That Was The Week That Was
Week Three has come to an end, but the most recurring news story of the last seven days is still the Costa Concordia disaster of last week. Thirteen people are now known to have died, 64 have been injured, and twenty are still missing. We’ve heard many interesting – and several strangely laughable – quotes from the coastguard, Gregorio De Falco, to the captain: “Vada a Bordo, Cazzo” (get back on board, for ****’s sake”); and also from the captain himself, who allegedly claims he “tripped and fell into the lifeboat“. Whatever happened, though, the investigation into the accident is only just beginning.
In other news, Dutch teenager Laura Dekker today became the youngest person to sail around the world single-handed, almost a year since she set off. However, she’s being refused the world record because both the sailing authorities and Guinness want to discourage young solo attempts. As YouTuber eKriZZLe put it: “Wow…that’s messed up. ‘We know you set a world record, but we’re not going to give it to you because you’re too young.'” Personally, I think it’s a shame that such brute determination – going against rulings of her school, and against greater odds whilst on the water – has been met with a refusal to reward remarkable success.
The shutter closed on American photographic company Kodak, as they filed for bankruptcy. They’re now in complex arrangements, reshuffling the business to try and turn around the terrible state that they’re in. In other film news, Project Pinewood has been given the red light. The £200m scheme was meant to create living, breathing film sets, where homes were hidden behind a London street market facade, or a downtown New York street.
And, of course, Elly Nowell, who wrote a letter to Magdalen College at Oxford. “Much to my surprise,” the 19-year-old would-be student explains, “it has become a bit of an internet hit, and has provoked reactions of both horror and amusement.” That it has. Its content? A parody of the rejection letters that they themselves send thousands of soon-to-be disappointed students every year. Telegraph columnist Mark Norman wrote: “Were I the admissions officer of Magdalen […] I would drive to Elly’s home in Hampshire and beg her to reconsider.” All in all, she’s a brave, clever, and witty person, to whom I wish every success for the future. I just hope she doesn’t come to regret that extremely brave decision she made.
“I have now considered your establishment as a place to read Law (Jurisprudence). I very much regret to inform you that I will be withdrawing my application. I realise you may be disappointed by this decision, but you were in competition with many fantastic universities and following your interview I am afraid you do not quite meet the standard of the universities I will be considering.”
— Extract from Elly Nowell’s ‘rejection letter’ to Magdalen College
A man (probably not older than 35) with a cheery face, clad in a polo shirt, fleece, and jeans, stands presenting an introductory PowerPoint in the Braywick Nature Centre. One detects a hint of a restrained eccentricity as he speaks quite quickly whilst discussing his areas of speciality. He’s talking about the various consolations and what one can see in the night’s sky, using hand gestures to show the size of the four moons that orbit Jupiter. Sitting before him, myself and fellow ambitious stargazers are well-wrapped in coats, scarves, and gloves, ready for an evening under the sky.
After the gentleman enthusiastically answers our questions, we walk outside where seven or eight telescopes are set up for the public to use. Surrounding them, a surprisingly large number of people, with children being urged by their parents to stand on the supplied boxes to more easily see through the eyepieces.
The event’s being run by the Maidenhead Astronomical Society, to tie in with the BBC’s Stargazing Live week of nightly programming. Though posters about the society feature members of both genders, those are manning the equipment outside are all male, with their wives making the hot drinks and selling Mars bars indoors. All of the owners are – as one would expect – extremely knowledgeable and even more keen to share that knowledge with the inquisitive visitors.
There’s one guy who sees me with my camera trying, but failing, to photograph the starry sky. He encourages me to remove the lens, screw on his adapter, and fit the body to the back of his Schmidt-Cassegrain, meaning my camera effectively becomes a telescope. This allows me to, with his assistance, get an albeit blurry picture of Jupiter.
As we walk back to the Braywick Heath Nurseries car-park, I discuss with Mum and Matthew what we saw. We all really enjoyed the evening, and agreed that the Society seems a very active group.
While my photography has left a lot to be desired, the sights we saw with our naked eye will stay with us for a long time.