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

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    Woman sneezing into a tissue
    Enjoying the pollen bomb? (Picture: Getty)

    Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the pollen is high. That’s how the song goes, right?

    Hay fever sufferers will be well aware of the current ‘pollen bomb’ plaguing the country, and it’s likely this awareness will show externally. Itchy eyes, runny noses, and plenty of sneezing are common symptoms of hay fever, and the severity for some can be unbearable.

    No one wants to spend the hotter months of the year holed up indoors, and for most people that simply isn’t an option anyway.

    With that in mind, most people start looking for remedies. Here’s a round-up of the best, and most readily-available options at your local chemist.

    Antihistamine tablets

    This tends to be the first thing you think of when you think of hay fever remedies, and that’s because they should really be part of your daily routine when pollen is high.

    The most common kinds are non-drowsy and can be purchased from any chemist and most supermarkets. Most types of loratadine and cetirizine are taken once a day, and should relieve your symptoms.

    Just make sure to take them first thing in the morning before exposure to pollen.

    In some cases, you might be prescribed stronger medication that can make you feel somewhat drowsy. Always follow the instructions on the packet, and avoid driving or operating heavy machinery.

    Nasal sprays

    Some people prefer to use nasal sprays to help their symptoms, as they use corticosteroids to treat the inflammation directly.

    According to one study, sprays can actually be more effective than antihistamine tablets.

    However, all this really depends on whether you’re happy to spray liquid into your nose – for many that’s a big no-no.

    girl using nasal spray for hay fever
    Gotta love that spray (Picture: Getty)

    Wipes

    These wipes have swept the internet, after one mum shared how helpful they were for her.

    They cost 99p from Savers, and claim to trap dust and pollen. Simply swipe them over your hands and face, and symptoms should reduce.

    Certainly not an environmentally friendly option, but they could be good for those who struggle to take tablets or use nasal sprays.

    Petroleum jelly

    Although products like Vaseline or Hay Max Barrier Balm don’t contain any antihistamine properties, applying petroleum jelly under your nose can act as a barrier to stop pollen before it gets in there.

    If you’re worried about how petroleum jelly affects the environment (or you’re vegan so can’t use beeswax products), you could try Natruline, which is made using Castor Oil and Candauba Wax, and comes in a sustainably-sourced tin.

    Having sex

    Bear with us here, but one study showed that getting your end away can put an end to hay fever symptoms.

    According to the researchers, sex constricts blood flow in the nose and eyes which, in turn, unblocks stuffy noses and stops eyes from running.

    Bit hard to do when you’re at work or walking around the shops, but it’s more fun than nasal spray.

    MORE: There’s now a waterproof handbag for all your Prosecco

    AD FEATURE: Bored of feeling meh? Here’s how to sharpen up your senses


    AllergiesAllergies

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    Finlay Brockie and his mum pose together and the Facebook messaging exchange between them
    (Picture: Finlay Brockie/Facebook)

    Lads on tour is all about holidaying without inhibitions.

    So when 18-year-old Finlay Brockie was planning his trip to Spanish resort Magaluf (so notorious for partying it’s referred to as Shagaluf), his mum wasn’t having it.

    To make sure he keeps some sense of decorum, mum Lisa made him a list of rules which includes no drinking before the flight, no unprotected sex, and no tattoos (unless it’s on the bum so it’s hidden).

    But we have a feeling it fell on deaf ears.

    Finlay, from Dunfermline, Scotland tweeted the Facebook messaging exchange between the pair and it quickly went viral.

    ‘Don’t drink before you get to the airport. If ur drunk they won’t let you on the plane,’ she started the message with.

    ‘Just remember the Eminem concert. Well actually I don’t suppose u can remember the Eminem airport.’

    We wonder what happened at the Slim Shady event but probably something wild as the following lines remind Finlay that he’s lost ‘two provisionals, three door keys, bank cards, money and a wallet’.

    She jokes with him that if he lost his ID, they may not let him come home which wouldn’t actually be ‘too bad’.

    Of course, Finlay replied to all the reassuring messages saying: ‘al be fine, mate’.

    But Lisa went on: ‘Remember to eat. Don’t judge the price of food by how many alcoholic drinks you could buy for the same.

    ‘Don’t get a tattoo… Or if u have to get one make sure it’s on your bum so that when you’re regretting it for the next 70 years it’s not such an obvious daily reminder of when u were an 18 year old t**t.

    ‘Don’t have unprotected sex. A night of fun is not worth a lifetime of gonorrhea. In fact, don’t have sex at all. You don’t know where they’ve been.’

    She added that she doesn’t need 3am calls because he wants to sing to her his fave song.

    Lisa ended the list saying to call her if he needs anything and that she loves him ‘more than life itself’.

    ‘Love you too, pal’ came Finlay’s reply.

    Users online couldn’t get enough of Lisa, telling Finlay: ‘Your mother is the most caring, loving woman. Cherish her’.

    Some tagged their mums telling them the list of stringent rules is something they’d write.

    One cheeky person said virality wasn’t going to get Finlay lucky on holiday: ‘Girls won’t shag you cos your mum is cute’.

    Another wasn’t paying mind to any of the rules: ‘I’m more interested in what happened at the Eminem concert’.

    Same.

    MORE: Guy goes on lads holiday to Hamburg with complete strangers after their mate dropped out

    MORE: Cat goes viral because of his drinking problem

    MORE: Why do lads do such unquestionably stupid things?


    Finlay Brockie's messages with his mum Lisa goes viralFinlay Brockie's messages with his mum Lisa goes viral

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    Asos triangle bra for fuller busts
    Finally! (Picture: ASOS)

    There are very few joys in this world bigger than finding a great bra… Especially if you have bigger boobs.

    Many styles out there are either not supportive enough or have enough scratchy underwire to get a sizeable amount from the scrapyard if traded in.

    Triangle bras always fell into the first camp, with their lack of wires and often-flimsy straps relegating them to the world of AA to B cups only.

    ASOS may just have changed the game, however, with their microfibre triangle bra that’s getting rave reviews from all sizes.

    The ones for smaller boobs come in S/M/L, but for those who need more support, there’s a fuller bust version that’s got standard bra sizing from DD upwards.

    They’re made of a soft, recycled fabric – with a breathable mesh lining – and are sans padded cups for comfort. The bras also feature a wide, adjustable strap that won’t cut into your shoulders like thinner ones.

    ASOS triangle bra for fuller busts
    That is a woman that is supported (Picture: ASOS)

    There’s a range of colours, from shades of nude (for more skin tones than just ‘pale white person’), to pink, lilac, and of course classic black and white.

    And the real pull? They cost just £8 each. Cheap bras are unheard of in the big-boob-world, particularly if you have a back size smaller than a 34.

    A pack of three – with black, white, and peach – will set you back £22, which is less than the price of a normal bra on sale at plenty of shops.

    Although we haven’t tried this magical garment yet, the buzz it’s created online has got us ready to throw out every bra we have in favour of this comfy wonder.

    If you didn’t think a bra could be life-changing, you’re clearly wrong.

    It can, and is for a number of people. Finally, DD-HH people are recognised as not wanting to wear matronly hoists under their clothes.

    Get yours at ASOS.

    MORE: Mum writes hilarious list of rules for son’s lad’s trip to Magaluf

    MORE: There’s now a waterproof handbag for all your Prosecco


    asos-fdc9asos-fdc9

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    Lay-z Spa Paris available at Argos
    Bargain bubbles are the dream (Picture: Argos)

    Hot tubs are expensive, this we know. Apparently sitting drinking in a bath of your own filth out in the garden is a luxury reserved for the few, not the many.

    That’s why, whenever the price of them drops, people really want to get on that.

    The Lay-Z Spa is a well known brand of hot tubs that can be quickly set up and put back down (so your whole garden won’t be out of action forever).

    Argos have reduced the price of one of them to £299, giving you a saving of over £100 if you do purchase.

    The Paris model fits six people in it – comfortably, what you do above and beyond that is none of our business – and goes up in less than ten minutes.

    You simply plug it in to a regular socket, and it’ll inflate by itself.

    Once you’ve filled it, the water will heat to up to 40C, and the 87 AirJet system will propel thousands of bubbles around the water at the touch of a button.

    A similar spa is also available for the same price at Homebase, but as their delivery fee is higher, Argos’ offering is a slightly better deal. Argos’ one also has LED lights along the inside, to make night-time bathing way more ambient.

    Elsewhere you’d be paying between £400 at £500 for a Paris Lay-Z spa, so it’s pretty decent.

    If you don’t need all the extra room, B&M have a four-person option for just £250, making it the cheapest option on the UK high street.

    Whatever you do, just don’t forget to add chlorine tablets, ya filthy animals.

    MORE: Everyone is talking about this ‘life-changing’ triangle bra for big boobs

    MORE: Mum writes hilarious list of rules for son’s lad’s trip to Magaluf


    Argos drop price of Lay-Z Spa hot tubs by 25% to less than ?300Argos drop price of Lay-Z Spa hot tubs by 25% to less than ?300

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    Airbnb
    Fancy an overnight stay in a space-age style home? Now, you can. (Picture: Airbnb)

    When it comes to choosing an extra-special staycation, we’re spoilt for choice in the UK.

    But if you’re feeling like traditional holiday homes lack a little pizzazz, this could be the perfect time to escape the ordinary.

    Maybe you’ve always wanted the chance to stay on a boat or spend the night in a rustic treehouse? Perhaps a grand castle is more your style.

    Luckily, Airbnb opens the doors to the kinds of overnight stays you never thought were possible making it easier than ever to take a bucket-list break, right here in Britain.

    1) SUPERB WINDMILL HOME Stoke Ferry, Norfolk

    Airbnb
    Up to 16 guests can stay in the tower of seven-storey Grade II Listed Windmill (Picture: Airbnb)

    Prepare to be blown away by this Grade II Listed Windmill home in the peaceful village of Stoke Ferry.

    There’s nothing quite like this old mill which cleverly comprises a seven-storey tower with a quaint mill house to make up a spectacular seven-bedroom home, big enough for family, friends, kids, couples and more.

    State of the art interiors take this already-special property to an outstanding standard, that gets better and better with each new level.

    At the top, is a staggering 70ft-high viewing platform offering 360-degree views of the Norfolk countryside, which is home to National Trust site Oxborough Hall and the glorious Gooderstone Water Gardens in the surrounding area.

    Once you’ve had your fill of boating, fishing and forest exploring, two-and-half acres of land is all yours for the weekend, where outside the property you’ll find a trampoline, ping pong table and the piece de resistance: a private, heated outdoor swimming pool.

    It’s clear that this holiday home was ideally designed for families and large groups to share an experience that goes above and beyond.

    2) TINY HOUSE LIVING WITH A DIFFERENCE Drimnin, Scotland

    Airbnb
    Try tiny house living a pod with everything you could possibly need (Picture: Airbnb)

    How many people can say they’ve spent the night in a space ship? Well there’s one out-of-this-world home designed to give you those exact bragging rights.

    Experience the utterly mind-blowing property, an insulated aluminium pod and a private holiday rental like no other on the little known Morvern peninsula in the Scottish Highlands.

    Designed to look like a modern spaceship, it’s initially quite remarkable to look at. But the real magic happens inside, where it’s maximised for expert tiny house living, complete with a compact bedroom, kitchenette, full bathroom and living room.

    It’s made to feel deceptively spacious by floor-to-ceiling window views of the idyllic Sound of Mull, which you can explore by canoe, kayak or the increasingly popular, wild swimming. That’s how you’ll discover the many surrounding white sand beaches which you can earmark for day trips.

    On top of all that, this truly one-of-a-kind home is an Airbnb Plus home, meaning it’s been given the official seal of approval in-person.

    3) EDGY AIR CONTROL TOWER Tain, Scottish Highlands

    Airbnb
    Stay in a home with 360 views of the countryside with the edge you’re looking for (Picture: Airbnb)

    Whether it’s a far-flung holiday or a well-deserved British break, everyone wants to feel like a high-flyer.

    And there’s an easy way to feel part of the jet set even during a staycation in Scotland with a break in a converted air control tower.

    The building is a four-storey brick structure that was built in 1942 in Tain in the Scottish Highland, and has been lovingly restored into a uniquely stylish home that will add serious air miles to any summer getaway.

    This property proudly stands solo on the green grounds of the one-time airfield – and in the top guest room you’ll be treated to mesmerising views.

    If you can tear yourself away from this prestigious pad, just one of the many unique properties on Airbnb, there’s plenty to discover in this part of the Highlands. You could enjoy a round of golf or see the Mermaid of the North sculpture on the coast.

    Or, why not take a tour of nearby Skibo Castle (Madonna married Guy Ritchie there!) or toast this trip to remember at the Glenmorangie Distillery? Whatever you choose to do, this will be a unique trip worth raising a glass to from stay to play.

    Find your unique stay on Airbnb

    Inspired to take a break that’s a bit kookier than usual? Airbnb makes it super-simple to hand pick holidays with a difference using their dedicated Unique Homes filter, which narrows your search down to the most awe-inspiring properties, everywhere from secluded seaside spots to hidden corners of the countryside.

    Finally you can experience tiny house living in one of the characterful compact homes that make the most of minimalism or go big on a boat or in a treehouse for something different. After all, special occasions call for special stays and there’s no end of quirky and original places to bring groups and families that will mark the start to a weekend full of wonderful memories.

    Simply check the Unique Homes box from the Filters menu next time you’re exploring trips to take on Airbnb to exclusively choose from the incredible homes offering a twist on traditional staycations across the UK.


    Screen Shot 2019-06-28 at 16.27.22-1328Screen Shot 2019-06-28 at 16.27.22-1328

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    Picture of Marie McCready who became deaf after swallowing a coin and an image of her new book's front cover
    Marie McCreadie has written about suddenly becoming mute at 12 years old (Picture: Marie McCreadie/In House Publishing)

    Writer Marie McCreadie has had an extraordinary life; she suddenly became mute when she was 13 years old.

    Doctors had no explanation for why the Australian from Wollongong, Sydney, was struck without the ability to talk.

    They thought it was a result of a former experience of bronchitis with laryngitis but when she recovered from the illnesses, her voice didn’t return.

    She remained mute from the ages of 13 to 25.

    One day, 12 years later, Marie started coughing and bleeding from her mouth.

    On arrival at the hospital, the doctors removed a red lump covered with mucus and blood. When they rinsed it off, they found a threepence coin.

    Marie, now 48, has written a book, Voiceless, detailing the journey of having to mime to communicate and then regaining her voice.

    Picture of author who suddenly went mute at 13 years old finds out it was a coin she swallowed accidentally
    Marie was mute for 12 years (Picture: Marie McCreadie)

    ‘It was lodged in my throat for 12 years, from the ages of 13 to 25,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘The doctors were all stumped; they had no explanation for my illness other than to “rinse with salt water”.

    ‘They carried out tests, bloods, x-ray, but nothing was discovered. Eventually, they just swept it under the carpet and told me to get on with life.

    Marie explained that at the time, in 1984, her story received a lot of media coverage, with reporters speculating that it was a coin from a Christmas pudding – an old tradition to bring luck.

    But that had little weight as Marie had become sick during Easter. Doctors theorised that it may have been a penny lost in a bottled or canned drink and swallowed without suspicion.

    ‘If it was in a cake, or similar food, you’d think that I would have crunched down on it,’ added Marie.

    ‘One day, 12 years later, I was at work when I started coughing and bleeding from the mouth. My work colleague called for an ambulance.

    ‘Doctors then found the threepence coin. I was upset because I didn’t know what was going on.

    ‘I had started making little noises, moaning, crying. It didn’t take me long to begin to talk again as I had been miming words all my life. In effect, I had been talking just with no sound was coming out.

    ‘The problem I had was with breathing, I had to learn to breathe properly to push the voice out.

    ‘After I was seen by an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) they made me rest for a week and then off to speech therapy.’

    Author who suddenly went mute at 13 years old finds out it was a coin she swallowed accidentally
    She has written a book about life after becoming suddenly deaf which includes her struggles with mental health (Picture: Marie McCreadie)

    In the long years of her muteness, Marie became accustomed to a life of miming, signing and typing, the latter of which became her full-time job.

    But it was a lonely time for Marie. She was told that the mystery condition was a result of God’s punishment and eventually left school after a suicide attempt.

    After being admitted and released from a psychiatric hospital, Marie decided to get back into education, got her qualifications and landed a job as a typist with the Australian Public Service.

    Voiceless, her book, is about this journey, starting with losing her voice and all the hurdles she overcame.

    ‘My journey has been long and eventful from extreme depression in the early days, to rising up and gaining the courage to find my place in the world,’ says Marie.

    ‘Although there have been bad times where I have felt completely alone and unloved. I have also had good times, meeting the right people and learning to manage my feeling and emotions.

    ‘For every bad incident, there were several good ones. I now have two girls and three grandchildren who are the most important things in my life. So somewhere along the line, I did something right.’

    You can order Voiceless online.

    MORE: Stormzy’s Glastonbury sign language interpreter goes viral for being amazing at her job

    MORE: Incredible woman becomes first female winner of 268-mile race – while she was lactating

    MORE: Woman uses Tinder and Facebook to find the town her dad loved and spread his ashes there


    Marie McCreadyMarie McCready

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    Disabled people are tweeting the worst compliments they’ve received
    Disabled people are tweeting the worst compliments they’ve received (Picture: @crutches_and_spice)

    Ever felt the sting of a backhanded compliment? Perhaps you’ve been told that your English is ‘surprisingly’ good, or that you’re funny… ‘for a woman’.

    A new Twitter hashtag, #DisabledCompliments, is highlighting that veiled insults are sometimes a daily reality for people with a disability.

    The viral hashtag began when activist Imani Barbarin tweeted a ‘disabled compliment’ she had received.

    Her tweets inspired thousands of people to share their own similarly shocking experiences with ableism.

    These ranged from harassment, ‘you’re too pretty to be in a wheelchair’, to inexcusable attempts at jokes, such as ‘You’re lucky your leg was amputated, now you don’t have the knee pain I have’.

    ‘These backhanded statements that make able bodied people feel better but leave me feeling like I’ve been punched,’ Imani told Metro.co.uk.

    The Crutches and Spice blogger notes that the hashtag is primarily for community building, instead of being a space to ‘work out guilt’.

    ‘People have reached out to say that they are going to have to do some deep soul searching, but I’m really not concerned with that,’ she says.

    ‘The goal of my work is for disabled people to feel like they have more of an opportunity to feel seen and heard and build community with others using similar experiences.’

    Even still, some Twitter users have come forward to apologise for their rude comments towards people with a disability.

    MORE: I spent years battling the government for disability benefits I’m entitled to

    MORE: Author who suddenly became mute for 12 years finds out it was because she accidentally swallowed a coin

    MORE: Fitness influencer who has broken his bones 200 times won’t let his disability hold him back


    Disabled people are tweeting the worst compliments they’ve receivedDisabled people are tweeting the worst compliments they’ve received

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    Presley Pritchard was told she was ‘too weak’ to become a firefighter.

    She’s proven everyone wrong by hitting the gym, weightlifting, and now carrying her male coworkers out of burning buildings. What a boss.

    Presley had always been fit and healthy, but when she became a paramedic and firefighter at 19 she received criticism from her peers, who assumed she was just a ‘pretty girl’ joining the fire service to date the men. Rude.

    She began to worry that she might not be strong enough to succeed, so joined a gym, started weightlifting, and completely transformed her body.

    Now the mum-of-two shares photos of her journey to become firefighting fit on Instagram, where she has more than 66,000 followers, to show other women that they can be as strong as any guy.

     Firefighter Presley Pritchard in her firefighting gear
    When Presley Pritchard joined the fire service, she was told she was too weak (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)

    Presley, from Kalispell, Montana, US, said: ‘When I first came into this job and I was a ‘pretty’ girl, people thought I just wanted to date the men. They thought I had other motivations.

    ‘As a firefighter paramedic, especially being a small woman in a largely male-dominant career, I knew I had to make a change.

    ‘A lot of people don’t believe I’m actually a firefighter. I say “what do you think I do. Go to a random department and take pictures of myself?”

    ‘Now I’m proving them wrong by carrying the same men [who doubted me] out of buildings.

    ‘I was the girl in school who played soccer but was always picked last because I wasn’t a man.

    ‘Now I’m probably the first pick over most men, because my colleagues respect how strong I am.’

    Firefighter Presley Pritchard in a bikini, flaunting her body
    After giving birth to two children, she began to work out and weight lift (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)

    As well as being a firefighter Presley is also a mum to two children.

    She gave birth to her first child, Payton, when she was 18, going into labour on her last shift as a paramedic.

    She was back at school two nights after giving birth, and graduated two weeks later.

    The labour led to bedrest, which caused Presley to lose a lot of her muscle. When she started working as a firefighter she was smaller than usual and not as strong.

    The job was tough, but after giving birth to her second daughter, Presley decided to go all in.

    ‘I didn’t want people to doubt me and not want to be paired with me,’ she says.

     Firefighter Presley Pritchard in active wear
    Now Presley is proving all of her critics wrong (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)

    ‘During my time on bed-rest with my second daughter, I first got my Instagram account.

    ‘I started on my own and had no idea what I was doing, but I ended up getting into weightlifting and once I noticed my body changing I was addicted. As I started training work got so much easier.

    ‘Now when we do fire academy [training], we have a 210lb dummy and have to be blindfolded, find him in the dark and lift him out of the window. It’s very demanding.’

    She hopes her story will inspire others to fight for their goals and refuse to give up.

    Presley said: ‘I have a lot of girls messaging me, especially pretty girls, saying everybody is saying they’ll never make it.

    ‘I get 10,000 likes on my uniform transformation pictures.

     Firefighter Presley Pritchard in her firefighting gear
    She wants to show everyone that they can be strong (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)

    ‘I have all these women messaging me asking ‘how can I be stronger’, ‘how can I be better at my job’, ‘how can I fit in?’.

    ‘There’s not many women in the fire service but I think women follow me because I show it’s possible. I definitely think that’s my target audience.

    ‘I don’t post a ton of selfies showing off my body unless it has a message or there’s something someone can gain from it. It’s not just “here’s a picture of me, enjoy!”

    ‘I always try to make posts positive and I really like showing other girls that being strong and thick, and not just being skinny and having abs, is important.

    ‘It teaches girls to be strong and that they can keep up with the guys.’


    Female firefighter\'s workoutsFemale firefighter\'s workouts

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    Condoms in row
    I’ve suffered for years bouncing between condoms and different brands of the pill only to settle on a copper coil that didn’t settle for me (Picture: Getty)

    When I was 14 years old I snuck into my parents bedroom to ‘borrow’ my mum’s necklace. I prised open her jewellery box like Aladdin in the cave of wonders but there was no golden glow, no rubies, no genie. Just a pile of femidoms.

    I opened one up and shuddered. They looked like condoms for horses. I knew mum had recently had a hysterectomy, so as a GCSE-level biologist I came to the conclusion that my mother’s lower abdomen was now a cavernous void and that the femidom was to be used in lieu of a vagina. I clearly didn’t know how hysterectomies worked.

    But the truth is I still don’t know how to use a femidom and I’m not alone. A recent study conducted by Superdrug showed that 25 per cent of women weren’t aware of it, and only six per cent would try using one.

    Did you know there are 15 different types of contraceptives available? I didn’t, despite the fact I’ve suffered for years bouncing between condoms and different brands of the pill only to settle on a copper coil that didn’t settle for me.

    I wasn’t aware there were so many options out there and don’t truthfully feel like I have had a choice between them. Like many women, I went to the doctor as a teen with terrible period pain and they prescribed the pill and I didn’t question it. Despite this method having a catastrophic effect on my emotions and mental wellbeing, I persisted because I didn’t know there was another option.

    Besides, everyone else was on it and they didn’t seem to have any problems. Or did they?

    Fifty nine per cent of women aren’t completely happy with their contraception. 14 per cent said that, despite feeling unhappy, they felt like it was their only option, but it isn’t.

    We need to arm ourselves with information about alternatives that may work better for us. GPs will help to guide on what might work best but can often make assumptions based on your age or relationship status about what you might want.

    I know so many women who go to their GP with a preconceived idea based on what their friends use or what their mum used 30 years ago. This can act as helpful guidance, but surely it’s best to know all the available options first.

    Taking control of our own bodies starts with doing our own research. Forewarned is forearmed, and the more we educate ourselves the better chance we have of picking something that works for us. With cuts to healthcare services, GP appointments are time-limited. So the more we know before we step into the room, the better.

    The user should be the chooser but must be an INFORMED chooser. No one knows what’s best for a woman’s body and lifestyle than the woman herself. So ladies, it is time to get informed.

    Oral contraceptive pill on pharmacy counter with colorful pills strips background.
    Having so many contraception options can be overwhelming (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

    Thirty per cent of women spend less than 30 mins researching their contraceptive options while 85 per cent spend more than 30 mins choosing a holiday. I think of the pill as the Magaluf of contraceptives: everyone went there as a teenager but maybe it’s time to see what else the world has to offer.

    The cap is Benidorm. Your mum might’ve had a great experience of it in the 80s, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right choice for you.

    With more options comes more confusion. Pill names Yasmin and Cilest sound like a pop duo and the hormonal ring could be a bridge club for pagan witches. Having so many options can be overwhelming, so initiatives like this new website called The Lowdown – basically a Tripadvisor for contraceptives – are so important.

    On The Lowdown women can submit reviews describing their experience with a type or brand of contraception and any side effects they had. The website then crunch this data and produce graphs and stats to show what the most common side effects are and how it impacted women’s weight, sex drive periods AND mental health.

    The Lowdown app
    Log your experience on The Lowdown to share with other women (Picture: The Lowdown)

    The founder, Alice Pelton, wants to help shortcut the trial and error approach many women have to finding the right contraception for them, so please check it out if your considering a change in your method.

    Now I know there are women out there who are absolutely content with their contraceptive choice, and that’s marvellous but for those who aren’t we need to ask ourselves why we are willing to put up with uncomfortable and sometimes life-altering side effects for the sake of sex.

    Talk to your friends, Facebook groups, Mumsnet forums and you’ll realise you’re not suffering alone but we shouldn’t be suffering in silence. If you are experiencing negative side effects from your contraception, be an advocate for yourself and speak to your doctor. Then log your experience on The Lowdown to share with other women.

    Many contraceptives aren’t quick-fixes. They have the potential to affect you long-term so time should be taken to make an informed decision.

    Why should we settle for mood swings, abdominal pain, bleeding, depression, loss of sex drive, weight gain and nausea? Contraception shouldn’t feel like a compromise.

    Fellas, ask your lady if she’s ever had an orgasm that was worth all this bullsh*t. If she says yes, she loves you but she’s lying.

    MORE: Woman creates review website for contraception so you can see how it affects others

    MORE: Serious issues with contraception are being ignored, says new study

    MORE: Why you should be unapologetically honest on dating apps


    Still life with six colorful condoms, illustrating the decision to take precautions during sexStill life with six colorful condoms, illustrating the decision to take precautions during sex

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    Two women march in front of a trans flag
    In this state of emergency – which I truly believe this is – I am often surprised by the tenacity and fight of people (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Pride month can feel like having your hand held under a boiling hot tap, whilst the person who turned the tap on feeds you really nice ice cream to make you feel better.

    Or like someone is tugging at your shirt continuously until it rips, yet during Pride month they are doing it whilst throwing rainbow glitter on you.

    For trans people especially, this month can feel like the same shops that will not let you in their changing room, or the banks that do not let you use your correct name, or the streets that will never let you walk home safely are suddenly covered in a thinly veiled rainbow that pretends to be accepting.

    Although we do not need statistics to know the national feeling towards the trans community the past year, they often help to confirm what is already common knowledge.

    Last week, BBC reported transgender hate crimes recorded by police have risen 81 per cent in the last year alone.

    Yet, often when statistics are released we omit the emotion attached to them; the people that are behind these statistics.

    Not just the community of trans people who know and feel these statistics deeply, but also the attackers who have been given the confidence that their actions will not result in any repercussions – to believe they can attack other individuals based solely on who they are.

    I believe we are facing an epidemic of transphobia. Hate crime increasing, mental health decreasing, our community is out of breath – and with Pride weekend approaching – it’s hard not to feel cynical.

    However, in this state of emergency – which I truly believe this is – I am often surprised by the tenacity and fight of people.

    Just 50 years ago a group of LGBTQ+ people, in a small bar in New York, decided their state of emergency should not be tolerated.

    Although many versions of that story exist, it arguably catapulted the rights of our community forward. And here, 50 years on, in our country, we face the same choice about how to react to our emergency situation.

    Although we exist in an acronym that includes many, right now certain letters need more support.

    We can choose to carry on, ignore it; continue to give energy and time and newspaper headlines to groups and people debating our existence. We can choose to continue to spread misinformed lies, sit in our misplaced fear, stay silent – or we can choose to realise this has gone too far.

    We can realise people are being hurt. That we need to take action. And what a better time to commit than Pride?

    This Pride weekend needs to see a complete re-centering of where our community is at and how others can support us.

    Although we exist in an acronym that includes many, right now certain letters need more support. Many are saying this rise in transphobia is similar to the fight against the homophobia of the 80s. Whether the comparison is completely accurate, we need a similar urgency.

    Saturday’s march should be led by a trans flag. It should be led by trans people hand in hand with our allies, at the front and the centre, making it clear Pride cannot exist without us.

    Trans activist and support groups like the DIY ran Trans Mission, to the nationally known Mermaids, should be given platform and space on Saturday so people can not only learn about them and what they do, but commit to supporting their vital work.

    Every single person who marches on Saturday who has enjoyed a drag brunch, has taken a rainbow flag from their desk, should make a bold and loud statement and publicly support trans people.

    Because this is what it will take. Public, loud, bold commitments to supporting ALL trans people. Because that is how we have gotten here.

    The climate in the public sphere has drastically changed and the statistics by the BBC remind us of who is feeling the effects of the change.

    All the newspapers, debates, celebrity sport stars suddenly becoming bigoted, biology scientists are impacting the way the public gain information about the trans community and are ultimately affecting our quality of life.

    The message we need to send this weekend has to move beyond ‘trans people are valid’ and highlight just how bad things have gotten. We are not only valid but deserve protection and support.

    This Pride, we need to use the Stonewall Riots as a clear inspiration as what happens when communities come together, with urgency, and with demands.

    It is very easy to feel the heat under a boiling tap, but sometimes we can use that heat to fuel us into greater action.

    I do not want to sit in the sadness these statistics bring me. Instead I want us to use this as motivation for us all to do better.

    A trans flag should be front and centre at Pride on Saturday as a sign of visibility, but more importantly as a commitment to take action.

    MORE: Tory MP called a ‘hypocrite’ for Pride photo after voting against gay marriage

    MORE: As one of the first Pride marchers I knew I was rocking the boat

    MORE: Will Young on Taylor Swift releasing LGBT-friendly video during Pride: ‘As a gay man I don’t buy it’


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    Lola pictured with her two proud grandchildren at the end of one of her shows
    At 49, grandmother of two Lola says she feels sexier and healthier than ever before (Picture: MDWfeatures / @lola_nez11)

    Lola Nez is a 48-year-old grandma living in Florida.

    She’s also a bodybuilder, who says she’s sexier now than she was in her twenties.

    Lola had always wanted to be fit and healthy, but in her twenties she struggled to transform her body.

    Things changed in 2014, when the grandmother began suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a digestive disorder that affects the lower oesophageal sphincter, which is the ring of muscle between the oesophagus and stomach.

    The condition caused her continual discomfort and pain which affected her daily routine.

    Lola had an annual physical exam which concluded that there were a number of concerns including high cholesterol, high bloody pressure, and pre-diabetes.

    She was spurred to make a drastic change, and found personal trainer Rod Ketchens.

    Lola began bodybuilding and weightlifting after experiencing illness
    Lola began bodybuilding and weightlifting after experiencing illness (Picture: MDWfeatures / @lola_nez11)

    Rod introduced Lola to weight training and a strict cardio routine, which she ended up absolutely loving. Within four years she managed to come first place in six bodybuilding competitions, and her body has been entirely transformed.

    And bonus, she feels more confident than ever.

    Lola said: ‘In my twenties I was a young mother in a marriage struggling day to day with life; it really presented challenges and I was tired and stressed most of the time.

    ‘I would say that I also was still searching a bit for myself, for my purpose (beyond motherhood) and lacking somewhat in confidence.

    ‘In my early thirties, life was still a struggle, but I started to find my voice, assert my independence and ultimately found the strength to break free.

    Lola pictured in the gym three years into her transformation
    She fell in love with fitness (Picture: MDWfeatures / @lola_nez11)
    Lola pictured with her two grandchildren
    Lola pictured with her two grandchildren (Picture: MDWfeatures / @lola_nez11)

    ‘My initial motivation came less from trying to look good and mostly from trying to feel good and live a long healthy life.

    ‘That said, I had always admired women with a more athletic look and I did desire to be toned. For instance, at the time I had always wanted the arms of Jillian Michaels and so part of my initial desire was to achieve what she had.

    ‘GERD had me in near constant discomfort and regular severe pain. The feeling was a form of heartburn and it got worse after meals and when I lay prone in bed.

    ‘It basically terrorised me at night

    Lola pictured on stage during one of her bodybuilding shows
    Since embarking on her fitness journey, Lola has placed first in six bodybuilding competitions (Picture: MDWfeatures / @lola_nez11)

    and made it impossible to sleep normally – in fact, I had to sleep sitting up. The prescription medication I was taking did not help.

    ‘I then could see my quality of life deteriorating as a result. I had an annual physical exam and the results indicated a number of concerns including; high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and pre-diabetes.

    ‘Next, my eldest brother, Sonny, had a gruelling battle with tonsillar cancer. Finally, I now had two growing grandchildren and I realised that I needed to be extra healthy so I could be on this earth as long as possible for them.

    ‘All of these combined gave me pause to reflect that I needed to make a dramatic change immediately and begin the process of taking control of my health.’

    Lola has found a true passion for bodybuilding, and says her new fitness routine helps to reduce her symptoms of GERD.

    Lola pictured flexing with her grandchildren on either side
    Lola also says she has loads more energy (Picture: MDWfeatures / @lola_nez11)

    ‘The sense of relief, and excitement that something was finally working, was tremendous,’ she explains.

    ‘My typical weight now is actually more than before I started. But, the distribution of my weight is very different. For instance, my waist is about four inches smaller and my shoulders and arms are much larger and more toned. I sometimes shop in the juniors and kid’s areas now.

    ‘I also have a tremendous amount of energy. I do not even remember the last time I got sick, I am not on any prescription medicines and I’m proud to say that I can easily keep up with grandkids in any of their activities.

    ‘I am much more confident in myself, certainly in how I look but now I can walk into a room of people or meet someone new and present myself with self-confidence.

    Lola pictured wearing one of her own-branded dresses. MEET THE BODYBUILDING GRANDMA who claims she feels SEXIER in her FORTIES than she did in her TWENTIES since discovering her passion for weightlifting ??? she is even inundated with messages from men who call her SEXY and says that over HALF of her 180K followers are MEN. Business owner and president, Lola Nez (48) who lives in Florida, USA, has always wanted to be fit and healthy throughout her life, but in her twenties she struggled to achieve the body she wanted no matter how many exercises and diets she tried. While she was a slim 8st and UK size six, she felt like she lacked in muscle which she desperately wanted. Although she was unhappy with her shape, from her early twenties up until her early forties she didn???t take her health as seriously until 2014 when it took a turn. She began suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a digestive disorder that affects the lower oesophageal sphincter, which is the ring of muscle between the oesophagus and stomach. The condition caused her continual discomfort and pain which affected her daily routine. She had an annual physical exam which concluded that there were a number of concerns including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and that she was pre-diabetic. The combination of her health and her older brother having terminal cancer spurred her on to make a dramatic change. After months of research online and speaking to people, she came across personal trainer, Rod Ketchens, a professional bodybuilder, and made an appointment with him. He helped her establish a training routine of weight training and cardio elements. She fell in love with the training and within four years she managed to come first place in six bodybuilding competitions. While her weight has increased by six pounds, she claims that this is pure muscle and her waist has reduced by four inches. Since her body transformation, she has received countless positive comments from men who ca
    And is more confident than ever (Picture: MDWfeatures / @lola_nez11)

    ‘My personality is now bigger and bolder, and I feel freer to express it. Not all of that is the bodybuilding, some is maturity, some is my relationships, and some is probably living in the US versus the Philippines and, finally, I feel sexier and more confident in my sexuality than at any point in my life.’

    Her transformation alongside her bodybuilding skills have earned Lola a loyal online following of more than 180,000, who take inspiration from her dedication to fitness.

    Lola hopes her story will show others it’s not too late to find a type of exercise they love.

    ‘The comments and messages I receive daily are overwhelmingly positive,’ said Lola.

    ‘If you read through the comments on my Facebook page, they are loaded with comments about me looking ‘beautiful’ or ‘sexy’.

    ‘I am amazed that they come from people ages eighteen to eighty too. Occasionally, someone will cross a line and get sexually aggressive or offensive and once in a while someone will say something negative like ‘you look like a man’ but those are fairly rare.

    Lola pictured on stage showing her muscular physique
    Lola is sharing her story to inspire others (Picture: MDWfeatures / @lola_nez11)

    ‘Same with women; I get comments like ‘idol’, ‘inspiring’, ‘beautiful’, ‘sexy’ but on occasion other women will fit-shame me.

    ‘When I am around my grandchildren, most people assume they are my children, and when I am around my children, especially my daughter, more often than not they think we are sisters.

    ‘To start with, make sure that you know: ‘what is your why’. Honestly, if the motivation is solely to ‘look good’ or ‘look youthful’, I think it will be hard to maintain the discipline needed to be successful in the long run.

    ‘But if the motivation comes from getting rid of an illness, or relieving pain, or improving the quality of your health and wellbeing, or being there for someone you love, then I think it gives you a different perspective in wanting or needing to achieve a goal.’

    MORE: Female firefighter told she was ‘too weak’ to join the force proves everyone wrong

    MORE: High end fitness brand wants you to live at the gym

    MORE: Muslims Who Fast: Fitness trainer Nazia talks eating disorders, depression, and post-iftar workouts


    Sexy Bodybuilding GrandmaSexy Bodybuilding Grandma

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    Sex bans
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    There’s a Greek myth (please stay with me here) called Lysistrata.

    It’s a story about how all of the wives of the Greeks, who were so sick of their husbands pissing off to war and coming back with another limb missing or not coming back at all, that they took matters into their own hands.

    To create peace between various Greek factions, they went on a sex strike. No nookie for anyone until the war was over. And basically, it worked.

    Lysistrata was first performed in 411BC. 2430 years ago. And yet women are still doing the exact same thing – going on sex strike to get what they want.

    Earlier this year Alyssa suggested that we women go on strike from sex until the Georgia six week abortion limit is overruled.

    If you Google ‘sex strike’ you find hundreds of stories from women who got ‘their own way’ by going on strike. One woman got a new kitchen. Another convinced her husband to have another baby. Other women simply use it as a disciplinary measure to correct their husband’s behaviour.

    Doesn’t anyone else find this unutterably depressing?

    It’s 2019 and apparently the axis of our power as humans is still whether or not we will open our legs for our partners.

    Sex shouldn’t be a reward. It should be an expression of lust, or love, or anything else that you want it to be. It should be fun, gratifying, enjoyable.

    Sex shouldn’t be the adult equivalent of giving a child a chocolate button for hanging their coat up after school.

    By taking sex away from your partner as a punishment you send the message that it’s an activity that you partake in for them in the first place – it suggests that sex is a favour you’ve been doing them and will no longer be doing until they toe the party line.

    In every single example I could find online, the person doing the banning is the woman and the person on the receiving end is a man, which further perpetuates an untrue stereotype that men like sex and women put up with it.

    Another problematic aspect of the sex ban is that often it’s women putting one in place because she wants to make a financial choice – like a new car or a holiday – that her partner isn’t comfortable with.

    Instead of compromising – it’s both of your money – or just paying it for themselves, these women perpetuate the idea that their husbands are their marriages Chancellors of the Exchequer. They might as well be applying for more housekeeping money.

    If your sex life is so lukewarm that the idea of giving it up to punish your partner is appealing, then you’ve got a wider problem which needs addressing.

    If however you enjoy sex and withdraw it at your own deprivation then you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. Even if it works, do you really want to have won an argument with your other half by taking away sex, just like you would get a child to do their homework by offering screen time?

    Back in 411BC Greece, women really didn’t have much power. Sex was one of the few things you had the ability to grant. But the world has moved on, and we are equal partners within our relationships and therefore we do not need to withdraw sexual favour to claw back power.

    We’re intelligent, mature, sensible women with critical reasoning skills. Why would we resort to such reduced tactics to alleviate conflict?

    Of course there is an element of sexual politics in any relationship – when you feel happier and closer to your partner you’ll probably have more sex. When you’re fighting or struggling through issues it might well be less. That’s normal.

    No one is suggesting for a second that you should have sex with your partner if you don’t want to or you’re not in the mood. You should only ever have sex when you want to have sex. The issue is when you use ‘I’m not in the mood’ as a bargaining chip, which is patronising and controlling.

    If your partner doesn’t take you seriously when you say you’re annoyed about the division of labour within the household, or that you think you need to redecorate your kitchen, then they’re not a good partner.

    If you ignore their responses to your marital problems and decide to ‘punish’ your partner rather than compromising, then you’re not a good partner.

    Relationships that work don’t involve point scoring. They’re not based around depriving someone else of privileges to train their behaviour. That’s how you treat a naughty child, not a spouse whom you respect.

    You might get what you originally wanted – your partner might do more housework or ‘let’ you buy a new car, but what cost is this ‘victory’ to the long term health of your relationship?

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    Sex bansSex bans

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    Henrietta Lawrence has designed jumpsuits that don't require getting totally naked to use the toilet
    Finally, someone’s sorted out the biggest problem with jumpsuits (Picture: Kickstarter/Henrietta Lawrence)

    Playsuits. Jumpsuits. Rompers. The only thing tougher than naming your beloved one-piece is getting the damn thing off.

    Particularly in the height of summer, when endless parties and festivals means the drinks are flowing, the bathroom queues are long, and your faithful jumpsuit is stuck to your skin with sweat.

    The solution comes in the form Henrietta Lawrence’s newest design: the ezp™ jumpsuit. It’s a romper without the toilet troubles.

    Thanks to two zips on the trouser half, you can partially undo the jumpsuit, letting the back drop down so you can go about your business. No more sitting nude from the neck-down in a public bathroom stall.

    ‘Being at Glastonbury a few years ago, most of the toilets there aren’t enclosed like Portaloos, you’re open to the elements,’ the London-based designer told Metro.co.uk. ‘Try going to the toilet in a jumpsuit, with people peering over the top to see if it’s free and you’re in there naked.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/By6FNQQgA9m/

    ‘And then of course there’s the whole winter vs jumpsuit issue – when it’s 0 degrees outside, why would you want to get undressed unnecessarily? Particularly in my office, where the toilet is freezing.’

    The 29-year-old is currently crowdfunding her ezp™ jumpsuit business on Kickstarter, and has raised £2,114 of her £12,500 goal since May.

    If the campaign is successful, jumpsuits will be sold in denim, velvet and linen, and will be available to customers in the UK, Europe, US, Australia and New Zealand.

    The fabrics used are sourced from fair-trade and ethical suppliers, and the garments are handmade in Sheffield. The buttons are also made from Corozo nuts, which are natural and biodegradable.

    Sourcing the sustainable materials and overseeing production has been a lengthy yet enlightening experience for Lawrence, and she hopes to create a greater awareness of how clothing is made.

    ‘I think what’s more difficult is helping people understand how many people, processes and stages there are in creating a garment and how that affects the price of that garment,’ says Henrietta. We are so removed from how our clothing is made.’

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    New Kickstarter campaign for toilet-friendly jumpsuitsNew Kickstarter campaign for toilet-friendly jumpsuits

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    Milky Cafe in Sydney makes deep fried ice cream
    Hello, my deepest fantasy (Picture: Caters News)

    Please pinch us, for we must be dreaming.

    Either that, or someone has gone inside our brains and snuck out our deepest fantasies.

    A cafe in Sydney has created a deep-fried vegan Magnum.

    That’s right. Vegan ice cream, covered in chocolate, covered in deep fried batter. Think of how delicious that would be.

    Milky Lane cafe is the establishment responsible for this miraculous invention. They take a dairy-free almond Magnum (yes, these exist in the UK. They’re made with pea protein), slather it in maple syrup, coat it in biscuit crumbs, twirl it in coconut milk cream, cover it with cornflakes, then fry it until it’s crispy and golden.

    Oh, and then they drizzle vegan chocolate sauce on top, because why on earth not?

    The deep fryer isn’t used for animal or dairy products, so it’s all properly vegan.

    The deep-fried vegan magnum ice cream available at Milky Lane cafe in Sydney
    The vegan ice cream is covered in syrup, biscuit crumbs, and cornflakes (Picture: Christian Avant/Milky Lane/Caters News)

    Naturally, images of this treat have been shared and commented on thousands of times, as vegans around the world rejoice at the land of possibilities in which they now live.

    Christian Avant, one of the owners of Milky Lane, said that their decadent deep-fried vegan magnum comes in at 341 calories before it is deep fried – but guessed that the frying process would up the calories to ‘around 400’.

    He said: ‘The idea behind this treat was to mimic our famous deep-fried magnums, but obviously making it vegan.

    The process of making the deep-fried vegan magnum ice cream available at Milky Lane cafe in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    Yes, we’re drooling (Picture: Christian Avant/Milky Lane/Caters News)

    ‘We swapped out the egg in the batter for coconut cream and swapped crushed Arnott’s arrowroot biscuits for Arnott’s ‘Nice’ biscuits, which make part of the crumb.

    ‘It is then deep-fried in our dessert fryer which has no dairy or animal products cooked through it.

    ‘The reason we have turned to designing more vegan food was that we always said from day one, we wanted Milky Lane to be a place that everyone can enjoy.

    ‘It took us a little longer than we had first hoped because we had to create separate cooking area, source suppliers and of course, make sure that everything we created was over the top and seriously mouth-watering or indulgent, as with everything we do.

    ‘Australia is one of the fastest growing vegan nations in the world and we’re excited to now be coming to the table with viral hits that are sending the community into a riot.’

    Not all of us could trek to Australia just to sample this delight, but worry not – if you have access to a deep fryer you can easily try your own deep-fried ice cream, vegan or otherwise, at home.

    Or just nip to your nearest chippy and ask them if they’d be so kind. It’s worth the potential embarrassment to tuck in.

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    MORE: KFC’s vegan burger has sold out after its first four days


    Deep fried Vegan MagnumDeep fried Vegan Magnum

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    Porn star martinis
    (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

    Porn Star martinis have been served in bars for at least a decade, and last year M&S started selling them in canned form.

    Now for some people that would mean being able to enjoy your favourite tipple on the train or at a picnic, and not much else.

    But there are people who find the name of the drink offensive, and feel that a supermarket shouldn’t be allowed to label a drink with the word ‘porn’.

    Trombonist and lecturer Sarah Brand tweeted: Porn star martini? PORN STAR MARTINI? Marks and bloody Spencer, WTF is going on?’

    Other people added their shock, saying: ‘What next? Male Prostitute Prosecco. Drug Trafficker Tequila’ and ‘Yep, beyond belief. Dreadful judgement.’

    The Pornstar Martini was invented in 1999, in London, by a man named Douglas Ankrah. Since then it has become more popular and spread worldwide.

    Further objections suggested that it would be difficult to explain to a child who saw the drink what a porn star was.

    However others hit back at that comment saying that the booze aisle of a supermarket isn’t really for children in the first place, and that supermarkets also stock condoms, lubricant and even sex toys.

    It’s not the first time that M&S’s tinnies have attracted attention. Earlier this year Diane Abbot hit the news for enjoying a Mojito on the overground, which is technically illegal.

    Discussing the name of the drink, inventor Douglas Ankrah said: ‘I called it Pornstar because I thought it was something that a Pornstar would drink, there’s nothing sexual there. Pornstar is a stylish and confident drink, it’s pure indulgence, sexy, fun and evocative.’

    MORE: Attention, cocktail fans: Tesco is selling two-litre boxes of Passion Fruit Martini

    MORE: You can now buy espresso martini in a can


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    Years and Years
    As Daniel, in Years and Years says, ‘it’s like intelligence is going backwards… [the] human race is getting more stupid right in front of my eyes’ (Picture: BBC)
    We are in the midst of Pride season, and one can feel the buzz of LGBT+ celebration across the country. To make these year’s Pride festivals even more special, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising is being celebrated as well.

    Yet, in the frenzy of consumeristic celebration, we risk leaving behind those most marginalised within the LGBT+ community.

    That is the case of LGBT+ refugees, as the one we recently saw in BBC’s recent series Years and Years. The series depicts a not so distant dystopia, full of rabble-rousing politicians, military interventions, refugee movements, nuclear conflicts, omnipresent technology, and glaring socio-economic inequality.

    In this daunting scenario we meet Viktor Goraya, a gay man escaping torture and persecution in Ukraine seeking international protection as a refugee in the UK.

    Years and Years gets many things right. Sexual minorities who claim asylum the UK are often treated appallingly: some are detained indefinitely without having committed any crime, they are barred from working no matter how long their asylum claim takes, and good legal representation is hard to find.

    These issues affect all asylum claimants, but at the University of Sussex we’re finding that sexual minorities suffer in particular ways from the system’s harshness.

    For one, the decision-making goal posts are always shifting: sometimes individuals are refused because the Home Office doesn’t believe they are gay; sometimes the Home Office accepts they are gay but claims gay people aren’t in danger in their country of origin.

    They are victims of particularly cruel forms of disbelief, and often fall into a catch-22 situation: if they don’t fit stereotypes of how a gay, lesbian or bisexual person behaves, they are refused; if they fit those stereotypes too well, then they are ‘faking it’ to get protection, and they are also refused.

    They are expected to prove what for most of us is unprovable: one’s sexuality. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), they should be given the benefit of the doubt but that rarely happens.

    Experimental statistics released by the Home Office last year show the number of people granted protection on sexual orientation grounds has fallen, from 39 per cent in 2015 to 22 per cent in 2017.

    But most people appeal against a refusal and many appeals are upheld – roughly a third – suggesting flawed decision-making by the Home Office that is costly to all concerned on every level.

    A striking feature in sexual minority asylum is the sea of difference between the treatment of UK/EU sexual minorities and that of sexual minorities seeking asylum.

    Whilst UK/EU citizens can marry their partners, adopt children and obtain redress for discrimination and hate crime, those seeking asylum are prevented from carrying out their lives in a humane manner or vindicating their rights in any significant way.

    In the meantime, that ‘hostile environment’ fosters decisions based on a paranoid mentality, playing into the hands of a growing smuggling industry, all too happy to make a profit out of vulnerable individuals seeking safety.

    As Daniel, in Years and Years says, ‘it’s like intelligence is going backwards… [the] human race is getting more stupid right in front of my eyes’.

    Viewers are heartbroken over Daniel and Viktor (Picture: BBC)
    As Years and Years tries to tell us, we are able to change society for the better (Picture: BBC)

    We need to win the fight against ‘fake news’ and generate well-informed debates on asylum and refugees. Yet, that is not enough.

    What is also crucially missing in our day and age is empathy and solidarity towards people seeking asylum and refugees. As the tragic events surrounding Sea Watch 3 – yet another refugee rescue boat prevented from docking in Italy – show, there is an increasingly embedded lack of humanity in our policies.

    For sexual minorities, humanising asylum policy means rejecting the fallacy that claimants can be returned to their countries because they would be voluntarily ‘discreet’ to avoid embarrassing friends and family.

    Second, the political significance of these individuals’ resistance to oppressive gender norms needs to be recognised and vindicated.

    Third, their right to private and family life needs to be acknowledged and respected, instead of preventing people from being with their loved ones: we have talked to a number of lesbian women separated from their children for lengthy periods, including one woman who is still waiting for her appeal after three years.

    Meanwhile, her daughter back home turns 10 this year. We need to develop humanitarian visas that can allow sexual minorities suffering persecution to escape without having to undergo lethal journeys.

    Above all, we need to understand the emotional and physical pain and anguish that sexual minorities seeking asylum undergo – before, during and after arriving in Europe.

    The cruelty of anti-refugee and anti-migrant policies need to be exposed to the irrational and inhumane measures that they are.

    The solution is in collective and individual ‘responsibilisation’, resistance to oppressive practices, siding with marginalised individuals, and holding politicians to account.

    As Years and Years tries to tell us, we are able to change society for the better, and – recognising that our lives are a privilege – we must cherish them and live them with love and empathy.

    So, let’s celebrate Pride with love and empathy – not leaving anyone behind, including LGBT+ refugees.

    MORE: Years and Years ‘destroys’ viewers with emotional finale: ‘I’ve sobbed too much’

    MORE: Turkish police fire tear gas at banned Istanbul LGBT Pride parade


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    Caitlin with Jinx (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)
    Caitlin with Jinx, a squirrel her friend found on the side of the road (Picture: PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

    It takes a village to raise a child, and one Texas woman to nurture a brain-damaged squirrel.

    Caitlin McConnell never knew she was destined to be a ‘squirrel mom’ until 2016, when her friend brought her an injured squirrel that she’d found on the pavement.

    Three years later, she runs a squirrel hospital for the bushy-tailed babies out of her home.

    ‘I never expected to care so much about squirrels at all, but now it’s a real passion,’ said Caitlin. ‘They’re such funny, goofy little things.’

    The 32-year-old has nursed 40 squirrels and released them back into the wild.

    ‘It was 110 Fahrenheit [43°C] and she looked really poorly so we decided to try and help. At first we had no idea what we were doing but we quickly learned,’ she said.

    ‘We’d feed her every few hours, keep her warm with a heat pad and help stimulate her to go to the bathroom. I’d even take her with me in my makeup bag when I went out to make sure she kept warm.’

    Caitlin with Jinx
    Finding Jinx inspired Caitlin to rescue more squirrels (Picture: PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

    The baby red fox squirrel was soon named Jinx.

    As Caitlin nursed her back to health, she learned that Jinx had suffered a brain injury.

    ‘She was really behind,’ says Caitlin. ‘She couldn’t sit up or walk properly. We did a lot of research into it and discovered physical therapy would help her to walk properly. I’d teach her to walk to me using food.

    ‘I brought her to live in the house and she made friends with our cat Chelsea. They would cuddle together and she even started behaving like a cat.

    ‘It was very weird, she didn’t realise she was a squirrel, so wasn’t aggressive like the others can be.’

    Jinx (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)
    Jinx is now Instagram famous Picture: PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

    Caitlin daily adventures with the squirrel – who she refers to as a ‘diva’ – proved so fascinating that she documented it on Instagram.

    As @jinxthesquirrel’s followers climbed to 44,000, so did Jinx’s repertoire of tricks.

    ‘She even started responding to commands,’ says Caitlin. ‘I taught her how to twirl by using treats. She also made friends with a miniature pig I had and they would both respond to commands.’

    The squirrel even scored a lead role in a television commercial for dog food.

    Caitlin with Jinx (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)
    Theyre pretty close (Picture: PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

    Sadly, Jinx died at age three after suffering an aneurysm.

    ‘[The commercial] came out about two weeks after she died and it was a big surprise for them,’ says Caitlin. ‘Having it come out then was a very sweet tribute to her.’

    The death of Jinx inspired McConnell to continuing caring for baby squirrels with her mother Tanya Griffin.

    Caitlin said: ‘At one point we had eight at a time, which was really hard work. Often we had to keep them separate, because if they didn’t know each other they would fight.

    ‘They can be little demons.’

    MORE: Vets warn how dangerous Himalayan salt lamps can be for cats

    MORE: Amazing sanctuary introduces abused animals to mistreated children to help both heal


    Caitlin McConnell - brain damaged squirrelsCaitlin McConnell - brain damaged squirrels

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    avoseedo is a new tool you can use to grow avocados at home
    Fancy growing your own? (Picture: Getty, AvoSeedo/Amazon)

    Are you addicted to avocado?

    Are you worried about the impact your fave millennial fruit is having on the environment?

    Do you prefer houseplants to people?

    Good news – you can grow your own avocado tree for just £11.

    The AvoSeedo claims to be a low fuss route to sustainable tastiness.

    It is a non-toxic plastic device designed to help you grow your own avocados. It comes in green, subtle transparent white and extremely loud hot pink.

    It is currently available with a summer discount of 10%.

    Simply cut open an avocado, take the avocado pit (the large stone inside), peel its thin skin off and place it into the AvoSeedo, with the flat part facing downwards.

    Put it in a bowl of water and wait, as your avocado pit blooms into a little avocado tree. Or dies – plants can be a bit hit and miss.

     Grow your own avocado tree for just £11 From Avoseedo/Amazon
    It’s super easy, too (Picture: Avoseedo/Amazon)

    Like your boyfriend, the AvoSeedo claims to be low maintenance, and only needs new water every two to three weeks. This makes it a perfect pet if you don’t have the patience for a cat, or want something to hide your sneaky marijuana plant.

    While avocados are thought to originate from Mexico, they do grow in northern Europe.

    The Netherlands is now the world’s second largest avocado exporter according to the International Trade Centre.

    Imported avocados, particularly from Mexico, have been accused of causing deforestation and using up soil nutrients.

    Much safer to grow them in your pitifully small studio flat in Penge.

    If avocados are too mainstream or you have the blessing of an allotment, try these: Strawberry Spinach, Oca Tubers, or even a Snake Gourd

    MORE: Eating melon and avocado ‘could help you if you’re trying to lose weight’

    MORE: Someone’s created a deep-fried vegan Magnum and suddenly we are ravenous

    MORE: You no longer need to trek to Greggs for that vegan sausage roll, it’s on Just Eat


    Grow your own avocado tree for just ?11Grow your own avocado tree for just ?11

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    What is ahegao, the hentai trend popularised by Belle Delphine?
    What is ahegao, the hentai trend popularised by Belle Delphine?

    The internet loves a gamer girl, apparently, and the queen of them at the moment appears to be Belle Delphine.

    The cosplayer hit headlines after promising to stroke ‘two cocks’ on Pornbub if she reached a certain follower count, and releasing a video of her with a pair of roosters once she’d done so, as well as other hilarious bait and switch titles.

    Then, she started selling her ‘gamer girl bath water’ for $30 (£24) a pop, selling 500 tubs in the space of two days. Incredible.

    Before these stunts, however, the 19-year-old was known as an ‘ahegao girl’, and the trend for the funny faces has been growing online off of the back of her fame.

    But what is ahegao, and why is it becoming more popular than ever?

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BnrQOnJjaYG/

    What is ahegao?

    The term relates to Japanese anime and manga porn style known as hentai (which loosely translates to pervert).

    Ahegao was first cited around the 1990s, and describes the facial expressions of the characters in these hentai porn films as they reach orgasm.

    In hentai pornography, women are often shown with their eyes rolling back, tongue hanging out, and blushing or panting. The idea appears to be to show an intense level of arousal, where someone loses their faculties completely.

    Ahegao
    An ahegao drawn by Kira (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)

    The word itself combines an abbreviation for Aheahe – which means to moan or pant – alongside face in Japanese.

    Although it tends to be spoken about in conjunction with adult words, you may also see an ahegao face in ‘regular’ manga or anime.

    As pornography has become more easily accessible online over the years, ahegao faces have become far more mainstream.

    Japanese culture has also seen a boom worldwide in recent years, as has cosplaying. With that, people sharing their own ahegaos on social media has also grown.

    When people do their own ahegaos online, they tend to show themselves drooling and crossing their eyes, and often use a filter to achieve a more cartoonish look.

    It may not be your cup of tea, but the likes of Belle Delphine have managed to make a career from it, so there appears to be plenty of demand.

    MORE: You can grow your own avocado tree for £11

    MORE: Brain-damaged squirrel inspires woman to open her own animal hospital


    BELLE_LEWDFACE-89f1BELLE_LEWDFACE-89f1

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    Pets of Pride: 13 animals in their rainbow kit
    The fuzz angels are out for Pride. (Picture: @camille_camila)

    50 years on from the Stonewall riots, Pride 2019 revolves around remembering the ‘activism, protests and victories’ that formed the modern LGBT+ rights movement. The month-long celebration might be wrapping up, but the biggest party is just around the corner.

    Tomorrow, the streets of central London will be filled with revellers for the Pride parade.

    The 2018 London event saw 30,000 people marching and nearly one million people viewing the festivities, and this year is set to be the ‘most diverse’ parade yet.

    It’s a time for love and it’s also a time for our furry friends. Here are 13 fuzz angels who have donned their finest rainbows in the name of ‘celebration, diversity, activism’.

    1. Smile with the eyes, and with the tongue.

     

    2. The feelings are pooch-tual.

     

    3. Svelte as heck.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BzaRHc8iv7X/

     

    4. Because it’s not all dogs.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BkbjTc7FXaC/

     

    5. Because it’s not all cats and dogs.

     

    6. Deep ROYGBIV energy.

     

    7. A flair for design, a love of pride; this dog has it all!

     

    8. Utterly feline, endlessly beguiling.

     

    9. A fine sausage sporting a scarf and a smile.

     

    10. A Pride month puppo for the ages.

    11. That’s one striking scarf, but check those piercing eyes.

     

    12. A golden boy embraces Pride with his human.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/Bzh-CbNldXJ/

     

    13. Part Shih Tzu, part Yorkshire and 100% fabulous.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BzZgkriHp2t/

    MORE: Dogs with Jobs: What’s involved in training a police dog?

    MORE: Vets warn how dangerous Himalayan salt lamps can be for cats

    MORE: Why do cats love boxes?


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