We are hoping to raise £1500 in order to buy a specialist trike for Tyrese.

Tyrese will be 8-years-old at the end of the month and is a bright, outgoing and adventurous young man. He also has autism which was diagnosed when he was a toddler. Being very sociable, Tyrese has lots of friends at school and in the area where he lives. Like any other boy his age, he loves to play out and join in, he is really good at football, which is one of of his favourite games. Having autism means that Tyrese struggles with balance and finds it really difficult to ride a standard bike, like the ones his friends have. The school Tyrese attends has a few specialist trikes and he loves nothing more than to zip around the playground having a great time. We would like to purchase one of these trikes for Tyrese, so that he can enjoy the freedom and inclusion it gives him after school hours too – weekends and holidays would be ideal. 10149408_694634813915619_1008562764_n Living with his mum and two brothers in Lancashire, they have been quoted £1500 for a customised trike for Tyrese. This includes delivery and the trike would be adaptable for Ty as he grows but it is too much for mum to raise on her own…this is where you come in:) Please could you donate to #TrikeforTyrese using the Paypal link below… It only takes a minute, every penny counts and all the money donated will go to Tyrese’s Trust, an account set up to hold the funds until we reach the target and can order the trike. If you could share this post with friends and family it would be much appreciated, let’s get Tyrese the wheels that will make all the difference;) #TrikeForTyrese

We have set up a Facebook page where we are sharing fundraising ideas and generally brainstorming, please pop over and give us a ‘like’ here…. Trike for Tyrese on Facebook:)


There is also a JustGiving project page dedicated to getting a #TrikeForTyrese – Here is the link to donate now:)



Here is a short video of the Trike in action:)

Loan Shark Week of Action launches in Sale West


SALEWESTVOICE are pleased to support Trafford Council during Loan Shark week of action.

Teaming up with Greater Manchester Police, the National Illegal Money Lending Team, SWAP, businesses and Sale West residents the aim is to tackle the impact of illegal Loan Shark operations in the area.

Nationally over 300,000 households are in debt to a Loan Shark.


The week of action is following on from the success of a similar campaign in 2012, which saw local residents embark on a Loan Shark awareness work-shop, learning skills and tips that were then shared with the wider community.

Throughout the week SaleWestVoice (@swvm33) will be tweeting daily updates and statistics, as well as contact details of where to find help and advice on dealing with a Loan Shark.

Over on Facebook there is the stoploansharksproject and the Illegal Money Lending Team can be contacted via Twitter – @loansharknews

Loan Shark week of action will run from  Monday 3rd March through to Friday 7th, here’s a guide to what’s on….

  • Monday 3rd: The official launch is at 10am, at the Sunshine Cafe in Sale West Community Centre. The local press will be there, along with other partners from the Loan Shark week of action team.
  • Tuesday 4th: The morning will see Sid the Shark visiting Firs Primary School for morning assembly. In the afternoon Sid will swim over to Woodheys Primary School before relaxing for the evening:) The children at both schools will be encouraged to take part in a poster competition, with a prize for the winner:)
  • Tuesday 4th – Evening: Between 5pm and 7pm there will be a Loan Shark Stand at the Nisa Store on Manor avenue, where partners will be on-hand to offer advice.
  • Wednesday 5th: The Loan Shark Stand, along with partners offering advice, will be situated at the Tesco Store/Petrol Station on Manor Road between 5pm and 7pm.
  • Thursday 6th: In the afternoon, between 1pm and 3pm, the Loan Shark Stand will be at Firsway Health Centre before moving to the Co-Op on Ashton Village between 5pm and 7pm.
  • Friday 7th: Loan Shark week of action will end with the Loan Shark Stand and partners spending the afternoon, between 2pm and 4pm, at Bodmin Road Health Centre.


Sid takes a well-earned break

There will be a questionnaire circulated throughout Sale West during the week too, including information on the local Credit Union and how to access the service.

For more information on the Credit Union and how it works see my previous article: Sale West Credit Union – The smart way to save.

Inspector Laura Burgess from Trafford South Integrated Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “The activities of these individuals [loan sharks] can cause misery among communities. We are pleased to be working with partner agencies to tackle this problem. I urge Sale West residents to contact the telephone number which will be displayed on banners and posters if the wish to discuss this issue.”

Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured over 300 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to 190 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off just under £42 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 23,000 victims.

Head of the National Illegal Money Lending Team Tony Quigley said: “Illegal money lenders are a scourge on our communities. These criminals are motivated by greed and have been known to use the worst kind of bully tactics to force people to pay back over the odds. We would urge anyone who is the victim of an illegal lender to call us in confidence on 0300 555 2222. Calls are answered 24/7 by a trained investigator.”

Here is a short video where the victim of a Loan Shark talks about her experience….


I will sign off with a couple of facts about loan sharks, and the various places you can contact for help and advice. Don’t suffer in silence and please don’t struggle alone….

  • The highest interest charged by a loan shark was calculated at 131,000% APR…
  • Debts to a loan shark can not be legally enforced – once they’ve been caught you are under no legal obligate to repay.

There are several ways to report a loan shark, here’s a few…

  1. Call the 24/7 confidential hotline number 0300 555 2222
  2. Texting ‘loan shark and your message’ to 60003
  3. Email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk
  4. Log onto http://www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks
  5. Via Facebook – stoploansharkproject

OFT ad pic

A night with Nikki…

Smart, funny and exceptionally witty, Nikki looks much younger than her 35 years. She dreamt of being a singer and enjoys writing poetry. Born in Brazil, she settled in Manchester as a young girl when her parents came in search of the promised ‘better life’ they had heard so much about.


She is also an escort and spends her evenings having sex with men for cash.


Far from the preconceived ‘victim’ or ‘down on her luck’ addict that springs to mind, Nikki is the epitome of class and sophistication. Long, lustrous hair swept back off her face and smooth, clear skin, she has a figure that makes women envious while bringing grown men to their knees. It’s hard to ignore the lustful glances she is attracting as we chat over a glass of wine in a busy Manchester bar.

With so much in the news recently about the rise of girls forced into prostitution, Nikki is eager to lift the lid on the other side of this often-misunderstood profession – where, for some, selling sex is a choice and not a necessity.

“I sell sex because the money is good, the hours are flexible and to be honest, I’m really good at it. I made the choice to become an escort and I’ve never really looked back, finally I can support myself and have a pretty decent standard of living at the same time.”


Married for a number of years, Nikki says she was ‘happy with her lot’ and looking forward to possibly having children one day, until her husband had an affair, eventually leaving her for a much younger woman he had allegedly met at work.

“It knocked my confidence hard when he left because I never saw it coming. He just went to work one day and never came home.”

“I was enrolled on a book keeping course at college and wanted to become an accountant but, after he left, I just couldn’t find work and things began to fall apart. That’s when I made the decision to do what I know best. Sex was never an issue when I was married, in fact the thought of being paid for my time felt rather empowering.”

Nikki says it was incredibly easy to get into escorting, after finding an advert in the local paper; she called an agency, spoke to the madam and was invited to the ‘office’ for an interview the same day.

“I was really nervous and didn’t have a clue what to wear so I went for what was, in my opinion, sexy and appropriate – an incredibly short skirt and staggeringly high heels. Arriving by taxi at the discreet address on a leafy lane in Cheshire, I quickly realised that I had got it very wrong and Pretty Woman was not actually a fair representation of my new chosen career.”

The office turned out to be a smart apartment in Hale, one of many in a private, residential block. Here Nikki met *Sue, the lady in charge and was told the ‘rates and rules’.


“Don’t dress like a hooker, don’t do anything unprotected, do not try and undercut the other girls and never give out your personal phone number.”

Nikki certainly doesn’t fit the stereotypical image you would imagine for a ‘hooker’- dressed in a blouse, fitted jeans and designer jacket she would look more at home in a boardroom than on any street corner. As she says herself,

“Most of the time you would never know I was an escort. Remember I am a normal woman too. I sit next to you on the bus, I work out next to you at the gym and I pay for my milk next to you in the supermarket.”

This raises the issue of what other people think of her career; Nikki admits that she can’t always be honest with those around her.

“I only have a handful of friends that know what I really do, my family and everyone else believes that I am a very successful accountant, they probably wouldn’t believe it anyway.”

“It can get awkward, one time my friend brought her books round to me in floods of tears, asking me to help her make sense of it all. I spent a whole morning ringing accountants, eventually paying £200 to one willing to do the work quickly so I could say I had done it for her.”

Asked if there are any plus points of her job, Nikki’s eyes sparkle as she describes a world far different from any most women could imagine.

“The gifts are brilliant, I have regular clients who spoil me all the time, I’ve had perfume, clothes, jewelry and even a couple of exotic holidays over the years.”

“Most men I meet are like puppies, eager to please and looking for some attention – it’s easy to make them feel special and in return they treat me well. One of my favourite clients was an infamous gangster. He is in jail now and the media have portrayed him as this tough thug. This is not the man I knew. He booked me loads of times and was very charming, if a little flashy. One evening he called the agency, booked me for the whole night and we arrived at his farm house in the countryside by private helicopter to enjoy partying into the early hours.”

When I ask about the sex aspect of the deal Nikki shrugs it off as a very small, occasionally enjoyable part of her unusual job.

“Sometimes the man is unattractive or not really my type but I just block it out, concentrate on my shopping list instead. Smelly ones are dealt with by offering to shower with them and to be honest, most of the guys are alright really.”

“It turns me on to know that this man is paying me for my time, for my body – I have a high sex drive so it suits me just fine. Besides, what woman could honestly say that she wouldn’t like to be wined and dined then showered with gifts? I know a few married women who have sex with their husband whenever they want a new dress, carpet or whatever. The only difference with me is that I’m honest from the offset, they get exactly what they pay for and there is no hidden, ulterior motive.”

“I see men from all walks of life, most are married and all have their own reasons for coming to me. If I had a pound for every time I heard that classic ‘my wife doesn’t understand me’ I could retire. It makes me laugh, and a little sad really. I can’t help wonder if it was my husband saying those same pathetic, empty words to another woman all those years ago, it seems that there are far more misunderstood guys out there than happily married ones.”


The cynicism lies heavy in the air and the conversation takes a darker turn as I ask about the other side of the coin, the bad punters, as she refers to them. Looking down towards her hands it feels like Nikki is almost reliving the experience as her voice drops and the light seems to all but disappear from her eyes.

She doesn’t know much about him at all; he didn’t make much conversation. One thing Nikki does know for sure is that she was totally unprepared for what happened that night.

“He lived in a posh apartment in Chester, there was a doorman and I gave him my real name by mistake when I arrived. He was one of my first clients and I wasn’t used to using my fake name yet.”

“The instructions from the agency had made it clear that the door would be unlocked and I was to let myself in, naively I never really thought anything of it. When I arrived there was music playing really loud, the bass thumped through my body as I walked in and closed the door behind me.”

“The bedroom was in front of me and, as I walked in, I could see an envelope next to the bed with my ‘name’ on it.  A small, thin Chinese man appeared behind me wearing a bathrobe. He spoke impeccable English as he told me to turn off the already dimmed lights.”

“It all went wrong from there really. He was really rough, pulling my hair, grabbing me and almost folding me in half, with my legs in the air. It hurt my hips so bad I had to stop myself wincing with pain. Then he wanted to change positions but I just couldn’t do it, I was in agony and feeling really scared by then. I told him I had to stop and he went ballistic, it was like he wanted to hurt me deliberately.”

I ask her why she didn’t just leave.

“I don’t know, I didn’t know what to do” she shrugs.

Leaving as soon as she could, Nikki broke down sobbing in the lift and called the agency to say she never wanted to see him again.

Since then he has been blacklisted from other agencies too, turns out she wasn’t the first woman he had done this to.

So, is this Nikki’s dream job?

“No, but I can think of worse ones” she says. “The men I see are generally good guys, it’s only now and then you get a bad one and you just have to deal with it. What other job could pay me so well for so little – I say who, I say when and I say how much, that makes me in control, doesn’t it?”

As Nikki finishes her drink and turns to leave I can’t help wonder if it really is her or actually the next punter who is in control after all.




TRAFFORD Council, in conjunction with partners from the Safer Trafford Partnership, including the police and the Diverse Communities Board as well as other community and voluntary groups, are attempting to raise awareness and tackle hate crime and hate related incidents.

Hate crime or incidents are defined as incidents or crimes that are perceived by the victim or others as being motivated by prejudice and hate.

As part of raising awareness about hate crime, the council has launched a borough wide competition to schools, colleges and youth groups.

Entrants are invited to design a poster or produce a piece of writing that does one or more of the following:

  • Raise awareness and understanding of hate crime or hate incidents.
  • Promote tolerance and cohesion.

The categories are: tackling racism; homophobia; religious discrimination; disability discrimination and transgender discrimination.

The posters and articles will be displayed and prizes will be awarded for each winning school and entry.

For more information please contact: Aman Akram.  akram@trafford.gov.uk or call on 0161 912 2602.

Alternatively you can also contact Annette Nelson. annette.nelson@trafford.gov.uk  or call on 0161 911 8678

Closing date is March 28 2014.



CAN YOU help the Virgin train staff with their latest community fundraising project?

Virgin staff based at Manchester Piccadilly are a charitable group, each year they choose a worthwhile Manchester cause that needs a little help in order to achieve something amazing.

This year it is the Neonatal Unit at North Manchester Hospital.

The staff on the unit offer much needed support to people who are affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth, and work closely with SANDS, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.


They have two inter-connected rooms set aside for ladies who have to give birth to a baby that has already died, to give Mum and her closest relatives the privacy and attention they need at such a difficult time.

While one room is used for the actual delivery and has to remain a sterile, clinical environment, the other is for the initial couple of days following the birth, when constant medical assistance and support is often needed.

There is a double bed with homely bedding, an old TV and DVD player, hot drink making facilities and a limited selection of books and DVDs.

Staff have named it the Rainbow Room.


The room has become very tired over the years; the magnolia walls, complete with holes, could really do with some attention while some new bedding, cushions, throws and other items  would make a massive difference.

The Virgin Piccadilly team are eager to make this happen, as well as adding a new TV/DVD player, a new colour scheme with some matching pictures, a new table and shelving unit as well as a comfy chair for Dad or other close relative to relax while Mum rests.

The list is quite long and everything needs to be wipe clean to prevent any infection – there will be some considerable cost involved.

The Virgin team are volunteering their time to go to the unit and decorate it, installing any new items they can get their hands on and are in the process of typing up a ‘Wish List’ to take round local businesses to see what people can donate. As the items are collected they will be knocked off the list, the team are hoping to add a couple of additional, low cost items to the existing remembrance garden too.


The Virgin team have already kicked off the collection by donating their own ‘Love to Shop‘ vouchers, awarded for ‘going above and beyond’ while at work, and are using these to buy items for the room.

They are hoping for support with an advertising kick back – When the project is complete there will be a selection of advertisement options in the newsletter which is sent out locally, with details of every business that has donated time, money or goods:) They are also hoping to get the local media involved….

While I have still got your attention I would please ask you to bear with me and take a look at this request for £200 for much needed text books, from one of the staff at the neonatal unit, Michelle:

“At our unit  we run a full day study day which is on twice a month. Its a full day of study and role play of obstetric emergencies that we come into in our working day which enables us to deal with saving a woman’s and babies life by acting correctly and everyone knowing there role in the certain emergency. We need to purchase 30 books that will be used for the staff to read up on before their study session, then they will return for the next lot of staff to use at the next session. You would be invited to come in and watch a prompt session and see what we actually do in an emergency and how the books would benefit us greatly and what an investment they will be for future teaching.’

The books would be reused and help many people, not just the parents going through the trauma of complications, but also staff – helping them to be confident in dealing with this difficult situation.

The Virgin staff have scattered collection tins around Piccadilly Station and they are hoping to raise enough money to make a real difference.

Apologies for the length of this post – there is so much information to share about this great cause and I hope I haven’t overloaded your brain….

Some statistics:

Every day, 11 babies are stillborn and six newborn babies die – that’s 6,500 baby deaths a year.

One in every 200 babies delivered in the UK is stillborn (that is, the baby has died during pregnancy or birth any time from 24 weeks of pregnancy onwards)

One-third of stillborn babies – that’s around 1,200 babies every year – die after a full-term pregnancy (37 or more weeks).


All offers of fundraising advice, donations or suggestions would be much appreciated, contact details are below:)


*This blog is on behalf of a train driver I came across on Twitter – his name is John Young - @PendolinoDriver and he spends much of his time fundraising for community projects.

John has previously organisedwww.trainofhope.co.uk which raised over £40k
and www.top-to-bottom-tractor-run.co.uk  raising over £32k
and, more recently John organised the pendocycle200 where he got a team of riders to leave Piccadilly with Virgins first train then they cycled 200 miles to make it to Euston in tome for Virgins last train back to manchester. This raised over £16k

He had been approached for help by a friend who is part of the Virgin team and, not having a blog, he put a Tweet out for a hand. The rest, as they say, is history….

Contact: John Young – Train Driver     @PendolinoDriver



OFSTED inspectors officially named Wellfield Junior School as good following a recent inspection, proving that hard work really does pay off.

Wellfield Junior 1

Wellfield Junior School on Dumber Lane, Sale, was labelled inadequate back in 2012 with parents understandably left feeling shocked as the news came as totally unexpected.

Miss.Roberts was the headteacher at the time and went on sick leave immediately after the inspection. This then led to a reshuffle within the school with Mr. John Tomlinson stepping into the tough role of acting head – and the task of turning the school around fell to him and the other dedicated staff at the school.

The newly released OFSTED inspection report reflects the hard work and dedication of all the staff, Mr. Tomlinson said: “I am thrilled that we now have official confirmation of how much our school has improved in such a short space of time.

“This is testament to the commitment, hard work and resilience shown by my staff and governors, who have worked together to ensure Wellfield Junior School provides the high quality education that your children deserve.

“The OFSTED Inspectors shared my opinion that Wellfield Junior School has the capacity to be outstanding in all areas and this is the next step on our journey.

“Despite the serious weakness category attached to the School in October 2012 the vast majority of you have remained supportive of all we do, and I hope that this inspection report goes some way to repaying the faith you have shown in Wellfield Junior School.”

The inspection outlines many of the improvements attained since the last visit and it has to be said that to improve by two levels, from a four to a good level two in such a short space of time is an achievement they are right to be proud of.

OFSTED noted that the leaders and the governors have worked well together in order for the improvement to be so impressive, also that Mr.Tomlinson in his role as interim headteacher had played a central role in the improvement – “He leads by example and has high aspirations for all staff and pupils.”

The children certainly had lots to say about their time at Wellfield Junior School, with comments such as: “We feel safe in school at all times because the adults look after us so well” and “Our teachers are fabulous and make learning fun and lessons exciting.”

wellfield welcome pic

Other points of interest include the impressive fact that the school has gained a number of national awards, including the Primary Quality Mark, Silver Geography Quality Mark and Artsmark Silver.

The behaviour of the pupils at Wellfield was mentioned in the report at length, with OFSTED saying: “The behaviour of all the pupils is outstanding. Behaviour around the school is exemplary and pupils encourage others to conduct themselves well. Pupils are extremely considerate and very supportive of each other in lessons.”

It was noted that pupils have an excellent understanding of the different kinds of bullying, such as name-calling and cyber-bullying, with pupils also saying that bullying does not take place in the school and are very confident that staff could deal with it if it did.

OFSTED Inspectors found that the school leaders and governors have worked well together to raise pupils’ achievement and improve the quality of teaching and leadership and management since the previous inspection, with Mr.Tomlinson as Interim Head-teacher playing a central role in the improvement.

All in all it is fantastic news for Wellfield Junior School and I’m sure it is only a matter of time before they attain the outstanding level that they are working so hard to achieve.

wellfield logo

This kid is just a dickhead


Brilliant 😝

Originally posted on Mister G Kids:

This kid is just a dickhead

View original


 Last week it was reported in both the local and national press that there were more than 100 asylum seekers, including families, staying at the Amblehurst Hotel.

It was presented in a very negative light, despite the Messenger having several ‘more favourable’ quotes to choose from, sent by three local community leaders.

Around the same time this post appeared on Facebook, sparking over 100 comments…..

 Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 13.30.03

 I have spoken to the manager at Tesco in Sale and she is horrified by these slanderous allegations. Totally refuting these claims she said:

“ We have had a slight increase in pickpocketing but this is purely seasonal and is nothing at all to do with the asylum seekers. We have had no incidents reported in store and I will be speaking to all security staff in relation to this allegation. If it has been said then it’s wrong and will be addressed accordingly, if it has not then this post is both inaccurate and defamatory.”

 It was believed that the asylum seekers were originally from Romania and, with this in mind, I contacted a friend who is also from Romania, and we went to the Amblehurst to try and speak to some of the people staying there, in order to get their side of the story.

We arrived unannounced and managed to get in as far as reception. There is a security guard on the door who seemed very interested in why we were there, as was the receptionist who rushed towards us asking what we wanted.

I explained that we wanted to speak to some of the people staying there but it became very apparent that this wasn’t going to happen….

Passing me a business card she said: “Email the manager and if he decides he wants to speak with you he will reply…..”

At this point the security guard showed us to the door, and assisted us through it before we had chance to look around. I did however see that the bar area, on the right hand side near the front door, had been transformed into a playroom of sorts and there were quite a few children in there.

Since this failed attempt other information has come to light, as many of you will already be aware.

SERCO is the Government agency that deals with people arriving in the UK asking for asylum.

They have a marshaling facility in Liverpool and it is from here they make arrangements to disperse the ‘clients’ around the country whilst their claim for asylum is investigated.

They are currently running behind in these investigations and the group in Sale will probably be here longer than the 9 weeks reported.

This has been confirmed by another source who said it is more likely to be 20 weeks.

The Salvation Army have visited the families and donated some surplus toys that were “gratefully appreciated.” Many of the other local churches have also made contact with them and have offered support if needed.

There are 31 families, 104 people in total and they come from 15 different countries and speak a variety of different languages. It is understood that they have translation and legal support during their stay.

Asylum seekers are given a small allowance for personal expenses, sometimes this is in the form of vouchers.

They are not entitled to, nor do they claim unemployment/disability benefits or housing benefit. They cannot go on housing waiting lists and must live in asylum housing, as defined by the Government.

It would appear that the title Amblehurst ‘hotel’ is rather misleading, a more honest name would be Amblehurst Hostel as it has housed people on benefits for quite some time now. This has only become common knowledge with the recent publicity, and not thanks to the Daily Mail who depicted the hotel as premiership quality.

Please see some images from the Amblehurst that didn’t make the papers, seems they aren’t staying in the lap of luxury after all…..

 image copy image copy 3

 Local people who have worked at the Amblehurst confirm that the standards had slipped a long time ago, the extension was uninhabitable when it was new and the general upkeep of the property was shoddy.

Rather different than the Mail would have you believe…

There has been much controversy surrounding SERCO and the treatment of asylum seekers, who incidentally were stripped of all tenants rights back in 1999, meaning they must stay in ‘asylum housing’ whilst their claim is looked at.

RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research) is deeply concerned about the current role and activities of SERCO.

 Allegations of inhumane treatment towards asylum seekers by SERCO are numerous, here are some other facts that may shock you..

 SERCO runs detainee escort services and electronically tag people seeking asylum.

 SERCO has been the subject of many claims of abuse and assault by the very people they are supposed to care for:

Testimonies by detainees, many of whom had fled torture, rape and destitution, have revealed that racial, psychological and physical abuse had often been inflicted by SERCO staffSERCO is also taking over the management of an increasing number of public services in the UK, such as health cetres and welfare programmes where it is accused of prioritising profit over quality of service.

There has since been a protest arranged that took place around midday on Sunday 15 Dec, where a small number of the community met outside the Amblehurst with placards saying “Shamblehurst”

 image copy 5

Maybe they hoped that the asylum seekers would pack up and leave, head back to whatever horror they fled from. God forbid they settle here and maybe one day claim benefits or get a house.

What I find most strange is that the ones spouting figures relating to tax payers money are often the same people claiming benefits themselves, having paid either very little or no taxes at all.

 Seeking asylum is not a crime.

Let’s hope that none of us are ever in a situation where we seek the kindness of fellow humans and instead are faced with hatred and misunderstanding……

Here is the link to the Mail story…


And here is a link to the SERCO website…


Halloween past n present…

Here is my take on Halloween, as featured in the autumn edition of Within magazine:)


Autumn is here and it is my favourite time of year.


I love crunching through the crispy leaves, collecting conkers with the boys and most of all, Halloween.


Just before the long winter evenings set in, Halloween is a welcome distraction from the chilly mornings and the imminent hustle n bustle of Christmas time.


The whole celebration doesn’t have to cost much either; Costumes can be cheap n cheerful and we’ve often had the most fun making our own at home – having said that, I am not the most artistic mum and most of my creations rely on a steady supply of bin bags, safety pins and a gallon of fake blood.


Whilst we are busy designing costumes and writing shopping lists involving newt’s eyes and plastic spiders, it always makes me think back to Halloween past, when my sister Lisa and I were kids.


As youngsters we never went without, and were always well fed, clean and nicely turned out. Money was tight, as it was for many in the 80’s but

Halloween was something we always looked forward to, one of the highlights of the year when we would get together with my cousins to celebrate in style.


We often combined Halloween with bonfire night and always took our pumpkin with us to my Aunts house, where we would have a party complete with fireworks and apple bobbing.



I have very fond memories of watching my uncle race around the garden being chased by a Catherine Wheel that hadn’t been nailed to the fence properly and drinking sneaky snowballs with my cousin when the grown-ups weren’t looking. Apple bobbing was great fun, until I reached about 11 and realized that for years I had been dipping in and out of a big bowl of spit as ‘the little ones’ were allowed to go first. One year I bobbed for an apple and came out with a mouth full of dummy.


Costumes were of the homemade variety, sometimes with a shop-bought mask added. I can still remember the hot and sweaty plastic on my face as I tried to see out of an eyehole more suited to Cyclops. One year I was a Mummy, rocking two whole rolls of toilet paper but my favourite by far was the year I was a punk.

Mum made me a bin bag dress complete with dog chain belt and big, hooped earrings. I felt so sophisticated that I considered adopting the look full time, well, until Mum said a stern “No chance” anyway.


I always love the smell of autumn, but on Halloween it is especially great. Cold, crisp air mixed with the earthy smell of leaves and toffee apples. I do not, however like trick or treaters.

Let me explain; We were never allowed to go trick or treating, Mum always said it was dangerous to knock on strangers doors, whatever the date may be. As a youngster I thought this was the meanest thing ever and every year I would ask again, get the same answer and then sulk.

One year, when I was about 12-years-old I told Mum I was going to my friends for tea and we went trick or treating instead. It was one of the most exciting evenings of my life as we set off with a carrier bag each and a pocket full of eggs for anyone preferring a trick.

We collected loads of goodies from the neighbours and it was only as my bag filled that I realized I couldn’t take them home with me without mum finding out.


My friend and I sat in the local park and, with spooky masks now removed, we ate all the sweets we had amassed. Staggering home feeling rather sick and shaky due to the sugar rush, this was not the last time I would greet November with a tummy ache. I’m sure Mum knew exactly what we had been up to anyway, we didn’t have the sense to travel further afield, instead calling at the other houses on our street!


My children have inherited a love of all things spooky wooky and they’re looking forward to the Halloween my Mum and Dad throw every year.

For one night only their house is transformed into Spooky Towers – a place not for the weak hearted and where nothing is quite as it seems.

Both my parents are creative and put this to good use as they rig the house and put on a delicious spooky spread.

307844_259787467400358_462936519_n  ……my spooky parents……  303089_259787910733647_1339146344_n


Dad has even created a pulley system that he connects to a skeleton strategically sat in the corner of the room – as the kids walk by one of us tug the invisible thread and the said kid never fails to jump, scream and run crying in terror. Fantastic family fun if you ask me.


Talking of scaring the kids, Halloween is the perfect time to watch some spooky movies. Tim Burton is a firm favourite in our house, Jack Pumpkin Head is slightly chilling but more fun than scary. Personally I like Coraline – released in 2009 it tells the tale of an adventurous girl who finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it has some very sinister secrets.

The reason I like it so much is because, although it is an animated children’s film, it is really dark and my 10-year-old son finds it really scary. Meany mummy.


This Halloween is almost here and our preparations are well under way. We have a pumpkin fresh from my parents allotment and cant wait to get carving – I find it somewhat therapeutic, so much so that last year I carved faces in all sorts from grapes to butternut squash. The kids were totally spun out when I served them dinner surrounded by an array of spooky vegetables with faces staring at them.


Well, I’m off to find some bat blood before the shops shut – What’s your thoughts on trick or treating? Tweet and let me know @taaliah76


Parents fundraise to give baby head start

DEDICATED Manchester parents Rebecca Drane and Anthony Leathley are holding a sponsored walk to raise money for HeadStart4Babies, after their youngest son, Ethan was diagnosed with plagiocephaly at just four months old.

Ethan teacup - use this one

Plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome is a condition characterised by an asymmetrical distortion (flattening of one side) of the skull. The condition will sometimes improve as the baby grows, but in many cases, treatment can significantly improve the shape of the baby’s head.


Treatment for plagiocephaly is a cranial helmet – not available on the NHS and at a cost of £1,950.

Anthony, 29 said: ” Babies should be a priority in the NHS regardless of what the condition is and how it affects them.

“The NHS class this as a cosmetic issue, but what is having bigger breasts or a straighter nose?”

Worn for 23 hours-per-day, for between three to six months, the helmet is made to measure by a company called Technology in Motion. Lightweight and adjustable, the helmet works by gently reshaping the baby’s head bones as they grow, allowing it to return to a more natural shape.

Rebecca and Anthony are keen to raise the money as soon as possible so that Ethan can begin the treatment they say dramatically helped his brother, Mason who was also diagnosed with plagiocephaly as a baby.

As a baby, Mason’s condition meant that his head was mis-alligned by 18mm, classed as severe in plagiocephaly terms. Fundraising for treatment, Rebecca organised a social night at Sacred Heart Parish Centre and the couple also received a generous donation from HeadStart4Babies.

Mason was fitted for a cranial helmet and, over time, the mis-allignment of his head has been reduced to a barely noticeable 3mm.


Fundraising for Ethan to be fitted for a helmet is underway and the proud parents have organised a sponsored walk.

On October 19, 2013, they will meet at Wythenshawe Hall at 10.30am and plan to walk to Manchester Airport, raising both much needed funds and awareness. All are welcome and the couple are hoping to reach their target of £1950, the cost of a cranial helmet.

If Ethan doesn’t have the treatment he needs he may develop further disfigurement to his face and this can also lead to learning difficulties later in life.

Rebecca, 24 said: ” It is awful that the NHS don’t help children like Ethan with their treatment as it’s very difficult for families like us to raise this amount of money.

“We are determined that Ethan will get the treatment he needs. I couldn’t live with myself if his condition was left untreated and got worse, and then had to be corrected when he is too old for a helmet. This would mean him having an operation, which if we can avoid, we will no matter what it costs.

“Ethan is such a happy baby and he always has a smile on his face.”

For more information on plagiocephaly and the support offered by HeadStart4Babies visit the website at headstart4babies.org

To help with Ethan’s treatment please go to Rebecca’s JustGiving page, every donation appreciated.

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