Saturday, 28 February 2015

JENNA: LAST MOMENT

Reader Jenna shares a heartbreaking short story based on her memories of her dad, who died four years ago… just beautiful.

Jenna says:
We walk along the strawberry pink path of the park woods, Rosie the dog trotting ahead of us. Birds sing in the trees, making their nests ready for the wintry nights ahead. Forget-me-not flowers litter the emerald grass and in the distance, far behind the chestnut trees, I see turquoise waves crashing on the rocks, splashing people on the golden beach below.

Suddenly, Rosie starts to bark at the little stream that seeps through the woods. She looks at my dad for permission, and at his nod she jumps in with a loud splash, trying to pick up twigs in her mouth without having to put her head in the water. Dad stands by the stream watching her; I walk over to watch too, and after a while we sit down on the banks of the stream. Dad puts his arm around me as he used to do when I was small, and we just sit and watch Rosie. It feels like hours, but I know it's just minutes.

Rosie eventually gets out of the water, shaking her soaking chocolate brown fur so she looks less like a drowned rat. We start walking again, and then Dad starts to jog along with Rosie, getting faster and faster, Rosie running alongside him. I watch them running like birds chasing one another along the pink painted path. I've never seen Dad look so free; like all the roubles in his hard and complicated life have left him, like he is free of the illness that has held him back. He is grinning like he never has before.

Dad slows at last and we walk on together. Dad looks ahead into the distance, like he can see something I cannot. Birds fly above us as we watch and the sound of waves crashing in the distance as we stroll along together, father and daughter reunited after four years apart. And then the pink path gets thinner and thinner, as if it is coming to an end. As I look around, pictures begin to form around me, memories of the good times now gone. In the distance I can see a dim light, and I know what's coming. I turn to Dad, tears in my eyes, and he nods, answering my unspoken question.

'I must go, my time is up,' he whispers, so softly you can barely hear it.

He kisses me gently on the head and pats a now whimpering Rosie. There's a strange white light at the end of the path and as he walks towards it the light gets steadily brighter; then suddenly the light goes out and I am sitting up in bed, Rosie howling at my bedside, reminding me he's gone and will never return.

Cathy says:
I love Jenna's brave tribute to her dad; have YOU ever lost someone close to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or comment on the story.

Friday, 27 February 2015

KELLIE: EVERYONE WANTED A BOYFRIEND IN A BAND...

Another in our series all about growing up in a different decade… we talk to Kellie, who was a teen in the 1990s…


Kellie says:
I turned sixteen in the summer of 1996; what a great year that was! Every boy - well, lots of them, anyway - looked like Liam Gallagher from Oasis. The dress code was skinny jeans and band t-shirts, Adidas Firebird tracksuits and Adidas Gazelle or Campus trainers. Music was the battle of Blur versus Oasis and laughing at the manic Street Preachers fans in their feather boas! Bedrooms were covered in posters of bands and musicians and any part time jobs we had, the money would go on various music magazines like Kerrang, NME amd Melody Maker to check the gig listings. We were free to go to as many gigs as we could - Ocean Colour Scene for a tenner at the Royal Court, Space on a Friday night… the city was alive and booming.

HMV was the place to buy your music from, and you would always find someone you knew in there. Vinyl was just a pound to buy! New bands were coming up all the time, and everyone wanted a boyfriend in a band - many of us joined bands ourselves! There were no mobiles then. We had pay phones, and everyone would crowd around to hear what was said. No digital cameras either… just a throwaway camera you'd take to the photo shop to get prints. You'd have a boyfriend for a week and then dump them by not ringing back or hiding from them at the next gig! Life then was good. There was no Twitter, no Facebook - people talked to each other. I miss those days… there was no pressure.

Cathy says:
Kellie's account really captures the buzz of being a teen… love it! These days she is a mum and an anti-austerity campaigner, and still loves music and live gigs! Would YOU have liked life as a teen in the 1990s? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

FAMILY MATTERS!

Readers share more of their cool sister stories… naaaw! Read on to find out why family matters!

Lucy Mae says:
My sister Emily is totally awesome - kind of like my guardian angel. She helps me loads, she lots of fun and and is always there for me when I'm down. She's like a best friend who just happens to be my sister! Sometimes we have these days where we feel like we hate each other, but that never lasts for long - we love each other really and I wouldn't swap her for the world!

Grace says:
I love my sister Lily, she's really cool. We share a room together and she always has great advice. We have a laugh together. She can be a bit grumpy if I leave my clothes strewn around the floor, but that's just because she likes the room to be tidy. She is the best little sister in the world!


Caitlin says:
I have four sisters but sadly I haven't seen them for five years now… they live in England and certain circumstances mean it's not possible to stay in contact. In this old photo, I am the blonde one in the middle, smiling like a loon, and my youngest sister isn't in the picture. I remember that we always played make-believe games together, and my older sister and I used to sit up all night sometimes, telling each other scary stories. The downside was that they used to always tell on me if I did something I shouldn't have… but I do love my sisters!

Isis says:
My little sister is just amazing… I look up to her and she looks up to me. Even though we do sometimes argue about stupid little things, we always make it up fast. We are always hyper and we laugh a LOT! You can see from the picture that it's hard for either one of us to keep a straight face. We both like the same things and are always ready to help each other out when we need help or are stuck on something. We're a team. She is a pretty awesome sister and I think we'll always stay close… I don't know what I'd do without her!

Poppi says:
I have two sisters and I get along with both of them, but I see my oldest sister more at the moment. She is six years older than me and we get on like clockwork most of the time. Of course, as I'm fifteen and she's twenty-one we are at slightly different stages of our lives and for that reason we do sometimes get on each other's nerves! If that happens, we are always friends again within the day. I love her to bits… it's a shame I don't see so much of my other sister, because we do get along when we're together!

Cathy says:
Awww… such fab (and sometimes sad!) stories! Do YOU have a sister that gives the Chocolate Box Girls a run for their money? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

DECHOX: A MONTH WITHOUT CHOCOLATE!

This Lent, reader Charlotte is raising money for the British Heart Foundation. Find out how... and what YOU can do to help!

Charlotte says:
You might know that Lent started last week, and that people everywhere are giving something up until Easter. Instead of giving something up for Lent, I am going to be taking part in the British Heart Foundation's national 'DECHOX'. I will be joining thousands of others in giving up chocolate (yes, CHOCOLATE!) for a whole month, to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. BHF are a charity dedicated to researching life-threatening heart conditions such as coronary heart disease, which thousands of people in the UK suffer from.

I will be giving up all types of chocolate - even cakes, biscuits and ice-cream - for the whole of March, and any money raised will go direct to the charity. The cause means a lot to me as my grandparents  suffer from heart conditions; they are very happy I have chosen to support BHF. It's going to be difficult - it's only when I think about it that I realise how often I eat chocolate, from Coco Pops in the morning to biscuits as a snack. Plus, when I'm at university, there is an amazing chocolate cake stall which I'll have to avoid! It will be worth it, though, to send money to a charity which can save lives.

I am amazed at the money I've raised so far and I'd be grateful if anyone reading could have a look at my page and donate - even 50p or £1 will make a difference. The link to donate is:
https://www.justgiving.com/charlotteclarkdechox/
If you can't donate, why not consider taking part in the DECHOX yourself? Thank you!

Cathy says:
I love Charlotte's challenge and her determination to make a difference - and I will definitely be donating! Are you giving up anything for Lent? Or raising money for a favourite charity? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

IT TAKES ALL SPORTS...

Readers tell us about their favourite sports and hobbies… would one of them suit YOU?
Isabelle says:
I have played golf for seven years or so, so I am pretty good at it now and have won the championship twice in a row. What I like best about it is that it's an outside sport, so you get to spend time in the sun - I like the wind too, though! I have made lots of new friends through golf. For example, one of the competitions we do involves going to another town to play for a day, so that can be interesting and you meet new people! My dad is really good at golf and I started playing as a way to spend more time with him and learn a skill at the same time. It does keep you quite fit as you have to walk the nine or eighteen holes to get around the course, but I do other sports too which gives me a good balance. It's not something kids my age always think of, but it can be lots of fun!

Molly says:
My two brothers and I all play indoor and outdoor bowls as a hobby. I have been playing for about three years now, and I am the current junior singles club champion. I've just reached the finals again this year - they'll be played in April. I have also been invited to play for Kent Ladies Under 25s which is quite cool when you are only twelve! I am really looking forward to that. My brothers have been playing bowls for about a year so far, and Harry got his first runners up trophy last year so I think they're going to be pretty good, too!

Jess says:
I'm not terribly sporty, but I am extremely passionate about horse riding! I had my first riding lesson when i was about five,after watching one of my friends who was having lessons, but I didn't start going for regular lessons until I was about eight, just after giving up gymnastics. What I love about riding is that although it can often feel like you're taking one step forward and two back, when you DO achieve something significant it gives you confidence as well as a real sense of accomplishment! And horse riding is an exhilarating experience, where you can really connect with the horse.

Cathy says:
I love these accounts - Isabelle, Molly and Jess all clearly love their sports, and are good at them, too! Do YOU have a sport you really love? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 23 February 2015

MARYAM: HOW CAN I MAKE HIM LIKE ME?

Another in our series of agony aunt posts… reader Maryam asks chocolate box girl CHERRY COSTELLO for help…


Maryam says:
Last year I started a new school and fell for a boy who helped show me around. I was sure he liked me too. We got along brilliantly, but nothing happened between us so I wrote him a letter to tell him how I felt. It ruined everything. Now he won't talk to me and when we pass we shield our eyes as if to keep from seeing the other; it's like we are enemies now. To make matters worse, he is going out with a girl a real Honey Tanberry lookalike; yes, she's pretty, but I don't understand what has made him fall for her. My friend tells me to act more feminine, but I am brainy and not the pink princess or boy-band fanatic type, so how do I do that? I've tried new hairstyles, but nothing makes a difference. How can I make him forget his current girlfriend and like me again?

Cherry says:
The quick answer is, you can't. As teenagers, we fall in and out of love quickly and unpredictably, and sadly, the people we fall for don't always feel the same way about us. You fell for this boy, but it sounds as though he saw you as a friend rather than anything more. Sending him a letter setting out your feelings probably made him feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, and he retreated from the friendship. He has a girlfriend now and though you can't see what he likes about her, that doesn't matter - it's what HE thinks that matters here. We don't always make the wisest choices in our teens, so I am not saying this romance will last, but for now at least he is off limits. You cannot make him forget his girlfriend, nor can you make him like you again - those choices are for him to make. What I do want to say is that your friend is wrong to tell you to change and become 'more feminine' to get his attention. I see lots of girls at school who are acting out a part, trying to be like the celebs they see on TV with dyed hair, perfect make-up and the same old interests and styles. Who wants to be like everyone else? You are a clever, strong personality - that's GOOD. Be yourself, be unique and individual… one day, someone will fall for you and the bond you build will be all the stronger because you are being true to yourself. If this boy is not interested then he's not the boy for you… but you WILL meet the right person one day, I promise.

Cathy says:
I agree with Cherry on this - but do YOU have any extra advice for Maryam? This is a tough situation, and one that a few of us have been in. COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

CHLOE: LIFE'S TOO SHORT TO PRETEND!

Reader Chloe writes about being different… and proud!


Chloe says:
It's hard, isn't it? Hard trying to be true to yourself when you know you're different. I don't mean different as in you have some huge dark secret or an amazing magical power… just different as in just not like anyone else. People don't like different, you see. They prefer to know who everyone is and exactly what to expect, and if everyone is pretty much the same it makes life a lot easier. When in life you stumble across someone who doesn't mind you not being exactly like everyone else… well, you call them a friend. Finding these friends isn't always easy and you sometimes find yourself spending time with people who don't quite 'fit' with you. Life is a kind of puzzle and everyone makes up a piece of it. Some pieces will fit with yours and some won't… but the thing about a puzzle is that no piece is exactly the same. Every piece is unique, different… that's how it all works!

So… all the time you spend trying to fit in with the crowd, trying to be just like everyone else… well, it won't work, because we are ALL different. We spend our lives pretending to agree, pretending to like things which in reality we don't care anything about… but we pretend we do in order to fit in and be liked. It's human nature - everyone does it. Then, out of the blue, with no warning, someone decides to be who they really are. They decide to stop going along with the crowd and choose to be themselves. So maybe being 'different' is actually just being YOU,  just letting yourself be yourself.

Life is too short to follow the crowd. Be the person you are - it's not a right, it's a privilege! I am me and you are you - why pretend to be anything else? Being normal is boring… maybe that's why I stopped!

Pic posed by model Grace… thank you!

Cathy says:
Lots of very thought-provoking ideas here… thank you Chloe! Do YOU ever feel different? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why!