Sunday, 11 December 2016

Why Using a Phone While Driving Is As Bad As Drink Driving

by Rebecca Pascoe

In an age in which mobile phones are constantly in use, it is becoming harder to separate technology from our day to day lives. The majority of people have a smartphone and when this is constantly buzzing it can be distracting and hard to ignore. Perhaps this is why the number of road accidents, including mobile phones, is on the rise.

Since 2005, more than 200 people have been killed in England and Wales in accidents involving mobile phones. Yet people still decide to use their phones while driving, despite being aware of the possible consequences. When travelling at 50 mph, your car travels 45 metres in 2 seconds. Any hazard could happen in front of you in this time, meaning by the time you look up it could be too late to stop. Therefore, we need to think to ourselves: is replying to that text worth a life?

Although the penalties for this offence are increasing, with the punishment now being six points on your licence and a fine, is this enough for an activity that can cost multiple lives within seconds? You only need to read the news to see the devastation that mobiles can cause on the road, yet it still seems as if the message is not being received by thousands of drivers. 6 points in the first 2 years is enough to cost a new driver their licence and still a Brake survey found that 19% of young drivers admit to texting at the wheel at least once a month, compared with 11% of older drivers taking the risk. American research has revealed that 80% of young drivers make or receive phone calls while driving and that 72% text.

"My Perfect Christmas": Ms Hart and Dr Purves

Ms Hart

What is your favourite Christmas Song
We're Walking in the Air - reminds me of being a small child watching the film on TV with my brother and sisters. We had an old gas fire and I remember being huddled around it, melting bars of chocolate in the flames then licking the molten remains!  

What is your favourite Christmas film?
The Snowman!  The end scene is so tragic, a reminder that life is short and fragile so hold on to precious moments whenever and wherever you can.  

What is your favourite Christmas book?
A Christmas Carol.  This is a piece of genius and I re-read it every year.  The opening chapter is clever and highly amusing.  If you haven't read it, make it your top priority this holiday!  Adding to this, The Muppets Christmas Carol is the best adaptation you'll watch, so add this to the list of things to do this holiday. 

What is your favourite Christmas food and drink?
Mince pies because they are yummy.  Served with cream, of course. A cup of hot chocolate with nutmeg and cinnamon is a very close second.  

What was the worst Christmas gift you have received?
I don't think it is possible to receive a terrible gift.  If someone has gone to the effort of thinking of you, buying or making a gift, wrapping it and giving it you, that is the most wonderful in itself.  

What are the best and/or worst things about Christmas and/or the New Year?
Best thing is time with my family. I hate New Year.  What an arbitrary load of nonsense. I love Christmas.  I'm not at all religious but I love the story of Mary and Joseph, their hardship and epic journey, and the amazing birth of Jesus.  

Dr Purves

What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why?
Band Aid (the original), I think it is really poignant at a time of merriment and excess especially with the news real images from Michael Buerk’s first reports on the plains of Ethiopia. In terms of carols, I really love O Holy Night, the more traditional versions, I think there are a couple of really beautiful, evocative moments in it.
What is your favourite Christmas film and why?
Does The Great Escape count?
What is your favourite Christmas food/drink and why?
Roast goose, because it is just really delicious.

"My Perfect Christmas": Ellen Latham and Will Hall

Ellen Latham

What is your favourite Christmas song and why?
Newsong - Back Where You Belong. It's not really a Christmas song or have anything to do with Christmas except it being a Christian song. Although we aren't religious, it's always been a family favourite, reminding us of the white Christmases we spent in Ohio when I was younger. We would all spend the day decorating the house and the tree to the backing track of the Newsong album.
What is your favourite Christmas movie and why?
I feel like the correct answer is Love, Actually, but I kind of hate that movie (I know, a controversial opinion.) My favourite movie that is always on the TV at Christmas (although again not actually a Christmas movie) is Chicken Run. I will always love it, no matter how old I am.
What is your favourite Christmas book and why?
I tend to re-read my favourite books over the holiday, even if it's for the fifth or sixth time. My favourites include: Catch 22 -  Joseph Heller, Stardust - Neil Gaiman (the movie also makes for a good watch over the holidays) and The Inheritance Cycle - Christopher Paolini.
What is your favourite Christmas food?
My favourite meal on Christmas day is breakfast/brunch. We have always had the tradition of having kedgeree, and nothing says Christmas more than the smell of smoked haddock in the morning... 
What is the worst present you ever received?
I honestly don't remember ever getting a terrible present. I'm sure when I was younger I was less than elated to receive a pair of socks, but nothing I can remember stands out as a bad present.
What are you hoping for this Christmas?
Honestly, it might sound cheesy, but just some time to relax and have fun with the family, even if it does mean getting overly-competitive playing board games. My older sister is back from university, and it's only next year that I'll be at university too, so family time for us is really special.
What do you like best/worst about Christmas and/or New Year?
The best part: I love the Christmas spirit and the anticipation building up to the day. It's not like a birthday where you're the only person in a good mood; everyone is just as excited and happy as you are.The worst part: Having to go to work and do revision for mocks in January...

Will Hall

What is your favourite Christmas song and why?
Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirst MacColl, it's just a really good song

What is your favourite Christmas movie and why?
Love Actually, the only good rom-com I've ever seen and it's got a great cast

What is your favourite Christmas book and why?
A Christmas Carol - it's the traditional Christmas story

What is your favourite Christmas food?
Pigs in blankets, there's a reason that obesity is becoming a global problem

Saturday, 10 December 2016

"My Perfect Christmas": Dr Richmond and Mrs Morgan

Dr Richmond:

What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why?
My favourite Christian carol has to be ‘It Came upon a Midnight Clear’. It’s lovely to sing the words: “That glorious song of old, From angels bending near the earth, To touch their harps of gold”. It’s even better to sing these words at Midnight Mass with the frost outside. My non-Christian choice would be George Michael’s ‘Last Christmas’. Once I hear that on the radio, I know the Christmas season has begun!
What is your favourite Christmas film and why?
It’s really not about Christmas, but I still associate ‘The Wizard of Oz’, starring Judy Garland, as a film I love to watch over Christmas. And the Wicked Witch of the West still makes me feel very scared! 
What is your favourite Christmas book/story and why?
The best story ever told is that of a Jewish boy born in a stable that was sent by God with the message of peace and hope. The world really needs to hear this message at the moment.
What is your favourite Christmas food/drink and why?
Christmas pudding, of course. And I love it with lashings of custard, not brandy butter/cream.
What was the worst present you ever received? 
Richard Dawkins’ ‘The God Delusion’. I have no problem with atheists who put forward cogent arguments against the existence of God. But Dawkins needs to learn the basics of theology and philosophy before he takes on the intellectual minds of Augustine and Aquinas. His arguments against the design and cosmological arguments for the existence of God are laughable and embarrassing. Someone ought to teach Dawkins what ‘fides quaerens intellectum’ actually means.
What present are you hoping for this Christmas?
My mum smiling whilst walking around Riga Christmas market with me and my brother (it will be her 80th birthday) whilst feeling healthy and ready to face 2017! 
What do you like best and/or least about Christmas and/or New Year?
I don’t like Boxing Day: you feel so deflated after the run-up to Christmas day with nothing much to look forward to for months.

Mrs Morgan:

What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why? 
'All I Want for Christmas is You' by Mariah Carey. It is, very aptly, as camp as Christmas. 
What is your favourite Christmas film and why? 
To watch with my kids it's got to be 'Elf' which we watch every year. When they go to bed I watch 'Love Actually'. Cheesy but a classic. 
What is your favourite Christmas book/story and why? 
That would have to be the nativity. Timeless fiction! 
What is your favourite Christmas food/drink and why? 

Poem: The Walk

by James Johnson

What is it?
Am I to know?
The tragedies, the sorrow.
My crumpled soul, your withering heart.
They weren’t to know,
They weren’t to feel,
They weren’t to think, of, the bewilderment.
I see all these stones,
Crumbling under their own weight,
Like the people underneath them.
Every step amongst the souls,
The stale, coughing souls.
As I walk, I hear them.
Their pitiful screams, their sighs of relief,
Their cries of sorrow, their wails of disappointment.
I see it!
I see you!
You rise, like the light amongst the grey.
The others are a blur,
Your wings spread, as you soar into the heavens.
I too, take flight,
Witnessing my dull, earthly flesh fall upon the frozen ground.
I see: everything.
I see the two of them, their eyes darting, breathing, slowly.
Do not worry my love, they shall seal their own fate.                                                                                                                                       
Let the graveyard be no more.

For all life deserves this.

"My Perfect Christmas": Mr Doyle, Mrs Kirby and Mr Rees

Mr Doyle:

What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why?
Either 'O Holy Night', because the music takes me on a journey (it really soars as it moves through) or Dame Shirley singing 'Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire' (for obvious reasons)!
What is your favourite Christmas film and why?
Alastair Sim's 'Scrooge - just a perfect film for Xmas. 
What is your favourite Christmas book/story and why?
It has to be Beatrix Potter's 'The Tailor of Gloucester' - although this Christmas I will be reading 'Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed' by Nicola Morgan.
What is your favourite Christmas food/drink and why?
Fillet of beef in pastry - it is a real pleaser and you have to go to some trouble to make it properly, so showing someone has made the effort. Also: champagne, malt - anything with a %!
What was the worst present you ever received?
A plastic cowboy figure - about three inches tall - from my godmother!
What present are you hoping for this Christmas?
I bought myself the one I wanted - so, any cook book for a cuisine I have yet to try to cook.
What do you like best and/or least about Christmas and/or New Years?
Xmas Eve and the anticipation of the lovely day to come. Worst – sprouts! I have never enjoyed the New Year celebrations, so do not partake!

Mrs Kirby:

What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why? 
'White Christmas', Bing Crosby. Classic. I also adore Judy Garland's version of 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'. Vintage Americana.
What is your favourite Christmas film and why? 
'White Christmas' closely followed by 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'. The latter is the best version of Dickens' story by a mile.
What is your favourite Christmas book/story and why? 
'The Night before Christmas'. I always used to read this with my dad on Christmas Eve.
What is your favourite Christmas food/drink and why? 
Mince pies, obviously, and red wine (does this count?).
What was the worst present you ever received? Christmas paper napkins - three of them.
What present are you hoping for this Christmas? 
A fire stick.
What do you like best and/or least about Christmas and/or New Year?
I've always loved all things Christmas, but now - with children - the sheer magic of it is suddenly doubled. I find the sentimentality of New Year tedious, but it is a good excuse for a party. 

Poem: Twenty Years

Ananthi Parekh wrote this poem for her parents on their 20th wedding anniversary (December 7, 2016).  

Twenty Years

She waited on one end of the phone. Listening intently for the 
Break in the highly pitched purrs
And there it came, a soft 
click before the 
groggy voice of her husband 
echoing from thousands of miles 
to the gentle curve of her ear
His happily grated voice bringing an upward curve to her chewed lips. 
And similarly her newly 
awakened tone 
making him happy his sleep was disrupted, pleased 
he'll wake slightly later 
knowing he spoke to 
And they don't speak of 
anything out of ordinary, they 
talk only of daily life, as if 
these miles were nothing 
and as if the kettle was boiling for the both of their waiting mugs, because 
soon there will be 
his mug next to hers, 
because it's only a few sleeps 
until he's 

They would read me the story 
of Cinderella 
and her searching prince, 
or that of the Beast 
and his patient Belle
But as time passes 
in my own story, I realise 
the happily ever after 
I thought only existed in 
those fairy tales 
was truly found by 

Because a million miles mean nothing when a crush lasts 20 years.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Happy 100th Birthday, Kirk Douglas

by James Burkinshaw

In a year that has taken away so many loved and admired figures (from Prince and David Bowie to Victoria Wood and Alan Rickman) long before their time, it is a positive pleasure to celebrate the longevity of perhaps the last star from Hollywood's 'Golden Era' - Kirk Douglas - who turned 100 today.

In many ways it seems appropriate that Douglas is the last survivor: with his distinctive square jaw, he always looked as if he had been carved out of granite, most iconically in the epic Spartacus. His role as the heroic leader of a (historically factual) slave revolt remains the one for which he is most famous.

However, he was more than just an action hero. Some of his finest performances were in film noir classics such as Out of the Past and Ace in the Hole, playing morally ambiguous characters or even outright villains. He was also an accomplished stage actor, starring as McMurphy in the first Broadway production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Even Spartacus was more than just a typical action movie. The script was written by Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter 'blacklisted' by Hollywood's film studios throughout the 1950s after being identified as a communist by Senator McCarthy's 'Un-American Activities' Committee. It was Douglas who insisted that Trumbo received a screen credit, a courageous move at the time - and one that helped break the power of the blacklist as it became the most successful movie in Universal Studios' history. Spartacus retains its visual power over half a century later (worth viewing on the big-screen, if you ever get the opportunity), with its vivid technicolour and epic battle scenes. However, unlike so many other action movies, it is underpinned by an intelligent script and some powerful and subtle acting, not least by Douglas himself as Spartacus. It's portrayal of noble slaves rising up against corrupt and arrogant Romans was seen as a critique of America's own history of slavery and continuing racial oppression (the film was released in 1960, before the Civil Rights Act or Voting Rights Act). In fact the film was picketed by right-wing protesters such as the so-called League of Human Decency. Furthermore, it included a particularly subversive section (known as the "oysters and snails" scene) between Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis suggesting that sexuality was a matter of choice rather than a moral issue; it was considered so shocking at the time that the studio insisted it was cut from the original (it was only restored when the film was re-mastered and re-released in the 1990s).

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Former UKIP Leader Diane James Visits PGS

by Charlotte Phillips

After a tumultuous few months for Diane James, the ex-UKIP leader spoke with vigour and passion in a Politics Society talk entitled “2016 and the 3D Effect”. Despite being a  self-proclaimed hard Brexiteer, she spoke of some of the positives of the European Union set-up - the mix of party demographics in terms of the MEPs (most of the MEPs are from UKIP, the Green Party or ar independent, along with a few Labour and Conservative members) rejects the two-party stranglehold. She began her talk by explaining that she is someone who lives life in three places – Britain, Brussels and Strasbourg. She had been in Brussels the previous night, voting on various issues, including a significant increase in 2017 EU budget contributions. As a member of the 'Constitution Committee', she spends much of her time in tri-partite meetings with the Lords, MPs and MEPs from across the political spectrum, focused on the impact of Brexit on the current EU constitution. She claimed that many EU politicians seem "oblivious" as to why the UK voted to leave. 

James lamented her lack of power within the EU, noting that “no matter what I do  . . . my influence is almost non-existent”. She pointed out that, even if all UK MEPs voted the same way, it doesn’t make up even 10% of the parliamentary chamber in the EU, and that the opportunity to reject council decisions in the EU parliament is tiny. Voting is undertaken by hand signals and occasionally electronically – James noted that she thought all voting should be electronic to achieve greater accountability; and explained that all UKIP MEPs give explanations of their votes online. She recalled 650 subjects being voted on in just 2 ½ hours in Strasbourg, highlighting how stressful it can be to be an MEP - and that the workload has only increased since Brexit. 

James felt that 2016 would go down in history, largely due to Brexit and Trump. She thinks significant votes will also be cast in Italy and Austria, either catalysing or halting the political shocks of 2016 -  certainly the “anti-populists” hope they can be halted. However, she felt there was a strong chance of a far-right victory in Austria on Sunday. 

What has created the disruption of 2016? In her view, it was neither populism nor anti-globalisation; she thinks that people appreciate the benefits of globalisation and are happy to see new markets and development. However, there is a trade-off between these benefits and their own sovereignty, identity and culture. James believes a passion for the latter is what has driven a higher voter turnout for these contentious political events - people  felt it was worth going out and voting. She claimed that no government had ever lost a referendum until the EU vote in June. She believes the so-called “Remainiacs” are unable to accept the unexpected.

James covered the topic of the US election in some depth, pointing out that in the US everyone expected Clinton to win – the polls were completely wrong. However, she believes the shock is not in the outcome itself, but in the "architects" of the outcome - the factors that led to these unpredicted events. However, James didn't expand on this in any depth, instead moving on to suggest that in both the UK and US pollsters need to rethink and reorganise and analyse new methodological possibilities or they will lose business. Most important, parties need to understand the dynamics driving voter behaviour. She said “I want to see the demise of Project Fear and Project Blame” in the UK. She felt that Trump campaigned on “back me” because he is offering a positive, new vision for drastic change in America. In James' view, Clinton campaigned on not offering much change, which is not good enough for what James called “astute” voters. She also suggested that the position that the media is taking in politics needs severe attention. James claimed that Trump's economic management, particularly his proposal for investment in infrastructure, might deliver what he has set out to deliver. Her support for Trump, although she claimed it as picking "the best of bad options", was highly contested in the question-and-answer session which rounded off the evening. 

HMS Illustrious Leaves Portsmouth for the Last Time

by Tony Hicks and Nicola Watson

HMS Illustrious left Portsmouth this morning for the last time.

Photo by Tony Hicks
Years in service 32
Miles sailed 900,000
22,000 Tones
685 Crew
210 Metres long

£2m Sold for scrap to Turkey

Photo by Tony Hicks

Photo by Tony Hicks