Tuesday, 31 March 2015

WHAT'S YOUR NAME?

Readers with cool and unusual names tell us what they like/ dislike about having a name that is a little different!


Zantay says:
I think my name is pretty unique… well, it is in my school and my town, anyway! Mum made it up from two names put together, and once she said it aloud she really liked it. I was named before I was born, and it's a good job I was a girl - not sure a boy would have suited the name quite so much! People often compliment my name and it helps me to stand out from the crowd, which I like! I get called Zany, Zants or Zaz, which is fine. Some of my friends have the same names as each other so need to use their surnames to tell which one someone is talking about… at least that's not an issue with me! The downsides are that people often pronounce the name wrong, saying 'Zante' or 'Zanta' and I can never buy personalised things from the shops… I don't mind that now but I did when I was little! Also, anything done in alphabetical order means that I am last - although sometimes that can be a good thing, too!

Thianna says:
My name is quite unusual - some might say 'odd'! My mum thought she saw it in a newspaper, but it turned out that she completely made it up… haha! It is pronounced Thee-Anna, but lots of the teachers at my school pronounce it wrong - they say Thee-Arna or Tee-Arna. If I tell them they're wrong, do they take any notice? No! I am quite happy with my name because it's different, and I don't do normal. It's good to have a name nobody else has! To be honest I like having an unusual name, but it's not something I think about too much - it's just my name!

Cliodhna says:
My name is pronounced 'Cleen-na'. The bad thing about having an unusual name is that most people have a bit of trouble pronouncing and spelling it! Quite often they will have to ask my name a good few times before they can actually pronounce it, and as for spelling it… let's not even go there! I have seen some very strange variations! The good thing about having an unusual name is that you feel unique - nobody in my class has the same name as me, and I love that! My name means 'shapely' in Irish. In Irish legend, it was the name of a beautiful goddess. It is both an English and and Irish Gaelic name with a Celtic origin.

Semra says:
My name is Turkish in origin and it translates to 'dark brunette' which is ironic because I have light brown hair! My mother always told me she named me after her mum's best friend, who returned to Turkey a few years ago. Mum's name is Tamara Semra, so my name is her middle name too! All my family love my name - they think it's unique and beautiful. I however do not share their views. I wouldn't go so far as to say I hate my name, but there are downsides! People are always pronouncing my name wrong or spelling it wrong, and that gets a little annoying. The strangest spelling I've ever had was 'Semiera' which is quite funny, thinking back! One thing I will say is that whoever I meet always seems to remember me if I happen to bump into them again, and I know that is because of my name. I do get compliments and people always ask about the name, too, and I love to answer those questions!

Cathy says:
Great names… and I love reading about the meanings and origins, too! Have YOU got a cool name? Or are you happiest blending into the background? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 30 March 2015

PENNY: I DIDN'T KNOW WHO TO TRUST...

When reader Penny began to get spiteful messages on Facebook, she began to doubt her best friend…


Penny says:
I had been friends with Jayde, Alex and Dina for ages. Jayde was my best friend, and Alex and Dina were close too, and then in Year Seven a girl called Lauren joined our group. She was nice, really cool and funny. For a while it seemed like she was trying to be my best friend, gossiping a bit about Jayde, but I didn't like that and Lauren got the message, and we all settled into what I thought was a good friendship.

Lauren had a Facebook page and she encouraged us to get one too, even though we weren't officially old enough; everyone was doing it, and it seemed like a laugh. We could chat and message really easily. I'd got a smartphone the summer before, so it was fun taking selfies and putting them up on my page; the others did the same - it was fun. Then one night I got a message from Lauren saying the others were fed up with me - they were saying that I thought I was better than them. Lauren thought I ought to know what they'd been saying behind my back. I was upset - I didn't know why they'd turn on me like that, what I'd done to deserve it. Lauren said she thought Jayde was jealous that I was friendly with her. I was so upset I ended up having a late-night Facebook row with Jayde, Alex and Dina. It was horrible… other friends saw and joined in too, and it all got out of hand. By the next day, none of us were speaking. Lauren told me to let things cool down so we could all be friends again, but the fall-out dragged on and on. It looked like we'd never patch things up. Lauren acted as a go-between but in the end she said they had totally turned against me and that I'd be better off without them.

One day, Jayde turned up on my doorstep and demanded to know why I'd let Lauren come between us. I said she was the only one who hadn't said horrible things about me, but Jayde said actually Lauren had been spreading nasty rumours about me by Facebook message. She'd told Jayde and the others that I thought they were vain and full of themselves - exactly what she had said they were saying about me. We realised Lauren was trying to break us all up, sending messages that stirred up trouble and then acting all innocent. I cut things off with Lauren after that, and things went back to normal with Jayde, Alex and Dina, and we are probably stronger now because although Lauren tried to  turn us against each other she didn't succeed.

We were lucky. Lauren joined another group and a little while later they broke up and Lauren went off with one of them, then dumped her again a few months on. If I see her now, I don't speak to her; she scares me. She looks so innocent, but she's not. She enjoys breaking friendships to pieces.

All names have been changed to protect those concerned. Pictures posed by model Lucy; thank you!

Cathy says:
It sounds like Penny had a very lucky escape. Have YOU ever had a friend who was an enemy in disguise? COMMENT BELOW and have your say (don't mention any names… let's keep this friendly!)

Saturday, 28 March 2015

ASH: TO ALL THE DREAMERS...

Reader Ash has a message for all you dreamers… and it's an awesome one!

Ash says:
Where do I start? How about hello? There, now that's over with. My name's Ash and I'm fourteen and a particular fan of the Chocolate Box series which I've been reading for a while and have really gotten into, probably more than any other series of books. But enough about me… how are YOU feeling? What's the weather like where you are right now? Oh, silly question. It's dark now. Can you see the stars? From my house, you're lucky if you can see a single star in the sky. Lots of planes, though. Wishing on planes isn't the same though, is it? I've been told wishing isn't worth it, but to quote Kian from Scarlett, 'Wishing is for dreamers,' and I quite fancy myself as a bit of a dreamer.

I love to dream. Anything's possible when you're dreaming - the only limits are the ones you place on yourself. Even nightmares don't really bother me, even the ones that are full of never-ending darkness. I mean, without darkness, you can't see stars or fireworks, right? I love fireworks. I just love watching the colours as they explode into the air around me, falling back down to earth like fallen angels.I remember when I was younger I used to cower in fright because I thought they'd fall down on my head. I'm more mature now, but fireworks are a theme I like to reference in my stories.

I'm a novice at story-writing but I have time to perfect my skills, right? Though I suppose nobody's ever really perfect. That's the fun of it, surely? Improving and improving, coming up with a new piece that's even better than the last. My friends tell me I have a way with words, but I'm not sure if that's true. Others say I'm odd because I think about things in a different way - but hey, I take 'odd' as a compliment. I'd rather be the oddest person on earth and see the beauty and intrigue of everything, from fireworks in the night sky to the crashing of waves on the sand in Brighton or Brean, than not be odd and see beauty only in what's on TV or in a magazine. I'm not sure if I have a way with words, but I know I have a lot of them to say. And I know I'm a dreamer, and I am glad about that. To all of you dreamers out there… thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Maybe strangers are the best listeners… they don't know too much about you, won't sugarcoat the truth the way your friends might. Keep on dreaming!

Cathy says:
Wow… I LOVE this! I think Ash DOES have a way with words… and I am all for dreaming, as you know! Are YOU a dreamer? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! 

JANE GREY: THE NINE DAY QUEEN

Another in our series about extraordinary women from history; we find out about Jane Grey, the fifteen-year-old who was queen for nine days in 1553…

Jane Grey was an English noblewoman and the great granddaughter of King Henry VII; she was very intelligent and well educated and spoke French, Greek, Latin and Italian fluently. From the age of ten she had lived as part of the household of King Henry VIII's his last queen, Katherine Parr. When she was thirteen, Jane began to appear at court - Henry's son Edward VI was king at this point, but he was just a teenager too, and in poor health. The power lay in the hands of the ambitious Duke of Northumberland, who was the young king's regent. As it became apparent that the young king was dying, Northumberland began to formulate a plot to hang onto his power… a plot which involved the young Jane Grey.

In an era where young women had very little say over their futures, Jane was married off to Guildford Dudley, Northumberland's son. Jane had a claim on the throne of England, and Northumberland pressured the dying king to name her as his successor, in an attempt to stop the Edward's half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth from taking the throne. In short, Northumberland hoped to rule England through his new daughter-in-law; Jane's own father, Suffolk, was only too happy to go along with the plan.

When Edward VI died on July 6th 1553, Jane Grey succeeded to the throne; history tells us she was persuaded against her will by a powerful group of noblemen and overseas envoys. When this was publicly proclaimed, however, the country rose to rally around the old king's half-sister, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII. To the people of England, the name of Tudor stood for stability, and the idea of placing a 'puppet queen', an unknown teenager, on the throne was not something they would support. Seeing that public support was against them, first the Duke of Northumberland and then Jane's own father abandoned her to support Mary. On July 19th 1553, Mary was proclaimed queen and Jane Grey was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Queen Mary is thought to have wished to spare the life of Jane Grey, but Jane, a protestant, would not convert to catholicism. To make matters worse, her father joined a failed rebellion against Queen Mary which sealed Jane's fate. Jane Grey and her husband were found guilty of treason and executed on February 12th 1554, and Jane went down in history as the 'nine day queen.' While Jane was almost certainly a pawn in a power-game between her father and the Duke of Northumberland, a compelling film, 'Lady Jane', starring Helena Bonham Carter (pictured right), brings her story to life and paints a picture of a romantic, daring and hopeful bid by two teenagers to change the way England was ruled.

Cathy says:
Jane Grey's story has always captivated me; a teenage girl with a distant claim to the throne was used shamelessly by her father and the power-hungry noblemen and ultimately sacrificed. She paid the price of their greed with her life, but if it had been different… if she had succeeded… what then? Did YOU know the story of Jane Grey? COMMENT BELOW to have your say, or to tell us which female characters from history you would like to see featured on DREAMCATCHER!

Friday, 27 March 2015

MARIE: BIG HAIR, FLUORESCENT LYCRA & ELECTRO-POP...

Another in our cool series on growing up in a different decade… meet Marie, who was a teen in the 1980s…


Marie says:
I was thirteen in 1983. Big hair, fluorescent lycra and electro-pop, I embraced them all in my early teens; it wasn't exactly the coolest look, but at least the neon socks I wore brought some colour to my dull surroundings! I grew up in Runcorn; the estate I lived on was OK, but there was absolutely nothing to do. I spent the first part of my teens waiting for Wham's Andrew Ridgely to turn up on his ski-doo and rescue me… I was sure that somewhere, there was a world just like the one in the Last Christmas video, where a girl like me could live happily ever after. As I got older, I realised I was quite capable of rescuing myself - I just had to work hard at school and get the grades for university. So that's what I did!

I loved Sixth Form. The people who had made my life hard at school earlier on had now left to get jobs, and there was no longer so much pressure to fit in. I discovered hair dye and indie music and never looked back. With a Saturday job in a local newsagents I had money too! I started to go to alternative nights at clubs in Liverpool and Warrington, where I danced to bands like the Smiths, New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen. Whilst my music taste definitely improved, my fashion sense was still questionable. Leaving the neon socks and lycra behind, my new uniform consisted of loud flowery dresses, shabby cardigans and Doc Marten boots. I remember my friend's mum telling me I looked like a bag lady - parents didn't really do that whole positive psychology thing back then!

Luckily, I had thick skin. I was part of a big, extended family of Liverpudlians, and quickly learnt not to take myself too seriously. Friends and fashion came and went, but my family were always there for me. I didn't just have mum and dad but my aunties, uncles and cousins too… dozens of them! There was always someone I could talk to and somewhere I felt safe and wanted. Things went wrong when a teacher taught us the wrong A level geography syllabus and I didn't get the grades I needed for university. Rather than go through clearing I got a job, but hated it… and with my heart set on journalism I applied to study Communication Studies in Nottingham. I changed my mind about working in the media but fell in love with Nottingham… being nineteen in a new city, with new friends and new opportunities was simply awesome!

Cathy says:
I love this… awesome indeed! Marie now lives in Manchester with her family and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing; she still wears loud dresses and shabby cardigans! Would YOU have enjoyed being a teen in the 80s? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

FINCH'S CHELSEA BUNS...

Why not try reader Chloe's fab recipe for Chelsea buns… just the kind of thing London boy Finch might make! They sound yum…

You will need…
500g strong white flour
pinch salt
60g butter
7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
30g caster sugar
200ml warm milk
1 egg, beaten
sunflower oil
clear honey

For the filling…
60g butter
30g light muscovado sugar
2 handfuls sultanas

1. Put the flour in a bowl, stir in salt. Rub in yeast and butter and stir in sugar.
2. Make a well in the middle and pour in egg and milk to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth and stretchy.
3. Place in an oiled bowl. Cover in oiled clingfilm and leave for 1 hour.
(Tick tock, tick tock!)
4. Make the filling: cream butter and sugar together and mix in sultanas.
5. Oil a roasting tin.
6. Turn out dough and knead. Roll into a square, spread filling over then roll up and cut into slices.
7. Lay in tin, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave for half an hour.
(Tick tock, tick tock!)
8. Bake at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Glaze with honey (or sprinkle with icing sugar if preferred) and serve warm!

Finch might make these to impress Skye… what do you think?

Cathy says:
Ooh… these sound so gorgeous! Do YOU have a favourite recipe to share? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

HOPE: A SONG FOR HONEY!

Reader Hope has put together a cool playlist for Honey Tanberry… would they make a cool soundtrack to her life?

Hope says:
One song that springs to mind when I think of Honey is Blank Space by Taylor Swift… because, obviously, Honey has gone through a very long list of exes. It basically sums up everything Honey gets up to when she's out with her unsuitable boyfriends!

Next on the 'Honey agenda' is Sk8er Boi by Avril Lavigne. This song really fits with Honey for me and one line stands out: 'She had  pretty face but her head was up in space, she needs to come back down to earth!' I think this illustrates the fact that Honey may be pretty on the outside, but that she fills her head up with dreams that can never come true… like her dad coming home. It also echoes the way Honey acts towards others, like they are not good enough for her. The song can be seen to be as about Cherry and Shay too… especially the line 'I see the soul that is inside,' as I get the feeling that Honey only cared about the fact that Shay was popular and good looking, whereas Cherry could see beyond that.

My next choice is Since You've Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson. To me, it shows the way Honey puts up a wall when Shay becomes Cherry's boyfriend, acting like she doesn't care and pretending that things have been better since he left in order to hide the hurt inside.

Of course, Honey goes to live in Australia with her dad, and for this stage of her story I have chosen I Feel Good, an old song by Nina Simone. The phrase 'It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me…' reflects Honey's chance to start again in Australia, making friends that will be loyal and hopefully won't go out every night causing trouble!

Finally, I've chosen Bulletproof by La Roux; there's not much to say about this song except that the lyrics are very boisterous, loud and in-your-face, just like Honey herself! Some of the lyrics are about moving on to things new, but others are about not getting in someone's way (or having to face the consequences!) Which is exactly what Honey is trying to say to her family throughout the series…

Cathy says:
Great choices! Do YOU agree? Are there any extra tracks you would add to a playlist for Honey Tanberry? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!