GUSSC Take on L2A

“Do you even know how to ski?”

That was the first question my mother asked me when I happened to mention to her that I had paid my deposit for the Glasgow University ski trip. This year saw the GUSSC take 300 of GU’s finest students to the resort Les Deux for the first week of January. A week of skiing, snowboarding, boozing and, let’s not forget, dancing.

The actual ability to ski seemed like such a minor issue at the time but truth be told I had very little experience of skiing or snowboarding and absolutely none on real snow. Still, a mixture of peer pressure and Hive inspired drunken enthusiasm persuaded me to pay off the rest of the trip and prepare myself for a week in which my entire family was convinced I would break a bone.

Now, I wasn’t the only one who got carried away and booked the trip having barely put my foot into a ski boot before. So I didn’t feel as bad falling my way down a green slope on the first day, as I got to watch the other beginners struggle just as much.

I mean, at least I didn’t get taken on a blue slope on the first day by my friends, falling so hard I twisted my knee and was airlifted to hospital, losing both skis in the process. Or roll down a black slope, only rescuing myself from falling off piste by the hook of my thumb. I’m not going to name any names but I’m sure the footage will be on the internet in no time at all.

Don’t worry, everyone survived in the end, including the beginners. I got the hang of green slopes in a couple of days and was then led down a few blues by some very patient and understanding people. I thank you all. Meanwhile the more experienced skiers and snowboarders were speeding down reds and blacks and flying over jumps. Some even went off piste although if you ever do that try not to bury yourself in snow, like one GUSSC member managed to do on the last day.

But let’s face it, it isn’t all about the snow. The bars and nightclubs were completely ruined by the Glasgow students who turned out in force every single night. I have never seen so many people in onesies raving under a massive disco ball than in nightclub Avalanche on the second night. And the French didn’t know what had hit them when we blinded them in our neon clothes on the last night.

So for all those of you that debated over whether to go to Les Deux Alpes this year and decided that you didn’t have the money or that it just wasn’t worth it to put it bluntly you made a mistake. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a pro, there is something for everyone. There are lessons for all levels and several kind people to pick you up out of the snow and keep you going.

Next year don’t even hesitate. Get it booked because you know you are going to hate life for the next month with all this cliquey L2A chat.

And for all those who were there, now that we are all back in Glasgow after an amazing week together we can truly say F*** SNOW LET’S DANCE!

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We Believe in Independence

It has now been over 300 years since Scotland was absorbed into the United Kingdom, over ten years since Scotland was once again allowed its own parliament and just over a couple of weeks since Alex Salmond reiterated that there would be a referendum taking place, before the elections of 2016, asking the Scottish people to vote for or against independence for Scotland.

But why the need for Scottish independence?

Isn’t the Union fine the way it is?

The simple answer is no. In the last general election Scotland only voted in one Conservative Member of Parliament, yet Conservative are now the most powerful party in Westminster. Not only does this result in a serious lack of representation for Scotland in Westminster but it also conveys the lack of Scottish power within the Union.

Some may counter this apparent lack of Scottish influence by pointing to the devolution process of the last decade or so. Scotland has now been awarded its own parliament and possibly holds the most power it has had as a nation in the last 300 years. However, this merely strengthens the case for independence. For Scotland may be more democratic but is still severely restricted in its powers. For example, it is still Westminster which collects the Scottish taxpayers’ money and then recycles some of it back to the Scottish parliament to be spent on services in Scotland.

Devolution was a step in the right direction but it is not independence. It was merely a way for Westminster to avoid the issue at the time and to quell Scottish discontent. It is, however, not enough.

Westminster further has the power to dissolve the Scottish parliament at any time. This means we are at constant risk of losing what little progress we have managed to make in the last three centuries. Therefore, independence is not only a way to increase our power as a nation but also a way to fully protect what we have already worked so hard to obtain.

A bigger question than the why is the how of independence. Does Scotland really have the resources to sustain itself as an independent nation?

An argument that is always leapt to is that of Scotland’s oil. However, it is an effective one. The McCrone Report of 1974 declared that Scotland’s revenue of oil would have given it one of the strongest currencies in Europe if it was ever to gain independence. This was kept quiet by the Labour government and the details were not released until the SNP obtained it in 2005 under the Freedom of Information Act of 2000.

Now, it is doubtful that the oil could support the nation alone. However, it is a start. And were Scotland given the chance to develop its natural resources and other industries, such as renewable energy, it could stand a very good chance as a small, independent nation.

The fact is Scotland deserves the chance to take control of its politics and economy; the chance to prove itself as an independent country; the chance to be recognised as a separate nation in Europe and the rest of the world.

It is no longer an issue of blood stained kilts and saltires, nor of tyrant English kings taking away our freedom. It is now a case of what is best for our nation now and in the future. This journalist puts forward that independence would give Scotland the opportunity to control its own economy and resources, and allow Scottish people to be represented properly in government.

The SNP, the party that the Scottish people voted into the Scottish parliament this year, have promised that they will be fully campaigning for independence at the future referendum. And with the opinion polls showing an increase in support for independence from the public, who knows where Scotland will be five years from now. Perhaps for the first time in many centuries, Scotland will be in control of its own destiny.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Tom Parnell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/itmpa/)

Ryan Returns through Ashes and Fire

Only two years ago now one of the most notable names in the music industry announced his retirement. But Ryan Adams has returned to us, much to the delight of many country rock fans, with a new solo album, entitled Ashes and Fire.

Ryan first rocketed onto the music scene with the release of Heartbreaker in 2000. It was a raw, personal album, packed with acoustic guitars and despairing, heart-felt lyrics. He soon became known for this genre of bummed out folk music. He was depressing as hell… but people loved him for it.

Since then Ryan has led the predictably clichéd life of a musician. His health and career almost completely disintegrated due to substance abuse. The artist claims himself “it was a miracle he didn’t die”. He gave up both heroin and cocaine in 2006.

However, Ryan also had issues with his backing band The Cardinals, who carried the artist through five albums. However, tensions in the band led to the bassist Caroline Popper leaving in 2006. The band then dissolved in 2009 on bad terms.

Perhaps the musician’s biggest struggle, though, was his diagnosis with Ménière’s disease five years ago.  This disease is an inflammation of the inner ear and its symptoms include nausea and dizziness but most importantly the loss of hearing at certain frequencies.

For any normal person this disease is a hassle; for a musician it can be devastating.

So Ryan Adams was left in 2009 with no band, no record deal and damaged hearing. Not exactly the ideal set up for someone with a career in music. He therefore announced his retirement and disappeared to enjoy a quiet life with his wife, actress Mandy Moore.

However, this new album has proven that the artist is about as capable as staying away from a recording studio as students are at staying away from a bar advertising pound drinks.

Ashes and Fire, his return as a solo artist, has illustrated that he has overcome his Ménière’s disease and his other issues.  It is possibly the most emotional fraught album since his debut in 2000, Heartbreaker.

With low key guest singers such as Norah Jones the album is kept far more basic than the Adams we are used to. The average track length is only three and a half minutes with every track focused on his voice and a single instrument. Producer, Glynn Jones, has kept the record about what Adams does best.

The opening track ‘Dirty Rain’ has a simplicity to both its lyrics and melody that is akin to that of Willie Nelson’s, Adams’ idol. This song introduces us to the new, mature Ryan Adams that the rest of the album allows us to get used to.

The first track to be released from Ashes and Fire, ‘Lucky Now’, consists of lyrics that are dedicated to lost youth- a tribute to the bassist of the Cardinals Chris Feinstein, who died in 2009. But it also seems to be a highly personal track in which Adams acknowledges the changes he has undergone in the past few years, summarised in the finishing line of the song “am I really who I was?”

The last track on the album ‘I Love You but I Don’t Know What to Say’ is the one that will be likely to last with listeners long after the album is over. With his voice carrying the song over the piano, Adams causes an impact with very little effort. The track appears to be a message of love and devotion to his wife yet at the same time it stands to be a testament to the emotional turmoil he has experienced in the last decade.

So Ryan Adams, finally settled in a domestic home, his Ménière’s disease in remission and his music career back on track, appears to have truly left behind the fire in his life.

This album reflects this. The diehard fans may not appreciate the lack of raw, personal lyrics and dramatic melodies that define Heartbreaker. It is doubtful Adams will ever truly live up to that incredibly powerful debut. However, Ashes and Fire conveys a different side to the artist, a mature side. He is less self-indulgent with his songs than he was ten years ago. His music has been stripped bare and toned down. But this is promising.

As Adams embarks on his solo tour, it seems that this album marks a successful return to the music industry for arguably one of the greatest musicians of our generation. His work continues to influence several popular artists to date.

So is Ryan Adams really who he was? The answer is no, but this makes him no less of a musician, quite the contrary, it has allowed him to move on and develop as an artist.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of wfuv (https://www.flickr.com/photos/wfuv/)