Keep it to yourself Part 5

Pulling open her thick blue curtains, Brenda looks across the street and watches as people walk along the pavement or drive past in their cars.  She stands there for a while looking up and down the street but can see that Andy is not there yet.  When she hears the sound of Amy shutting her bedroom door, Brenda turns round and picks up her clock. Not long to go now, she had better start getting dressed.

Brenda needs to choose something nice to wear when she meets Andy again today. She is sure that he really likes her. Whenever she thinks about Andy, Brenda feels really happy.

It was just last week when Andy told Brenda that his sister was in a lot of trouble and asked Brenda to help him. When he said she needed £150 Brenda was shocked.  But Andy told her he would give Brenda the money back today, so there was no need to tell anyone. This would be their secret.

Even though Brenda knows this is a lot of money, she likes Andy a lot and he said he liked her too. When she gave Andy the money, he was so happy that Brenda knew she had done the right thing. Having a secret with Andy makes her feel very happy and she has told no one about the money because she doesn’t want anyone to find out.

Today is the day when she will meet Andy again and get her money back and Brenda can’t wait! As soon as she has put on her blue dress, Brenda runs to her bedroom window and is so excited when sees Andy across the road.

Andy is standing with his hands in his pockets but looks up when he hears Brenda banging on the window. He waves at her and then starts to cross the road and walks towards the door of number 81 Magnolia Street.

Picking up her heavy bag, Brenda runs out of her bedroom and nearly falls down the stairs. As she opens her front door, Andy is already waiting outside.

“Look at my dress Andy, do you like it?” Brenda asks him.

Andy looks at her and smiles.

“Yes, nice dress,“ Andy tells her as they walk along Magnolia Street together.

“Have you got my money?” Brenda asks him quickly, “I haven’t told anyone. Not even Amy.”

Andy stops walking.  “Good, I’m glad you haven’t told anyone because there’s something I want to ask you,” he says quietly.

“Oh. What do you want to ask me Andy, is it another secret?” Brenda asks.

“Why don’t we go and sit in the park and I’ll tell you,” Andy tells her.

As they walk off towards the park, Brenda is thinking about what he is going to ask her.  Perhaps he wants to ask her if she wants to go for a meal or go to the cinema with him.  This is very exciting.

When they get to the park, Andy points to a bench near the duck pond and they sit down on the cold green bench.  Brenda can’t wait to hear what he is going to say.

“What did you want to ask me?” Brenda asks him, as she puts her bag on the floor in front of her.

“Brenda, it’s good that you didn’t tell anyone about the money you gave me,” Andy tells her.

“I didn’t tell anyone, not even Amy,” Brenda says.

“Good, because I need more money,” Andy says quickly as he gets his phone out of his pocket.

Brenda stares at him.

“I can’t give you any more money Andy, I need my money back because I’ll get into big trouble,” Brenda explains.

Andy looks at her and smiles.  Brenda is quiet for a minute. She doesn’t want to upset Andy because he is her friend.  When he told her he liked her Brenda felt really happy.

“How much money do you need Andy?” Brenda asks him as she gets out her purse.

When Andy tells her that he needs another £200, Brenda almost drops her purse.  Andy reaches out to try to get her purse but Brenda holds onto it tightly.

Andy isn’t smiling anymore, he looks angry.

“I need the money,” Andy tells her.  Then he shouts, “If you don’t give me the money I’ll tell my friends.  I know where you live.  You don’t want anything to happen to Amy, do you?”

Brenda looks at Andy, she is confused and upset and she is feeling scared.

Andy grabs hold of her hand and screams, “Give me your purse, Brenda.”

Slowly, Brenda holds out her purse to him and Andy lets go of her hand.  Then he walks off and out of the park with Brenda’s purse in his hand.

Brenda shouts out and asks him when he will bring her purse back.  She wants to know when she will see him again. But Andy doesn’t answer.  He is already too far away from her.

Then in the distance she sees a woman.  He kisses her, and they both turn round, stop, look at Brenda and laugh.

Brenda sits alone on the bench and starts to cry.  She sits there for a long time, thinking about Andy, the woman and her purse.

As it starts to get dark, Brenda is still sitting alone in the park waiting for Andy to come back with her purse.

Brenda asks you these questions;

page49Where did I meet Andy today?

What was our secret?

Why did Andy get angry?

What do you think will happen next?







Keep it to yourself – Part 4

Brenda walks out of the Harper Street Centre on a sunny but cold Tuesday afternoon.  Although she’s had a busy day, Brenda has been thinking about what her best friend Amy said to her last night.  When Amy told her that she had seen Andy with a woman and a little girl, Brenda was surprised.  Then Amy told her that the woman must be his girlfriend because they were holding hands. Brenda was so angry that she shouted at Amy and said that she was lying.

??????As she walks along the street swinging her bag, Brenda is hoping she will see Andy again today.  When she met him at the bus stop a few weeks ago, Brenda liked Andy straight away.  They chatted on the bus and Brenda showed him her bank cards and keyrings.  Brenda didn’t even know she had dropped one of her bank cards that day.  Then she saw Andy again the next week and was so happy when he  said he had found it.  Last week Andy even helped her when a boy on a bike knocked her over and she hurt her leg.  Andy is such a nice man and Brenda is sure that he likes her.

She is still thinking about Andy as she crosses the road.  Just as Brenda gets to the other side, she sees Andy standing at the corner of the street.  He is busy talking on his mobile phone and Brenda starts to run towards him.

“It’s me, it’s me,” Brenda shouts out.

Andy turns round when he hears Brenda’s voice and he quickly puts the phone in his pocket.  Brenda is feeling so excited to see him but she also wants to ask him about the woman that Amy saw him with.

“Who were you talking to on the phone?” Brenda asks, as she puts her bag down on the pavement.

Andy is quiet for a minute and then he says, “Oh, it was someone I know who is having a lot of problems.

“Well, my friend Amy told me she saw you with a woman and a little girl. Is she your girlfriend? I told Amy she was lying,” Brenda says in a loud voice.

Andy looks at her, puts his hands in his pockets and laughs.

“Oh no, I haven’t got a girlfriend Brenda,” he says. “That woman your friend saw me with is my sister and that little girl is her daughter.”

“I knew it, I knew it,” she tells him smiling.  Brenda is feeling so happy that Andy hasn’t got a girlfriend and she can’t wait to tell Amy.

“Do you like me Andy?” Brenda asks him.

Andy picks up Brenda’s bag and gives it to her and together they walk towards Magnolia Street.  map

“Of course I like you Brenda, that’s why I need you to help me,” Andy tells her. “My sister lives on the Harper Street estate and she’s in real trouble.”

“I can help,” Brenda says, “I’m your friend.  Why is your sister in trouble?”

Andy thinks for a minute, puts his hand through his hair and then looks at Brenda.

“I have been trying all day to find someone who can help me.  I don’t like asking you but my sister has a little girl and I’m very worried about them.  Could you lend me some money to help my sister pay her rent?” Andy says quickly.

Brenda looks up at him, and feels really sad when she sees that Andy is upset.

“I’ll need to speak to my support worker,” Brenda tells him as they walk past an old man with his dog.

Andy stops walking and stands in front of her.

“Listen Brenda, you know how much I like you.  You are a good person. If you lend me the money, I will pay you back next week.  No one needs to know, it will be our secret.  You don’t need to tell your friend or your support worker or anyone else,” Andy says quietly.

“How much money do you need?” she asks him.

When Andy tells her that he needs £150, Brenda is shocked. That is a lot of money.  Brenda wants to give him the money but she knows she will be in a lot of trouble if their support worker finds out.  The money in their bank is to pay for  household bills.

While she is thinking about the money, Andy tells her that he needs it this afternoon.  He explains that his sister and her little girl will have nowhere to live if they don’t have the money soon. Then he says that if Brenda won’t help him, he might have to move away to look after his sister.

Brenda looks at Andy and decides right away that she will lend him the money.

“I need you to go home and get your bank card Brenda,” Andy tells her.  “But remember; don’t tell your friend what you’re doing.  She’ll only ask lots of questions and she isn’t as clever as you are.”

When Brenda nods her head, Andy smiles at her and Brenda feels good.  She is pleased that Andy knows how clever she is and of course everyone knows that Amy isn’t clever at all.

Brenda agrees to go home and get her bank card and will meet Andy outside the bank on Blossom Street at 4 o’clock. This is really exciting!  Andy has asked her to help him so he must really like her.

As Brenda runs inside the house to get her bank card Andy walks towards Blossom Street.  Taking his mobile phone from his pocket, Andy can’t wait to tell Jenny that he will have the money later today.

They are both going to have a very good evening!

Brenda asks you these questions:


What did Amy say about Andy?

What did Andy ask me to do?

Do you think I should keep this a secret?

What do you think will happen next?


Keep it to yourself Part 3


mapAndy walks along Magnolia Street on a very windy Tuesday morning.  Last week, he waited outside the Harper Street Centre for Brenda but she wasn’t there. Today, he is walking up and down Magnolia Street trying to remember where Brenda lives.  As Andy walks past the row of shops on Magnolia Street, he stands and waits for a while before going inside.

On the other side of the street, Brenda is getting ready to go out.  Before she puts her coat on, Brenda stops, looks out of the window and then looks again.  She is sure that she can see Andy standing on the other side of the street. Shouting out his name, Brenda rushes towards the front door and nearly trips over her bag.

When she opens the door, all Brenda can see is the old man who lives across the road, putting his bin out. Walking outside, Brenda looks up Magnolia Street and she looks down Magnolia Street.  Andy is nowhere to be seen.  Feeling sad, Brenda walks back inside and slams the front door shut. For a few minutes, Brenda stands in front of the window and stares as cars and people go by.  Now she is not sure if it was Andy.

As she stands by the window, she doesn’t hear her friend Amy walk into the room and stand behind her.

“I thought you had gone out, Brenda,” Amy tells her, “I heard the front door shut.  Aren’t you going to the Harper Street Centre today?”

Surprised, Brenda turns round quickly and looks at Amy.  Then she picks up her heavy bag, puts on her coat and says in a loud voice “I’m going out now Amy.  Goodbye.”

Without looking back at Amy, Brenda rushes out of the living room and opens the front door.  Slamming the door shut behind her, Brenda turns round and then suddenly, she stops.

She can’t believe that Andy is standing outside her house. He has his hands in his pockets and he’s smiling at her.

“Andy, I knew it was you,” Brenda shouts as she runs towards him.  It’s been two weeks since she last saw him and Brenda didn’t think she would see him again.

“Hi Brenda, I thought I saw you when I was in the shop across the street,” Andy tells her.  “Where are you going today?”

??????Brenda tells Andy about the cooking course she goes to on a Tuesday.  Andy looks at Brenda and listens while she proudly tells him that she is going to bake scones today. Just as they start to walk down the street, Brenda looks up and sees Amy standing at the window watching them.

“Can you help me cross the road?” Brenda asks Andy as she grabs his arm.

“Of course I can, and I’ll walk with you to the Harper Street Centre,” he tells Brenda.  “I can make sure you get there safely,” he explains, as they walk along the street. Brenda is so pleased that Amy saw her with Andy and knows she will tell all their friends.

Brenda listens carefully when Andy tells her to stop and wait until it is safe for them both to cross the street.  As they walk along Magnolia Street and into Harper Street, Andy asks Brenda lots of questions.  He wants to know what days she goes out, where she goes and where she was last week.  Brenda is very happy to answer all his questions.

Just as they turn the corner they see a boy on his bike coming towards them on the pavement.  He is going so fast that Brenda hasn’t got time to move out of the way. Andy shouts out but the boy rides his bike in between them and pushes Brenda to the ground.

Andy starts to run after the boy but he knows he won’t be able to catch him. Brenda is still lying on the ground as Andy turns round and walks back to her.

“Brenda, are you alright? Come on, let me help you up,” Andy says quietly as he helps her to stand up.

As Brenda starts to stand up, she cries out that she can feel a pain in her leg.

“My leg, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts,” Brenda says loudly as she looks up at Andy.page46

Andy looks worried.  He walks her to a wall outside a house and tells her to sit down so that he can look at her leg.

When Brenda sees that her trousers are torn she starts to get very angry. She tells Andy that the boy should not have been riding his bike on the pavement.  It is that boy’s fault that she has a broken leg and that her trousers are torn.

Bending down, Andy looks at Brenda and then at her leg.  He can see some blood coming through a small hole in the knee of her trousers. Speaking quietly, Andy tells her that he doesn’t think her leg is broken but it will be sore.

“Brenda, have you got anything in your bag you can clean your leg with?” Andy asks her.  He explains that her trousers are only a little bit torn.

While Brenda looks in her bag, Andy stands and watches and she takes out first her purse, then some key-rings and then a big box of tissues.

Andy smiles at her and tells her to hold a tissue on her knee.  Even though her leg hurts, Brenda feels so happy that Andy is with her. What would she have done if she was on her own?

It isn’t long before Andy tells Brenda that her knee looks much better. He says that she should try to walk to the centre because it isn’t far away and he will help her. Brenda stands up and she holds on to Andy’s arm as they walk slowly along the street.

At the Harper Street Centre, Andy helps her to walk inside and tells her to sit down and wait. Andy walks over to the Reception Desk and Brenda hears him explain what happened.   After he has finished talking, a lady comes over and talks to Brenda.  When she tells Brenda that she will get someone from the cooking course to look after her, Andy says he has to go.

As Andy leaves the centre, Brenda looks at him as he opens the door and waves back at her.  Although she feels sad, she can’t wait to tell everyone about Andy and what happened today.  Now she is sure that Andy really, really likes her. The way he looked after shows that he is such a kind, nice and caring man.

Outside the centre, Andy walks back down Harper Street towards Magnolia Street.  Walking round the corner, Andy stops when he sees the boy sitting on his bike.  He smiles when the boy waves to him and crosses the street to speak to him.  Putting his hand in his pocket, Andy takes out his wallet and gives the boy some money.

When the boy rides off on his bike, Andy gets out his phone.  He is feeling very pleased with himself.  It has not been difficult at all to get Brenda to trust him. Now he knows where Brenda lives he will be back in Magnolia Street again soon.

page49Brenda asks you these questions:

Where was I going today and why?

What happened when I met Andy?

Do you think Andy is my friend?

What do you think Andy will do next?




Keep it to yourself – Part Two

When Brenda went into town two weeks ago, she met a really nice man called Andy waiting at the bus stop.  She chatted to him on the bus and she really liked him but she hasn’t seen Andy since that day.

Her friends have heard all about Andy, because Brenda hasn’t stopped talking about him.  Now she is worried that she won’t see Andy ever again. That is, until Tuesday afternoon………

??????As Brenda walks along Harper Street on her way back from the Harper Street Centre, she suddenly sees Andy walking on the other side of the road. He is busy talking on his phone so Brenda knows she will have to shout loudly to make him hear her.

“Andy, Andy, it’s me,” she shouts excitedly as she runs up the road waving her arms around. She can’t believe it really is him.

Andy stops when he hears his name being called and seems surprised to see Brenda. While cars go up and down the busy road, he stands on the other side of the road and watches her. Brenda is worried that he won’t remember who she is.  She’s been thinking about Andy for such a long time and now he is here.  What will she do if he doesn’t want to speak to her after she has told her friends all about him?

While she is thinking what to do, she sees him crossing the road and he starts walking towards her.

“Hi Brenda, good to see you again,” he says as he puts his phone into his pocket.  “What are you doing here?”

Brenda can’t stop smiling.  He has remembered her. And he knows her name and he looks happy to see her.

“I’ve just been to the Harper Street centre to do cooking,” Brenda tells him.  “I was just going home.”

“Brenda, I’m so glad I’ve seen you,” Andy tells her, as he reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out his wallet.

Brenda watches as he takes a bank card from his wallet and hands it to her.

“What’s this?” Brenda asks him, as she holds the card in her hand and looks at it carefully.

Andy tells Brenda that when they were on the bus together, she must have dropped her bank card.  He explained that when he got up from his seat, he must have picked it up by mistake.

“Oh. Thank You Andy,” Brenda says as she puts the card back in her purse.

“It’s an old bank card but I thought you might have been looking for it,” Andy says.  “I was worried at first because I thought it was a new bank card.  It was only when I checked it that I saw it was out of date.”

Brenda opens her purse and shows Andy all the many different cards she has inside.

“These are all my cards,” she tells Andy. “We keep the new bank card at home to pay the bills. I like to keep all the old cards in my purse.”

Andy stares at all the cards in her purse and then looks at Brenda. “When you showed this bank card to me on the bus you said you used this one to pay your bills,” Andy says.

“I’m not really supposed to keep all of these cards in my purse. My support worker, Jackie, tells me to cut them up and throw them away but I like to keep them,” Brenda explains. Andy stands and watches as Brenda puts her purse back in her bag, then he quickly looks at his watch and tells her he has to go now.

As he starts to walk away from her, Brenda calls out and asks him where he is going.  Andy doesn’t answer.  Instead, he takes his phone out of his pocket and starts to talk. Brenda watches as Andy walks down Harper Street and then, finally, he turns to wave goodbye to her.

Brenda looks down the road and waits until she can’t see him anymore. Then she gets her two favourite key-rings out of her bag and holds them in her hand.page51

Turning round, she starts the short walk home to Magnolia Street singing quietly to herself.  She is disappointed that Andy didn’t stay long but Brenda can’t wait to tell her best friend Amy, all about him.

Meanwhile, Andy is telling his friends all about Brenda and trying hard to remember where she lives. Still, he will make sure that he is walking down Harper Street at the same time next week.


Brenda asks you these questions:

Where did I meet Andy?

What did Andy give me?

Why do you think he did this?

What do you think Andy will tell his friends about me?

Do you think I will see Andy again?



Keep it to yourself

Brenda knew she shouldn’t give her credit card PIN number to anyone but he was such a nice man.  She liked his hair and the way he smiled at her.  When she was with him, Brenda forgot all about personal safety and the things she learnt on the keeping safe course. So who was this man and why did Brenda give him her credit card PIN number?

…it’s a cold and windy Monday morning as Brenda walks along Magnolia Street on her way to the bus stop. As she waits to cross the road, Brenda thinks about her best friend Amy.  Even though Brenda is off to town on her own today, she feels really happy.  The best thing about today is that she will get to spend time with Gary and Jack on her own.  When Amy is with her, all Gary wants to do is talk to Amy. He doesn’t want to hear what Brenda has to say.

When Amy found out that Brenda was going to meet Gary and Jack without her, Amy was upset.  Brenda reminded Amy that she couldn’t go because she had to go to her independent living course. Amy tried to tell Brenda that she didn’t want to go but Brenda wasn’t listening.

??????As Brenda crosses Magnolia Street, she can see there is already someone waiting at the bus stop. Brenda knows lots of people who use this bus and she likes to talk to them.  Walking quickly, she tries to work out who it is waiting at the bus stop.

When she gets nearer, Brenda is surprised that she doesn’t know this man.  He looks really nice and Brenda knows she would have remembered him if she’d seen him before.  As he sees Brenda walking towards him, this nice looking man takes his mobile phone out of his jacket pocket and then turns away from her.

Brenda stops at the bus stop, puts her bag down on the floor and watches him.  He starts to walk away from her and begins speaking on his phone but Brenda can’t hear what he’s saying.

Suddenly he turns round, stands still and looks at Brenda.  She smiles at him and is thinking about who he looks like, when this nice looking man starts to speak.

“Do you know how long the bus will be, I’ve been waiting ages?” he asks her.

“It will be here soon,” Brenda tells him, then quickly goes on to say, “my name’s Brenda.  Where do you live, I haven’t seen you before?”

He looks down at Brenda and then at his phone as he tries to work out what he should say.

“Andy, my name’s Andy” he says as he puts his phone into his jacket pocket.

Before he has a chance to say anything else, Brenda tells him that she lives at 81 Magnolia Street with her best friend Amy Cooper.  She is about to say why she is going to town today when Andy tells her that the bus is coming.

As they wait for people to get off the bus, Brenda looks through her bag for her bus pass.  She knows this bus won’t be very busy today and makes up her mind that she will sit next to Andy.  Brenda needs to find out more about this nice looking man.

Andy pays the driver and starts to walk down the bus past lots of empty seats. Brenda has already shown the driver her bus pass and is not far behind him.  Finding a seat, Andy sits by the window and is about to get his phone out of his pocket again when Brenda sits down next to him.

“Look at these,” Brenda says, as she starts to get some of her key-rings out of her bag.  Brenda has lots of key-rings and she loves to show them to people.  She puts them onto her lap and describes them to Andy as the bus starts the short journey into town.page51

When Brenda takes another two key-rings out of her bag, her purse falls on the floor. Andy reaches down and picks it up off the floor and is about to hand it to her when her credit card falls on his lap.

He looks at the card and then at Brenda while she is still telling Andy about her key-rings.

“Oh, thanks,” Brenda says to Andy, “this is our credit card and we use it to pay our bills.  I’m not really supposed to keep it in my purse.  Amy doesn’t know I’ve got it with me,” she explains.

Andy tells Brenda that she should keep it safe because someone might steal it.  He gives the card back to Brenda and she looks up at him and smiles.  Then she takes a piece of paper from her purse.

“Look,” she says “I’ve got the PIN number written down so I don’t forget it. People need to know this number before they can steal our money. I know because I’ve done a money skills course.” Brenda explains.

Brenda knows she shouldn’t tell anyone but Andy is such a nice man so it is alright to tell him this number. She’s glad Amy isn’t with her because Brenda knows that Amy would remind her that she shouldn’t tell anyone their PIN number.

Andy looks out of the window and starts to get his phone out of his jacket pocket.  Brenda is still talking about her key-rings and stops when she sees Andy has his phone in his hand.

“Who are you phoning?” Brenda asks him.  As Andy taps his phone, he says that he is not phoning anyone, he’s just checking for messages.

Putting his phone back into his jacket pocket, Andy tells Brenda that he is going for a job interview today and he doesn’t want to be late.  Brenda really wants to ask him more questions but Andy starts to stand up and tells her that this is his stop. Holding on to her bag, Brenda stands up and Andy moves quickly past her and off the bus. She calls out to him and he turns to wave at her.

Looking out of the window, Brenda watches Andy crossing the road as the bus drives off into town.   She can’t wait to tell Gary and Jack about him but Brenda decides she won’t tell Amy.

Walking quickly, Andy takes the card out of his pocket as he makes his way to the cashpoint.  This is going to be a really good day.


page46Brenda asks you these questions:

Who was I going to meet in town?

Why didn’t Amy come with me?

Why did I give Andy my PIN Card number?

Where was Andy going?

What do you think will happen next?




Letters be clear

In a town not far away, there is a street, a very long street with a variety of houses, flats and shops. It’s a street just like any other street which is why Magnolia Street could be a street that you have walked down many times before.

Amapt one end of Magnolia Street there is a railway bridge which is not far from number 81 where Brenda and Amy share a house together. Then if you cross the road and walk past a row of shops, you will come to a block of flats and this is where their friend Gary lives.

Walking right to the other end of the street, across the road from the park and right next door to the pub, is the house where Jack lives with his mum, dad and sister Bella.

This week Brenda and Amy were sent a letter from the Countdown Housing Association.

This is what happened next….Page8

Standing in front of the window, Brenda watches as Amy walks along Magnolia Street on this cold Monday morning.  The street is quiet now that the children have gone to school.  Amy doesn’t like it when it’s noisy. Sometimes the children shout at Amy and call her rude names if she is on her own. They never do this when Brenda is with her.

Looking at Amy as she walks across the road, Brenda watches as she sometimes stops to touch a wall. Amy likes touching walls.

When Amy is out of sight, Brenda picks up the thick brown envelope the postman has just put through the door. She sits down on her favourite chair, rips the envelope open and stares at the letter.

Brenda knows straight away that this is from Countdown Housing, because she can read this at the top of the letter on the first page.  The letters and information they send are not easy to read because there are always lots of difficult words. Jackie, their support worker helps them with this but Brenda doesn’t like her reading their letters.

As Brenda starts to read the first page she stops and then starts to read again. This is not just a letter.  There are lots of pages with writing and Brenda can’t read it. She sits and looks at all the pages for a long time before finally she stands up and throws them all in the bin in the kitchen.

As she walks back to her chair, Brenda hears the front door opening and is surprised that Amy is back home so soon.  Amy starts to take her coat off as she walks towards Brenda.

page46“I saw the postman earlier,” Amy tells Brenda.  “Are there any letters for me?”

“No, why would there be? Who would write to you anyway?” Brenda says as she picks up her bag and walks back towards the kitchen.

Amy looks at Brenda and follows her. Lying on the floor by the side of the bin, Amy sees the torn brown envelope.

Brenda stands and watches as Amy puts her hand into the bin and takes out the letter from Countdown Housing.

“It’s rubbish,” Brenda tells her, before Amy can say anything.  She doesn’t want Amy asking her what it says when Brenda can’t read it or understand it.

“It’s not rubbish.  It’s from Countdown Housing, why are they writing to us, what does it say?” Amy asks her.  What do they want, are we in trouble?  There’s lots of paper here.”

“Stop asking me questions,” Brenda shouts at her.

Amy sits down at the table and looks at the letter.   Even though Brenda can sometimes be bossy and shout at her, Brenda is Amy’s best friend.

Amy sits looking at it for a long time and Brenda wishes she would just throw it away.

“Jackie will be here tomorrow, why don’t we show it to her and ask her what it says,” Amy says quietly.

“I don’t want to show it to Jackie. I don’t like anyone reading our letters!” Brenda tells her.

Amy looks down at the floor again and is surprised when Brenda stands up and says “I know what we should do.  We should ask Gary and Jack.”

Before Amy can say anything, Brenda picks up the phone and speaks to Gary.

When Brenda tells Gary about the letter from Countdown Housing, Gary tells her that he has one too.  Then he tells Brenda that when he showed this to his friend Jack, he told him the letter is about a consultation.

“What’s a consultation?” Brenda asks him.

Page8Gary tells Brenda that this means you can tell people what you think about their ideas. He explains there are lots of questions in this letter about Countdown Housing’s plans for the next few years.

“Jack says we need to speak to them because it says you can ask for this in large print.” Gary says.

“Where does it say that?” Brenda asks him.

Gary says he thinks it is on the bottom of the letter because this is what Jack told him.

“How do I know to ask for that if I can’t read it,” Brenda shouts back.

Gary doesn’t really like Brenda but she is Amy’s best friend and Gary likes Amy.

“Look Brenda,” Gary says slowly, “Jack told me this because he can read really well.  He said we need to speak to Countdown Housing.”

“Why do we want to speak to them?” Brenda asks him, “I thought you were going to help me.”

Gary explains that if they speak to Countdown Housing they could ask them to make their information easy to read and understand. Then he tells Brenda that Jack said the Stronger Voices group can help Countdown Housing with this.

“The Stronger Voices group we go to made all the leaflets at the Green Gates Centre in easy read, Gary tells her “so we can ask Countdown Housing if we can do this for them too.”

Amy is still sitting at the table listening to Brenda speaking to Gary.  When Brenda puts the phone down, Amy wants to know what he said.

“It’s sorted,” she tells Amy and Brenda walks out of the room.

Brenda asks you this:

 What was wrong with this letter from Countdown Housing?

What do you think Countdown Housing could have done better?

What would you do if you were sent a letter like this?

What do you think will happen next?


Why write a story for and about adults with a learning disability?

amy, jack brenda and garyWhen Amy met Gary in town recently, she was surprised at how much he’d changed. It wasn’t just that he was older but there was something else about him that was very different. When they met up, Amy found out that Gary lived in the same street as her and Gary told Amy more about his friend Jack. Amy couldn’t wait to tell her best friend Brenda all about Gary and the group he goes to called Stronger Voices.

This is the story of four adults with a learning disability and although fictional it’s based on the lives, and experiences of people I have worked with and know well.

Why aren’t there are actors with a learning disability on T.V.? Why don’t shows like Coronation Street or Eastenders have adults with a learning disability in them?  These were just some of the questions some of the people in the group I  was working with asked me one evening.

I agreed with them that there should be more actors with a learning disability on television, films and on the stage and continued to think about this on the way home that night. I thought that if I could find a novel which related the lives of people with a learning disability, we could discuss some of the issues the stories raised.

The night after our conversation, I began my search certain that there would be plenty of great books out there written for adults with a learning disability. A quick search led me to a number of books written for children and adults with autism, Asperger syndrome and physical disabilities but nothing for adults with a learning disability. Surprisingly, after many months of searching, I still couldn’t find a single novel that was written specifically for and about adults a learning disability.

My frustration at not being able to find the book I wanted spurred me on until one day during a long search on the internet, an idea for a novel started to develop. The four main characters, Amy, Jack, Gary and Brenda who all live in Magnolia Street began to take shape and I started to plot out the story.

As I started to write, the characters although fictional, seemed very real to me and their stories interspersed with moments of humour add a realistic tone to the book. I decided to include questions at the end of each chapter to encourage the reader to reflect on the story and discuss some of the issues the characters face.  There are also colourful illustrations throughout the book which is written in a style that is easy to read.

When Amy met Gary is the first book in the Magnolia Street series and early on I decided that the only way to get this book out there was to When_Amy_Met_Gary__Karren_Murray_Book_Coverself-publish. You can now buy this novel either through my website or direct from York Publishing Services.  Although this is a book written primarily for and about young people and adults with a learning disability it is a book that can be read and enjoyed by anyone.

I want this blog to be a place where I can include short stories about the four main characters and focus on specific issues.   What would you or someone you know like to read about in the Tales from Magnolia Street blog?  I welcome any comments and ideas for future stories, you can comment via this blog or my website