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Monthly musings from Blackburn Central High School

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  • Let’s Get Brainy! – The Neuroscience of Music

    Let’s Get Brainy! – The Neuroscience of Music

    by Toni Grosvenor

    Imagine this: after an incredibly stressful day of sticking your head in book after book and expanding your brain so much that you feel as though it’ll spontaneously combust, you decide to decompress by blasting your favourite songs directly into your eardrums at an almost dangerous volume (enough for your phone to overshadow your screen with the tedious warning that ‘Listening to your headphones at a high volume can damage your hearing’). While it is significantly better to heed your device’s advice in the long run, where is the fun in forcing yourself to indulge in a show-stopping tune or a classic rock ballad with the volume bar at only approximately halfway? In this month’s edition of Let’s Get Brainy, I will be delving into the undeniable benefits of occasionally assaulting your ears with irresistibly catchy melodies and toe-tapping beats, in addition to providing some scientific evidence as to why you should consider learning how to play a musical instrument, because even if you are tone deaf and have two left feet, it’s always good to try something different and you’ll quickly notice the overwhelming advantages of such pursuits.

    First and foremost, music has been heavily studied throughout recent years, and therefore irrefutably affiliated with psychological and physiological benefits. According to Incadence (a music therapy and technology firm), four main chemicals are affected as you listen to music: endorphins, cortisol, dopamine and immunoglobulin. I touched on endorphins – in addition to dopamine – in my previous edition which uncovered some hard truths around mental health; however, these are mood-enhancing chemicals that act as pain and stress relievers that your nervous system produces when encountering these unwanted feelings. Our brains use the same pathways to process pain as they do with music, therefore, listening to music distracts us from any potential pain we may be experiencing since endorphins are plentiful when indulging in a jamming session, and pain and music are unable to be processed simultaneously due to their shared pathways. Another frequently discussed hormone is cortisol, which is commonly associated with stress and anxiety, as it is linked with the stress response. Due to the fact that music can induce relaxation, levels of cortisol are lowered and, by extension, stress and anxiety are eased as well. Moreover, immunoglobulins, which are also known as antibodies, have an increased output when listening to music, subsequently improving our immune system and making us less susceptible to illness as it is easier to fight off pathogens.

    Furthermore, an extremely interesting phenomenon regarding music and its effect on the brain is what occurs in dementia patients. Dementia inhibits many processes that people without the degenerative disease are effortlessly capable of, including cognition, memory, speech, attention and concentration, so as a consequence of that, music can be profoundly beneficial to patients with any type of dementia. According to Dementia UK, listening or engaging with music (whether that be singing, dancing, or even playing instruments) can trigger an influx of memories if the song has any significant connections with one’s past, help the patient to maintain relationships with others, in addition to encouraging emotional expression, physical activity, and social interaction. However, for music therapy to be successful, the music has to be something familiar to the patient and something that they enjoy, as they are more likely to react positively to a recognisable piece of music.

    Finally, on the subject of playing instruments, it has been proven that with each practice session you complete with your instrument, you promote neuroplasticity. In simplest terms, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to establish new connections and pathways throughout your life as you persist with an activity and neurons continue to fire together; this establishes these connections that are seen across each and every part of the brain when playing an instrument. This is very unique to music, since several areas of the brain need to collaborate to be able to: read and interpret pitches and rhythm, process the sound, integrate all of the incoming sensory information, as well as blocking out irrelevant distractions to ensure that you remember what you have just learned to play. Therefore, learning how to play an instrument drastically increases cognitive abilities, as studies have shown that musicians tend to outperform non-musicians on cognitive tests, regardless of whether the practice is short-term or long-term.

    In conclusion, music has an insurmountable number of invaluable advantages that can be experienced universally if you are willing to take the plunge. It doesn’t matter if you can play a plethora of instruments or only know how to sway along to your favourite songs; these indisputable neurological upsides will still show themselves with every new piece you listen to. Learning to sing, dance or play a new instrument is a brilliant pastime, though, and I doubt I need to tell you why, so you should attempt to partake in at least one of these activities, and don’t knock it until you try it. So, until next time, stay happy, healthy, and don’t forget to revisit to read the next edition of Let’s Get Brainy!

    References

    Music Therapy and the Brain – https://www.incadence.org/post/the-science-behind-the-sound-music-therapy-and-our-brains 

    Music and Dementia – https://www.dementiauk.org/get-support/living-with-dementia/music/#benefits 

    The Benefits of Playing Music – https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/your-brain-will-thank-you-for-being-a-musician/ 

  • Short Story: The Girl Who Could

    Short Story: The Girl Who Could

    by I. Chothia

    To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2022

    Hello! My name’s Hassan and I’m 12 years old. I’m not just an ordinary boy – I’m also good at maths, learning to play the piano, and can do 76 keepy-uppies! But this story isn’t about me. I know you think it is because, well, here I am, except it really isn’t. I’m not sure who it’s about actually, but do you know what I think? I think that by the time you’ve finished reading this, it’ll be about you, too.

    Mr. Freeman, our English teacher, had asked the class to keep a diary of everything we saw over a whole week. ‘It doesn’t matter if you think it’s interesting or not,’ he said, waving two fingers in our direction. ‘We can often learn about the world and indeed ourselves,’ he added, ‘in all things great and small.’ Mr. Freeman was a bit weird when it came to things like this. Francesca in year 7 said that she once saw him hugging a tree like it was a person and no one was surprised, but since then, everyone started calling him Mr. Treeman. What on earth was I going to write about? I wish I could be as excited about something as Mr. Treeman, I mean Mr. Freeman, was. His eyes would light up as if he had just discovered a mountain full of gold. Now that’d be something to write about!

    The following week, Mr. Freeman called the class up one by one to read out what they’d written. It was actually pretty cool, you know. First, Emma went on and on about how there was a tree called a weeping willow, which made her wonder what a tree had to cry about. Probably having to look at you, I thought. (It was a joke and it’s not like I said it out loud!) But then we found out that Malik was a carer for his mum and Tristan was allergic to water. Water! I mean, who’s allergic to water?? Mr. Freeman was right – we were learning so much – but the lesson most important of all was yet to arrive on our doorstep.

    When it was my turn, I walked to the front of the class and took a deep breath, the way you might when you get ready to run home in the rain. I told the class about the way my mum likes things arranged in our house, about the dog that always pees in our garden, about quirky grandad Tommy next door (not my real grandad), who always made the kids cry, and about the girl who couldn’t walk. I thought I was doing really well, but by the time I got to Wednesday, Mr. Freeman raised his hand.

    ‘Why do you keep calling her that?’ he asked.

    ‘Calling who what?’ I replied.

    ‘The girl,’ he said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. ‘You keep saying she can’t walk.’

    ‘But she can’t,’ I said, again as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

    ‘What’s her name?’ he asked. I didn’t know. How was I supposed to? So, I just shrugged.

    All I knew was that she lived in a small bungalow not too far from school, that she couldn’t walk, and that whenever we saw her on the way to school or when driving into town, Mum would always tut and say, ‘Look at that poor girl, she can’t even walk,’ and we’d just gaze at her with tight lips until we reached the end of the street.

    Mr. Freeman looked around at all of us, as if he had just stumbled upon that mountain full of gold after all and didn’t quite know what to do now that he had. Finally, he asked the class if there was anything they were not very good at. I don’t know why people were so proud of it but there were lots of answers. ‘And you, Hassan?’ he asked finally. ‘What are you not very good at?’

    ‘Art,’ I replied. ‘Oh, and basketball.’

    ‘So, are you an untalented artist? Or a feeble sportsman?’ He didn’t wait for an answer, not that I had one. I was suddenly feeling very self-conscious. So, I just sat there in a bit of a daze. ‘Or are you, in fact, a young man who might not be very good with a paintbrush but who is amazing at so many other things, hm?’ Right then, I felt that calling her “poor” might not have been a very nice thing to do. The best teachers always make you see things by pointing somewhere else; and then Mr. Freeman said something that would change our lives forever: ‘Remember, Hassan,’ he said, raising his eyebrows. ‘We are not defined by the things that we can’t do, but by the things that we can and the things that we choose to do.’

    By the time Saturday came around, I had already planned what I was going to say to her. I had practised it enough times of course: ‘Hello, my name’s Hassan,’ I would say. ‘I felt like doing something nice for someone, so I’ve brought you this delicious cake; I didn’t make it because I’m not good at baking but there are loads of things I’m good at.’ Then I’d laugh, (not a cackle, but just a little one, so she’d know I wasn’t being mean).

    Of course, by the time I started walking towards the door, I’d forgotten everything.

    ‘Just be yourself,’ Mum kept saying, ushering me towards the door. It’d just been raining, and the little hatched roof glimmered with tiny raindrops chasing one another; and a hatchling that could barely lift its head was singing from its nest. But just as I reached up to press the doorbell, I dropped the cake. It practically fell through my hands as if it was jelly and landed in the only way I knew it would: splat on the doorstep. I fell to my knees; I was so angry at myself; anyone would be.

    As I sat with my knees denting the ground, hopelessly trying to salvage what I could, trying to figure out what I’d done to possibly deserve this, I heard the door open.

    ‘Ah, basketball, it all makes sense,’ came a gentle voice.

    As my hand squelched deeper down three layers of cream, I looked up to find Mr. Freeman’s ever friendly face beaming into mine. Last term, we had a maths test and I must’ve spent eight minutes staring at a question I knew I just didn’t know the answer to. I imagine I had the same look on my face that Saturday afternoon.

    ‘Ah, Mr. Freeman,’ said Mum right behind me, who was as surprised as I was. ‘We didn’t know this was your place,’ she continued. ‘I am so sorry about the cake. It’s just that Hassan…’

    ‘Don’t even worry about it,’ he said excitedly, as if stumbling upon that mountain full of gold for real this time. ‘A home without guests is like a deserted house.’ He winked at me and nodded inside. ‘Go ahead,’ he said, ‘the hostess awaits.’ I walked in, as he and Mum stayed to clear up the rest of the mess.

    ‘Please, come in,’ called out a voice before I had the chance to say something. The voice was even brighter than Mr. Freeman’s (if that was at all possible) and came from a girl sat in a wheelchair, who had her back towards me. She was working on the most amazing painting – it was oil, I think: a fisherman on a boat just as the sun was setting, sitting next to an empty net, and yet still smiling. I almost wish she hadn’t said anything so I could carry on watching her work. ‘I’m Fatima,’ she said, finally turning around to reveal her warm smile, which was more beautiful than the painting.

    ‘I’m Hassan,’ I finally mustered, ‘and I’m rubbish at painting!’

    She laughed but it was kind. She showed me her paintings in a room that had transformed the bungalow into a gallery. She had carved delightful little chess pieces out of rosewood, and I wondered at them the way you might wonder at the stars if you were looking at them for the first time. And in that moment, I felt so small. If I was a star, she was the Milky Way. I learned that Fatima wasn’t some poor disabled girl, after all. Yes, she was a girl with a disability, but she was also a girl with a thousand abilities.

    Then it clicked: There she was, the girl who wasn’t defined by what she couldn’t do. There she was, the girl who could.

  • Recipe: Lasagne (nice n’ easy)

    Recipe: Lasagne (nice n’ easy)

    courtesy of Tayyabah Jones

    We hear it time and time again: “I want to be able to cook well, but it’s complicated and I just don’t have the time.” Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here I have one of the best recipes that is perfect for anyone willing to brave the kitchen, irrespective of skill! Lasagne is an extremely nostalgic dish and it is a perfect dinner idea; this recipe is heart-warming and takes you back to childhood, (which I get for some readers will be last night).

    FAQ

    What is lasagne?

    Lasagne is a layered pasta dish that originated in Italy in the Middle Ages.

    Does it require beef as its filling?

    No, you can actually replace the beef with a filling of chicken or vegetables. However, today, I will be covering how to make beef lasagne.

    Do you have to use a specific type of cheese?

    Not at all; you can use the cheese of your choice.

    INGREDIENTS

    • 900g of minced beef
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 onions roughly chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped 
    • Lasagne sheets
    • A jar of Dolmio white sauce
    • A jar of Dolmio tomato sauce
    • Cheese of your choice
    • Seasonings of your choice (for the beef)

    METHOD

    Preheat oven to 180 degrees

    Put a frying pan on the hob add oil and put it on high heat

    Add your onions and garlic to your frying pan and fry them

    Once your onions are fried, add your meat and seasonings of your choice

    Cook your meat until it turns brown

    When you notice your meat is brown, add your tomato sauce

    Turn off the heat

    Get a Pyrex dish and put your meat inside it

    Put a lasagne sheet on top of your meat and put white sauce onto it

    Repeat this process twice

    Top off the last layer of meat with a lasagne sheet on it that has white sauce on it and put cheese on it (be generous with the cheese)

    Put it in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes

    Make sure to enjoy and share this recipe with family and friends!

  • The Meaning of Christmas

    The Meaning of Christmas

    by M. Rathore

    With Christmas and the holiday season fast approaching, for those celebrating Christmas, some of us may have, in our mind’s eye, the dream Christmas of snow, wreaths on doors, log fires and a massive feast of turkey and all of the trimmings.

    You may have your own family traditions. 

    Ours is that we have our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, and there is always enough for surprise guests, who in the past have included: my next-door neighbour, or the single mum with her new baby, forced to abandon the town her family are in due to domestic violence, and once, Alan, the homeless man who sits outside Aldi where we live.

    It was Charles Dickens who gave us the idea of a family Christmas, through his story, A Christmas Carol – the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, a mean-hearted employer, forcing his workers to work for very low pay, right up to Christmas day itself. This was not unusual for workers – and the term “Boxing Day” comes from when postmen, servants and people in low-paid, menial jobs were given a “box” of some money and/or gifts.

    Before A Christmas Carol was published, people were not as excited about Christmas, especially to the extent we are now. Many people, including children, lived in poverty, and many children were orphaned, living on the streets, and others who lived at home worked from a very early age. Some as young as the age of 10 or 12, may have already left home to work as servants or apprentices. 

    Dickens brought it to the upper and middle classes – through his readings of his works – he would often read excerpts in front of audiences, acting out the parts, often left exhausted at the end of his performances. At the time, he was treated as a super celebrity by the public, so much so that when he died, in 1870, a young girl in London asked, “Mr Dickens dead? Then will Father Christmas die too?” 

    He may not have invented Christmas, but he cemented the ideas and values of the Christmases we have now, wishing for snow, charity and also the phrase “Merry Christmas.” He brought to us the idea of mince pies, giving gifts, turkey, mistletoe and seasonal happiness with our families – and it’s all down to the miserable Ebeneezer Scrooge being shown the error of his ways by the spirits that visited him that Christmas. We still use the word “Scrooge” to describe someone who is mean with their money, or doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas.

    Through his work in A Christmas Carol, Dickens brought home the message that charity is not just at Christmas time, but for every day. He lived in London, and saw first hand, people begging- including children. Many of his stories, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit and Hard Times reflected the miserable conditions many lived in. As a child, he too experienced poverty, and his family were imprisoned in Marshalsea prison due to a debt owed by his father, while Charles himself was sent to work at Warren’s Blacking Factory 12 miles away. It was not unusual for entire families to be jailed because of a parent’s debt. 

    Remember, at that time, health care wasn’t free, and the only way out of extreme poverty was the dreaded workhouse, where families were separated and forced to do often meaningless tasks for a tiny serving of food and a “bed” for the night. Charities for animals were introduced long before charities helping children! Dickens emphasised in his words that a wonderful Christmas did not mean piles of expensive gifts, but love, family and togetherness – regardless of income or wealth.

    All of us at BCHS wish you greetings of the season, and hope you remember the message that Charles Dickens shared with the world 175 years ago – “Merry Christmas to all!”

  • Opinion: The Working Class: Overworked and Underpaid?

    by Marrium Zaidi

    Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

    The wealth upon which our country prospers and keeps us sustained is largely generated on the backs of the working class, who are incredibly overworked and underappreciated. Since our incapable government can’t recognise them for it, I think someone should, hence, this article. After all, I think our country needs the opinion of people who can speak for the majority of our country rather than the wealthy, insatiable minority.

    The NHS is arguably among the most deprived of public services. With long, exhausting hours over the course of night and day not equating to the wages health workers deservedly should be paid, it is obviously clear that they are being robbed of their hard earned money to which they invest their blood, sweat and tears; someone out there is getting their money’s worth, but when will health workers start getting their work’s worth? The NHS, seemingly at the brink of the despair of privatisation, still hasn’t recovered from the pandemic, with hospitals being packed and waiting times increasingly longer than ever, as staff struggle to cope with sparse resources due to “depleting” money tree that magically seems to blossom  whenever the government decides to prioritise one thing or another. Someone out there then decided that the best way to help the NHS was to stand outside and clap for them (Florence Nightingale will be turning in her grave at the mere thought). Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that people appreciate the NHS and are concerned about its collapse, but the truth is that this will never be enough until we learn how to take that concern, devote time and effort to better understand the complexity of the problems and then transform that concern into meaningful action.

    The education sector is another in serious need of funding and reform. Teachers educate the future generations that will one day lead this country, sacrificing countless unpaid hours for the education of others. It is not possible to describe nor quantify how underappreciated teachers are for the work they do. From making sure children’s emotional needs are met to making sure their young minds are being nurtured, they are the real role models and leaders of the UK, not the self-absorbed, selfish “leaders” of the government. Let’s not forget how they helped students during the pandemic despite being overworked and under the extreme stress of new routines themselves.

    As well as these, there are many other workers in the UK, from retail to the care industry, who work hard to provide for their families to secure a wage that will help them prosper. The truth remains that without such workers, the UK would be nothing. It is clear the working class are overworked and underpaid; people don’t deserve to have the constant anxiety of if their finances are enough, or dreading their next shift or going back to work because it’s a chore now just to get you through life. The question is, what are the powers that be doing about it? Haven’t the majority suffered enough? It’s time for a change.

  • Article: Child Poverty

    Article: Child Poverty

    by Iqra Saeed

    “The best among you are those who bring greatest benefits to many others.” – Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم (peace be upon him).

    Children on the streets

    How much do you know about Child Poverty Day? Is it something you often turn a blind eye to, only because your child is lucky enough to experience a ‘luxury’ that many of us take for granted? There is an increasing population of deprived children, both in the UK and abroad, who are becoming strangers to a fresh meal, a roof over their head, clean water or sufficient clothing. 

    Look around you, and start to consider the underlying effects of child poverty today. The international day for the eradication of child poverty can be dated back to October 17th, 1987; on that day, 100,00 people gathered in the heart of Paris to honour victims who are suffering through hunger, fear and poverty, including a vast population of children.

    Why is it so significant?

    This event aims to raise awareness of the growing issue of poverty. It aims to honour victims of hunger, poverty, violence and fear which plays a crucial part in today’s society. 

    Despite the embracing, thriving society we have successfully established today, ignorance in the hearts of people is the cause of this ongoing issue we are having to deal with. To say that the world’s 26 richest people own as much as 50% of the world’s poorest is nothing short of a disgrace. As a collective, with only 1% of their wealth, billionaires could give every child an education, and every mother and child free health care.  Therefore, this event is used as an opportunity to support dialogue between those in poverty, particularly children, and today’s society.

    The global effect

    In war-worn Yemen, Save the Children have estimated 11.3 million children are facing food shortages, 587,573 are facing acute malnutrition and 100,000 are on the brink of starvation. This really shows how much we are failing all these innocent children and if we intend on making a change, we need to start now. 

    Save the children are calling for our communities to act fast and avoid a devastating, huge loss of life. – Saleh from Yemen said : “To be honest, life is hard, and work comes and goes. People are living in bad conditions, diseases are everywhere. My son was unwell, I thought he would die. I would bring him back and forth [to the clinic]. There was a fuel crisis, and I couldn’t afford transportation.” 

    A recent disaster which fell in Pakistan, leaves further famine contributing to child poverty at the moment; one third of the country had been submerged in floods leaving 16 million children deeply affected. With a huge risk of water-borne diseases affecting children of all ages, Save the Children has so far reached over 11,000 people, including 5,800 children in response to the Swat Valley floods. Various communities in Pakistan have also gathered to show support and help the people of Swat, similarly their dedication should motivate ourselves into making a difference whether it be the smallest donation of £2 or helping to provide a hot meal to a child in need.

    Photo by Ahmed Akacha on Pexels.com

    The aftermath of Covid

    Before the pandemic, poverty was already reaching new heights of severity; however, it was at its peak not only during the pandemic, but inflammation as an aftermath of Covid is another contribution to child poverty. In the height of the pandemic, Marcus Rashford MBE appealed to allow children, who would normally rely on free school meals, to be provided with vouchers/food packages at home. As someone who relied on free school meals himself as a child, Rashford was acutely aware of the impact hunger could have on a child’s development. Following this, the government announced that it will permanently allow children from families on low incomes access to free school meals, in a victory of Rashford’s child poverty campaign. 

    In the aftermath of the pandemic, poverty remains as concerning as ever. The economic climate with rising interest rates accounting for inflation has affected both children and adults. This means that many families are having to live off one meal a day or worse, choose between food or heating during these cold, winter nights.

    Make a difference

    There are various ways to approach the issue of child poverty. Those with a faint understanding of child poverty must have a deeper insight to the effects this leaves on the child. Poverty in one’s childhood can have life-long consequences, as the poorest children are less likely to access health-care and complete their education, and more likely to suffer from poor nutrition and the toils this brings. 

    To make a difference we must begin to consider the various ways we can start to help: Charities, peaceful protests, school bake-sales are just some of the ways we can raise awareness and ensure that the most pressing issues remain at the forefront of our collective social conscience.

    Every voice and every penny counts.

    “The best among you are those who bring greatest benefits to many others.” – Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم (peace be upon him).

  • The Christmas Spirit

    The Christmas Spirit

    by Salma Latif

    December. A season full of festivity. But what is it that makes this season such a special holiday?

    Christmas was traditionally a Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus, but in the early 20th century, it also became a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike. As well as celebrating the birth of Jesus, many people use this time of year to reflect on the purpose of their lives, renew family ties (and eat lots of pies)!

    Holidays are a time to make memories, whether that be with family or friends. This season, in particular, is a time to spend quality time with loved ones and eat delicious food. It’s also a time to be more generous when giving to the poor and needy. Many think that it’s a time to splurge your money but don’t realise the number of people that ‘splurging’ could help, especially the ‘thousands in want of common comforts.’ I mean, we all love gifts, but maybe we should love the people around us more. 

    Movies. Hot chocolate. Getting comfy under the blanket. My favourite moments of winter. Most of us love to binge watch our favourite Christmas movies to get into the spirit. My favourite Christmas movie is Nativity, as it’s a comedy with hilarious characters, but there’s no Christmas without Home Alone, either. Poor Kevin! Marshmallows and hot chocolate are the perfect combo to get into the mood, but above all, those celebrating Christmas should recognise it for its true meaning and use the time as an opportunity to give to the less fortunate. Many people believe that Christmas has lost its meaning. Christmas is a time to reflect upon and cherish the nativity (the event, not the movie, although the movie is pretty great too)! It’s a time to ponder upon the unique birth that means so much to billions around the world and more importantly, reflect upon its lessons.

    Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas. 

  • Life Stories: Living on the Breadline

    Life Stories: Living on the Breadline

    “I never bothered to take school trip letters home, as I knew there would be no money spare.”

    by M. Rathore

    There is no shame in living in poverty – especially when you are a child.

    I grew up in a big family – six children and only my dad working. We had absolutely nothing, except hand-me downs, furniture the neighbours had thrown out, and nothing nice or beautiful. Everything we had was…functional. No carpet, a lino floor and upturned milk crates to sit on. My siblings and I never brought friends home; we didn’t want others to see how we lived. 

    I never bothered to take school trip letters home, as I knew there would be no money spare. We all probably smelled a bit too. I can still remember sitting next to a girl in primary school, and as she passed me her pencil to use, I could smell the nice soap she had used to wash her hands. We had large blocks of soap that my dad would saw chunks off and it didn’t smell nice; it was waxy and hard, and when it was used to a sliver, it would be pressed onto the new chunk. No bubble baths, no conditioner for our hair, no deodorant. 

    Our local greengrocer, John Spicer and his wife, never had children. He loved it when our little gang would go in and ask, “Any bruised apples, John?” He would grab a few apples from the display, polish them on his jumper and gently chuck them at us all. One day, my dad found out – he was furious! He perceived this as begging. We were forbidden to do it again – even though most of the kids on the estate did it!

    My big sister worked in the big department stores – she is ten years older than me, and from me being around five or six years old, she was the most glamorous person I knew. She wore fashionable clothes, wore perfume, nail polish – she used to go out in the evening and regale me with stories of fancy restaurants she’d been to, or the celebrities who had been in her shop. Sometimes, as I got older, she would give me a half-full bottle of perfume, or nail colour, or a lip gloss. It wasn’t much – but then, it felt as if a film star lived in our home.

    A big turning point came when I was around nine. I was at school and being teased for being scruffy. A girl, (I’ll call her Susan Brown) said I was so scruffy, her mum had to send her old clothes over for me to wear – which of course, I denied. She gleefully grabbed my coat, and her name was still on a tape. I held in my tears, but that night, I cried tears of shame, tears of anger and humiliation. It was that night, I promised myself that my children would never feel like this.

    The light that came from this dark was I learned that I had to change once I became an adult. There was nothing I could do as a child to change our family’s financial situation. I worked hard at school, and when I left, I took every opportunity that came my way. I scrubbed floors, worked in a car dealership, a dry cleaner and a publishing house. I’ve been a nightclub manager – twice, and many others before I came here to BCHS!

    All sorts of jobs, giving different experiences that led to a better job than the one before. When my daughters came along, we may not have had a lot of spare cash, but they didn’t live in the poverty my family and I did. 

    Please let me repeat: There is absolutely no shame in living in poverty – especially when you are a child.

  • OPINION: Terrible Tories – Do They Care?

    OPINION: Terrible Tories – Do They Care?

    “We trust them; marching to the polling stations, voting with our hearts.”

    Marrium Zaidi

    by Marrium Zaidi

    For decades, our country has been run as a celebrated democracy. We vote for people who we believe will secure our interests and tackle the matters that affect us most, rising to monumental challenges on behalf of us and our most vulnerable. We trust them; marching to the polling stations, voting with our hearts. The Conservative Party has been in power for well over a decade now and this may continue to be the case until 2025, in the absence of a snap election. However, the question forming in more and more mouths around the country seems to be: Does our current government support what we want or what they want?

    Research indicates that within our country, 78% grew up in working class families, 49% of our population is working class and only one percent are upper class, despite a greater emerging middle class population. One would assume that this would lead a government to focus more on the needs of the majority rather than the minority but is that the case for the Tories? Instead, they’ve decided to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. With housing costs being 65 times higher now and energy bills being at an all time high, the average wage is barely enough to scrape the barrel. Families have been forced into poverty, having to resort to foodbanks, and being unable to heat their homes with one of our coldest forecasted winters on the horizon. What have the Tories done about this? It seems the answer is rather simple: Nothing. Nothing, except giving false promises to the public time and time again. 

    The truth is that most of the Conservative Party representing us in London will never understand how it feels like to be in the shoes of working class people, giving their time and effort only to receive money that will barely keep them going. More than 80% of them grew up in upper class families and attended private schools. Yet, Liz Truss, our new Prime Minister (who was elected through another whole bunch of Tories, not the public) talked about British workers, saying they needed “more graft”. Are these the words of the people who care about the majority’s wellbeing?

    Let’s also not get started on the line of scandals attached to the Party itself. From garden parties to shameless nepotism to tax avoidance to the government policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, a policy that is as absurd as it is inhumane, not to mention in contravention of the Human Rights Bill 2022. Further still, the fact that the Tories made attempts to amend the bill to dovetail their despicable policies tells us everything we need to know about where their interests lie. Now, with the pound crashing to an all time low, are these people really fit to lead our country?

    I think not.

  • Recipe: Mexican Quesadillas

    Recipe: Mexican Quesadillas

    (serves 6-8)

    Courtesy of Tayyabah Jones

    Can’t decide what to make for lunch? Well then, let’s save your afternoon with this versatile, mouth-watering recipe (that can also be made suitable for vegetarians!) Once you try Quesadillas, it will always hold a special place in your heart, but beware, you may crave it endlessly.

    Quesadillas FAQ

    What is a quesadilla?

    A dish that consists of a tortilla that is filled with cheese and a filling that is usually vegetables, chicken or beef and spices. Fun fact: it is a regional favourite in the south west of the United States!

    Should you eat quesadillas the day you cook it or can you cook them ahead of time?

    In my opinion, I think Quesadillas taste 10x better when you eat them fresh, therefore, I recommend not to cook them ahead of time as they just won’t be the same. Some people would recommend putting them in the oven and warming them up (since the cheese will harden and the quesadilla will become soggy overtime). 

    Can you accompany quesadillas with a sauce?

    Yes, usually people do actually have Quesadillas with a sauce. People tend to have their Quesadillas with sour cream as it compliments the Quesadillas really well.

    Ingredients

    • 6-8 flour Tortillas
    • 2 cups (200g) cheese of your choice
    • ¾ cup of roughly chopped coriander
    • A filling of your choice (beef, chicken or vegetables)
    • 1 tsp of onion powder, dried oregano and salt
    • 2 tsp of cumin powder and paprika
    • ¼ tsp of black pepper, cayenne pepper (this is optional but I strongly recommend them)
    • Butter (to taste)

    FOR THE BEEF FILLING YOU WILL NEED:

    • ½  tbsp of olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
    • ½ onion (finely chopped)
    • 500 g/ 1 lb of ground beef/mince
    • 1 small red bell pepper (diced)
    • 2 tbsp of tomato paste
    • 65 ml of water

    Heat oil in a pan on a high heat. 

    Add garlic and onions and cook for 2 minutes.

    Add beef and cook it, break it up as you go along.

    Once it goes pink to brown, add the red bell pepper and cook for a minute.

    Add tomato paste, water and seasoning. Cook for 2 minutes and put it in a bowl to cool.

    FOR VEGETABLE FILLING YOU WILL NEED:

    • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
    • 1 onion (finely chopped)
    • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
    • 1 can of black beans (400g)
    • 1 bell pepper (colour of your choice and diced)
    • 1 cup corn (canned corn or frozen thawed)
    • ¼ cup tomato paste
    • 65 ml of water

    Heat oil in a pan over high heat.

    Add onion, garlic (cook for 2 minutes) and the red bell pepper (cook for a minute)

    Add beans, corn, tomato paste, water and the seasonings (mentioned above).

    Cook for 2 minutes and separate into a bowl. 

    FOR THE CHICKEN FILLING YOU WILL NEED:

    • 2 ½ tbsp of olive oil
    • 500 g of chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)
    • 2 garlic cloves (minced
    • 1 small onion (quartered and sliced)
    • 1 small red pepper (diced)

    Chop your chicken into cubes

    Season your chicken with the seasonings I mentioned earlier (add other seasonings such as chicken seasoning, all purpose seasoning, chilli flakes etc, if you want)

    Marinate your chicken for about 30 minutes to an hour (depending on how much time you have on your hands).

    Add oil to a pan and cook chicken on a medium heat.

    Move your chicken around with a spatula until it’s browned. 

    Let it cook on a low-medium heat for 20-25 minutes (don’t let it burn)

    After the chicken has been cooking, there will be some water; to make it disappear put it on a high heat until water has disappeared (be careful, as the chicken may burn)

    Put the chicken in a bowl and put it on one side, and cook your vegetables (I add some seasoning of my choice to mine).

    Put vegetables in a pan and add a drizzle of oil and cook until it becomes an orange-like colour.

    I then put the vegetables in the same bowl as the chicken.

    INSTRUCTIONS

    Place your tortilla on your work surface and add butter to one side of your tortilla.

    Get a pan and put it on LOW heat so the tortilla does not burn.

    Place your tortilla on the pan so the side that isn’t buttered is facing you and on one half of the tortilla, add cheese, then your filling option then top it off with more cheese.  

    Since you have only added your filling to one side of the tortilla, fold the empty side over making it cover the side with the filling on. 

    After 3-4 minutes, flip the quesadilla and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes.

    Then, you may serve it. I recommend serving it with fries and using sour cream as a sauce.

    Happy eating!

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