Life Friend

 

Love erupted, flashed in a day,

Changed life from slow to fast

A feisty ‘stop ‘n go’ affair

Which no-one thought would last!

 

Passion enflamed, excitement aroused

Sparks kindled electric charge

Sleep disturbed, thoughts thrown asunder

Am I dreaming, is this a mirage!

 

Treasured are all the laughs you’ve evoked

The giggles, the touch of the hand

The secret codes, the wink that declares

Against the world we stand.

 

Cherish the moment sharing the chores

Comfort when news is the worst

Planning how to make special each day

Thinking and putting each first.

 

But even Love can show some vexation

when harassed or harassing too

Making lovers aware of the meaning of life

And a compromise of view.

 

 

Creative spirits, divergent paths

Separate ways, freedom favoured

Brief intermission – rest and respite

But love and loyalty never wavered.

 

Precious and valued, you’re always there

When others go hurtling by

Helping me weather the storms of life

And never saying that goodbye.

 

copyright Di Castle

to appear in Should I Wear Floral and other poems on Love, Life and Leaving by Di Castle, illustrated by Denise A Horn

 

The Pyjama Game should stay firmly in the bedroom.

So a head teacher asking parents not to drop off their children at school in their pyjamas makes headline news. Plus it is only a few weeks since a shop in a nearby area refused to serve people dressed in pyjamas.

 

Now I can understand where this relaxed attitude originates. The formality of the fifties and sixties has long gone. These days, pyjamas come in many guises. They are onesies, play suits or clothes designed to be worn as daywear when chilling out on the sofa. So, ok, mums, I am all for chilling out on the sofa – we recognise the health and happiness benefits – but the line has to be drawn at the front door.

 

I had three children in quick succession in the late sixties and from the day I returned from hospital, my first jobs each morning, once an early morning breastfeed had been given, were to shower, dress, brush my hair and put on some makeup. Once I had that daily task under my belt I could face anything and, if the morning became hectic as we were about to leave the house for school, I could relax in the knowledge that I looked as smart as any young mum with regurgitated food on her shoulder.

 

Even at their births, the first thing I did after holding and bonding with them was to grab my make up bag and hairbrush from the bedside cabinet and make myself look presentable.  In the sixties few of us wandered around with bare faces and unbrushed hair. We would go to each others’ houses on the way back from school drop off and the little ones would play. We had no worries about our appearance as if you have put on makeup in the morning, little attention needs to be paid to it.

 

As I have grown older I find myself dismayed at the current trend to go out barefaced with more and more people these days displaying unbrushed hair and uncared for clothes around the supermarket aisles. There really is no excuse.

 

My mantra always was that looking good, well dressed and tidy was to pay a compliment to the people you meet. It also set a good example to my daughters who now are always presentable for the school run. They were raised to be aware that what their father saw on leaving the house would remain with him during the day. They knew self-care mattered for the relationship and for a person’s self esteem.

 

It is amusing that so many people exhaust themselves cleaning the house for visitors. There are many people who insist on doing a day’s housework prior to a family event but fail to attend to what visitors see first – their own appearance. We should remember after all that visitors usually come to see us and not our ultra shiny worktops.

 

No doubt the head teacher will be criticised, even forced to apologise for ‘abusing the parents’ rights’ to dress slovenly’. I certainly hope not. I am willing her to remain resolute.

 

Children need to know that going to school is serious business. They also need to know that what goes on at home after their departure is equally important? Pyjamas give the impression that Mum is going back to bed at 9.15 am.

 

Isn’t it time now for us all to push for standards?

TWITS and how we wrote to Terry Wogan

 

Wit, humour and geniality;  some tv accolades broadcast this morning. 31st January, 2016.

 

So for me it was with great sadness when I heard Sir Terry Wogan had died after a short yet brave fight with cancer. Such sorrow, as for many years in the 1980s he played a major part in my life. In fact I would say that Terry and his Radio Show kick-started my writing career.

 

Terry has a special place in my heart and that of my partner, Bryan. For many years in the late seventies and eighties the two of us tuned in to his Radio 2 radio show to follow stories and jokes. At the time we were both married to other people but, when I discovered Bryan had written some of the stories that Terry read out on air, I took more interest. Wasn’t that what I always wanted – to be a writer?

 

Not only did my social gathering of girlfriends know that Bryan Anders wrote to the big Tel but he would turn up at local dinner parties with his latest letter recording on the old style cassettes. At home, he even bought a special music centre with double cassette ports so he could transfer his own letters to a master tape for posterity.

 

Initially, I joined my friends in decrying his obsession with Terry’s show, his fast accumulation of countrywide friends, who also wrote to the show, and who called themselves TWITS (Terry Wogan Is Tops Society). They began to phone each other, to convey congratulations on the wit and humour in the letters and the manner in which Terry read them. At the time I was absorbed in pursuing the onset of my teaching career and my three daughters who were, by now, all at school and in numerous local activities. I spent my life driving to and from swimming pools, ballet classes and drama rehearsals. I really didn’t have the time. But I found, as you do, that if you love something enough, you can indeed find the space in your life.

 

After one dinner party, where we were subjected to yet another offering from Bryan that had been used on Radio 2 – I believe it was the start of the duvet debate – my friend Jill and I had a conversation which was to change my life forever. We were laughing at how serious Bryan’s addiction was, musing that there was an element of showmanship in his endeavours. I suggested that, if one of us wrote to the morning show, it might take the glow off his domination of the airwaves in our small Middlesex village. I was already listening to the show during breakfast and during my short car journey to College each morning, so I knew which themes which were being broadcast. We agreed that all the girls in our Mums’ group would listen and I would record the programme on cassette so that I could show off my efforts at the next school dance or dinner party. In our words, this would put our dear Bryan in his place.

 

That evening I sat down at my Olympia portable typewriter and composed something I thought would fit the present bill.  I then scribbled over it and retyped it, addressed it to the BBC and popped it into the post. Little did I know that I was about to set alight a love affair which would endure for 40 years.

 

But on that day I knew little of what might happen.  I knew the pattern was to post one day, Terry would read it after his next morning show and select letters to read the following morning. I wrote my first letter on the Monday night, posted on the Tuesday and on Wednesday rose early to begin recording the show. About 7.45am I heard my name – ‘Di Castle of Ickenham’ and then an unabridged reading of my letter. I can still remember the thrill and how I ran around the house shouting ‘He’s read it, he’s read it.’

 

Five minutes later the telephone rang and a voice at the other end said ‘so I have competition … …’. I remember worrying I had annoyed him and hoped this would not end what was a lovely friendship I had with this guy, but never anticipated what was to come in the months and years to come.

 

From that day we would arrange to send letters on different days – our theory was that Terry was unlikely to read two letters from Ickenham on one day. On one occasion, however, we did have letters read on the same day with Terry announcing ‘here’s another listener from Ickenham.’

 

Sometimes Terry introduced my letter as ‘From Ickenham  …. Di Castle …’ but months later when I had moved to Hillingdon he announced a letter as from ‘Mad Di of Hillingdon’.  I was thrilled. I was referred to as Mad Di for several letters and even headed them up with my new title but then the ‘mad’ was dropped.

 

Bryan and I both recorded the show each day and would dub cassettes with the other’s letters and chase round to each other’s houses to drop tapes through the door. We also liaised to ensure we did not coincide and ruin the chances of a good letter being read out. We decided early on that our chances were less if both Ickenham contributors had also posted.

 

Sometimes, we wanted a letter to go out earlier. There was urgency perhaps; a theme that could fade and we wanted to get our contribution in for the next possible programme. Bryan would drive round to my house in Hillingdon and I would jump in the car which then sped into central London and Broadcasting House. Bryan would race into reception and hand in his letter thus saving the delay of one day using postal delivery. I suppose we were both obsessed. I know all our seven children thought we were although there was a hint of some Kudos at school as their parents were frequently aired on Radio 2.

 

Of course, these days, letters would go by email, via the Radio 2 website and via Twitter. In the eighties, we only had snail mail and, while Bryan wrote his letters in perfect handwritten script, mine were typed on the old Olympia portable with lashings of Tippex over the errors.

 

We were having so much fun, following the themes of the programme, adding ideas to existing themes and commenting on topics in the news with the humorous punchline that we could both do so well. It was clear early on in our relationship that we shared a unique sense of humour and a sense of what would appeal to Terry on his show, which is why we were so successful. In two years, I had 120 letters read out on the show and Bryan around one hundred, a lower figure he has always resented!

 

But there were other knock-on effects which brought much pleasure. Bryan had always been good at contacting people and making friends. He contacted other writers to the programme and some of them were in touch with other writers so within a few months we had about ten contributors who all wanted to be in touch and we even started a magazine called the Twit Times written and edited by us which included funny letters and photographs, most of which related to the Radio 2 show and Terry Wogan. We began to meet up in London. Around this time a member made contact with Terry’s agent and what followed was one memorable occasion when we met up with the Great Man.

Then the devastating blow that was the announcement that the Terry Wogan show on Radio 2 would finish in December 1983. We were bereft but not deterred. We were already in touch with Terry’s agent and she made contact with us prior to the last show asking if we would come on the programme for his final goodbye. Discussions took place with Radio 2 and with us and we were finally invited to the last show to appear on the programme and to be entertained afterwards to a champagne breakfast in the roof-top restaurant adjacent to BBC Broadcasting House. I had to ask for a day off from my teaching job but my Head of Department was a Terry fan so there was no problem there

 

And so it was that, in late 1983, ten of us TWITS arrived at BBC Broadcasting House, to be treated as royalty and taken to the studio, the room where our many letters had been read on air. As well as Bryan and I there was Mike Walsh, Len Horridge, Alison Walker-Moorcroft, Betty Collyer, Nancy Chilver, Katie Mallet, Pat Stimpson and Frankie Bain.  We were interviewed and, as pre-arranged – we presented Terry with a ‘Gong’. This had been organised by Bryan Anders and our names were engraved on it. Terry had often bemoaned his lack of knighthood or recognition in the ‘honours list’ so our Gong was a token of our respect as, at the time, we didn’t think he would ever receive one. But, of course, he did eventually become Sir Terry Wogan and no-one was more pleased than the ten TWITS.

 

Our experience at the rooftop restaurant is a day we will always remember but during the programme we had been able to write down what we wanted Terry to mention. For example, Bryan wrote something about his sons not liking the fact that he wrote to the programme and Terry read this out. I wrote down dedications to my three daughters, also duly read out. When the show was over and we had presented Tel with his Gong, we departed for the restaurant. The photographs are evidence of our ultimate thrill at being part of this final radio event.

 

The Terry experience was not over. We were then invited to Terry’s first television show and for a meal afterwards. During this programme, Terry tripped down the steps. He was not used to television and we were all aware that he was better suited to radio. However, his chat show endured and we attended several other programmes and were entertained by Terry in a nearby restaurant afterwards.

 

Is it any wonder that Bryan and I have such fond memories of Terry Wogan? After all, writing letters to his radio programme is what brought us together. When we eventually married in 1988 there was a telegram from him which read:

 

‘Those who Terry Wogan has brought together, let no man set asunder.’

 

It has not all been plain sailing but 35 years on we are still a couple. We do not live together but have separate flats in a large building overlooking Swanage bay towards Old Harry Rocks. We have fantastic days out, fun meals together, enjoy holidays and family events. Not a day goes by but we don’t remember the famous guy whose lovely radio programme and wonderful delivery of our funny letters made our life what it is today.

 

When we heard the news of Terry’s death we were both consumed with grief. I was away with family but listened to the Richard Madeley programme as I travelled back down the M3 to the south coast. Richard was standing in for Terry and had been doing so for a few weeks. He expected Terry to return in a couple of weeks but it was not to be. Today, 31st January, he played the songs that Terry loved and played on his turntable in the eighties and even more recently on his show. From the first song to the last, tears rushed down my cheeks.

 

They were ‘our songs’. The songs we shared during the early days of our relationship and the songs which had so much meaning for us.

 

Not many couples will ever have what we have – the memories of a great broadcaster – a legend in the BBC – reading our scripts without alteration, making listeners laugh, being part of our lives.

 

It is the greatest gift to make someone laugh. To bring pleasure. To bring smiles to faces.

 

And that is what we did for two or three years.

 

It is clear to me now – and I believed it would happen then – that Terry Wogan, Sir Terry Wogan to most, kickstarted my writing career. After our experience with his Radio 2 show, I sat down to write a humorous novel, and then a second. They did not get further than an agent’s shelf but I never gave up and the result eventually was, Grandma’s Poetry Book, which I know has given pleasure to so many with its humour and observation of the funnier side of life. Numerous other articles have won prizes or been showcased on websites. The humour from the Terry years is present in each and every one.

 

So what can I say on this saddest of days. He was a one-off, a generous, unassuming man with a tremendous intelligence and wit, warm and witty. We will not see his like again.

 

And Bryan and I are so very grateful.  Grateful that we knew him personally, that we had a special link with his radio programme and the funny themes perpetrated by the big man himself and the TWITs. The TOGs came later but we had the best of times with Terry.

 

Today, my phone, email and Facebook page have been splurged with condolences and messages from friends who know how important this man was in our life together. We will never forget and will be forever in his debt for providing a medium that brought us together for life.

 

HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD WITH READING

 

As a Dyslexia tutor and someone who regularly assessed students in Further Education for examination arrangements, I am often asked what parents can do to help their child with reading. Not all children are avid readers. Some will actively avoid it. This is not, believe me, laziness. After all, I often tell parents, wouldn’t you avoid something you found really difficult?

 

So what can you do? There are so many ways a parent can help and, unfortunately, some discourage reading without realising they are doing it. One example is the parent who sniffs about comics believing these are not good for children. Well, I ask the parents who say this, do you want your child to read or not? If children read what they enjoy they will become the readers you want to see sitting absorbed by a book on your sofa.

 

First, have plenty of books around, on accessible shelves, coffee tables, in piles by sofas. Don’t insist they are put away tidily and kept on high shelves or inside bookcases. Let the child see you choose books in the library – don’t do this when they are at school. Make it a pleasurable outing, at least once or twice a week. Choose books together. Books about your next holiday destination.  Let them read the map and the 10 best things to see in ? Read it together. Use the internet and read the screen together. Teach them to search on Google and read up on something they enjoy. It could be the latest Madagascar film. Read the reviews aloud and then let them read some.

 

DO YOU READ? Let your child see you read. Have quiet times when everyone in the family reads. Turn the television off at these times. Share what you are reading. Discuss the book or comic strip.

Read out news stories (with discretion) and encourage the child to find something worth sharing with the family

 

Limit screen time. This is worth a full blog itself. Reading screens is good but screen time should be restricted for many health and social reasons.

 

Read, read, read to your child even long after he or she can read for themselves. They still need to hear/see words jump off the page and feel the magic.

 

Put expression into your reading. This may mean looking at the book ahead of time. Don’t worry if your reading isn’t exactly perfect or accurate. Put on a gruff voice if necessary, a squeaky voice for a silly character, a fairy voice for the fairy. Use your own imagination to help your child access theirs.

 

Sit with your child and read together. Run your finger along the line so your child does not lose his place. Never jump in to correct the child. You can point out an error later. Don’t let them lose the flow.

 

Don’t forbid comics or similar. If your child enjoys reading something with pictures and words, it is better than if he does not read at all.

 

One novelty may be to have subtitles on television programmes.

 

Don’t resort to audio books alone but do encourage the use of an audio book combined with the text. Get the child to listen to the audio and follow the text with their finger. This gives them reinforcement of the sounds that make up the words.

 

Get a read aloud program for your computer and set this up so your child can hear the words on websites and other documents.

 

When your child reads to you, make a note of the words he misreads or gets stuck on. Tell him the word immediately so he can read on without hesitation. Don’t make him struggle or he will become disaffected. Afterwards look at a few of the words together. Find other words with the same pattern. For longer words break the word down into syllables.

 

For written homework or story writing, get your child to dictate what he wants to put on paper and write this down for him. If you are proficient on a computer, type the words for him, print it out (in large font) and then read it back to him. Then get the child to read it to you. To encourage responsibility, the child could highlight difficult words with a highlighter pen. This allows you to return to the work later and point to the words.

 

Encourage the writing of a diary and get the child to read it to you.

 

Visit your library and borrow books connected to something he is passionately interested in. Running? Cricket? Football?  The key is for your child to ENJOY reading and see what it has to offer.

 

Make sure your child knows the sounds of the letters and can put them together eg c-r  It is amazing how many children are brought to private tutors for reading and spelling tuition only for the tutor to find they do not know all the sounds. How can they possibly work out a new word if they do not know this basic skill? Unfortunately some sound ‘gaps’ are often missed by teachers faced with thirty five pupils of differing ability. TAs could be asked to check the sound knowledge of those struggling with reading.

 

Play Ispy from an early age. At least three times a week. When waiting at the doctor’s surgery, on the bus or train. In the car. Anywhere.

 

Buy Junior Scrabble and play in teams so that a younger child has some adult help and doesn’t struggle alone and give up. This encourages success which builds self esteem and improves reading.

 

Take every opportunity to read when out and about. Signs, posters, labels, shop signs. Ask the children to choose items from the shelves. Ask them to look for specific items ie certain brands.

 

When making Christmas lists, let the child get the information from catalogues or the internet and write down what they want. They will learn that reading has PURPOSE and see the benefit.

 

Reading is a life skill and it should enhance our experience. Children need to learn the value of reading and how it will provide valuable life experiences. You are the person who can help them to see this. After all, as a parent, you are not having to tick boxes.

 

Finally, if your child resists your attempts to help them with reading – this is very common as children find it hard and parents have difficulty being both parent and teacher –  do take them to a tutor, qualified in teaching children with Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia). They are the tutors who will peel back the child’s learning in the same way you would peel an onion and find the gaps which are hindering the child’s progress. The money will be well spent.

 

And if you do use a tutor, listen to the advice given as the child leaves and follow it through. You have paid for the advice as well as the lesson, so LISTEN and DO IT.

 

Happy reading for all! You and your child!

 

Di Castle is a qualified Dyslexia Tutor and has worked with students in Further and Higher Education as well as with primary pupils.

Charity Begins at Home

Christmas! The time for families to get together if distance and circumstances allow. It is also the time when charities prey on many of us via our letterboxes, telephones and newspaper advertisements hoping to induce some guilt and catch the attention of those eager for some Christmas spirit.

Don’t get me wrong. I support charities throughout the year and since my book, Grandma’s Poetry Book, was published I have given many free copies for raffle prizes or charity competition prizes. Several Dorset charities have display copies and keep £1 for each book sold via their online or high street shop. I buy Christmas cards which support charities and I regularly clear out unwanted presents, clothes and bric a brac and donate to my local Weldmar Hospice shop.

However, I am more sceptical since the rush of ‘bad news’ stories in the press.

The heartbreaking story of 92 year old Olive Cooke who took her life when inundated with pleas for money is one. We now know how the charities obtained her details and sent official letters to which she felt obligated. A Daily Mail investigation discovered Mrs Cooke’s name was on a list of donors maintained by shadowy data firms and sold on to charities.  The vulnerable and elderly Samuel Rae also felt obliged to respond and lost track of how many payments he was making to charities.

 

With Christmas around the corner, what can families do to ensure their elderly relatives don’t fall into these traps? While distance may prevent adult children from visiting and monitoring their parents’ activities, it may be wise to nurture a relationship with a friendly neighbour who can keep an eye on their elderly relative.  In case they do not already know this, anyone can put a vulnerable person’s name down on the Mail Preference Service to prevent charity mail shots. When a relative of mine disclosed she had written cheques to the tune of £200 one December (notoriously the peak month for begging letters) I told her I would ensure she received no more post and on returning home entered her postal details on the site http://www.mpsonline.org.uk. However, I also gave her advice such as binning ‘junk mail’ immediately and made her promise not to open junk mail or write another cheque. I have followed up with reminders.

 

But relatives are not always aware and those caught in scams or paying out more donations than they can afford are often too embarrassed to raise the subject. Sadly some younger relatives have broken contact with elderly relatives who have given away large sums of money which they class as ‘theirs’. So what else can be done?

 

WHAT ABOUT THE BANKS?

Banks should have a responsibility to contact customers who appear to set up too many direct debits to charities. My own view is that three modest amounts – say £3 a month each – should be enough for any pensioner on a basic pension. Our banks owe us a duty of care and should be monitoring our accounts for unusual activity. Let us all ask our bank (if we still see a face) if they do this. I was surprised that about 30 cheques written by my relative for small amounts to charity was not queried by her bank or building society. PayPal restricted my account after unusual activity. The scam purchase was pursued by PayPal and they succeeded in getting the money back. If PayPal can monitor accounts then surely the banks should.

 

WHERE IS THE GOVERNMENT?

The Government could also take some action such as setting up public information advertisements on both BBC and independent television channels. Despite the horrific cases and suicides, I have yet to see a sensible information film warning about the plethora of begging letters at this time of year. Such advertisements could include information on how to register with the mail preference service and ways to do this for those who cannot or will not go online.

HOW CAN CHARITIES HELP?

The charities themselves should have a responsibility to monitor their benefactors, perhaps even adding a section on the mandate or newspaper advertisement asking for details of other charities the donor is also supporting. The charities involved in both the above cases insist they followed ethical standards but they should take some responsibility for the passing on of details. Surely it is time for selling a person’s details to be made illegal. The plight of people pensioners as Olive Cooke and Samuel Rae should be a wakeup call to charities. More precautions are needed. David Cameron has called for watchdogs to investigate these cases. The Fundraising Standards Board needs to be investigating ALL charities and make them answerable.

 

Telephone Preference Service enables anyone to register and prevent unwanted calls. However, TPS regulations do not apply if the charity or selling organisation has consent. For example, if you have a bank account, that bank can phone and try to sell services without falling foul of TPS. We all know how difficult it is to find out the name of the company phoning. A minor change would be that telephone sales staff should, by law, have to state the name of their firm at the start of the call – this is extremely difficult information to ascertain from a persistent telesalesperson especially those offshore! TPS also cannot stop the recorded messages being left – a common practice these days – and a clear attempt to get round the regulations which govern the service. Again the law needs to be changed to prohibit recorded messages being left on answerphones. Our landlines operate within our private home space and these intrusions can cause untold stress and anxiety.

What can charities do?

Charities need us. They need volunteers so they need to be more flexible especially with those who are elderly. Ask the volunteer what they can do rather than tell them what you want. Foster a good relationship and remember they are not paid staff. There is no need for a volunteer to be behind the counter at 5pm. That is the job of the paid staff. And stop these unwanted calls which can cause distress.

If you have cause for complaint you can take this to the Fundraising Standards Board who will investigate the issue.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3083859/Shame-charities-drove-Olive-death-Organisations-exploited-pensioner-s-kind-heart-admit-sending-begging-letters.html#ixzz3kl9wIIis

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3217506/New-shame-charities-Widower-s-details-passed-200-times-leading-lose-35-000-getting-731-demands-cash.html#ixzz3kl9HBgSP
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If you or someone you know have been targeted with excessive fundraising approaches please contact investigations@dailymail.co.uk.

If you or a family member of yours has been the victim of scams, help is available at http://www.thinkjessica.com/

 

A version of this article appeared first on www. henpicked.net in December.

I am a writer living in Swanage. Born and bred in Hertfordshire, I always had a love of words, writing as soon as I could hold a pen. My sister is profoundly deaf and I have a passionate interest in raising deaf awareness. After my youngest daughter went to school I began a career teaching in Further Education, while collecting a hoard of unfinished manuscripts. Later, my writing took precedence and, since becoming a regular attendee at the Winchester Writers’ Conference, I have enjoyed success in their competitions gaining two first prizes and highly commended awards for articles on a range of subjects. I began blogging in 2012 and as well as issues surrounding deafness I blog on mental health, dyslexia, writing and anything topical that stirs me to fire up the computer. My poetry collection, Grandma’s Poetry Book, was self-published by Matador in November 2014. I have other books in progress and there is interest from agents in my memoir of growing up with a deaf sibling. Before moving to Swanage in 2001, I enjoyed a nomadic existence in Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and South Bucks before finally settling down on the south coast. I live close to my partner, Bryan, in a Victorian building overlooking Swanage Bay with views towards Bournemouth and Old Harry Rocks. I have three daughters and seven grandchildren.