Trips to the Past: Naples, Gabriel

During lockdown, with the prospect of travel seeming further away than ever before, a lot of us will be feeling an extra strong sense of wanderlust and nostalgia for our past trips and adventures. G You is happy to present a series of travel writings reminiscing on our community’s favourite and most meaningful trips to remind ourselves of the joys and growth travel can bring. Our next ‘Trip To The Past’ is to Naples, by Gabriel Rutherford. 

It was the poet Tennyson who famously exclaimed ‘See Naples and die’. Personally, I feel like the opposite is true – seeing Naples is a motivation to live, a call-to-arms for all the senses and the will to live well. 

Family holidays when you’re fourteen or fifteen are never really much fun. Fourteen and fifteen year olds have the hardest lot among all the teenagers I think: being groomed to sit exams, in the lower years of high school, and without the privileges afforded to older teenagers, despite the fact that you feel so ready for them, combines to make a rather miserable lot in hindsight. Add to this all the stresses and petty conflicts that naturally come of that stage of growing up, and it completes a perfect storm. Personally, when I was about that age, the key thing I was looking for is understanding. It’s like listening to The Smiths when you’re younger, and not getting why they’re so miserable all the time and why everyone seems to sympathise. Then you listen again, when you’re a bit older, and something seems to have changed, or a switch has been flipped – you get it. And there’s a real power in that feeling of being able to relate to something, of getting it. That’s what a lot of fourteen and fifteen-year olds are wanting I think: being able to connect to the outside adult world that they’re promised access to. 

So back to Naples, where I went with my family when I was, as you can probably guess, fourteen. In truth, ‘Naples’ is a bit of a synecdoche – we were spiriting around the entire bay that Naples lies at the heart of. This started at a small town called Vico Equense, which looks directly on to Naples across the bay. It was a small, bustling kind of place, and thankfully wasn’t too tourist-y. Of course, tourists rarely venture south of Rome at all when visiting Italy. I tend to find most people will prefer Venice or Milan to Naples and its bay, or at least the former are more recognized as tourist hotspots. This is quite possibly one of the greatest injustices meted out to Naples, among many others. The view of Naples across the bay, looking off the balcony from the apartment in Vico Equense is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever, or will ever, see. While in Vico, we visited the essential places to visit on the bay of Naples – the ruined town of Pompeii, and it’s far better preserved but less famous cousin, Ercolano. The pizza in Ercolano, as an aside, was the best I’ve ever had. 

Moving on from Vico Equense, we spent a day in the larger town to the south, Sorrento, famous for its lemons and its limoncello, a sweet lemon-based liqueur that I would recommend to anyone who can find it in Glasgow – it’s usually sold by Italian delis like Celino’s. Sorrento bustled, a town white with the heat of moving people. Mugs with Mussolini’s face on them sold beside ones with quotes from Gramsci and T-shirts with the legendary footballer Maradona as Che Guevara – the South of Italy is famous for being politically contrary, flirting with both sides of the political spectrum. 

Sorrento passed by, and we finally went to Naples proper. It is a place both beautiful and tragic. The beauty of the basilicas and palaces, scabbed with graffiti that hasn’t been scrubbed off, ‘ACAB’ bright against the white stone. The city bustles, humming with activity. Naples is famous for gang activity, many local councils have had to be shut down because of Camorra involvement. Were Naples a country, it would have the 68th biggest economy in the world. These two facts are not unrelated. There is, however, a beautiful corner of Naples that lies hidden from the world. The Capella Sansevero, if you can find it, hides the most beautiful sculpture in the world. Sculpted in 1750 by Giuseppe Sanmartino, Veiled Christ is exquisite, and must be seen in the flesh to be believed. What sums up Naples best is that this church contains beautiful artworks, and yet it has been neglected and hidden away from the world. Beauty lies in Naples in these quiet places – but you must seek it out. 

The thing about Naples is, it showed me something for the first time. It’s the most naturally aesthetically beautiful place I’ve ever been to and that’s what I really remember it for. It showed me something I didn’t really get at the time, but understand a lot better now: it showed me what true beauty is in a single place. Beauty lies in Naples. It lies in the bay, in looming Monte Vesuvio, in the surrounding towns, in the soul of the people and in the entire time you spend there. See Naples and live. 

What does it all mean? The science behind sleep and dreams.

Written by: Monique Joy Raranga

A few days ago, I woke up from a dream where I attended a gig in Glasgow. It was essentially a scene from pre-lockdown life months ago, featuring uni friends I hadn’t seen in a while and the standard post-gig conversations on the walk home. Later on, I had another dream, this time I was a dungeon raider traversing a tropical island and narrowly dodging suffocation in noxious gas by jumping out the window of the castle’s seventh floor. Both dreams left me squinting at the ceiling from confusion and curiosity as much as post-sleep grogginess.

With lockdown keeping all of us indoors, I think a lot of us are staying in bed and sleeping more than we otherwise would. For many, this means more dreams to try and decode (at least, for the two minutes you can still remember them). But what exactly is the purpose of these dreams and where do the sometimes-bizarre, sometimes-oddly-realistic images come from?

On the surface, it doesn’t look like much is going on when we sleep. We’re largely immobile, lying still with our eyes closed and only our chests moving as we breathe. We’re not making decisions or thinking conscious thoughts, so it’s easy to assume that our brains are inactive, as well. However, the opposite couldn’t be more true – while the rest of the body winds down, our brains are still up and running, firing tiny electrical signals within itself to transmit information.

There are two types of sleep – REM and non-REM – which we alternate between throughout the night. REM stands for “rapid eye movement” and it’s exactly what it says on the tin – while we’re in this stage, our eyes rapidly flicker left and right (thankfully we have our eyes closed or every midday nap would look like the stuff of nightmares). When we first drift off to sleep, we enter the non-REM stages where brain activity drops. After about 90 minutes, we enter REM sleep. Aside from the disconcerting side-to-side eye movement, other changes occur: our heartbeats and breathing rates pick up, while our muscles become paralysed and we become more still. In the brain, activity is boosted and becomes close to what it’s like while we’re awake. REM sleep is when our most vivid dreams are thought to occur – our muscles are paralysed to prevent us from acting out those dreams while lying in bed.

Dreams are thought to be a side effect of memory consolidation during sleep. The brain is thought to spend sleep (REM in particular) “tidying up” the information we’ve taken in during the day. Imagine that, as you go about your day and interact with the world, you pick up all sorts of things and throw them in a bag. Then, at night, you sort them all out – you get rid of things you don’t need and organise everything else, and store them away. This is what we think the brain is doing with every memory you have of the day – it discards unimportant information, like the hair colour of someone you saw in an advert, and consolidates that which matters, like facts you (maybe) took in from a lecture. To store them away, it moves information from where they’re temporarily stored, a region called the hippocampus, to more permanent regions around the brain. This happens by the repetition of the specific electrical signals which trigger that memory, resulting in all this information flashing in our mind as a “dream” which our (usually) rational human brains draw a plot out of. This might be why we have dreams with familiar details, such as my dream in Glasgow with my friends, because the brain is basically reliving past experiences while we sleep.

As we all know, though, dreams don’t always make sense. If it was just us reliving past experiences, how does that explain my strange dungeon-raiding adventure, or even the gig that is definitely not on the quarantine cards? This can be explained by the differences in activity levels across the brain. Different regions are related to different functions, like how the nose is related to smell and eyes to sight. The prefrontal cortex, which is located at your forehead, is largely involved in rational thought. During sleep, this becomes less active – this makes sense since we don’t need to think very much while we’re knocked out. On the other hand, the limbic system, located deeper in the brain, is involved in emotional responses and is much more active during sleep. Combined, this means that the information we process is less likely to have a strong sense of logic and more likely to be fantastical and emotional. This is also why we have nightmares and anxiety dreams so frequently – the limbic system is linked to our fear responses, which is why our daytime worries and deepest fears can continue to nag us at night. In my case, my brain might have drawn from my love for certain video games, or late-night longing for my life in Glasgow.

Still, there’s a lot of questions we can ask about sleep and dreams. The theory of memory consolidation isn’t a fact – what if dreams aren’t just a side effect, but some big psychological evaluation of our deeper psyche? Like with a lot of brain-related phenomena, it’s not fully certain and research is still ongoing. For now, we can wake up from our weird and wonderful dreams with an appreciation for the complexity of the human brain, at least for a minute before lockdown boredom takes over and we go back to sleep.

Do it for Your Country

Should young people be allowed to go to work to save the economy?

Written by: Katerina Partolina Schwartz

The most important thing to remember is that we do not know a lot about the Coronavirus. Every day scientists are learning more about it. A vaccine is still a faraway dream, and nobody is 100% sure how we should go about treating COVID-19. Until we know more about the virus, re-opening the economy would be premature because there is still not an adequate plan in place to keep people safe and to prevent another outbreak. A plan would require tracking, tracing, and a capacity for treatment including PPE, which the government currently does not have. 

Herd Immunity was the initial policy pursued by the British government and was employed to take the virus ‘on the chin’. Herd immunity is when a population is exposed to a disease (in this case COVID-19) for immunity purposes. The British government was essentially relying on the NHS (which the Conservative Party has underfunded for years) and British stoicism – keeping calm and carrying on – to beat an incredibly infectious virus; a virus that has led to lockdowns across the world in the space of months. The WHO recently estimated that there is a 3.4 % mortality rate for those infected with Coronavirus. The United Kingdom has a population of roughly 67 million. Depending on the rate of infection, up to 60% of the population, in theory, could become infected and 3.4% of those infected would die, if the policy of herd immunity was pursued. This amounts to potentially hundreds of thousands of people dying just so that the British economy would not collapse. Just think about that for a minute. Boris Johnson’s government, through the policy of herd immunity, basically said that the economy was more important to them than the lives of British citizens. Individuals’ lives are not worth sacrificing for the sake of economic stability. Governments do not have the right to decide who gets to live or die and doctors should not be put in the position where they have to decide either.   

The Coronavirus is thought to affect people over the age of 65 more than younger people. People of various ages are showing different symptoms, intensities, and duration of illness. COVID-19 might affect various age groups differently, but that does not mean that they are not affected. Recent reports have shown that young people are more likely to die from kidney failure or strokes than from lung failure, which is the common cause of death –  from coronavirus – amongst elderly patients. Young people dying at lower rates than older people, is not a good enough reason to let young people out before those over the age of 65. The virus does not just affect one age group more than another, it varies from case to case, which means that nobody is completely safe from it. Even after an individual has recovered from the virus, they may incur physical and psychological trauma that will affect their life post-virus, which would have more of an impact on young people than the elderly. 

The elderly will not necessarily be completely unaffected if the lockdown is lifted for younger people. Even if the lockdown is only lifted for young people, the elderly could still be exposed to it through private carers, visitors, or family members who live with them like children who could have been exposed to it within schools. Nobody is completely protected and until wide-scale testing is available and the number of cases drops considerably, we won’t know how prevalent the virus is. You cannot completely protect one age group, whilst letting out another, when there is still no way to trace where the virus is, and without knowing this information everyone will be at risk and the chance of another severe outbreak will increase. The elderly are more likely to have pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus, and so any interaction with someone who could have been exposed puts them in more danger than if everyone remained in lockdown just a little bit longer. 

I would like to reiterate – we know next to nothing about this virus. To even think about lifting the lockdown – before there are effective treatment options, enough PPE for essential workers, enough hospital beds and ventilators, and a decline in cases – is premature. Lifting the lockdown would result in a rise of cases which would once again overwhelm the NHS, and we will be right back to where we started. We should not be in a position where a country’s economy is seen as more important than people’s lives. Governments are meant to protect their citizens, not ask them to sacrifice themselves for their country’s economic stability. The important thing here is patience because eventually everything will return to normal, but right now we cannot think about re-opening any part of the economy because there have not been adequate measures put in place to stop and track the virus completely. A vaccine is not available, but every day scientists are learning more about how COVID-19 behaves. Governments are still having to make up for their failures early on in the outbreak, and only when these failures have been rectified can we begin to think about putting steps in place to open up the economy.

5 Ways to Help Your Mental Health In Lockdown

Written by: Scott Norval

With all these posts on social media about gaining a new skill/hobby/talent in lockdown it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. From all the bread baking, to 5km runs and big zoom seshes, you can feel like you are missing out. Sometimes, when I’m feeling low, even just the simplest things feel impossible. You can, quite quickly, feel down about yourself when you see everybody else ‘achieving’ all of these things on social media. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be posting your third banana bread story of the week, because I’m sure it tastes as banging as it looks. What I am saying is that it’s equally okay to not feel up to doing anything. I think, in times like these, it’s important to try and be kind to yourself and others. Just getting out of bed is an achievement! I’ve made a wee list of all the things I do to help my mental health in lockdown:

1.         MAKING SURE YOU’RE GETTING ENOUGH REST.

And no I’m not talking about the hours you spent on the sofa binging Sally Rooney’s Normal People. I’m talking about making sure you’re heading to bed at a time that suits you. I found that my mental health really takes a dive if I don’t get to sleep early enough, so getting yourself into a regular sleep pattern can help massively. My biggest challenge with my sleep routine is actually getting to sleep. The blue light (from phones, laptops, ect.) really keeps me awake so I try to put my phone away so I can wind down. I listen to music/a podcast or read a book. Maybe even a nice relaxing bath does the trick sometimes!

(Podcast Suggestions: Criminal, The Guilty Feminist, Coming Out Stories)

2.        MOVIN’ YOUR BODY

Okay so this one is a little bit harder. Over the past few weeks a lot of people have been discussing how they are worried about gaining weight in lockdown. First of all this is OK, there is a global pandemic going on, be kind to yourself. Second of all, on the days where my mental health is really bad I really struggle to get out of bed never mind workout or go on a run. So set yourself a wee target that’s manageable for you. Be it getting up to make yourself a tea, going for a walk, or trying some home yoga. Moving your body in a way that makes you feel good is important! Even if it’s walking yourself to your back door to sit in the fresh air, I’ve always found getting outside makes me feel better.

3.        SETTING YOURSELF SMALL DAILY GOALS.

When I’m struggling everything seems like a big task that I just can’t manage. So I try to pause and break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. If it’s easy writing, it’s asking myself to write 100 words without stopping. if it’s doing housework, then I say I’m going to do 10 minutes of tidying. Eventually if you manage do these small steps a few times then before you know it you’ve done loads and even if you only manage to do it once, at least you are 1 step further ahead than before.

4.        KEEPING IN TOUCH

Sometimes it can feel like you are on your own, especially amid so many big changes to our day to day lives. What I say to myself is that it’s okay to feel rubbish about it, even though it could be something relatively small, because it still affects me. But I also try to reach out to somebody, even for a chat about something else. I find this really helpful and try to phone/message a friend at least once a week. On the other hand, sometimes if I’m feeling completely overwhelmed by existing online, I put my phone down, focus on something else and then come back to it. It’s okay not to be available 24/7.

5.    FOOD

I am really bad for forgetting to eat or not eating the right kind of foods. What do I mean by the right kind of foods? There aren’t really bad or good foods per say, it’s all about finding what food works for you, be it chocolate or fruit, whatever gives you that kick of energy. When I’m struggling, I find that my eating schedule goes out of the window, so for me, it’s really important to eat three meals a day (and some snacks!). I also try and make sure I have plenty easy meals to make, so if I’m feeling really low, I can just shove a pizza in the oven and don’t have to find the energy to cook a meal from scratch. On the other hand, adding a few more veggies into my diet or trying something new is a fun way to keep myself interested in food and also pass some time relaxing and cooking.

See: Wagamama’s Katsu Curry Recipe https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/wagamama-katsu-curry-recipe-how-to-make-cooking-chef-tutorial-video-a9489466.html%3famp

These are a few things that help me and G-You would love to hear other things people have found are helping their mental health.

If you want somebody to talk to then the following organisations are here to help:

GU Nightline: https://www.gunightline.org

Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org

Trips to the Past: Rome & Paris, Lucy

During lockdown, with the prospect of travel seeming further away than ever before, a lot of us will be feeling an extra strong sense of wanderlust and nostalgia for our past trips and adventures. G You is happy to present a series of travel writings reminiscing on our community’s favourite and most meaningful trips to remind ourselves of the joys and growth travel can bring. Our next ‘Trip To The Past’ is to Paris and Rome, by Lucy Le Marchand.

In second semester of first year, I befriended a group of American exchange students. As the Easter holidays approached, they told me they were planning to take advantage of Britain’s cheap international flights to explore Europe before they had to return home. Having only been abroad to visit family, I decided to do the same and expand my own horizons.

I’d never been on holiday alone before, so I decided to start small and planned the first leg of my trip in Paris. Despite having family scattered all across France, I’d never actually been there, so armed with a shaky grasp of conversational French, I booked a hostel and spent a weekend in the city of lights

Arriving, I had no concrete plans, instead I was just going to see where I ended up. On my first night, I arrived at the hostel much earlier than expected, and a quick Google revealed that the old Paris catacombs were only a few Metro stops away. I’d highly recommend them to anyone who likes more macabre tourist sites and is under 5’6”; they’re a huge, sprawling ossuary filled with the skeletons of over 6 million people. Obviously, you’re not allowed to touch the bones, but there’s no ropes or security guards to stop you from getting a really close look, and the audioguide is definitely worth the extra €2.

The following day I (of course) visited the Eiffel Tower. Being afraid of heights, I only went to the second platform, but the view was certainly spectacular, and seeing it in person really is different to photographs. I also visited Notre Dame Cathedral (before it burned down!) and wandered around the outside of the Louvre, not knowing at the time that it allows free entry to students and to general public on Sundays.

However, the highlight of Paris was that evening, when I went on Snapchat to see what my American friends were up to and realised that my cousin, who lives in Belgium, was only 15 minutes’ walk away from my hostel, holidaying with her mother in Paris on the same day as me! We had dinner together, texted my mother (who was relieved that I’d found someone familiar when I was all alone in a big, scary, foreign city) and I told them I was leaving the next day for Rome.

Unlike with Paris, I don’t speak the language in Rome, but a handful of phrases to show you’re trying will get you a long way. What immediately struck me as I made my way to the hostel was that Rome is an incredibly pretty city. The big roads all have grand old buildings and there are gorgeous monuments on every roundabout. 

The hostel I picked, RomeHello, was one I would highly recommend. The guy at the front desk gave me a map after I checked in, showing that I was about ten minutes’ walk away from the Coliseum, and an hour from the Vatican. My three hostel roommates arrived within half an hour of me, and we all went out for dinner together, exploring the city a bit.

The following day, I woke up at seven and hopped on the Metro for the Vatican. Despite its opening at nine, there was already a huge line when I arrived at eight, and I got in at about ten. It was, of course, gorgeous, and the Sistine Chapel was very impressive. I spent half the day there, then headed back to the hostel, passing the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Spanish Steps. That evening, me and one of my roommates had dinner in the hostel bar and chatted with other guests.

On my last day in Rome, I met up with one of my American friends, and we spent the morning together before I split off to see the Coliseum. Purely out of luck, I’d chosen to visit on the day of the Rome marathon, which meant that the queue was much smaller than normal, and I was only waiting for a half hour (in the shade!) before getting in. The Coliseum was my favourite sight on the trip, with the possible exception of the catacombs and again, I encourage you to get the audioguide. I was walking around the Coliseum and Roman Forum until nightfall, and I left the next morning for Marseille, to stay with another cousin for a few days. 

Ever since then, I’ve been eager to go on another solo trip. I’d been worried about being lonely, but if you stay in a hostel and you’re willing to socialise, you’ll be fine—you might even make some new friends! Once Coronavirus is over, I have my sights set on Athens, but in the meantime I can look over my holiday photos and chat to my American friends on Zoom.

What will the 2020 U.S.A. election look like?

A breakdown of the election in Coronavirus and predictions from GUU’s resident American.

Written by: Jordan R. Hunter

With Scotland having an election every year for four of the last five years, and the Holyrood election set for a distant 2021, many folks will crave more election drama this year, especially since we’ve all finished Tiger King by now and with many days still to go through quarantine, thankfully the US election is gearing up for its long march to November. 

You might wonder how the virus will affect the US general election, but rest assured it will go on as scheduled. Legally speaking, Trump could in theory postpone or cancel the election that would not be in his interests. Constitutionally his term would expire as well as many Republican Senators (not all senate seats go up in an election year, only a third and this year mostly Republican). This would mean there would be no House of Representatives, as they all expire this year, and no President nor Vice President, but there would be a quorum amount of sitting senators, meaning a Democrat minority leader would be installed as President. Long story short, Trump needs the election to go forward as planned. Additionally, should lockdown continue most states have already made laws to ensure that an electronic or postal ballot could occur. 

Now for the speculating, let me be your American John Curtice. Trump has the easiest path back to the White House. One thing many people don’t realise is Republicans in general elections typically get the same number of votes year after year making it more of a game of turnout for Democrats. Many think that the working class vote in the rust belt got him into office, but that’s not really true. They won him the Republican nomination, but in the general he really didn’t gain a larger voter base than Romney or McCain. Trump’s approval rating, while being in the red, is on an upward trend. Similarly, the generic polling shows the gap between him and Biden is also shrinking, meaning Trump is also gaining ground head to head with his opponent. Trump also gets the cards stacked in his favour with an incumbency advantage and the Electoral College structure favoring Republicans. Trump also benefits from the latest allegations against Joe Biden as Democrats now have to answer some deep internal questions on how to respond. Trump further benefits from the Democrats once again fracturing, as Bernie supporters and other progressives feel like they were robbed of the nomination and question why they should vote for Biden. Bernie showed well in Iowa and all the bellwether states, but after South Carolina and the Covid Crisis, had to stop. These all have serious repercussions on turnout as we saw with 2016. The Bernie or Bust crowd failed to show up and that killed Hillary’s campaign alongside the allegations from the Comey report into her use of a private email server.

It’s not all bleak for Joe. He has something that Hillary never got, “The Obama Coalition”. The Coalition is young first time voters, African Americans, and other groups which typically have low turnouts. In 2008 and 2012 they led to landslide victories for Obama, and there are signs that Biden can do the same. Biden performed really well and increased turnout numbers in South Carolina, especially in African American communities. Many of the states in the primary he lost are white, middle class Democrat strongholds that mean very little in terms of trying to win the General Election as they tend to turn up regardless of who wins the nomination for the party. He also gets to take the piste de resistance out of Trump’s hand as the economy Trump has prided himself on is now in taters. Many undecided moderates do not see Biden as a major threat to the economy, giving him a slight advantage. Trump’s virus response has also been lackluster as approval of the response has been falling. I guess telling people to inject disinfectant, criticising your own CDC task force head, and egging on protestors don’t play well…go figure. 

Let’s not forget there are other parties in this election beyond just Republicans and Democrats, though all third parties will struggle for ballot access due to many states requiring physical petitions with signatures for third party candidates, something nobody can do under lockdown. Plus their candidates are chosen by their conventions and gathering of state party leaders, something that also cannot happen under lockdown. Nevertheless, they will probably at least get their Presidential nominees on the ballot in most states, but many local and state offices will likely not have nominations. For the Libertarians they can take pride in the fact they are slated to perform at a historically high level. Coming off a historic 3.2% vote share in 2016, this year might be their best chance to break the 5% threshold. Following former Republican Congressman Justin Amash running for and then dropping out of the race for their nomination, the Libertarian Party recently selected academic Jo Jorgensen as their candidate – so far the only female candidate in the race. Despite little name recognition, some Libertarians are confident she will build on momentum. The Green Party underperformed last election falling from 5% in polling to 1% on election day, and have struggled to find a candidate. Howie Hawkins looks like the presumptive nominee – he’s also the nominee of the Socialist Party of America, but has little hope of expanding the Green Party nationally. What he lacks in name recognition and party expansion he makes up with campaign logos and signs, my favourite “H-20”, get it like 2020 the year and H20 like water… I know… I’m sad I brought it up. Ultimately I could see the Libertarians exceeding their expectations and getting the 5% and maybe Hawkins can get throw-away votes from Bernie supporters, but statistically they are likely to spoil their ballot or just not turn up.

Now for final predictions. The winner…(Insert drumroll)…of the 2020…presidential election…is… Donald Trump. (Slow claps). Polling in the past has tended to undervalue Republicans and I think that will continue. If the polls are already trending upward for him now it’s a bad sign for Joe. The virus may lower turnout if it continues, but Republicans don’t usually find this to be an issue, they already dominate absentee postal ballots and Democrats will have to work hard to get people to register to vote. I’m not saying Joe is doomed, but there needs to be massive changes and shifts before November. Then again people thought his campaign was dead after Iowa, but he still found a way to win so anything is possible and all is still to play for come November.

Who’s down for some Lockdown Bingo?

Written by: Catherine Bouchard

As lockdown begins to lift across the globe, people are starting to emerge from their homes and into the outside world for the first time in weeks. Soon, lockdown will hopefully be a distant memory and a story to pass on to future generations. But before our lockdown lifts in the UK, let’s take a moment to remember what truly united us – all the things we did during lockdown as true Glasgow Uni students by counting up how many points you have from the list below!

1. Marathoned a series on Netflix: Given the unexpected extra time we have on our hands in lockdown, is it any surprise we all turned to our old faithful – Netflix. With all our free time, what better way to waste a day than watching a series on Netflix, only pausing to get a tub of ice cream out the fridge or make another drink. Lockdown life ain’t so different from normal student life! Bonus points if: You binged on Tiger King.

2. Instagrammed your home dissertation hand in: One of the saddest parts of lockdown for students is the way it deprived final year students of so many milestones, such as graduation and being able to instagram the perfect dissertation hand in photo. However, Glasgow Uni students excel in adaptability, as evidenced by the multitude of home dissertation hand in photos with laptop in hand. After all, why let a good outfit go to waste! Bonus points if: You photoshopped yourself into the cloisters.

3. Socialised on Zoom: Zoom – universally hailed as the true saviour of lockdown. Students have flocked to zoom for their socials, hosting everything from pints to pub quizzes on the online platform. Whether it’s rogue nicknames, dodgy connections or funny outfits, students have found a multitude of ways to keep life going via Zoom. Love it or hate it, Zoom remains a true quarantine icon. Bonus points if: You gave yourself a HIVE background.

4. Started running: Lockdown has given us the chance to take pause and reflect on our lifestyles. A lot of us have used the time to set goals, such as getting fitter. The increasing number of people posting their runs to Strava show the popularity running has gained, as people take the chance to venture outdoors and explore Glasgow on their daily exercise. Bonus points if: You started Couch to 5K.

5. Bought enough booze and snacks to last you a week: Following advice to limit our trips to the shop to the bare essentials, we’ve all tried to stock up on enough booze and snacks to last a week. Who can blame a stressed student for walking to buy pesto and emerging with a five pack of Sainsbury’s cookies? After all, our trips to the supermarket are the closest we’re getting to going ‘out out’ for the foreseeable future. Bonus points if: you ate your quarantine snacks within two days.

6. Gave yourself a hair cut:  From boredom bangs to lockdown buzzcuts, it’s all too tempting to give yourself a new trim in lockdown. At least lockdown gives you a convenient excuse to embrace your creative side from the comfort of your own home. Bonus points if: You dyed your hair.

7. Shared a lockdown meme: Lockdown memes tread a fine line between humour and morbidity, but are nonetheless a source of amusement and comfort in lockdown. Whether its Glasknow’s finest or a niche joke between friends, it isn’t really surprising we’ve turned to memes for comfort in a time of crisis. Bonus points if: You’ve shared a Wembley Lasagna meme.

8. Posted a story of your home exam set up: Following the announcement of online exams for a lot of us, our stories have been full of people posting their own set up for sitting exams at home and giving us a serious case of study goals. Featuring a rainbow of highlighters, the sunny outdoors, or just a cute dog, everyone’s set up is different! Bonus points if: You embraced tradition by posting a story of you celebrating with a drink after each exam. 

9. Taken up baking again: Baking can be a source of stress relief and comfort for a lot us, so it’s not surprising to see a return to baking our favourite childhood treats. Bonus points if: You baked banana bread.

10. Scrolled through old photos: Given our feeds have been looking pretty dry lately, we’ve taken to scrolling through old photos to remember the joys of being within two metres distance of our friends. Reminiscing on the good times is a beautiful way to kill a few hours of lockdown, and our feeds have seen more throwbacks than ever before. Bonus points if: You posted an old photo of you and the squad at uni.

11. Worked on your tan: With all the free time lockdown provides, what better way to spend a day than sitting by your window or in your back garden and working on your tan. Embracing the government approved daily walk also provides the chance to recover from being indoors all day at uni. Bonus points if: You took it too far and got sun-burned by mistake.

12. Got tagged in the 5k challenge: Being tagged in the 5km Challenge can either prompt the five stages of grief or allow you the chance to show off your inner athlete. At least it encourages us all to give back to the NHS or other meaningful charities such as Women’s Aid, when these organisations need us most of all. Bonus points if: You did another instagram challenge like the 30 day song challenge

13. Spent a fortune on online clothes delivery: What else would Glasgow Uni students do in lockdown other than shop? From books you’ll definitely read (later) or outfits to wear post lockdown, boredom online shopping is a truly dangerous habit – both for your bank account and the planet. Bonus points if: you ordered workout clothes that you only wore once.

14. Dialled in to an online lecture: Despite lectures moving online at the end of term, it is still impossible to make a 9am. Seeing lecturers try and work out how to screen share was brightened by being able to lie in bed all day – and being able to moan to your friends without getting judgemental stares. Bonus Points if: you forgot to mute your microphone/ turn video off.

15. Missed being on campus: We all miss uni to some extent. From the beautiful sight of the Boyd Orr or the somewhat less beautiful memory of climbing up eleven flights of stairs in the Adam Smith Building, campus memories remain strong in all of us. It truly was the best of times, and the worst of times. At least we can all agree none of us miss the trek up University Avenue. Bonus points if: You miss Beer Bar most of all.

In all seriousness, lockdown and the rapid changes we’ve seen to our lives can be incredibly stressful, especially set against continued pressure from exams and other areas. Any methods we choose for coping with this stress are valid and we shouldn’t feel bad about doing the things we love. Massive thank you to all the students taking time to volunteer in the community, donating to charity, making face masks or just looking after yourselves – can’t wait to see you all next year!

How political views influence approaches to COVID-19.

Written by: Kimberley Mannion


Most of us, no matter our political views, are in the same place right now – lockdown. Similar strategies to tackle COVID-19 have been implemented across the world by leaders of varying political leanings, but nuances in their approach, however small, make for interesting reflection, particularly when matched up with said political leanings. 

Let’s start where it all began – China. The high levels of state authority of the Chinese Communist Party perhaps made it easier to become the first country to enforce draconian lockdown measures, with citizens more accustomed to the state having more control over their lives to begin with. The Director General of the WHO, somewhat controversially, praised China’s response back in February, when the virus still seemed like a faraway problem to the West, while many Westerners were sceptical of measures that would violate civil liberties. At the earliest stage of the virus, the need for a lockdown would have been a far harder concept to grasp in a Western country like the UK or USA. It may go down in history then, as lucky, in a way, that the virus was born in China – their government’s high authority made it easier to implement the type of lockdown needed, and bought the rest of the world time to realise it. 

Across the world, talk is now turning to how we come out of lockdown, and transition ourselves back to some kind of ‘normality’. In the UK, debate is growing over whether the plan of an app to trace people who have been in contact with those infected is an infringement of civil liberties. It seems unlikely then, that we would accept what is currently happening in Russia, as tens of thousands of facial recognition cameras are already fitted across Moscow, sending instant alerts to police of anyone recognised breaking lockdown. Russians are already living in a political system in which so much power is asserted to one individual, the main political objective of whom many would argue is simply to accumulate power for himself. This policy would obviously go down differently in the UK, where it’s seen as acceptable to film police officers, swearing at them, and put it on twitter, compared to a country where that kind of behaviour would likely send you to prison. There was outrage alone in the UK, remember, in the early days of lockdown, when Derbyshire Police used drone cameras to film and shame dog walkers in the Peak District. 

Political principles of multilateralism or unilateralism have been hot topics over the last several years, with Brexit, and then the arrival of Trump to the White House. The last decade was clearly a turbulent one for the EU, and it now faces yet another test. Since Italy and Spain were established as the two worst hit EU member states, tensions began over the richer northern countries like Germany having to foot the bill of the debt the poorer South would  inevitably rack up over the crisis. Breakthroughs seem to have been made, however, with substantial European Central Bank funds being made available, it seems the EU are determined to protect their economies, and, politically, not to further dishearten what was already one of the most Eurosceptic countries – Italy – with a lack of support and trigger another political explosion. 

The most fundamental example of political divides over response to the virus can be seen across the Atlantic, via the Republicans v Democrats in the US. Polls consistently show Democrats are more concerned about the virus than Republicans, with the latter seeing it as less of a threat than what is being portrayed. With the leader of the party frequently shutting down reporters by telling them they deliver ‘fake news’, instead of answering their question, it is not surprising that Republican supporters have lower trust in the media as well as scientific experts. In his politics, Trump can be described as populist, claiming to stand up for the people against the elites, of which the media and experts are a part. Many of those who voted for him would have done so in disappointment in the stereotypical political class who they feel let them down in the Iraq War and the financial crash…so why should they trust them in this next crisis? States with Republican Governors were slower in imposing restrictions on public life and Republican state Governors have now even begun to ease restrictions, ahead of the federal government’s advice. Some Democratic Governors however have also started to lift lockdown, in Colorado for example; suggesting this is not a simple left/right issue. The larger US system as a whole, like many Western democracies is built on consumption, and the economy is clearly a huge factor, probably more so for Republicans, but for the country as a whole. 

It is not possible to say ‘left wingers think this is the best approach to the virus, and those on the right say this…’. The situation of a global pandemic in which we find ourselves is unprecedented, and everyone, regardless of political view, shares the objective of trying to get out the other end as unscathed as possible. Scientific experts are finding fame in the media, but in the end, politicians are the ones with the power, and in this situation they are making life or death decisions impacting everyone. It is simply the way our world is that everything comes back to political views and decisions, pandemic or not. 

Trips to the Past: Kos, Imogen

During lockdown, with the prospect of travel seeming further away than ever before, a lot of us will be feeling an extra strong sense of wanderlust and nostalgia for our past trips and adventures. G You is happy to present a series of travel writings reminiscing on our community’s favourite and most meaningful trips to remind ourselves of the joys and growth travel can bring. Our next ‘Trip To The Past’ is called ‘The Nothing and Everything of a Family Holiday’ and is to Kos, by Imogen James.

The Nothing and Everything of a Family Holiday

I’m lucky enough that I’ve been on holiday at least once every year since I was born. It’s hard for me to pick a favourite, but as I got older, and started appreciating the significance of these two weeks of sun, the most basic holiday holds onto me. One of these, a £500pp two week break to Kos, sticks out the most. So much, yet so little happened.

I’ve gone to Greece about fourteen times now. The little blue and green Ionian islands are well trodden by like minded tourists, and as a kid, a grumpy teenager, and a nervous adult, I have seen the beauty in them. Kos was somewhere we had never been before, a smaller island, a smaller hotel, and one less family member. 

For some reason, people seem to think you need a 5*, luxury duvet, room service type of hotel in order to have a good holiday. That’s not the way I see it. At the end of the day, to do a holiday right, you’re only supposed to be in your room to sleep, and maybe to nurse some wounds (I will elaborate later). We’ve never opted for anything fancy, which is why Hermes Hotel suited us perfectly. Nestled 10 minutes away from a stony bay, the family run hotel bathed in sun and tranquillity. The pool lay right underneath a cliff, both sheltering and awe inspiring. The owner would trot around the pool every afternoon and take the evening’s food orders, all homemade by her extended family. Big Mama Mia vibes. From that cliché moment of the heat when you step off the plane – with Jess Glynne annoyingly ringing in your ears – to the first bomb in the pool, regardless of age, I felt content for the next two weeks. 

Our small, tin can car bumped all the way down a winding road to a haven of a beach. There must’ve been about five other people there, one of those places with a battered scooter laying next to the ramshackle hut they called a bar. Toes dipped in blue and sand hugging our bare skin, the relaxation of day one quickly faded. Mum stepped on a stonefish, a poisonous barb. 

Picture my father, in his annoyingly fluorescent ‘Baywatch’ shorts, running down the beach with a plastic cup full of his own urine, which gets poured all over my mum’s foot. Good thing they have a healthy relationship. Then us carrying her to the car, accelerating back up the mountain at a speedy 10 mph, whilst I’m distracting her by singing broken up nursery rhymes. When we eventually got back to what should be a picturesque village, we got lost in a sea of laundry and mopeds, ending up in far too many back alleys to count. The pharmacist and the doctor, through some awkward translation, recommended hot water for the princely sum of €100. All systems are go. I leap out the tiny door at the hotel, leg it up the stairs, acquiring an old ice cream tub for the water, meanwhile the hotel owner offers to drive my parents to their room instead of walking the 50 odd stairs. I wish it was that simple. Awkwardly jogging with my boiling water so as not to spill a drop, when I come round the corner to see the tin can car wedged between a wall and a balcony, the owner smiling away at my parents. He continues on the accelerator, not sure if he’s blind at this point, assuring everyone the car indeed fits between the two walls. The car does not. What had been a nice day at the beach had turned into a venom fuelled car crash. And this was only day one. 

She was okay the next morning, the peace continues. We liked the island. Kos seemed to be pretty quiet at the end we were in, relatively untouched by the Irish pubs with REAL ENGLISH BREAKFASTS and the fake designer bags. There was the odd moment of panic about the rental car, but aside from that, we lapped it up. Small sandy coves surrounded by nothing but expensive sun beds and the faint crackle of a radio; winding single track roads accompanied by the sound of donkeys tied here and there; feral cats watching your every move as you tucked into another souvlaki. And then my boyfriend dumped me.

Holidays are supposed to be relaxing; they have on them this emphasis that it will be perfect. ‘Don’t contact me I’m on holiday’ they say on Facebook. Except, life doesn’t read your posts. We were surrounded by serene countryside, slivering blue pools, crisp pints of beer, yet the bad things can still make their way in. I cried the whole night. I remember him telling me, whilst I was sipping my 4th Piña Colada. Inevitably, we went straight home. It was the ugliest, most beautiful night of the holiday. With puffy eyes and a sore head, I slid my door open and watched the sun rise. It was still warm, but cool enough that I wasn’t uncomfortable. I like to think the sun melted the sadness away. I realised then, that if I wasn’t sat on a balcony in a little family hotel in a cove of a tiny island in Greece, I’d be much sadder.

Travelling heals. I gained so much from that holiday – far more than what I lost. The remaining few days were spent with laughter, dancing to Bruno Mars as the sun sank into the deep sea, and a lot more beers than I can remember. What I think will be my last family holiday for a while was spent in the best way possible. With my family. It wasn’t the best holiday I’ve had, or the worst, but it was definitely the most interesting. Travelling can be both nothing, and everything, all at once, much like this chaotic, relaxing two weeks. 

Limits of Humanity: Are We Alone?

Written by: Fuad Kehinde, Science Editor

Are we alone in the universe? A question that has been asked for centuries, and yet, we don’t seem in any way close to answering. Looking out into the beyond of space and searching for beings like us seems to be a unifying human experience. Throughout the centuries (most significantly the last century) there have been countless efforts to communicate with alien life. From sending radio waves out into the abyss to the Voyager Golden Record (NASA literally sent a disc with information into space. This information included pictures/sounds from the earth, our co-ordinates and even music.). 

After all this searching, sending and listening, why have we yet to communicate with anyone? Are we truly the only intelligent beings out there? As countless habitable planets have existed over the last few billion years, that means life has had plenty of chances to develop. So, it seems pretty unlikely that we’ve yet to encounter another intelligent species, right? This issue is known as the Fermi Paradox and it is yet to be solved. The question this paradox proposes is, why does it seem like we’re alone in the universe? 

How have theorists attempted to resolve this issue? A very popular proposed solution is that of filters. Filters are like barriers to the development of an intelligent species. They’re issues that intelligent life must beat in order to continue to progress. An early filter would be the evolutionary leap from single-cell life to more complex multi-cellular life. More recent filters would be Nuclear War or Climate change. So, with this idea of filters and the knowledge that the universe seems empty, it can be presumed that there exists some major, deadly filter which I’ll call the great filter

The great filter would be a filter of such magnitude that it destroys all species that make it to it. If this great filter exists, then there are two possibilities. The first possibility is that we’ve already passed it. If so, that would mean that humanity was fortunate in passing this filter but also that we are alone because no other species has managed to make it this far. The scarier possibility is that the great filter is ahead of us. Maybe we are destined to create some super technology or advanced bioweapon that annihilates us or sets us back by a considerable margin. There’s no real way to tell which of these possibilities is more likely. 

Another proposed solution to the paradox is that there already exists a super-advanced civilisation. There could exist a species that has advanced to the point where it controls entire solar systems. Maybe they constantly scan the universe until they find a developing society like ours, then stop us in our tracks. Possibly to keep a hold on their unrivalled control of the galaxy.  

Or maybe there are many non-hostile alien species, but our means of communication are far too primitive for them. We could be like an isolated home in a massive forest that is only equipped with a Morse code transmitter. No matter how much we communicate and send out signals, no-one is going to be looking out for such a primitive form of communication, right? So, if we’re sending out signals solely from that forest, it would seem like we’re all alone. 

Perhaps, the most boring but equally valid solution is correct. We are truly all alone in the universe. We do not yet understand the conditions that complex life, and thus intelligent life, needs to develop or even the likelihood of it happening in the first place. Maybe existing as we do is virtually impossible. Maybe evolving big brains is not something any other species has done. Again, we cannot answer these questions until we have more developments in the field. 

Personally, I think the effort to solve the Fermi Paradox is far more interesting than any possible solution. Why do we try so hard to prove the existence of intelligent life? Is it for when Earth is long gone, our existence is somehow justified by another species knowing about us? Is it a need to find species that, like us, can observe and appreciate the beauty of the universe? Or is it just a thirst for knowledge that finding aliens can satiate? No matter what it is, the wonder that we indulge in when we think about aliens is something that I think powers scientific interest and discovery. It is through what is practically science-fiction that many people, including me, find our passion for science. Like the great Carl Sagan said, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere.”.