An interview on all things weird, wild and wonderful with Mr Loveday | By Eeman Y and Olivia R

Backchat: Do you believe in aliens?

Mr Loveday: I do believe there will be alien life discovered at some point. I’m very hopeful! There’s something amazing called the Fermi Paradox that you should, every reader, should go and find out about. It’s something I think about a lot, it freaks me out.

If you were a child at Hogwarts who would your best friend be?

I think I would have been friends with (…) I wouldn’t want to be with the core group! I suppose Neville seems like a nice guy, definitely! The reason why I wouldn’t want to hang out with the core gang is they’re always getting into trouble and death-defying feats. I wouldn’t want to fight snakes and defeat evil wizards.

There’s this TV character called Jessica Fletcher, who solved murders every time she went on holiday and everyone says, who on earth would want to be Jessica Fletcher’s friend? You’d end up dying or being arrested around her.

If you could describe yourself with one noun, verb and adjective, what would they be?

Now you’re testing my English abilities. (…) Enthusiastic. A noun, a tree! And swaying. Yep! An enthusiastically swaying tree.

On the spectrum, what is your inspiration in life?

Okay, quite a few. One of the main guys at the top because he has just been writing some articles I’ve been reading, is a guy called Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was a South-African freedom fighter, essentially, who was very important in trying to put together South Africa after their difficulties with apartheid.

What do you think is the best gift you could ever give somebody?

Your time, I guess! Making time for other people is something we really struggle to do in the modern world. We are not taught to do it anymore. We text, we swipe. We don’t do much else in human interaction.

Thoughts on social media and phones in school…

Well you may remember an assembly I did on Internet Safety Day and my line of argument is, from an evolutionary point of view, our brains aren’t very good at coping with new shiny gadgets… they make us freak out. I’m very interested and concerned basically about the impact social media will be having on us long-term. Like our friendship circles, or how we see ourselves. Our self-worth and how stressed we are, always having to check or be exciting.

There’s a lot of pressure when you’re in your twenties after when you’re at university and getting jobs… seeing other people being successful and you think that you’re not being successful. In terms of mobile phones in school, I think you guys will have the rest of your lives to be hooked up to devices. I think six hours in a day while you’re trying to study things, wouldn’t be a bad thing not to have your phone with you.

On the spectrum that is life, where would you place yourself and why?

The spectrum of life? (…) It could be a really exciting period.

Orphan X By Gregg Hurwitz | Florence G

“Do you need my help?”

It was the first question he asked. They called when they had nowhere else to turn.

The Nowhere Man is a legendary figure spoken about only in whispers. It’s said that when he’s reached by the truly desperate and deserving, the Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save them.

But he’s no legend.

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn. He’s also a man with a dangerous past. Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as part of the governments Orphan program, designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence assets— assassins. He was Orphan X. Evan broke with the program, using everything he learned to disappear.

Now, however, someone is on his tail. Someone with similar skills and training. Someone who knows Orphan X. Someone who is getting closer and closer. And will exploit Evan’s weakness—his work as The Nowhere Man—to find him and eliminate him.

Evan’s training, unlike that of the other Orphans, left his deep seated moral code intact. He carries guilt and remorse with him everywhere, as well as his conscience. He’s one of the good guys, but don’t get on his bad side. His humanity is evident, but he still strictly adheres to the rules instilled within him by his handler- Jack- a man who was more like a father to him.

Still, Evan’s personality is muted, as he fiercely controls all his emotions. The secondary characters provide the dramatic dialogue, while Evan internalizes and reminds himself of how to respond to complex situations. There is no reliance on gimmicks, no slick polish or shine, the dialogue is sparse, to the point, without a lot of time spent on descriptive text. The story moves at an incredibly swift pace, formatted almost like long form vignettes. It has a unique presentation but that helps to create a tense, suspenseful atmosphere, adding just the right amount of poignancy to the story, allowing one to fall under Evan’s spell. One finds oneself cheering him on, developing a connection to him, caring about what may happen to him as he continues his lonely journey.

Orphan X hits all of the right notes – fantastic action, more than a few twists, some excellent character development, and some pretty cool gadgetry. In lesser hands, Evan could have been turned into a stereotypical assassin-with-a-heart, but Gregg Hurwitz gave him a lot of complexity, which made him all the more fascinating.

It’s a book filled with plot, action, terror, blood and guts.

“I do.” A man’s desperate voice. “Dios mio, I do more than anything. Is it true? Is it true that you can help me?”

Image Link: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/A1Nk2UrPPWL.jpg (16/04/21)

Women in 1200-1900 | By Lexy D

In this essay, we will be looking at the way the role of women has changed between the 13th century and the 20th century. We will be looking at three areas: behaviour and expectations, work and money and leisure activities. In each section, we will first look at the 13th century and then compare it to the 18th-20th centuries. Finally, we will summarise whether things improved for women or not in the 700 years we will be looking at.

The behaviour and expectations held against women, in my opinion, have not changed all that much. For example: in both 1200 and 1900 women were expected to do all the tedious, unwanted and dangerous jobs in factories, fields or at home. They were expected to clean, look after the children and keep an eye on the servants. In 1200, they had to behave how their husbands wanted them to behave, and if they didn’t behave well their husband could sell them, beat them or even use a scold’s bridle. In 1900, it was slightly better, but not by much. Girls were finally allowed to go to school, but women’s jobs did not improve.

Money for women, as with all their other possessions, was actually owned by their husbands or fathers. They worked in very simple, repetitive jobs that men did not want to do. They were therefore required to have very little skill. Even if they managed to do jobs that the men would do, they would be paid substantially less than them. All the work was some kind of manual labour, such as farming. Once they were married, they would normally become a housewife. Here, they would have to look after children and their husbands, and they would also have to do all the cleaning in the house. If they managed to get a bit of spare time in amongst all the housework, they would be expected to either do spinning or sewing; still manual labour that was required to help them live.

Throughout the next few hundred years, things didn’t get much better for women in the workplace. In fact, the conditions of their jobs were actually getting worse and were gradually becoming more dangerous. They were still given the tedious jobs that men didn’t want to do and it was always manual labour. Even by the 1900s, they still had no financial control and all their hard earned money would automatically belong to their husband or father. The scenery had also changed too; instead of just being housewives, women could now get jobs as farm hands, although few chose this option as they still had to do most of the work a housewife would do anyway.

During the limited spare time of women in the 1200s, they were very restricted on how they could relax. They most wealthy of them would be allowed to go riding and most would be able to visit friends, mainly female, and if they were to visit male friends, it would never be unaccompanied. If their house contained a garden, then they would quite often be found relaxing there, sometimes reading a book, if they were literate. Everyone would have been religious, and therefore religious practices would be allowed, although, as it was something that was expected of all people, not just women, I cannot justly say that it was something done for leisure.

Nothing changed at all in the years before 1900, the only freedom that was given was that women were now allowed to play games of cards, although everything they did, they could only do with fellow women. Things may have got a bit better, but not a lot had changed and women were still greatly underprivileged.

I don’t think that any progress had been made for women between 1200-1900. In fact, in certain areas, I think that the status of women had decreased, although only slightly. By 1900, women were still greatly inferior to men and they were still basically owned by men. Everything they did was controlled by men and they were hardly ever allowed to do anything without a man watching over them. I think this was greatly unfair and I would have expected more progress to have been made in the way of a woman’s rights and status over a period of 700 years.

“L’Intouchables” (2011) dir. Olivier Nakache & Éric Toldeano | Ezri M

An irreverent, uplifting comedy about friendship, trust and human possibility, L’Intouchables has broken box office records in its native France and across Europe. Based on a true story of friendship between a handicap millionaire (Francois Cluzet) and his street-smart ex-con caretaker (Omar Sy), L’Intouchables depicts an unlikely camaraderie rooted in honesty and humour between two individuals who, on the surface, would seem to have nothing in common.

‘The movie is overflowing with wonderful moments’

The screenplay cleverly uses the structure of a romantic comedy to frame the (platonic) friendship between the two very different men, fueled by mutual respect, a love of fast cars, and musical diversity.

L’Intouchables is full of little inspirational moments – the kinds of scenes that remind us how much joy can be found on a screen. Whether it’s Driss and Philippe speeding down the highway while “September” is blaring on the stereo, Driss dancing up a storm at Philippe’s stodgy birthday party, Driss acting as Philippe’s barber, or Driss’ reaction to his first opera, the movie is overflowing with wonderful moments. Humour and drama are well-balanced, things never get too maudlin, but, although there are laughs, this is not a straight-forward comedy. It respects the characters and their situations.

A part I really enjoy is that the film also avoids cluttering up the narrative with too many subplots. There are other things going on beyond the development of the central relationship, but they are kept in the background. This was a good choice by the director, Olivier Nakache. Additionally, the use of a flashback was well chosen and gave a very nostalgic feel to the film.

‘This is not a straight forward comedy’

As is always the case with buddy films/romantic comedies, the actors and their chemistry represent the foundation upon which all else is built. In this case, both leads are winners. They “get” their characters, inhabit them fully, and interact with each other with genuine warmth. These actors deserve praise and recognition for what they accomplish: they are the heart, soul, and funny bone of L’Intouchables. L’Intouchables was a huge hit when it opened in France in November 2011. Not only did it do well at the box office, but it was nominated for nine César Awards, winning one: Omar Sy for Best Actor.

Image Link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/93/The_Intouchables.jpg (20/03/21)

‘A Place Called Winter’ by Patrick Gale | Florence G

A privileged elder son, and stammeringly shy, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence – until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest cost him everything. Forced to abandon his wife and child, Harry signs up for emigration to the newly colonised Canadian prairies. Remote and unforgiving, his allotted homestead in a place called Winter is a world away from the golden suburbs of turn-of-the-century Edwardian England. And yet it is here, isolated in a seemingly harsh landscape, under the threat of war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism that the fight for survival will reveal in Harry an inner strength and capacity for love beyond anything he has ever known before.

In this exquisite journey of self-discovery, loosely based on a real life family mystery, Patrick Gale has created an epic, intimate human drama, both brutal and breathtaking. It is a novel of secrets, sexuality and, ultimately, of great love.

Throughout this novel Harry’s story is told simply, without embellishment, yet with beautifully descriptive writing, detailing the wilderness both surrounding Harry and within him as he searches to belong somewhere and with someone.

‘To find yourself sometimes you must lose everything’

This book is a frank look at sexuality and the battle of self-acceptance in a less enlightened time. It is a story that is both harsh and soft-edged, a bittersweet mixture, a story that doesn’t flinch from the truth.

You really feel like you are there with Harry during all he goes through and with those he meets along the way.

A Place Called Winter was first published in early 2015 by acclaimed author, Patrick Gale. This novel was Patrick’s sixteenth book. The character of Harry Cane is loosely based on Patrick’s grandfather, who, for some unknown reason, fled to Canada. Partick has referenced many books that inspired him to write A Place Called Winter but the book that has always stood out to him when thinking about influences is the classical love story Maurice by E.M.Forster. A Place Called Winter was also shortlisted for the Costa Prize in 2015.

I recommend this book to people that are above the age of fourteen because of some upsetting scenes.

“He was not a scholar – his brain seemed too sluggish or too dreamy to grasp the things demanded of it – but he was never happier than when left alone among books, and would spend hours turning the pages of atlases, novels or tales from history, alive to the alternative versions of himself they seemed to proffer.”

“Bad men you want to kiss are the worst; he had only to use the right tone of voice and you offered your throat to the knife.”

Both taken from A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

Image Link: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71noXpH2KLL.jpg (20/03/21)

Paperbacks Vs EBooks | Lexy D

In 2011, it was feared paperback books would die out forever. However, in early 2017, the paperback made a comeback, outselling ebooks and e-readers. The sale of paperbacks grew by 4%, while ebook sales shrank by the same amount. This is believed to be down to an increase in price for ebooks, making them less affordable compared to paper books than they were when they first came out. In 2011, ebook downloads overtook paper book sales on Amazon, which developers had hoped would happen eventually, but never expected to happen so quickly.

Studies have shown that the paperback revival has been fuelled by the younger generations. Many children’s books, the kind that would typically be read to a toddler by their parent, just don’t have the same reading experience while on an e-reader as they do in physical form. 16 – 24 year olds have also said they prefer physical books to ebooks, saying they “like to hold the product”. It is also believed that, since teenagers live in a digitally dominated world, the opportunity to read a book in print instead of on a phone or e-reader gives them a chance to escape from the digital world. When a student’s eyes get tired, whether from revising or using social media, it is a lot more appealing to pick up a paperback instead of another screen. Paperback books provide downtime when people, and their eyes, get tired.

Books make an easy present for anyone. A book can be found and packaged up easily while staying a surprise to the recipient. A physical gift is much more satisfying to receive than a digital download code, saying that someone has bought you a book. Physical books also offer the ability for the reader to easily see how far through they are. Physically seeing how far through you are instead of just reading a percentage written in the corner of a screen appears to be much more satisfying to read. It gives a quick and easy idea of how much is left.

Reading comes with a whole experience, from going along the bookshelves to choose the book, sitting on the floor of a bookstore reading the first few pages, and then tearing a page as you turn it too quickly. You don’t get all of this with ebooks. And I may be alone in this, but books have a very special smell, which again just isn’t the same with ebooks.

So it would appear that paperback books are on the rise yet again. You‘ll be much more likely to see a paper book instead of an e-reader. However, fast readers and travellers may still prefer the ease of carrying many books at once in the form of an e-reader. So this won‘t be the end of e-readers, but it is definitely the resurrection of paperbacks.

Image Link: https://www.californialifehd.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/books.jpg (12/03/21)

An Interview with Mr Donaldson on Time | Conducted and Transcribed by Eeman

Backchat: Which is your favourite time period to teach and why?

Mr D: Easy! The making of Modern Britain from 1951 to 2007 because it’s really relevant to students’ lives and I like how they can relate to it and it also brings in politics and economics. Also, probably because it’s the story of my family; my dad, my mum, my grandad lived through this. I’ve found that when teaching history it’s important to relate it back to them because it’s such an abstract subject.

B: If you could talk to your past self for exactly one minute what would you say?

Mr D: Blimey! I think I would say you worry too much. People plan and they never work out how they’re supposed to, but that’s sort of how life works. If I went back to talk to myself as a teenager, I would say stop worrying about what might happen, what you need to do and to relax a little bit because you haven’t got a lot of control over things. As you get older you realise that it matters less what other people might think of you than you believe when you’re growing up. You’ve just got to be yourself!

B: If you could choose to be immortal and have all the time in the world, would you take it?

Mr D: No. Because… I think I’d get bored of it all eventually. This might sound quite dark, but I think one day I’d just like to sleep and leave it all behind. That’s gonna happen anyway at some point, but I just feel like life is so hard and tiring, although I’d like a good innings, at some point I would want it to stop. To avoid boredom as well is difficult, in some ways I’m accepting of the fact that this is temporary and you’re only here for a short time…and that’s fine.

B: What do you think has been the most significant change in the world?

Mr D: I guess today you would sort of say climate change, but in my lifetime the biggest change has been… technology. When I was at university, writing my dissertation, I did it on a typewriter! Computers were something that weren’t common back then, so I think the internet has been a massive change. As a teacher you notice it more, but life in general has become so hectic and busy. Perhaps that’s me saying it as an adult, whereas a child you have more time to daydream. I think lots of people would argue life is more complex now. I think the modern world has become a very busy place to work in.

B: Which period would you like to live in the most?

Mr D: I’m quite happy with now, because that’s where I am. You might get some history teachers that have favourite time periods they would love to visit, but I think I’m quite accepting of the fact that I’m around now. I would love to go to the future, but a bit of history I’d go back to… maybe just for a day.

B: If you could time travel would you choose to go into the past or the future?

Mr D: Future. That’s the great unknown isn’t it? I already know about the past, but the future I have no idea about so it would be quite interesting! Maybe about sort of 50 years ahead. I’d love to travel around space a bit, I think that would be really cool! It’s so gigantic and vast and we’re in such a tiny contained part of the universe, to see it in all its vastness… Because life is actually quite claustrophobic. So maybe a bit of space travel??

B: What do you think humans should aim to do at least once in their lifetime?

Mr D: I have tried skydiving, but I’m not sure it’s something you have to do in your lifetime. It’s such a vast question, but there’s obvious thing like everyone should fall in love. Mostly I think it’s the little things you do every day that everyone should experience, for example, saying hello to your neighbour or having a chat with your kids… It’s the little things like that, that I think add up to make a massive difference. The idea that if you can help someone just a little bit is… I mean if everybody did that the world would be a much nicer place.

B: Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Mr D: Ten years’ time… Not teaching! I’m not one of those people who will have the energy or passion to do it anymore. So, I would probably be somewhere doing a bit of travelling… Back to New Zealand, which is fabulous! Or wandering around Scotland a little bit, exploring. Just spending time doing things I actually want to do! Once you get a job, it steals a lot of time from you and in ten years I will have done my bit in teaching and you lot will have had enough from me. I want to still be young enough to actually put effort into my travelling and have a proper go at it… not on a cruise with a pension and those group coaches. That’s not me!

B: If you had all the time to change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?

Mr D: I’m not sure what it is I would do…. But it would be along the lines of helping as many people as possible. Like reversing climate change, or curing cancer, or making sure coronavirus didn’t get out. Something that would make the most difference to the most amount of people as possible…. That is a massive question!