Thursday, 28 July 2016

TARA: PROM NIGHT... WHY I DIDN'T GO

Reader Tara tells why she chose not to go to prom... and why she's glad she made that choice...

Tara says:
I was sick of hearing about prom long before it actually happened. The kids in my school had been going on about it for months... like they cared about it more than GCSEs, more about their applications to sixth form college, like it was the thing we'd all been working towards for all these years. There was a big fuss about who was going with who, about whether it was OK to go with a friend or a brother or someone from another school. The girls were spending round about £150 on prom dresses, groups of friends were hiring limos or camper vans, and the ticket for the night itself was an eye-watering £25. It wasn't for me.

Why didn't I go to prom? Lots of reasons. One, I thought it was a huge waste of money for something I wasn't fussed about. We don't have a lot of money to spare, who does these days? OK, you get a three course meal and a disco and a slideshow of your school years... but I don't like fancy food and I don't like chart music and I don't want to see pictures of me looking awkward and on the edge of things even way back in Year Seven. Two, I thought it was a bit of a scam, an import from America that we've grabbed onto and taken way too seriously. My school acts like prom is the be all and end all, but actually they only started doing it five years ago. I hate being pressured into doing things I don't want to.

I thought about it for ages. I could have dressed up in a budget ball gown or a charity shop prom dress, worn a tux or something weird and made the whole thing less formal. I could have gone with my friends, travelled on the bus for a laugh and turned the whole thing on its head. Some of my friends did go, and they said it was fun in the end, a good way to end their secondary school years. It wasn't what I wanted, though. Secondary school has not always been fun for me... I was bullied badly for two years, and though things are better now, school has never been 'the best days of my life'. Forcing myself to go to prom would have been just one more ordeal, one more painful hoop to jump through. Once I allowed myself to think that the world wouldn't end if I just didn't go, a weight was taken off my shoulders.

So what did I do on prom night? I picked daisies and buttercups from the garden and snuggled up in my onesie with a pizza and ice cream, and I watched three old teen movies back to back, including Pretty In Pink which is all about school prom (I don't think Andie should have gone, but she did.) I don't regret not going and I don't think I missed out on anything. I did what I wanted to do... what was right for me. Isn't that what matters?

Illustration by Cathy Cassidy

Cathy says:
Tara made the right decision for her... but could YOU have done the same? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

ANNA: NO MONEY FOR HOLIDAYS

It's problem page time again and reader Anna has a worry for SKYE TANBERRY to solve... can she come up with some solutions?

Anna says:
We've just broken up for the school holidays and my friends are goig on about the holidays they are going on, to places like Gran Canaria or Majorca or Crete. Even my best friend Niamh is going to Ireland to stay with her gran for the summer. The problem is, we're not going anywhere, not even a day trip. My dad is disabled and Mum lost her job last year and hasn't been able to find anything else, I have two little sisters and there's no money to spare at all. I feel depressed before the summer has even begun. How can I make something out of nothing and have a good time this summer break?

Skye says:
It may seem like everyone you know is all set for a brilliant summer, but that's probably not the case. You won't be the only one holidaying at home, I promise. We always do... when Dad left, money was seriously tight for a long time and even now that Paddy's around and the chocolate business is taking off, we stay home in the summer because there's just so much to do. OK, we are lucky because we live by the sea, but you can still do lots to make sure your school break is fun. Make a den in the back garden/ friend's garden/ park - a place for you and your little sisters to escape to when things get stressy at home. Get outside as much as you can... your local library can tell you what's happening locally. Get involved with fetes, fairs, classes, courses and summer schemes... you'll stay busy and meet new people. Join the library's Summer Reading Scheme while you're there... or just set yourself a challenge to read 10 or 20 books before the holiday is over! Every one can take you to a new place, provide a new adventure. Next, get your friends together and plan some cool days out... picnics, bike rides, bus trips, sleepovers. Let them know you need a bit of sparkle this summer and let them help provide it - keeping the situation a secret won't help one bit. Lastly, do one cool, fun or cute thing with your little sisters every day... whether it's acting out a homemade play, making lemonade, inventing a fantasy ice cream sundae or creating a treasure hunt for them. Summer magic is something we can all find, if we try hard enough!

Cathy says:
Agree with Skye... holidays are what you make them. Friends, family, a bit of sunshine and lots of imagination are the main ingredients for a happy summer! (My recent week in Menorca was the first holiday in four years, so I know all about summers spent at home!) What are YOUR tips for a fab summer break? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 25 July 2016

HOLIDAY - SEVENTIES STYLE!

A reader's mum shares her fab memories of caravan holidays from her childhood... a must-read!

Ali says:
In the seventies and early eighties my family owned a caravan near Margate and this was where I spent long summers. My earliest memories are of the caravan park sports day where I usually won a medal or trophy - luckily there weren't that many competitors in my age group! I longed to be crowned 'Bradgate Sports Girl' but it was never to be! There was always a fancy dress competition and my mum, dad and nan would work tirelessly on my costumes - I won a couple of times thanks to them!

My sister is eight years older than me and was often charged with babysitting me while she hung out with her friends in the Games Room, next to the Campsite Bar. I have vivid memories of the jukebox playing 'Love is in the Air' and 'We're Going to Barbados' whilst I sat on a large bar stool playing the pinball machines! Pinball is something I still love and am pretty good at, and I cannot resist it to this day. My daughters have often had to wait around feeling bored while I try to get the high score on holiday! As technology progressed and new fangled electronic machines were moved in, I became proficient at Space Invaders and Pac-Man. I am still a gamer, and love nothing more than a game of Mario Kart on the Wii, though these days I am often beaten by my kids!

There was sometimes a talent competition at the caravan park and I would find myself up on stage singing songs taught to me by my dad - they must have been full of double-entendres because everyone found it hilarious and I hadn't a clue why. I often begged for a trip to Dreamland, the fun park, and as my siblings were so much older I was always allowed to take a friend from the caravan park along. My nan always came too and I remember being very proud of her being in her seventies and going upside-down on the Looping Star! It's lovely to see that Dreamland has re-opened after many years of being derelict... I will be going back!

I have lovely memories of the caravan holidays and the friends I made there. In the days before social media we had no way of catching up between each summer visit so catching up again could be a lengthy business! It's a bit of a shock when the little girl you played with last summer suddenly turns up in high heels and make up as she's a year older than you and now in secondary school! I still miss cold showers (unless you had 5p for hot water), weeing in a bucket (too dark to go to the toilet block at night!) and swimming in the coldest pool I've ever known. I feel lucky to have had such lovely memories and if it were possible to return to those days for a short while, I wouldn't hesitate at all.

Photos: Ali with her mum in 1972; Ali with her mum, nan and Auntie Lil at Dreamland.

Cathy says:
I love this post... it rings a few bells for me, definitely! If YOU could take a holiday in a different decade, which decade would it be and why? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

BEATRICE: MY BIKINI NIGHTMARE

Reader Beatrice tells us how one overheard comment when she was eleven pulled her confidence to pieces... and how she finally found the courage to fight back...


Beatrice says:
I was eleven years old the last time I wore a bikini. I was one of the early developers... I was proud of my new curves, even if I did have a little puppy fat. I'd never had anything to put INTO a bikini before, but now I did, and I felt so grown up. We were on holiday in Crete, and it was scorching... the kind of day you just want to dive into the sea and get cool again. I'd seen some older girls in the water, and I remember wading out towards them, hoping they might talk to me, that we might be holiday friends. Instead, I saw their faces as I came closer, heard them laughing. 'She looks gross. Someone should tell her,' one of the girls said, and they pulled disgusted faces as I turned away, pretending I hadn't heard.

It ruined my holiday. I spent the rest of the week with a big t-shirt over my bikini, hiding away from everyone. I felt ashamed. Back home, I tried to shake off the embarrassment but I couldn't. Choosing uniform for secondary I picked the biggest, baggiest items I could find. I hated PE although I'd always loved it in the past, and when we had swimming lessons I invented an allergy and forged notes to say I couldn't go in the water. I hated my body, just because of one thoughtless comment from girls I didn't even know. Ironically, it was my PE teacher who got me into trampoline. We had a taster session one lesson, and I was quite good, and she kept nagging me to join the after school club. I did in the end, and I loved it... and I WAS good at it. It took a couple of years, but knowing I was good at something sporty helped my confidence. I couldn't be totally useless if my PE teacher wanted me to train for competitions, after all.

I am fifteen now and I feel so sad for that hopeful eleven year old in her red bikini, and so angry at the mean girls on the beach. I wish I'd had the confidence to let their spiteful comment wash over me, but I didn't. The damage took a long time to rebuild. I am OK, now, with the way I look. I am curvy... so what? A lot of girls are. I look good in a swimsuit, and even if I didn't I would wear one on the beach. I would never, ever, tell a little girl that she looked gross. Self esteem is fragile at that age, at any age, when you are an adolescent girl. I am not just a body, I am a human being with feelings. Nobody has the right to judge the way I look, to sneer at me. Do I wear bikinis again now? Not yet. But one day, I hope, I will.

Cathy says:
Beatrice's post is brave and honest and important. Teen girls are made to feel bad about themselves every day... and that's so damaging. I'm glad she has managed to shake off the spiteful comment at last. Have YOU ever had your confidence torn down in this way? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Saturday, 23 July 2016

DEBOARAH... THE PROM, MY WAY!

Reader Deborah tells us about her Year Eleven school Prom... and why she chose to do it her way!

Deborah says:
When you think of Prom, you probably think of ball gown dresses and glittery high heels. You probably picture lights, fancy foods, a limo and a boy who brings you flowers and dances with you all night long! Let's just say my Prom wasn't quite like that! For starters, I went there on my own and met up with my friends - only a few people actually came with dates. The was more like stacks than a three course meal, and we danced to our favourite pop, rock and r&b songs rather than anything slow or formal. The night was simply fantastic because we wowed each other with our outfits and had fun dancing to our favourite club beats!

There was a place where we could take pictures, either by ourselves or with our friends and the pictures came out like the ones you'd get in a photo booth, which was cool. Near the end of the night, we took a year group photo outside the hall. We also got to nominate people for different awards, the the Loudest Boy/Girl, the Most Likely To Have Their Own TV Show, Biggest Gossip, Best Hair and lots more. We also nominated a Prom king and queen, which went to a really cute couple.

We had to leave the venue at 9.30pm because that was when the hall closed, but despite the fact that the evening was quite short it was an amazing night and I was able to create memories with my year group and friends before we all dispersed to go in different directions for Sixth Form or College. If you are thinking about going to Prom next year, but feeling anxious, please remember that you don't need a date or an absolutely jaw dropping outfit to have a good time. You don't need to win any awards - I didn't win anything! Just relax and go with you know makes you happy... be yourself and you are guaranteed to have a night to remember!

Cathy says:
I love Deborah's attitude to Prom... I know the whole idea of it would have scared me stupid back in my school days, but this post shows just how positive the whole idea can be if you choose to do it YOUR way! Would YOU like to go to your school Prom or would you run a mile? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


Thursday, 21 July 2016

THE BEST HOLIDAY EVER...

Readers share their memories of favourite holidays... fabby-tastic!

Zoe says:
Greece has been the scene of all my favourite holidays! We've been to Corfu, Crete and Rhodes and they were all absolutely beautiful!

Tasha says:
Last year my sister and I went to Croatia... that was definitely my most memorable holiday yet! We went on a yacht with our parents and every day we would sail to different destinations, stopping in small coves to eat lunch and swim. We loved it! In the evenings we went round all the little towns and in the mornings we explored and took in the views... it was fantastic. It was boiling hot - there was a heatwave - so cooling off in the sea was one of the best bits! On the last day we went to Split, the capital, and looked around the ruins of the old town and looked at the shops. An amazing holiday.

Chloe says:Two years ago, when I was eleven, I went to Paris for a week. It was a brilliant and beautiful city and I got to the top of the Eiffel Tower where the view of the city was amazing!

Cheryl says:
When I was fourteen, I discovered the band The Cure. My cousin taped every album for me to listen to on my Walkman, and that week we went on holiday to Devon and stayed in a caravan. I spent every night in the little park, swinging in the dark on my favourite swing, discovering those albums. They changed my life forever. Strangely, I found two Cure t-shirts and a vinyl record in the little tourist shops. It was meant to be. I bought a black eyeliner and a red lipstick and went home a completely different girl. I had found my confidence - I had found my people.

Trish says: I once went on a seven day cruise with my ex boyfriend and his family. We visited Cozumel, Costa Maya, Belize and Grand Cayman and then had a week in Florida. It was amazing and something I never thought I would experience. Belize was phenomenal - I climbed a Mayan temple - and Seven Mile Beach was the most gorgeous place I have ever been!

Kym says:
I went on an awesome camping trip when I was thirteen with a charity run youth group I used to go to for kids with messed up home lives etc. We spent a weekend in the New Forest - there was a huge house with an outdoor pool we could use and we rented bikes and went on long rides. In the evenings we took turns to direct the group leaders on mystery car trips... I knew we were near a beach because my grandparents had once taken me to one nearby, so we ended up on the beach at night! The downside was that I started sleepwalking every night and one morning I was found asleep on the grass outside the tents!

Photo of Greece by reader Zoe - thank you!

Cathy says:
Love these holiday memories... what was YOUR most memorable holiday? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

SARA: LONELY SUMMER

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Sara has a problem for Cherry Costello to solve...

Sara says:
I feel so embarrassed to be writing this. It's the summer holidays now and I am not looking forward to it. I have a group of friends I see at school, but there's nobody I am close to and nobody I will be seeing in the holidays. It's a private school and they all live in different parts of town anyway. I will probably just hang out with my little brother and then tell lies about the things I've done when term starts again, but surely i should be looking forward to the holidays?

Cherry says:
I remember all too well what it feels like not to have close friends, not to have exciting holidays planned... that was a life I lived for a very long time. Things changed when I came to Tanglewood, and it's only now I realise what I was missing out on all those years. OK, you have friends at school... why not text a couple of them and arrange to meet up in town? What's the worst that can happen? They might be busy... so text a couple more. It takes effort to build close friendships, but the effort is worth it. What about old friends from closer to home? Is there anyone you got along with when you were younger? Anyone who seems friendly? This could be the time to reach out and renew old friendships, or make new ones. Not possible? There are other options. Get along to your city library and see what summer courses, clubs or productions are taking place and get involved... a great way to learn something new and make new friends at the same time. Don't waste your summer... take control and make it the best ever!

Cathy says:
Good advice from Cherry... what would YOU add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say and help Sara!