Saturday, 24 August 2019

NIKKI: MY FIRST CRUISE!

Reader Nikki writes about her first cruise holiday... if you're not going anywhere this summer, curl up and read more... and start dreaming!

Nikki says:
I went on my first cruise just as I was starting High School. I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was incredible! All I’d heard about cruises was that they were for “old people” but that statement couldn’t have been more wrong - cruises are definitely for all age groups! I went with my mum, little brother and my grandparents and we each loved it for our own reasons. My little brother loved the cruise because he got to hang around in the kids club. It sounded pretty lame to me, but I spent a few days with them playing games and exploring the ship, and it was actually fun! My Mum loved the cruise because we went around the Canary Islands and it was super warm, so she got to relax by the pool and sunbathe all holiday. She doesn’t get a lot of time off work, so just being able to lie around and do nothing was the perfect holiday for her. My Nanna and Grandad had been on millions of cruises! My Grandad used to lecture on airplane crashes and since then, he has refused to fly, so a cruise was the perfect way for them to get around on a holiday.

I have many reasons why I love cruises… I feel like there’s a magic in the air. I love how everyone around you seems so calm and relaxed - we are all on holiday, after all! I love how cruises are like multiple holidays all in one, because you get to visit so many destinations in one trip. But my favourite thing is how much there is to do on a cruise. There are different activities and classes that you can do and constant entertainment and a show every night. You could never be bored!

I also love how fancy a cruise can be! There are formal nights that you can take part in and wear really fancy dresses and dine in a fancy restaurant. Or if you prefer, then you can eat at one of the many other food places on board ship and stay in your comfy clothes. The destinations are always incredible. When you dock in a port, there is always a beach nearby. On one of the stops, we took ourselves snorkelling at a nearby beach. I have never seen so many fish in my entire life! The water was so crystal clear that you could see everything - it was like swimming in an aquarium!

I guess cruises may not be for everyone - they would be pretty daunting if you were scared of water, or got sea sick. But they are so safe that sometimes you forget about being in the middle of the ocean. My Grandad often gets sea sick and sometimes they have to give him a needle in his bum to get rid of it! However he says that it’s definitely worth it for such an amazing trip. You’ll never know how much you love it until you try it, but for me, cruises are the perfect way to spend my summer holidays…

Cathy says:
Ooh... Nikki makes it sound so tempting! I have never been on a cruise - have YOU? COMMENT BELOW to tell us what you think!

Saturday, 17 August 2019

I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A SINGER-SONGWRITER...

Fourteen year old Justin from Northern Ireland gives us the inside story on dreams, determination and starting out as a young musician...

Justin says:
I didn’t take many guitar lessons but I learnt to play through music groups like the Rock School at Ossia Music in Belfast, and I also used the internet. I have a bad memory about what the first song I ever learnt on guitar was but I'm pretty sure it was 'Know Your Enemy' by Green Day. I've pretty much always known that I wanted to be a singer-songwriter. I grew up with Hannah Montana and Big Time Rush and was obsessed with the idea since then, but as time went on, I got more into theatre and art until social media was introduced to me and I discovered a bunch of underrated artists who I wanted to be like.

I love pretty much any genre of music (except for country. Yikes) but I adore punk music along with pop punk and indie music the best.  My favourite artists though would have to be Cavetown and The 1975, although neither of them are punk or pop punk. I really connect with their words. I've been listening to Cavetown for about 4-5 years and once I figured out he started writing when he was extremely young, I was very inspired and began writing. The 1975 are just beautiful; they don't only motivate me to write but they also encourage me to think, read, and to live my life to the fullest. I love both of them and they inspire me every day.

A lot of things encourage me to make music, like for example, listening to music and thinking "wow wouldn't it be cool if I wrote a song and people could hear it through their headphones" but to be completely honest, what encourages me the most is my family and going to concerts. Every time I go to a concert I just let out all my raw emotions, I scream, I cry, I laugh, and (not to be too self-obsessed, but) I want people to do that when they see me live. My family just inspires me everyday and I want to make them proud of me. The best thing about being a young artist is just being able to express yourself. I can write about mac n cheese and call it the best thing ever and nobody will mind because I'm a child, and getting compliments like "You're so young! how do you do it?" is always nice.

The worst thing though would have to be the pressure I put on myself. I still want to do well in my education and I still want to have a social life so I attempt to make any free time I have about music. I feel like I'm running out of time and I know I'm young and I shouldn't worry but I can't help thinking about all of the talented kids in the media that started before me. I'm also deeply afraid of kids making fun of me but I'm working on slowly putting myself out there more so it'll seem more natural to me.

What keeps me going on is the fact that I could actually live my dream life. I know that's a one in a million chance but I dream of performing on a stage where people want to see me, I dream of looking back on all the people that put me down and showing them I did it. I dream of having my own music on vinyl. I dream of being interviewed. Just little things and little dreams like that keep me going.

You can see Justin perform here... support new talent and pop over to give his song a like! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTHQuOl8pOs&feature=youtu.be
You can also follow Justin on Instagram here: @justinmcmillxn

Cathy says:
Wow... as the mum of two young muso's myself, I can tell that Justin is the real deal - amazing talent and confidence! I'll be following his career with interest and rooting for him all the way! Do YOU have a dream career you'd give anything to follow? Or do you want to leave a word of encouragement for Justin? Just COMMENT BELOW!

Monday, 12 August 2019

ANNA SEWELL: BLACK BEAUTY

Another in our occasional series about children's classics and their creators... we look at the life of Anna Sewell, author of BLACK BEAUTY...

Anna Sewell was yet another literary lady who despite all that was against her, overcame the odds and managed to write a timeless classic. Overcoming injury, poverty and the hardships of being a woman author in a man’s world, Anna Sewell, author of BLACK BEAUTY, also became an influential voice on animal cruelty.

Born in Great Yarmouth in 1820, Anna Sewell spent most of her early life in London. Her mother, Mary Wright Sewell, was also a successful children’s author, but despite the popularity of her books, the family still couldn’t quite afford to send Anna and her little brother Phillip to school and educated them at home.

At the age of fourteen, Anna finally had a chance to attend school in Stoke Newington. However, on the way home from school one day, she slipped and severely injured her ankles. Due to the family's precarious financial situation, treatment for Anna’s injury was poor and she never fully recovered. For the rest of her life, she could not stand for very long without a crutch. She started using horse drawn carriages for greater mobility, which contributed to her love for horses and concern for their welfare. Anna also owed quite a lot of her inspiration to her mother, Mary, whose own books and beliefs looked at social issues such as the abolition of slavery and alcoholism. Anna would often help to edit her mother’s books, and so she gained invaluable experience of how to be a successful author.

BLACK BEAUTY was Anna's only book, an emotional and hard-hitting story that showed the hardships and cruelties horses faced in Victorian society - it was clearly a labour of love. Written towards the end of her life, when she was an invalid and mostly bedridden, the payment upon publication was a flat rate of £40. The book is still one of the top ten bestselling children's books of all time. Although now considered a children’s classic, her original intended audience were those who cared and worked with horses. She wanted to inspire kindness, sympathy and understanding for them.

An American review of the book said: “We require use of this animal more than of any other, and either from want of though or ignorance we forget that the horse is a very fine and delicate animal, sensitive as man to pain and hardships and almost human in its sense of hearing and understanding…A horse lacks words with which to express its feelings..”

BLACK BEAUTY was published when Anna was fifty-seven years old, in 1877, though sadly she would not live long enough to see its great success - five months after its publication, Anna Sewell died of tuberculosis.

Cathy says:
Have YOU read BLACK BEAUTY or seen the film? It's very sad... it definitely made me cry as a child! Which children's classic do YOU love best? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 10 August 2019

FAIRYTALE...

How two girls at the turn of the last century took some amateur photographs that shook the experts... and made the UK believe in fairies. Was it real? Read on to find out more…

In 1917, down in the leafy Cottingley Glen near Shipley, West Yorkshire, sixteen year old Elsie and her cousin Frances, nine, claimed to have first seen fairies. Unsurprisingly, nobody believed the girls and in a bid to prove that the fairies were real, they begged Elsie's father to borrow his camera to take pictures so the family could see for themselves.

It was Elsie's father himself who developed the photographs - he was obviously astonished when the picture showed Frances, surrounded by a ring of dancing fairies! Once over the shock, helooked for a rational explanation and put the illusion down to cardboard cutouts that the girls had drawn.

It wasn't until 1919 that the photographs came to a wider audience. An expert commented on the photograph of Frances: "This plate is a single exposure. These dancing figures are not made of paper nor any fabric; they are not painted on a photographic background - but what gets me most is that all these figures have moved during the exposure."

Every little girl claims to have seen a fairy - but these girls had proof! The photographs were shown to the famous writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle was a member of the spiritualist movement and happened to be writing an article on fairy lore; he was fascinated by the pictures and wanted to include them in his feature. This is what brought them to the public eye. His article received much criticism but it also sparked a debate that would never really be solved until 1981, when Elsie and Frances, now old ladies,  admitted that the photographs had been faked. In spite of this, they still staunchly claimed to have seen fairies by the beck and argued that the fakes had been made to make people believe.

Why they took so long to admit the images were faked - or indeed the possibility that they were lying in that interview - are questions which are still being asked today. We will leave it to you to decide  - are fairies real?

Cathy says:
I've always loved the story of the girls who saw fairies in Cottingley... and my kids, in turn, loved the film version of the story, Fairytale, when they were growing up. At the time, the photographs convinced the UK... do YOU think there was anything to their story? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

YOUR STARS FOR AUGUST!

Skye Tanberry is back with your horoscope for August... let's hope it's a sizzlin' one!

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
If someone has upset you, remember that you are a strong person and can rise above the situation. Try to see the bigger picture and let go of the hurt and anger... it's time to move on.  You'll feel lighter and more energised as a result... don't let hurt or anger bring you down.

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
Don’t stress about exam results and upcoming tests. Whatever the outcome, you can and will make it work for you! Now is a good time to think about future dreams and turn them into plans - if you work hard and find your passion, everything else will follow!

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
Filling your holiday with adventure and fun is your priority, and quite rightly. School/ college seems like a whole world away, but don’t forget to stay on top of work and reading as well as all the fun stuff, so you can hit the ground running when you go back!

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
Trying different things can sometimes be fun! Why not challenge yourself and see if you can go vegetarian for a week? Or go plastic-free? Or walk 10k steps each day? Just thinking about which challenge to pick can help you find out more about yourself!

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
If something is going wrong in your life, try to find the silver linings and concentrate on the positives, rather than the negatives. There is always a solution... and once you stop panicking, you'll find it, promise!

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
The efforts you have been making recently have not gone unnoticed - keep it up and that passion will drive you through life. Meanwhile, take a moment to feel proud at how hard you're trying... your determination is pretty awesome!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
It’s okay if you haven’t figured out what you want to be yet. Some people don’t find their true passion for a long time... and some of us will find there are many paths/ careers that could make us happy! You have all the time in the world - which means you can enjoy every moment this summer!

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
Why not try a new activity this summer? Grab a friend and try your hand at tennis, squash, diving or cycling? It could even be as simple as perfecting your cake baking talents! Learning new skills can be loads of fun and the stars will help make sure you learn a lot, too!

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
If you always find yourself reading the same type of book, why not branch out and try something new? A new genre could surprise you and you may find something you love! Head for the library with an open mind and see what you can discover!

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
Spending time with your friends and family is important, but if you've been feeling a little swamped lately, make sure to spend some quality time alone too. Quiet time can help top up your energy and keeps you in touch with your own feelings!

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
Make sure to get out and enjoy the sun this summer! If you're not the sunbathing kind, gather some friends and head off for a picnic, a bike ride, a trip to a museum or gallery or a day trip to your nearest big city. Being a tourist in your own town can be cool!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
It's easy to take those we love most for granted at times, but the last thing you want is for them to feel neglected. Let friends and family know that you appreciate them - it could be the tiniest gesture, but it will make their day!

Cathy says:
Ooh... some interesting predicitions here... do they ring true for YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

WISHES FOR A POST-LOCKDOWN WORLD...

We asked which things you'd like to leave behind in a post-lockdown world and which you'd like to hang onto... your answers were ins...