, home and marriage. It is only when her affair begins that she is able to have some freedom on the side of her life and it is perhaps that accelerates her decline into insanity. Natalie Abrahami directs this piece with a deep insight into the harshness of the main character, without losing the sight of the bigger picture which possibly suggests she is trapped in a prison throughout her life. In the final scene, she cried out the words, “No more - not now - I’m going to die - I won’t submit.” which gave us a clearer insight into how she had felt her whole life in a world of entrapment.

Emily Berrington is brilliant in the role of Young Woman who shows this uncontrollable emotional side of the character throughout. Particularly in her monologue during Episode 2 in which she is questioning her mother in regards to the almost unwanted love she received from her boss and future husband. It was delivered with ease and confusion which really brought her performance to life. The rest of the cast supported her well and were able to create the foundations of the performance.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Review: 'Fatherland'

by Daniel Hill

Frantic Assembly’s new production, Fatherland, premiered in Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre and has since found its way down to the Lyric Hammersmith in London where I was lucky enough to see it. The play is mainly verbatim, but does push the boundaries of this form by introducing a character who was not based on the real life interviews that the three playwrights performed. It is written by Scott Graham, Simon Stephens and Karl Hyde who interviewed a range of men from their hometowns, confronting them on the subject on Fatherhood. On stage, we see some of these interviews brought to life by the all male cast. It is directed by Scott Graham who is able to craft the scripts into a thought provoking performance.

The play repeatedly returns to Scott, Simon and Karl questioning various people who range from young adults to their own fathers which gives the audience a snapshot of the memories of their fathers, and what being a father means to them. What originally sounds somewhat unlike a lot of Frantic’s known work, such as Lovesong, Beautiful Burnout and more recently Things I know to be true, the audience are transported to their world with moments of unity between the cast, as well as mesmerising physical theatre which make Frantic Assembly who they are. The almost dance-like movements are paired with powerful choral chanting from the main cast along with the Chorus of Others, a group of volunteers who swarmed the theatre, which gave me goosebumps as I was watching the play.

The three actors playing the playwrights are good, but it is a few of the interviewees that stand out. David Judge plays the role of Daniel who gains a lot of sympathy from the audience, as we hear the story of his distance relationship with his father. His softer attitude towards the subject gives his portrayal a unique aspect in this production. Tachia Newall plays the role of Craig who has a young daughter of his own and Newall gains a lot of support from the audience throughout which is also added to by his vocals which are also brilliant. He conveys a real sense of understanding throughout his moments on stage. Craig Stein plays the role of Luke and by doing so breaks the rules of Verbatim Theatre. The questioning nature he provides to the piece gives it a sense of freshness. The chanting sound created by the combination of actors does give this piece a sense of unity as well as power. We are treated to this once again when leaving the theatre, as the Chorus of Others are chanting in the foyer.