Sunday, 31 May 2020

ANOUSHKA - SOLACE IN TIMES OF CRISIS

Fourteen year old Anoushka is a schoolgirl from India, currently in lockdown, reflects on how art and culture can get us through this difficult time...

Anoushka says:
The days seem to blur into one, distinguishable only by the sheer number of hours that we spend wondering whether the world as we know it will ever be the same again. As each day in isolation passes, we try to reflect on ourselves, become better people even. The role of art in this process is vital.

Whether it’s a TikTok meme or a heartwarming video of Italians singing from their balconies, there’s no denying that art is everywhere. Especially now, where we look to art for comfort like an old friend, weathered down by the tediousness of life in isolation. We pick up new hobbies, like baking or starting a book club, things that we’d never do on normal days. We find ourselves coming back to timeless movies and shows that never get old.

I recently saw a video of a pianist and a saxophone player performing a duet of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from their balconies.... no matter how tough the situation is art can unite us all. Some neighbourhoods put rainbows in their windows so that kids on walks alone with their parents, know that this is a safe place and the situation isn’t going to last forever. The simplest of things can have  a long-lasting impact on us. A new grandfather seeing his grandson for the first time through a window. A little girl, finished with her chemotherapy getting surprised by all her friends and family in a wonderful, socially distant parade from their respective cars as she drives by.

These times have forced us to be creative. Time spent finishing passion projects, working on an aspect of ourselves that we never knew existed, even learning more about our family. I find myself  gravitating towards content that makes the situation lighter, urges us to make the best of what we have. The infamously terrible celebrity-infused cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ started by Gal Gadot was widely criticized as being privileged and out of touch with the severity of the current worldwide reality. But a YouTuber and musician, who happened to have a jazz degree, took that video and made it into something truly admirable. He arranged the song as the celebrities had sung it (albeit with 75 different key changes) and made a piece of art from something barely salvageable. A drummer created a song from a particularly impassioned speech by an Indian news anchor.

Art lends itself to a sense of authenticity within us. With late-night talk shows halting filming due to coronavirus restrictions, many are going online with special at-home editions. There’s something so genuine about these talk-show hosts when they’re not surrounded by a flood of cameras, lights and an ever-responsive audience. They’re at home, where they also have to deal with their children interrupting them constantly and are free to be their best, unfiltered selves. Here, they’re at their most vulnerable and most relatable. A heartfelt cover of ‘You Will Be Found’ from the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen by the original and current casts of the show on the Late Late Show felt deeply personal. It resonated with many, as we all seek to be found, maybe sometime, days, weeks or even years from now, but, for now the best thing for us to do is to be ourselves, with art to guide us through these dark times. And till then, art is what we can depend on.

Photo thanks to Pexels.

Cathy says:
I agree with Anouska that art and culture can get us through the tough times... not just by keeping us busy but also by offering an outlet for anxiety and difficult emotions. Has art helped YOU to cope with lockdown? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 28 May 2020

ELLA - A BORING DYSTOPIAN NOVEL

Fourteen year old British schoolgirl Ella has written a powerful, clever poem about her feelings on the theme of lockdown... just wow!

Ella says:
In the last few months, we have become characters in a boring dystopian novel.
Everyone thought that 2020 was going to be the year,
Because, I guess, it had a nice ring to it.
But now all our planners have been thrown into the abyss and we have become trapped.

2 metres

The roads lay empty
Vacant, mute, still
The feeling of guilt enveloping you if you think that you are driving
Somewhere that isn’t important enough.

2 metres

A year ago we wouldn’t have even thought about how lucky we are
To be able to hug people, go to school everyday
And walk into a shop without having to queue or wear gloves
That are becoming sticky in the summer heat
Words like lockdown and pandemic had never been used so frequently.

2 metres

Beaches lay empty
Untouched and unoccupied by man
Now they are full of turtles, protecting their eggs.
CO2 levels are so low, they can see the Himalayas

2 metres

At the start, everyone was hoping for time off of school and children
Were being sent home even if they coughed.
People were making Coronavirus memes
But nobody's laughing now.

2 metres

If we let the light in, we can see the rainbow.
If we stay happy, there is hope.
Even though we will mourn for those who have passed because of this,
This crisis will make us stronger.
And we will get through it.

Cathy says:
I love this... Ella first wrote a series of haiku poems and then built this piece around them, and I think it's very powerful indeed. Do YOU ever feel like you are living in a sci-fi novel? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Monday, 25 May 2020

AMANDA - STUCK INSIDE? NOW WHAT?

Great advice on how to pass the time in lockdown without going stir crazy from Amanda, isolating in France...

Amanda says:
This virus seems to have temporarily taken over our lives, and like many countries, France has asked people to stay home as much as possible. Many events and activities are no longer allowed until the situation returns to normal. Thankfully, we're allowed to take a walk once a day (unless you're walking the dog, then it's more often). I take my walk once a week at sunrise when there are not many people up and about. It's safest for me to go out at sunrise, because I have a chronic illness and should avoid other people for now. We have to fill out a form each time we go out. We have to stay within a mile from our house and be back within the hour if we go for a walk. When I see the sun chase the night away, it reminds me that life goes on. No matter what. These crazy times will end someday. To help you through, here are some activities that work for me.

Most of the time, I stay inside. Since I have no garden or balcony, I often sit by the window. I read A LOT. My books take me to a different world. Isn't it wonderful that you can travel while comfortably curled up somewhere with a (hot) drink and a snack within reach? Add a Cathy Cassidy book and you're all set for adventure. Reading is relaxing. You could also try audiobooks if you fancy doing something else while listening to your favourite books. If you're done reading, don't panic. I have plenty up my sleeve for you!

Try writing. I do this every day. I've been keeping a journal for a long time now. The situation we're all in can be quite overwhelming sometimes. No matter how I feel, paper and pen bring me comfort. Paper is like a silent witness. It's with you. When you put pen to paper, it'll never betray any secrets you write about. It won't judge you. Instead, it soaks up your feelings and allows you to let go of them. Maybe a journal isn't your cup of tea. You could always try writing stories or poems. My inspiration for my own stories or poems comes from small things: a nice quote, an animal I see when I look out the window, people I meet, or something that happened... Go on, you try it! Let those creative juices flow!

The next thing I think of are arts and crafts. Creating something to decorate your room with or something you can use, drawing, colouring, painting... The list of possibilities is endless. This situation sparked my own creativity. Suddenly it went beyond words. I started painting. You could try making a jewellery box using some material you can find around the house. If you have a copy of Cathy's CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS,  you'll find plenty of creative ideas for you to try out.

The next activity is watching your favourite series and films or listening to your favourite music. Maybe you play an instrument and you can make your own music. Songs have always meant a lot to me. Music makes me happy. Sing and dance. Stay as active as you can.

I live alone, but try this if you're with your family: see if they can help you get creative in the kitchen. Bake your own muffins, cookies... Or how about a pizza with your favourite toppings? When you're done, why not play some board games to make that quality time last just that little bit longer?

Lastly, use social media to stay in touch with friends and family who don't live with you. See if you can watch the same series or film together and discuss it. Or maybe you want to read the same book and discuss it together, like a virtual book club. Make sure your parents allow you to use social media before you try this idea! As you can see, there are plenty of activities to explore when you're stuck inside. I'll leave it up to you to find out what works best for you. Good luck. You'll get through this strange time!

Image - Pexels

Cathy says:
I love these thoughtful suggestions from Amanda... reading and writing are definitely helping me, but my attempts at baking were a bit of a flop alas! What would YOU add to Amanda's advice? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 21 May 2020

BLAITHIN - AN IRISH GIRL IN LOCKDOWN

Irish schoolgirl Bláithín shares her experience of the ups and downs of lockdown - and explains how music is helping her to cope.

Bláithín says:
I am twelve years old and I am in my first year of secondary school, and I live in Northern Ireland in a place called Mullaghbawn in County Armagh. Mullaghbawn is a small village surrounded by hills and mountains, and the nearest town is called Newry, about ten miles from our house. When lockdown was first announced I felt scared, but I thought it was only going to be for a short time so I was excited to get two weeks off school. However, we soon found out it was going to last much longer than I anticipated and then I started to feel a bit frustrated about being home all the time and not being able to see my friends. I would give anything now to get back into school.

During the lockdown, I enjoy going on walks up our local mountain, Slieve Gullion. The forest park beside the mountain is now closed to the public, but me and my family know the secret paths up to the mountain,  so we can go there for our daily exercise. I also play Gaelic Football with my older brothers every day which is a good way to keep fit. I also practice music every day - I play the button accordion and the bodhrán (the Irish drum). Since lockdown I have been doing online lessons on the harp which is great fun. Playing music is an excuse for me tp get away from the day to day worries that lockdown brings. I worry about my nanny who lives three and a half hours away from us, and I worry about people losing their lives to the virus and the sadness this brings on their families. Music helps me to feel happy again because most of the music I play is lively music.

Whilst I have lots of time to enjoy these things, I have mountains of school work from Monday to Friday. One of my school projects was on 'amazing authors' and I chose to write about Cathy Cassidy as I love her books. We got in touch with Cathy via her Facebook reader page and she very kindly sent us a letter, bookmarks and newsletters. It made my project so much more exciting! My advice to other readers is to keep washing your hands (obviously!) and try and find something to do to keep yourself occupied. And don't get too stressed about schoolwork!

Cathy says:
I love how Bláithín is managing to stay healthy with country walks and Gaelic Football, and keeping her spirits high with music practice. What has helped YOU to handle the pressures of lockdown better? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 15 May 2020

AMANDA - QUARANTINE IN FRANCE!

Amanda has been in lockdown in France, where quarantine rules are just starting to be relaxed. She tells us what lockdown has been like, French-style, and shares her thoughts on coping...

Amanda says:
This virus has turned our lives upside down. The government wants us to stay at home as much as possible to protect ourselves and others and to stop the virus from spreading. Whenever we do go outside, we must fill out a form that shows the reason why we're outside. Authorities can fine us if we fail to show them the form when they ask for it.

There are other rules we're supposed to follow:
- wash your hands often, and always with soap
- wear a facemask or something similar when we go out
- avoid going outside unless you really have to
- work or follow classes from home whenever possible
- keep a distance of 6 feet from each other (social distancing)
- stay within about a mile from your home if you go out for a walk

These rules mean that many daily activities are not possible until the situation returns to normal. We can't go to our friend's house to have tea with them. We can't go to the park or go shopping, many shops are closed. When we go to the supermarket, there's a queue and security guards let us in in small groups. Team sports are not allowed. I work from home and we have regular video team meetings. Via social media and the phone, I chat a lot with friends and family. There's one friend I can see when she's in her garden and I sit by the window, so we talk like that.

Maybe you're feeling angry, scared, sad, or unsure about what's happening where you live. You know what? That's perfectly normal. We all feel that way sometimes, especially when we're in unfamiliar places or difficult situations. No one knows when this is going to end, but someday it will. Trust me. I've always been a very positive person. When I'm going through a difficult time, I try to find at least one positive thought. This quarantine is a big opportunity to learn and to grow. I ask myself what really matters to me, how lucky I've been to have what I have. I appreciate nature even more than I already did. Even though these times may make you feel uneasy, I'm sure they'll make you an even stronger human being than you already are.

Now that the weather's getting better, it's harder for people to stick to the rules. It's important that we do. The more we stick to the rules, the sooner this will be over. I've noticed a change in people's attitudes - many have become more considerate and compassionate. They appreciate more what they had. We're in this together and we'll climb out of this together, that's a promise! In the meantime, try to keep yourself busy, stay home and stay positive. You got this! Why not grab the opportunity to read your favourite Cathy Cassidy books again (and again)?

With love from France!

Cathy says:
Amanda's words are calm, positive and reassuring - and give a fascinating insight to lockdown in France, too! Have YOU found any positives to the lockdown? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

HANNAH: WHAT TO WATCH IN LOCKDOWN!

Reader Hannah has done a round up of her favourite feelgood movies and TV to help keep you entertained through lockdown!

Hannah says:
Life in lockdown is very strange and it's easy to find yourself falling into boredom. If you are anything like me, boredom leads to over-thinking and then to anxiety... so best to avoid it! I try to fill my day with lots of different things, but when you really need to escape from reality there is nothing like a good movie or TV series. Here are some to try!

- MALORY TOWERS: Follow Darrel's progress at boarding school... the full series is now available on BBC iPlayer. I am hooked!

PRETTY IN PINK: 1980s movie, certificate 15, from £2.49 to rent on Amazon Prime. This is my favourite teen movie and also my Mum's favourite teen movie! I love it!

- THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER: movie, certificate 12, available free on Amazon Prime. Starring Emma Watson, a brilliant growing up teen movie.

- BLINDED BY THE LIGHT: movie, certificate 12, available free on Amazon prime. A teen boy finds his style and his confidence through music and friendship. Really fun and feelgood.

- BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: series free on Amazon Prime. Teen vampire series from the 1990s, totally addictive and fun with loads of action.

- THE SECRET GARDEN: movie, certificate 7+, available free on Amazon Prime. A new version of one of my favourite books, .

ANNE WITH AN E: three series which follow the story of Anne of Green Gables, available free on Netflix. Perfect escapism.

- MOONRISE KINGDOM: movie, certificate 12, available to rent on Amazon Prime from £3.49. A weird and wonderful film about two misfit twelve year olds who run away... funny and different.

- SCHOOL OF ROCK: movie, certificate PG, free on Netflix. An oldie but a goodie... Jack Black stars as a guitarist kicked out of his band who accidentally finds himself teaching high school... full of laugh out loud moments and quite inspirational as well.

Cathy says:
Loving these suggestions, some of my faves here! We all need some quality downtime, even in lockdown - but what would YOU add to the list? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Saturday, 9 May 2020

JINELLE - LOCKDOWN IN DUBAI

Eleven year old Jinelle is a schoolgirl from Dubai in United Arab Emirates... here she tells us what lockdown is like for her.

Jinelle says:
I live in an apartment here in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with my family. I first found out about the coronavirus pandemic through my friends but since then I have learnt and read about it in the newspaper, the Khaleej Times. I felt sorry for all the people who were affected by the virus and tried learning about the virus in detail. I was at first very shocked as I thought the new year  would be a time for fun, joy and festivities because of the Expo 2020 we were due to have here. It was a very sad moment for communities and the government who tried their best in making good decisions for the country such as starting social distancing. They have now enforced a strict lockdown and if you come out of your household or residence without good reason you will have to pay a fine. You need to fill out an online form stating where you’re going and the time you will take outside if you need to go anywhere - even so, you are only allowed to go to hospitals, pharmacies and to buy groceries.

Schooling in the lockdown is a very tough time for teachers and students alike. We have no school until this coronavirus pandemic is completely stopped - the schools don’t want to take any risks for the children, so we are learning from online classes. We have less school work and projects to do as teachers don’t want to stress the children out.

We have tried playing board games and cards but the way we live is totally exhausting and boring here. We literally don’t have much choice of play but we try passing the time by watching movies and episodes of reality TV shows. We write small books and try making bracelets and DIY things. One of the hard challenges we have to face is  trying to pass time out as sometimes we are left doing nothing and getting sleepy all of a sudden... the lockdown has us being lazy and is stopping us from doing exercise and walking outside. Another challenge is trying not to get too involved in phones and screens and do something else to pass the time. There isn’t a lot to do, so we use limited time for gadgets and devices. Another challenge is food as we don’t have many things to do so we start eating too much. Food gets scarce and we have to adjust to the limitation of food.

There are some plus points, like getting to spend more time with family and getting to know more about each other. We had less time to spend with families when we were at school, and parents were also too busy with work, so having family time is great. The lockdown has changed me a bit - I  want to meet  my friends and go back to school. We have problems and lots of them and I have learnt how to get used to it. It takes some time for me to get used to the feeling of the imprisonment at home and somehow my focus is on school and home which is mostly unbalanced... but now I see how to situate them both together and I can see the differences too. The lockdown has me all frustrated and unhappy but I try making a difference by situating the two  conditions and adjusting to them. After all, we have enough problems right now without creating more!

Recently I came across  my loom bands and started creating right away. I found some tutorials too so I started learning... it was a great experience. This lockdown has made me learn new things even in closed walls and has taught me to  show my true colors and tell the world that nothing is impossible without having a try! I love the creation of loom bands and I'd encourage others to also try new things that they haven’t done a while as the lockdown is the best time to do that!

Cathy says:
I love Jinelle's blog, taking us through boredom to the discovery of something creative and fun! What are YOU doing to lift the monotony of lockdown? COMMENT BELOW to have your day!

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

NICOLE - MAKE DO AND MEND!

Singer, TV/ film extra and muralist Nicole was stuck at home in lockdown and looking for inspiration... and it came from a very unexpected source!

Nicole says:
Like so many of us, I've been stuck at home during this lockdown and hating not being able to work or see my friends. Luckily, I'm staying with my mum and grandad, and one day when tidying up I came across a box of old dressmaking patterns from the 1950s/60s/70s... they had belonged to my nanna. She was the most inspiring woman I have ever met and the saying in our house was, "If she can't make it, we can't have it!"

Looking through the patterns I thought I would try to make something, and see if I can live up to my nanna's legacy. There was only one problem... where to get the fabric? Luckily, whilst clearing out my grandad's loft, I came across a very old pair of curtains and thought they would be perfect for some funky, new trousers!

My  brown spotted Dalmation, Malteaser, decided to help (not!) by snuggling up in the curtains whilst I was trying to measure them! That is the drawback of living with the snuggliest dog in the world I suppose... I managed to get the pattern pieces cut out and used my nanna's old sewing machine to stitch them together. The pattern was quite simple to follow and the end result wasn't bad... perfect lounging about trousers for lockdown, in a bright colour to cheer me up!

Of course, you won't be able to get your hands on the same pattern but don't despair... a quick google shows there are loads of free dressmaking patterns available online just now. One link that I will be checking our further is:

https://www.allfreesewing.com/Bottoms-to-Sew/How-to-Sew-Pants-21-DIY-Pants-for-Comfort-and-Style

This was something new for me and I had fun with it! It almost felt as if my nanna was back with us, helping us to not get bored during this lockdown! If you fancy trying a new skill, have a go... the sense of achievement is great, and you end up with something fun to wear! Just remember to ask before you go chopping up the living room curtains, though...

Cathy says:
I love this... Nicole's resourceful, can-do attitude is an inspiration, and perhaps the start of a new hobby, too! I'm off to look for unwanted curtains... COMMENT BELOW to tell me what YOU'VE been up to in lockdown or to leave a comment for Nicole!

Monday, 4 May 2020

ANGEL - LOCKDOWN IN THAILAND...

What's it like to be in lockdown in Thailand? Reader Angel tells us what life is like for her right now...

Angel says:
When we first heard about the coronavirus outbreak here in Thailand, I didn’t take it too seriously because almost everything was continuing normally. But when the schools closed and the closure started getting longer and longer, I got anxious about where this was going. Now that we are all doing online classes, it’s harder to learn because some things just have to be taught by a teacher in front of you in an actual classroom rather than a virtual one. But everything has its own pros and cons.

And the plus points to this situation are that the lockdown is helping mother nature a lot. Since people don’t travel as much now, it is saving so many natural resources and its also helping the Earth in other ways. On the negative side, some things are just harder  and people are losing jobs and that’s definitely not good. When I think about those people, I realize that being bored is probably the smallest problem here. But there are also things to keep us occupied like reading, crafts, drawing, watching stuff, or even what I’m doing right now - writing a blog for Cathy Cassidy! Sometimes things might be hard but you have to keep trying!

I feel like I’m going to be really out of touch with a lot of stuff after quarantine ends and I probably would have gained a few pounds. In our building, where I live, they take our temperature before going in, there are hand sanitizers at a lot of places and even plastic over the elevator buttons which they change hourly. We should respect everyone who is trying so hard to keep us safe and especially hospital workers and social workers who are risking their lives to keep us safe. So be aware, don’t leave your house and stay safe! All of this will be okay soon!

Pic: the view from Angel's window!

Cathy says:
Lockdown is hard for all of us, but as Angel says, boredom is the least of our problems... things may well be very different on the other side of all this. What would YOU like to change once the lockdown is lifted? COMMENT BELOW to tell us, or to say hello to Angel!

Friday, 1 May 2020

NELL: WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER...

Schoolgirl Nell tells us how she's coping with missing friends, seeing her dad and keeping up with online lessons during lockdown...

Nell says:
Being in lockdown can be stressful. There is so much to worry about... school, friends and family...      but we ARE going to get through it. My parents are separated so to begin with I was concerned I might not be able to see one of them if we had to go into lockdown. However, in a statement released by the government, they said it was perfectly fine and understandable if children want to move between their parents houses.

Another worry I had at the start of lockdown was school. I didn’t know how to do work or submit it. A week in, the teachers were being very helpful and I was starting to understand. Now, at the end of week two, I feel like I have got the hang of it. Sometimes it is tricky to try to motivate myself - but that’s normal.

At first you tend to get anxious about missing or not seeing your friends. I’m lucky enough to be able to message or call most of them, and it helps me to be less stressed about the whole thing because ad long as we can be in touch we really are all in this together.

The news can be very scary to watch at times like these, but we have to remember we are better off than many people because of our brilliant NHS which does not charge us for the care it gives us. If the lockdown is getting to you,  remember not to worry. This will all go away eventually and you’ll be able to see your friends, school will be  back to usual and it will be OK.

Photo's thanks to Nell's Mum.

Cathy says:
I love Nell's positive attitude and ability to see the bigger picture! How are YOU coping with school work? Are you managing to stay in touch with friends? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

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...