The real cost of recession

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Nine years ago, 189 nations agreed to take action to reduce the number of people around the world living on less than 80p a day. But as the recession shows no signs of slowing down, what impact is the economic crisis having on the war on poverty

Days before the G8 Summit met in July in L’Aquila, Italy to discuss the economic crisis and international development, a UN report warned that current progress in eradicating poverty and hunger is too slow to meet the agreed 2015 targets. The targets, agreed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aim to improve worldwide development. The report also estimates that up to 90 million more people will be living in extreme poverty by the end of 2009, undoing the progress of the last nine years.

On the same day, Douglas Alexander, the UK’s International Development Secretary, announced details of a new white paper, Building our Common Future. It promises to change the way the UK provides funding and a renewed commitment to contributing £9bn a year to international development by 2013 – roughly 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI).
According to UN statistics, in 1990 1.8 billion people across the globe lived on less than 80p ($1.25) a day. By 2005 that figure had dropped to 1.4 billion. This, the UN stated, was due to the success of the Millennium Devel¬opment Goals (MDGs).

In light of the UN report, the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said, “We cannot allow an unfavourable economic climate to prevent us from realising the commitments made in 2000, The global community cannot turn its back on the poor and the vulnerable. Now is the time to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.”

Last year development fund¬ing dropped for the second year in a row, raising concerns about the impact the global economic crisis. In addition, gains made in the eradication of hunger re¬versed due to increasing food prices and rising production costs.

Tom Morrison, from the Department of International Development (DFID) said, “The current recession is having a huge impact on the MDG targets. For farmers in developing countries especially, the cost of production is increasing at a far greater rate than the rising price of food. So although they are making more money on the food they produce, it is harder and more costly to produce.”

Furthermore the financial meltdown in many western economies has affected developing countries trying to export their produce in order to independently finance their own development programmes.

In 2005 at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, leaders of developed countries committed to increasing their development aid. However the shrinking global economy threatens to reduce the total figures commited as many countries express their contribution as a percentage of GNI.
Last year the UK contributed approximately 0.4% of GNI, 0.3% shy of the 2013 target of 0.7%.

Douglas Alexander said, “We have made great strides over the past decade in tackling global poverty but there is much still to do. The economic downturn has had a devastating effect on the developing world. The economic crisis has highlighted as never before the interdependence of nations, rich and poor, across the world.”

Purity Rings: Shoulda put a ring on it

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There’s no denying it, sex sells. Which must be exactly what the makers of the new iPhone Purity Ring application were thinking when they launched it in July this year. But in a country that still manages to have the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe, are purity rings the answer?

In 1995 Denny and Amy Pattyn decided something needed to be done about the increasing number of teen pregnancies in Arizona, USA, so they launched The Silver Ring Thing (SRT), a programme promoting the value of abstaining from sex outside of marriage. Nearly 15 years on, SRT has grown, reaching 8 other countries, including the UK. Its popularity continues to rise with celebrities like the Jonas Brothers wearing purity rings and declaring their commitment to chastity.

The Silver Ring Thing isn’t the only purity programme – there are other church organisations doing similar things, especially in America – but it is the most well known. In 2003 the BBC ran a documentary on the work Denny and Amy were doing in America. Heather Playfoot, one of SRT’s UK Directors, watched the programme and got in touch with the Pattyns.

“I saw the UK was facing the same problems and issues as the Pattyns had seen in Arizona, so I contacted Denny and asked about bringing the show to the UK and starting a branch of SRT over here,” she says.

Based on Biblical principles the SRT programme breaks the large multimedia show into four separate sessions covering temptation, boundaries, the consequences of sex outside of marriage and God. Students meet in groups of the same sex and age to cover the course. At the end of the course students can decide whether they wish to make the commitment to abstinence and if they want a ring.

“We’d love to take the programme into schools,” says Heather, “but we just don’t have the resources. The government don’t want to give us money so we rely on unpaid volunteers to run courses across the country.”

Without funding the availability of the course in the UK is limited. There are currently plans to develop a home study pack, enabling people to do the programme on their own and for SRT to become part of the National Curriculum for sex education.

Many of the UK SRT courses are aimed at teenagers in local churches but there has also been an interest from people in their 20s and those who aren’t Christians.

So what about the Purity Ring application? For a mere 59 pence you can download the application to your iPhone or iPod Touch, accept a pledge and show the world your plans to save yourself for marriage by a spinning purity ring on your screen.

Island Wall Entertainment, the company behind the new application, believe that the digital Purity Ring will reach a whole new audience of young people and encourage them to save sex until they are married.

Company Director, Henry E Bennett said, “This is an exciting opportunity to reach a whole new generation of people, on a platform that has never been used to spread this important message.”

Thank you Mr Speaker

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This Saturday morning I was fortunate enough to gain a private audience with the recently elected Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow. He was, unsurprisingly, a very pleasant man.

He arrived at the Bell Hotel in Winslow fresh from a coffee morning with the local Age Concern, ready to talk politics, tennis and David Bowie’s ability to reinvent himself – a skill that every politician must wish to perfect. As well as controlling the chaotic circus that is Parliament on a daily basis, he is also quite an ordinary bloke it seems. He has a wife, Sally, and three young children. And drives a people carrier.

John spoke of his desire to be known as the man who reformed Parliament, moving from its archaic roots into the 21st Century.

I am now in the process of writing up my jolly little conversation with one of the political men of the moment into a beautiful feature for my dissertation magazine. I shall leave you with this tantalizing morsel:

Freddie, his three year old, apparently said as John left for work recently, “Goodbye Daddy, Speaker of the House.” How frightfully sweet.

Incinerators: The Burning Debate

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In April Bucks County Council was forced to reveal controversial plans to build a waste incinerator in the middle of rural Aylesbury Vale. As room runs out in our landfills, is burning waste for energy really the answer?

For decades we have buried our household waste in landfill sites across the country, but EU legislation and UK government targets are pushing local authorities to find alternatives to simply topping up the landfill, and fast. In recent years one alternative has been repeatedly put forward by local authorities and, time and again, it has met with wide opposition from the public amid growing health fears. Protesters against incinerator plans in Derby from UKWIN website

Waste incineration – the burning of household waste in a controlled and monitored environment – heats rubbish to temperatures over 850°C converting it into four products, incinerator bottom ash, flue gases, particulates and heat which is then used to generate electric power. Any non-combustible materials such as metal or stone will not burn and remain solid at the base of the incinerator forming the incinerator bottom ash. The metals are then extracted and recycled. Flue gases and particulates are captured in the chimney via a series of filters and are treated before being finally being released into the atmosphere.

Energy potential

Many of the incinerators established or proposed in the UK use Energy from Waste (EfW) technologies. These incinerators allow authorities to harness the energy potential locked inside our everyday rubbish. A medium sized EfW plant processing 200,000 tonnes of waste per year is expected to produce enough electricity for 17,000 to 20,000 homes.

Depending on the materials being burnt, incinerators can reduce the volume of waste by up to 95%. Not only does incineration provide energy, it also drastically reduces the amount of waste going to our brimming landfill sites. It is already widely used for the disposal of clinical waste but more and more local authorities are pushing for incinerators to be used for more waste types.

Allington Quarry Incinerator, KentA Spanish owned company, Waste Recycling Group (WRG), has been contracted to build incinerators for many of the proposed sites across the country in the last five years. They currently run two incinerators in the UK, at Allington Quarry, Kent and at Eastcroft, Nottingham. A third WRG plant is in the pipeline in Hull where planning permission has been granted in a controversial battle between local authorities and action groups. These are only the ones that have been approved. In the last five years WRG has been connected to several rejected incinerator plans, including ones in Cheshire, East Sussex and Scotland.

Destroying the countryside

The most recent WRG proposal would erect an incinerator with a 94m chimney in the heart North Buckinghamshire. Built at Lower Greatmoor Farm in Edgcott, in the heart of Aylesbury Vale’s ancient woodland, the plant would overshadow surrounding beauty spots, villages and the National Trust’s Waddesdon Manor, destroying the countryside. The plans would also turn a disused railway line into a new two-lane road specifically for HGVs bringing waste to the plant.

Waddesdon Manor, BuckinghamshireWhile planning permission is yet be granted, Buckinghamshire County Council hopes that building the incinerator would help them achieve UK and EU policy targets on landfill reduction. Buckinghamshire households produce about 270,000 tonnes of waste a year of which 41% is recycled. However as the area is expected to expand in population over the next decade, the County Council predict the amount of household waste will increase at a much greater rate than they can handle, even by introducing further recycling initiatives.

But UK Without Incinerators Network (UKWIN), an independent organisation representing action groups opposing the expansion of waste incineration, claim that the alternatives to incineration are “cheaper, quicker to implement and more flexible and are better for the environment”. UKWIN believes that resources would be better spent improving recycling and by providing a weekly separate food waste collection instead of burning our waste.

Supporters of incinerators say that rubbish in landfill sites produces methane which contributes to greenhouses gases and subsequently climate change. But incinerators too play their part in adding to greenhouse gases. Despite the bonus of producing electricity from waste, the levels of CO2 they produce are far higher than those created by burning fossil fuels.

Health Fears

Perhaps the most contentious issue concerning incinerators is their impact on the health of people in surrounding areas. Studies conducted for the British Society for Ecological Medicine in 2008 show that there is a higher rate of adult and childhood cancer cases in areas around public waste incinerators. The report claims that “incinerator emissions are a major source” of compounds linked to cancer and hormone problems.

Renowned British pollution expert Dr Dick van Steenis, supports Stop Aylesbury Vale Incinerator (SAVI), the action group campaigning against the Edgecott incinerator plans. He says “incinerators cause a shortening of lifespan of up to 14 years by increasing a range of diseases especially heart attacks and cancers” according to a study conducted by Coventry University.

Whether incinerators are the way forward or not remains to be seen. But wide public opposition and damning facts about the impact these smouldering chimneys are having on national health leaves a burning question: to incinerate, or not to incinerate?

This piece was written for my MA portfolio in May 2009

Labour leadership: Could it be (Lord) Mandy?

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In light of the recent European election results, calls for Gordon Brown to step down as Prime Minister have risen to the fore, once again.

It’s been a disastrous 7 days for Mr Brown. It started with resignations from key cabinet members, including James Purnell and Jacqui Smith, and ended with voters in the north of England prefering to give their MEP seats to the extremist British National Party rather than Labour. (The fact that they didn’t turn to the Conversatives or Lib Dem either perhaps indicates how disheartened the electorate are with the main parties but that’s a topic for another day.)

So is it time for Gordon to call it quits? Let’s face it, he’s not just had a disastrous week – it’s been a disastrous two years. As Have I Got News For You highlighted last week, for Brown to become PM and then lose his position without actually sitting out a general election, must be some sort of record.

To his credit, Brown has weathered this out fairly well. He’s survived two years of calls to have him step down and a general election to be called. He’s seen us through bird flu and the IMF recently praised him for his policies tackling the recession. Oh and he cares about Susan Boyle.

If Brown does step down – or is forced out – who could take his shoes? Already members of the party have bandied about names – David Miliband tips new Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, as a “leading candidate” for any leadership contest. Or perhaps our beloved Chancellor, Alastair Darling, could step up to the mantle and take over as PM (if he did though it would need to be much better than how he has stepped up to the job of Chancellor)? What about David Miliband himself?

The real gem however would be Lord Mandy getting the job. Peter Mandelson has more lives than a proverbial cat. When Blair brought him back from the shadowy depths and put him out to pasture as the British Commissioner for the European Union no one could have predicted Mandelson would come back into British politics in quite the way he has. Brown developed a penchant for placing unelected peers into his cabinet – the recent cabinet reshuffle has seen even more unelected peers join Brown’s elite team (and a rather dubious association to Lord Sugar).

Quentin Letts and Andrew Gimson on Radio 5 Live this morning certainly seem to think Mandelson as PM would be great. “Mandy is an absolute wonder to behold…one does rather wish he could be prime minister in name as well as fact,” said Andrew Gimson. But can Lord Mandy really take the job? It raises many more questions over the accountability of the PM and government if he did. For starters, Mandelson has not been elected by the people and one wonders how he can or should govern the country, on behalf of the people without actually representing them in a conventional MP’s post. Not to mention his previous disgraces from government.

If Mandelson does become Labour leader it will no doubt throw everything this country has come to stand for in democracy into further turmoil. We can only sit and watch events unfold. The chaos of the expense saga, Brown’s unstable future and the rise of the BNP. It is a confusing time for British politics.

Live Long And Prosper

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Last night I embraced my inner geek and went to see Star Trek. I’m no Trekkie by any stretch of the imagination – my knowledge extends to Spock, Captain Kirk, William Shatner and being able to identify a Star Trek uniform by it’s trademark block colour and the little upside-down V badge.

I couldn’t tell you anything else. I didn’t know when it was set, which characters were in which series or that Spock is in fact a Vulcan – all I knew was he had funny ears. I was blissfully ignorant of any details about the TV show beamed into my living room every weekend as a child.

So it was with some apprehension that I agreed to join a group of my twentysomething friends – half of whom revealed themselves to be closet Trekkies while my ignorance shone through.

And I was pleasantly surprised. Even I, with my limited knowledge of Star Trek, was impressed at how well cast the characters were, with the new actors matching up pretty well with the original TV cast.

Couple that with a good script – “Are you out of your Vulcan mind?” and “I’ll be monitoring your frequencies.” – even if the plot is a little formulaic (token space bad guy causes problems, USS Enterprise comes to the rescue, bad guy gets upper hand, USS Enterprise wins in the end ready to defend the federation again) – and you’re on to a winner. The applause at the end of the particular screening I was at would back that up too.

From Zachary Quinto’s performance as Spock (better known as Heroes psycho-character Syler) to Simon Pegg’s Scotty, the film is full of fantastically brilliant characters pulled off by actors you wouldn’t necessarily expect.

You don’t need to be a Trekkie to enjoy the 11th Start Trek film. (Yes 11th, according to Wiki, the Guiness Book of Records claims that the original Star Trek series has the largest number of spin-offs of all TV shows.) Whether you know that “Live long and prosper” is a Vulcan farewell or not, let Scotty beam you aboard the USS Enterprise and enjoy the film.

The Good and the Bad: Death, the UK media, Jade and Natasha

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I have been somewhat slack these last few weeks in posting ANYTHING ANYWHERE. Mainly because I have been so caught up in planning a magazine or two as part of the assessment for my course. My apologies. Now with cup of tea in hand (and dunked biscuit heading for my jeans), I shall resume.

There’s been an interesting media reaction to the death of two very different celebrities over the past two weeks.

Firstly, Natasha Richardson’s unexpected death on March 18 2009.

Initial reports spoke of Natasha’s admission to the intensive care unit of Sacré Coeur Hospital, in Montreal, Canada, after a skiing accident on the slopes. Later the story was even more tragic as news arrived that the 45 year old actress was ‘brain-dead’. Natasha Richardson ‘brain-dead’ after skiing accident – Times online

There were tributes, obituaries and a few front pages (notably The Sun’s Neeson’s Natasha Dead and The Mirror’s 1am special Liam’s Grief as Natasha Dies). Natasha’s death was completely out of the blue. No one could have predicted it.

While the mass media reported the accident and then her death, the event almost passed by un-noticed. It was tragic and totally unexpected, yet coverage was humbly small and handled in a very respectable, news-worthy way.

Natasha was a member of the Redgrave clan, one of the most distinguished British acting families, and this should have deemed more column inches in reporting her surprise death. However, such family background is, perhaps, why Natasha’s death was not more widely exposed. Subsequent stories ran concerning the funeral and her organs being donated. We were fed information about her death and necessary extras in an unobtrusive fashion. So much so, if you weren’t paying attention over the last two weeks you could easily have missed it altogether.

Walk into your newsagents this week and only a handful of magazines have run tributes to the British actress; Hello! being one of them.

Instead, most (like OK! and New) covered the other major “celebrity” death in the last week: Jade Goody’s final exit. (Which, in a rather cynical view, couldn’t have been better timed even if Max had planned it himself). Even those who have run with a main cover focus on Natasha still have a designated Jade corner (Hello! I’m looking at you).

In contrast to Natasha, Jade’s face has been plastered across more magazine racks and newspaper stands in the week she’s been dead than when she was alive. There is no way you can miss that Jade Goody died – unless perhaps you happen to be a hermit living on a remote Scottish isle with no form of modern communication.

Forgive me for sounding callous, but I’m a bit relived Jade finally passed away. For her it means no more suffering (having seen what cancer and its treatment does to a person, makes you, in a way, glad when the ordeal is over even if it ends in death). It also means that I do not have to put up with Jade’s constant clamouring for the limelight. I wouldn’t wish death on anyone, but I was definitely suffering from a chronic case of Jade-fatigue.

That said, I admire what Jade has done since she discovered her terminal cancer. Skeptical as I was about the way in which she chose to go about dealing with it, I don’t blame her for using the media to get as much money as she could for her boys. Then there’s the way in which, intentionally or otherwise, the profile of cervical cancer and the need for cervical screening has been raised.

Jade will always be a controversial topic, even years from now. There will be media experts discussing the “Jade effect”, examining what it shows of our media centric society.

When Jade’s cancer was confirmed as terminal, radio reports opened with “Reality TV celebrity”. Now the papers are attempting to call her a “people’s princess”. Please stop. She was no “star” or “celebrity”, she was an insecure young women searching for affirmation in what people thought of her. That is not a healthy way to live. It means that when people think ill of you, as happened to Jade with the Celebrity Big Brother racism saga, your self-esteem and self-confidence take a massive beating.

Ultimately the media are responsible for the way Jade died. They encouraged (forced) her to live her death out on screen, in magazines and newspapers. Her story sells, it draws readers, viewers and internet users. It’s sad that a young woman, who let’s face it didn’t amount to much more than “that Essex girl off Big Brother” and then “that racist one off Celebrity Big Brother”, let herself be exploited by a celebrity orientated media for nearly a third of her short life. That is no way to die.

I wondered what her boys will think of her when they are older. Will they, like Wills and Harry, sons of Diana “The People’s Princess”, seemingly respect her and want to up hold the good things she did in her lifetime, admiring her as a mother? Or will they wish that she had never set foot on the set of Big Brother all those years ago?

If I had been in Jade’s shoes I would have preferred coverage of my death to have been like that of Natasha Richardson’s. But then I would have been me in Jade’s shoes, not Jade in Jade’s life, and the way she went out was most apt to her persistent pursuit of fame and glory throughout her twenties. The media pandered to her and she pandered to the media.

Regardless of their coverage, both Jade’s and Natasha’s deaths, have enabled the media to expose other issues and ultimately could save lives in the long term.

The revelations surrounding Natasha’s accident – that the first ambulance was turned away and, had Natasha been wearing a helmet when she was skiing, she could well have lived – warn us of the need to follow safety precautions.

Jade’s battle with cancer raised questions as to why young women in England are not screened for cervical cancer until they are over 25, five years later than in Scotland and Wales. Screening women younger could mean the signs of cancer, which is prevalent in women under 35, are spotted earlier and lives saved.

Whatever Happened to Freedom of Expression?

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The school receptionist facing the sack for requesting prayer
Telegraph -Receptionist faces sack

Devonshire school receptionist, Jennie Cain, is waiting to find out whether school governors will let her keep her job after she sent an email to 10 of her closest church friends. Mrs Cain asked her friends to pray for her and her family and her children’s school after her 5 year old daughter was told off for talking about Jesus.

There are many things about this story, in our staunchly politically correct society, that are absolutely ridiculous. Not least of which is that Mrs Cain could be sacked.

That a five year old was told off for talking about her faith is, in itself, pretty extraordinary. After all, I doubt any teacher would risk telling a young Muslim child off for talking about Allah or Mohammed. Or a Hindi child for talking about Vishnu. So reprimanding this little girl for talking about Jesus seems grossly unfair.

As a openly born-again Christian I appreciate that on some level I am not totally detached from this story. However I am not willing to leave these obscene double standards alone. The United Kingdom is supposed to be a “Christian” country, or so the government would have us believe. Yet we leap at every opportunity to beat down even the slightest hint of God, fearful that other religions or ethnicities will offend. Why on earth should we? They are not falling over themselves in India, for example, to water down and conceal Hinduism for fear of what other religious groups will do or say or feel.

We pride ourselves of living in a country that allows freedom of speech and freedom of expression for all. This school has oppressed these rights entirely. In my experience, children learn a lot about life from their friends. I certainly learnt more about faiths and races from my friends during my school years and at university than I could have ever been taught from lessons in a classroom. Children should be allowed to express the things they are interested in, be it Barbie dolls, Nintendo DS or Jesus.

Telling this girl off for talking about Jesus does somewhat present a problem for the school for any future nativity plays, up-coming Easter events or celebrations of other religious festivals. Hypocrisy at its finest.

The school’s actions are teaching our children that is it not ok to talk about their faith – a critical component in their identity. This is wrong. Such suppression will achieve nothing but merely enhance already strained relations, as the next generation grows up with less understanding of other religions, ethinicities and races.

But this story carries another, more sinister question. How on earth did the headmaster of the school get a copy of the email sent from a personal email? Is there a secret Big Brother society rising up in Devon that is monitoring our every moment? There is a breach of privacy that should be investigated. It is unfair that Mrs Cain’s job hangs in the balance on a decision based on an email, probably sent with the best of intentions, obtained by undisclosed means.

If Mrs Cain loses her job, who knows what this means for the future of freedom of expression in our liberal democracy.

Robert Pattinson – New Heartthrob?

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Due to my slack publishing of posts, this is now a little, well a lot, behind the times.

There is a new Hollywood heartthrob us women are being told we should be swooning over and he is Robert Pattinson.

No matter that he is barely out of those difficult teenage years and was brought to our attention in his role as a brooding teen vampire. Robert is THE new creature of lust for every woman and teenage girl.

Who? You may well ask.

If you have been living in a box on a remote island for the past few months, calmly setting up camp for when the recession has its merciless grip on all our lives, then you can be forgiven for completely missing the new boy. And if you haven’t, well, you too can be forgiven as you probably haven’t caught Twilight fever either.

Twilight is the film based on the first book of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series in which Pattinson stars as the moody looking but glitteringly beautiful Edward Cullen. (If you missed in the cinema, you can catch it on DVD in the UK from April.) The series centres around the life of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), your average American teenage girl who moves across America to live with her Dad in Forks, Washington and falls for the local High School hotty, Edward Cullen. Thing is, he’s a vampire. And then there’s, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who helps create a bit of fantastical twisted love triangle. (I won’t say anymore than that for now in case you decide to go away and read the books. They’re not as bad as they sound. Honest.)

So what’s Pattinson’s appeal? The 22 year old is becoming the new big (British) Hollywood heartthrob and has been tipped by some as the next Jude Law. But it’s not necessarily conventional Hollywood looks that are the attraction.

There is certainly something about the new boy. Being cast for Edward Cullen though, is a pivotal moment for Pattinson. It has launched him out of acting obscurity and into the bedrooms of thousands of teenage girls across the world. The Twilight premieres were littered with screaming girls desperate for a glimpse of the new poster boy. Something that Pattinson is reported to have found quite alien and strange.

Having read the Twilight series before there were any plans for the films, I had created a definitive Edward in my own head. As with most(all?) books, when a film version is commissioned there’s a great danger of ruining the characters for the readers. I was more than a little fearful that such would be the case with Twilight. Yet somehow Pattinson has managed to embody the Edward Cullen of my imagination. Not to mention the Edward Cullen of several thousand others. Now that is some good casting. Hats off to Catherine Hardwicke and her team.

Despite having been cast as the central love interest in a teen fantasy film receiving phenomenal responses, it’s not clear what Robert’s appeal is. It certainly took time before I was prepared to join this bandwagon of ‘Robert is gorgeous’. He’s just not obviously attractive. Which is maybe what brings the parallels to Jude Law and (to a lesser extent) Johnny Depp. Both of these actors are not necessarily men of conventional Hollywood sex appeal. Neither is Pattinson.

Even the magazines were late jumping onto Pattinson. It was only after scores of screaming fans stood outside the premiers that many women’s magazines took any notice of the new boy. It’s not that Pattinson hasn’t been in films before – he’s been acting for years, using little jobs to pay his way through his A levels – it’s just he’s not necessarily been an object of desire until now.

Robert played Cederic Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in 2004. A quick google image search brings up pictures that leave you wondering whether this could really be the same person. Cederic Diggory was not hot. Edward Cullen is.

So maybe it’s the characters that make Pattinson sexy? Edward is a character that is meant to be gorgeous. But then explore what other projects Robert has worked on and we could be on to something. He ambles along a fine line of sexiness. As some characters he is sex on fire, as others he’s just not. But this tottering is not unique to Pattinson. The same goes for Johnny Depp; Sweeney Todd, fit. Willy Wonka, decidedly not.

But fickle attractiveness aside, Robert Pattinson is a young actor to look out for.

If you need a fresh fix of Robert before he can finish New Moon the second Twilight film, look out for Little Ashes, where he plays Surrealist artist, Salvador Dali.

No more pic’n’mix

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Everyday we hear that the credit crunch has claimed another seemingly unsuspecting victim. Banks are being bailed out by the government and thousands of people are losing their jobs.

This month Woolworths closed its doors for the last time, leaving nothing more than the childhood memories of filling a little paper bag with as many sweets as your pocket money could buy.

As Woolies final days approached, walking into one of the eerily empty stores – empty of stock you understand, not of people – was bizarrely, a somewhat mournful experience. Everything and anything from DVDs, fittings and industrial sized toilet rolls were for sale in the final days of Woolies existance. Even uniforms appeared for auction on ebay.

For me, losing Woolies was like losing a dear close friend. 99 years old, Woolworths’ comforting red presence has been there throughout my life, providing cheap CDs, much needed sugary sustenance, childish games, a wealth of magazines and reasonably priced coffee mugs.

I would regularly wander into my local store, aged 11, armed with 50ps and ready to stock up on a ludicrous amount of pic’n’mix before sneaking it into the cinema.

Later, I wasted many a teenage Saturday afternoon browsing Woolies’ sea of cassettes and CDs or developing my magazine tastes, flicking through Sugar, J17 and NME before parting with my pennies and going home to play my latest purchase loudly while reading whatever magazine I had finally decided on.

When I moved into my own place at university, Woolies came to my rescue with its array of utensils, furnishings and mugs at reasonable prices.

And you could always rely on her to cater for every stationery need too. Woolies was your reliable friend, having everything you could possibly want, all under one roof, whenever you needed it.

But gradually we grew apart and our friendship with Woolies became a mere acquaintance. She became the friend we still liked but only called upon when we happened to be nearby. She’d give us a comforting respite down memory lane, always offering as much pic’n’mix as you could carry but she couldn’t compete with the Supermarkets who began to offer us all Woolworths did and groceries too. Combined with a music and film industry locked in a digital download age, poor old Woolies couldn’t keep up.

Despite ad campaigns fronted by a dog and a sheep and reinventions as THE BIG W, Woolies has had to pay the price. As her doors closed for the final time, people paid their last visits, mournful of the friend they had lost but unable to help her in these troubled times. She had been through two world wars but in the end, her demise was a crippled economy and a technological revolution.