Saturday, 22 November 2014


We had so much response to our first feature on readers who 'hide' their true selves behind a mask that we decided to continue the discussion… with different readers, this time…

Charlie says:
At school, sometimes people comment that my hair is horrible or that I'm ugly. I laugh it off and pretend to just be weird and crazy so that people don't make comments like that - they just think I'm weird, and that is better than being branded 'ugly' or 'big'. Not many people know that when I go home I carry the hurt and pain with me and feel really upset; they only ever see the fun, crazy side of me.

Carolyn says:
Charlie, I so identify with that. At school I act so happy when I am with my friends that it would be impossible to guess at what goes on behind that bubbly persona. Every so often, at lunch or break time, when nobody is looking, I sneak away and lock myself in a cubicle in the loo and cry rivers. Sometimes I even punch or kick the walls, missing lunch because I feel too lost and too angry to face the world… and I don't even know why. Then, as soon as the bell goes for whatever the next lesson is, I wipe the tears away and wash my face and make up an excuse for where I disappeared to… I say I've been in the library, for example. I pretend I am happy and normal until I go home and sit alone within the four walls of my room. I pretend to do my homework but really I am just sitting there, hugging my legs and wondering why I have these terrible feelings. I'm scared.

Yasmin says:
Carolyn, there have been times when I have felt that way too, but ironically I feel like I am myself with my friends at school, and at home I have to pretend to be something I am not. It's like I am a jigsaw piece and someone is forcing me into the wrong place in the picture, but I have no choice but to try to fit. I am grateful that I have a group of friends who accept me for who I am, even though that is not perfect in any way, and care about me. I know my family love me too, but they have such high expectations that I  cannot even hope to try and live up to them any more. I have to hide the real me. At home I  play the part of dutiful daughter, hard working pupil, helpful sister. Nobody bothers to look beneath the surface and see the real me, which is so much more than that. This has been going on for a few years now and the strain is really getting to me. I have done exactly what you have done, Carolyn - shut myself in my room and hit the walls with my fists until they hurt. Screamed into a pillow. Cried until there are no more tears left. It feels like I am two people, or that I have two lives… and I live in terror that my family will find this out and if they do I don't think they will ever forgive me.

Jennifer says:
Yasmin, is there somebody at school you can talk to about this? A counsellor maybe, or perhaps a sympathetic family member like an older cousin? I hope you can find a solution to this. Me, I hide behind a 'fake' happy face to mask the fear and the desolate wasteland that is my mind, so as not to show the pain that is hidden there. I don't want people to see the pain. If people ask how I am, I switch on a big smile and say, 'I'm fine!' when in reality I should answer 'I am not OK. I just want to hide away from the world.' I have been doing this for a while now… I just mask the pain I feel in the hopes that others don't see.

Megan says:
I understand what all of you are saying. I hide behind masks. I live in a world of masquerade. I've been building a wall around myself for years. I am the shyest girl at school, the quiet one who never speaks. Well, I am quiet because I am scared that if people find out about the 'real' me they will hate her, even more than they already do. Each time I get hurt, I build my wall higher, make it thicker, and my mask seems to mould itself to me more than ever; it becomes me. I have been bullied, which is the reason for my mask. I am quite insecure. I wear a 'mask' because it is my way to hide, my way to survive.

Yasmin says:
It is like living a lie, isn't it? It feels some days like it is choking me, that it will destroy me or drive me mad. Jennifer, we do have a school counsellor and once I went up to her door and raised my hand to knock, but lost my courage and walked away. Maybe I will have another try, because there has to be a better way than this, doesn't there? I really hope so, because this really is no way to live.

Names have been changed to protect privacy; thanks to Charlie, Carolyn, Yasmin, Megan and Jennifer for their honesty.

Pics posed by model Autumn.

Cathy says:
These readers feel they have no choice but to hide away their true selves, but we cannot grow or form strong relationships until we learn to be honest, at least with those we trust. Have YOU ever hidden behind a falsely cheerful mask or concealed important things about yourself? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more or offer ways to change things...

Friday, 21 November 2014


Lots of you love vintage, but have you ever been to a vintage fair? There are lots of bargains to be had… here's what to expect!

Cathy says:
The other weekend I went to a vintage fair with my friend Fiona… we were looking for retro goodies and offbeat Christmas prezzies. Fiona took some fab pics as we shopped, and I thought I'd share them - if you've never been to a vintage fair, these should give you an idea of what to expect! This particular vintage fair was in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool, which was a fab venue - and there was a vintage tea room, which we just HAD to sample! Then it was on to the serious task of treasure hunting…

This fair was very reasonably priced… the dresses were priced from £10 up to around £50 for the really  special pieces. We spotted a pink tulle ball gown and lots of velvet 1920s and 30s dresses which were just stunning. Skye would have approved! The stall holders were VERY cool, too… the lady in the pic above was goings for a very 70s look with the turban hat and fake leopardskin coat! My fave stall of all was run by a lady in an awesome Edwardian hat made with little silk flowers and netting and glazed dark straw, pictured right… she'd bought it that day from another stallholder!

I was instantly drawn to a stall selling lovely vintage children's books and annuals… I collect these, so i had a good rummage through, though I didn't buy anything this time. I was interested to see that some of my collection, books bought for 50p in junk shops long ago, are now worth £10 or £15! At a vintage fair, you need to be prepared to go through rails and rails of  items in search of something unique; sometimes, you just fall in love with something and that's that!

My friend Fiona had a good time too… she was on the hunt for Christmas prezzies, and we both agreed that these stunning 1950s mirror compacts (once used to hold loose facepowder) would be fab gifts for any vintage lover. There were lots of amazing silk scarves, too, often on sale for £1 each… also perfect gifts and the ideal way to add a taste of vintage to a plain outfit.

I ended up buying a black velvet coat, a diamante brooch of a fawn and a charcoal grey beret… I was tempted by lots of other things too, but I managed to hold back! The most jaw-dropping thing we saw at the vintage fair was this men's shirt, printed with pictures of lurid panettone - a kind of Italian Christmas cake. It was so hideous it was actually quite cool, and Fiona almost bought it (£10) for her husband as a change from the usual dodgy Christmas jumper. She didn't in the end, and she still hasn't forgiven herself!  Me, I'm still having nightmares about it…

Have YOU ever been to a vintage fair? Would you like to? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


We meet young illustrator Holly whose first published book might just set her on the road to stardom…

Holly says:
I'm a lifelong vegetarian and have always loved animals. At school, I loved art and English and have always loved doodling and writing stories. I left school last year with three A grade A levels, but chose not to go to university because of the rising student debt situation. Instead, I took a part time job as a barista and launched my own mural business. For some years I've worked Saturday's at Formby Books - I even painted a mural on their wall with a fairy tale animal theme. My boss Tony has always encouraged my artwork and the manager, Bob, said he felt the characters in my mural had a story to tell. I think the mural is where the idea for the book started!

Red squirrels are famous here in Formby, and one of the main attractions for visitors. I designed a logo of a squirrel saying 'Save Our Shops' for local businesses to display; Tony nicknamed him 'Squish' (I wasn't too happy about that to start with!) and Bob suggested writing a story about him. Bob was easy to work with - he didn't give me deadlines for the illustrations, but I always had a new image to show him each Saturday. It was great feeling to finish the book and see the artwork alongside the text… it's a children's adventure book with a conservation feel so I think it will be popular. Copies of A BUSHY TALE are available from Amazon for £6.99 and from Formby Books, 5 The cloisters, Halsall Lane, Formby, Liverpool L37 3PX.
We can sign and post copies to anyone who is interested for that personal touch! On Saturday 22nd November we are having a book launch at Formby Books… if you're local, do come along!

My dream is to become a children's author and illustrator; it's what I have always wanted to do. When I was little I used to write books about animals and illustrate each one. I'd like to see my mural painting business take off, too… I've had some great commissions from schools and individuals so far. It's lovely to paint characters on the wall, bringing a room alive… and to see children choose their favourite parts of the picture! My long term dream is to open an animal sanctuary for rescued animals, have a little cottage and write and illustrate my books in a lovely countryside setting.

Cathy says:
I've met Holly and seen her fabulous bookshop mural… and I will be ordering a copy of A BUSHY TALE, too! Have you ever dreamed of illustrating a book? COMMENT BELOW to share your views!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Reader Lauren tells DREAMCATCHER what it's like to take part in a professional theatre production…

Lauren says:
Earlier this year, I had the amazing opportunity to take part in a theatre production called Full Moon. It was a fusion of ballet and African dancing, with music composed especially for it; that's where I came in! I was with the National Youth Orchestra down in the pit, just to the front of the stage. I was made Principal Cellist, which was all pretty nerve wracking. No pressure, then! We each had a microphone - I was very impressed with the fact that each one was made specifically for each instrument: I took a photo of mine, and there it is, clipped onto my strings so everyone in the theatre could hear what I was playing. It was the first time I'd been part of a professional production, and I really loved it!

It was a totally new experience to work with dancers… often we would have to speed up or hold back the tempo according to the speed of their movements, and we had to play so many things that weren't even in the music in order to fill in any gaps! It was a run of fourteen shows, and I really enjoyed the routine of it all. During the interval, we'd go to the restaurant in the foyer for drinks, then all of us (including the conductor) would rush back when the bell went! Of course, having a bunch of teenagers and young adults in a pit brings problems of its own. There was a full-on love triangle and other romantic entanglements, resentment between some musicians… and on the second last night of the show we had to call in the standby conductor because the usual conductor's wife had gone into labour!

The funny thing is that we orchestra players never actually got to watch the show, since we were so busy the whole time providing the music. Except for one guy, whose double bass string snapped halfway through a performance, so he was allowed to go see; he reported that the costumes, special effects (especially the giant swinging pendulum) and overall spectacle were amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the production and I met some wonderful people there; I sorely missed it when it was all over.

Cathy says:
I love Lauren's insight into life in the orchestra pit… a love triangle? Who knew! Have YOU ever taken part in a big show? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Another in our series of readers problems… as solved by the Chocolate Box sisters! Reader Kia has a question for Honey…

Kia says:
Three years ago my parents split up. They said they would stay friends, and although Dad left he promised to stay in touch with me and my younger brother. He did at first, but now he has moved to Wales for work and is living with a new girlfriend who has kids too. We are too far away to see him now. He hardly ever calls anymore either, and I am scared he will forget us. It was my birthday last week and all I got was a text in the evening and a promise he'd post a cheque, and I think that was only because Mum texted to remind him. I took the split in my stride but I feel like my heart is breaking now. I feel like Dad's replaced us.

Honey says:
Kia, I know how this feels. I was always Dad's favourite and I never believed he could let me down, but he did. I was devastated when he moved to Sydney, so I do understand how you felt when your dad moved away. When I went to stay with Dad I thought we'd get close again - he does love me, I know, but he isn't much good at being a dad. I am sure your dad loves you too, but he may be so busy with his job and his new 'family' that he doesn't remember things like birthdays. My dad is rubbish at all that stuff, too.
I don't think that your dad has replaced you, just that he may be like my dad and is not very good at keeping two lives running at once, so he concentrates on the new life and forgets sometimes about what he has left behind. This is hurtful, but he doesn't mean it to be, I know that. I stay in touch with letters and emails now, and Dad is getting better at staying connected. Find out which ways your dad likes to stay in touch - phone, text, Skype, letter - and use that. And remember that if he does let you down a bit just now, it won't be out of malice but just from not understanding how much you need him. I didn't really succeed at rebuilding things with my dad when I went to Australia, but I will try again one day. And meanwhile I will live my life, with or without him, and I will make that life as good as it possibly can be. I think you should do the same. And good luck!

Cathy says:
Do you agree with Honey's advice? Is there anything you would add? COMMENT BELOW to tell Kia what YOU would do in her shoes… 

Monday, 17 November 2014


Do YOU put on a mask for the world to see, yet feel that nobody knows or understands the real you? Readers talk about what it's like to hide your true feelings…

Gwen says:
I am actually a really shy and vulnerable person but I hide behind a loud and boisterous facade. I act like I don't care and pretend that I don't like people, that they don't bother me. It is a kind of armour that I wear. Beneath it, I am shy and sensitive and I like hugs and romance and cuddles… I am not sure people at school would always understand that though, from the way I act. It's a kind of self-protection.

Blaze says:
Gwen, I am like that too, but I never used to be. Something happened to me last year which was quite shocking and horrible for me, and I began holing up inside a little shell of fake 'confidence' and nobody can see that on the inside I am breaking down. I sometimes drop my guard and people notice - and then I feel quite vulnerable and scared. My life is SUCH a mess and I don't want people to see that.

Clare says:
Oh, Blaze, that sounds awful. Is there someone you could talk to about what happened? A friend? A teacher? You can't keep all that inside all the time. I hide behind a 'happy, carefree' mask sometimes, because I am a very private person and my friends are quite gossipy and they do judge people. Things are not great for me at home, nothing serious, but it's not ideal. And I don't want my friends to know all that. Seriously, though Blaze... I think you should try to confide in someone.

Blaze says: 
Thing is, Clare, I expect some people would comfort me. My friends, anyway… but others would sneer and be really mean to me about it. And I'd break down, I know I would. It would make things awkward for people… I can't really explain it any more than that, but that is why I hide behind a 'mask'.

Jo says:
Blaze… I can really identify with that. I quite often hide behind a mask when at school or with friends, because I hate the thought of being rejected  or judged. I self-harm and I know that people would judge me for that, and for the fact that I sometimes feel very low. For my whole life I have been judged for the way I act, the way I look, my weight… all of it. They never take the time to get to know me, they just make snap assumptions and often get things wrong. So… I put on a face that says, yes, I am strong… everything is fine… even though it really isn't. I'm breaking on the inside.

Clare says:
I am going to say the same thing to you Jo… you really do need to talk to someone. It's quite scary how  we don't know how other people are feeling just because they put on a brave face or a tough face. Maybe it's time we all became more honest with each other. But it's easy to say that… I suppose I will go on using my 'happy, carefree' mask because it's simpler that way. Safer. Does that sound crazy?

Jo says:
No, it's what I do, what we all do I think, so I understand. I am seeing my school counsellor and he is the only person I can talk to about the self-harm and eating issues. It helps to talk to him, but when I leave school I'll have nobody to go to when I need that little boost of confidence, that little push so I know I can do something.

Clare says:
You know what? We may only be chatting online, but we are being honest… that's important. And we're not judging each other, we are trying to help. Thanks for making me feel less alone, anyway… all of you. And good luck.

Many thanks to Gwen, Blaze, Clare and Jo for their honesty; names have been changed to protect identities.

Photos modelled/ styled by Charlotte & Emma.

Cathy says:
This is a sad and serious discussion, but it shows that we really can't judge others… those who seem happy or even loud and boisterous may be hiding a much more vulnerable side. Do YOU ever hide your true feelings? Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Sunday, 16 November 2014


Some of you may have read on DREAMCATCHER about a campaign I have been part of, to stop the closure of eleven Liverpool libraries. Has this story got a happy ending?

Cathy says:
On Monday 10th November the Mayor of Liverpool went onto local radio to announce that all eleven of the threatened libraries would stay open. This is an amazing turnaround, marred only by some very nasty comments about the campaigners and an insistence that they had not influenced his decision in any way. I think it's safe to say, though, that the amazing people who worked together to try to save the libraries have done just that! Eleven year old campaigner Elysce created an online  petition which gained over 3000 signatures in a few weeks. She also encouraged her school to write 'love letters to Liverpool libraries' which were sent to the mayor to ask for the libraries to be saved. I caught up with Elysce to see how she was feeling about the library news!

Elysce says:
I wasn't sure when I first got involved whether I would be able to keep the libraries open, but I was hopeful that the Mayor of Liverpool would listen to everyone and understand that libraries are not just buildings. I didn't think he would break our hearts.
My friends and family were all very supportive. Some of my friends at school helped me to collect lots of signatures from classmates for my petition. My nanna also asked all of her friends to sign the petition and got lots of people to support me. It was a challenging thing to do, though. It was not easy to speak in front of so many people at the first demonstration, but I did it. I was also very nervous when I was interviewed for the radio, but it was all worth it, and fun as well!

I was overjoyed to hear that the libraries have been saved. I couldn't believe the mayor had actually listened to us. I am so proud of myself and of everyone who took part in helping to change his mind and make him realise that libraries are important to people in Liverpool. When I heard the mayor was being nasty about the protestors, I was outraged. He had constantly said the libraries were closing and that there was no money to save them. I think if we had not all stood together and made our voices heard, he would have closed the libraries so he is wrong to say the campaign made no difference. I was also very upset when he insulted the authors who helped us, that was really mean. All they have done is work hard to save our libraries.

I have learned a lot from this experience, but sadly one of the things I have learned is that people are not always truthful. Mostly, though, I have discovered that if you put your mind to something, you can make it happen. I have gained the confidence to believe that I can really make a difference.

Cathy says:
What would YOU campaign for if you thought you could make a difference? COMMENT BELOW to tell us!