e-Matters News and Articles

Amongst our membership lies great experience, wisdom, and insight, so rather than stay silent (not a modus to which the Development & Alumni Relations Office subscribes!) we thought we should bring you some thoughts and reflections from our own broad community. These pieces are also featured in our regular e-Matters newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive e-Matters please contact development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk

News from the House

May 28th 2020

From the Library…

The library continues to support the academic life of the college by sourcing and sending out books and articles.

If you are feeling nostalgic about those days working in the library, why not download one of these five photographs taken by the Librarian, Steven Archer, to use as a Zoom background.

Library shelves Library shelves Library shelvesLibrary shelves Library shelves

 

Access in the Time of Coronavirus: Christ Church’s Outreach work goes remote

Lockdown has obliged the whole country to adapt swiftly, and our Access team has been very busy. We had a first taste of how successful online events can be just before the lockdown, with an Instagram event for offer-holders featuring four of our wonderful student ambassadors (see https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/news/admissions/christ-church-admissions-holds-instagram-event-offer-holders) which had over 1,000 views.

Christ Church HallOur sustained contact programme Christ Church Horizons for schools in our link region in Barnet has continued apace. The Access and Admissions manager, Ana Hastoy, has met participants for individual online catch-ups about future university applications. Our Horizons tutors have given academic workshops online, including one on ‘Eighteenth-Century Theatre: On the Page and On the Stage’ and another on ‘Diabetes from Human to Cells’. There has also been an online workshop on writing personal statements. Horizons participants won’t miss out on their graduation day: there will be an exciting digital event, packed with online interview workshops, Q&A sessions with current students, and even a virtual tour of Christ Church.

Meanwhile in the North-East of England, our other sustained contact programme, Aim for Oxford, also had to switch to remote contact after two content-packed sessions on the spot. Matt Adrian, our Access and Schools Liaison Officer, and our partners at St Anne’s contacted Aim for Oxford participants for a mid-programme individual catch-up. There have also been three digital sessions: a personal statement workshop and a Biomedical Sciences academic taster, as well as a History academic taster session with Matthew Ward, our Post-Graduate Access Fellow. We have also been holding remote sessions with other schools, in Barnet and in the North-East.

We’ll report back soon on our first major entirely remote event, which is happening as this article goes to press, on 26th May: the Women in PPE Day, which has a record number of potential applicants signed up. And of course we’re busy planning for online Open Days in July!

 

Research on COVID 19: Dr Robin Thompson

Dr Robin ThompsonDr Robin Thompson is continuing to conduct research into mathematical modelling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robin is involved in an initiative to review the mathematical models that are being used by government advisory groups (SPI-M and SAGE) to guide COVID-19 policy. Last week, he co-organised a meeting at the Isaac Newton Institute about modelling COVID-19 exit strategies. And this week, he has published an article in the journal BMC Medicine emphasising that mathematical models must remain a key tool for policy-makers as interventions are relaxed in the UK and elsewhere, which is available by clicking here. This article was based in part on the virtual public lecture that Robin delivered last month, in which he explained precisely how mathematicians model infectious disease outbreaks. Robin's lecture can be accessed here.
 
The latest research and updates on the COVID-19 pandemic from the University of Oxford can be accessed here. 

 

Mental Health and the COVID-19 Crisis: Ariadne Calvo-Platero

Ariadne Calvo-Plater0 (1982) is a family therapist based in New York. Here Ariadne discusses mental health during the COVID-19 crisis: 

Dear Fellow Members of the House

I live in NY, have a husband who’s family is based in Milan, and my own family is in London, so it sometimes feels like I have been in the centre of a Venn Diagram of some of the epicenters of this Covid-19 pandemic. I am also a family therapist and executive consultant, professions that are, in many ways unfortunately, guaranteed a solid flow of business as people struggle with the myriad effects of this ongoing crisis both at home and at work.

You don’t need me to tell you, these are difficult times for everyone. It’s been hard for businesses, and hard for individuals and families.  Whether our concerns are  health, financial, about educating our kids, keeping our businesses afloat, or juggling working from home, childcare, and supporting our frontline workers, there’s been a documented, steady rise in stress and anxiety. There is an increase in the overriding general sense of danger lurking, near or far; and there is the fall-out from our realizations that we lack control over so many aspects of our lives and our future; and there is a total disruption of many of our relationships either because we are now always in the company of some or because we are no longer ever in the company of others - and Zoom, remarkable as it is, doesn’t quite cut it. Even those who have seen this time as a welcome break to the fast pace at which the world was spinning will be experiencing extensive change and uncertainty. And all this takes its toll. 

If like most people, there are times when you’re more reactive than usual, less patient, more anxious, less compassionate and altogether not your best self, don’t beat yourself up. This is a natural reaction to the vast uptick in the adrenalin and cortisol coursing round our systems. Short lived anxiety is healthy – we react speedily and we run faster from that bear we evolved to escape – and that is what it was designed to be, short-lived. Acute and chronic anxiety, the type that goes on and on, the type we’re experiencing now, is unhealthy and our ways of coping with it are not very developed. Essentially, what happens when we’re highly stressed, when we are ‘flooded’ as therapists often call it, is that our way of processing inputs – anything from a repeatedly dropped sock to a request for more work – will eschew what I call the Thinking High Road in favour of the kneejerk Reactive Low Road. What it means, neurologically speaking, is that we bypass our frontal cortex, the part of our brains which houses much of our high level thinking and executive functioning skills, like judgment, forethought, impulse control, and, instead, we go straight to the amygdala with its array of primary, more basic, emotions. As a result, our responses to those inputs tend to be more aggressive, defensive or reactive than we would normally be.

But, though this increased irritability may be ‘natural’, an inbuilt system, it does not mean that we don’t have some control over it. We do. First, by understanding how it works, we know that we can step back from any situation and, within twenty minutes or so the flooding will recede and we can have regained control and our ability to access our frontal cortexes and our Thinking High Road.  Second, there are simple adjustments that we can make in our lives that can help us regain equilibrium and control – not over the course of the virus, but a little more over our reaction to it.

The possible list is endless, but we’re more likely to do something if we keep our goals few and simple so, here are five key practices that I have been working with all my clients to incorporate in their daily lives, and which I’m working on for myself:

  • Focus on general daily healthy habits – regular exercise, healthy food, and a chance to get enough sleep.
  • Limit the time you spend on reading or hearing about bad news – choose your news sources thoughtfully, and set aside limited time to focus on them.
  • Maintain a good balance between being connected – calls, emails, zoom, household activities – and unplugged.
  • Set aside time for yourself – meditate, practice mindfulness, engage in something calming (baking anyone?)
  • Reframe to the positive – be intentional about giving yourself and others the benefit of the doubt, notice the good, and regularly review what is going well for you.

And finally, on the days that are going less well, remember that every day is a new day and a new opportunity to do things differently and better. If you can master some of these good habits now, they will not only help you, and those around you, in these trying times, but will also stand you in good stead for years to come.

Keep Safe and Stay Well and Best Wishes,

Ariadne Calvo-Platero ‘85

 

Lockdown the Swedish Way: André Andersson

photograph of André AnderssonAll of you will no doubt have read articles about the Swedish measures (or rather lack thereof) against the current pandemic. I assume that you are horrified. Needless to say, most of what has been reported is not true, and to the extent the reporting includes correct facts it is nevertheless heavily biased. So what are we up to in Sweden and why have we chosen a different approach than most other countries? I will give you a background that can be used to explain the lack of drastic and legally binding measures.

Sweden was until the early 20th century a poor country with a small population in the northern outskirts of the civilised world. Thus, the economy did not allow for a feudal system to develop and most of the land was cultivated by independent farmers. This helped to instead create a paternalistic structure where the King and the Church were in “loco parentis” for the citizens. There are numerous examples of letters from the King from the early 16th century onwards, in which the King gave stern advice on practical measures, like how land should best be cultivated. These letters where of course not legally binding, but you were definitely expected to follow them. So for more than five hundred years we have been used (and expected) to follow also non-binding recommendations.

The Swedish Constitution already in 1634 makes a clear distinction between the Ministers and the Central Government operated by them, on the one hand, and the Public Authorities that together make up the civil service, on the other hand. This has been reinforced several time since then, primarily as a device to limit the King’s ability to intervene in the running of the civil service. The result is a system with large independently run Public Authorities and a relatively small Central Government. The Government can instruct the Authorities through secondary legislation, and indirectly control them by allocation of funds and the appointment and removal of the heads of the Authorities. What is clearly not allowed is the interference by an individual Minister in the operations of an Authority. So here you have the reason why it is the officers of the Public Health Authority, rather than the relevant Minister, that issue the recommendations and stand in front of the TV cameras at the press conferences.

A third factor can perhaps explain why Sweden has taken an approach which is seen as half-hearted by the outside world. It is all embodied in the word “lagom”. We like to think that this word is unique for the Swedish language. It means “not too much or too little, but just quite right”. I very much doubt that it is unique, but what is perhaps unique is the very positive connotations this concept has in our language. We love the idea of a good compromise and admire people who manage to muddle through. We are proud of our neutrality and how we (ingloriously) muddled through the Second World War. This fondness for the middle way is probably the main reason for our limited lockdown.

Last but not least, we are a very reserved race. Even the most reticent Brit will look extrovert compared to the average Swede. So social distancing comes natural in Sweden. If the Public Health Authority proclaims social distancing as the norm, most of us jump on this opportunity of self-imposed isolation with our pet hamster and the immediate family.

What about myself? I am a partner of a major law firm here in Stockholm. Since 13 March I have worked from home and have had only two physical client meetings. I have had to cancel three trips to Glyndebourne, conferences in Tokyo, Brussels and Venice, and a symposium at Christ Church which I was supposed to chair in September. My limited consolation consists of meals at the local restaurants, growing a beard (see picture) and the odd cigar on my balcony. I am frightfully bored!

 

An Update from India: Jasper Reid

Jasper Reid (1991) and Megan Reid have been supporting vulnerable people in India during the COVID-19 crisis. They recently sent us the following update: 

People waiting to board a bus in IndiaOur social relief programme in India - with many generous donors from the House - has developed considerably since the start of the India Covid-19 lockdown. 
 
In the 60 days of lockdown (one of the most draconian on earth) we have been supporting 6,000 families across 61 areas of New Delhi with food staples, cooked meals and essential supplies. The families are migrant workers, refugees and daily-wagers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the lockdown.Our team (from our restaurant business) manage the programme and every penny raised goes to food and supplies. 
 
In the last week the big issue has become migrants wanting to get home. This has resulted in the media being dominated by stories of migrants walking home and the appalling consequences this has led to. To help solve this issue, we have now expanded our programme to included transporting migrants home by bus. This has involved a labyrinth of bureaucracy but our first buses left for Chattisgarh (a 22 hour journey) this week and we are the first private enterprise to be given permission to provide this service. Thanks to our donors we have raised almost £200,000 and will now push to increase this to cover the cost of buses and perhaps the trains which we also want to charter. 
 
The social issues resulting from the lockdown are stark and will last for a long time. We asked one migrant who was trying to cycle his rickshaw a thousand miles why he was doing this. And would the situation be bad in his village too? His answer was that, if he was going to die from the virus at least he would be home. This about sums up the situation. Fear of the virus, lack of information, a jobs wipe out and a basic human instinct to want to go home. Who doesn’t know this feeling?
 
The work continues. We would love any help and it costs only £25 to bus one of our fellow man 750kms home. To access our donation site please click here.
 
Thank you!
 
Jasper Reid 

 

Digital Boost: Stella Schuck

digital boost logo

photo of Stella SchuckStella Schuck (2014) and her team at Boston Consulting Group’s Digital Ventures arm are building Digital Boost, a platform that provides small businesses and charities with digitalisation support. Digital Boost matches small businesses and charities, affected by COVID-19, with volunteering professionals, providing 1:1 mentoring calls and Boost Workshops, all completely free of charge.

We’re looking for digitally-skilled professionals to support our small businesses and charities on a voluntary basis. Volunteers can help as little or as much as they like - all remotely. Volunteers should be digitally savvy but working in a tech company is not a prerequisite at all. Sign up here and find out more about us!

As a volunteer you will be able to have a real impact on our small business and charity community. Many of them are struggling with the most basic aspects of digitalisation, and as a result have been suffering greatly during the COVID-19 crisis. Research from the CBI suggests that slow adoption of technology and modern management practices causes a massive productivity and pay gap for many small businesses, and causes the UK to lose out on £100bn of GVA. Digital Boost will help close this gap and help make our small businesses competitive for the long-run.

Digital Boost is a fully pro-bono project run in partnership with the charity Founders4Schools, and is spearheaded by F4S’s chairwoman, Sherry Coutu, CBE, serial entrepreneur, former CEO, angel investor and non-executive director.

If you or your organisation is interested in a partnership with Digital Boost, please reach out to Stella on stella.schuck@bcgdv.com.

 

Wine Blog: Emily Robotham

Rosé trends to watch for in 2020

Buttery Manager, Emily RobothamFor nine months of the year, wine must be red or white; but for June, July and August, let it be pink. My conversion to rosé came on visits to my aunt in Provence, and Provence rosé, with its pale salmon-pink colour and light, strawberry, redcurrant flavours, is the key premium rosé still wine. Such rosés are made using black grapes with a short maceration which gives the wine a little bit of colour but not too many chewy tannins, then vinified like a white wine. Provence rosés typically are a dry Grenache blend, which is naturally low in tannin and can make wines of full body and alcohol, but rosés are also made from Tempranillo in Spain, Sangiovese in Italy, Pinot Noir in the Loire, Zinfandel in California, etc.

This year sees the release of Sarah Jessica Parker’s (of Sex and the City fame) rosé from her estate near St Tropez. The wine itself is made by Invivo, a New Zealand winery who a few years ago were responsible for Graham Norton’s Sauvignon Blanc. Look out for Invivo X SJP cropping up this Summer. Celebrity rosés are nothing new in the scene in Provence: Miraval, owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, makes a very fine, light rosé in a pretty bottle for a price that is upper-end but not startlingly so.

Ever since the launch of Laurent-Perrier rosé in 1968, pink sparkling wine has offered glamour to celebratory occasions – often for a premium. This week, the Italian government has officially allowed the production of pink Prosecco (until this point, Prosecco has technically been a white sparkling wine from the Glera grape). Pink Prosecco will be a Pinot Noir-Glera blend, and Prosecco producers are hoping it will boost their sales after the impact of coronavirus on on-trade sales and a landmark limit on Prosecco production earlier this year. Critics will point out that Prosecco producers have been making declassified pink fizz for some time and question the importance of the Prosecco name if it will mean a price increase.

For rosé from home turf, The Newt Hotel in Somerset has released a 2019 vintage rosé cider, vinified like wine but packaged in a Bordeaux bottle. The trend for rosé ciders has been on the rise for several years, with Orchard Pig, Magners and Cornish Orchards releasing pink ciders in time for Summer.

 

40 Years of Women Celebrations

Forty Years of Women at the House logo

To celebrate 40 years of women at the House we have launched three exciting online initiatives: 

1. An Alumnae Book Club: We will be running a series of virtual book discussions.  Becky Walsh (Quintavalle) (1992) has kindly agreed to lead on the first book chosen for the online book club. Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf, was published in 1925 and should make for an excellent discussion.

The Book Club is easy to join:

  1. Please email your intention to read the book by the 7th June to development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk and we will send you a Zoom link to join in the discussion.
  2. The Zoom discussion, this time led by Becky, will be at 7.30pm on Wednesday 10th June. You will need to have Zoom version 5 on your computer or phone.
  3. If you would like to suggest the next book and lead that discussion, please also email the office.

2. Alumnae Poetry Competition: We are currently running an Alumnae Poetry Competition. To enter please send your poems to development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk

Guidelines: 

  1. The competition is open to all members of the House who identify as women.
  2. Entries must not be longer than 2 x sides of A4.
  3. Entries must be received by the development and alumni office by 12 noon on the 24th July; marking 495 years since Cardinal Wolsey began building on the site of St Frideswide’s.
  4. The judges’ decisions will be made public at the September event, and a pamphlet of the best poems will be produced for the event.
  5. There will be a first prize of a two night stay for two in the best guest room in Christ Church, including full board and lodging.

3. Alumnae Interview Series: We will be releasing a series of interview with women. These will be released monthly. Our first interview will be with Professor Judith Pallot, the first female member of Governing Body.

 

Keeping by Dominic Leonard

Dominic Leonard (2015) is one of the judges of our Alumnae Poetry Competition. He read English at Christ Church, Oxford, before completing an MA in Postcolonial Studies at Leeds University. His pamphlet, 'love, bring myself' (Broken Sleep) was a Poetry Book Society recommendation, and in 2019 he received an Eric Gregory Award from the society of authors. He lives and teaches in London. He kindly shared his poem, 'Keeping', with us: 

Keeping

 

When our mongrel began to leave us I
Stood by the window looking out for some time; there was nothing
But the windfarm’s treelike groaning & the terrible
Vibrating mazes of grass. Nurses spoke quietly of shipwrecks.
She had expected her life to be otherwise, not so coarse, medicinal
Her jaw a closed-off machine trying to cast out
Her knitted breath. I began to think
Of muscle memory, how at any time I could
 
Wander up to the piano in the loft, breach
Our routine of forgetfulness, plant
My fingers down on its clumsy hinges.
We don’t know where she’s going or how fast.
It is a struggle of light & we are washed
In the hope of it, & now she is muttering and close
To see-through. Waiting for her escape is something that falls &
Falls, like the rain that splits this window with cracks of imperfect blue.

 

Image of seals and a woman on a beachALL alumni are encouraged to send in poems to development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk. The best poems will feature on the Christ Church website. 

Gifts of Inspiration from St Frideswide's Well: Poetry Prompts

The judges of our poetry competition will be providing fortnightly poetry prompts to pique your thoughts.

The House is eager to see the results. Please send poems for possible inclusion in e-Matters to development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk

Prompt:

 

    Waltzing across the tightrope
          As if there were no death
          Or hope of falling down
 
                                                               W H Auden

 

Stargazing with Professor Roger Davies

Warm summer evenings bring the most comfortable nights – if the shortest - for stargazing. The Sun reaches its most northerly point at the summer solstice which is around 9am on the 21st June, the real start of summer (don’t believe the weather presenter when they tell us summer starts on 1st June!). From then the Sun rises at a point on the horizon further and further south until 21st September when it moves into the southern hemisphere and our (northern) Autumn begins.

Noctilucent clouds image from: https://fstoppers.com/documentary/photographing-noctilucent-clouds-381814The night sky in June never gets completely dark. Astronomers mark the start of true darkness when the Sun is lower than 18° below the horizon. From the 23rd May to the 21st July there is no part of the night when that condition is satisfied, no time when it is truly dark. The sky is not black but a beautiful velvet deep blue, merging to turquoise on the northern horizon. Look out for the rare Noctilucent Clouds. The clouds are made of ice crystals very high in the atmosphere (65,000m = 200,000 feet) and they reflect the light of the Sun that is not far below the horizon.

The New Moon occurs in the early hours June 21st. If you have friend or relative in SE Asia, northern India, Saudi Arabia and central Africa tell them they will be treated to an annular eclipse, (where the Moon covers most of the Sun but a ring (an annulus) of the Sun remains visible throughout). A map of the track of the eclipse can be found at: https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEgoogle/SEgoogle2001/SE2020Jun21Agoogle.html

There is not much planet spotting this month but don’t forget to look out for Mercury in the last week of May and first week of June.  On June 4th it will be at its greatest angular separation from the Sun (23.6°) and so you’ll have your best chance to see it in the western sky just after sunset. It will be at its highest point above the horizon, 16°, in the evening sky at sunset (~9.00pm). At the end of the month Jupiter will be close to Saturn (which is about ten times fainter) between the constellations of Capricorn & Sagittarius, low in the southern sky as dawn breaks. It will be more spectacular in July when it reaches opposition (opposite the Sun in the sky) on the 14th.

Help with locating these events can be found using the interactive sky map at: https://in-the-sky.org/skymap2.php

The James Webb Space TelescopeAlmost all professional telescopes on the ground have ceased operation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the world’s best telescopes are in Chile which is now particularly hard hit. However telescopes in space continue to operate and I mentioned last month the remarkable 30th anniversary of the 2.5m diameter Hubble Space Telescope. It’s successor, the 6.5m James Webb Space Telescope has recently been fully assembled in California. The primary mirror is made of 18 separate hexagonal mirrors folded up to fit into the fairing of the European Space Agency Ariane 5 rocket to be launched from northwest of Kourou in French Guiana sometime in 2021. The structure below it is a sophisticated sunshield to keep the telescope cold. Who was James Webb? He was the NASA Administrator from 1961-68 during the Mercury, Gemini & finally the Apollo missions. He struck a balance between the technical achievement and political importance of the space programme with the vision to put a large telescope in space. You might like to watch the video of the first full deployment of the telescope on: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2020/nasa-s-james-webb-space-telescope-full-mirror-deployment-a-success/. Think about this deployment happening in space! The telescope will be launched into an orbit that takes it beyond the Moon where it cannot be visited to be repaired if anything goes wrong. JWST is tasked with observing the first stars in the Universe and characterising the atmospheres of the many planets beyond our solar system we have now discovered. 

Happy stargazing!!

 

Prayer for the Fortnight 

Peter Hemmings (1957) kindly provided us with a prayer for the fortnight. This can be accessed by clicking here.

We are also aware that many of you will have experienced bereavement and loss and may be concerned about loved ones. The Christ Church Chapel/Cathedral team would like to remember in prayer those who are sick, those who have recently died, and those who are mourning. If you would like us to pray for you or for someone you care for please fill in this form (which can be done anonymously).