Saturday, 31 October 2015

THE GIRL ON THE CLIFF...

A ghostly short story written specially for Halloween by CC reader Tilly…


There is only so much you can take… only so much coldness, so much cruelty, so much bullying. Jane was at the end of her tether. Sara and the girls at school were making her life a misery - freezing her out, spreading vicious rumours,  whispering when she came into the classroom. They weren't to know how raw Jane was feeling inside. Her mum and dad had just split up, and Jane and her mum had moved to the coast for a fresh start. Jane cried herself to sleep every night, but silently, so as not to alarm her mum. How could she ask for help when her mum was having such a rough time already?

Hallowe'en was the last straw. Jane had been shopping with her mum when she saw Sara and the others browsing the Hallowe'en accessories at the local supermarket. She put her head down and tried to walk past, but Sara saw her. 'Ooh, is Jane looking for a Hallowe'en mask?' she asked, loudly. 'Oh no… silly me. She doesn't need one. She's ugly enough already.' The girls fell about laughing, and tears pricked Jane's eyes. Why did they hate her so much?

Later, walking their dog Jack, Jane found herself walking along the cliff path and looking out to sea. It would be so much simpler if she could just vanish into the grey-blue ocean, step off the cliff and leave her worries behind. It was a fleeting thought, but Jane's heart thumped as she glimpsed a figure ahead, a girl on the cliff edge in old fashioned clothing, her shawl flying out in the wind. Perhaps she was dressed for Hallowe'en, but the girl was dangerously close to the edge, and as Jane watched she faltered and fell. Jane broke into a run, Jack at her heels, and when she reached the point where she had seen the girl, her heart skipped a beat. The girl was huddled on an outcrop of stone just below the cliff path, hanging on for dear life.

Without thinking, Jane held out her hands and gripped the girl's wrists. She was ice-cold and very thin, her face pale and her eyes were shadowed. Her lips seemed to form the words 'Help me…'

'What happened?' she asked. 'Did you slip?'

Jane whirled round to see Anna, a girl from school, standing behind her on the path. 'What? Me?' Jane said. 'No, I'm fine, I was just trying to help…'

In that instant, Jane's heart turned over. Her hands were gripping nothing but the rough cliffside grass. Where the girl had been there was nothing but a gust of ice cold air. 'I thought… I don't know,' Jane said, confused. 'Maybe… maybe I just stumbled?'

Anna helped her up, helped to brush the mud from Jane's jeans, fussed Jack. The girls began to walk back towards the town. 'I've been wanting to talk to you,' Anna said. 'I know Sara and her lot are giving you a hard time. Take no notice - they're spiteful losers. Nobody listens to them. Why don't you sit with me and my friends at lunch and break? They'd leave you alone then. And we're OK… you might even like us! I'm meeting them at the cafe in half an hour… d'you want to come? Go on!'

Jane laughed, knowing already that she liked Anna's friendly, open manner. But what about the other girl, the girl in the shawl? How could she just vanish?

'Be careful on the cliffs, though, seriously,' Anna was saying. 'They're dangerous. People do fall. There's even supposed to be a cliffside ghost… a girl our age who jumped to her death a hundred years ago. I've never seen her, though. And if you can't see a ghost on Hallowe'en, when can you?'

'I don't know,' Jane said. She looked back over her shoulder, shivering slightly, then linked arms with Anna and walked on towards the town.


Picture modelled by reader Eden and photographed by Mary Carey… thank you  both!

Cathy says:
Oooh… shivers indeed! Do YOU believe in ghosts? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 30 October 2015

ROZ: SUPERSTITIOUS… ME?

Reader Roz looks at some of the traditions and superstitions surrounding Hallowe'en… yikes!

BLACK CATS:
A common decoration at Hallowe'en, black cats are often thought of as bringers of good luck, especially if one crosses your path… in the UK, anyway. Across the rest of the world, a black cat is often seen as BAD luck… black cats were associated with witches, which may be why.

SPIDERS:
Lots of people are scared of spiders, and they are a common decoration at Hallowe'en. Legend says that these tiny creatures were often the companions of witches in medieval times. Superstition says that if you see a spider on hallowe'en, it signifies that the ghost of a long-lost loved-one may be watching over you.

WITCHES:
Witches symbolise evil and danger, but in fact the stereotype of the elderly witch comes from the old pagan celtic religion which venerated the three stages of womanhood - the maiden, the mother and the crone (witch). The pagan celebration of Samhain is on November 1st, the day after Hallowe'en and the crone (witch) was traditionally respected on that day. She did not symbolise evil then, but the changing of the seasons. In the middle ages, solitary women who still clung to the old pagan religion were often feared and condemned as witches, and witchcraft and paganism evolved into symbols of fear and wickedness.

DUCKING FOR APPLES:
In the olden days, apples were seen as a sacred fruit and could be used to predict the future. An old custom on Hallowe'en was the tradition of 'bobbing' or ducking for apples. A barrel or bath was filled with water and several apples were set to float on it. People then took turns to try to pull an apple out using just their teeth (no hands) which usually results in lots of splashing! The first person to get an apple out of the barrel without using their hands is traditionally the first of the group to be married.
If someone gets their apple on the first attempt, they are destined for a true and lasting love. If it takes many attempts and lots of splashing, it will take a while before they meet the right partner. Lastly, if a girl sleeps with the apple she 'bobbed' under her pillow that night, she is rumoured to dream of her future love!

PUMPKIN LANTERN:
The pumpkin lantern or 'Jack o' lantern' is said to originate from an Irish myth. A drunken farmer, Jack, is said to have tried to trick the devil, but as a result was turned away from the gates of both heaven and hell and was left to wander the underworld carrying a turnip lantern lit by a burning coal from hell. The Irish believed that placing a jack o' lantern outside their houses would pacify lost souls on the night of Hallowe'en. The legend reached the USA when Irish settlers arrived in the 19th century, and pumpkins were substituted for turnips. Up until the 90s, turnips were still used in Ireland and the UK.

Cathy says:
Ooh… fascinating stuff! I remember when pumpkin lanterns were made of turnip… very few pumpkins in the UK back when I was a child! I also remember bobbing for apples every Hallowe'en… fun times! Are YOU superstitious? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

LOOKS SPOOKY...

More readers show you how they created a spook-tastic look for Halloween last year… and CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS has more tips too! Will YOU be inspired?

Reader Kym opted for a 'Wicked' witch look… super effective and guaranteed to lift your witchy costume up out of the ordinary! It's very simple to do… using a damp sponge, dab green face paint across the face, covering eyebrows but being careful as you go around the eyes. (Always test a patch of skin beforehand to check for allergies… we like Snazaroo paint, which is really good quality and widely available!) You can choose whether to outline eyes with black eyeliner or leave them 'natural' for an extra surreal look. Lips should be red and nails black… backcomb hair or try a witchy wig for extra drama!
Reader Jade chose a deceptively simple look, but one that is very effective and can be worn with everyday clothes or perhaps matched with a paint-splattered white dress and veil for the strangely popular 'dead bride' look. Face should be pale, so try a bade of white face paint if you're going for a very dramatic look, or stick with natural skin tone if you're wearing your own clothes. Smokey grey eyeshadow and liquid black eyeliner are the next step… take the eyeliner down from the lower eyelids to paint on spooky fake lashes or black tears! Lips should be pale pink or grey (use face paint) with black face paint to suggest cracks, and hair should be wild and backcombed or crimped!

My book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS is a good buy for Halloween as it has a chapter from Skye on how to create the perfect Halloween costume from scratch - a black cat costume, for example, a witch and a ghost-girl, all from materials you may have lying around the house. A chapter from Summer follows, using all of Summer's behind the scenes ballet knowledge to demonstrate some awesome face paint looks, including spider-web witch, ghost-eyes and a dramatic 'turned to stone' look. CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS has arty, stylish things to do for every season of the year… at just £6.99 it's packed with cool ideas to help you get creative!

Cathy says:
Best of luck if you're trick or treating and/or partying this weekend… remember to send me in your pics if you would like to appear on DREAMCATCHER next year to help inspire readers to get extra creative! Just send by email via the 'email Cathy' link over on www.cathycassidy.com - and do COMMENT BELOW to tell us what you're up to at Halloween!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

CARO: I'M SCARED OF SLEEPOVERS...

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER… and reader Caro has Halloween themed problem. Can Skye Tanberry offer a solution?

Caro says:
I'm in Year Seven and have made some brilliant new friends at secondary school.I've been invited to a Halloween sleepover by one of them, and because I've already wriggled out of a few invites I have said yes… but I'm dreading it. There are two problems. One is that I am very anxious about staying away from home… the only times I have ever done it have been at my Gran's, and even then I get quite worried and can't always sleep very well. I am worried that I will get upset or anxious and that my friends will laugh, or worse, feel sorry for me. Or even that I will have to go home halfway through the night. The second thing is that we will be watching scary movies and that will freak me out, I know. I don't know how to say any of this to my friends and I'm scared that if I keep making excuses they will get fed up of me and dump me. Please help!

Skye says:
I could tell you to be brave, to pull yourself together and face your fears, but I'm not sure that's the right thing in this situation. The more anxious you are about the sleepover beforehand, the more likely it is that you'll feel upset and panicky on the night. One option is to pull out… if you know you won't enjoy the night, it makes sense, and I honestly don't think your friends will drop you for not joining in, especially if you explain the problem. However, this it won't help you to conquer your fears, and you will miss out on the fun. Try a compromise… explain that you're not able to stay over, but can stay until, say, eleven. Bring a DVD to watch, something you know you like, and enjoy the fun bits of the evening with your friends - they can watch the scary movies once you've gone. Next time around, invite your friends over for a sleepover at your place… all the fun and none of the stress about being away from home. From there, try staying over with just one of your friends - less pressure - and build things up from there. Work out what will help you to feel more secure - a call home, a favourite soft toy, some gentle music on in the background - and use these things. Practice staying at your grans again until the fears gradually lessen. Anxieties can be conquered, but go gently and be kind to yourself… just as you would if it were one of your friends struggling. Good luck… and Happy Halloween!

Cathy says:
Great advice from Skye… I'd also suggest Caro asks her mum to have a word with the mum of her sleepover friend, to make sure she feels safe and supported. Fears like this CAN be defeated! Do YOU agree with Skye's advice? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

ROSIE: OUR HAUNTED HOUSE...

Reader Rosie tells us about her house… which could be holding a few dark secrets…

Rosie says:
Our house always seemed a little bit different to my friends' homes. It looked different, for a start, and I always felt there was something odd and slightly weird about it too. The house is a tall Victorian building with ivy leaves clinging to it and a plaque on the gate announcing its name. Our neighbour told me about the previous owners, who had never spoken to her or been friendly, perhaps because of the high walls which divided the gardens… that was one of the things that started me thinking about the house. Why were they so secretive?

According to an old newspaper from 1889, the house was once occupied by a labourer named John. I tried to find out more about him, but couldn't come up with anything. What we do know is that he owned some land around about, and after he died the land was sold and the house divided into two smaller homes. The remaining family argued badly and the neighbours told us there had been feuds and deaths. Shortly after, my family had the building turned back into one property and when builders were knocking down an inside wall to create a new room for us, they discovered something which had been hidden inside the wall. The object was a cased, bladed razor… and for some reason, it made me feel very uncomfortable and uneasy.

After the razor was found, things began to happen. They were small things; glasses would suddenly move from one side of the table to the other, and footsteps would be heard behind us when there was clearly nobody there. I often saw shadows of people who weren't there, too, and whispers and hissing sounds. My family also heard and saw these things. I had never believed in spirits and things like that until this point, but now I think I do. We were recently asked by a tourist to the area if our house was haunted, and I think it may be… but hopefully not in a really frightening way!

Cathy says:
Oooh! Spooky! Do YOU believe in ghosts? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 26 October 2015

MOVIE MONDAYS… SUFFRAGETTE!

Introducing MOVIE MONDAYS… an occasional series reviewing the best new films! Caitlin, Cathy Cassidy's daughter, kicks us off with her review of SUFFRAGETTE!

Caitlin says:
I went to see Suffragette with my mum. The movie is set in 1912 and describes the story of how women fought to get the vote. Before I go any further, let me just say - bring tissues if you are going to watch this film… but DO watch! With stars such as Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter, this was bound to be a hit, but forget the all-star cast - this story is a deeply relevant and revolutionary part of history for all of us. The film does contain some upsetting scenes, but it is rated 12A and so should be fine for anyone of this age or above.

Through the story of a young washer-woman, Maud (Carey Mulligan), we are shown with gritty realism, the hard life of a poor, working woman in the early part of the 20th century. At first a quiet, unassuming character, events conspire to pull Maud into the fight for votes; she gains hope and develops a fighting spirit. Imprisoned several times for her involvement in the women's movement, her husband casts her out, embarrassed and ashamed, and she loses her only son. Some of the prison scenes are upsetting - I didn't know the suffragettes were treated so badly. If you don't know too much about the suffragette struggle, there will be some shocking and moving scenes which bring home how hard these women fought to begin the struggle for equality.

It's a very educational and thought provoking film, but you are totally drawn into the story - the very best kind of history lesson. I needed those tissues! Even though we have come a long way, the fight for equality goes on with public figures like Emma Watson speaking up for feminism. So keep talking, keep fighting and don't let anyone tell you are aren't equal to them! I was shocked at the end of the film to see that for example, women in Switzerland only got the vote in 1971, Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 2005. In Saudi Arabia, women will have the right to vote for the first time ever this December.

Suffragette was a powerful and enjoyable movie and I award it four and a half stars out of five!

To see a trailer for SUFFRAGETTE, click below...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=056FI2Pq9RY

Cathy says:
I loved it too… recommended! Have YOU seen this film? COMMENT BELOW to give your verdict, or let us know if YOU would like to review a new film for DREAMCATCHER!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

MILLY: A CRUSH IS NO JOKE...

Reader Milly writes about why falling in love with someone who doesn't even know you exist can hurt much more than you'd imagine…

Milly says:
The first time I saw Chris, this time last year, I was lost. Our eyes met across a crowded living room, and he grinned and said hi and looked away again, back to the computer screen where he was looking up chords for a song he was trying to learn on guitar. I probably captured his attention for roughly two seconds, but for me it was different. My heart was doing somersaults, my cheeks were pink, my pulse was racing. It was like being in a cheesy romcom film or one of my mum's slushy novels. I was in love.

Chris was - is - my friend Pippa's big brother. Pippa only joined our school last year, so she and Chris were new to the area… it's not like I'd seen him growing up, watched him going through an awkward, spotty, pre-teen phase. He just dropped into my world like a gift from the gods. Pippa could see it happening, of course. 'Please tell me you don't fancy him,' she asked after that first time. 'I don't think I could stand it!' But I did fancy him, and Pippa was more understanding than I thought she would be. She answered all my questions, told me everything I wanted to know about Chris. He was seventeen, good at English, music and art, liked weird bands I'd never heard of, had lots of friends but no serious girlfriend. He was in a band with some friends… he played lead guitar. He was kind to children and animals, and he always remembered my name when I called over to see Pippa.

'Don't get your hopes up,' Pippa told me. 'I don't want to hurt you, but he's not interested. He thinks you're too young. He just sees you as my friend.' I knew she was right, but I couldn't help dreaming. In fact, dreams about Chris filled my days as well as my nights. I dreamed that he asked me out, wrote a song for me, bought me flowers. I dreamed that he kissed me on the lips and told me I was beautiful, that he'd never met anyone like me before, not ever. I was lovesick. When I did see him, I was tongue-tied and awkward. I knew he was too old for me, too good for me, but I couldn't help myself. I doodled our names together in the back of my school jotter. Everyone told me it was just a crush, but it didn't feel that way. I knew it was one-way, I knew he barely knew I existed, that he saw me as a kid, but my feelings were too strong by then. If it was a crush, it was crushing ME. I was sad all the time, longing for something - someone - I just couldn't have.

It ended when Chris went to uni earlier this month. He's miles away, in Glasgow, and according to Pippa he has a girlfriend now. I know it's time to let go. This crush hasn't made me happy… it's made me sad and mopey, wistful and pathetic. A boy in my French class asked me out in the summer and I said no, because he wasn't Chris… but seriously, if Chris had asked me out, would I have coped? Probably not. He is five years older than me, and I'd have been way, way out of my depth. I was safer with dreams and fantasies. So when do you let go of a crush? When do you move on? I don't know, but now seems like a good time because one thing's for sure, this crush is not making me happy. I am writing this because I know it's over - even though, of course, it never actually began in the first place. I am setting myself free. If the boy in my French class asks me out again, I might say yes. And if Chris come home in a few years time and looks at me for more than two seconds… really looks at me… well,  who knows. I can dream.

All names have been changed in Milly's account.

Awesome artwork by reader Violet - just wow, and thank you!

Cathy says:
Milly's heartfelt description of a crush is really powerful… most of us know the feeling. Have YOU ever fallen for someone you really couldn't have? What happened? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

TRICK OR TREAT?

We've got some great ideas to help you dress up for Halloween… three readers show you how they got their looks last year!

Reader Piper is rocking this look! A witchy costume is always popular for trick or treating, or for Halloween parties, and it's easy to put together, too! The pointy hat can be found very cheaply in almost every large supermarket, newsagent or novelty shop at this time of year - but arty girls can always make their own version, either from fabric or even black card. Team this with a black dress or black top and skirt, you have a passable costume. My book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS even has instructions on how to make a tattered witch-style skirt from an old bin bag! Piper has added some spray in green crazy-colour to her hair and backcombed it for a wild and witchy look. Heavily outlined eyes with spooky green eyeshadow add to the drama. A few carefully painted zig-zaggy lines above the eyebrows and pouty black lips are a great finishing touch! Why not carry a little novelty pumpkin as a bag to collect your trick or treat swag?

Reader Manda chose a more unusual look, but one that is very effective… the 'broken doll'. The costume for this can be any cute, 'little-girl' style of dress… raid your wardrobe or the local charity shop in search of inspiration! Hair looks great in plaits, but bunches work too, or even a ribbon bow on shorter hair. The make-up is all-important for this look… start with a pale foundation (or even white face paint if you want to be super dramatic). Add pink cheeks and rosebud lips, outline the eyes with liquid eyeliner and then paint on four or five random shapes with black face paint on cheeks and forehead, to suggest broken or cracked china. Experiment a few times before the night to get the look just right! My book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS has some awesome ideas and instructions for Halloween make-up, including a variation on Manda's look!

Reader Amber's look is a classic vampire one, and always very popular at Halloween. The costume can be put together quite simply - Amber chose a striking red dress, but a men's suit with white shirt and tie can look good too. You could even spatter the shirt with a little red paint, if it's one you won't be needing again! The black cape gives a stylish finish to the costume, and this can be picked up very cheaply in supermarkets/ newsagents/ novelty shops at this time of year. Another effective accessory would be a set of novelty vampire teeth! Hair can be backcombed  for a cool, messy look, or, if you have shorter hair, slick it back using hair gel for a Dracula look! The make-up for this look is simple but very striking. A pale foundation base (or, again, white face paint) can be accentuated with strongly outlined eyes and red lips. Try shading dark shadows beneath the eyes with grey eyeshadow, or add smudges of grey to the cheeks.  A trickle of blood-red face paint coming from one corner of the mouth is the finishing touch. Ready to go trick or treating? Go for it!

Cathy says:
These three readers totally aced the Halloween look last year… I couldn't resist sharing their pics to inspire your own fancy dress looks! Are YOU going to a Halloween party, or trick or treating with friends? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, and remember to email a pic to me via the link on www.cathycassidy.com if you'd like to be in with a chance of being featured NEXT Halloween!

Friday, 23 October 2015

MY AWESOME HOLIDAY: THE GREAT BRITISH SEASIDE...

Reader Aimear explains why nothing can beat a trip to the Great British Seaside… have you been to the beach yet this year?

Aimear says:
I think that we are very lucky in the UK to be an island and have sea all around us. We may not be the warmest country in the world, but we do have spectacular landscapes if we care to look for them. The best beaches in the UK are the ones you can't get to by road… you have to walk to them or go by boat. These beaches are quieter and generally have much cleaner water, so they're great for swimming and snorkelling in.

Of course, some pretty amazing beaches ARE accessible by road. This summer I went on a short holiday to a small village called Llangranog in Wales. It was busy but not in a touristy way, and the whole area was so beautiful. We went looking for dolphins from the clifftops and managed to see a spectacular performance from a few groups of them. Some of them were jumping fully out of the water… it was amazing!

My mum and I built an incredible sandcastle on the beach… it was absolutely huge! We waited for the tide to come in to fill the moat! I don't think you ever grow out of that kind of fun, it's just all part of the experience!

The great British seaside is a bit of a tradition, whether you go for the popular resorts like Blackpool with candyfloss and funfairs and glitzy illuminations and shops selling rock and souvenirs… or whether you choose the quieter, unspoilt beaches and use the chance to explore the amazing coast of Britain. Check out the wildlife, study the rockpools, look at the different kinds of seashells and types of seaweed and pick out a lucky pebble to take home. Whichever style of beach you choose, try to find time for a trip to the sea… even if you didn't get to go abroad or even on holiday this summer, remember that Britain's beautiful coastline is there to visit all year round!

Cathy says:
Awww, I totally agree with Aimear… nothing beats a trip to the seaside, and I'd pick the unspoilt option, too, if I had the choice! Have YOU got a favourite seaside spot? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

TALL TALES...

Are you tall? Fed up of being asked 'What's the weather like up there?' 'Got your head in the clouds?' Tall girls share their stories!

Emma says:
I am very tall for my age. I am fourteen and 5'11'. My dad is 6' 2" and if I go on tiptoes, I'm his height. It doesn't bother me because me and one of my friends have always been roughly the same height, with one or other slightly taller… it's been a bit of a competition since reception. Right now, I'm taller, but I think she'll have another growth spurt before I do!

Elaine says:
I am twelve and 5' 9" and I don't really like it. I often get attention from older boys and men because they assume I am much older than I am, and I hate that. I also have problems being pulled up when I try to pay half-fare on the bus or train. People always remember you - blending in is not an option. Even my mum gets on at me to 'stand up straight' because apparently I slouch a bit. I deal with it by pretending to be confident and happy about it but to be honest I would give anything to be a few inches shorter. Who wants to stick out at age twelve? Not me.

Fliss says:
I am 5' 9" and I have been since Year Six I think. I was the tallest person in my primary school… including most of the teachers! It really affected my self esteem as I am a shy person and if you are tall, everyone notices you. Teachers expect you to be great at long jump, high jump and netball, running too… but I'm not. I feel like I'm a big let down. As for being head and shoulders taller than the boy you fancy… that is not good, trust me. I am sixteen now and one or two of the boys are starting to catch up, but I would gladly swap with someone small. I feel so awkward and clumsy.

Hannah says:
I did feel awkward about my height to begin with - for a while when I was eleven or twelve, anyway. I'm fifteen and I am fine with it now. All my family are tall and they helped me to feel OK with it. I am slim as well, and my friends say I could be a model, but I plan to be a vet. The only drawback I can see is that I can't wear high heels when I'm with my boyfriend as I'd end up two inches taller than him… but I don't think he'd mind! He accepts me for who I am. So maybe I'll get those heels out of the wardrobe after all!

Ima says:
I am pretty tall, the tallest of all my friends… which means of course I should always clean the board and write the date and do other things like that. Seriously, my height is not a problem, except that it makes me seem a little older than I am which I don't like at all.

Jade says:
I'm 5'11" and that's very tall… seeing as I am only eighteen and still have some growing time left! Growing up tall wasn't bad - I could see better at concerts and reach the things I needed, anyway! The downside was being the person everyone asked if they needed help getting things from up high… that could be family, friends, teachers, even strangers in shops! Also being asked to lift people up higher so they can see, or give them a piggy back. It didn't help having back pain either!

Cathy says:
I was tall too, and towered above everyone at my secondary school until 5th year when a new boy joined who was taller than me. Finally! I can identify with some of the posts about feeling shy and awkward, but these days I love my height and never see it as an issue. Do YOU like being tall? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why… or why not!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

SHARON: MY FRIENDS MAKE FUN OF ME

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Sharon asks advice from Cherry Costello… will you agree with what she has to say?

Sharon says:
I don't have many friends at school, and I made a big effort and befriended a group of three, Jane, Kerry and Farah. They seemed nice at first but now they tease me all the time, making fun of me, laughing at me, pretending to run away from me or be disgusted when they see me coming. It's not funny any more and I have tried to stay away from them, but they seek me out and carry on with their spite campaign. It's starting to feel a bit like bullying.

Cherry says:
It is bullying - just because you thought these girls were your friends doesn't mean they are treating you with respect. Try to be honest and tell them you hate being picked on and don't find any of it funny; this gives them the chance to see what they're doing and how you feel, and hopefully they will back off and give you some space. If they don't, you must go to the teachers and let them know what is going on. Sometimes, bullies can be clever and make their attacks look harmless from the outside, so write down the incidents and how they have made you feel, and approach a teacher you can trust. With luck, this can be sorted quickly and you'll be free to move on and find new and more reliable friends. Loneliness can make us put up with friendships that really aren't good for us, and this is one situation that seems made for the phrase 'With friends like these, who needs enemies?' Good luck.

Cathy says:
I agree that this friendship is not a good one - but does Cherry's advice go far enough? What would YOU say to Sharon? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

ARE YOU ADDICTED TO THE INTERNET?

Readers spill the beans on how attached they are to the internet… how about you?

Karen says:
I gave up Facebook and Twitter for Lent this year - it was hard, as they're my main way of communicating. I was glad I did it though, as it broke the addiction and I had more time to spend with family and friends. I go online much less these days. It's a great way to stay in touch and let people know what you're up to, but it IS addictive and you need to live in the real world too...

Izzy says:
I've had a mobile for a few years, but it's really only in the last year I've started really using it. I quickly got hooked on it, and now I find it hard to do without. I like to watch YouTube clips and look at Instagram last thing at night… well, during the day as well, obviously! But it's nice and relaxing to watch at night, and I often fall asleep with the iPad on my face, or the phone clutched in my hand.

Jess says:
I suppose I started out playing Club Penguin when I was in Year Three… then it was a full-on addiction to Minecraft. I used to have a time limit on the computer of an hour a day, but it was never enough and I'd sneak on for extra time. I used to get so angry if the wi-fi broke… I cried once. And sometimes Mum switches it off which drives me mad! I'm fifteen now and I am addicted to the internet. I pick up my phone at seven-ish each morning to message and text, then I might watch YouTube videos and go on Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. I don't use the internet until late anymore, but Mum did once catch me at three in the morning watching video clips…

Violet says:
Yeah, I'm addicted. Facebook is my only way of staying in touch with faraway friends and with my brother, who's at uni. YouTube is a great place to find new songs, tutorials and short films, and I love games - PC games and Nintendo are my favourites. I can do without the gaming for a while and I can last a week or two without YouTube, but Facebook is necessary for keeping in touch. I can't speak on the phone because I'm deaf and I rarely have the credit to text. I don't see why it's sneered at by those who consider themselves 'above' social media. It's just a quicker version of being pen pals!

Caoillinn says:
I love the internet and my iPhone so much. I had to go for three weeks without internet this summer… it was horrible!

Ruadhan says:
I love my phone - I probably couldn't live without it. Not just because it's fun, although it is, but it's also my way of studying and doing my homework. We don't have a computer or internet at home, so I have to use my phone's data to study; it's a bit slow, but it works! Oh, plus I am addicted to Facebook and Snapchat...

Picture posed by model Alex… many thanks!

Cathy says:
Um… I could be just a little bit addicted myself… maybe! Are YOU glued to your phone at all times, or could you go cold turkey and ditch it all? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 19 October 2015

DEAR DIARY...

Do you keep a diary or journal? We talk to readers who love to record their lives… in all kinds of different ways! Read on and see…

Crystal says:
I  have a blog which I call my 'online diary'. It's an anonymous blog, so I can safely post about my friends, boys, love life… just about anything really! I just change the names and post as normal. It's fun to know that people can read your personal problems and not know who you are… and because of that, you can post your secrets too. It's a great way to get things off your chest, very calming. And no one will ever know it's you…(www.crystalblueblogs.blogspot.co.uk )

Zaila says: 
Instagram really helps me to keep track of my life… plus it's very easy to use! Whenever I am doing something interesting or visiting somewhere new, I take a picture on my phone and share it to my Instagram followers. I can look back at the good times whenever I want, like if I'm feeling sad for example. I don't have huge amounts of followers, just my friends mostly, but every new one is important to me. I love getting comments on my Instagram 'diary' as it makes me feel like people care about me and my life.

Chloe says:
I keep a Memory Scrapbook. It's so I can remember when I'm older what life was like for me now… it's a great way to express yourself. I make collages and montages and sometimes write things too… it's a great hobby to have.

Grace says:
I have been keeping a diary since I was nine. I love writing my diary - it's a way of getting my thoughts, feelings and worries out in the open as well as documenting my life. It means I always have a way to express myself and a way to remember the good times - and see how far I've come from the bad ones!

Sarah Jade says:
I have a 'Wreck This' journal, a Q & A a Day for Five Years journal, and I vlog a bit too…  I used to keep a blog but kept forgetting to update! A diary documents the past, captures memories, thoughts and feelings and special moments to look back on in years to come. A diary charts the way you change…. not just handwriting but vocabulary, spelling, perspective and empathetic/ sympathetic capabilities. If you vlog your memories, the context is the same but you see the changes in your appearance… and rather than reading your memories you actually see them and you're back there joining in!

Kiki says:
I've had my diary blog for just under two years and it's never had any strict kind of structure. I post when I like, however many words I want. Sometimes it might be a poem, sometimes narrative, as if my life is a story someone else is writing. For me, that helps a lot as I'm a huge procrastinator and if i felt pressured to write I just know I wouldn't. Being able to read back over past events helps me to gain clarity as I can read over my emotions and add hindsight to see where I went wrong. There are over a hundred posts in my 'drafts' section that seem too boring or too personal to be read by my followers, but they're still there for me. In that sense a blog is better than a diary as if someone gets hold of it they can't see anything you don't want them to; it's like giving people access to certain parts of your brain!

Saffron says:
I do a kind of diary vlog, but I don't post them online - they are just for me and my family to watch. They're just good memories! I enjoy vlogging… if I do something interesting I always take my phone along to video it and try to capture an opportunity because there's always something good that will happen. I get funny looks sometimes because I'm talking to a selfie stick, but who cares - it's fun!

Cathy says:
I've never been very reliable at keeping a diary, but as an art student I kept a sketchbook diary faithfully, and these days I post on Instagram regularly. That's a kind of diary for me, though it's usually just pictures and not words, and I don't 'follow back'. Usually I forget that anyone else can see! Do YOU keep any kind of a diary? COMMENT BELOW and tell me more!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

NIAMH: A BEST FRIEND REMEMBERED...

Readers Niamh writes about her best friend, and how a childhood of doing everything together fell apart when a fight between their parents destroyed the friendship…

Niamh says:
Jo and I did everything together. Our mums were best friends, and we were around each other's homes so much growing up that we felt like family. My dad had left when I was a baby so Mum was raising me alone. It was just the two of us, and so Jo was like the sister I never had… her family were like my family. Sometimes, I even pretended that we were twins, because I felt that nobody in the world understood me better than Jo. All that ended the summer we turned twelve. The first sign that something was wrong was that Jo was off school, and instead of Mum calling to see what was wrong and how she could help, she told me not to bother Jo, and said we were going to Gran's for a while. I did text Jo, to let her know we were going away and to say I hoped she was better soon, and a text came back telling me to stay away, that she never wanted to see me again.

It took most of the week to find out the truth, but Jo told me in the end, in a long, ranting phone call. Her parents were fighting, her mum threatening to leave because her dad had been having an affair with another woman. I was so upset for her… I wanted to be there, help her, support her. That's when Jo told me who the other woman was - my mum. I suppose my world fell to bits right then, and it has never been the same since. It was like the ground under my feet was no longer steady, like everything was in ruins. I tried to talk to Mum about it but she said I didn't understand how lonely she was, how hard it was to be alone. She said she'd fallen in love with Jo's dad, and didn't seem to understand that this was wrong. A bit of me wondered if there could be a happy ending - if Jo's mum could magically vanish out of the picture and Jo and I could be sisters, they way I'd liked to imagine when I was little, but that didn't happen.

Jo's mum and dad stayed together, and everything went on as normal except that Jo and I weren't friends anymore. Mum had lost her best friend too, but I had no sympathy for her… she'd destroyed everything with her fling, and if she was lonely now, well, she deserved it. Things are difficult these days between Mum and me; I blame her for what happened. I wish I could say we moved away and started over, but we didn't. Mum had to stick with her job, and I had to keep going to the same secondary school, seeing Jo every day. She looks right through me these days, as if I'm not even there, and I guess I don't blame her for that. All I can hope is that one day she will see that what happened was not my fault, and find room for me in her life again.

Names have been changed in this account to safeguard privacy.

Awesome illustration by talented reader Caoimhe - many thanks!

Cathy says:
Niamh's story is so sad… her friendship has been broken up through no fault of her own, and all she has left are the memories. Have YOU ever lost a valued friend? What happened? Why? COMMENT BELOW to share your story...

Saturday, 17 October 2015

CRAFTY LITTLE THINGS...

We know you're an arty, creative lot… so we decided to check out an after-school sewing class, 'Crafty Little Things', to see what goes on…

Izzy says:
I've been coming to this class for a couple of years now and I love it! We make lots of cool stuff and it's really sociable and relaxing! I make all kinds of presents for my family and I also made owls to sell at school! The best thing I've made so far is a big fleece cushion with felt hearts on it… it was fab! I've just finished making a gorgeous applique skirt and now we are making mini canvases covered in fabric, beads and buttons! Oh… um… I also love the biscuits!

Madeline says:
I like how we make a completely different project or two every term, and I love being creative. I've learnt so much over the last few months and often sneak my projects home to do a bit extra there! My favourite thing I've made were little felt birds, they were very cute! I went to a sewing birthday party recently and the mum was really impressed at how neatly I could sew! We always have a good laugh and it's nice mixing with kids from other schools. I'm making a teddy just now… he's got an epic moustache!

Patrick says:
I like coming to craft class… who says boys don't like to sew? I do! We get to make some really fun stuff and the other kids are really cool and funny. I like making monsters - Ruth, our teacher, lets me make whatever I want, even if it isn't quite what she'd planned!

Ruby says:
I've always loved making things and I really like sewing! I've made some fab things at the craft group over the last few years - tooth fairy bears, cushions, a scarf, sleep masks, pen holders, dolls, embroidery hoops and lots more. My fave thing I've made recently is this hoop -  we put some plain material in the frame then cut out shapes from felt to make the house and flower picture. It's quite a simple idea but very effective and easy to do. I think it looks amazing!


Cathy says:
I LOVE these amazing projects… and the kids we interviewed seem to, as well! Have YOU ever taken a craft course or workshop? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 16 October 2015

ENID BLYTON: THE MOST PROLIFIC CHILDREN'S AUTHOR EVER?

Have you ever read an Enid Blyton Book? The Famous Five series, or The Secret Seven, or The Magical Faraway Tree? Maybe the Chalet School series? Enid Blyton was one of the most famous children's authors of the 20th century - but how much do we know about the woman herself?


Enid Blyton was born in 1897, in London, the eldest of three children. She was close to her father, with whom she shared an interest in art, music, the theatre and literature… but her relationship with her mother was much cooler and more distant. Enid's mother once described her interest in writing as 'a waste of time and money,' but Enid did well at school and was made Head Girl. She trained as a teacher and worked as a teacher and a governess, writing in her spare time. Her early stories were rejected, but this only made her more determined to succeed, and eventually her first book of poetry was published in 1922. Poetry was followed by fiction, many books aimed at children with fantasy and mythology themes. Her first full-length adventure book, The Secret Island, was published in 1938, and many more series followed… by any standards, Enid was an incredibly prolific author and by the 1950s she was writing as many as fifty books each year. Yikes!

Enid Blyton married twice and had two daughters, but perhaps it is fair to say that writing was her first love. She has been described as a workaholic who pushed herself very hard, had a strong business streak and knew how to make the most of her talents. She ran a magazine, Sunny Stories, and later had her own publication, the fortnightly Enid Blyton Magazine which she wrote entirely herself. She cashed in on the success of her books to launch a series of card games, jigsaws and board games based on her books, and also ran the Famous Five Club with half a million members. Blyton and her readers raised a lot of money for charities such as the PDSA, Great Ormond Street Hospital and many others. She died in 1968.
Perhaps Enid Blyton's greatest achievement was to write books which children loved… easy to read stories for every age and taste, ranging from stories about fairies and toys and mythological creatures to adventures. Her books were written a very long time ago now, and not all have stood the test of time… streaks of racism, sexism, class privilege and prejudice against anyone who wasn't English can make them very hard to read in the 21st century. Even at the time, critics dismissed her books as 'mediocre' or 'second rate' and her books have been banned from more libraries than any other author. Blyton herself dismissed the criticism, stating that her books were a reflection of her own views and beliefs, and stating that she only cared about the opinions of those under twelve. In recent years, some of the books have been edited to remove offensive or prejudiced passages of writing. In spite of all criticism, Enid Blyton's books are still in print and are widely read by children all around the world.

Cathy says:
Have YOU read any of Enid Blyton's books? Would you? Do you think they stand the test of time? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

SHORT STORIES...

Readers share their feelings about being shorter than average… is it cool or deeply annoying? Everyone has a different view…

Violet says:
I am 5' and let's just say this has pros and cons. Cons: Being mistaken for a twelve year old more frequently than any adult should; having to bounce up and down like a lunatic in a vain attempt to reach the top shelf in stores; people standing on me because they don't see me. Pros: Can wear clothes bought for me four years ago because I haven't grown taller, which saves money; can wear platform boots and a mohawk without towering above everyone; not very far to fall if I trip. So it kind of evens out! It was embarrassing when we had to write down our heights in biology a while ago. I put a tally next to 5' 1"  (I'm really only 5') and another girl went to put her height on the sheet and screamed 'Oh my GOD! Who's only 5' 1"?' I had to own up to being tiny and misleading people into thinking I was average with the boots and the three inch mohawk...

Ruadhan says:
I am the smallest person in my year. It sucks being small because everyone always teases me and calls me teeny titch. But there are perks… I get the ball easily in netball and basketball. which are my favourite sports!

Ren says:
I'm 5' 4" on a good day but my mum's side of the family are all 6' plus, so most of the time I hate it. I would have been a bit taller and not have to climb up in order to reach the top shelf.

Holly says:
I'm 5' 3" and at times I love it, but it can be a pain and a nuisance. I hate being teased because I'm short, and hate still needing a stool to reach the top cupboard in our kitchen. I love that I'm never bothered by low-lying tree branches and can fit into small hide-and-seek places on rainy days. It's a part of who I am, and I wouldn't be the same if I wasn't as small as I am…

Fouzia says:
I am 4' 7" and I don't really mind being the shortest in my family… I just have problems reaching anything that's high up! People do comment but I don't care…. I just wish I was taller because it stops me being good in sport.

Saffron says:
I was with some ten year olds the other day and they were taller than me. I usually have to look up to talk to my friends, too! Being short does have it's plus points though - if I'm at a standing concert, I can muscle my way to the front without taller people noticing!

Emma says:
There are definitely two sides to it. I have a baby face as well as being short, so people often think I am younger than I am. Sometimes that's good, sometimes bad! Plus, the reaching for high up things is a nuisance… and trying to find clothes I like in such a small size!

Cathy says:
Brilliant… it's great to hear from readers who are happy in their own skin, but I can see there are ups and downs to being petite! Are you shorter than average? How do YOU feel about it? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

KRYS: HE DOESN'T WANT TO KNOW ME...

It's problem page time here on DREAMCATCHER… and it's Skye's turn to play agony aunt. Will she have the right advice for reader Krys?

Krys says:
I have never been so unhappy in my whole life, and I have no idea what I did wrong, what I did to deserve it. I am fourteen and I have had a crush on a boy in my class, James (not his real name) for months. Last weekend we were at a party and at the end of the night, James kissed me. We went outside and talked for ages and kissed a lot, and he said he'd liked me for ages too. I was so happy. I felt like I was floating on this big, happy cloud all of Sunday. Then, on Monday, at school, he cut me dead… just looked straight through me as if he'd never seen me before. I was so upset. My friend eventually asked him what was going on and he said I should stop stalking him and leave him alone, get the hint. His friends were all laughing. I am not the coolest or prettiest girl in the school but I don't think I deserve to be treated this way. I have tried messaging him online but he has blocked me. I feel so ashamed, and so, so hurt. What can I do?

Skye says:
This boy is so immature it's a miracle he can tie his own shoelaces. He's selfish and thoughtless and he probably has no idea just how much hurt he has caused… I have seen it happen to my sisters, and trust me, boys like this make me very angry indeed. For what it's worth, I think he probably did like you… but he's not mature enough to handle a relationship and he's taken the coward's way out by pretending he never liked you at all. It's his loss… and sometime soon he may wake up to what he has thrown away, but of course, by then it will be too late. He's weak and cowardly and you can do much, much better than him, I promise. Are you going to let him make you feel bad? Don't give him the satisfaction. Hold you head high and blank him… refuse to let him see how much he's hurt you. Yes, it will be an act, to start with at least, but in time you will feel better, stronger for it. Not all teen romances last, but a boy who kisses you on Saturday and ignores you on Monday is a loser, pure and simple. You are worth so much more than this… chalk the experience down to bad luck, move on… and don't look back.

Cathy says:
Do YOU agree with Skye's advice? What else would YOU add to help Krys get over this bad experience? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

HILARY: TURQUOISE EYELINER WITH BEIGE LIPSTICK...

More in our fab series about growing up in a different decade; we meet Hilary, who was a teen in the 1980s…


Hilary says:
I turned thirteen in 1984, the year that Prince Harry was born and that Elton John got married - to a woman (which shows how long ago it was…) I went to see Ghostbusters at the cinema and played Prince's Purple Rain non stop on my tape deck. My friends were into Wham and Duran Duran but I was Billy Joel's number one fan. I had posters on my wall and bought every record he made, even obscure Japanese imports. The trend that year was neon - I had a white top with splotches of neon pink, yellow and orange which I wore with a white miniskirt and fluorescent yellow socks. I coordinated it all with turquoise eyeliner and beige lipstick… oh dear!

I wasn't an unhappy teen, but I did suffer from the usual teen angst, mainly focussed on boys. I seemed to fall for a different one each week, and felt that nobody understood me. I was quite serious and 'deep' and not good at smalltalk. My hair was big, frizzy and uncontrollable, I had greasy skin, zits and freckles and I hated my gappy teeth. I spent a lot of time writing poetry and stories in my bedroom and wishing I was more like everyone else. I already knew I wanted to be a novelist one day, and when I wasn't writing I was drawing, painting or singing. Or watching Grange Hill on TV!

These days I write for teens which means I am continuously tapping into my teen self. My hair is marginally better now but otherwise I don't think I've changed much. I have the same insecurities, thoughts and feelings… even the same occasional zit! I am more confident about relationships and the way I look now, and I am very glad I was able to make all my fashion and relationship mistakes before the days of selfies and social networking sites. My advice to today's teens is, don't take yourself too seriously, and remember that things will get better. Oh, and believe me: you don't look half as bad as you think you do!

Cathy says:
Hilary Freeman's new teen book, WHEN I WAS ME, is out in now. Check it out! Would YOU have liked being a teen in the 1980s? COMMENT BELOW and tell  us more!

Monday, 12 October 2015

HAZEL: WE TREATED IT AS A VERY LONG HOLIDAY!

Reader Hazel got the chance to live on another continent for over a year… find out how she settled in the USA and what she'll miss about it now that she's home again!


Hazel says:
Living in California for 16 months was the best experience of my life. As my family knew that Dad was only working there temporarily, we treated it as a very long holiday. We lived in a huge rental house, drove a rental car and joined few groups apart from music lessons, so it was easier to travel. We visited eleven states and saw many natural wonders on our road trips, such as the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Crater Lake, Natural Arches, the Rocky Mountains and volcanoes like Mt St Helen's. We also saw some amazing wildlife: grey whales with their calves, golden eagles, wild buffalo, elephant seals, dolphins, overwintering monarch butterfly colonies and even osprey!


Although I had a brilliant time in Cali, I had a life waiting in England that I was eager to get back to. When the movers were packing up my family's belongings at the end of our stay, it felt like I was in a dream. As did driving to San Francisco airport, even with twelve suitcases in the boot! But when the plane touched down in London after the long flight, I couldn't help feeling excited.

At first, moving back to our old house, everything felt strange. It seemed so small, and the roads seemed utterly tiny. Now, after two weeks back home, it all feels completely normal, like we never left. We kept some furniture in the house while we were away, so although the bulk of it - and all our books - will take at least another month to get here, we have enough to live with. My brother and I are home educated so we don't have to worry about returning to school, but we do many activities here. I have been asked to join three orchestras in September and I'll be able to go on with my music lessons, badminton and Irish dancing. My brother and I have already started going to a conservation group that we used to go to and I am finally going to set up a book blog, something I've wanted to do for months.

At first I thought it might be hard to reintegrate with old classes and join new ones, but I think I've returned home slightly wiser, and I am confident everything will work out fine. I'm looking forward to making new friends, as well as spending time with those who always stayed in touch! Seeing the different cultures in America was interesting - I learnt a lot about American history and literature. I'll miss the hot Californian sunshine, the huge libraries, the sweet fruit and my amazing piano teacher. But I missed so much about England too… our wonderful neighbours, my two great friends, my flute teacher, the garden birds and the food… real pork sausages, crunchy apples and edible chocolate! Living in California was an experience I will never forget, but I am truly happy to be home.

Hazel wrote a post for DREAMCATCHER about moving to Cali in May 2014… click on the link if you'd like to read more! http://cathycassidydreamcatcher.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/hazel-california-girl.html
Cathy says:
Wow… what an experience! I love Hazel's story, and as for those pictures… stunning! Have you ever dreamed of living somewhere faraway? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

INTERNET BULLYING… HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?

Readers debate the dangers of social networks and internet bullying - and try to understand why and how it happens...

Wendy says:
Because you have your username and device does not mean you can say rude, unkind and spiteful stuff to people on chats, blogs, Instagram and other social networks. If your parents saw what you put on social networks, would you be ashamed? Embarrassed? If yes, then why do you think it is OK to put someone down on the net and not directly? If you've said something cruel to someone online, would you say it to their face?

Kitty says:
I think people get brave when nobody can see who they are. I understand that a bit - I am very shy in real life and I like social media because I can feel more confident there. What I don't get is how nasty some people can get, and for very little reason. Almost everyone I know online has been trolled or bullied online at some point. And you get drawn into it… and the whole thing gets out of hand.

Emma says:
I agree, Kitty. I hate to admit it but this has happened to me, and I have ended up lashing out and actually saying things I am ashamed of. I would never admit to this to my parents… I'm only saying it on here because I am allowed to use a false name for this debate and I don't have to have my photo published. At the time I thought I was fighting back against someone who was stirring up trouble with one of my friends, but in the end I went too far and when I looked back at the things I said I felt ashamed. I would never see myself as a bully, but when I read those things it did seem like bullying. I have never actually said sorry to the person concerned, either - it was the cousin of a girl at school. I kept my head down and hoped it would all die down and in the end it did.

Kitty says:
That's what I mean, things get out of hand very fast. It can just be a misunderstanding, or someone making a joke that you take the wrong way, and people can over-react. I've done that too, felt really upset over things that weren't meant to upset at all. So I can see how it can happen. Social media is like a minefield sometimes. You never know when something might blow up in your face.

Lynsey says:
Often it's something that has just gets blown up and really silly or nasty, but sometimes people are just out there looking for trouble. There are some vile people on the internet… professional trolls and bullies.

Emma says:
That's true. I've come across one or two!

Lynsey says:
To be fair I have had very positive experiences of social networks so far, but I have a friend who was targeted by an online troll who would constantly post horrible stuff on her Facebook and Twitter. We thought it was a boy at school but we couldn't prove it… to be honest it could have been anyone, and that was what was scary. She came off both those things in the end, which I thought was sad. I would have told a teacher, but she didn't want to, she was embarrassed.

Kitty says:
I think the best way to handle trolls and bullies is to ignore them. Delete, block, blank, report. Don't argue back. Ignore them and they'll give up - they want a reaction and if they don't get one they'll move on. And if you feel yourself getting angry or aggressive online, come off straight away… cyber bullying is taken very seriously now and you could find yourself in very real trouble.

Lynsey says:
I think also it is important to have a good sense of confidence in yourself, but that is not always easy when you are growing up and school doesn't always help. The thing is, is we all believed in ourselves and felt happy with the way we are, the bullying would not easily be able to dent that. I really think they should teach self confidence in school, because it would solve a lot of problems.

The powerful illustrations for this blog-debate were drawn by reader Courtney: many thanks for the awesome artwork!

Cathy says:
Lots of very interesting points here, and some good suggestions too. Have YOU ever come across internet bullies or trolls? Or even found yourself saying things you shouldn't have? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Saturday, 10 October 2015

RACHEL-LEE: PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS JUDGE YOU...

Reader Rachel talks about her style choices… and how she has learned to blank the negative comments!

Rachel-Lee says:
The alternative scene has become more accepted in recent years and more popular in the media. Celebrities have joined in on some of the fashion statements, like the tattooed Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga and Katy Perry with her colourful hair… but this is a fashion trend I have been following since the age of thirteen. Over the years I have had an array of piercings and every hair colour imaginable. My favourite shoes were a beat-up pair of Doc Martens and my wardrobe was almost devoid of colour.

I'm now twenty-two and I have seventeen piercings and thirteen tattoos. I still love my Doc Martens and still wear mostly black, and at this moment my hair is blue and purple, but that could change! Looking this way has it's downside… people think it's OK to make various comments, like 'You'll never get a job looking like that'; 'What does your boyfriend think?'; and 'You'd look so much prettier without all those piercings.' In school, I had to wear plasters over the piercings. I got sent home once because my trousers were too baggy and were classed as a 'health and safety risk' and I was frequently made to go to the bathroom to wash off my eyeliner.

This all sounds very negative and for a while this bothered me. At seventeen I took out my piercings, dyed my hair brown and wore maroon tea dresses for a year. This changed my perspective… I realised I no longer felt like myself. The comments and stares stopped, but I also stopped smiling when I looked in the mirror and I was no longer excited when buying new clothes. I realised then that the most important thing wasn't the acceptance I got from others but the acceptance I had for myself.

Now I am older, I know that the negative comments from others were nonsense anyway. For example, I've had the same job for two years and they celebrate me for my work, not my looks. I have a boyfriend who loves the way I look and calls me pretty every day. I have amazing friends who like me for who I am. People are entitled to their opinions and if they think I'd look prettier without piercings, fine - but I love them, and it's my choice. People will always judge you; for how you look, how much money you have, how smart you are. It's a human instinct, how we classify things on a daily basis… but that doesn't mean you should let your opinions impact negatively on on others. Just because you think they look scary, or like a bad person… well, that doesn't mean they are! And if you are on the receiving end,  never let these judgements hurt you. As long as you can look in the mirror and smile and feel like yourself, everything else will come to you in time.

Cathy says:
I think Rachel-Lee's style looks awesome - and I also agree that others can be far too quick to judge people. Would YOU ever dare to follow an alternative style? And do YOU agree that following your own heart is an important part of growing up and learning to be yourself? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

YOUR STARS FOR OCTOBER!

Skye Tanberry has been looking at that crystal ball again… will her predictions for OCTOBER ring true for YOU? Read on and see!


LIBRA:
You sometimes worry about which choice to make, but this month is different… things are looking good for you. A perfect time to achieve the things you've always dreamed of!

SAGITTARIUS:
Plan carefully this month… the more you prepare, the better things will go. A project at school is looking good, but go easy - jump in without thinking of others and you may find yourself making a BIG mistake.

CAPRICORN:
Romance is in the air, but there may be setbacks ahead. Don't despair… the path of true love never runs smoothly, and if you're determined things should still work out. Eventually!

AQUARIUS:
There may be a problem in your life that's been bugging you… but now is the time to face it and take action. Friends, family or even a trusted teacher can help you to get things sorted, so don't suffer in silence!

PISCES:
You are a real dreamer, but this month is all about facts and figures. Hard work is needed now to allow your creativity to bloom later… trust me, it will be worth it!

ARIES:
You're always friendly, open and trusting, but sometimes others take advantage of this. Don't be deceived by a friend who isn't all she seems… she may be motivated by jealousy, and that is something you don't need in your life.

TAURUS: 
Team work is the way forward right now… listen to other people's views and ideas and learn to compromise. This is the way forward, and it'll make you popular, too!

GEMINI:
A friend may be struggling just now, and perhaps behaving oddly. Try to be there for her and give her space to talk… but if she needs adult help, don't be afraid to ask a trusted teacher for help.

CANCER:
Snuggling in with a hot chocolate and a good book is all you want to do this month. Why not jazz up your bedroom to make it extra cosy ready for winter? Family matters may get a little wobbly, but resist the temptation to wade in - things will sort themselves out eventually.

LEO:
Plans may come unstuck this month, but that's OK… it's a sign that you may need to take a different track. Trying something different may open up a whole lot of new opportunities!

VIRGO:
An unexpected discovery will change your views on someone close to you. Don't be too quick to judge - get all sides of the story before you decide how to react.

SCORPIO:
Things have been a little rocky lately, but don't panic - you're heading for calmer waters now. Time to relax and enjoy life a little… there is plenty of fun to be had for you this month!

Cathy says:
Does your horoscope sound accurate… or is it way off? COMMENT BELOW to share your feedback and let us know whether Skye is on the right tracks!

JESSICA: BREAK A LEG!

Reader Jessica explains how breaking a leg caused a whole lot of problems for her this summer…

Jessica says:
Breaking my leg was a real pain! I was on a school climbing frame and slipped in between two pieces of wood… my leg got caught and fell forward and basically bent the wrong way. I heard  a massive snap and I knew I was in trouble… it was broken, and badly. I broke my leg three weeks before the summer holidays and so I missed lost of things at school… I was supposed to have the lead role in our school play, Matilda the musical, but that didn't happen. Once school broke up, it got even worse… my family couldn't go on holiday because of me… it would have been too awkward. I couldn't do any activities either, so we all ended up staying at home a lot of the time. I felt quite bad that my family were missing out on a proper holiday because of me, but they didn't blame me at all. I guess these things happen.

I was due to get the cast off halfway through the holidays. I went along, thinking this was what would happen, but I was given an x-ray as the leg was still very tender and painful. Surprise surprise, they put me back in a cast and sent me off for another three weeks! This time when I went back, the x-ray was looking good and the cast came off - but I was given a leg brace to wear to support the leg. Arghhh! I still have that on now, and at least I am walking again… the brace comes off on Monday and I'll be back to normal then. Whatever normal is!

The moral of this story is… don't break your leg in the school holidays!

Cathy says:
Oh noooo! I used to imagine that breaking a bone would be quite exciting and cool, but I've changed my mind now! Have YOU ever broken a bone? COMMENT BELOW and tell is more! 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

ABBIE: I CAN'T STUDY WHAT I LOVE

Reader Abbie has a dilemma for Honey Tanberry to solve this week on DREAMCATCHER's regular problem page. Will YOU agree with Honey's advice? Take a look and see…

Abbie says:
This is the year I choose my options for GCSE and I know that I want to take art, French and textiles… plus whatever else my teachers feel I will do well in. Obviously, English, maths and science are compulsory anyway. We were discussing this at the weekend and out of nowhere my dad announced that I can't take art because it will lead me nowhere, and that textiles isn't even a 'real' subject. I honestly thought he was joking because he knows how much I love art. My dream career is to be a fashion designer, or a fashion illustrator. Dad seems to think I should take economics and business studies and then do a law degree. I can't think of anything worse - this is his dream, not mine. I would be hopeless at those subjects and I have zero interest in being a lawyer. Mum won't stand up for me, though I think she is sympathetic. I can't see the point of school at all if I am going to be made to study subjects I loathe.

Honey says:
I think your dad needs a little bit of education! Who do you think designs the world we live in? The clothes, furniture, houses, textiles, appliances, cars, posters, books, films, computer games… even our toothbrushes and household cleaners are designed by people with an art background, and they get paid for it, too! Not everyone understands that creative subjects are a huge part of what makes Britain great, but your art teacher will know and can help your parents to see the possibilities. Art is a hugely flexible subject which can lead to all kinds of future careers. Talk to your teacher and make sure your dad knows how strongly you feel about this. The days of parents forcing us to study certain subjects or follow their choice of career are long gone. This is your life, and you only get one shot at it - speak up for what you want and what you love, before it's too late.

Cathy says:
I did an art degree and have also been an art teacher, and I know that it can be a subject many underestimate. I agree with Honey… Abbie should enlist the support of her teachers and get this sorted out. What do YOU think? Is Honey's advice spot on, or would you add more suggestions? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!