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Metro.co.uk: News, Sport, Showbiz, Celebrities from Metro

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    Lucia with her doll and cake
    Lucia is an icon (Picture: Twitter)

    A three-year-old girl has had a birthday party inspired by the 2018 horror film The Nun – and it was as cute as it was creepy.

    A woman named Andrea shared photos of her little cousin, Lucia, dressed up as a scary nun to her Twitter, alongside the caption: ‘So it was my cousins 3rd birthday and instead of having a normal theme she chose this’.

    The pictures showed Lucia dressed up as a nun with spooky black and white makeup, standing next to a blow-up nun which was also equally as creepy.

    She even had a horror themed birthday cake, and all of her guests dressed up too.

    The tweet received more than 133,000 retweets and 500,000 likes, and the internet has fallen in love with little Lucia:

    For those who haven’t seen it, The Nun is about a young nun in Romania who takes her own life, which is investigated by a priest with a ‘haunted past’ and a novitiate on the threshold of her vinal vows.

    They end up confronting a ‘malevolent force’ in the form of a demonic nun.

    So yes, it is slightly concerning that Lucia chose this for her birthday party theme – but let’s be honest, we think we’ve found our icon of 2019.

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    'She is a real-life Wednesday Addams!' Twitter goes wild over three-year-old girl's terrifying birthday party inspired by the horror film The Nun - and even Jordan Peele approves of the bash'She is a real-life Wednesday Addams!' Twitter goes wild over three-year-old girl's terrifying birthday party inspired by the horror film The Nun - and even Jordan Peele approves of the bash

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    Damien met Alex while he was being treated
    Damien proposed to Alex in the hospital room they met in (Picture:Damien Leroy /SWNS)

    A retired Baywatch actor who nearly died in a paraglading accident has proposed to the nurse who saved him, in the same hospital room where they met.

    37-year-old Damien Leroy was seriously injured when his paragliding apparatus spun out of control, forcing him to take a 100ft leap from the sky in Juniper, Florida.

    The former world champion kite boarder was rushed to St Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach in July 2016 where he met trauma team nurse Alex Hoover, 29.

    Luckily, Damien survived the accident – though he did shatter his femur, pelvis and sternum, tore an artery, punctured his lungs and broke four ribs.

    Damien felt an instant connection with Alex, but at the time she had a boyfriend and wouldn’t even consider dating him.

    But they decided to remain in contact after the accident – and ended up dating almost a year later, once Damien had been released from hospital.

    Alex and Damien on the beach
    They got together a year after meeting (Picture:Damien Leroy /SWNS)

    When he began to consider marriage, Damien said he knew he wanted to ask Alex to be his wife in the very hospital room where they first met – #3212.

    Damien, who played a small role in 2017’s Baywatch remake, said: ‘You meet a lot of people in life but when you find someone truly special you have to go with it.

    ‘I couldn’t possibly meet a better person than Alex. Nurses do so much for everyone and it’s usually the doctors who get the credit.

    ‘I decided to propose in the hospital because that’s where I met Alex three years ago.

    ‘After my accident, I had the most beautiful nurse. I remember looking up at her and just seeing these beautiful blue eyes. We had a special connection.

    ‘Alex’s best friend in work Dede Abbate helped me organise the proposal along with her manager Theresa Bubb Jones.

    ‘They were really encouraging when it came to making this idea happen.

    ‘We made sure it was a really quiet day and I got ready and went to the hospital. I got into the bed in the same room I had been in all those years ago and just waited for her.

    The wounds from Damien's accident
    Damien was in an accident (Picture:Damien Leroy /SWNS)

    ‘They told Alex there was a new trauma that had arrived and that the patient was having abdominal pains.

    ‘When she came in she was so surprised and confused to see me in bed.

    ‘That’s when I got out of the bed and got onto one knee. I proposed with a really special family ring but I’m going to get her one that she really loves too.’

    Alex, who is now a sports sales representative, added: ‘When I saw Damien’s head underneath blankets laying in the patient bed. I was in complete shock.

    ‘So many things ran through my mind in seconds.

    ‘And then that sweet, sweet man got out of bed and got down on one knee. I said “Yes”.’

    Damien said: ‘When she was treating me, she was super professional, but I was so drugged up after the accident.

    ‘I asked her if she had a boyfriend and she said “Yes, and I love him dearly.”

    ‘I was disappointed, because I felt like we had an instant connection.

    ‘But I respected the fact that she had a boyfriend. I would never want to get in the middle of that.

    ‘I started focusing on my recovery which was a really long road, but I thought about her a lot.

    ‘We started communicating again about a year after the accident and actually her relationship had come to an end a few months earlier.

    ‘It kind of went from there. We took it slow but we had this amazing connection.

    ‘We started hanging out a lot and doing things together.’

    Alex said: ‘I had never met a patient like him before.

    ‘He was genuine in every way, always very thankful for all of the nurses, doctors, and hospital staff involved in his recovery.

    ‘You always know when you meet that unique, special person that they will have a lasting effect on you, even if you didn’t realize how at the time.’

    The pair have yet to make any wedding plans, but Damien insists they won’t be tying the knot in the hospital’s chapel.

    Damien said: ‘We haven’t sat down and talked about the wedding but it definitely will not be in the hospital.

    ‘Alex truly has the biggest heart of anyone I know and I’m excited to spend the rest of my life with her.’

    Alex added: ‘I have always thought of Damien as my sweet George of the Jungle.

    ‘He’s wild, kind-hearted, willing to do absolutely anything for anyone.

    ‘I envision our wedding being a bunch of laughing, dancing, kite boarding over a bridge, paragliding over some dunes, or electric foiling as a first dance.

    ‘Just kidding!

    ‘But I definitely envision a fun, carefree wedding.’

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    *** EMBARG0 3PM EDT/ 8PM BST JUNE 6 2019 *** Video grab of Damien Leroy ,37, who almost died after in horrific paragliding in 2016, getting down and proposing to Alex Hoover, 29, one of the trauma nurses who helped him recove. See SWNS story SWNYnurse. A retired athlete who cheated death in a horror paragliding accident got down on one knee in his former hospital room to PROPOSE to the kind nurse who treated him. Damien Leroy, 37, was seriously injured in July 2016 when his power paragliding apparatus went out of control forcing him to take a 100ft leap from the sky in Juniper, Florida. The former world champion kite boarder was rushed to St Mary?s Medical Center in West Palm Beach where he met Alex Hoover, 29, a nurse on his trauma team. Damien was lucky to survive the frightening accident, in which he broke his femur, pelvis and sternum, tore an artery, punctured his lungs and broke four ribs.*** EMBARG0 3PM EDT/ 8PM BST JUNE 6 2019 *** Video grab of Damien Leroy ,37, who almost died after in horrific paragliding in 2016, getting down and proposing to Alex Hoover, 29, one of the trauma nurses who helped him recove. See SWNS story SWNYnurse. A retired athlete who cheated death in a horror paragliding accident got down on one knee in his former hospital room to PROPOSE to the kind nurse who treated him. Damien Leroy, 37, was seriously injured in July 2016 when his power paragliding apparatus went out of control forcing him to take a 100ft leap from the sky in Juniper, Florida. The former world champion kite boarder was rushed to St Mary?s Medical Center in West Palm Beach where he met Alex Hoover, 29, a nurse on his trauma team. Damien was lucky to survive the frightening accident, in which he broke his femur, pelvis and sternum, tore an artery, punctured his lungs and broke four ribs.

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    The stunning island
    Imagine renting your own island (Picture: Mediadrumimages / Private Islands Inc)

    Ever fancied renting your very own private island? Well, now you can – and it’s available for £2,700 per night, all inclusive.

    Japao Private Island is located in Angra dos Reis, Brazil, and is currently listed by Private Islands.

    For a two-person stay, the property costs £2,700 per night, or it’s £3,200 for four guests, all inclusive.

    The property, within its own island, features spacious bedrooms, a modern kitchen and outdoor decking.

    The view of the island
    It’s gorgeous! (Picture: Mediadrumimages / Private Islands Inc)

    It’s a short helicopter flight from Rio de Janeiro, and is described as being an ‘area of iridescent water’.

    The listing states: ‘Swirls of green and blue samba slowly surround untouched pockets of white sand.

    ‘Lush rainforests hug the steep coastline, keeping it shrouded in an air of mystery.

    The pool in the island
    It has its own pool (Picture: Mediadrumimages / Private Islands Inc)

    ‘This is Angra dos Reis — part of Brazil’s aptly named Green Coast—an archipelago of 365 islands and more than 2,000 beaches that create a haven for marine life, birds and affluent travellers seeking respite from the urban shuffle.

    ‘Japao Private Island is quintessentially Brazilian, yet unlike anything accessible on the mainland.

    ‘Operated as an all-inclusive island escape for one group of two to eight guests, this magnificent retreat delivers a 6.1-acre tropical playground with its own private beach, swimming pool, hot tub and 7,000 square feet of living space of jaw-dropping design.’

    After flying into Galeão International Airport, you’ll be given a VIP customs experience that will send you straight through immigration without standing in line, and in just 20 minutes you’ll be given a 35-40 minute helicopter ride to the property.

    The bedroom is fancy
    It’s so fancy (Picture: Mediadrumimages / Private Islands Inc)

    The listing continues: ‘Upon arrival at Japao, you’ll find a villa that stretches from a cloak of towering coconut palms into the sun. Its master suite and king suite, each with full bath, are a marvel of gleaming Brazilian and Balinese hardwoods from floor to ceiling, with stone accent walls and furnishings.

    ‘A modern kitchen and cozy, art-filled living room complement the stylish bedrooms.’

    Alongside the villa, there are three open floor plan sea-view bungalows, each with a king bed and bathroom, connected by pathways to the main house.

    The villa features an outdoor dining terrace with a barbecue, and extends to a big pool with a lounge-dotted sundeck.

    And the luxury doesn’t stop there.

    The lounge in the property
    It’s gorgeous! (Picture: Mediadrumimages / Private Islands Inc)

    Also available on request are daily Swedish massages, an ocean-view jacuzzi and a multi-level fishpond sculpted in stone.

    The villa looks onto a sandy beach and there are numerous waterfront restaurants in-reach, thanks to an on-site speed boat and full-time captain – which is also included in the price.

    If you fancy getting a active on holiday, there is also snorkelling available, scuba spots, whitewater rafting, zip lining, surving and jungle hikes.

    The listing continues: ‘The closest mainland village, the high-end, gated community at Frade, is also a quick boat ride, and has an exceptional restaurant at the new 5-star Fasano hotel.

    ‘But customizable cuisine with distinctive Brazilian flair is available daily courtesy of Japao’s caseiros, a couple that unobtrusively caters to all of your on-island desires in collaboration with the additional four to six support staff.

    ‘Japao grants you the keys to your own private Brazil: a sanctuary close enough to Rio for international access, but operating entirely in a world of its own.’

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    ENJOY the trip of a lifetime with this stunning private island available to rent for ??2700 per night all inclusive. Incredible images show the lush green island from above, the shimmering outdoor pool and impressive accommodation. Other striking shots show the spacious bedrooms, sleek bathrooms and cosy living areas as well as outdoor decking areas to enjoy the good weather. Japao Private Island is located in Angra dos Reis, Brazil and is currently listed by www.privateislandsonline.com. The island costs around ??2700 per night for two guests all inclusive or ??3200 per night for four guests all inclusive. Mediadrumimages / Private Islands IncENJOY the trip of a lifetime with this stunning private island available to rent for ??2700 per night all inclusive. Incredible images show the lush green island from above, the shimmering outdoor pool and impressive accommodation. Other striking shots show the spacious bedrooms, sleek bathrooms and cosy living areas as well as outdoor decking areas to enjoy the good weather. Japao Private Island is located in Angra dos Reis, Brazil and is currently listed by www.privateislandsonline.com. The island costs around ??2700 per night for two guests all inclusive or ??3200 per night for four guests all inclusive. Mediadrumimages / Private Islands Inc

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    Bethany Mason pictured with boyfriend Callum before a severe reaction to the sun
    Bethany Mason pictured with boyfriend Callum before a severe reaction to the sun (Picture: Bethany Mason / SWNS)

    Let this be a lesson to us all: please, please use sunblock and be careful in the heat.

    Bethany Mason, 21, was left ‘looking like Quasimodo’ after suffering an extreme reaction to the sun, which caused her face to swell so much she couldn’t see.

    On holiday in Turkey, Bethany decided to use carrot oil in an attempt to develop a healthy glow, not realising that the product didn’t contain any SPF.

    She developed sun poisoning; an extreme sunburn which happens when someone is exposed to the sun’s UV rays for too long without protection.

    Her face swelled so much that her eyes were forced shut.

    Bethany woke up with such severe swelling that she couldnt see
    Bethany woke up with such severe swelling that she couldn’t see (Picture: Bethany Mason / SWNS)

    Bethany said: ‘A friend of mine had come back looking so brown – so when I asked her what she’d used, and she’d said carrot oil, I got myself some for the holiday.

    ‘I looked a bit like Quasimodo. Or that creep from the film Wrong Turn. It just didn’t look real. My eyes were swollen shut. I didn’t look like a person.

    ‘I had to stay under the umbrella, or indoors, for the treatment to work.

    ‘I’d be sitting around the pool and my boyfriend would be like – “Bethany, please put your glasses back on! People are staring!”

    Bethany was diagnosed with sun poisoning
    Bethany was diagnosed with sun poisoning (Picture: Bethany Mason / SWNS)

    ‘Poor Callum – we’d only been going out two months at that point. He was shocked. Luckily it only lasted a few days.’

    Bethany was in Marmaris, Turkey, last June when she used Malibu Fast Tanning Oil with Carotene during a day by the pool.

    She said she felt ‘really under the weather’ after their first day hanging out at the Grand Pasa Hotel pool.

    Despite feeling a bit off, Bethany and Callum went out to enjoy the nightlife – then woke up the next morning to a shock.

    She had sat out in the sun with just tanning oil on her skin
    She had sat out in the sun with just tanning oil on her skin (Picture: Bethany Mason / SWNS)

    Bethany’s face had swollen beyond all recognition, she couldn’t see anything as her eyelids had swollen shut, and her forehead felt ‘mushy, like it was full of water’.

    A doctor diagnosed her with sun poisoning, giving her injections and tablets to treat the swelling.

    It took three days for the swelling to disappear, but even after that Bethany had to stay out of the sun for the rest of her holiday… and she didn’t even get a tan.

    ‘I came back all pale like before I went away,’ said Bethany.

    After injections and medication, the swelling eventually went down
    After injections and medication, the swelling eventually went down Picture: Bethany Mason / SWNS)

    A spokesperson for Malibu said: ‘There are many possible causes of the reaction and we suggest that she seeks the opinion of a doctor or dermatologist.

    ‘It is possible that she is allergic to something she has put on her skin, all ingredients we use in our products are common ingredients and we believe it would be in her interest to find out what it is that she is allergic to.

    ‘The product she has used has no SPF inside.

    ‘It is just a tanning oil and we advise on the bottle for ‘dark skin’ and we reiterate that it provides no protection from the sun.

    ‘This is the first complaint we have received with regards to this particular product.’

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    Extreme sunburnExtreme sunburn

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    Fishing
    Animals who become entangled in heavy fishing gear can drown, die of exhaustion after weeks of struggling to free themselves, or slowly starve to death (Picture: Getty)

    Today is World Oceans Day, when people are encouraged to take action to protect our life-giving oceans and the animals who inhabit them – and this often involves reducing our use of plastic.

    There’s no denying that plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to our oceans – scientists warn that unless we change our ways, there’ll be more plastic in them than fish by 2050. And the UK is responding to this crisis.

    In the year after the government introduced legislation forcing large retailers to charge 5p for every single-use plastic carrier bag, the seven biggest supermarkets doled out over six billion fewer bags.

    Frozen food specialist Iceland has pledged to remove all plastic packaging from its range by 2023, and an official ban on plastic straws – which many companies have already ditched in favour of paper ones – along with plastic drink stirrers and cotton buds will come into force in April 2020.

    These are all steps in the right direction, but when tackling this urgent issue, we must remember that items such as straws and plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg.

    If we really want to stem the tide of plastic pollution that’s choking our oceans and killing marine animals, we’d be a lot better off banishing cod and tuna from our plates. This is because fishing and the rubbish it generates inflicts far more harm on wildlife than straws or plastic bags ever will.

    It’s easy to understand why plastic straws and bags are under fire – no one who has seen the video footage of a straw being pulled out of a sea turtle’s nostril or a dolphin entangled in a plastic bag will ever be able to forget it.

    But according to Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade, even if every plastic straw littering coastlines around the world suddenly washed into the oceans, ‘they’d account for about 0.03 per cent of the 8million metric tons of plastics estimated to enter the oceans in a given year’.

    And despite the reduction in plastic bag use in the UK, the overall amount of sea litter from plastics has remained constant – primarily because of an increase in fishing debris.

    Sea turtles and other animals are much more likely to be harmed by lost and discarded fishing gear than by other plastic waste.

    Scientists affiliated with The Ocean Cleanup, a group working to reduce plastic pollution, determined that, by weight, fishing nets make up at least 46 per cent of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating pile of rubbish that’s three times the size of France.

    Eel traps, baskets, ropes, and other abandoned fishing gear, also known as ‘ghost gear’, make up the majority of the rest. Some 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear enter the world’s oceans every year and can mutilate and kill marine animals for many years afterwards.

    It’s a gruesome death. Animals who become entangled in heavy fishing gear can drown, die of exhaustion after weeks of struggling to free themselves, or slowly starve to death if the gear is lodged in their mouths and prevents them from feeding.

    Just last month, a seal trapped in an enormous mass of fishing nets and other litter was spotted off the coast of Cornwall. After rescuers failed to locate him alive, his body eventually washed up on a nearby beach, wrapped in 35 kilograms of plastic.

    ‘This animal suffered a prolonged, tortured death, there is no question of that,’ said a volunteer who inspected the animal. A similar fate befalls millions of other seals, turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks, birds, and other animals.

    Humans who consume fish are also at risk, as a study found that the average consumer of ‘seafood’ unwittingly eats 11,000 pieces of microplastic every year.

    Fishing is also an extremely cruel industry: even though it’s been proven that fish feel pain, on fishing boats, they’re commonly tossed onto piles of ice to asphyxiate, freeze, or be crushed to death – a horribly cruel and drawn-out way for them to die.

    Scientists estimate that as cold-blooded animals, they can take up to 15 minutes to lose consciousness. Other fish are slashed open or their gills are cut while they’re still alive, leaving the decks awash with blood.

    This reckless destruction of the oceans and marine life is both cruel and unsustainable. Banning straws and plastic bags isn’t nearly enough – people who care about animals and the planet need to consider not only what they use to drink with or carry their shopping in but also what they have to eat.

    Less fishing means less deadly fishing gear, plain and simple.

    The good news is that delicious animal-friendly options – including vegan fish fingers, fishcakes, and prawns – are affordable and easy to find.

    So let’s celebrate World Oceans Day in a way that protects our oceans and shows respect for their inhabitants – by leaving fish and other animals off our plates.

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    Fisherman emptying net full of fish into hold on trawlerFisherman emptying net full of fish into hold on trawler

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    Strong Women is a weekly series that champions diversity in sport and fitness.

    Too often we are told – in the media and in advertising campaigns – that a woman has to look a certain way in order to be fit, healthy and love her body.

    But we know this isn’t true and we want to normalise the idea that fitness is for women of any age, race size or ability.

    A Sport England study found that 75% of women are put off from physical activity altogether because of a fear of judgement – and this is what we want to change.

    Sarah Storey with her cycling team
    Sarah (on the left) during the 195km Stage 4 of the Tour de France from La Baule to Sarzeau (Picture: Skoda)

    Dame Sarah Storey is the most successful female British Paralympian of all time. She holds fourteen gold medals and is a 29-time World champion with medals in both swimming and cycling.

    Now the Mancunian athlete is working to improve disability sport for the next generation – she wants to make it easier for everyone to experience the sheer joy that cycling has given her over the years.

    What do you love about cycling? 

    I love the freedom of cycling and how healthy it makes you feel when the air is on your face.

    It’s an activity that is open and accessible for everyone to enjoy.

    Whether riding to school, to meet friends, heading to the cafe or racing – cycling helps you find the best version of yourself. There’s a way for everyone to be involved.

    What challenges have you faced as a disabled cyclist? 

    When I got in to cycling I wanted my physical capability to be assessed against the best women in the world.

    The difference between us is technical, because I have a lack of balance and control in comparison. The challenge for me is all about that technical part.

    Being able to cope with both brakes on one lever and all the gears on the right side.

    In a particularly wet race, I struggle to stop the rear brake locking up, and in a windy race it’s a challenge just to hold on. To gain stability I push in to the left side of the bars with my left arm but the knock-on effect is that the bars are unbalanced.

    Dame Sarah Storey cycling
    ‘I’m stronger for becoming a mum’ (Picture: Skoda)

    It’s difficult to quantify the effect these technical differences have, but that’s part of the challenge, finding ways to just get on with it.

    Why do you think of yourself as a strong woman?

    I’m not sure if I see myself as a strong woman or if I just feel empowered because of the support that I have.

    I think strength is both physical and mental, but for me I am stronger for the support I have around me.

    My husband and my parents are my biggest advocates for the driven approach I adopt and they encourage me to explore opportunities and give back to others.

    I’m stronger for becoming a mum, as well as stronger after the setbacks I’ve suffered too.

    I don’t think I’m different to the next person though, we are all strong in different ways. The challenge is often finding that strength and using it to improve your own path and that of others.

    How easy is it for disabled women to get in to sport? 

    It’s fantastic that there is now a number of talent programmes around that make it easier than ever to get in to disability sport.

    Organisations such as UK Sport, have programmes in place to scout for new talent but they tend to be track focused as it’s a more controllable and quantifiable discipline.

    Road racing in the UK is very under-developed for disabled women; in the future I would like to see significant improvement in that part of the sport.

    It’s all about having a go!

    My advice would be to find a club and integrate in to the sport at the entry level.

    Certain disciplines are harder for people with higher levels of impairment but, for example, in cycling there are non-disabled Trike riders and clubs with access to knowledgeable people.

    Local bike shops are also a great source of information and support, and will help find the right set up to support an athlete who needs an adaptation.

    What has been the stand-out moment of your career?

    It’s really hard to pick one, but I think having my daughter Louisa with me at the Paralympics in Rio made it extra special.

    And, of course, winning gold on my debut as a 14-year-old, because without that, the rest wouldn’t have been possible.

    Most athletes dream of a home Games too, so winning four gold medals in front of a home crowd also ranks highly!

    Tell us about the SKODA DSI Cycling Academy

    This year I’ve partnered with ŠKODA to launch their new DSI Cycling Academy; an exclusive cycling programme that is all about giving female cyclists a path to help them become a fully-fledged professional racer in the future.

    It’s a hugely important initiative because women’s sport is still under-developed in comparison to the male racers in terms of opportunities, coverage and recognition.

    I am committed to doing everything I can to help plug that gap and promote an equal footing for both sexes in the sport.

    The ŠKODA Academy aims to give riders the knowledge and training to propel them forward and hopefully see them sign a professional contract in their future.

    We will mentor them and help them learn about all aspects of the sport such as professional racing etiquette, race tactics, nutrition and managing their sports career.

    The Academy is a positive step forward to give female amateur riders new opportunities to become an elite cyclist.

    Dame Sarah Storey has teamed up with ŠKODA to launch the ŠKODA DSI Cycling Academy; a programme exclusively for female riders aspiring to compete professionally.

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    Strong Women: Dame Sarah StoreyStrong Women: Dame Sarah Storey

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    illustration of man holding a glass of wine
    We all know that alcohol isn’t good for us, but that doesn’t stop us drinking it (Picture: Malte Mueller/Getty/Metro.co.uk)

    Everybody knows alcohol is a depressant (if you didn’t, you do now), but alcohol can also be a really rather enjoyable way to distract yourself from life’s miseries and make you think that karaoke and texting an old hookup are both brilliant ideas.

    The ‘booze blues’ are commonplace among most people who drink.

    For the lucky few that haven’t experienced them yet (I guess you’re under 28?), the booze blues involve not just feeling hungover following your sesh, but also a feeling of deep, deep sadness, existential dread and a profound knowledge that your family is ashamed of you.

    It’s absolutely miserable, yet the joyous effects of drinking (at the time of drinking) are seemingly too good to let that bother us, so off we go to the pub again.

    Now, when the booze blues extend into every waking sober moment of your life, drinking becomes a little trickier.

    When you have depression or care about someone who has depression it can be a bloody minefield; you know they want to go to the pub, but you know they’ll feel awful afterwards… but they’re old enough to make their own decisions… but you want to look out for them… oops here come six tequilas to top off the warm can of Desperados you drank on the bus, nevermind.

    Anyone with a qualification in psychology or medicine will (quite rightly) advise anyone struggling with mental health to keep away from the sauce.

    I wang on about mental health all the time and am fully aware that I shouldn’t really be drinking if I want to get better… but here I am writing this on the Eurostar with a plastic cup of red wine.

    woman drinking a beer
    (Picture: Ella Byworth/ Getty)

    Philip Karahassan (who’s a qualified psychotherapist with expertise in drugs and alcohol, so obviously knows some stuff) has some more realistic points of view if you’re depressed, or are trying to do your best for a depressed pal: ‘Alcohol works to distract us from our feelings – but it just delays them until the next day.

    ‘Add to that the emotional state we feel when hungover, and it makes it all the more important to make sure that there is both an emotional and physical safety net around our depressed friend.

    ‘On that note, make sure you check in the next day to see how your friend feels, as well as checking in over the coming week to see how they are getting on.’

    I fully support this – yes, it’s fairly normal to text your drinking buddy the next day to check in on their hangover levels and check you’re not the only one who has the cold sweats and a pizza on the way, but if your mate is struggling then I’d say it’s even more important.

    When I’m in alcohol-induced turmoil and am feeling incredibly dark, a message from a friend who cares really can be a little light.

    George, 25, has found that monitoring how his alcohol consumption impacts his mood has really helped him get to know his limits.

    ‘Alcohol definitely has short-term benefits for mood-enhancement but these typically wear off after the first four or five drinks, for me at least,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Once the number of drinks consumed exceeds this number, the negatives greatly outweigh the positives but as most people know, it’s tough to stop.

    ‘For me personally, the next-day hangover doesn’t give me huge lows so much as my mood gradually lowers as does my productivity and desire to be social.

    ‘I think the drawbacks of getting hammered persist much longer than a day or two and likely go unnoticed.’

    Drinking and being in the pub is a huge part of British social culture, and I agree it can be really difficult to ask for a soft drink instead of the G&T you think you want.

    If you’re friends with someone struggling, for the love of Rihanna please don’t fire questions at them if they don’t want to drink, or call them a loser or ask when they’re going to be fun again.

    ‘The only logical step for someone who feels pressured to drink by friends is to tell them you want to cut down,’ says George. ‘The open dialogue is important, and over the last few years I’ve noticed a huge surge in people generally talking about mental illness – the continuation of these conversations is vital.

    ‘Alcohol consumption is one of many factors that should be considered when treating depression; exercise, levels of isolation, work-life balance, and medication are just a couple of the things that should also be considered. Booze isn’t the devil in moderation.’

    Ultimately, we are all in control of our own actions. Even if it feels like we’re spiralling all the damn time, the only person who can really change a depressed person is that depressed person, so it’s up to (the Collective Depressed) Us to take charge of how much alcohol we can or can’t handle, and know our limits.

    If your friends are going to judge or question someone for why they’re not drinking alcohol, then they’re not really your good friends, are they.

    Preaching to a depressed mate that alcohol is going to make things worse is NOT going to help, but checking in with them really will.

    Pretending their depression doesn’t exist also won’t ever help, but what will is acknowledging that their brain’s on fire and alcohol is very f***ing flammable.

    If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, you can find a qualified local counsellor in your area with Counselling Directory . Mental health charity Mind also offer counselling services, and you can call The Samaritans on 116123 (UK and ROI). The NHS even have a little quiz you can take. If you can, visit your GP for further advice.

    Need support? Contact the Samaritans

    For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

    MORE: Learn the ALAN method to help a friend struggling with their mental health

    MORE: Being shamed at work for having psoriasis caused me anxiety and depression

    MORE: How to work with someone who has depression


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    How Dry January can improve your sex life
    The pressure to be a woman who doesn’t need a man has been around for a long time (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    For the last few evenings I’ve come home from work, eaten brownies for dinner, then snoozed on the sofa for three hours before Love Island.

    This is the kind of messy evening routine I haven’t done since a major depressive episode back in 2016.

    So why’s it happening? Because my boyfriend has gone on holiday and I miss him.

    This feels like a deeply shameful revelation.

    Not the brownies for dinner bit. That’s not as bad as the nightly McDonald’s delivered to my door a few years back.

    I’m embarrassed to say that I have a wobble when my partner isn’t here because it goes against all my ideas of being a strong, independent woman. I feel like I’m failing.

    The pressure to be a woman who doesn’t need a man has been around for a long time.

    From Destiny’s Child to the Slumflower and Florence Given, women have been told that strength relies on dumping guys, staying single, and generally declaring men to be unnecessary trash.

    That’s a great message… until you fall in love.

    Humans are a social species, and in our attempts to prioritise independence we’ve made it shameful to admit we’re lonely. It’s deeply uncool to say that you’re a mess because your significant other is away for a few days – it feels pathetic.

    It’s wonderful to know that you don’t need another person to be happy, that you’re perfectly capable of looking after yourself, that you don’t need to put up with anyone’s nonsense.

    But it’s also vital to know that you can still be strong, independent, and filled with self-love when you’re in a relationship with another person.

    There’s strength in being vulnerable and power in being lovey-dovey. And it’s okay to let a little bit of your life’s weight rest on another person.

    I don’t need a man, but having a lovely partner does make my life quite a bit better.

    My mental health improves thanks to having someone to offer support when I need it, to push me to do things that will help me feel better, and to make me laugh after a tough day.

    My partner and I have made a life together. We have a routine. It’s only natural that when he’s away that routine slips, and I feel off-kilter. That’s what I have to repeat to myself over and over, because it’s tough to unlearn the idea that sharing life’s burdens with someone is a sign of weakness.

    Humans are a social species, and in our attempts to prioritise independence we’ve made it shameful to admit we’re lonely. It’s deeply uncool to say that you’re a mess because your significant other is away for a few days – it feels pathetic.

    But while independence and self-reliance are wonderful things, it’s also perfectly okay to need other people to keep you going, whether that’s a friend, family members, or someone you’re romantically involved with. We can’t declare that it’s an awful failing to get help from other people, whether that’s a romantic partner or otherwise.

    Yes, I’m still strong and independent. If my partner and I broke up tomorrow, I’d survive. But I’m also in a relationship, which means I have to open up a bit and let myself rely on another person for a few things.

    So yes, I will be a bit of a mess for the next week.

    I’ll wake up late because I don’t have the person I love telling me to get in the shower, now.

    I’ll eat food that isn’t good for me because sometimes I need a nudge to look after myself.

    I’ll feel a little sad because I don’t have my favourite person sitting on the sofa next to me.

    That’s okay, because strength doesn’t rely on cutting yourself off from all human connection – and you can still be a badass when you’re in love.

    MORE: Are we moving towards a society where everyone is polyamorous or in open relationships?

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    MORE: Women in relationships have 30% fewer orgasms than their male partners


    How Dry January can improve your sex lifeHow Dry January can improve your sex life

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    Katie
    If there’s anything more I’ve learnt beyond what toxic shock syndrome is, it’s to never have a ‘it won’t be me’ attitude (Picture: Katie Knight)

    When I tell people I’ve had Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), the most common response is ‘I thought that was a myth!’

    And while it is relatively rare, when TSS does take hold it is extremely serious and can be fatal.

    I was in the library at university when I began feeling nauseous. When it didn’t go away, I headed back to my student halls where I began vomiting, which continued into the next day.

    I felt trapped in my body, as I knew I needed help but couldn’t think coherently enough to get it. At some point I remember going for a shower but lacking energy, I lay down on the shower floor and fell asleep.

    My recollection becomes less clear at this point as I was becoming seriously dehydrated. Some time during the second day the vomiting gave way to extreme diarrhoea.

    That evening my flat mate came in to check on me. She was, luckily, training to be a doctor and knew there was something seriously wrong as my temperature was very high, and I was speaking nonsense.

    She rang NHS 24 and the staff told her to take me to A&E – I arrived unable to walk and eventually fell unconscious. Between them, the NHS call handler and my flat mate, they saved my life.

    Next I remember, I was in a room surrounded by approximately eight doctors and nurses all shouting with needles inserted in my arms and neck. I remember an excruciating pain in my lower abdomen as a tampon that I put in five to six hours before I started feeling unwell was recovered while the nurse was trying to insert a catheter.

    One recollection from the hospital that’s particularly upsetting is one of the doctors trying to explain the severity of the situation to me, as he said ‘Katie, there is a chance you won’t pull through this.’

    At this point the doctors still weren’t certain what was wrong with me, but the recovery of the tampon indicated that it might indeed be TSS.

    I don’t remember the exact moment that I found out that it was TSS, as there was a lot of speculation about it before it was finally confirmed.

    During my time in hospital I would go from hysterical tears to uncontrollable laughter. This was partly due to the morphine, so it’s hard for me to recall exactly how I felt when I found out but I remember being inconsolable when the doctor told me how bad my condition was.

    There is a lot of mystery and uncertainty surrounding TSS, I think mainly because most women use tampons and have heard of it, but are unsure of how, and when, it presents itself.

    Tampon packets do have some very limited information about the illness, but it is generally quite vague – and being honest, does anyone actually read the information leaflet inside?

    TSS is generally a term that is associated with tampon use as it accounts for about half of the TSS cases reported. Menstrual cups can also cause TSS, as every time they are being emptied and reinserted, any bacteria that is on the cup is not being disposed of, but reinserted and given the chance to multiply further.

    The symptoms that I experienced were fairly normal for cases of TSS although not everyone’s experiences are the same – flu like symptoms, a sun-burn like rash, dizziness, fainting, breathing difficulty and bright red whites of the eyes, lips and tongue are all potential signs as well.

    I was in hospital for almost two weeks and it took me just over a year to recover to full health in which time I experienced side effects including hair-loss, chronic fatigue and losing a layer of skin from my hands and feet called ‘desquamation’. This is a tell tale sign of TSS and occurs a week after initial infection. The desquamation, alongside the toxicology from the recovered tampon allowed the doctors to conclude that it was TSS.

    Having TSS once does not give you any protection against getting it again – in fact, the chances of my contracting it for a second time are actually increased. For this reason I always use sanitary towels.

    I know that a lot of girls find towels unhygienic or uncomfortable – I was the same before my experience. However, I think the risk of TSS heavily outweighs these small factors, and I would encourage anyone who is reading this to at least try them.

    I think there is a lack of education and information available to young women about TSS, and this causes a taboo around it. Tampon packets do have some very limited information about the illness, but it is generally quite vague – and being honest, does anyone actually read the information leaflet inside?

    I think that we would benefit heavily from having information about TSS in school during menstruation talks, as well as in public places, such as this.

    If there’s anything more I’ve learnt beyond what toxic shock syndrome is, it’s to never have a ‘it won’t be me’ attitude. I had only had the tampon in for between six to eight hours (the uppermost limit recommended on this commonly used brand), when I became ill.

    I was stressed with deadlines and had forgotten to change it at the four hour mark, where I would usually. So even though I had not gone over the uppermost time limit, I still became ill!

    Although this is a rare condition, it’s important to still be mindful of it, and to take the measures to help protect yourself from contracting it.

    What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?

    TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) is very rare condition caused by toxins getting into the blood stream and releasing dangerous toxins. It can affect anyone of any age but is most frequently associated with tampon use in young women. It can be fatal but it caught early it is treatable with antibiotics.

    The causes of TSS

    TSS is caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus. It usually lives harmlessly on the surface of the skin and but if it gets into the blood stream it can release toxins that can disturb the function of vital organs.

    How to prevent TSS

    According to the NHS:
    – choose a tampon with the lowest absorbency suitable for your menstrual flow
    – swap tampons for a sanitary towel or panty liner during your period
    – wash your hands before and after inserting a tampon
    – change tampons regularly never insert more than one tampon at a time
    – insert a new tampon first thing before going to bed and change it first thing in the morning


    Katie-fda6Katie-fda6

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    A nature photo of the beautiful Thai island, Koh Samui
    Feel the stress melt away as you stare out at the ocean (Picture: Almara Abgarian for Metro.co.uk)

    If, like me, you need a few days to properly settle into a holiday, you may find yourself unnerved by Koh Samui’s Taling Ngam.

    Unlike the tourist-filled north east side of the Thai island, there’s an eery stillness that can be difficult to embrace at first.

    You’re surrounded by jungle-covered hills and mountains in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in 30-degree weather – the textbook definition of paradise – and yet it’s very hard to switch off.

    All you’re required to do is… nothing. Rest on a sun chair, sip a Chang beer or walk out into the ocean, lie on your back and float about.

    The view from a day bed on the private Avani resort beach
    The view from a day bed on the private Avani resort beach (Picture: Almara Abgarian for Metro.co.uk)

    Most travellers will head to Koh Samui’s Chaweng area for a traditional Thailand holiday with overpriced resorts, glistening white sand and clear blue waters – but Chaweng is also overcrowded, with music blasting from the beach bars and local vendors trying to sell you a trinket or fruit every 10 minutes.

    In Taling Ngam, there’s little else around except for trees, a few open air cafes run by locals, a small snake farm and homes that belong to the fishermen. This is what Koh Samui used to be like, before the tourism market exploded and fishing became less important to the island’s economy.

    In the daytime, rent a kayak or a paddle board and make your way to nearby mangrove forests or hire a longtail boat to go island hopping.

    (Picture: Almara Abgarian for Metro.co.uk)

    Koh Mudsum is a short boat ride away and has one of the best beaches I’ve ever seen – and not just because of its obvious postcard-worthy beauty.

    It has an authentic castaway vibe. There’s a small bar shack, run by a handful of Thai people who live on the island, where you can buy drinks and ice cream, as well as watch huge pigs run around among the tourists with their piglets in tow.

    Another nearby island is Koh Tan, with its mangrove forest walk and vast, wild jungle. The island has been privately owned by one family for seven generations, and so is largely untouched.

    There’s isn’t much of a beach to lie on, but there is a small cafe by the dock that serves unbelievably fresh coconuts.

    Can you spot the penis? (Picture: Almara Abgarian for Metro.co.uk)

    One particular highlight is the huge penis statue that salutes you on arrival. It’s a sacred symbol, painted in red, almost taller than I am at 5″5, and is meant to fend off evil, female spirits.

    Nothing like a big dick to scare the ladies from visiting, I’m sure.

    Koh Tan is worth a visit, but the wow factor isn’t equal to the surrounding islands (even if this one does have a giant penis on display).

    Have a late-night BBQ on the beach with friends (Picture: Ali Campsie)

    Back in Taling Ngam, treat yourself to a massage at the Avani spa – it costs more than those in Chaweng Beach, but is worth every baht. My new Scottish friend (a fellow journalist) and I are so entranced by the experience, we go back the day after for another one.

    In the evenings, either have a late-night beach BBQ at the resort with a private fire show or grab a taxi into Chaweng to visit the night markets – one of which is dedicated to seafood – and buy some trinkets.

    Where to eat in Koh Samui

    If you’re after dinner with a view, swing by the Jungle Club, an open air venue designed like a multi-level treehouse. The food is decent but really, it’s all about the location.

    There are no fences though, so falling over the edge when tipsy is a very real possibility.

    Plenty of Insta-worthy angles (Picture: Almara Abgarian for Metro.co.uk)

    The Jungle Club is a tourist spot; the bartender tells me that locals hang elsewhere, further north in an area known as Fisherman’s Village.

    For a nice classic Thai dish, pop into the Mud and order a pineapple chicken curry – it’s served inside the pineapple shell.

    If you’re craving activity, Koh Samui has plenty to offer; elephant sanctuaries, waterfalls, the aforementioned snake farm, a huge shopping centre, treetop ziplines, the Wat Plai Laem temple and more.

    The highlight of my trip was a visit to the Dog and Cat Rescue Samui Foundation, which is located just a short drive from the resort in Taling Ngam.

    It’s run by volunteers, so there are rarely guides to show visitors around. Simply open the gates and let yourself into the enclosures, but prepare yourself – this isn’t a light-hearted experience (though the dogs are lovely).

    Donate a few pounds or more in a collection box, or spend the day as a volunteer helping to feed, play and take care of the dogs.

    Some of the rescue dogs at the Dog and Cat Rescue Samui Foundation
    There are dozens of recuse dogs and most are very friendly (Picture: Almara Abgarian for Metro.co.uk)

    You can also pop by Donna’s house. She’s an eccentric American artist who moved to Thailand with her husband many years ago, and runs an environmental initiative called Samui Bins, in conjunction with Samui Trash Hero.

    Samui Trash Hero, a project that aims to encourage recycling and does a clean-up on the island every week, provides old barrels for Donna and her visitors – both locals and travellers – to decorate with sea motifs and transform into stylish bins.

    These bins are then placed around the island to encourage people to stop dumping rubbish into the ocean.

    Donna herself is very much larger-than-life, with her long blonde hair and colourful outfits (Picture: Almara Abgarian for Metro.co.uk)

    Personally, I spent an inordinate amount of time of my trip floating about in my private pool.

    While the extravagance was most definitely enjoyable, it wasn’t what I valued most about my trip.

    Here, in Taling Ngam, I checked my emails for a few minutes every morning and opened my laptop just once in seven days, but otherwise rarely looked into any screens.

    I was forced to ease into relaxation mode, which is exactly why I’ll be be back next time I need a break from reality and a few days in paradise.

    Where to stay in Koh Samui and how to get there

    Where to stay

    I stayed in a private villa at Avani Koh Samui, part of the Avani hotel chain which has 23 properties across the globe, including one in Bangkok.

    Each villa feaures all the luxurious comforts one could want, such as a walk-in wardrobe, a shower so big there’s a bench inside, a TV and a king-size bed.

    The best part is by far the huge glass doors in the bedroom, which open onto a private pool.

    (Picture: Almara Abgarian for Metro.co.uk)

    The resort itself also has its own beach strip with day beds, but the water is quite muddy – you’ll have to walk far into the ocean to get deep enough for a swim.

    You can also lounge by the resort pool, open to all guests, and have dinner at Essence, the open-air restaurant, or sip on drinks from the cocktail van, open until 10pm. There’s also the Avani spa, a fitness centre and a 24-hour snack bar.

    Prices for a villa start from £185 per night, but the resort also has hotel rooms that are cheaper at £86 per night.

    Each villa has a private pool (Picture: Almara Abgarian for Metro.co.uk)

    How to get there

    Prices vary depending on when you visit, but will cost at least a few hundred pounds. Bangkok Airways offers flights from London Heathrow via Dubai.

    Once you arrive in Bangkok, you can either fly to Koh Samui – it takes about an hour and a half – or go with the cheaper option and take a local bus to the coast, followed by a boat to the island.

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    a glass of gin and tonic
    Don’t hate the gin, hate the tonic (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

    This World Gin Day, it’s time for an important PSA.

    You might think you hate gin, when in fact it’s tonic water that’s the problem.

    If you’re a hater of G&Ts, have a ponder about why they’re so revolting. If it’s that they taste so bitter you can barely sip them down, it’s likely you’re finding the tonic impossible to enjoy rather than the gin.

    Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have a terribly uncultured palette.

    Lots of people can’t stand the taste of tonic, and it’s all down to genetics.

    The reason for tonic’s bitter taste is the presence of quinine, which comes from the bark of the cinchona tree.

    Quinine was used as an anti-malarial treatment in the 19th century, so personally I have no idea why people are so obsessed with drinking it.

    Research has found that the presence of quinine makes a drink taste horribly bitter to some people and not to others based on variations in their genes; specifically the receptors that respond to bitterness.

    Basically, your genes determine whether you can guzzle down tonic water or you can’t manage a single gulp.

    Researchers from the Monell Center studied 1,457 twins and their siblings, asking them to drink some quinine and rate how bitter it tasted.

    They found that those who shared a similar perception of quinine shared the same pattern of DNA, specifically in a region of chromosome 12.

    People with a certain type of gene makeup will find tonic water tastes far more bitter.

    You might not hate gin, you might just hate tonic
    Let go of tonic and you might find your new favourite spirit (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

    Interestingly, there’s been research to suggest that those who enjoy drinking bitter tastes are more likely to have psychopathic tendencies, so being unable to drink G&Ts might not be such a bad thing.

    Testing whether you dislike gin or tonic is simple. Just try some plain old tonic water and see if it makes you gag.

    If it does, choosing a different mixer might mean you can enjoy gin with wild abandon. Hooray.

    The taste of gin itself varies between concoctions. Gin itself is basically a vodka that’s been infused with botanicals, with the predominant flavour being juniper.

    Gin can be spicy, floral, more citrus, more earthy. Whatever your preferences, there’s likely a gin that will fit your tastebuds – enjoying the tipple is just down to finding the right gin for you and mixing it with stuff you actually like (so, no tonic).

    Aldi even sells glittery Parma Violet gin, while Lidl has a fancy pomegranate and rose take, so you can trust us when we say there’s a niche gin option out there for you somewhere.

    Once you’ve picked out your booze, you can go ahead and find your signature tonic-free drink. We’ve listed three recipes below to get you started, but you can also go simple by experimenting with a mixer of your choice.

    We find that gin with sparkling water and an elderflower cordial is pretty lovely.

    Gin with ginger ale, also great. The same goes for gin, sparkling water, and some lemon juice. Easy but delightful.

    The Gimlet

    A gin gimlet
    Super simple and oh so refreshing (Picture: Getty)

    Ingredients: 

    • 60ml gin
    • 60ml lime juice cordial
    • Lime wedge

    Pour the gin and the lime into a glass filled with ice, add the lime wedge as a garnish.

    The Rose Sour

    It tastes as good as it looks (Picture: Darwin and Wallace)
    It tastes as good as it looks (Picture: Darwin and Wallace)
    This twist on a classic whisky or pisco sour is available at No11 Pimlico Road. Traditionally whisky/pisco, lemon juice, sugar and Angostura bitters are shaken with egg white. The egg white adds no flavour just body and a silky smooth texture.
    Ingredients:
    • 35ml Plymouth Sloe Gin
    • 35ml Honey Rose Syrup
    • 25ml lemon juice
    • 12.5 Noily Prat
    • Egg white

    Dry shake with all ingredients (no ice) then add ice and shake again. Strain into coupe glass and garnish with dried rose petals.

    Classic Bramble

    Blackberry and Thyme cocktail for world gin day
    A classic bramble is perfect for every season (Picture: Getty)

    Ingredients:

    • 60ml gin
    • 25ml lemon juice
    • Tablespoon of sugar syrup (make your own by simply heating equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat)
    • Crushed ice
    • Your choice of fruit liqueur (we like blackberry)
    • Lemon slice
    • Your choice of fruit to top (again, blackberries are great)

    Shake the gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and a handful of crushed ice in a cocktail shaker, then pour over ice in a glass.

    Drizzle the fruit liqueur on top so it bleeds its way down through the gin mix. Top with your lemon slice and fruit.

    MORE: 8 easy to make gin cocktail recipes for World Gin Day 2017

    MORE: Cocktail recipe video: Here’s how to make a Gin Sunrise


    You might not hate gin, you might just hate tonicYou might not hate gin, you might just hate tonic

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    Illustration of two people lying in bed together
    One man faked it due to his mental health (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    You struggle with your sleep, so you download a handy sleep-tracking app to sort out your slumber.

    That might not be such a great idea.

    Sleep experts have declared that sleep trackers can actually make your insomnia worse, as they make you more stressed out about being unable to sleep.

    At the Cheltenham science festival Dr Guy Leschziner, a sleep disorder specialist and consultant at Guy’s hospital, said: ‘We’ve seen a lot of people who have developed significant insomnia as a result of either sleep trackers or reading certain things about how devastating sleep deprivation is for you.’

    Guy reckons tracking your sleep is pretty pointless, anyway, as you can assess for yourself how much good quality sleep you’re getting.

    ‘My view of sleep trackers is fairly cynical,’ he said. ‘If you wake up feeling tired and you’ve had an unrefreshing night’s sleep then you know you’ve got a problem.

    ‘If you wake up every day and feel refreshed, are awake throughout the day and are ready to sleep at the same time every night then you’re probably getting enough sleep for you. You don’t need an app to tell you that.’

    Stephanie Romiszewski, a sleep psychologist, added: ‘Everybody sleeps differently and can have a different duration. And therefore if you take a generic sleep tracker and it [says] you haven’t had the right amount of sleep, that can start to worry you.

    ‘When you get into that obsessive state about sleep it makes sleep even more difficult.’

    These comments echo concerns raised by previous research into sleep trackers, which suggests that the level of data we have on our rest might worsen our sleeping patterns by making us overthink our rest.

    A study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, suggested that worrying so much about whether or not we’re getting enough sleep, and being conscious of whether we’re sleeping well, ends up keeping us awake.

    The researchers called this orthosomnia, defined as an unhealthy preoccupation with achieving perfect sleep.

    They referred to the case of a 39-year-old man who was given a sleep-tracking device from his girlfriend. That man found that he had fewer arguments with his girlfriend after getting a full eight hours of sleep (because being well-rested does tend to make you less irritable). That discovery was thanks to the app.

    Soon, he started to become so fixated on getting a good night’s sleep – because he wanted to make sure his life would continue going smoothly – that he would end up lying awake worrying about the amount of sleep he was getting. Which defeats the entire point of using sleep-tracking apps to get better sleep.

    Becoming fixated on whether we’re sleeping the ‘right’ way doesn’t exactly put us in the correct mindset to drift off. Lots of us are putting too much pressure on ourselves.

    The answer might be to ditch the tech, relax your sleeping rules, and trust your body to do its thing.

    Six easy ways to improve your sleep:

    • Give yourself a bedtime – and stick to it even at the weekends
    • Use the hour before bed as quiet, relaxing time free of technology
    • Stop drinking caffeine from around 4pm
    • Avoid alcohol before bed
    • Keep your phone on silent and away from your bed
    • Get outside and exercise during the day

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    How to stop saying sorryHow to stop saying sorry

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    (Illustration: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)
    You’re not alone if going to the Post Office is your most hated errand (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Have you ever ordered something online, hated it, but kept it to avoid having to go to the Post Office?

    You’re not alone – especially if you’re a millennial (that’s anyone between the ages of 23 and 38 in 2019, FYI).

    Feeling unable to go to the Post Office is cited as a uniquely millennial symptom. Us semi-young people are blamed for killing of snail mail, while our collective burnout is evidenced by our ‘Post Office anxiety’.

    Millennials are even accused of not understanding the very concept of stamps or how to address an envelope, an easy way to make our age group look incompetent, as evidence that we can do these things will be lacking when we just can’t be bothered.

    Of course we know how to write a letter, how to address an envelope, where to put a stamp – or if we don’t, we’d Google it.

    It’s not that we don’t know how that stops us from the specific errand of a Post Office trip, but that it feels like an insurmountable goal or a truly unbearable experience. For many of us, of all the simple tasks we have to complete, going to the Post Office is the one that we’d most like to avoid.

    Cat, 27, hasn’t been to the Post Office in months, despite having quite a few things she needs to send off.

    ‘I have a pile of letters from my family who live far away, and the reason I haven’t replied is because I really, truly hate posting things,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘I’ve written responses before then realised I don’t have any stamps, and just can’t muster the strength to go to the Post Office and buy new ones.

    ‘I’ve got a load of foreign currency I could really do with exchanging, too – enough to get me out of my overdraft. It’s been hanging around in my drawer for over a year.

    ‘I don’t know why I won’t go. I say it’s because I don’t have time or whatever, but there’s a Post Office five minutes from my house.

    ‘I just hate going. It’s the worst. The queues are always long and it’s always weirdly warm.

    Mental health series: How to look after your mental health when you're moving house, because it's bloody stressful
    Anyone else got a load of packages that have now passed their return date? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    ‘I feel like an idiot for not going, especially when I miss return dates and just have packages sitting there and making me feel bad. But I avoid the Post Office like the plague.’

    Rebecca, also 27, has a similar affliction. She describes going to the Post Office as her most hated necessary task.

    ‘I’ve wasted about £500 on ASOS items I haven’t returned in the last decade,’ Rebecca tells us.

    ‘My husband has to return my clothes otherwise they live in a sad ASOS pile under the bed. As a non-millennial he feels that the Post Office is just part of life.’

    Is hating the Post Office a uniquely millennial thing? I doubt it.

    It’s hard to enjoy an errand that takes time, effort, and long queues, especially when you don’t have anything fun to show for it at the end (with cleaning you have a sparkling kitchen, cooking gives you food, and going through your inbox gives you the immense satisfaction of having no further unread emails).

    But when you’ve grown up with far easier forms of communication available, having to rely on the Post Office does feel like a burden you’d rather avoid. Perhaps those outside the millennial bracket dislike the Post Office just as much as we do, but put up with it as they’ve experienced it being the only proper option. We haven’t, so we don’t.

    Dr Catherine Huckle, a Clinical Psychologist from the University of Surrey, reckons a significant part of our reluctance to post things is that a trip to the Post Office makes us feel out of control.

    ‘Your visit is unpredictable,’ she explains. ‘Post Offices provide such a variety of services (from buying a stamp to having a lengthy application checked, approved and paid for) that we can never know for sure how long our wait will be.

    ‘We know that as humans we tend to avoid uncertain situations because originally (in an evolutionary sense) they may have contained danger.

    ‘Although danger is less likely nowadays an anxiety response can still be triggered, leading us to feel anxious, irritable and on edge, which are uncomfortable feelings that can put us off going.

    Illo - How will you have office romances and friendships when everyone’s working remotely?
    When we’re so used to doing things instantly, it makes sense that the Post Office feels like such a chore (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    ‘Research shows that if you know how long you are likely to be queuing you are likely to manage the stress of it better (such as through screens giving wait times) but this is pretty difficult for post offices to provide because the services are so varied.’

    So basically, we hate going to the Post Office because we don’t feel prepared for the reality. The exact time it’ll take and the ease with which you’ll mail your package are waiting for you behind those doors as a fun, anxiety-inducing surprise.

    This isn’t unique to millennials, but this age group might find the frustrations of going to the Post Office hit them harder.

    ‘The internet provides such immediate gratification for so many of our needs that a chore that requires a precious commodity of time (and effort) is aversive,’ says Catherine.

    ‘It doesn’t fit with the way that we are living our lives nowadays and so going to the post office is a dissonant task.

    ‘Millennials and younger people will be more habituated to the quick tech world and so the task of going to the post office has the potential to feel even more dissonant that older age groups.’

    When you’re already burned out and feeling overwhelmed, even the simplest task can feel impossible.

    If that task doesn’t provide any immediate gratification, it’s no wonder we’ll avoid it – especially when we’ve grown accustomed to smoothing away all those annoying tasks that require time and effort.

    ‘Think about how easy it is to have things you actually like delivered to your door – you can get your favourite meal delivered in 30 minutes with a few clicks, or a shaving kit delivered every month so you don’t even have to think about it,’ says psychology blogger Marcus.

    ‘Things are instant, easy and people who have either embraced technology, or grown up with technology (like millennials) have learnt to love this
    instant gratification.

    ‘On the flipside of that are returns, you’re no longer dealing with something you like or want, you’re dealing with something, such as a piece
    of clothing that you have actively rejected. So you’ve gone from ‘like and easy’, to ‘dislike and difficult’.

    ‘To return an item at the Post Office you have to pack the item, physically go there, possibly queue and return an item, of which the procedure might be unfamiliar to you, the return requires time, physical and cognitive effort, the only reward being the return of your money, which you’ve now managed to live without, so that isn’t a big motivating factor in most cases.’

    So, how can you get rid of your Post Office dread and get that mail errand sorted?

    Bad news: there’s nothing you can do to stop the inherent awfulness of the location. There may be queues. It may be too warm. You may have to deal with someone who talks to you like they despise your very existence.

    What you can do is make your motivation a little more obvious to remind yourself that ticking off this item on your to-do list is a good thing.

    Leave that package that needs to be returned right by your door, so you almost stumble over it every time you leave the house. Voila: you’ll have the benefit of a clear path through your flat once you bloody well stick a returns label on there.

    Tell yourself that once the Post Office is done, you’ll treat yourself to a bubble tea/a browse around & Other Stories/whatever thing brings you joy.

    You can also do your best to minimise the bits you find most irritating about this particular errand. Give yourself a proper window of time so unpredictable queues don’t make you feel rushed, print off your postage label beforehand, and save some articles to read on your phone while you wait.

    Going to the Post Office sucks. Hating it is perfectly valid. But you can do it, promise.

    MORE: Feeling irritated, stressed, and finding it hard to get stuff done? You might have cognitive fatigue

    MORE: Millennials love plants because we have nothing else

    MORE: Millennials struggle to make friends at work – and it’s damaging our mental health


    Why do millennials hate the post office/sending mail?Why do millennials hate the post office/sending mail?

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    Think of surfing and you picture the boardwalks of California or Australia, of blonde muscled men and lithe women effortlessly hitting the waves and living a lifestyle many of us only dream about.

    Yet in the past five years the number of registered surf retreats around the world has risen, with women in particular taking to the waves in increasing numbers.

    But can you really learn to surf in four or five days? And can you really go into a surf camp with zero experience and minimal fitness?

    Ever the intrepid explorers, Metro.co.uk decided to find out directly, and discovered that like most things, the answer is yes and no.

    As someone who spends every summer on the coast, the beach is my happy place. The ocean? Not so much. One day as a teenager I decided the salt water was too salty, the sand sticking to, well, everything was uncomfortable, and don’t get me started on applying sun tan lotion at the beach when covered in that salty residue.

    But now I’m in my thirties, and potentially in the middle of a third-life crisis, I’m in the process of overcoming old fears, from relearning to drive to accepting my body, to finding my water feet again.

    For seven months I’ve been learning to swim and regaining confidence in the water but as I fly in to Portugal to join the Chicks On Waves surf retreat in the Algarve, I panic.

    The ocean is not a swimming pool and all the tumbling and treading water practice in the world is not going to prepare me for the might and unpredictability of the surf.

    Plus, I realise, I probably should have done some weight training beforehand to compensate for my complete lack of upper body strength.

    But there’s no turning back now…

    surfing
    First lessons (Picture: Rebecca Lewis)

    Chicks On Waves is a women-only surf and yoga retreat that has been running for 11 years, first in Morocco and now Portugal, in the hope of getting more women in the water.

    Based out of a stunning ecolodge with amazing views out on the ocean, the group is a mix of women from across Europe, some of whom are complete beginners and other who are more experienced but only get the chance to get on the water when they take trips such as these.

    Each day begins either with surf or yoga – depending on the tides – but day one kicks off with an 8am yoga class on the roof.

    It’s a picture perfect start, and I imagine that this is all I need to be able to suddenly be able to jump up on that board.

    Somehow it doesn’t cross my mind I’ve never been able to do a bunny hop to save my life, so how one class of yoga will make a difference, I don’t know.

    Rooftop yoga
    Yoga on the roof with the sunrise, anyone? (Picture: Rebecca Lewis)

    After a lazy morning around the pool, we take a 20 minute drive to Praia do Castalejo where we’re promised powerful small waves – perfect for beginners.

    After we struggle into wetsuits and carry our boards to the right spot, it’s time for a tutorial on the basics such as surf etiquette, how to get on the board and how to paddle. Then we’re out in the surf.

    The first goal is to catch a wave and ride it in; you need to find your perfect balance on the board and try to pick the right wave by looking over your shoulder all at the same time. It’s hard.

    Add on top of that trying to get on the board when you’re 5’3″ on a good day and have zero upper body strength, it’s not a good start.

    Our instructors Sara and Saskia are there to help, and so once I’m on the board it’s a case of waiting to be told when to start paddling and then metaphorically crossing everything you have that the wave will pick you up.

    It takes a while to learn which waves will work for you – and I have no expectations this will happen in one week – but after several attempts it’s time to get back out and be shown how to stand up.

    I’m surprised we’re focusing on this as complete beginners after an hour in the water but Saskia helps to break down the process of getting to your feet, offering some key tips and tricks that add a few extra steps for those of us with weaker cores, before we’re told it’s a case of going again and again and again.

    surfing
    Small but powerful waves are the easiest to learn on (Picture: Rebecca Lewis)

    Kirsty visited her first surf retreat in 2017 at the age of 31 because she was keen to try something new.

    ‘What interested me was the adrenaline rush of the surfing coupled with the great location,’ she says, while Clare, 32, had surfed before her first retreat but felt that the week of dedicated time to the ocean allowed her to improve her technique.

    ‘The ocean makes you put everything into perspective by making you feel insignificant,’ Clare adds

    ‘We were able to switch off; our bodies were exhausted but our minds were relaxed.’

    Katrien Kegels, who owns Chicks On Waves, says she’s seen a huge increase in the last five years of women taking to the waves for the same reasons.

    ‘I think women feel empowerment from surfing,’ she says.

    ‘The ocean cleanses, it free the body and soul and has been proven to be a good way to stop thinking and live in the moment, something that is difficult for people nowadays, to disconnect completely from daily busy lives.’

    Plus, as Katrien, says, ‘surfing with other women is so much fun, we cheer for each other when we see our friend on a beautiful wave’.

    Portugal beach
    Learning to surf on a quiet stretch of beach is helpful (Picture: Rebecca Lewis)

    After a good night’s sleep, day two begins bright and early and I realise my arms are achey and everything hurts. How have I pulled muscles in the back of my knees?

    Yoga class at 8am helps to stretch out muscles I never knew I had, but before long it’s time for the next lesson.

    The surf conditions are not great for beginners today but perseverance is key – 99% of surfing is paddling and attempting to catch a wave, says Sara, not actually riding the wave in.

    For some of the girls, day two is about learning which waves work for them and moving on from knees to attempting to stand. I’m still trying to get on the board.

    I’m slowly realising that I may not be the secret surf Goddess I’d always secretly suspected I was.

    By day three – despite the factor 50 and zinc application – I have what could kindly be called ‘a healthy glow’ and I fear the instructors may have given up on me.

    Note to everyone, pick up some strength training and maybe do some ab crunches before a surf retreat.

    surfing
    Yewwww! (Picture: Rebecca Lewis)

    It’s a morning surf for day three at a new beach, Praia de Porto de Mós. The break is too close to shore so it’s time to go out into the green water. This is where you can’t touch the seabed so it’s the part that I have been dreading.

    I decide it’s now or never and I paddle out to the others, taking deep calming breaths while also trying to keep my board balanced so I don’t fall off.

    ‘Paddle paddle!’ I hear shouted in my direction and I look over my shoulder to see what even I can tell is going to be the perfect wave.

    Remembering the techniques we’ve been taught I let the wave catch the board, paddle two more strokes, push myself up to the yoga cobra position, keep my eyes facing forward – all of this should be done in a few seconds but it’s a big wave and I take my time – then I slide up to my knees, balance one foot down… it’s wipe out.

    Caught in the tumble, I try not to panic as wave after wave keeps breaking on top of me. I make it out of the surf and attempt to bring my board back in closer but another wave breaks and I am caught inside the impact zone in endless rows of rumbling whitewater.

    It’s terrifying and as I finally drag myself out of the wave hold-down and on to the beach my heart is pounding and my legs are shaking. I’m still alive but I decide I’m done for the day.

    Laura Crane found fame in 2018 as a contestant on Love Island but she was previously a professional surfer who competed for Great Britain during the World Surf League’s Qualifying Series.

    The 24-year-old used surfing ‘to get out of a bad place or to brighten up any down day’ and acknowledges that ‘there’s ‘something about bring in the ocean away from technology and thinking about nothing else more than just standing up on my board gliding along a wave’.

    As my week comes to an end, I realise I’ve spent less time on my phone, and had to consciously remember to dig for it at the bottom of my bag to take pictures for this story.

    ‘This could definitely be a trigger for the rise of people getting into it,’ adds Laura, of the sport’s ability to force you to switch off and focus elsewhere.

    By the fourth and final day, I know there’s no chance of standing up but as I float on the board during a lull in the waves, I am grateful for the moment, just me, the board, the ocean, and seven other women who are all searching for the same tranquility I am discovering.

    And yes, the high of a chorus of ‘yewwwwwwws’ as one of us catches the wave.

    ‘I think surf retreats are an amazing way to get in to surfing and you really get a feel for the whole surfing lifestyle that comes with the sport, which is one of the best things about it,’ says Laura, and I can’t help but agree.

    In four days, I may not have stood up on the surfboard, but boy did I have fun trying.

    Chicks On Waves

    Chicks On Waves is based near Burgau, an hour west of Faro.

    Rates start at €865 (around £770) for seven nights accommodation in a shared room with private bathroom.

    This includes five yoga lessons, five daily surf lessons, breakfast, lunch and dinner for five days as well as free use of mountain bikes, boards, wetsuits, mats, and WiFi.

    How to get there

    British Airways fly to Faro daily, with return flights from Gatwick Airport starting from £81.

    For those early morning flights, stay at the Bloc Hotel, with rooms starting from £69.

    The Gatwick Express is a non-stop shuttle service from London Victoria that runs every 30 minutes from £17 one way.

    MORE: Heritage travel is the new trend to help you source your ancestry abroad


    chicks on waves-d320chicks on waves-d320

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    Zero waste packaging that decomposes like veg
    Scoby could be an environmentally friendly answer to food packaging (Picture: makegrowlab)

    Today in cool people making cool things, makegrowlab has developed a new type of packaging that’s zero-waste to make and composts easily when you’re done with it.

    Could this be an environmentally friendly alternative to our sandwich bags and clingfilm?

    The packaging, called Scoby, is made entirely from agricultural waste that’s weaved into a material.

    That material can then be made into all sorts of packaging, including wrappers for soap, sachets for spices, and bags for cereal and rice.

    It could also be used as a clingfilm replacement that you can pop over bowls of food to keep it fresh. Excellent.

    The packaging is supposed to work as the perfect barrier from oxygen, microbes, and water, meaning it’d work to wrap up a load of different products, and it has a two year shelf life.

    Scoby is Zero waste packaging that decomposes like veg
    It’s made from agricultural waste (Picture: makegrowlab)
    Scoby is entirely compostable food packaging
    It can serve as a cling film alternative or work as commercial food packaging (Picture: makegrowlab)

    Because it’s made from natural waste products, Scoby packaging doesn’t require the production of plastic or other things that can wreck the environment.

    Its creators say it can be grown anywhere in the world with little space and few resources.

    And when you’re all done with it, throwing the packaging away isn’t a huge problem. It’s entirely compostable, so you can pop it in your food waste bin in the knowledge it’ll break down just like any other vegetable.

    You could eat it, if you really fancied.

    Zero waste packaging that decomposes like veg Picture: makegrowlab METROGRAB MUST LINK: https://www.makegrowlab.com/shop
    It composts once you’re done with it (Picture: makegrowlab)
    Zero waste packaging that decomposes like veg Picture: makegrowlab METROGRAB MUST LINK: https://www.makegrowlab.com/shop
    You can eat it, too (Picture: makegrowlab)

    All that means this packaging doesn’t pollute the environment or contribute to the destruction of the world.

    The only issue (at least that we can see)? The company that makes it is small and located in Poland, so as far as we know there are no current plans to make this the go-to packaging for food in the UK.

    You can order the products online, but most of them are currently sold out. Sigh.

    At least we know that such a thing exists, and can hope that one day it’ll be the norm.

    Anything that lets us buy delicious food without worrying about impending environmental doom is a wonderful thing.

    MORE: Climate change is causing ecoanxiety and damaging our mental health – what can we do?

    MORE: On World Oceans Day campaigners plead for us to help turn the tide on plastic pollution

    MORE: The real threat to the ocean is the fish on your plate – not the straw in your drink


    Zero waste packaging that decomposes like veg Picture: makegrowlab METROGRAB MUST LINK: https://www.makegrowlab.com/shopZero waste packaging that decomposes like veg Picture: makegrowlab METROGRAB MUST LINK: https://www.makegrowlab.com/shop

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    Couple who matched on Bumble
    Couple who matched on Bumble by chance as one passed through an airport get married, despite living 3,500 miles apart (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)

    What do you do to kill time at the airport? Listen to music, read a book, swipe through a dating app?

    Canadian Leah Woolridge-McPherson decided to go for the latter on Bumble, a dating app that matches you to partners within a set radius.

    She happened to be matched with Mark Lusted, a Londoner passing through the airport at the same time.

    Leah, from Toronto, Canada, was flying home from London in 2016 when they connected, at the time she wasn’t looking for a relationship, much less with someone who lived 3,500 miles away from her.

    The 29-year-old, who works as a global operations manager, swiped right on Mark who was travelling to France at the time.

    Mark, a 30-year-old from Bedfordshire, who works as a surveyor, said the geographical distance was a help, not a hindrance in their relationship.

    They spent hours each day talking and getting to know one another. During their second date, the couple said, ‘I love you’, while on their fourth, decided to move in.

    Clearly committed to one another, the pair then decided to get married.

    Mark's first trip to Canada for Leah's mum's wedding in December 2016 (PA Real Life/Collect)
    Mark’s first trip to Canada for Leah’s mum’s wedding, a few months after matching (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)

    ‘The distance was actually a really good thing. Of course, there were times we missed each other but it allowed us to build our relationship slowly, and become best friends,’ said Leah.

    ‘Mark was so thoughtful and genuinely interested, that he made it easy to be open and honest.

    ‘At every stage, I would ask myself “what’s the worst that could happen, that I get ghosted by someone on the other side of the world?”

    ‘We love reflecting on our story and it goes to show that you aren’t always going to find love with the people right next to you. It’s about opening up your mind and trusting what the world has in store.’

    Leah and Mark Skyping when they lived apart
    Leah and Mark Skyping when they lived apart (PA Real Life/Collect)

    The couple quickly became accustomed to staying up late on Skype or chatting first thing in the morning with one another.

    Leah recalled downloading Bumble on a whim and, within a few hours, she was matched with Mark.

    He said: ‘I’d only been on the app a couple of months myself, having been single a year or so. We soon worked out that, by the time I got home from France, she’d have left England and gone back to Canada, so at first, I never dreamed we’d actually end up meeting.’

    But, instead of the long-distance extinguishing their spark, the couple found it actually helped them get to know one another properly, without pressure.

    After a month of chatting every day, they decided to organise their first official date – in Iceland, three months after matching, though they had met in London for a work trip Leah was on.

    ‘I remember being so nervous before actually meeting Mark in the flesh. I kept thinking, “we better like each other – we have a trip to Iceland booked in a few weeks.”

    ‘But we had such an amazing time.’

    Leah and Mark in Iceland on their first official date in August 2016
    Leah and Mark in Iceland on their first official date in August 2016 (PA Real Life/Collect)

    While discussing their future, Mark and Leah decided to tell each other how they felt. Their next date came in December of the same year, in Canada where Mark came to visit for Leah’s mum’s wedding.

    Their third date was a trip to Paris in March 2017, where they decided to move in together.

    Two more trips followed – one to Mexico, where their families met for the first time, with Leah moving to England permanently two weeks later – and one to Brussels for a romantic weekend to celebrate one year as a couple.

    Leah and Mark in Budapest in December 2017, just after they got engaged
    The couple in Budapest in December 2017, just after they got engaged (PA Real Life/Collect)

    ‘We had spoken a lot about where it would be easiest for us to live. Mark had applied for a Canadian visa and I had applied for a UK one,’ said Leah.

    ‘We had a big spreadsheet weighing up all the pros and cons, and even considered going out to China to earn a living teaching English.

    ‘But in the end, my UK visa got granted, and where I worked at the time had a UK office I could transfer to, so it made sense for me to be the one to move.’

    Leah and Mark on their wedding day
    On their wedding day (PA Real Life/Scott Ramsay)

    A year later, Mark proposed with a vintage ring Leah had her sights set on.

    After announcing the news to their delighted families, Leah and Mark tied the knot in Canada.

    Now, looking back at their incredible story, they say they are living proof that you never know when you are going to meet your soulmate, and have thanked Bumble for making them believe in love at first swipe.

    MORE: Couple get married after meeting through a text message sent to the wrong number

    MORE: Couple who wed on first date reveal what life is like as man and wife

    MORE: Bumble is looking for someone to go on dates for a year (and get paid for it)


    Couple who matched on Bumble by chance as one passed through an airport went on to marry - despite living 3,500 miles apartCouple who matched on Bumble by chance as one passed through an airport went on to marry - despite living 3,500 miles apart

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    The siblings together
    Left to right: Lexi, Jake, Hannah, Rachel at college (Picture: Randolph-Macon College /SWNS.COM)

    A set of quadruplets who graduated on the same day from the same university said accepting their degrees side by side was the most special moment of their lives.

    Jake, Lexi, Hannah and Rachel Jones, 21, donned their caps and gowns after four years of study at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia.

    The sibligs were all born within four minutes of each other in November 1997, and attended the same schools for all of their lives – and even went to prom together.

    The quadruplets, from Chestertown, Maryland, each funded their education through scholarships, grants and student loans.

    While Jake and Lexi graduated with degrees in communication studies, Rachel and Hannah took different paths, majoring in psychology and biology respectively.

    Their parents, Scott, 52, and Deeann, 49, are both super proud.

    Deeann said: ‘Graduation day was absolutely wonderful.

    ‘We got to walk with our children, sit behind them, and then walk out with them.

    ‘Obviously we were very proud to see them graduate, but just incredibly happy for them as well.

    ‘Scott started worrying about financing college for them long before they were born. We were fortunate that all kids received scholarships and grants.

    ‘They were conceived through IVF and it was a high risk pregnancy. I was put on bed rest at 18 weeks and they were born at 31 and a half weeks.

    The siblings graduating together
    They all graduated together (Picture: Randolph-Macon College /SWNS.COM)

    ‘Fortunately they were very healthy, they just needed to stay in the NICU to grow.

    ‘They were so small when they were born and Hannah was in the NICU for a month since she was the tiniest. She was just 2lbs 10 oz.

    ‘To see them graduate was very special.’

    Jake said: ‘To walk behind one sister and for another to walk right behind me to accept our diplomas was really special and a very proud moment.

    ‘It was really cool to celebrate our achievements together.’

    The quadruplets lived in adjoining dorms during university, until Jake, the only boy, moved into a house with some friends in Junior year.

    Rachel, who graduated with a degree in psychology, said sharing the college experience with her siblings made it less daunting.

    She said: ‘I think at first it was unbelievable that we all got accepted into the same college but it was exciting.

    ‘I take a little while to adjust to big changes so having my siblings there made it a lot easier.

    ‘The best part was the feeling of having a home away from home. If I was struggling I knew that I had my siblings there to help.

    ‘I minored in Communications so it was great to be able to share textbooks with my brother and sister, who majored in it. That saved us a little bit of money.

    The siblings when they were young
    The quads when they were young. Left to right: Jake, Hannah, Lexi, Rachel.(Picture: Randolph-Macon College /SWNS.COM)

    ‘Even though we were in the same college, we had freedom as well. We all did different majors and we made different friends. It gave us the chance to establish our independence.’

    Jake added: ‘To have my sisters there made college a much easier transition.

    ‘It was a great way to meet new people, because we all made new friends in our classes and dorms.

    ‘We led different lives on campus but it was great to have that family connection the whole time too.

    ‘In junior year, I moved out into a house with a couple of my friends.

    ‘It was the first time I had ever really been away from my sisters, even though I still saw them practically every day.

    ‘We keep in touch on a group text. Even when we’re at home we sometimes use that.’

    The parents, who have another daughter Olivia, 16, said they were relieved when their children were accepted to Randolph-Macon College, which is three hours away from their hometown.

    Deeann said: ‘I had always hoped they’d go to school together.

    ‘It made it quite convenient for us. From moving, to storing things over the summer, to visiting them and arranging their travels back and forth from home to school.

    ‘It definitely gave us greater peace of mind knowing that they were there for each other.

    ‘Scott used 529 investment plans for all the kids, and they each had to take out small student loans.’

    Hannah is set to pursue further studies in physical therapy at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania in July.

    Jake will take a position in recruitment in Falls Church, Virginia, this summer, while Lexi and Rachel are undertaking post-grad positions in their hometown.

    Deeann added: ‘I think it may hit me like a brick wall in July when they all actually move out and I’m sure I’ll have a really good cry then.

    ‘However, I’m very excited about their futures and really happy with the places they are moving to. I have a great deal to be thankful for.’

    Rachel added: ‘It will be a big change for all of us but I think the time is right.

    ‘We’ve been together for 21 and a half years and it will be hard to be apart. It’s bittersweet but it’s also a really exciting time for all of us.’

    MORE: Lack of sleep in children ‘can lead to obesity’

    MORE: Mum makes a bust of her bum to promote body positivity for her daughters


    SEI_73144858SEI_73144858

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    Illustration of a woman at her desk with a book and light
    (Picture: Dean Noroozi/Getty)

    New research has found that sleep-deprived teenagers are more likely to have unprotected sex.

    Scientists say that most teens don’t get the recommended amount of sleep ( between eight and 10 hours a night) meaning they are more impulsive and likely to make bad decisions.

    Teens who consistently don’t get enough sleep are apparently twice as likely to have unprotected sex than those who slept for an extra three and a half hours at the weekend, claims the paper, which was published in the journal Health Psychology.

    Researchers carried out a long-term study of 1,850 teenagers and young adults in Southern California. Data was collected four times between 2013 and 2017 and participants were on average 16 years old in 2013 and 19 years old in 2017.

    ‘Insufficient sleep may increase the potential for sexual risk-taking by compromising decision-making and influencing impulsivity,’ said senior behavioural and social scientist Wendy Troxel at RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institution.

    ‘Sexual risk-taking in adolescence poses serious health concerns, such as an increased potential of getting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV,’ said Dr Troxel, who has previously argued that school should start later for teens.

    During the study teens reported how much sleep they were getting on weekdays and weekends during the four weeks before the study. They also reported whether they had drunk alcohol, smoked marijuana or used any other drugs right before or during sex or sexual activity, and whether or not they used a condom.

    Researchers found that teenagers averaged f 7.5 hours of sleep per school night.

    Only 26% of teens were classified as sufficient weekday sleepers, averaging about 8.5 hours per night.

    Most teens in the study were intermediate weekend sleepers, clocking in just over nine hours. Long weekend sleepers got an average of 10.6 hours and short weekend sleepers got an average of 7.8 hours.

    Researchers say this study contributes to a growing body of research about the role of sleep disturbances and teenage risk-taking behaviours.

    Dr Troxel has suggested possible strategies that may help teens get the sleep their bodies need.

    ‘Our recommendation is for parents and teens to find a middle ground, which allows for some weekend catch-up sleep, while maintaining some level of consistency in sleep-wake patterns,’ she said.

    ‘We also need to encourage school districts to consider delaying school start times because this could make a substantial difference in helping teens get adequate sleep.’

    There are calls for school to start later both in the UK and in the US.

    Get paid £100 an hour to teach a sleeping studentGet paid £100 an hour to teach a sleeping student

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    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk) metro illustrations
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Thousands of women who receive treatment for abnormal cells after a cervical smear are completely unprepared for the possible side effects, warns a charity.

    Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust surveyed 1,622 women and found that one in five had no idea they could experience pelvic pain, bleeding and loss of libido after the treatment.

    220,000 women have pre-cancerous cells found during routine smear tests in the UK every year – it is incredibly common, and yet understanding about the effects of the treatment is very limited.

    The survey also found that 86% experienced bleeding or spotting after having the cells removed, but only 15% recognised this as a side effect.

    There are psychological side effects as well. A huge 71% of women experienced anxiety following the treatment, but just 6% of women were told that this could happen.

    Almost one in four women said they experienced depression following treatment. And many women who did experience side effects didn’t seek support, saying that they were too embarrassed.

    ‘While treatment for cell changes remains highly effective, we must start to see it as more than just a simple procedure and acknowledge the impact diagnosis and treatment can have on women,’ said Rebecca Shoosmith, head of support services at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.

    ‘There has been lots of focus on the needs of those attending screening, and of those with a cancer diagnosis, but this is a group who have previously been overlooked. Better information provision and support for those having treatment is essential.’

    Having abnormal cells doesn’t mean that you will definitely get cervical cancer, but removing them early is the best form of proactive, preventative treatment.

    The procedure only takes a few minutes and in the majority of cases is carried out using a local anaesthetic.

    Cell changes can occur many years before cancer develops.

    Identifying and treating these cell changes at an early stage can prevent cancer from ever developing – which is why it’s so important for women to be aware of the different treatment options and to keep on top of their smear appointments.

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    Picture of Starbucks entrance
    There will be five check-in points in the terminal (Picture: Zute Lightfoot)

    Airports are full of coffee shops for the bleary-eyed travellers catching flights at ungodly hours, or for those buzzing for their trips abroad.

    So, to reduce the amount of plastic waste that comes from their disposable cups, Starbucks is offering reusable ones at Gatwick Airport.

    Instead of taking the cups with you on holiday, there will be ‘cup check-in points’ dotted around the airport where you can dispose of them before boarding your flight.

    Starbucks joins forces with Hubbub – a green living charity – in hopes to cut paper cup waste and address throw-away culture.

    There will be five check-in points available throughout the international airport’s South Terminal.

    The one-month trial will run alongside other airport initiatives to increase cup reuse and recycling.

    It is hoped that 7,000 disposable coffee cups will be saved from use through the trial.

    How it works

    • Starbucks customers will be offered the option of having their drink in a reusable cup when they get to the till
    • Customers keep hold of the cup for the time they are in the airport
    • Before boarding, cups can be returned to one of five ‘Cup Check-In’ points located throughout the terminal, including at the Starbucks store
    • Cups will be collected by Gatwick’s waste management team to be washed and sterilised in line with the airport’s safety standards and returned to Starbucks ready for customer consumption
    • Any customers wishing to choose a disposable paper cup are still welcome and able to do so and will incur the 5p paper cup charge that is live in all Starbucks stores

    At the moment, Gatwick claims to recycle five million of the seven million cups used at the airport each year.

    But as recycling requires empty cups to be placed in the dry recycling bins, Starbucks and Hubbub want to increase reusable cups and limit the number of cups used in travel hubs where on-the-go packaging is prevalent.

    How-to diagram of the recycle scheme
    The reusable cup trial by Gatwick is said to be the world’s first (Picture: Starbucks)

    The plan is to trial 2,000 reusable cups to see if the scheme can be successful.

    Even if only 250 customers opt for reusable each day, it could see more than 7,000 paper cups saved in one month.

    Fans fell in love with the design of the reusable cups last month when a 24-ounce colour-changing cup was introduced.

    The Gatwick ones may not look as colourful, but at least you’ll be helping the environment.

    So don’t forget to grab yours next time you’re travelling through the airport.

    MORE: People are going absolutely wild for Starbucks’ colour-changing reusable cups

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    MORE: Starbucks rolling out scheme to pay UK staff’s tuition fees


    World's first airport reusable cup trial by Gatwick, Starbucks + HubbubWorld's first airport reusable cup trial by Gatwick, Starbucks + Hubbub

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