Thursday, 18 October 2018

Review: Wise Children

by Daniel Hill

Emma Rice has been on an interesting journey for this piece to finally materialize, starting off with her desire to adapt and stage this book before her time as Artistic Director at Shakespeare’s Globe. Luckily for us, the wait is now over as both the play and her new company, both named Wise Children, has hit the world. I was lucky enough to see this production at the Old Vic, London before it sets off on a nationwide tour. Much like any other piece created by Rice, it is filled with joyous, comedic and moving moments.

Wise Children tells the story of twins Dora and Nora and how they have ended up where they are today including an invite to a party from Melchior Hazard, who we later find out is their long-lost father. As we see them grow up Rice takes us on a journey from puppets to actors who both respectively morph into their older self. 

Emma Rice’s directing adds both comedy and sorrow into the lives of each character we see on stage, something which I have only seen in her productions. We see the heartbreak and joy from every character as their story evolves and the actor seems to be truly invested within the story as they become the characters with true conviction.

Emma Rice’s direction is exceptional as ever. Everyone in the audience laughed, some shed tears and they all seemed to enjoy it. Both through her direction, the choreography from Etta Murfitt (who also starred in the play) and the lighting design from Vicki Mortimer this production proves the amount of joy a piece of theatre can carry. It is clear to me how reliant Rice is on the technical aspects of her shows which really add a crucial element to the pieces. Without the lighting, some of the most memorable and breathtaking moments would not have been quite so effective which really gives credit to the design team behind this production as they enhance Rice’s and the cast’s brilliant work.

Poem: The Pond I Found Last August

by Honor Davis

To the place I ruined my sister's boots
Wrote my first poems
And broke a council sign
Where I thought I'd find frogs
But instead got stuck in slime

Where the birds sang louder than anywhere else
And beetles ran faster than a cat to a mouse
Where I found comfort in my loneliness
And harmony in the crunch of leaves,
Petrichor and nowhere to be anytime soon.
A sense of freedom, belonging and safety all in one

The pond I found last August
I found by nature's grace.

Art: Elemental

by Samuel Lewis

Review: The Unreturning

by Daniel Hill

Frantic Assembly’s new piece, The Unreturning, explores the struggles that men returning from war often face. Written by Anna Jordan, this cast of four have all been through the company’s program Ignition which trains young men in the Frantic style and as actors. By using graduates of this programme, Frantic are able to show the power of their form as well as showing the world their contribution to evolving theatre. The production is directed by Neil Bettles.

The struggle of returning home is portrayed through the eyes of three men, all returning to England from a different time period. At the start of the play 1918, 2013 and 2026 are projected onto the shipping container which is part of the set, establishing the wars that the men have returned home from. Although this seemed somewhat confusing when we, the audience, were introduced to each young man, over the course of the play Frantic were able to allow the three stories to work together yet also appear separate. The multi-rolling employed worked really well and allowed for some truly intimate moments. By employing this technique, it almost seemed as if the four actors were experiencing each other’s hardships. We were given an insight into both the sheer differences and close similarities of these men; the need to return Home was seen throughout. The typical Frantic Assembly physical theatre was included through some of the most troubling moments of the piece and even though some of these moments seemed slightly ‘GCSE Frantic Assembly,’ they were used effectively and came across very powerfully.

The set itself was very interesting. The main object of attraction was the large shipping container at the centre of the stage which was rotated by the actors themselves. Although it occasionally felt slightly needless, it was used in very creative ways in order to produce the illusion of a journey, separate but unite the war tales and introduce further creativity within the piece. One of the memorable moments was the journey taken by Nat as the container was turned by the other actors as we gained snapshots within this long and painful journey. The shipping container also allowed for another part of his journey to take part over water. Something appeared to be quite subtle in this part of the piece and the revolving shipping container allowed this to come across slightly more vividly.

Dimensions in Time: Doctor Who in 'Albert Square'

by Nicholas Lemieux

Picture the image: It’s 1993 and it’s been four years since the last series of Doctor Who. Having been declining in the ratings for some time, no thanks to Coronation Street being directly scheduled in the opposite time slot, the show has been “placed on extended hiatus” as the BBC put it after seven doctors and 26 seasons. Now the show’s 30th Anniversary is rapidly on its way and fans are working themselves in a major frenzy: The old classic episodes are being rerun on BBC Two, a new licence of original books based on the show has just been announced, and above all, there are rumours of a new movie-length special to commemorate the Anniversary: The Dark Dimension, an adventure in which the Doctors face off against a villain played by Rik Mayall of Blackadder fame within a sinister alternate universe where Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor never regenerated.

This never happened. Instead, we got Dimensions in Time

To all those fans who claim that the reputation and legacy of Doctor Who has been tarnished  forever by the casting of a woman in the title role: you apparently never had the privilege of experiencing Dimensions in Time. Airing in two less-than-10-minute parts, in conjunction with Children in Need and Noel’s House Party, the special had a relatively simple plot: recurring villainess the Rani plans to attack the Doctor’s timeline and abduct all of his incarnations. The first two Doctors (the actors having passed away) are only featured as creepy disembodied floating 3D heads, modelled with 1993’s finest yet most terrifying graphics. Already captured, Tom Baker’s iconic Fourth Doctor, now understandably more short-haired and pudgy, sends a warning to his fellow Doctors, advising them to defeat the Rani. In his own words, “The Rani hates me. She even hates children!”  Now the Doctor embarks on a very confusing adventure to stop the Rani, all whilst constantly shifting between his Third, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh incarnations alongside his companions, who are repeatedly and inexplicably shuffled, ranging from Ace to Sarah Jane Smith to Susan. This is all whilst bizarrely  travelling through various time periods, from 1993 to 1973 to 2013. Why are they constantly changing appearances and time periods? I haven’t the faintest idea and it just makes understanding the plot increasingly difficult. Also, there are monsters at one point which randomly appear then disappear (no Daleks though...). Furthermore, the entire episode takes place in Albert Square and features running commentary from the then main cast of EastEnders (no Dot Cotton. though...).

Photography: Hot Walls on an Autumn Morning

by Nicola Watson

A couple of photos for the blog from my hotwalls stroll today.

The Matt Bryan Interview: Mr Richardson

by Matt Bryan

I often like to read and watch politicians being interviewed, but each one is much the same as another. I always find myself asking the question: wouldn't this be much more fun if the topics were a lot less relevant and the questions a lot less expected? And so this dreadful idea of mine was born and I sat down with Mr Richardson last week to try it out.

Why did you pursue a career in teaching?
Because I really enjoy the sound of my own voice and I supposed that other people could greatly benefit from the sound of my own voice too.

Who would you say is your fashion icon?
My mirror, of course. I like to think that I dress pretty conservatively, more so than I did when I was younger. I remember a pair of green wellies and a pink Sou'wester with some horror.

Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Harrison Ford?
Surprisingly, no. That is the first time I have heard that. Thanks, I guess.

Which nightlife spot in Portsmouth do you frequent?
My study, whilst marking, but I'd hardly describe that as a hotspot: in short, none.

If you could invite three members of ABBA to a dinner party, who would they be?
The two girls, obviously, and I think Bjorn would be my go-to man. Apologies to Benny, if he is reading this.

What is the three-digit number on the back of your credit card?
I have no idea and I am also not that stupid, thank you very much.

What is typically your favourite font for reading 18th century sonnets?
I tend to go for Baskerville, being the man of class and taste that I am.

When in Rome, do you eat sushi or curry?
Probably curry; although the Italians are bad at them, I trust them more with that than with raw fish.

In what ways is Portsmouth Grammar School like Plato's image of the cave?
It is but a mere shadow of an ideal education.

What is your most shocking story from your teenage years?
It is too shocking for words, so traumatic that I've blanked it out entirely, but perhaps it involved a pair of green wellies and a pink Sou'wester.

How did the collapse of Carillion affect you and your loved ones (you may be entitled to some financial compensation)?
Not at all in my recollection, so I would probably not be entitled to any compensation.

Who is your favourite pupil in the Sixth Form?
Every one of them, of course, but my tutor group are a special group in my heart and display magnificent skill and loquaciousness in being silent every morning.

Which is your favourite Southsea Co-op?
The best one, naturally, is the one in Castle Road; there, you can enjoy the best Saturday-morning criossant - said to be better than those in France by multiple French witnesses.

Poem: Dreamland

by Honor Davis

Take me to my dreamland
Throw away the key
Call me by another name
Where I don't have to be me

Bury their words in pixie dust
Wish away the memories
on falling stars on the darkest night
Everything's as it seems

For in this land there is no fear
No scarring words
No burning tears
No reason to hide with a vacant smile
Or on the creaking kitchen roof
In the this world anyone can feel
Completely and utterly bulletproof.

Photography: Goldfinch and Bluetit

by Tony Hicks

Reputation and Misconception: Christopher Columbus and Friedrich Nietzsche

by Eleanor Williams-Brown

Friedrich Nietzsche and Christopher Columbus appear to have little in common. One was a philosopher, the other an explorer, and they lived in vastly different times. However, each has had their image actively altered to portray them as fundamentally different from what they truly were - Nietzsche for worse, Columbus for the better. Acknowledging their true characters offers a more accurate portrayal into both history and philosophy.

Friedrich Nietzsche, born into nineteenth century Germany, is now commonly remembered for his proclamation ‘God is dead’ and his appropriation by the alt-right. Richard Spencer, the American white nationalist leader, claimed he “was red-pilled by Nietzsche”; furthermore, Hitler visited the Nietzsche Archive and emerged gifted with Nietzsche’s walking stick. Spencer and other white nationalists interpret Nietzsche taking the belief that, as Sean Illing summarised, “Christendom united the European continent and forged white identity”, paradoxically believing these internalized values has made the West grow weak. They acknowledge Nietzsche’s belief that ‘God is dead’ - that reason and science have progressed beyond being able to justify a belief in God. But, they then ignore his continuation that you should then move forward, rather than returning to ethnocentric beliefs - indeed Nietzsche feared God’s death would create an era of people searching for a group identity. People like Spencer thus fundamentally misunderstand Nietzsche's point: the philosopher believed in slebstüberwindung (self-overcoming) to allow us to reach who we truly are; he did not justify racism.

Spencer can be chalked down to misunderstanding Nietzsche, but how did a man who claimed “I will have all antisemites shot” become an apparent supporter for the man who tried to eradicate Jewish people? Simply, he did not, his sister did. Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown from which he never recovered at only 44, leaving his sister Elisabeth in charge of his intellectual property. Elisabeth, who later became a fervent Nazi supporter, was married to a notorious antisemite; unsurprisingly Nietzsche did not deign to go to the wedding which was part of an attempt by his sister and brother-in-law to create a “pure-blooded” Aryan colony in Paraguay (it failed). Where she did not fail, though, was taking over Nietzsche’s estate and changing his writing, fundamentally altering his message for nearly forty years. She published Nietzsche’s autobiography, only after removing all unseemly references to herself, and amalgamated a confused mixture of his works to form ‘The Will to Power’, which she published under her brother’s name. This led to extreme right-wingers claiming Nietzsche and reappropriating his words, notably "Übermensch".

This is an egregious abuse of anyone’s work, but is made all the more potent considering Nietzsche’s progressive views towards women, which were thus nearly lost. Nietzsche treated his sister as an equal, aiming to widen her knowledge, and he supported a motion, in 1874, to allow women to enter Basel University. He and his friend, Malwida von Meysenbug, a prominent feminist, aimed to set up a school for all with nothing off limits. This intriguing feminist side of Nietzsche is almost lost to the general public, and the association he has been given with fascism limits the number of people exposed to a philosopher whose philosophy eerily forewarned our modern political situation. In addition, he encourages the humanities not to be dry and didactic but, much like Greek tragedies, to be used as a means of catharsis to fill the gap a lack of belief in God has left.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Transforming the Tudors: Diverse Demographics

by Philippa Noble

John Blanke (middle), Trumpeter to the King Henry VIII
(from the 1511 Westminster Tournament Roll)
Perceptions rule our day-to-day lives; they affect how we view our community, ourselves, and others. It is impossible to go through a day without using preconceptions and rightly so - otherwise we’d spend most of our fairly short lives trying to make sense of infinitely small sections of society.

Nevertheless, these can also cause trouble in our overall perception of society. Recent movements in POC and LGBTQ communities have tried to derail stereotypes as they negatively affect people’s opinions of them. For instance, a recent caricature of Serena Williams once again played into the stereotyped “aggressive black woman”, the very thing she was attempting to combat. These stereotypes and misconceptions were used to reinforce sexism, racism, and the institution of slavery (and to an extent still do). Therefore, it is important to correct the designated narratives of communities in our own country and across the world. In this article, I want to address two misconceptions that perpetuate into the present concerning the black community in Britain: firstly, that slavery encompasses the entirety of the black history in the Western world, and secondly, that racism is a thing of the past in Britain.

In reading Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann, I was introduced to the lives of twelve Tudors: all successful, some who had travelled themselves from Africa, some who (through generations) had gravitated towards England. Reaching heights such as trumpeter to the King (John Blanke) or salvage diver for the Mary Rose (Jacques Francis), Kaufmann champions the stories of free men in an old world. In this revealed Tudor England, Africans and their descendants are present (contradicting another infuriating myth) and are living according to their social standing (like every other citizen). No foreign monarch was treated as lesser because of their heritage, neither was a skilled musician kept away from palace grounds, showing not quite equality but certainly a lack of complete domination of white people in England.

Photography: SS Harry Truman Arrives in Portsmouth

by Tony Hicks

The Perpetual Royalist: Why Eugenie's Wedding Was Value For Money

by Zoe Rademacher

(BBC News)
In light of the second royal wedding this year, is it time we start asking the question: when is too much too much?

Over this weekend Princess Eugenie, ninth in line to throne, tied the knot with her long-term partner, Jack Brooksbank. However, the happy occasion was somewhat undercut by a tone a dissatisfaction, as all over the country people debated the cost of a royal wedding on the taxpayer. So I thought I’d put in my two pence-worth.

Let's face it: in the UK, we’re suckers for a Royal Wedding; most of us tuned in to watch the marriage of William and Kate and, earlier this year, Harry and Meghan. When it comes to Britain's most beloved brothers, we’re keen to protect them at whatever the cost; however, we seem less enthusiastic about those further down the royal chain.

So, let's first talk about what the taxpayer is actually paying for at the Royal Wedding: protection. We pay for the police to be out in force, protecting arguably Britain's most iconic figures. Everything else is covered for by the Royals.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Photography: A Spider's Work is Never Done

by Tony Hicks

Review: Flowers for Mrs Harris

by Daniel Hill

Daniel Evans directed the world premiere of this musical only two years ago as part of his time in Sheffield. As part of his new role as Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre, he has decided to return to this show to direct it for both his and its second time. With Book by Rachel Wagstaff and Music and Lyrics by Richard Taylor the musical is an adaptation of Paul Gallico’s novel of the same name. Starring Clare Burt, Gary Wilmot and Joanna Riding, this truly beautiful show is brought to life in the amazing Chichester Festival Theatre.

The musical tells the story of Ada Harris, a working-class woman who only just about manages to get by and never feels the need to have anything more but the bare essentials that life sends her way. One day she comes across a dress designed by Dior which she finds captivating and she creates a goal to own a dress made by the same designer. We see Mrs Harris’ efforts only ever destroyed by another person or action. The audience are taken on her painful, comical and joyous journey as she makes her way to France to fulfill her dream, something which seems so out of reach and unattainable. As we see her left on her own at the end of the play as she has completely lost all hope the flowers begin to flood the stage in one of the most breathtaking stage images I have seen. The music sometimes resembles the likes of Sondheim or Lloyd Webber which takes away from the originality at certain points.

Daniel Evans seems to really enjoy directing musicals in his role as Artistic Director of CFT. This is his third during his short time here and it really shows why he chooses this form of theatre to prioritise and focus on. His direction makes this piece appear really heartfelt to the audience and it becomes utterly beautiful. The revolve is used very well and the small cast size enables for the multi rolling to seem really effective. The set design is fairly simplistic by provides a focus on the subtle acting that the cast provides as if they were performing a straight play. There is something really special created by Evans through his direction of this play.

The Comeback of Heavyweight Boxing

by Sudeep Ghosh

After the retirement of numerous Heavyweight Boxing legends in the early 2000’s, it appeared that the sport would never reach the heights that it did in 90’s. This was mainly due to major Pay-Per-View attractions, such as Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. In fact the two aforementioned Heavyweights faced each other twice, garnering a total of 4,270,000 PPV buys over the two fights.  

In the mid-2000’s, the interest in Heavyweight boxing began to decline. It was dominated by the Klitschko brothers (Vitali and Wladimir), who, together, held every major Heavyweight Championship Belt for the better part of 10 years. Although both were highly skilled professionals, they failed to make themselves known as Box Office attractions.

This changed in 2017, when Wladimir Klitschko faced the new and upcoming talent, Anthony Joshua, at Wembley Stadium. Their thrilling battle, described by many as one of the best Heavyweight contests in recent times, ended with the Englishman, Joshua, emerging victorious in his home country. The fight was seen as a ‘passing of the torch’ between a veteran, and legend of the sport and the new face of Heavyweight boxing.

Since their classic fight, interest in the sport has increased rapidly, with many exciting and bold personalities emerging. Anthony Joshua leads a powerful Heavyweight roster including fellow Brit, Tyson Fury and current American champion, Deontay Wilder. Both of these men are scheduled to fight each other in a highly anticipated clash on 1st December.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Photography: Early Morning, Portsmouth

by Tony Hicks

Review: 'Allelujah' by Alan Bennett

by Daniel Hill

Alan Bennett’s new play premiered at the Bridge Theatre. Allelujah had a cast of 22 actors and is directed Nicholas Hytner, choreography from Arlene Phillips and design by Bob Crowley. A well-written comedy, complete with truly sentimental moments and characters which allow the audience to get invested in the play. The naturalistic set and direction within a NHS hospital possibly allowed this play to become as close to real life as possible.

Based in a Geriatric Ward in a hospital which recently been threatened with the possibility of closure. However, it seems down to both the workers and patients to keep the hospital operational. We are invited to take a glimpse of the hospital’s day to day operations as they have asked an external filmers to help create a documentary in order to save the Beth but this ends up making the problems explicit. The acting was of a high class allowing for this situation to become reality. The cast was filled with people who seemed relatable, familiar, evil and funny with Bennett choosing to prove he knows how to write a play. This is possibly necessary after the recent staging of his first work Forty Years On at Chichester Festival Theatre. The direction of the piece was not solely reliant on the comedic aspect of the piece even though this was key. Hytner was able to establish the tenderness of the script and relationships between characters that enabled Bennett’s work to be seamlessly transferred to the stage. The injection of music throughout kept the piece alive and provided an excitement as the elderly patient would erupt into choral song.

The acting was also very strong. Particularly I thought that Sacha Dhawan stood out in the role of Dr Valentine even though I don’t believe the role was written well by Bennett. Deborah Findlay was also very strong in her slightly inconspicuous role of Sister Gilchrist. These two actors worked quite well together on stage which helped with the whole play. Findlay also worked very well with Jeff Rawle playing the elderly patient Joe. There moments on stage together often provided the juxtaposition of emotion that made this piece what it was. The acting overall was very strong and this also goes for the dancing. Arlene Phillip’s energetic choreography helped brighten some of the darker moments of this piece and provided it with some of the chutzpah it embraced and used.

Village Tales: Harvest Maze Havoc

by Nina Watson

It was October and a chill was strolling through the air, dancing with the leaves who turned a shade of blush with embarrassment. As soon as she had sniffed out Autumn some weeks prior, Madge had turned to her wife Lucy in excitement and started the construction work. Now, in the field behind Mapplebottom Square, stood proudly the first ever ‘Harvest Hay Bale Maze’, all thanks to Madge. Of course being on the Mapplebottom Committee of Events and Spectacles, it was her duty to entertain her village, obviously excluding all entertainment containing whipped cream and fuzzy handcuffs – especially not after last year. The maze was six feet tall, with enchanting little gourds as decoration placed in convenient peepholes all around the walls of it, ribbons of bunting waving their colours around the outside. At the centre there would be Madge, standing happily in her tiny lookout tower, keeping a watchful eye on all the entrants into the maze. Oh she could not wait for the grand unveiling of it tomorrow, she was dreaming of it now as she poured the last drop of Cinzano into Lucy’s glass. Children would be crying for their lost parents, parents would be enjoying a coffee behind a particularly large bale and finally, after months of sneering and sniping and slandering, Madge could lob the odd toffee apple at Susan Hornslade as she ran into dead end upon dead end of hay. The joy, the fun, the excitement! If only Lucy had taken her credit card after she had purchased the glittery pink flamethrower from amazon, the maze could have been so much more interesting.. and flammable…

Steam curled away from her lips as Madge spooned some more pumpkin soup into her mouth, fumbling with her binoculars as she ate. She had a lovely setup in her watch tower; blankets, cushions, a chair, a selection of magazines, several orange flags for lost ‘mazers’ and a large plate of crudités that Lucy had made for her. She was having the time of her life laughing at all the villagers thinking they could conquer her maze, when suddenly she felt the burn of a gaze searing into the side of her skull. Madge whipped round, scanning the hay for signs of malice and fell into the fiery gaze of Susan Hornslade. Susan’s lip was curling, her fists clenching and her legendary lucky sweatband had yet again made an appearance around her monstrous head. There was an eyebrow raise from both women, a toss of the hair from Susan and a vicious bite of her crudités from Madge, and that was it – the game was officially on. Susan raced into the maze, snarling past Wendy and Michael Shelting, and tossing small children like bowling balls into her beautifully placed gourds. Right, left and right again. Left, left, left then right. To her horror, Susan was strutting through the maze with ease, even stopping to make sure Madge was still watching through the infrared gaze of her binoculars (which of course, she was). Madge consulted her mental map of the maze and suddenly sagged back into her lawn chair with relief. She fumbled into her bag and grabbed a small red remote with a large green button on it. Madge propped her feet on the edge of her watch tower and made sure her cameras were recording, just as Susan approached the turning with the remote controlled trap door…

Bologna: from Prosciutto to Post-Impressionism

by Alex Porter

Piazza Magiore, Bologna

This year in August I visited the ‘foodie’ city of Bologna in the North of Italy. Bologna is most famous for its food delicacies such as Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano and Mortadella cheese.The city of course, is also most famous for what we know as ‘spaghetti bolognaise’ although the Italian dish is different from the one that we know as it is made with beef/veal and pork mince and does not contain tomatoes, but instead incorporates carrots, celery and dry red wine. Tagliatelle is served with it rather than spaghetti. Pizza is also made differently in Bologna. The regional pizzas in Bologna differ from Naples, the ‘home of Pizza’ which goes for a soft, thick crust; in Bologna, they focus on a more crunchy and thinner crust. 

Tagliatelle Bolognese

Whilst I was able to sample different foods in the city, from pasta to pizza, I also managed to visit lots of different tourist attractions. Conveniently, the hotel that I stayed at was situated right by the main Piazza Maggiore, so I was able to see a lot of the city on foot. I visited the famous San Petronio Basilica and the Museum of Ducati, where the history of the famous racing motorbikes were on display.

Dada Poem exhibition in Mambo Museum of Modern Art.
One of the best places I visited when I was in the city was Mambo, the Museum of Modern Art. At the time of visiting, the Museum had an exhibition on the newest generation of artists in Italy. This display was quirky and slightly unusual, but cleverly did not separate itself from other exhibitions and the permanent collections in the museum. 

The exhibit was curated by Lorenzo Balbi, and included the works of 56 artists, who were born from 1980 onwards. One display was based on a poem about a group of women’s rights activists in the 1920s called ‘Dada’ produced by Lia Cecchin (2018), where she exhibited lots of tee-shirts containing messages about women and their strengths in the 21st century. 

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Poem: Instruments of Torture

by Rebecca Stone

The doctor (who was my mother) said,
“Poor little love, go back to bed.
And take some paracetamol too,
You look like the walking dead.”

She was wrong, surprisingly, in what she said,
I felt much worse than the walking dead.
My skull was splitting open as though
It was pierced through by an arrow head.

Of course, my little sister decided,
Although she was seriously misguided,
That in order to master glorious Grade Two
On the oboe, outside my door she blew.

For two whole weeks a headache was prevalent,
Not helped by that instrument so malevolent.
She huffed and she puffed, all out of tune,
And wouldn’t be quiet all afternoon.

With my head finally clear, after days on death’s door,
I can’t think of an instrument I now hate more,
Yet Grade Two still rings throughout the household,
And that’s how I struggled through the Common Cold.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

BepiColombo –the Mission to Mercury

by Jamie Bradshaw

Scheduled to launch on October 19th, 2018, BepiColombo will become the third ever space probe to reach Mercury, the second to ever orbit Mercury, and the first mission to the planet that is not a NASA program.

BepiColombo is an ESA-JAXA joint mission to explore the planet Mercury, which is the least explored inner planet. It is named after Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo (1920-1984), a scientist and mathematician at the University of Padua in Italy. He was the first scientist to come up with the interplanetary gravity assist manoeuvre, which was used in the 1974 Mariner 10 mission, the first probe ever sent to Mercury.

Artist's depiction of the BepiColombo mission, with the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (left) and Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (right (Wiki Commons)
The mission will send two probes to orbit Mercury for observations, called the MIO and the MPO. After launch, the probes will take 7 years to reach their destination, using ion thrusters and gravity assists. The probes will leave Earth in a hyperbolic orbit, and enter a solar orbit similar to that of Earths. After one and a half orbits, the probe and Earths orbits will intersect, allowing for a gravity assist and redirection towards Venus. The probe then has 2 flybys of Venus during its solar orbit, which adjusts the orbit enough for a Mercury flyby. After four flybys, the probe will be in a similar orbit to Mercury, at which point the probe will reduce its velocity with respect to Mercury over the course of the next 2 flybys, and then enter a polar orbit using chemical thrusters. Orbital height will then be decreased to observation height.

My Favourite Doctor Who Episodes for Every Doctor

by Joe Brennan

It’s that time of year again where I try very hard to branch out and write about something new but end up doing another Doctor Who article. Sorry, mum, I’ll do something different next time- it’s just topical to talk about Doctor Who- as we’re less than one week away from the new series (with a brand new Doctor, three new companions, a new Sonic Screwdriver, new monsters and a new TARDIS). 

As the show looks bravely to the future, I’ve decided to look to the past and give my favourite episode or serial from each of the 12 Doctors that have preceded Jodie Whittaker. This is not, by any means, my 12 favourite episodes but I thought one story from each Doctor would definitely make for a more interesting list than 12 Jon Pertwee episodes. 

If you’re relatively new to the show and desperate to catch up on the show’s 55 year history without watching every single episode, this list might be helpful. If you stopped watching after David Tennant left and you want to be quickly caught up in time for Jodie Whittaker, you could maybe watch a couple of these. They have MY seal of approval and that should be all you need. If you’re reading this simply because you’re interested in my opinion, then thank you very much. 

Here it is, My Favourite Story for Every Doctor

First Doctor- The Chase

A lot of people point at “The Daleks” or “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” when it comes to discussing Dalek episodes from the 60s and, while both are great, I feel the best William Hartnell Dalek episode is often overlooked. This is potentially because, despite the Daleks being the main antagonist of the episode, they are less of a focus and more of a plot device to help keep the TARDIS team moving from one place to another. The Chase is a six part serial that follows The Doctor and his companions as they are chased through Time and Space- what I truly love about the episode is how modern it feels in its structure, jumping around from planet to planet like  it’s Guardians of the Galaxy but with added time travel. The tone is rather light throughout and, for some, that makes The Daleks feel silly and not as much of a threat as in other episodes but for me, it works well. Doctor Who fans complaining about Doctor Who being silly is pretty ridiculous in my opinion. The episodes feature pretty much everything you could want in a comedic cat and mouse game across time and space; Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, William Shakespeare, The Beatles, Queen Elizabeth I and a conclusion that involves a robot replica of The Doctor. With the introduction of Steven Taylor (the second best companion ever) and a sad departure of original companions Ian and Barbara, this episode really is an underrated gem in Hartnell’s era (and I haven’t even mentioned the true highlight of the episode- Morton Dill)

Second Doctor- The War Games

The biggest complaint people have about The War Games is that it’s too long. This might be true, 10 episodes does seem a little excessive but every single one of the ten parts is fantastically enjoyable and, despite the serial’s length, the pacing is fantastic. The episodes concept ( a huge simulation of multiple war zones) had a lot of potential, but was also at risk of being convoluted or confusing if it was not handled well enough. Luckily for us, the premise was handled perfectly and it never becomes anything less than a delight. The twists and turns of this story are fantastic as the nature of the simulation is slowly revealed. With depictions of wars from multiple points in Earth’s history, this episode has everything. I am sensing a theme about what I want from a Doctor Who episode because this is slightly similar to the planet hopping format of The Chase but in The War Games, each location is part of one large simulation designed to observe the evolution and art of war. This is also the final episode for Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor and it perfectly showcases the intellect, warmth and buffoonery that had become a staple of the character since Troughton’s debut 3 years prior. The episode ends with The Doctor’s banishment to Earth to live his life (in colour!) and without the ability to travel. One of the first truly emotional endings to a Doctor Who episode, it also features the moving departure of both Jamie McCrimmon (the best companion ever) and Zoe Heriot, arguably the first truly strong female character the show had. The War Games marks an end to the 1960s era of Doctor Who and perfectly summarises everything that was special about that point in the show’s history. I consider it a must-watch for any fan of the show hoping to get into the Classic Series (don’t let its length put you off)

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

'Blood Guacamole': Is the Avocado a Superfood or Supervillain?

by Mozhy Hosseini-Ashrafi

Avocados: the new global trend in food, with more potassium than bananas, monounsaturated fatty acids and fibre. Avocados are the new super-food for vegetarians, vegans and meat-lovers. However, the surge in avocados has lead to multiple issues in countries that produce them, Mexico in particular.

The natural environment of Mexico is being compromised for the increased demand in avocados. Around 40% of the world’s avocado production occurs in Mexico and this leads to the cutting down of Mexico’s delicate woodlands to make space for avocado orchards. Due to this excessive planting of avocado farms, the Mexican government tried to take action and regulate the increase in the practice of avocado farming. With the increasing pressure for avocados, and the restrictions from the police, farmers are forced to plant their avocados under the tree canopy to hide them, illegally.

This increase in illegal activity means farmers have become susceptible to the intervention of cartels in Mexico. These farmers are forced to sell their produce for a cheap price to cartels, who are able to make a profit of them by exporting them. This leaves the farmers with an unsustainable income and provides power to cartels within Mexico, decreasing the security of Mexican residents.

Photography: Baby Squirrel

by Tony Hicks

To help you relax at a busy time of term . . . pictures of a baby squirrel.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

BBC Young Critics' Challenge: Reviewing 'Van Rensburg’s Card', 'Sudden Traveller' and 'To Belong To'

by James Burkinshaw

Over the past two weeks, a group of PGS pupils have been taking part in the BBC Young Critics' Challenge, reading and discussing the shortlisted stories for the BBC's National Short Story Award. Here, our panel of critics discuss Van Rensburg’s Card by Kiare Ladner,   
2    Sudden Traveller by Sarah Hall  and To Belong To by Kerry Andrew - the last story, in particular, caused particularly animated discussion among members of the panel.  

Monday, 1 October 2018

Poem: 'Early Morning'

by Miranda Gent

Early morning blue

Crisp cold air that chaps my hands and lips,
Cold seats too,
The metal tarnished and scratched.
The sound of the odd engine rushing by 
Breaks the serene silence.
The ticket barriers clunk and whir, 
Allowing people in,
Feel the early morning 
Hold its breath,
Waiting to begin

Photography: Isle of Wight Wildlife

by Tony Hicks

An Interview with Dr Cotton

Portsmouth Point's Senior Editors, Joe Brennan, Alex Gibson, Cordelia Hobbs, Douglas James, Katie O'Flaherty and Ellie Williams-Brown interview PGS'  new Head, Dr Anne Cotton.

1. How have you enjoyed your first few weeks at PGS? What is your favourite aspect/experience? To you, what makes PGS unique?
I have loved being here. PGS is so welcoming and has such a strong sense of community – the genuine warmth is what has stood out to me. I think that, because the school site looks in on itself, it really does add to that sense of unity and togetherness. The other thing is the all-round strength of PGS, from the level of pastoral care to the incredible wealth of co-curricular options; there is so much opportunity and such a sense of energy. I don’t have a favourite moment so far, but I was struck by a story the School’s Archivist, Mr Sadden, told me. He said he had recently been showing an OP around the school, almost 90 years old and now living in Australia. The visitor wanted to meet some of the pupils and spoke to a few who he happened to meet in the Quad. Mr Sadden was so proud of how naturally the pupils engaged with the visitor, how forthcoming and considerate they were.

2.   What is the biggest change at this school in comparison to your old school?
The biggest difference is the fact that PGS starts from the age of 2 ½; at my previous schools, the youngest pupils have been 7. It’s lovely. My personal belief is that everyone should spend time in the Infant School. There is so much to learn from the attitude of children aged 2 or 3 years old - if they fall down, they get straight back up again. This can help us understand the importance of resilience, of learning from failure, as pupils move up the school.

3.   What did you enjoy most during your own time at school?
I spent a lot of time doing music, which was my main co-curricular interest - singing and playing the cello. I learned a huge amount from the Head of Music at my school, Elizabeth Rolfe-Johnson. She was rather scary, with incredibly high standards (she wouldn’t settle for anything less), but at the same time she was a really warm person and I remember her with a great deal of affection. Working with her, as part of a high-quality ensemble, was inspiring.

4.   How would people communicate in a perfect world?
This is an interesting one. It makes me think of the biblical passage, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face”: When you’re face-to-face with someone, you communicate through more than just words; we read faces and body language naturally to see emotions and reactions. For me, there’s no real substitute for that kind of direct communication: the ability to ask questions and to explore what someone really means.

5.   What is the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Topsy and Tim. My children are quite small (3 and 5) and they are allowed one short programme of TV a day. I enjoyed reading Topsy and Tim when I was younger. I think it can still teach us life lessons. In the most recent episode we watched at home, Topsy and Tim lost their helium balloon, and learned that when something like that happens, they should just take a deep breath and carry on. PGS is a helium-free site, so we won’t have to worry about that here – but I’m sure it will come in useful at some point.

6. If you could choose three other people (from the present and/or the past) to have a dinner party with, who would you choose and why?