Saturday, 24 January 2015

SORCHA: I SWITCHED OFF

Reader Sorcha was a confident girl until bullying wrecked her self-esteem; and there was nobody she could tell…


Sorcha says:
I was quite confident as a small child. At primary, my reports were good, my teachers like me and I had plenty of friends. I was excited about starting high school; if only I'd known how things would turn out.

It started on my second day. The school didn't have a strict uniform policy, just a basic colour code, so I'd worn a black scarf in my hair. One of the teachers, Mr Cole, stopped me in the corridor and yelled at me in front of my friends… I was so shocked I didn't know what to say or do. He seemed to think my silence was insolence, but I was just trying my hardest not to cry. He pulled the scarf out of my hair and threw it into the bin, and he told me he didn't like my attitude and that he'd be keeping an eye on me.

He did that, all right. Over the next few years, Mr Cole made my life a misery. He went out of his way to find fault with everything I did, everything I wore, everything about me. Other kids were getting away with murder, yet I was punished just for breathing… or that's what it felt like. He sent letters home about my poor attitude and once called my mum into the school to complain I was wearing trousers with pockets. I mean, I've never heard of trousers without pockets, have you? Mum  didn't stand up for me like she should have… she didn't believe that I wasn't doing anything to provoke Mr Cole. The worst time was Year 9, when he was my maths teacher. I didn't stand a chance. He once ripped my homework up in front of the class and told me I was worthless, an idiot.


I didn't tell anyone… who'd have believed me? He had turned the other teachers against me, and slowly I switched off, stopped trying. I felt hopeless all the time, worthless, just like he said I was. I left at sixteen with poor GCSE grades and started a course at 6th form college. I stopped feeling scared… started to try hard at my work again. My grades improved and it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I'm studying for A levels now, exams he told me I'd never be able to take.

Last week, I bumped into a friends' big brother, home from uni. He asked how I was getting on and I told him I was loving college, that school had been a nightmare. He told me that Mr Cole had bullied a boy in his year, too, and made his life a misery, just as he had for me. Everyone knew it, but nobody spoke out. It made me think… who will be next? I've written a letter to the Head Teacher setting out what happened to me. I don't know if they'll believe me, even now, but I have to try.

Names have been changed and pictures are posed by model.

Cathy says:
Sorcha's story is a perfect example of how bullying can destroy confidence and ruin lives… and it's especially scary to think that the bully can be a trusted teacher. Have YOU ever been picked on by a teacher? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Friday, 23 January 2015

CHERYL: I LEFT SCHOOL AND DYED MY HAIR PINK...

Another post in our new series about growing up in different decades… we talk to Cheryl, who was a teenager in the early 1990s…


Cheryl says:
If I coud pick my favourite age, it would be 1995 when I was nineteen. A few years before that, at school, I had been very unhappy. I loved bands like The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees and was a real goth. I lived in a small town and got bullied a lot for my alternative style, even from adults in the street! I felt very isolated. The internet was still in its infancy and had to go through the phone line, which cost a fortune, so magazines were still the best way to connect with like minded people. I found some penpals through the Cure fanclub and it was always so exciting to get letters from other places.

As soon as I left school, I dyed my hair pink and went to Liverpool. I couldn't believe the difference a city made! I studied drama at a YTS place called the Oh Five One; everyone there was either in a band or liked the same stuff I did. It felt like something was changing, as the alternative scene was slowly becoming more mainstream. I got into
grunge music, bleached my hair and started singing with local bands. My friend and I started publishing fanzines and ended up running the Debbie Harry fan club! We made some amazing friends through letters and meeting at concerts. It felt like a magical time for creativity - music, films, books - so many of my all-time favourites are from that time. It felt like we could do anything we dreamed of.

The only thing I regret is that we didn't have the technology and social media of today. I think I would have felt much less isolated and 'different' in my small town school years if I could have reached out to other teens like me.

Cathy says:
I LOVE this post… and I love Cheryl's adventurous outlook and creativity! Cheryl is now a businesswoman and a mum, and lives on a tiny island… still pretty cool, y'see! Do YOU identify with Cheryl's ideas and feelings? How would you have coped with teen life in the 90s? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

KYM: EASY CHOCOLATE FUDGE!

Reader Kym shares a recipe for yummy chocolate fudge… a perfect weekend treat!


You will need:
400g chocolate
397g tin of condensed milk
100g icing sugar
25g butter
50g chopped nuts or 50g chocolate chips (if desired)

non stick saucepan
20cm square tin (line with baking parchment)

1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place into a non-stick saucepan with butter and condensed milk. Heat ingredients gently over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy.

2. Sift in icing sugar and mix with a wooden spoon or electric whisk if preferred.

3. Press fudge into tin and smooth the mixture down using the back of a spoon. Sprinkle on nuts or chocolate chips if required.

4. Refrigerate fudge mixture for one hour until set, then cut into squares. The fudge will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a fortnight…

Kym says:
Chocolate with around 50% cocoa solids gives a great result… and don't worry, the fudge won't last long. It's so gorgeous, I end up having a bit every time I go through the kitchen. Which is why these days, I only make it for special occasions! Enjoy!

Cathy says:
Mmm… this sounds amazing! Do you have a foolproof sweet-treat recipe? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

SISTERS: A WINTRY SHORT STORY BY LILMISS

You'll love reader LilMiss's fab wintry fanfiction about Honey and Skye, inspired by this pic of two sisters in cool hats… and with a few additions from me! Make yourself a hot chocolate and curl up for five minutes of escapism!

The world is swirling with snow as I walk through the village with my big sister Honey. It looks magical; Honey's hair, shorter than it once was after she cut it in a flurry of anger a couple of years back, is intertwined with snowflakes.
We walk past one of my favourite shops - a newly opened vintage shop - and I just can't help but notice a winter sale. Honey doesn't really like vintage - not like I do, anyway - but she doesn't complain when I drag her into the warm shop.
'Mrs Valestro!' I cry warmly, throwing my arms around the owner's stout body. 'Good to see you!'
She passes me two of the sweets she keeps in a jar on a high up shelf, a toffee penny for me and a strawberry cream for Honey. I can see Honey's mouth open to tell me off for dragging her into a shop full of old clothes, but the strawberry cream enters her mouth at just the right time and her complaint is silenced.
'What are you needing, girls?' Mrs Valestro asks. 'A silk shawl, a fifties frock, a 1930s brooch?'
Honey wrinkles up her nose, unimpressed.
'We have a big reduction in hats… 1960s ski hats, just in from America…' She lifts one, a subtle purple with lilac tones. It's looks like new.
'Honey, shall we get hats? Stay warm in the snow?'
I raise my eyebrows, trying not to laugh. Honey is toying with a pink hat with an intricate pattern, lips pursed to criticise… but the words have been swept away. She likes it; more than that, she loves it.
A sign on the wall says all hats are reduced to £3.50, but as I fumble in my pocket and bring out a tenner, Mrs Valestro pushes the money back at me.
'On the house,' she whispers.
The two of us thank her and pull our hats on, Honey still smiling like a Cheshire cat. We head back out into the snowy street.
'Why did we come out again?' Honey asks, linking arms with me.
'Mum wanted wholemeal flour and baking powder,' I reply. 'Plus marshmallows and honey and cocoa powder… we walked right past the shop!'
We turn around and head back to the grocery store, collecting everything we need and handing over the money. Outside again, we begin the ascent to Tanglewood. No longer are our ears cold; the hats hug tightly, keeping us warm. It doesn't take long to reach the top of the lane, but suddenly I don't want the walk to end.
'Hey… it was good to hang out with you, Honey,' I say. 'Walk in the snow. It was… sort of special!'
'We should do it more often,' she replies. 'It was fun. We can start a new tradition!'
My eyes blur suddenly with tears, but they're happy ones.
'I'm so glad you're back, Honey,' I whisper. 'Last year… well, nothing was the same without you. Never leave again, OK?'
'OK,' my big sister laughs.
We clasp hands and wander along the drive to Tanglewood, shopping in our arms and hats on our heads.

Cathy says:
I love this sweet, snow-themed fan fiction - and it was fun to add my own extra touches too! Hope you enjoyed it - COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


BEST FOOT FORWARD...

Have you ever wondered which style of dance would suit YOU? We talked to a bunch of dance-crazy readers to find out...


Louise says:
I used to do tap when I was younger and I've also done ballet and modern for several years. Street dance is special, though - it's a dance of expression. It's different to other types of dance as your moves are not precise... you can lose yourself inside the music. It's an imperfect way to let go of your imperfections! The music varies from pop and R&B to Dubstep and even crossed music - I love it. It helps you imagine a place a million miles away where everything is OK and always will be OK. Street dance is different and unique - just like me!

Betty says:
I started ballet about a year ago. I'm in Grade Four and do two lessons a week, but I plan to do more... and soon I hope to start Intermediate Foundation. I love ballet because it's like speaking with your feet - I love moving around in time with the music and being able to jump really high. Jumps are my favourite thing to do! I started doing ballet because I fell in love with the Cathy Cassidy book Summer's Dream! It's never too late to start, and you can make good progress in quite a short time!
Scarlett says: 
I've been doing Irish dance for six years, and I love it. I started it as a way to keep fit, and it definitely does that! I enjoyed my classes, but some dancers came to do a demo on Irish dance from another school, and I was hooked... I joined that school and I haven't looked back! Sometimes I take part in competitions... in one recent Feis (competition) I won four medals overall and came second in two sections!
Alexandra says:
I love ballet and I do two 45 minute lessons a week. I have just taken my inter-foundation exam which is the grade after grade five. Some people continue to do grades six, seven and eight, but my teacher prefers the inter-foundation route! I have to do point work as well, which I love. On a Friday I do a tap and modern class, and I'm taking my grade four exam in that soon... I'm really nervous about that! I love ballet, but I know it won't be a career for me... it's just fun.

Chantel says:
I go to a theatre school and study dance there - I do musical theatre, modern, street and jazz and I do some  tap and ballet at home too. My jazz shoes, in the picture, are multi-purpose and really comfortable. I absolutely love attending my dance classes as they are really fun and a great way to make friends. Dance is so expressive and a great workout, too!

Do YOU love to dance? Email via the link on www.cathycassidy.com if you'd like to tell us about it for DREAMCATCHER - or COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 19 January 2015

PIPPA LATOUR: UNDERCOVER SPY!

The first in a new series all about the fabulous, feisty females who helped to change the course history… as written by the lovely Ruth, my brilliant P.A. Enjoy!


Ruth says:
This fabulously brave woman combines two of my favourite interests - female spies, and… knitting! During World War Two, Pippa Latour joined the WAAF and was asked to join the SOE - the Special Operations Executive, a brave group who would spy on the Germans and pass information back to their country to help Britain win the war. She had an expert knowledge of French - her father had been a Frenchman. It was incredibly dangerous work but the SOE members thought nothing of risking their lives for their country.

In training, Pippa learnt how to make codes so she could send secret messages and was even taught by a real life burglar how to get into dangerous places and escape without being caught. Using the codename Paulette, she pretended to be a poor French teenager and rode round on her bicycle collecting information and passing it on to other British secret agents. Her codes were written on silk, and she cunningly wrapped them around her knitting needles and tied the coiled silk into her hair with a shoelace! During her time in Normandy, Pippa sent 135 secret messages - invaluable information on Nazi troop positions which was used to help Allied forces prepare for the D-Day landings and the subsequent military campaign. Pippa continued her mission until the liberation of France in 1944.

After the war, Pippa married and lived in Kenya, Fiji and Australia before eventually settling in New Zealand where she raised four children. It was only in recent years that she revealed to them her previous career as a spy. She holds an MBE and the French Croix de Guerre medal, and in 2014  was presented with the Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la L├ęgion d'Honneur, France's highest decoration, for her courage in helping to liberate the country from Nazi tyranny.

Cathy says:
Wow… what an amazing story! I can't wait to read more about girls who helped to change the world - do YOU have any suggestions for who we should include? COMMENT BELOW if you've enjoyed reading about Pippa!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

ELISE: WE WILL ALWAYS BE FRAGILE...

Reader Elise explores the subject of looks, confidence and society… and comes up with some unsettling conclusions…

Elise says:
Looks and confidence… people say they don't matter and it's what is on the inside that counts, yet these same people plaster themselves with make up so that nobody sees what is underneath, nobody sees the true 'them'. Why? What are we afraid of?

We have been brought up in a harsh and horrible society which scares us into doing as it wants us to. For example, if you are overweight, society says you are ugly and tries to sell you weight loss pills; if you have teenage spots, society tells you you'll never find a relationship and tries to sell you skin cream. We all know it's fake and we know it's all lies, but we fall into the trap over and over again.
We have grown up in a society where we are bullied and judged for our looks, and we blame society for this… but we ARE society! We will always be judged on our looks; it is the way it's always going to be for us. We try to find a way out, but we always fall into the trap of being lied to, or lying to ourselves just to feel better. It's a never ending circle of lies.

We can say, 'Don't judge a book by its cover,' or 'It's the inside that counts,' but we need to BELIEVE it too, and that's where we have to start from. The sad truth is that people are bullied and put down all the time because of their looks. Sometimes we are so broken that we glue all the pieces together with make-up, but we will always be fragile. Our lives will continue to be broken and difficult and sometimes this has less to do with pain and more to do with beauty. I see things very simply and I try to avoid lies like 'it's the inside that counts,' but people get caught up in this lie and others like it. People either hide their true selves or perhaps are scared to show it… what we see is often fake, unreal. Do we ever really know what other people are like inside? Can we trust that what they show us is the real them?

Pics posed by model Rebekah, photographed by Karen: thanks to you both!

Cathy says:
This is a powerful, heartfelt opinion piece, but very sad… do YOU agree with Elise, or do you think we can break free of the lies and be true to ourselves? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...