Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Politics of Eurovision

by Katie Sharp

Love it or hate it, the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the biggest international events. The 2016 Contest in Stockholm saw 204 million watchers around Europe (and Australia), making it the most watched event of the night in the majority of the countries taking part.

The Eurovision Song Contest (originally Eurovision Grand Prix) was created in 1956 in Switzerland to try to unify war-torn Europe through light entertainment, as it would give the countries in Europe a shared low-stakes event to compete against each other at.

However, owing to its international popularity, there are controversies surrounding the contest- particularly about politics. It is often argued that it isn't a competition of music, instead competition of who is popular and unpopular in Europe. Terry Wogan, the UK’s former presenter of Eurovision, stepped down from his role in 2008, saying “The voting used to be about the songs. Now it’s about national prejudices. We (the UK) are on our own. We had a very good song, a very good singer, we came joint last. I don’t want to be presiding over another debacle.” After the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War from 2003, the UK has failed to score very highly, entering the top 10 only once, in 2009. While it could be that the quality of the British contestants is the cause of this, it is most likely a result of the UK’s unpopularity in Europe after the invasion of Iraq, as shown by the UK receiving its first “nul points” in 2003, immediately after the beginning of the Iraq war.

The effect of politics is also shown in the “voting blocs”, where competing countries form alliances to vote for each other. These voting blocs were so influential that in 2009, national juries were introduced alongside the televote, providing 50% of the points for each country. However, the voting blocs are still recognised in Eurovision, as during the presentation of votes there is often booing from the crowd, particularly during the former USSR countries’ votes.

The Hidden Stories Behind the Most Iconic Photos of Our Time

by Naeve Molho

‘Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still’ - Dorothea Lange

Throughout our lives we are met with hundreds and thousands of images in magazines, books, adverts and all other media imaginable. Rarely do we think about the origin of these images.  We are censored to forget that the people pictured  are real people in real scenarios, brought to us on the glossy pages of a magazine, or through the scroll of a facebook newsfeed .  So what is really happening in these pictures? Who are these people? But most importantly what happened to them? 

Afghan Girl

Left: the original portrait appearing in National Geographic, right : Sharbut Gula today

The ‘Afghan Girl’ is one of the most famous portraits of all time, photographed by Steve Mcurry, and first appearing in ‘The National Geographic’ in 1985.  Likened to ‘The First World’s Third World Mona Lisa’ Sharbut Gula was 12 years old when she was photographed in Pakistan's largest refugee camp due to the Soviet Union invasion in 1979. After the release of the photo Sharbut was offered numerous modeling contracts including a chance to flee to the West yet she refused . Since the photo was taken she married Rahmat Gul at the age of 13 becoming a mother to 3 children while soon after becoming a widow, putting her survival down to ‘the will of God’. She suffers from Hepatitis and most recently received media coverage due to her 15 day jail sentence and fine in 2016 for using an unauthorised identification card. Her illness and ‘ international status as a symbol for refugees’ has been to thank for her early release back to Afghanistan as she could have been facing 14 years in prison.

VJ Day Times Square kiss

Add capA sailor and a nurse kiss in Manhattan's Times Square, as New York City celebrates the end of the Second World War  CREDIT: ALFRED EISENSTAEDT//TIME LIFE PICTURES/GETTYtion

 On August 14th 1945 renowned photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured a photo that would represent the end of the war and in particular VJ Day (Victoryover Japan day).  Many believe the photo represents the spontaneity provoked by   happiness in learning the war was over while numerous bloggers have suggested it is a glamorised picture of sexual assault.  The sailor depicted is believed to be George Mendonsa who had been with his girlfriend after spending two years serving in the Pacific.  Meanwhile the woman is said to be Greta Friedman, a dental assistant dressed in a nurses uniform.  Despite being noted as one of the most romantic images of all time Friedman revealed ‘ the kiss was not a romantic event but more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back. He grabbed someone dressed like a nurse because he felt grateful to those who had taken care of him’. This photo is romanticised through the viewer's imagination and individual interpretation rather than hard fact.  Sometimes the truth behind photos can in fact distort the image as the story changes.

The perfect Aryan

Add caPhoto: Ohad Zwigenberg, Yedioth Ahoronot

After having her picture innocently taken one day amidst the horror and misery of Nazi rule, Hessy Taft soon became ‘the perfect Aryan’ baby. TThe photo was published in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, postcards and posters yet little did everyone know, Hessy Taft was a Jew. In fact the photo had been sent by the photographer who had happened to photograph her weeks earlier stating ‘ I was asked to submit my 10 best pictures for a beauty contest run by the Nazis. I sent your baby's picture as one of them, a perfect example of the Aryan race to further Nazi philosophy…. I wanted to allow myself the pleasure of this joke.’ Hessey Taft,  now 80 and a chemistry professor in New York, fled Germany, shortly after the photo was taken, to Cuba.

Napalm Girl

You Are Just Like Your Parents

by Tom Fairman

As a parent, you often wonder what the future holds for your children. What are they going to be interested in? What mistakes are they going to make? Will they be happy? Where will they end up living? Who will they marry? Will they have children of their own? Will they have the same relationship with you as you have with your parents? Underlying these questions is an assumption or indeed a hope that you will see them grow up and that you will still be an important part of their life. You will never stop caring for them, but the relationship must change.
Having seen them grow up, make mistakes and known them inside out from a young age, there is a natural separation that must occur to allow them to become an adult. This can be a painful time and many of these wounds live with us for the rest of our lives. However, you can never change the fact that they are your child and you are their parent, no matter how distant you may feel from them. Your family is your family and always will be.
It is your history, your link to the past. It can explain character traits we have, how often do we hear people say we are just like our parents. Looking back into our past can be a fascinating experience, discovering the hidden stories and decisions that have lead us to be here today. As a society we have lost this love of history seeming destined to disassociate ourselves with previous generations, blaming them for the problems of today. Our generational history clearly mattered to St Matthew who takes the time to set out the genealogy of Jesus at the start of his gospel and our relationship with our parents mattered to Jesus.

Short Story: Heroes and Villains

by Ananthi Parekh

Yet again, it has come to this rooftop, me facing him while the city moves below us. Last time we were here I was to strong for him to fight. But I still haven't won, so here we are again.

I'm not sure how stubborn he has to be, I'm not sure how he still thinks he can take this city when I have succeeded in protecting it time and time again.

My power, which I have wielded since I was born, is the ability to heat any part of my body to the point of melting metal. Obviously being able to control this was something that grew with age. I have only just started to develope the ability to cool my body. But training can wait. I have a villain to fight.

A wisp of hair escapes my mask for a second before I realise it flying in front of my sight. Cutting my hair short became practical when I started to burn people with stray tips of my hair when I wasn't concentrating, now it's short it's easier to control, well, heat wise. I tucked the stray hair under the mask that covers my eyes before I see his shadow appear on the roof opposite.

His posture and smirk more cocky than usual, his leather clad torso melting into the night behind him. He seemed to have upped his game. His head remains slightly bowed as his smirk turns to a grin. His mask, similar to mine, covers the top half of his face and eyes, although his leaves his hair open to the air. Despite this seemingly obvious oversight he is one of the lucky few to have an extra little ability; he can alter his hair colour which, in a chase, is far more inconvenient for me than it is for hm. But for now his hair remains a dangerous shade of black. His shoulders tense like a predator as he analyses me as I do him, and for once, I'm scared.

Previously his recklessness has always been something I've used to my advantage. His main power can only really be described as metal bending, and although it seems cliche as any villain could be, unlike me is power was forced on him via the experiments of some even more cliche mad scientists. His specifics I don't know, but although his strongest material is metal, I've seen him bend rocks, control plastic and weaponize concrete when cornered.

But tonight is different. His gaze is calculated, his footsteps are careful and his stance is predatory. I scan his body, trying to find any signs of his attack. Unlike the more well known of our kind me and him have never spoken apart from letters and an odd terrified member of the public, the latter mostly from his side.

And right now I would try nearly anything to stop the squirming in my gut.

There it is. The slight twitch in his hand. I can tell he doesn't know I've noticed. I pull my mask further up my nose, subtly checking if my hands are hot enough. Glowing, ready.

Then it begins. His wrist flicks his arm forward as he throws what looks like a dagger towards my head. I duck sideways, catching it in my hands and moulding it in to a disc before swinging it back at him in a swift turn.

Should Ian Brady Be Buried on the Moors?

by Julian Davis

Ian Brady has finally died. After years of hunger strikes and ‘smoking the strongest tobacco’ he died on Monday the 15th of May of a lung and chest condition. The question of his burial was immediately raised. Brady wished to be buried on the Moors, the same place in which he killed and buried his victims, yet many believe his ashes should remain in prison so even in death he is still incarcerated.

This seems fitting due to the depth of his crimes; the torture and murder of 5 children: John Kilbride, Leslie Ann Downey, Keith Bennett, Edward Evans and Pauline reed. He and his accomplice, Myra Hindley who is already deceased, would kidnap the children, beat and torture them before disposing with their bodies on the moors. His horrific recordings of 10 year old Leslie Ann Downey were played in court to the shock of the jury.

Some argue that as it is Brady’s body he should decide where his ashes should be spread, yet the insolence of his wish to be on the Moors, to forever taint the land would be a slap in the face of the families of the victims who have already suffered too much. Many county councils have refused to cremate his body, not wishing to be associated in any way with Ian Brady.

Moreover, the lack of remorse Brady demonstrated for his victims, describing his acts as ‘petty crimes’, and refusal to reveal the burial site of Keith Bennett, frequently torturing the family with vague hints and promises, is chilling.

Brady had been transferred to a psychiatric hospital since 1985 and had reportedly been on hunger strike since 1999, though this was swiftly undermined by his barrister who claimed he ate toast and soup most days. He frequently expressed his wish to die, yet his pleas fell on deaf ears. In one sense, Brady will be glad about the media scrutiny over his death, a proclaimed narcissist, who enjoyed the attention over him, delighting over his infamy and enjoying his reputation as the man who brought ‘evil’ into Britain.

Which Parties Have PGS Pupils Voted For in the Past?

by John Sadden (PGS Archivist)

Mock general elections have been held at PGS for around a hundred years, perhaps longer - archive records are incomplete. However, the reports we have provide some insight into the political inclination of pupils over the 20th century.

The elections since 2010 have been open to the whole senior school; before then, the franchise was limited to debating society members and attendees only. The winning party, reported in archived copies of The Portmuthian, are listed below together with the results of some other debates which are included to provide some context.

1923 Conservative

1933 Conservative

1935 Conservative

1937 Debate: “The power of women has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished”. The motion was carried. The school was not co-educational at this time.

1937 Conservative

1946 Debate: “The result of the last General Election was a national disaster”. Carried. (This was the 1945 election which was won by Labour, and brought in the National Health Service, social care and public services.)

1949 Communist (beat Conservatives by one vote, Labour came third. The successful candidate shrewdly distanced his communist vision from the actuality in Russia)

1950 Liberal

The Digital Future of Tutoring

by Thomas Locke

Private Tutoring in conjunction with traditional teaching is one of the oldest professions dating back to the ancient Greeks where children would come together in small groups to discuss topics and exchange knowledge. The Socratic method, named after Socrates, is a form of teaching that allows the student to explore topics and use previous knowledge to find the correct answer themselves. Socrates, along with Aristotle, were renowned for their work in developing methods of teaching to increase a student's knowledge, with Socrates given the title of “The First Teacher”.

In the Middle Ages, children of wealthy families would be scheduled for private tutoring sessions with well-known teachers and scientists whilst those from poorer backgrounds would typically go onto become an apprentice and develop skills in a particular industry.

During colonial times, the education system developed and with the appearance of educational institutes, textbooks were used to teach a particular subject. However, these were often written in Latin and those wishing to study these particular subjects would have to study Latin, often with a tutor during one-to-one sessions. Tutoring was also used to prepare university students for the challenges they faced ahead.

Until recently, tutoring has remained almost identical to the colonial times where students would meet with a tutor for one-to-one sessions as a way to resolve their academic worries and increase their knowledge in a particular subject or topic.

However, times are changing.

We live in a world where technology is a fundamental part of our everyday lives, whether it be with the usage of digital financial intermediaries, taxi apps to get us from A to B or the possibilities of being able to control your home remotely from a mobile device. We are constantly connected to the digital world and it makes sense for entrepreneurs to take advantage of this growing industry and the technology already in place to launch a fresh concept or idea.

Take Uber, for example, the San Francisco startup that took the world by storm with operation in over 570 cities. Uber took the basic concept of a taxi service and transformed the booking process into an entirely digital service that utilises a mobile app to book and pay for taxi rides. Today, it holds a monopoly-like grip over the taxi industry and has been the cause of many drivers opting to use Uber to provide a taxi service.

Thursday, 18 May 2017


Mrs Morgan reflects on the first PGS Mental Health Week and presents some of the content of her talk: Resilience for Girls.

When Mr Williamson suggested to me that we run a mental health week I thought it was a great idea. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how successful and necessary an event it would become.
"Wonderful", "essential", "inspiring", "very moving" are just some of the adjectives used by pupils to describe the impact that the talks have had on them. Hundreds of pupils have heard from staff about a range of topics including depression, anxiety, mindfulness, resilience and supporting friends. We are hugely grateful to our courageous teachers for sharing their stories and helping us to create a school culture where mental health is openly discussed and a support network is firmly established. We finished the week with a talk from Katy Sexton, former swimming World Champion, who spoke very movingly about her experience of living with depression, how difficult it was for her to accept and how she moved through it.

Resilience for Girls

‘Imagine a sisterhood – across all creeds and cultures – an unspoken agreement that we, as women, will support and encourage each other. That we won’t seek to take advantage of another’s weakness or sit in judgement of each other’s shortcomings. That we will remember we don’t know what struggles each of us may be facing elsewhere in our lives and so we’ll assume that each of us is doing our best. That we will do the work to heal ourselves so that together we can create a more compassionate world.’

The quote above is from the book We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere. This book formed the basis of much of my talk for PGS Mental Health Week.

Mental health is often discussed in terms of conditions like anxiety disorder, depression and so on. However, whilst the majority of us will not experience diagnosable conditions, many of us will have our mental health knocked by everyday problems involving friendship, family or relationship issues, comparing ourselves to others, academic pressure and much more.
As a girl, I experienced many of these and as a woman, my struggle for resilience continues. What’s changed as I’ve got older is that I now have a history of resilience to look back on. I have the confidence that I can get through difficult times. As girls you have less of your own history to draw upon but try to have faith and trust in yourself that in future, the time will come when you will be in awe of your own strength.

So what is resilience?

Being a strong, resilient girl / woman is not about being perfect. You do not have to be invincible to be resilient.

For me, resilience involves courage but also vulnerability. It requires self-love but also the support and love of others around you. Resilience is about being successful but it also requires the ability to fail well.

A Chinook Lands In Portsmouth

by Tony Hicks

This is something I don't see every day: an RAF Chinook landing in front of me on Clarence Field in Old Portsmouth this afternoon.

Election Special: Interview with Portsmouth South Liberal Democrat Candidate Gerald Vernon-Jackson

by Mark Docherty and Tom Matthews

The most recent speaker to visit the school was Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Portsmouth South in the upcoming General Election. This was following on from last week when the Conservative candidate, Flick Drummond, came in to speak. Vernon-Jackson has long been involved in politics in Portsmouth, having been a city councillor and leading the city council between 2010 and 2014.

He was asked whether he thought the timing of the early election suited his party, and responded with a blunt “no. Let's face it, the Conservatives are going to win a majority in this election and there's no point in pretending otherwise. I was foolish enough to believe Theresa May in the eleven times she said she would not call a general election, but she has gone back on her word. Whatever she says, she has called the election because she feels things are starting to go badly for her government and she wants to secure a mandate before that. The other reason I think she has called it is that she wants an election while Jeremy Corbyn is Labour leader.”

Flick Drummond last week said that the Conservatives have given the NHS all the money they have asked for and that there is no crisis, but Vernon-Jackson disagrees with his opponent. He said “the NHS is definitely in crisis and it is being made much worse by the Conservatives’ policies on social care. This is an issue quite close to my heart as I worked in social care for a number of years. To give an example, there are currently 237 beds taken in QA hospital by people who could go home but have nowhere else to go because there is no social care and it costs between £400 and £500 per day to keep them in hospital. Flick Drummond rejected a deal to convert St James’ hospital, which is being emptied, partly into social care which would allow us to move people from QA to St James’, hugely relieving the strain on the hospital.”

Predictably, Brexit was a topic of discussion and Vernon-Jackson was asked about the Lib Dems’ policy to hold a second EU referendum on whether to accept or reject the final deal. He claimed that the initial EU referendum gave Theresa May a mandate to start negotiations with the EU, but that people should have a chance to choose whether to go ahead with Brexit once a deal is on the table. When asked whether he felt referendums diluted the role of MPs he answered “I would trust MPs with very little. Big decisions should be made by the people rather than MPs as MPs are in no better position to make choices than normal voters. The point of MPs is to represent their constituents: that's the problem with Flick, she puts her party before Portsmouth. She has never voted against the government, and that's something I would be prepared to do as that's the sort of person I am.”

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Mental Health Week 2017

by Chris Williamson

Portsmouth Grammar School launched its first Mental Health Week to coincide with a national drive to promote good mental health. Given how much it has been in the news recently, with the Royal Family, Lady Gaga, Andrew Flintoff, Professor Green and James Haskell, to name but a few, producing videos, discussion of mental health has never been more prevalent.

I was proud to have taken a leading role in the birth of this event and it all arose out of a conversation with Mrs Morgan looking to echo the success that PGS Pride has had. Given my issues with mental health, I felt it would be cathartic to try and explain it to pupils, to explain what it felt like, to explain what could be done to help. Initial conversations led to a great deal of excitement from both of us as to how successful this could be. That said, I don’t think any of us who took part expected the response we would get.

In the run up to the week I had been fairly confident about the talk I was to deliver about depression. Given I had run over it hundreds of times in my head in the previous few years I didn’t anticipate any nerves. In the week before, I received lots of messages of support and as the audience filed into the lecture theatre I suddenly became all too aware that I was about to reveal some really quite personal information in front of a group of children and colleagues (and friends) and that I was about to talk about some of my most deep-seated insecurities in a school when I hadn’t even been able to reveal them to some members of my own family.

The talk itself flew past and I failed to talk about a number of things I had made notes about. I was just glad that so many people had turned out. However, the response afterwards was incredible – some of the messages were incredibly touching and I never expected such positivity. Any anxieties I may have had that people would take the event the wrong way evaporated in the days following as the feedback was unanimously positive. It was a reaffirmation that PGS is a special place to be.
On top of that the film Fine was shown every day and I have not seen a better resource on bereavement for those who work with youngsters anywhere. Filled with touching scenes, moments of real sadness and characters that truly drew you in I cannot recommend seeing it enough. The pupils were, once again, the stars amongst the real stars who acted with them; Finn Elliott was incredible in the lead role, Freddie Fenton as the friend trying to help and Jazzy Holden perfectly, innocently, hesitantly and caringly delivering the chilling line of “Miss, his mum just died”. Cue a very big lump in my throat.

Ms Hart took up the baton with a brave and very personal talk about anxiety, yet again pushing out the boundaries of what adults talk about in schools. As those talking, we very much had the opinion that very little should be totally off-limits and we needed to display honesty and integrity throughout. Certainly the humanity on display hopefully encouraged the staff and pupil body of the acceptability to discuss a huge range of issues with members of staff. I know Ms Hart was also humbled by the responses.

Sessions on resilience and listening followed from Mrs Morgan, Mr Frampton and Dr King, sadly I was unable to make it to all those events but I know pupils valued the chance to hear about these two very important skills. I was very impressed with the questions, the thoughtfulness and the consideration for others.

The undoubted highlight of the week was listening to swimming World Champion Katy Sexton, MBE being so open about her battles with mental health issues throughout an elite sporting career. It was moving to hear the story of how someone who has made an Olympic final could consider themselves a failure. As Katy admitted, she was used to talking about her swimming, but putting the focus towards her mental health made her even more relatable. To see someone so successful put herself in such a vulnerable position, and be so appreciated for doing so, was a fitting finale to what has been one of the most exhilarating, emotionally exhausting and extraordinary weeks of my time at PGS. I hope this is just scratching the very surface, that it is just the beginning of a movement that will encourage openness, communication, discussion and, most importantly of all, improvements in our Mental Health. Happy and Successful, in that order – let’s make sure it happens.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Should Prisoners Have the Right to Vote?

by Lily Godkin

In the UK prisoners do not have the right to vote, although The European Court of Human Rights has stated repeatedly that denying prisoners the right to vote is a breach of their human rights, the governments within the UK have to some extent chosen to ignore this. Although the UK has promised obey the court's decisions, not the European government, nor anybody else for that matter, can by any means force the UK to change their laws regarding prisoner's and the vote.

So legally the European Convention on Human Rights states that ‘all may vote once they reach voting age, regardless of their criminal status’. Surely convicts are human entitling them to human rights? and if the courts intentions by sending them to prison is reformation and improvement, then this is not achievable by treating them as something lesser as then we can only expect them to live up to what we are treating them as, animals. These people deserve the right to vote for the party and leader that will affect their lives, they are trying to be fixed, not punished. Surely they will live under the influence of the government as much as we do as citizens on the outside world. So why are governments now considering letting 16 and 17 year olds vote and not considering prisoners? The reason we agreed to follow the laws of the European convention was to move towards a world of peace integration and respect for fundamental human rights, something that has served us well over the past seven decades, so why ignore this?

The Underlying Importance of Saints vs Arsenal

by Jake Austin

This match had a certain hidden weight to it. For both the traveling ‘Gunners’ and the defending Southampton with both manager’s jobs on the line both teams needed goals and points. Southampton, for another mediocre season and the dismal run of goalless performances since the defeat in the EFL cup final to Manchester United in February, and Arsenal following once again a disappointing season where ArsenĂ© Wenger failed to live up to the lofty pre season expectations of finishing inside Champions league qualification and challenging for the title instead of struggling for fifth place. This, combined with the Fact that Arsenal could not, for the first time in 22 years, finish above their London rival, Tottenham, added to the gravity and excitement of the end to end attacking first half of football at St. Marys. And, until the half time whistle blew it seemed that the season was over for both teams. Despite the quick flow of the game and the constant attacking threat posed by both sides, it seemed that once again Southampton would not be precise enough to score, and Arsenal would not deliver to expectation. This was made worse, through the injury of Alex Oxlade – Chamberlin in the 35rd minute who had been the focal point and Commander of Arsenal’s attack until his injury and substitution. Both teams, however lacked bite in their attack, and were generous in handing over possession, especially in the final third of the field, turning the game into a counter attacking repetition until the end of the first half.

This trend was completely transformed after half time with two different teams stepping onto the field. Arsenal began to show their dominance and smothered feeble Southampton inside their own half for the rest of the game. Arsenal, however, still failed to show their true class by wasting possession meaning Southampton were still able to launch threatening counter attacks. Arsenal however persevered and Alexis Sanchez scored a moment of magic through wrong footing two Southampton defenders and firing to take the lead. This momentum then spurred substitute Olivier Giroud to head in Arsenal’s second, minutes after coming onto the pitch, sealing the win and salvaging Arsenal’s seasonal chances.

This game seemed to be a microcosm for Southampton season with at times exciting, flowing football but their lack of precision and the absence of the “clinical edge” as described by Claude Paul, to score goals meant the injury depleted defence could only hold on for so long. The Game also showcased the two tropes of Arsenal, with the first half disappointment and inability to perform contrasting to the dominance of the second half that show cases the potential of Arsenal under ArsenĂ© Wenger and their ability to perform at an elite level.

You Have Four Minutes

by Tom Fairman

One interesting fact that has come to light this week came from Jim Messina, who was Barack Obama’s campaign manager. He states that the average voter only thinks about politics for four minutes each week and hence the message you have to get across needs to find its way into those four minutes. Cue endless repetition of meaningless catchphrases, bringing both ridicule and eye rolling from those whose interest is in politics.
There is a intense pressure on politicians then to make sure they are on script and do not do anything to deviate off message because they do not want to miss their window of opportunity. You can almost see it in their faces when they answer a question, trying to work out how they can fit it in. Sometimes they do not even try, and just say it anyway. Rarely do they get a chance to have another go and neither do we.
After His resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me?” as a way of allowing Peter to makes amends for his denying Jesus three times before his death. How much relief must he have felt to have been able to correct what he thought was his final mistake? When someone you love dies suddenly, there is always an element of regret, of wishing you had one last special memory or conversation, of feeling like there is some unfinished business. When you have the opportunity to be able to say goodbye to someone you love who is dying, you can feel unsure about what to say. You do not want to mess up your four minutes, just in case they do not come around again.
My Grandpa has cancer and he wanted to get all his family together to celebrate one last time, to create one more memory for us all. He is a man who has always had time to listen to our stories, our cares and worries. He is always there, available for as much time as you needed. He is a great story-teller too, longing to relate the family history and keeping those alive in our minds who have passed away, but also those we have never known. His stories will continue in our lives as he completes his. Also his faith and dedication are an inspiration to his family and he will be sorely missed.

Why I Would Vote SNP

by Georgia McKirgan

There are two problems with the title to this piece. Firstly, I don't turn 18 until September this year so I won't be able to vote in the General Election on 8th June and secondly, the SNP don't stand in non-Scottish constituencies so there will be no SNP candidate where I live. If both these obstacles could be overcome, I would vote SNP.

My starting point is that I'm worried about the effects of an ideologically-driven hard Brexit. The main reason for voting SNP is that a large group of SNP MPs in Westminster is the best way of forcing Theresa May into a softer kind of Brexit deal. The harder a Brexit deal that gets agreed with the EU, with the inevitable severe economic consequences, the more likely is Scotland to vote to leave the U.K. The more real Theresa May sees this threat to be, the more reasonable a deal she may try and negotiate. If she sees that the SNP contingent at Westminster is significantly smaller, see will think there is no political downside to a hard Brexit.

PGS Birds

by Tony Hicks

The Greening of Football

by Henry Percival

Today, for the first time in their 128 year history, Forest Green Rovers (FGR) won promotion to the football league. They beat Tranmere Rovers 3-1 in the National League playoff final at Wembley. There is something very different about this club however. They are almost 100% vegan.

Their chairman, Dale Vince, is a green energy industrialist, bringing with him his green ways to the club. Upon buying the club, Vince banned all red meats from the clubs menus for health reasons. Within a few weeks, all sale of red meat items at the club was banned. Since then they (club staff) have eaten vegetarian options and free-range poultry and fish from sustainable stocks. However, at the end of 2015, no animal products of any description were available at the club. If the players wanted a cup of tea, then they would have to find a substitute for cow's milk. This piece of action made the club completely vegan, and making them the only club in the world to do so.

This isn’t the only green thing that Vince has done. He installed solar panels on the roof of one of the stands at their ground, using the electricity generated to power the clubs lawnmower, which is also solar powered. The energy generated is also capable to power 25% of the clubs stadium. To top this also, the playing surface at their ground is completely organic. The pitch collects rainwater, which can be recycled and then used around the stadium. Any grass cuttings from the club are given to local farmers to help them condition their soil. Finally, the area around and outside of the ground has been turned into a habitat for wildlife through the planting of trees and and flowers.

Blue Skies Over PGS

by Tony Hicks

Images from the weekend.

Old People Hate You

by John Sadden

The fact is that old people hate you. I’m not talking about your kind old granny. She loves you unconditionally. But don’t be fooled. Her love is based on an accident of birth. Her generation hates you.

These old people who hate you grew up after the Second World War. Their parents fought for democracy and against fascism. The soldiers, sailors and airmen who survived the horrors of war returned and were determined to make things better. It was their vote that changed Britain. They voted for social justice, a National Health Service, affordable housing for all, full employment, prosperity, social security, education and the abolition of poverty. Rights and responsibilities were balanced and accepted.

And, all credit to them, it worked. Their children benefitted big time. And it is these people, now old, that hate you.

They received treatment when they were sick, social care, free education and grants to go into higher education and benefits when they unable to work. Public services were run for them, for the benefit of all.

HMS Daring Returns Home

by Tony Hicks

After nine months away, HMS Daring returns home.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Photography: Out and About

by Tony Hicks

I was out and about in Portsmouth today. 

I would again like to mention the state of the water around the swan's nest. After my photographs last week, it was cleaned up. But it now looks like some sort of spill or sludge on the water with loads of rubbish again.

Interview: Working with Refugees

Shree Patel interviews Pippa Hardisty about her work with Lighthouse Relief over the Easter holidays, supporting refugees (with thanks to Alex James for transcribing the interview). 

(source: lighthouserelief.org)

Shree Patel (S)  - Were you nervous at all during your preparation?
Pippa Hardisty (P)  - I wasn’t nervous about going to the refugee camp, but I was more nervous about driving on the wrong side of the road because I’d never done that before, and I had to do that from Athens to Chalkida where I was staying. I think I was just quite excited about going really, so not many nerves.

S               - What was your first opinion of the refugees and the camps, or the atmosphere there?
P               - It seemed very calm when I first arrived because everyone, I think, was still in bed, and not much happening. I had expected there to be tents, but there were boxes instead called “Iso-boxes” that everyone was living in, and that’s what is usually a shipping container. It’s hard to say what my first experiences were… I think I was maybe surprised at how many people would have to live in such a small space; there seemed like quite a lot of space around them, but where their actual living quarters were was such a small space for eight people to live in. I think that would be very difficult to do for a prolonged period of time.

S               - What were the volunteers doing at the refugee camps, and what difference do you think that made?
P               - In the refugee camp there were lots of different NGOs working together to co-ordinate a response that would help the refugees. So I was with Lighthouse – that’s the charity I was volunteering with – and I had been put in something called the “Child Friendly Space”, so I was working really with young children, so from the ages of, say, two. [It was] supposed to be to the ages of eight, but teenagers used to come along as well because they haven’t got much to do. And we basically gave them a bit of structure to their day; we did a bit of learning with them; we did some craft activities; some free play where there are toys and stuff that they can actually use, because they don’t have any of that at home. So I think that made a massive impact to the kids’ daily routine, and there are lots of other NGOs making the impact as well. So, for example, within the same organisation, there was a “Female Friendly Space” for women to go to and to socialise, and to get advice on breast-feeding and pregnancy and stuff like that. And there were other areas such as the Red Cross Red Crescent where people go to for medical care, so it really depended on what people needed as to which organisation they went to.

S               - You mentioned children; do the children really understand what was going on, or were they sort of in their own bubble?
P               - I think the young ones don’t really understand what’s going on; they know that they’re there obviously and that’s their life, and maybe they can’t really remember much before being in the refugee camp – some of them have been there for a year – and they seem to cope very well with how it is, but I do think that some of the young children have quite aggressive behaviour, perhaps, compared to what we see maybe here or maybe if they’re home in their own country, because they’re coping with some quite stressful situations on a daily basis which they probably don’t even realise are happening. So yes, I feel like they’re kind of in a little bubble, but it’s not a protective bubble unfortunately, it’s more just that they’re not really aware of what is right and what’s wrong and how life should be.

S               - What do you think the biggest problem is faced by the refugees, in your opinion?
P               - I think the refugees in Greece, for example, Greece is quite slow at processing the Asylum Applications. Some of the people who have been in the camp have been there for over a year, and being in the camp is very much in limbo. You can’t really do anything: you can’t work, you can’t have a normal life, and all of that is very very difficult and I just think if the Asylum Applications could be processed a bit faster – and even once they’ve been approved they might still be in the camp for another three to five months afterwards before they can actually move to their new country – if that process could be faster, then I think that would help the mental health of the people within the camp, and also the well-being of the children as well. So I think the main problem they face is getting a place in another country to go and live.

Momentum and the Fate of the Labour Party

by Lizzie Howe

In September 2015, Jeremy Corbyn won the campaign to be the new leader of the Labour Party. Since 1997 the Party had taken on the form of ‘New Labour’, an initially revolutionary force fronted by Tony Blair. It centralised the Party, eradicating nationalisation as supported by Clause IV and aligning itself with business owners and the private sector. However, Corbyn began a shift to the left and back towards the older style of Labour as seen before the 1990s.

Soon after Corbyn’s election, the popularity of the Labour Party among young people began to skyrocket. Party membership began to increase more than it had in the last several decades as membership rose from 201,293 on 6 May 2015 (the day before the 2015 general election) to 388,407 on 10 January 2016. This rise of over 100,000 in less than a year was attributed to the ‘Corbyn Effect’. This refers to the fact that many of the new members who rushed to the support of the divisive leader were the young. Evidence for this can clearly be seen in university towns such as Bath, where Labour Party membership increased from 300 to 1,322. Although these numbers still do not seem hugely impressive, they do imply a sudden change in participation as Corbyn has become leader of the Labour Party, albeit from an active minority rather than a widespread support.

Alongside this surge in traditional membership, the creation of Momentum has signified a fundamental change in support for the Labour Party. Just four weeks after Corbyn was elected leader, Jon Lansman (a political activist who has had a long career working for the parliamentary party) founded the new grassroots organisation that sought to revolutionise Labour and create an open and democratic party that is powered by the members. This far-left organisation has built on Corbyn’s victory and seeks “the election of a progressive left Labour Party at every level, and to create a mass movement for real transformative change”. Many of the policies it endorses are traditional Labour policies, such as nuclear disarmament and retaining the NHS in its current form.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Election Special: Interview with Portsmouth South Conservative Candidate Flick Drummond

by Mark Docherty and Tom Matthews

On Tuesday 9th May, the school upped the ante on its general election build up by inviting the
Conservative candidate for Portsmouth South, Flick Drummond, in to give a talk at lunch time.
Among the audience were many interested pupils from various years, as well as a significant
number of year thirteens who will be first time voters on 8th June. After the talk, Flick agreed to
speak to Mark Docherty and Thomas Matthews from year twelve for a short interview.
Flick has been the Conservative MP for Portsmouth South for the past two years and is known
for campaigning strongly for the remain side in the EU referendum. When asked about the
upcoming general election, Drummond expressed her concerns about the turnout in this
election. She said “apathy could be a real problem in this election so it is very important that
people don't see it as a foregone conclusion. We have seen something similar happen with the
EU referendum and the US Presidential election, so it is very important that voters don't take the
result for granted and get out and vote.”

Unsurprisingly, when asked whether it was important that remain voters accepted the result of
the EU referendum by voting for the Conservatives rather than the Lib Dems, she, said
“definitely. The Lib Dems have no voice in Parliament; they have very little influence so it is vital
to vote Conservative to ensure a strong government. The UK can't loiter between being in the
EU and out by holding numerous referendums so we need to press on and ensure the UK gets
as good a Brexit as possible rather than voting for the Lib Dems for a second EU referendum.”
Flick told us she was not in favour of lowering the voting age as she feels that there has to be
an age where people are considered responsible enough to vote and 18 seems reasonable
because it is the point when most people are finishing their education. However, there was a
more positive response when we asked Flick whether she agreed with Theresa May’s decision
to call a snap general election. She replied “I think she had to. The strong remain contingent in
Parliament would have made her life hell and tried to obstruct the Brexit process as much as
possible so she needed to get a secure mandate by calling a general election. And it's worth
noting that it would have worked the same if we had voted the other way and remained in the
EU: Nigel Farage said there would have been ‘blood on the floor’ if the UK had voted to stay in
the EU so both sides would have tried to obstruct the government if they had lost.”
Finally, on a more personal note, we asked Flick how her campaign to get free wifi for the
armed forces was going after she mentioned it to us when we visited her at the House of
Commons earlier this school year. She told us “it's going very well! I've taken it to the Prime
Minister and she was horrified when she found out about the current situation. I think the cause
will succeed soon, and this would prove to be a perfect example of how MPs can bring local
issues all the way to the Prime Minister.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Should It Be Illegal to Purchase Ancient Artefacts?

by Laura Garratt

This essay was awarded first prize in the Archaeology Category of the St John's Oxford Classics and Ancient History Essay Competition.

In the summer of 2010, an early morning visit to the ancient ruins of Palmyra would have yielded views of the stunning monumental ruins of a great city with a myriad of tall and complete columns, illuminated with a rosy hue from the rising sun.  Visitors would rave about the sunset and sunrise on TripAdvisor, claiming the site to be the “Star of the Middle East”. 

Five years later, the sunrise is still the same, but it illuminates a scene of destruction and fallen stones.  The historic site fell under the control of ISIS in 2015: the Roman Theatre, which previously saw crowds of inquisitive tourists, has witnessed the ruthless execution of 25 captives; the temple of Baalshamin was razed with a large quantity of explosives; and artefacts both from the museum and the site itself were looted and sold on to buyers in the West, thereby filling the coffers of terrorists.
Despite this horrific example, I would argue that it should not be illegal to purchase ancient artefacts as I believe that the trade in legitimately obtained artefacts is something which ultimately benefits a great many people.  There are, of course, instances in which the sale of artefacts is already and should remain wholly illegal. This includes the trade in “blood antiquities” (antiquities which have been looted from war-torn countries and go towards fuelling conflict in those areas) and the sale of any other illicitly obtained artefact on the unregulated black market.

The impact on “blood antiquities” and other looted treasures

Several of the reasons why the illegal trade in artefacts causes so much damage are also compelling arguments to justify a total ban on the sale of all artefacts.

Firstly, the sale of looted treasures is an invaluable source of funding for ISIS and other terrorist organisations.  Being located in the cradle of civilisation, ISIS has some of the richest pickings in the world; the looting of al-Nabuk alone allegedly made ISIS $36 million.  Some of these artefacts will be kept hidden until the war dies down, but others have already been sold, often through Turkish merchants to European dealers.  Many of these end up in London, which has a huge market for antiquities.  Anyone purchasing these items would be directly funding terrorism, whether they are aware of it or not.

Secondly, the looting and theft of items actively damage archaeology itself and, therefore, our very understanding of history.  Once an item is removed from its original location it becomes difficult to understand its full and complete history.

In addition, countless precious objects are damaged while being removed, transported and stored by the people whose sole objective is to make money rather than to preserve and study them.
It could be argued, therefore, that at a total ban on the sale of ancient artefacts would slow down the enormous trade in them.  By putting an end to the easy circulation of precious antiquities, the looting and destruction of sites around the world would be discouraged and a lucrative source of funding would be made much more difficult for terrorists to access.

However, I would argue that a total ban on all artefacts would not have a significant impact on the sale of illegally-sourced antiquities.

Why All Athletics World Records Could Be Rewritten

by Oliver Wright

Under a new ‘revolutionary’ proposal from European Athletics, all athletics world records set before 2005 could be rewritten. This move is in response to the judgements of a taskforce set up in January by European Athletics, to look into the credibility of world records. The ruling council in turn ratified the proposals put forward by the taskforce, and is now calling for the main governing body of the sport, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations), to adopt these changes. Their aim through the elimination of all world records before 2005 is to rid the record books of any records that cannot be supported by the IAAF’s storage of blood and urine samples, thus, if the idea has its intended effect, increasing public confidence in the validity of the records due to the recent doping scandals. If these proposals are accepted by the IAAF then a world record will only be recognised if it can meet these three criteria:

·         It was achieved at a competition on a list of approved international events where the highest standards of officiating and technical equipment can be guaranteed.
·         The athlete had been subject to an agreed number of doping control tests in the months leading up to it.
·         The doping control sample taken after the record was stored and available for re-testing for 10 years.

The main argument in support of these plans is that modern athletics is in dire need of some sort of upheaval. The seemingly constant flow of drugs scandals and accusations is chipping away at the already diminishing credibility of the entire institution of the sport, and as a result, a radical attempt at restoring the trust of the public and media is necessary. While it involves the loss of a number of incredible and historic world records, there is no concrete evidence to support their validity and no matter how much faith we have in an athlete, we can unfortunately never know for certain if they did dope or not. Due to the modern era of athletics clearly having a doping problem, any world record by an allegedly ‘clean’ athlete comes into question, as they will have had to out-perform doping athletes, making their efforts either a incredible feat of athleticism, or, to take a more cynical and realistic standpoint, a result of performance enhancing drugs.

Although I am hoping it is relatively unlikely that the majority of current records involved the performers using a banned substance, as this would lessen the iconic nature of many great performances, to use British examples; Jonathan Edwards’ mammoth triple jump attempt of 18.29m at the 1995 World Championships, or Colin Jackson’s indoor 60m hurdles record of 7.30 seconds in 1994, it remains probable that some were set or broken because of a doping athlete. The lack of pre-2005 blood and urine samples means that there is no way to hold these past records and athletes to the same standards as the current records and athletes, making it unfair to compare the times and distances of post and pre-2005. Records exist to be broken, to highlight the impossible and inconceivable achievement of the human, to evoke excitement and spectacle over even an otherwise ordinary event. Yet the importance of records to athletics is gradually being marginalised, as they simply cannot be broken without cheating. Consequently, I would argue that these proposed changes are essential as they will, if agreed to, be the first of many steps that athletics needs to take towards a cleaner future.

Monday, 8 May 2017

How Far Does the Traditional View of the Vikings Equate to Reality?

by Libby Young

Viking longboat, Norway's National Museum of Arctic Studies
The common and often inaccurate perception of the Vikings has undergone many changes throughout history.  Today, attitudes towards the Vikings are relatively positive, and this reflects the growing regard the Vikings have earned since 19th century romanticism popularised the (inaccurate) image of a man with flowing blond locks sporting a horned helmet. Prior to this time, however, traditional attitudes were not so forgiving, as people chose instead to equate the Vikings with unimaginable savagery and brutality.  Although many of the myths that surrounded these Scandinavian warriors have been dispelled, there is some truth in the old stories, as well as falsehoods in the modern ones. By exploring topics that range from the roles of women in society to the longboats that came to symbolise the Vikings, I will investigate whether these traditional views have any grounding in reality.

The Vikings were a Scandinavian, sea-faring people who were most prominent from the 8th to the 11th centuries in what was known as the ‘Viking Age’. The term 'Viking' is misleading, as it suggests the Vikings were a unified nation which was not the case, as they came from different countries within Scandinavia.

The view of the Vikings as brutal warriors stems from one of the first Viking raids in England, and was perpetuated by Christian monks in the early middle ages. In 793 AD, Vikings attacked St Cuthbert’s church in Lindisfarne, Northumbria, and the event was later described by Alcuin of York (an English scholar and clergyman) in a damning letter that would shape attitudes towards the Vikings forever: “Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race… The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.” As Christian monks such as Alcuin were some of the few literate people at the time, these understandably one-dimensional records became the basis for the image of violence that surrounded them. 

The myths that sprung from these encounters are largely inaccurate. One such myth is that every Viking spent their time raping and pillaging without restraint, all the while exhibiting unheard of brutality and violence. However, this view fails to take into account the everyday life of most Vikings. Although raids were frequent during the summer months, only a relatively small proportion of men went on them, and for most people the majority of their time was spent as either farmers, traders, or craftsmen. In addition to this, although Viking warfare was undoubtedly violent, it was not exceptionally so for its time. For example, in 782AD, approximately 4,500 Saxons were murdered by the orders of the Frankish King Charlemagne in the so-called ‘Massacre of Verden’.

Thanks to the horrifying tales of rape and pillage spread by the Early Medieval monks, it is not hard to presume that the brutal warriors had little respect for women. However, as it is increasingly known today, Viking women enjoyed much freedom. There have been numerous discoveries of female warriors who were often initially misidentified as men, and a 10th century Irish text called,  'War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill', even records a woman leading a fleet of Viking ships. Not only were Viking women allowed to fight alongside their men, but they were also respected within society.  Viking women were given the responsibility of managing the household, family farm or trading business when their husbands were absent and, if widowed, would adopt the role on a permanent basis. This role was often symbolised by the rings of keys buried with many women which showed both their roles and power.  In addition to this, they could inherit property, request a divorce and even reclaim their dowries if their marriages ended. However, although these rights were greater than those held by many women both then and during later times, they were not utterly unique, as Viking women shared many of the same privileges as their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, at least until the Norman invasion of 1066.

As the Vikings had a penchant for raiding churches, it was commonly believed that they were  uncivilised and had little intelligence. However, this myth can be dispelled by both their longboats and their democracy.  According to William Fitzhugh, the director of Norway's National Museum of Arctic Studies, the Viking longboats were: 'unbelievable - the best in Europe by far'.  Archaeological evidence has shown that the Vikings reached cities such as Rome and Baghdad, settled in Greenland and although they didn't remain for an extended period of time, they reached and attempted to settle in North America approximately half a millennium before Columbus. Another fact that dispels the myth of a savage people is their democracy.  Wherever the Vikings settled, they also founded this enduring aspect of their society.  Both the oldest continuous parliament and the oldest parliament in the world were founded by the Vikings; founded in 930 AD the Icelandic 'Althingi' is thought to be the oldest parliament in the world, and Tynwald, the Isle of Man's parliament, claims to have held meetings at midsummer for well over a millennia.

Yet despite all of these remarkable achievements that are inconsistent with the monks' tales of horror, there is some truth in their words. The raiding for which the Vikings are so famous had such a grievous effect on its victims that the European Carolingian Empire, for example, is believed to have paid nearly 14% of its entire economy in exchange for hollow promises of peace. Even our local area did not escape unscathed: Southampton, which was a major trading centre, was largely abandoned in the 9th century Portsmouth itself was assaulted and conquered in 787 AD due to Viking attacks. Even after the area was reclaimed it suffered continual attacks until the Norman invasion of 1066.

The stories of cruelty towards both each other and their victims is not completely unfounded either, as a massive part of the Scandinavian economy was slavery. The term 'to be held in thrall' meaning to be under someone’s power, traces back to the Old Norse term for a slave: ‘thrall’, and some argue that the word ‘slave’  itself arose from the heavy targeting of the Slavic people by the Vikings.  Although slavery was common at the time, the Vikings were one of the few societies who would sell their own countrymen into slavery, a stark contrast to the Christians who vehemently opposed it.

In conclusion, the traditional perception of Vikings has many flaws. The nightmarish legends that horrified medieval people failed to show the finer points of Viking life, such as the fairness with which they treated their women; the extraordinary craftsmanship of their boats; the immense distances they travelled and the role the Vikings had in founding countries. Meanwhile, the romanticism of the 19th Century disregards their full capacity for barbarity. It is important to remember that the Vikings were a deadly force, and that perhaps the Christian monks should not be judged too harshly for their quick condemnation of the Scandinavians who plundered their lands with alarming force. In my opinion, however, this is all part of what makes the Vikings such an interesting society, as without their periodic raiding they would have been unable to achieve their greatest feats that should be remembered and celebrated even to this day.