Thursday, 23 February 2017

Photography Club: Small World

Short Read by Sofia Findlay Pacheco

Tic-tac People by Jazzy Holden

Mini-Man by Sofia Callender

Short Story: These Four Walls

by Lucy Albuery

What is about school that makes it so much scarier at night? Every door groans a whisper louder and every breeze is a goose bump colder. Each lonely chair seems to mourn the absence of a child and each display seems to be a relic, grafeetied to immortalise a past life of a past people. Everyone of the clock’s ticks echoes through the air, being suspended there for a little infinity and the floorboard squeak and moan louder than thoughts; and Karen was stuck in the middle of it.

She had forgotten her book so she sheepishly tiptoed through the corridors of the cold, stone building she had spent so many hours in. She walked up the stairs, turned corridors she knew by heart, slowly rotated the brass door handle and strained the rusty hinges of the door to Miss. Brown’s English classroom. Gingerly, she crept in; weary of every pin-drop and every, ever so slight, change in the still, unfamiliar air that surrounded her. The blinds had fainted down to the bottom of their panes and her book stared at her from the desk. On Miss. Brown’s desk, a pile of books stared at her too. Miss. Brown had clearly been marking them but only half the pile had her red pen scribbled over them. Karen couldn’t help but wonder what had happened. Why were only half of the books marked and why did her teacher not take them with her, like she always did? That wasn’t like her. Karen took a few more restrained steps towards her book, picked it up and heard a noise.

It was the door slamming behind her. She slowly pivoted to face it. Karen knew it was the caretaker, right? He had just locked up all the classrooms for the night and didn’t realise she was in there, right? So she yelled trying to get his attention, “Hello, I’m in here.” But there was no reply. She tried again, “I think you locked me in by accident, can you let me out? Please!” Still no answer came to her. She began to worry, and worry a bit more. Karen grabbed the door handle, the cold brass chilled her hand and delivered shivers up her arm, and she turned the handle with no success to open the door, and turned it again and again, and again nothing. The chilling realisation wafted over her and every fibre in her body like an electric shock, form a thousand volts: she was stuck.    

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Searching for Joy

by Tom Fairman

Of my children who can express an opinion, there are none that have expressed a strong interest in football. Recently there has been some attendance at after school football sessions, but football on the television or radio is actively rallied against. With this in mind, it came as a massive shock when my littlest one decided to take his first independent steps.
As a parent, the first steps are a huge moment and often highly debated. There are the hand held, but only for guidance first steps, followed by the falling down whilst stepping first steps until they actually make a decision to move without provocation. The first time I saw my youngest take these unsolicited steps was to try to kick a ball that was slightly out of their reach. Kicking things or stamping on them whilst holding onto a chair had been a favourite hobby for a while so the surprise which arose in me when I saw this was unexpected. It was followed by a moment of happiness that I may have a kindred spirit for my football interest, that lasted only a moment before the obligatory collapse on the floor and tears that follow an unintentional step-over accompanied by hitting your head on a cupboard.
It was a moment that lasted only for a split second and the joy that accompanied it lasted for just as long. This seems a little bit cold hearted but let me explain. When something like this happens, particularly when it takes you by surprise, there is an initial pause to take stock of what has happened. Did I really just see that? Did it actually happen? The reality goes further once it has cleared this initial hurdle and takes a direct path to your heart. It touches something deep inside of you, making you feel, to take the words of better men, fully alive. You feel as if you will burst with a mixture of happiness, bliss and pride; some people cry, others stop in awe and yet the feeling goes deep and feels stronger than anything else.
It is beyond the satisfaction of achieving something you have worked hard for. It is more than the happiness or relief of your team winning. It is passed the amazement of finally getting the gift you always wanted. It is all of this and more, bound together and if you excuse the inaccuracy, multiplied by infinity. This joy is on a completely divine level, but it is a rarity. No sooner has the feeling touched the core of who you are, then it is attacked by thoughts that guard our hearts. What have you done to deserve this? Were you this happy when the others walked? Will others be jealous that this this happened to you? Then the moment has gone, the joy is stolen away from you.
A lot of the time, particularly in our leisure time, we search for this elusive moment of joy. We do the things that make us feel good, we search out the experiences in the past where we came close to this feeling before. Think about what hobbies you choose to do and why you do them. Are we searching for something in the past that can not be reclaimed? This true joy is real, but if you are anything like me, as soon as you find it, it goes away for a long time.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Photography: Spring!

by Tony Hicks

Poem: She Knew the Crime

by Lucy Noble

A cold winter’s breeze shivered through her skin.
She stood dead in her tracks
Noticing the blood stained blanket of snow.
As red as roses, the squirrel
Squashed to its bitter end.
The question rang through her head
“Who could have done this?”
Softly caressing the silky skin
She dragged her fingers across the wound.
The sharp jagged edges,
The glossy bones,
The shiny organs
Were nothing compared to her pain.
At nine years-old she could not understand.

Driving slowly,
The deer lay still in the middle of the path.
At sixteen years-old she could understand
The horror which lay before her.
She knew the victim,
She knew the criminal.
She knew the crime.

Labour: Weak Leader or Weak Party?

by Aladdin Benali (OP)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised heavily for failing to lead the party. But could Labour's failure arise from far deeper issues within the party?
Under former Labour Leader (2010-2015) Ed Miliband, the Refounding Labour project was established to expand the party by strengthening local supporter representation in the party. After the Collins Report, the leadership vote was reformed meaning votes cast by Labour MPs, Party members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters were counted equally under the new ‘one member, one vote’ (OMOV) system. As such, any Labour candidate may be nominated provided he/she receives at least 15% support in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
This new system successfully gives equal voice to each member. However, the OMOV system has shown to foster division in the PLP.
Indeed, in the leadership election last September, after securing only 15.5% of PLP nominations, left-wing MP Jeremy Corbyn was elected Party leader with 59.5% of the vote, over 40.5 percentage points above that of the runner up, Andy Burnham MP. Consequently, Corbyn has faced a 172 to 40 motion of no confidence from the PLP, following 25 Shadow Cabinet resignations/dismissals, including those of long-standing senior Labour figures, such as Chris Bryant MP and Hilary Benn MP. The result of the subsequent leadership election was an increase of Corbyn’s share of the vote from 59.5% to 61.8%, against opponent Owen Smith (38.2%).
On policy, this division within the PLP was demonstrated most clearly in the Trident Nuclear Programme. Trident is an operational system of four Vanguard-class submarines armed with ballistic missiles (Trident II D-5) containing thermonuclear warheads. When a motion was presented (moved) to extend the programme’s life until the 2060s in parliament last July, Labour was split in two. While 147 to 47 Labour MPs supported the Trident renewal (76%), Corbyn, with majority of the Shadow Cabinet, opposed the motion.
Source: UK Parliament

Monday, 20 February 2017

The Dangers of Drinking During Pregnancy

by Katie O'Flaherty

FASD - Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. They affect 1% of the population, which in the grand scheme of things is a significant proportion of the developed world. FASD is is caused when a woman drinks during pregnancy. The placental barrier does not prevent the alcohol from entering the developing baby's bloodstream. Unlike the mother, the unborn baby does not have the enzymes required to break down alcohol. Added to this, the blood-brain barrier is underdeveloped thus the alcohol directly damages the brain. Depending on the stage in pregnancy, and thus the part of the brain developing at the time dictates the nature of the brain damage caused. In some cases there are physical features to this, such as a shortened nose and railroad ears. However, often these are not present, hence it can be seen as an invisible disability.

FASD can cause primary characteristics such as dysmaturity (often present as a mental/social age that is lower than the person's actual age), impulsivity, slower processing pace, memory problems, difficulty forming links and association (cause and consequence), and an inability to think in an abstract sense. Often FASD goes undiagnosed (with symptoms often being attributed instead to conditions such as ADHD), thus the primary symptoms go unsupported. These can lead to the development of secondary characteristics, such as frustration, low self-esteem (or self-aggrandisement), aggression, depression, and isolation, which, like the primary symptoms, are often irreversible once they have materialised.

Frequently, children with FASD end up in the social care system, and adoptive families often do not know of the child's alcohol exposure in-utero. This puts a huge amount of strain on the adoptive and foster families when the primary and secondary characteristics of FASD begin to materialise. In the UK, there are only two places for FASD suffers to get a diagnosis on the NHS (Exeter and Surrey), whereas in any other areas the person will have to pay privately to get a diagnosis ~ a fee which many people cannot afford. Unless a proper diagnosis has been obtained, access to the anyway-limited support systems is almost impossible.

Due to the nature of FASD, people with the disorder are far more likely to struggle functioning in day-to-day life. 60% of FASD sufferers will contend with the criminal justice system at least once in their life. It is believed that 23% of the prison population of North America have FASD, however this is widely considered to be an underestimate. 12.8 years old is the average age for FASD suffered to have their first contention with the law. Those are children who are just starting senior school; Year 7s.  The number of people in the criminal justice system at any given time whose FASD has been a significant factor in their unlawful activity is impossible to estimate, however the cost of this is inescapable. Not only is this a potentially productive and healthy life now spent locked away behind bars, but also the cost to the taxpayer. It costs £40,000 per prisoner per year to be incarcerated. Over £2.8bn is spent annually simply on prisons. Imagine how that money could be spent elsewhere if just a fraction of the yearly total cost was spent on effective preventative measures.

Poem: Sailing to the Horizon

by Claudia Bishop

The salt sea air was thick and warm,
Seagulls shouted overhead,
The crisp blue sky was beaming bright
The teal blue water glistened in the sun
We boarded the rib all together
And in time we were off and away
Sailing out as far as we could
Into the Solent happily.
The engine started
The sea straight ahead
The wind in our face
The sound of the gust in my ears
My hair flying up
I couldn't of been happier.
We reached the Isle of Wight
The engine ground to a halt
Steadily we stood at the friend of the rocking rib
Gaining our balance
Ready to jump
I hit the sea like fish going home

The days I look back on happily
When I could swim in the sea freely
I was a mermaid
The sea was my home
No cares in the world

Sailing to the horizon

Photography: Leap

by Jazzy Holden

Who Are My Enemies?

by Tom Fairman

When Donald Trump declared that “the fake news media were not his enemies, but the enemies of the American people”, he makes a interesting point. Who are our enemies? The term enemy has very strong connotations though; it is indelibly linked to hated and conflict. Although you disagree with someone does it necessarily make them your enemy? When the Daily Mail called the High Court judges enemies of the people, it had the added effect of drawing a dividing line in the ground; you are either with us or with them. Therefore by labelling your enemies, you can make sure you are on the right side of the fight. It becomes literally comical, seeking inspiration from super heroes and super villains, a battle until death. It is all part of the hyperbole of social media news reporting, the instant ratings hit that comes from controversy.
Yet this is not a new phenomenon; enemies have always played a part in human history whether it be the enemies of a whole country, to individual grudges held. If an enemy is too harsh a term to apply to our lives, it is worth considering who we harbour hatred for in our hearts. Although if hatred is still too strong for you, there are always some people who annoy you and know how to push your buttons. I would like to give a few examples if you would humour me in as non- judgemental way as you think I deserve.
We recently treated ourselves to a trip to Disneyland Paris with the children which was a wonderful experience, but as with any trip with small children and a pushchair it has its moments. Attractions are not always the easiest to get around with a pushchair particularly when the place is busy, so having people stop in the middle of a path to take a selfie is an unnecessary extra obstacle. The thing about a selfie is that you can not actually see what is behind you when you are taking it so stopping in random places at unannounced times is incredibly irritating. Also queuing with small children can be painful, but when you are queuing to meet Spider-Man and there are groups of twenty year olds waiting in front of you to see a man dressed in a super hero costume, certain feelings are hard to repress!
I am not a person to say something, but a few grudges began to be formed and these inconsiderate individuals had become unknowing enemies of mine. Yet even as merited as these feelings were, the Lord had warned Moses not to bear hatred in our hearts for our brothers and to cherish no grudge against anyone Lev 19:17-18. This sounds like a New Testament forgiveness policy straight from Jesus’ mouth but it actually has been part of the plan all along. I would love to say I realised my error and prayed they had a great holiday in that moment, but it takes a little longer for me to come to that point!