Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Still Me

All Transition Year Extended Essays are now in (we will post the best of these in due course).

In her reading for the essay, Lucy Maxwell-Brown included Christopher Reeve's autobiography Still Me, and while she was mid-book wrote :
"I think this book is one of the most moving and sad stories I have read in a long time. This honest book tells us a lot about how Christopher Reeves's life went up to the stage that he was now in a wheelchair. 

To make a long story short this man was a very active and sporty man; he never stopped - he was swimming, horse riding, cycling, you name it and he probably did it at one stage of his life. Sadly one day Christopher fell off his horse during a important competition and he became paralysed. He was never going to be able to recover from this so after quite some time of being in hospital and the paparazzi chasing him for his news he has come up with an idea.

I am more than three-fifths through the book and I can't manage to put the book down. I recommend this book to everyone and can't say enough about it for people who love autobiographies. This is the most moving and touching book I have ever read."

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Another book recommendation by a TY pupil on reading for the Extended Essays, which are now being handed in.

Louvisa Karlsson-Smythe read Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and writes:

"I enjoyed this book a lot, and would recommend it for a variety of reasons. 

The book is set between Stamps, a small village in the Southern part of the States and St Louis, and gives us the autobiographical point of view of Maya, originally Marguerite, a black girl who was shipped off to her grandma's to be brought up. It's the travelling between these two destinations and the contrast between them that really makes this book. Also, the book is beautifully written, taking us through the author's childhood is a way that emphasises the small details you wouldn't normally notice, giving them a new level of importance that really makes it seem as if it was the seven or eight year-old Maya writing. 

It is a very emotional book in that it takes us through many hardships that she has to endure, but she manages to write about them in a way that is almost elegant.

All in all I rate this book 4.5 out of 5, 0.5 deducted for the ending which I thought was a bit abrupt - for me it just needed more of a elaboration after the climax."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review of 'An Inspector Calls'

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday we saw the excellent Senior Play production of J.B. Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls'. Here Sofia McConnell from Fifth Form gives her account of the play:

The play starts in Brumley, North England, in the home of a rich industrialist. It is a spring evening in 1912 and the Birling family have just risen from a comfortable family meal, celebrating the engagement of their daughter, Sheila, to Mr. Gerald Croft. The lights shine onto a small set. Four straight-back chairs surround a coffee table in the foreground; to the left there is a large armchair under a lamp. At the back of the stage there is another table, on it a collection of old, leather-bound books and an assortment of drinks. Enter stage right, Sheila (Siobhan Brady) and her young, wild brother, Eric (Sam Clarke), talking, laughing and drinking. They are soon followed by the rest of the party; Arthur and Sybil Birling (Mark McAuley and Gabriella Masding) and Gerald Croft (Aidan Chisholm). Once they are all seated and happily talking, the maid, Edna, (Lydia Johnson) brings in a round of port to finish off a successful evening. So all is well in the Birling household.

A short while later, the bell rings. Edna announces the arrival of an Inspector Goole (Mark Russell). He is here to investigate a suicide case. The suicide of a young, pretty, working class girl, Eva Smith, who killed herself by drinking strong disinfectant. As the plot progresses and thickens the audience is captured up in twist after turn of the inspector’s vigorous questioning. We learn of her previous employment and dismissal at Birling’s factory, of Sheila’s upset at a clothes shop where Eva had found work, which results in Eva being fired again, of Gerald’s “helping hand” once Eva (after changing her name to Daisy Renton), has been reduced to a “different kind of life”. Next to be revealed is Mrs Birling’s prejudiced refusal to give help to Eva from the charity committee of which she was president, simply because the girl, in her desperation, lied about her name and situation. Finally the horrifying truth of Eric’s drunken nights about the town comes out, how he made the same girl pregnant and stole money from his father to support her. The audience watches, helplessly, as Inspector Goole rips apart any walls, any confidence or comfort that this family has established. They fall into disarray, quarrelling, shouting, crying and lapsing into utter despair.

After the inspector has left, Gerald suddenly has an idea that they have been fooled. All expectations are raised suddenly as the inspector turns out to be a fraud. They see a hole through his questioning. What if they’re not all talking about the same girl? What if the “inspector” was pulling their leg and making them believe a collection of girls was actually only one girl. When they call the infirmary and ask about the arrival of a suicide victim that afternoon they are relieved to hear that there was none. All but Sheila and Eric, who are still appalled at all the horrifying truths that have come out, laugh and smile. It seems that, although all is not as it had seemed an hour ago, and although Sheila has broken off (for now) her engagement to Gerald and it seems as if life can go on in the Birling house without public scandal. Suddenly the phone rings. Silence falls on everyone in the room. You could hear a pin drop in the audience. Arthur walks slowly towards the telephone and raises it to his ear. A girl has arrived at the infirmary. A suicide victim, she swallowed a strong disinfectant. A police officer is on his way to ask some questions. All hope is shattered.

The cast were all brilliant and never lost character for a moment. I believe Mark Russell (the inspector) deserves huge praise for his outstanding performance, but huge effort was put in from every one of them and it all paid off. Mr McCarthy and Mr Swift produced an amazing play and so a big thank you to both of them. Overall I think the play was a great success. The whole audience was enraptured from start to end and, when asking people what they thought of the play as they were leaving, one parent told me it was the “greatest, most thrilling performance I have seen in St Columba’s yet.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Inspector Calls

Tonight sees the preview of this year's Senior Play, J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls, directed by Mr Peter McCarthy. Rehearsals have been under way since near the start of term.

In this classic drama of mystery and shared responsibilities a small cast is asked to give intense performances over three acts. The play, to be performed on three sides, is set in the early part of the 20th century on a night of self-satisfied celebration for one wealthy family. But not all is rosy in the Birling household...

The first performance proper is in the BSR on Friday 15th November, at 7pm, and the second performance the following evening - same time, same place. All parents and their guests are most welcome.

(Poster by Molly Dunne)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

English Twitterbag 2

Another in the irregular series of round-ups of interesting English links from our recent Twitter stream :-

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Steinbeck, Suskind

Two more book recommendations from TY pupils currently writing their Extended Essays:

Andrew Holt has read The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck:
"This novel is set during the Nazi invasion and occupation of neutral Norway. The book is set in a coastal village, one of the first to fall to the Nazis ; it surrenders with little fighting. The book focuses on the silent hatred of the German officers and patrols, and how the people carefully plan and attack the Germans in small outbursts of fighting. I enjoyed this book because it is not about a usual war, it was a mental war of hatred and resentment against the Germans."

Valentina Ascensio recommends Patrick Suskind's Perfume:
"This book is completely different and eccentric.The novel is situated in the eighteenth-century, in France. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one strange gift: a special sense of smell. As he is growing up, he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells, especially the smell of virgin women. This leads him to create 'the ultimate perfume' and become a cold-blood murderer.

The author is objective; he describes awfulness without giving his opinion, in an inhuman way. The time in which the book is situated is a really difficult time. There were no human rights so civilization wasn't really civilization and the author made the perfect description of that time. I loved this book because is different and really well written."

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Lee, Dirie

Two more recommendations based on Extended Essay reading:

Janet Boyd has read Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird and writes:-

To kill a Mockingbird was one of those books I always heard people talking about or reading and now I understand why. The book makes you think. It's about a girl thinking back to her childhood and her father's involvement in a case where a black man was accused of rape. Not only was the case interesting, the back story and the secretive neighbour Boo Radley really draw you in. I would recommend this book to everyone.

And Laia Casas Abella has been reading Waris Dirie's autobiography, Desert Flower:-

In my opinion, Desert Flower is an amazing book that reflects the role that women have in  Somalian culture. On one hand, it explains some traditions where is shown the discrimination that a lot of African women suffer every day, such as the circumcision. On the other hand, it also shows the valour and the courage of the main character, and the fighter spirit that helped her to get thorough any obstacle and achieve her aims. Therefore, I strongly recommend this book.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Lowry, Follett, Montgomery

Today IV formers start writing their Transition Year Extended Essays. As always, we will post some of the best of these when they are complete.

Meanwhile, three more recommendations of books they have been reading.

Valeria Torres Landa:
A perfect world where there is no sadness, no jealousy, no worries, everything is the same for everyone and decided and controlled  by the government. That is what the book The Giver by Lois Lowry is about. This book makes you explore so many feelings and makes you think and give thanks for all the things you have and the things you are allowed to do because in this book everything is decided by the government. I really recommend this book because from the time you open it you will not be able to stop reading.

Alexis Freytag- The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett:
I got this book from my father for Christmas and and my first thought was: bloody hell is this long! I will never do this. But when I started reading it I just couldn't stop because it was so exiting. The book deals with the building of a cathedral in Kingsbridge near Canterbury in the 12th century. What makes the book so exciting? Well, the whole book is the fight between the monks and the wealthy knights and you just can't guess what happens next. The books is full of surprises!

Thomas Lyster: Colin Montgomery's autobiography:
Monty's book is very good because he talks about his golfing career in which during that time the majors eluded him and he became the best golfer in the world never to win a major. He also talks about his Ryder Cup career which he played in seven times, one as captain in which Europe won by a point.