School Days…

I have been invited to a school reunion.

Since leaving school over 20 years ago I haven’t seen any of my old school mates, except for a brew with a one once, and a couple of chance encounters when I’ve bumped into them while out n about, once literally.

When I say ‘mates’ I should point out that the majority of people I went to school with were not my mates at all – In fact I have very mixed feelings about my time in secondary school, there were some funny times, but on the whole I felt like I never quite fitted in and spent most of my time just trying to get through the day without drawing too much attention to myself .

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I only had a small circle of real friends, finding the best way to get through school was to stay out of the way of the ‘cool’ kids whilst trying not to activate the nerd radar.

I did manage to make my way through school mostly unscathed but wasn’t as successful at dodging the nerds. This worked out pretty well though to be fair, many of my memories involve eating my packed lunch in a corner of the playground with a variety of weird and wonderful characters.

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Me n my little sister

 Speaking to my parents about my time at school it became pretty obvious that education during the ‘swinging sixties’ was rather different to the experience I had, and miles apart from the school kids of today.

Those were the days of ‘proper education’ – Nitty Nora, Big gym knickers, smoking in class (teachers AND pupils, allegedly) as well as cross-country running with the last one to finish punished with the cane…Can you imagine the headlines today?

My mum speaks fondly of board-rubber throwing teachers and playing a friendly game of  ‘knuckles’ in the yard, things that would be totally alien to the bubble wrapped kids of today. There’s so much health and safety legislation around playtime that some schools have even banned conkers and football.

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Nitty Nora, The Bug Explorer

Me, well I’m a 70s baby so I was at school during the nineties and things had changed dramatically by then.

We still had cross-country running and, although we weren’t encouraged by the threat of a cane, we did have the horror of communal showers when we reached the end.

I’m not sporty, not even a little bit and found the whole PE experience a total nightmare. I’ve never been any good at things that require hand/eye co-ordination so I really struggled to hit/catch/throw a ball, meaning I was always one of the last to be picked for a team. Not so good for your self-esteem when you’re 13.

 images-6And what was the craic with communal bloody showers?

Basically, once we had finished whatever form of exercise they deemed fit that day, the whole class had to shower together – supervised by our allegedly female, yet very manly looking teacher.

She would literally stand on a bench in the changing room overlooking the shower and insist that at the ‘very least’ we each walked from one end of the shower to the other while holding your towel above your head.

As an adult I realise just how wrong this was on many levels – I don’t think I’ve ever been so embarrassed by anything else before or since. Think about it – when you’re a teenager the thought of your own mum walking in on you in the shower is enough to send you into a  total meltdown, let alone parading your naked body in front of 32 classmates n a teacher.

Eventually, some of us (ok – just me then) developed distraction techniques such as bringing an umbrella, rubber ducks, even armbands. To me it was better to make a joke out of the situation than anyone realise that actually I still wore a vest and had no sign of ever growing boobs.

On a brighter note, I do have fond memories of playing with the gas taps in the biology lab, sneaky cigarettes behind the bike shed and my first ever crush on a teacher who shall remain nameless.

Now I’m an adult and wear my vest with pride – incidentally I also shower alone these days, unless you can count an annoying 7-year-old who always seems to need something urgently as soon as I head for the bathroom.

I also have children of my own with the youngest three still at school.

My daughter is at secondary school herself and is about to turn 15. She’s far more sensible than I was at her age and I don’t have to worry about her smoking or having a questionable crush. Today teenagers are more health conscious – in fact they’re more likely to offer facts and figures about smoking related illness than ask you to buy cigs for them.

As for a crush, my daughter doesn’t have time for that, she’s far too busy practicing the drums with her band or reading some obscure yet amazing literature she’s researched on the Internet. As I said, today’s youth are clued up and, in my experience, it seems that they do learn from our mistakes – if we admit to them that is.

The youngest two are in junior school meaning that a vast chunk of the summer holidays were spent buying uniform, sourcing shoes, choosing bags, naming PE kits and other essential school paraphernalia.

I’m hoping that this year we will still be in possession of (most) these items come October, if last year is anything to go on it’s highly doubtful and I will be losing my shit about the kids losing their shit by Halloween.

My boys have both, on separate occasions, managed to lose a shoe on the school roof. Unbelievable, right? I’ve discovered that this is only possible with a loose shoelace, an amazingly good shot and some determination. I’ve also discovered that while the caretaker is not insured to retrieve shoes from the roof, the wind will blow them back down again eventually.

This September we’re full of good intent. The boys have promised to behave well and work hard. I’ve already set my alarm clock and taken a vow of punctuality – the disapproving looks from the teacher as I signed in late yet again on the last day of term has seen to that. No more ‘late walk of shame’ for me.

Uniform at the ready and school bags packed ready to go, the kids are sorted and I can relax, briefly. Won’t be long until Nativity season, along with letters home asking us to make some obscure costume requiring hours of searching the internet for the strangest of things – like the year school decided to perform a ‘contemporary nativity’ and we found ourselves making alien costumes while all the other (lucky) parents from neighbouring schools picked up a ready made shepherd outfits or Mary ensembles.

With that in mind I’m off to get a head start before they sell out of neon leggings and doody bopper thingys. Now, where did I put that tinsel?………

This was originally written for Within Magazine – September edition….;)

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Useful numbers and bogus callers

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I came across some useful contact numbers and thought they would be of use to other Trafford residents, please do pass on this information to anyone who isn’t on our group, SaleWestVoice.

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Trafford Trading Standards……………….0161 912 1377

Trafford Care and Repair…………………….0161 873 8666

Age Concern………………………………………….0161 746 3940

CCTV control room for SaleWest………..0161 912 1111

UTILITIES VERIFICATION NUMBERS

The following numbers are to check whether the caller at your door is really from the utility company they say they are from:

Scottish Power……….0800 400 200 / 08452 700700

E-On…………………………0800 056 6278

N Power……………………0845 714 5146

United Utilities…………0845 746 2200

British Gas………………..0845 955 5404

Southern Electric……..0239 262 4050

Fire Service……………….0800 555 815 / 0161 736 5866

Talk Talk…………………….0870 087 2001

TO AVOID RECEIVING COLD CALLS AND JUNK MAIL….

Telephone Preference Service….0845 070 7070

Mailing Preference Service……..0845703 4599

Thanks

Tal

Loan sharks and the spiral of debt

Here’s a true story about a lady whose life has been dramatically affected by Loan sharks. Please take 5 minutes to read her story and if  you, or someone you know, are experiencing similar problems there’s a helpline number and advice below.

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Pauline

Pauline* from Salford took out her first loan with a loan shark in the run up to Christmas, after her husband was involved in a car accident. With only her wages, it was a struggle to get by. The loan shark was friendly, he was helpful, there was a bit of interest- £210 back for borrowing £150, but the loan was repaid no problem. Following this Pauline went out to take out more loans and the debt began to spiral.

Every time she began to fall into difficulties, the loan shark would suggest she took out another larger loan to pay off the first. He never gave her any paperwork, so she quickly lost track of how much she was paying. In time all of her money was going back to the loan shark and she was left with nothing. She began to fall behind on mortgage repayments as she felt she had to choose between the house and him.

As she struggled to repay she saw another side to the man who’d been so kind before- she now knew he wasn’t a legitimate lender. The loan shark, a former boxer, would turn up at her home, late at night demanding repayment and threatening to take her belongings.

He came to her work on a number of occasions and would ring to say he was outside. When Pauline said she couldn’t leave he threatened to tell her boss about the trouble she was in. As far as Pauline knew he never did but the fear of people knowing and the intimidation was enough, and Pauline would stay at work late until she knew he had left.

Pauline hadn’t told her husband about the loans – she didn’t want him worrying. The loan shark knew Pauline wouldn’t want her husband finding out so to make life difficult for her he took all the TV and DVD remotes when visiting her home, posting them back a few days later.

On one visit the loan shark, stood in her front room and asked unsettling questions about her family, unnerved by what he was capable of, she took all the pictures of her children and grandchildren down from the mantelpiece.

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On another, he told her not to let her dogs out in the garden, as they wouldn’t come back. Pauline was terrified, she took this as a threat that her pets would be harmed, and also released he had been watching her home.

 

The final straw was when the loan shark turned up at her home with two well built men. He held her by the throat against the wall and forced her to hand over her wedding ring, telling her she didn’t deserve luxuries.

The fear and worry took its toll on Pauline, she couldn’t sleep and became ill. She turned to drink and as a result ended up taking time off work. During the ordeal she suffered a heart attack, which she puts down to the stress and worry.

For a long time she was constantly looking over her shoulder, afraid to even go to work alone. When she told her husband, it put a great pressure on their relationship.

The loan shark was reported to the England Illegal Money Lending Team, sentenced to four years in prison, and ordered to pay back almost £270,000 in ill gotten gains. Pauline was one of nearly 900 ‘customers’ to his criminal enterprise. As the loans were illegal, Pauline and his other customers were under no legal obligation to repay.

Having paid back fifteen times the amount she had borrowed, Pauline was relieved to see him behind bars and could begin to rebuild her life.  The team provided continued emotional support and referred her to other partner agencies to ensure that she wouldn’t loose her home following late payments on her mortgage.

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It is only now that Pauline feels comfortable telling her story, and would encourage anyone else to avoid loan sharks at all costs.

If you think you may be the victim of a loan shark, please contact the team in confidence, as they can help you get back on your feet, just like Pauline.

 

*Name has been changed.

4 Cheeky Monkeys Family Centre gets a pre-launch makeover

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A BRAND new Family Centre, set to open in November, has had an amazing make-over, thanks to a youth team from the National Citizen Service.

4 Cheeky Monkeys, located at The Old Scout Hut, Dawlish Road in Sale West, is the brainchild of Jeneane Warhurst, 31 who lives nearby. It will offer a toddler group / play n’ stay as well as music sessions, messy sessions, story time and much more.

Disappointed at the lack of supportive, accessible amenities for families needing extra support within Sale West, Jeneane and her Mum, Lesley began the project to renovate, decorate and reopen the dilapidated building in 2012. Initially using all of their own combined savings, building work began in June of the same year and they made good progress.

Jeneane said: “I was already childminding and knew that there were local people who wanted these sessions available daily.”

“I also had a single dad approach me for advice on potty training and, after speaking to him, we plan to offer a session for dads to come along for support, advice and socialising – a place they can discuss the difficulties they face as single parents.”

It was a massive task, with rubbish piled high outside, windows boarded over and plumbing work needed as well as costly matters like architects and planning fees.

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By September their savings had run out and the team had to down tools in order to save and apply for some much needed funding. They set about filling in forms and getting advice on who to approach for support.

Early in 2013 Dan Shelston, Development Lead for Sale West at Trafford Housing Trust, nominated the project for Trafford Housing Trusts Give and Gain scheme. The team went down to the site to make preparations, with the work beginning again in May.

They plumbed the toilets in and began the electrical work, the centre really began to take shape. Trafford Housing Trust, along with local companies ensured that fences were painted and flowers were planted, the access toilet was fitted and a new kitchen installed.

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With the building work almost complete thoughts turned to how the centre would be decorated and, with a name like 4 Cheeky Monkeys, it was easy to decide on a theme. The question was how….

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Dan Shelston discussed 4 Cheeky Monkeys with his work colleague, Aine Graven who suggested that he introduce Jeanne to The National Citizen Service, a new government scheme encouraging young people to volunteer their time to help communities and their projects.

Running in the spring, summer and autumn, NCS is open to all 16 and 17 year-olds in England and Ireland. The scheme involves a short stay away from home and then taking part in a project to help their community.

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The team sent to help at 4 Cheeky Monkeys was made up of teenagers from across Trafford and they did a fantastic job.

Their first week was spent in Anglesey where the team took part in lots of activities such as raft building, canoeing and sea level traversing.

Week two saw the team stay in the halls of residence at Manchester Metropolitan University where they had to live independently, cooking and cleaning for themselves. They also spent time doing team activities and working together on projects like talent shows.

The third week was dedicated to painting a mural on the walls of 4 Cheeky Monkeys – the team first had to bid for funding in a Dragon’s Den style production and then, once successful, they set to work planning and painting the designs.

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Mary Timms, 16, attends Loreto Grammar School in Altrincham and was one of the volunteers that took part.

Mary said: “I decided to get involved because it seemed like a great, worthwhile way to spend my summer, as well as an opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills.”

“My favourite part of the week was towards the end when we could see the walls almost finished and how well it had turned out. It was great to see everyone’s designs come together.”

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The team were rewarded with a graduation ceremony at the end of the project as well as a certificate signed by the Prime Minister.

Mary said: “I feel I’ve gained a lot of confidence from the whole experience as I am usually quite shy around new people. During this project I have met so many amazing people and I feel that we have managed to make a difference.”

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There are still busy times ahead for the 4 Cheeky Monkeys team as they prepare to open later in the year.

Wates Builders have nominated the project as their next ‘give and gain’ day and will be spending a day at the centre next month – possibly flagging or installing a ramp….

It will be great to see this labour of love come together and open its doors to the community. Look out for updates as the date draws closer:)

Contact Jeanne , founder of 4 Cheeky Monkeys on 4cheekymonkeysltd@gmail.com or check out their Facebook page and Twitter.

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