Friday, 28 August 2015

MAKE IT COOL!

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

DO YOU BELIEVE IN FAIRIES?

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

ANA: SHOULD I TELL?

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...

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

NEW TERM, NEW ME...

Readers share their hopes, fears and aspirations for the brand new school term!

Emily says:
I guess I'm feeling OK about going back to school. I'm going into Year 10, which means we start our proper GCSE courses, but that's fine. The only thing I AM worried about is that we have to have injections. Eek! I HATE them! But I guess I will deal with it somehow, even if it means crying! School is fine, I just don't like homework… but who does, right?

Ruadhan says:
I've been back since Thursday and the teachers are piling more and more work on us… exhausting! In in 4th year now and there is so much work to get through. We have work experience in a few weeks and exams at the start of next year… so much to think about. It will all be worth it some day!

Jenna says:
I'm looking forward to it because I haven't seen my crush for six whole weeks. Maybe this will be the term he actually notices me… or maybe I'll finally get the courage up to talk to him! (Unlikely, but I can dream!)

Becca says:
I feel anxious because I've just finished secondary school and everything is changing. College is the next challenge. I am kind of excited to be meeting new people, but anxious for everything else!

Fouzia says:
I don't feel good about it. We didn't get to go abroad this summer as planned, to see relatives back in my old country, so I am sad about that. Plus, I do not like my new school - I miss my old friends and I am dreading the new term. Things feel a little messed up right now but I am trying to see the bright side… hopefully something awesome is coming up!

Annie says:
I am looking forward to my new form tutor. Last year we had an amazing English teacher - and then before the end of term, our old form tutor told us he was going to be teaching Sixth Form so next term we'd have a new form tutor. And of all the teachers… it's going to be our amazing English teacher!

Stephanie-Jade says:
What I'm not looking forward to is repeating my year. I am studying A levels now and the first year didn't work out in my favour, I guess. My grades were a let down but I am grateful I have a second chance! Now I just have to figure out how to improve those grades!

Fiona says:
I am probably a bit of an oddity but I always look forward to the new term. Things are not great with my family and although we do care about each other, there is always a lot of stress whenever there is a school holiday and I hate being caught in the middle of it. When term time comes around I put on a happy face and pretend my life is fine. The truth is, it is fine when I'm with my friends, but at home it's a different story.

Jade says:
I am super-nervous because in September I will be starting at a boarding school for the first time. I think the work will be OK and I know I will make friends, but I am so anxious about missing home. I've always known this was on the cards and looked forward to it, but now it feels very serious and scary.

Louisa says:
Last year I got into some trouble at school and felt like I let everyone down. Over the holidays I have made a plan to change all that and start from scratch. I will make my parents and my teachers proud this year and I will do the best I can. It feels like a big responsibility but also it feels exciting. Clean slate!

Illustrations by your very own CC… ;o)

Cathy says:
This mixture of nerves and excitement is pretty standard… but I love the interesting and unusual stories woven into this post! New starts can be pretty awesome, right? Are YOU planning a fresh start this term? In what way? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 24 August 2015

AINE: MOVING ON UP!

Reader Aine, like thousands of other readers, is preparing to start secondary school for the first time. What is she expecting… and how will she cope? Read on to find out!

Aine says:
When I left Year Six I was really upset - it felt like I'd grown up at that school and I was leaving all my teachers behind. It was exciting too, oddly, because there was this real feeling that new opportunities were opening up, and that I had my whole life ahead of me. I am quite nervous of getting lost at my new school… we've had taster days, but I know that I'll still get muddled that first week! I am very excited to make new friends. My old primary is a feeder school to the secondary, so plenty of people I know will be there, but I will meet lots of new people too I hope!

I love shopping, so choosing the uniform was fun. It's very smart, but my brother, who is already at the school, says it's very hot to wear in the summer. The school I am going to is very strict on appearance - knee length skirts, flat shoes and no make up. Having said that, I actually feel very grown up in my uniform! It helps in a way that my brother will be around, but he says I'm not allowed to hang around with some people… and he's very OTT with the way I dress and talk, and how I act, in case I embarrass him. I can't wait to annoy him and his friends, lol!

I am especially looking forward to art, drama, PE, maths and science lessons… though I don't think I'll be as keen on PE once the winter sets in! When the weather is good I will be able to walk to school (with THE BROTHER!) but in winter we will have to catch a bus, because it gets dark much earlier then. Mum and Dad have said they'll be getting a drone to follow me there and back, but I think they're joking!

One thing I have promised my parents is not to get lost in the new craze of social media where everyone is posting pictures online with pouts and duck-face and all that. Some people seem more interested in that than in real life and learning, so I don't want to fall into that trap. We had homework over the school holidays to describe ourselves, and I made a picture… the blob of bright colours represents me - messy, mixes well, colourful, all over the place, random, warm and stands out! There is lots of symbolism in the picture, everything means something! I made the picture by experimenting with a pack of wax crayons and a hairdryer!

So… I'm starting school very soon, and I know lots of other kids around the country are in the same boat. Good luck to all - my parents say these are the best years of your life, so let's make them memorable and do our very best!

Cathy says:
Aww… this is an awesome account of the run-up to starting a new school! Good luck to you too, Aine… I am sure it will be awesome! Were YOU nervous about starting secondary? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

BULLYING: THE TRUE VICTIMS

Author Eve Ainsworth writes about how looking at bullying from both sides has helped to inspire her new book 7 DAYS…

Eve says:
'It's just banter, Miss!'

I wasn't getting very far with the student I was talking to. Incidents had occurred at school and on social media that she had either incited or been a part of, but she wasn't willing to talk. Another student, vulnerable and isolated, was being targeted and getting increasingly distressed.

'It's just banter,' she repeated, daring me to challenge her. I tried. I talked of the damage bullying can cause and the fact that banter was not the same as ongoing verbal assaults. She stared back at me, bored. She saw her target as weak and pathetic for not fighting back. Our meetings ended badly, usually with sanctions being put in place that I knew would have no impact on her behaviour.

But one day, something changed. She talked about other stuff, things that mattered to her. She lived with a mum who was ill and struggling to pay the bills, she worried that her mum would collapse because she was existing on a pot noodle a day. My student broke down in tears and admitted she had started shoplifting so she could sell make-up and bring some money home. She was exhausted, worried, stressed. Lashing out at someone else had been her way of coping, of gaining some control back. She could see it was wrong, but somehow she'd become blinded. Bullying had made her feel strong and powerful again. After a long talk, she began to see this was a false and damaging belief. The bullying stopped, and a year later this girl had become a peer mentor, helping other pupils who were feeling overwhelmed.

The truth is, teenagers have never been under greater pressure. Not only do they have exam and school pressures, many have other demands, such as being young carers, dealing with stressful home conditions or struggling with low body confidence and self-esteem. There are so many stresses socially - if you set one foot wrong, say one word out of line, it will be posted on the internet for the world to jeer at. Many teens shy away from being the person they really want to be, for fear of ridicule or abuse. Some cope and some do not - that's the stark reality.

There are no clear-cut answers. Bullies don't bully because they are nasty, unfeeling humans, just as their targets are not pathetic, soft-centred cowards. We still need to break down the stigma that this word carries and address openly why someone would chose to target another. Perhaps worse are the onlookers, those who stand by as incidents escalate, and do nothing. Just as you would turn off a TV programme that disgusted you, you need to be able to walk away and report a situation that is causing harm.

I wrote the book 7 Days because I wanted to show the idea that there isn't just one victim in bullying. I felt compelled to explore both voices - the bully and the target, to explore their respective pressures and understand both sides of the story.

Cathy says: 
Eve Ainsworth's book 7 DAYS is available now in all good bookshops and online suppliers. I've read it and it is a very thought-provoking and powerful book. Do YOU agree that the bully can be just as much a victim when it comes to bullying? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Friday, 21 August 2015

MY INTERNET BEST FRIEND!

Reader Katie shares a story of friendship, fun and loyalty… and it all started on the internet!


Katie says:
I know everyone says their best friend is special, but mine is a little different - we met on the internet! We came across each other on Instagram through our shared love of the TV programme Doctor Who. I'd made an account and was fairly new to Instagram, and Laura was one of my first followers. Our friendship grew through simple comments on photos and gradually we started talking more and more. I've always been careful about talking to strangers online, but when I first 'met' Laura I thought, give this girl a chance. I knew how to be safe, and both of us were too smart to give away any details about our real lives. We didn't need to anyway, as we were just chatting about our favourite TV show! After six months or so we were talking on Skype and decided to face-call each other. With our parents' permission, we did so - and it was amazing to talk face to face after texting for so long.

It turned out that Laura's school was pretty near to where I lived, and we began to joke about meeting each other one day. I don't think either of us believed it would happen, but we slowly realised that there was actually nothing to stop us from meeting up. So, after a lot of deliberations, our parents talked and decided they would let us meet. All my friends thought it was amazing that I had such a good friendship with someone I first met online, and now that we have met twice in real life I can safely call her my best friend in the whole world. I've been to her house now, and we have met a few times now and even been on a camping trip!
Laura says:
I remember getting a message on Instagram from Katie asking if we could perhaps be internet besties. I very nearly said no because of internet safety, but I didn't thankfully! The first time we met I was very nervous. I remember waking up really early and not being able to sleep, but it all went well and we have met several times now and it has just been amazing. We've got matching 'best friend' necklaces and I haven't taken mine off since I got it! I haven't had a friend who has always been there for me before… love you so much Katie! And who could have guessed it would all start off over the internet?

Cathy says:
It's great to read a happy, positive story of a friendship that started over the internet! Do YOU have an interesting or unusual best friends story? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!