Tuesday, 1 September 2015


Agatha Christie is one of the world's best-loved crime writers. Her books include the famous Murder on the Orient Express, and she created memorable detective characters like Poirot and Miss Marple… but what do we really know about her life?

She was born Agatha Miller, into a wealthy, upper-middle class family in Torquay, Devon in 1890. She had two older siblings, but they were often away at school and so Agatha spent much of her childhood alone - reading avidly and playing with her pets. In her autobiography, Agatha describes how having time alone helped to develop her imagination and creativity. When she was eleven, her father died, and a few years later Agatha was sent to finish her education in Paris. She began writing short stories soon afterwards, and met and married her first husband, an army officer called Archie Christie. When Word War One broke out, Agatha joined the war effort as a voluntary VAD nurse.

Agatha's first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring the now famous detective Hercule Poirot, was published in 1919; the same year, Agatha gave birth to her first and only child, a daughter, Rosalind. More novels followed, and for a time the family led a happy, privileged life. Tragedy struck when Archie fell in love with someone else and asked his wife for a divorce. Soon after hearing this news, Agatha went missing; her car was found parked above a chalk quarry along with an expired driving licence and some clothes. There was a public outcry and her disappearance even made the front page of the New York Times. Ten days later, after a massive nationwide manhunt, Agatha was found in a Yorkshire hotel, registered under a false name and claiming no memory of what had gone on before… it could almost have been a scene from one of her own novels. Later, when writing her autobiography, Agatha made no reference at all to her disappearance… and the mystery seems destined never to be solved.

In 1930, Agatha married again, this time to an archeologist, Max; the marriage was happy and lasted until her death in 1976. She continued to write bestselling novels, often setting stories in places she had visited with her husband Max, such as Istanbul, Luxor, Mesopotamia and Jerusalem as well as  various UK locations. During World War Two, she worked in the pharmacy at University College Hospital in London, and learned about some of the poisons she was later to include in her stories. Agatha Christie wrote 66 mystery novels and 14 collections of short stories, as well as six romances under a pen name and some non-fiction. Countless films and plays have been made of her work, and she remains one the best-loved authors the UK has ever produced.

Cathy says:
I was fascinated by Agatha Christie's autobiography when I was a teenager - I wanted to know every detail of her life, because she was a real writer! Are YOU a crime or mystery fan? Or is there a particular author you would like to see profiled on DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Monday, 31 August 2015


Skye Tanberry has been looking into the future again… will her predictions for your September be spot-on or totally off the mark? You decide!

VIRGO: Big changes are in store for Virgo readers this month… it's time to decide what you really want from the year ahead, and take control!

LIBRA: Something is coming to an end this month… a friendship, a hobby, a romance. If you're the one making the break, be kind but firm - better things lie ahead.

SCORPIO: You've been working your socks off lately, and reaping the rewards… but make time for fun and friendship too. Life works best when work and relaxation are balanced!

SAGITARRIUS: September heralds a time of hard work for you. Don't resent it… see it as a path to future success, and you'll be unstoppable!

CAPRICORN: You were born to dream big - and achieve those dreams - but something in your personal life is holding you back right now. Time for a re-think?

AQUARIUS: Worry has been plaguing you lately - let go of the fears and trust that things will be fine. Some money may be coming your way… spend it wisely!

PISCES: Romance is in the air… could this be the month to stop dreaming about your crush and starting smiling and chatting instead?

ARIES: There is one aspect of your personality you've been wanting to change or improve for a while; this is the time to do it. Make a plan and carry it out… happy new you!

TAURUS: Things has been a little rocky for you recently… but that's about to change. See what you can learn from all the ups and downs, and move on swiftly!

GEMINI: You're in a mischief making mood this month… be careful not to act without thinking and hurt the people who really care about you. Look before you leap!

CANCER: Ambition is driving you right now, and that's great… but make sure you keep hard work balanced with fun. Plan a timetable of what you want to achieve and things will run more smoothly!

LEO: If you've been struggling a little, fear not - friendship, social life, school work and family are looking good right now. Enjoy the positives!

Cathy says:
Will Skye's predictions come true for you? Or is it just a bit of fun? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 30 August 2015


Reader Georgia describes how her first teen crush turned everything upside-down…

Georgia says:
Growing up can be tough. It's a hard time of your life to navigate, but I had it under control - I was acing all my subjects and I actually had friends for the first time in my life. Then, suddenly, I found my adolescence-nemesis in the crush department. I had never seen why the One Direction boys were so attractive to my friends, or why I would ever want a boyfriend. Then Cait came along: borderline genius, good at cross-country, unbelievably pretty. I had never wanted to be friends with someone as much as I wanted to be friends with her.

You know the feeling - it's Friday afternoon, period six French and you're having an existential crisis. Everyone else has been conjugating verbs while you are now having a minor internal breakdown. For me, this was mainly attributed to the fact that I just realised I'd been staring at the girl next to me for forty minutes; imagining what it would be like to shuffle my chair over and bump shoulders with her, to inch my hand across the desk and hold hers, to do that head-tilty thing like they do on TV and kiss her right on the lips. Sitting dumbstruck in Year Nine French, I had just realised that I liked a girl; really liked her.

At this point in time I started feeling all the wrong things… like I was a freak, like I didn't belong, like there was something messed up about my head and heart. In our society, most girls like guys and most guys like girls, and this is what you see on TV, in films, in books. At fourteen years of age I barely knew it was possible for a girl to fancy another girl. It took me another year to tell my best friends that I wasn't straight; they were so understanding and barely bothered, because I hadn't changed as a person. At the moment I am still trying to decide which 'labels' fit me best as I have recently realised I like male humans as well as female. Shock! I am confident that one day I will settle down with a lovely boy or girl and eventually raise a family of delightful children in a society where this kind of stuff is perfectly normal and visible in everyday life.

I hope anyone reading this who does not identify as straight will know that you are not alone in your experiences; a few years ago I was just like you. My story is nowhere near done yet, but it's most certainly on track to a happy ending!

Cathy says:
I know this is a subject many of my readers are curious or worried about… thank you, Georgia, for sharing your experience with such sensitivity. Is being straight or gay a big deal to YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Saturday, 29 August 2015


Readers Amber and Saffron check out the best back-to-school stationery - take a look at their little haul before you hit the shops!

Saffron says:
Let's just say I kind of like new stationery! I start looking for new stuff the minute school has ended… I dive into every stationery shop I can find over the summer holidays. I always look for weird, quirky things rather than, say, a 28-pack of plain yellow pencils from Morrisons or whatever. This year, Waterstones was my main hunting ground, and I found some great stuff…

Amber says:
I love stationery because it fuels my creativity in the dull hum of schoolwork. Let's say I'm in maths, learning algebra and we have to write something important down… I'd much rather pull a bright, patterned notebook out of my bag than a boring, dull one. I buy more stationery over the summer holidays than at any other time of year because the shop displays inspire me and I can't help myself! I'm a hoarder of pencils and pens, but I LOVE notebooks. I have one for every occasion… to-do lists, christmas present lists and every subject in school! For cheap stationery, Tesco and Sainsburys are amazing, but my fave shop is Paperchase.

All of the stationery in this little haul is from Tesco, apart from the Tinkerbell notebook which came from Disneyland, the toadstool notebook which was a competition prize and the pink notebook which came from Sainsburys. I love the Sharpie pens especially because of the vast array of ways to use them - I plan to use them to make bookmarks, for starters! I love the Lego brick erasers too, because they are fun and a bit of a novelty!

Saffron says:
So… I found some very cool stuff! My oxygen rubber was 50p from Staples and the multi-colour ink pen was from there too, at just £1. The compass was also a Staples find, and that cost just 29p. The ruler cost 99p from Waterstones and the inside-out highlighter was £4.50 from the Disney Store. The dinosaur pen was 75p from Paperchase and the coloured pens in the spotted case were £1.50 from Waterstones. Last but not least, the box of bits and bobs - paperclips and pins and clips - was £2 from Asda. I absolutely love it, because it really helps me to get sorted and keep my cork board and everything else organised! I totally love stationery… if I used those pens to draw a heart as big as Asia, it still wouldn't sum up my enthusiasm!

Cathy says:
I share Saffron and Amber's affection for gorgeous new notebooks and pens… how cool? I love their round-up of the best stationery on offer this autumn. Do YOU love getting set up with new things at the start of the new term? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why!

Friday, 28 August 2015


Two creative readers share their arty ideas for customising basic items to make a super-cool fashion statement! Ana and Ellen tell you how…

Ana says:
I had to get white canvas shoes to be in a production of GREASE this summer. It was great, because I've been wanting white shoes for ages, but my mum wouldn't let me get them - she said they'd get dirty too easily. Anyway, when GREASE was over I had the idea of drawing on them to brighten them up and personalise them! They took about two hours to do. I just used normal permanent markers - which just so happen to be on special offer in Tesco at the moment! Even the shoes weren't expensive, just £7 off ebay or amazon. Sadly the artwork is probably not waterproof, but you can't have everything!

Ellen says:
Mum asked me if I would label my PE kit for school - she suggested that I use the laundry pen to write my name on things. Somehow, I don't think this is exactly what she had in mind! The t-shirt was £7 for a pack of three… Mum likes a bargain and got them in a sale. They're all different - but this one was plain and needed a little something extra! So, Mum asked me to mark up the t-shirt… she is trying to get me to take more responsibility for things now I am eleven, but I'm not sure she'll be asking me again! I just started writing my name and then found myself doodling… I didn't plan it and I didn't think too much while I was doing it. It was a spur of the moment thing. I used to have a teacher who would tell us to 'take our pencils for a walk,' and let our imaginations control our pencil. I think that's what I was doing! When I finished I realised it looked a bit like a cover on a book I have. I love art… it means FUN to me… F for fantasy, U for unique and N for nonsense. I love playing with words…lettering is cool. I like using lines and sometimes I use symmetry too… you can do a lot with lettering! Go for it… buy a laundry marker pen and let your imagination loose. It deserves it!

Cathy says:
Wow… both Ana and Ellen have talent to spare… and a great sense of design! Awesome. Have YOU ever customised your own clothes or  made something unique to make a fashion statement? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Thursday, 27 August 2015


Reader Ruadhan writes about the magic of make believe…

Ruadhan says:
I have always had a special place in my heart for fairies… or, more accurately, fayes and faeries. I've been teased countless times, but I let it go - not even the harshest nickname can make me change. I am not a big fan of films that portray faeries - they're ridiculous compared to the real legends. I read about faeries all the time and have two folders stuffed with stories and poems. My wall is covered with drawings of faeries and a map pointing out where certain types might live. I know I will probably never see a faerie, but every night I open my window and look out at the stars, dreaming of faeries flying through the clouds, making the weather hot or cold. When I go for a walk in the forest or to the beach, I sing old songs, sometimes in Gaelic, hoping that I might catch a glimpse of a faerie behind a branch or perched on a rock. Well, you never know!

I suppose the interest started when I was about seven. I'd been given a Flower Fairies book of poems from my gran… I read it and began to think of other kinds of faeries too. What if there were millions of them out there? I started a project to find out as much as I could. I studied fairy beliefs from medieval times and Mum let me borrow her book on Celtic myths. I began to look into Irish legends. My favourite story was about a faerie who became so overcome with greed that she transformed into a sea dwelling dragon who made the sea impossibly hot with her breath and destroyed anyone who tried to steal her treasure. They're great stories, and I love the way they interlink with history and legend.

After more study, even I found a story about faeries who transformed into the souls of newborn babies. I quite like that idea. Perhaps that's why I believe - I have allowed the faerie inside me to believe! I think that every child starts out believing, but as they get older it is up to them whether they allow the faerie inside them to stay alive. When people tell me I am silly and childish and that faeries don't exist, I simply shrug and feel sorry for them, because they don't understand and perhaps they have let something beautiful die inside them. I don't care what anyone says, I won't stop dreaming!

Illustrations: from The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cecily Mary Barker

Cathy says:
Like Ruadhan, I think there is a lot more to the fairy myths and legends than a few Disney films… the real magic is definitely still out there! Do YOU believe in anything that others laugh at? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


It's agony aunt time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Ana has a dilemma. Will Cherry Costello give her the right advice? You decide…

Ana says:
My best friend, 'R', is really scared about going back to school. Last term she was bullied quite badly by three girls from our year group and as the time is counting down (we go back next week) I can see her getting more and more wound up. I have told her that if nothing has changed she has to tell a teacher, but she won't listen because the bullies have told her not to tell and she thinks this would make it worse. I can't stand seeing her being tormented by these losers. Should I tell on the bullies, or would that be a betrayal?

Cherry says:
You haven't promised not to tell, from what I can see. You know she can't or won't tell herself, and you know that's because she's afraid of the bullies… but you could blow the whistle on this and stop things getting any worse. If the bullying starts again, talk to a trusted teacher, tell them what's going on and ask them not to say you told or to involve you in what happens next. The teacher will respect your wishes but can then investigate what's going on, talk to your friend and work out a solution. Bullies always tell their victims that telling will make things worse… they are protecting themselves. Telling can stop the bullying and protect future victims, so be brave and if your friend is still being tormented, speak out, in confidence, on her behalf. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Sometimes, friendship means speaking out or getting help for someone we care about. What would YOU do in Ana's situation? Has Cherry given the right advice? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...