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

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    For this week’s Dog’s With Jobs we are meeting what might be the A-team of the working canine world.

    The Civil Nuclear Constabulary dog unit is pretty impressive – they protect Britain’s nuclear power plants and nuclear waste sites against terrorism, sniffing out anything dangerous and stopping any intruders.

    They also help out other units with finding bombs outside these units.

    We visited Sellafield power station in Cumbria to meet this badass set of dogs.

    The dogs are trained there but the work of the CNC (Civil Nuclear Constabulary) extends from the north coast of Scotland at Dounreay, to the south coast of England at Dungeness. 

    Laura Forster, wearing her uniform, sat at a desk
    Laura Forster (Picture: Elle Rudd/Metro.co.uk)

    Laura Forster is the dog training sergeant at Sellafield. She joined the police 22 years ago and has been working with the dog unit for 20 of those. 

    She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s the best job there is if you like dogs . 

    ‘At the end of the day it’s a lifestyle choice. We are really fortunate within the CNC that people come to us because they want to and because they’re motivated.’

    Laura can’t tell us much about the work they do because most of it has to be kept confidential but basically they work with the dogs to help them learn how to hunt out things that could be dangerous.

    ‘We use general purpose dogs, which are the larger breeds so the German/Belgian/Dutch shepherds and we use those for day-to-day work like you would see in a home office police force,’ Laura says.

    Ripley, the explosives search dog wags her tail after successfully located behind a radiator. He is a small ginger spaniel wearing a high-visibility vest with the words 'Search dog' on it.
    A very good dog who had correctly located a LOT of explosives (Picture: Elle Rudd/Metro.co.uk)

    ‘We also use smaller dogs that are specialist search dogs, because of the work we do within the CNC and those are the dogs we really need and are valuable to us.’

    During our visit, Ben Graham, one of the squad’s dog instructors took us to Sellafield train station, a small unmanned rail station seated on the Cumbrian coast, for a drill with some of the dogs to explain what happens.

    He explains: ‘It’s just a simple area and building search for the explosive dogs. It’s a refresher for the little dogs. 

    ‘They’ll use the area inside, the dogs will search the area and the handlers will control the dogs. 

    ‘The dogs will find the samples that will be put out and we’ll get a good nice indication of them.’

    One of the larger general purpose dogs stares into the camera while perched on a bench in it's kennel.
    Talk about puppy dog eyes! (Picture: Elle Rudd/Metro.co.uk)

    During this live simulation, the team hide explosive materials somewhere in the station and then return and take their dog to sniff out the potentially deadly substance. 

    And while the dog unit are all firearms trained, they are accompanied by firearms officers, just as they would be if the threat was real. 

    Seeing as Sellafield is a relatively small station, consisting of two platforms and with trains running through it only once every half an hour, the station is not shut down and is still accessible to the public. 

    The next active simulation we are shown is with the general purpose dogs, showing the type of scenarios in which they would be used. 

    A training officer, kitted out in a large padded suit plays the role of suspect. The dog, a large breed such as a German shepherd, is then run through a variety of situations. 

    Ripley, a small red and white spaniel, searches the waiting room of Sellafield station during a drill. Her owner is in the room next to her, stood wearing her full uniform. The rest of the unit watch through the windows.
    Where, oh where, could these explosives be? (Picture: Elle Rudd/Metro.co.uk)

    These include the ‘suspect’ attacking the officer with a weapon, the ‘suspect’ approaching the officer in an aggressive manner and the ‘suspect’ fleeing the scene of a crime.

    As with any sensitive situation the dogs need to be ready to appropriately deal with suspects, and even defend their handler from oncoming attacks. 

    And the value of this highly-trained specialised dog unit does not go unnoticed.

    Duncan Worsell, the Assistant Chief Constable of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, tells us about the full reach of the CNC says: ‘Where we deploy them, the dogs are extraordinarily important.

    ‘Dogs can do things that armed officers cannot do. And whilst this might sound unpleasant, there are circumstances, dangerous circumstances in which we would rather place a police dog than a police officer. 

    ‘For instance, searching a building if you know that there are intruders within the building, but you don’t know how many or where within the building they are, you can use dogs in order to do that.’

    As with any working dog, the bond between handler and hound is not only special but vital. 

    A dog trainer bends over as a large german shepherd bites his arm during a general purpose dog drill. The trainer is wearing a large padded jacket to prevent injuries. The dog swings off his arm and he bites him at the elbow.
    Ouch. (Picture: Elle Rudd/Metro.co.uk)

    Sarah says: ‘When you’re working your dog, you want to know that that dog will protect you in any situation. 

    ‘The trust must be there. And that’s the trust from you to dog and from your dog to you. They need to trust that you’re going to look after them as well.

    ‘You’re talking 14 to 16 years, that you’ve got that dog. And the work that you do with it is phenomenal. You ask so much of them, and they give everything in return, they really do.’

    Training the handler how to work with each dog is just as important as teaching the dog what to do.

    Laura adds: ‘As instructors we don’t teach the dog how to do what it does. We teach the handler to teach the dog what it does, so that they know how to work the dog so that they know what they’re looking for.’

    A dog staring at a ball
    Ball! Ball! Ball! (Picture: Elle Rudd/Metro.co.uk)

    Neil Henderson is one of the elite force’s firearms officers and dog handlers. He works two dogs – a five year old Malinois cross, Xander, who is a general purpose dog, and a four year old Cocker spaniel cross, Troy, who is a specialist explosives dog. 

    He adds: ‘The better the bond, the better the team you’ll be together because if you haven’t got a bond with your dog it won’t want to work for you you can try to work it but it won’t work for you.

    ‘It’s essentially taking a really close friend or family member to work, to work alongside them. 

    ‘And the good thing is because you spend so much time together and you’ve got that bond, you can actually trust them to do the job.’

    Dogs with Jobs

    Dogs are amazing, aren't they? They're adorable, they love a cuddle and they are man's best friend.

    But they are so much more than that.

    Our new series, Dogs with Jobs, explores the roles of working dogs and looks at the impact they have on both society and the people they help

    From Guide Dogs to Nuclear Detection Dogs, we will be meeting so many incredible dogs from all walkies of life.

    Check our Facebook each Monday for a new Dogs with Jobs.

    MORE: Dogs With Jobs: Meet the medical detection dogs giving chronically ill people back their lives

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


    Dog stuff.04_49_31_17.Still037-a51cDog stuff.04_49_31_17.Still037-a51c

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    vegan cities revealed UK
    The top ten cities for veganism have been revealed, with some surprising results (Picture: Jo Sonn/Unsplash)

    London certainly isn’t running short of vegan cafes, bakeries and restaurants, with new sites popping up every week.

    But it seems the capital could be doing more to accommodate plant-based eaters, according to a new study.

    The report examined the number of searches for the term ‘vegan and vegetarian restaurants’ for several major cities, and cross referenced them with the number of meat-free restaurants per area.

    But the results are somewhat surprising.

    The research found that Norwich scooped top place for the most vegan-friendly city in the UK, with 2,094 people in the city per vegetarian/vegan restaurant.

    It was a good turnout for Scotland too, with Edinburgh and Glasgow placing second and third place, with 2,631 and 3,000 people per restaurant respectively – regardless of the fact that 100% of Edinburgh residents stated they would never go completely meat-free.

    Cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Newcastle all placed in the top ten and – despite its rich culinary scene – London fell short, placing at number 11. Seaside resort Brighton failed to make the list at all.

    Impressively, 40% of Mancunians surveyed said they visited vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the city at least once a week. Bristolians followed close behind at 20%.

    Results also showed a fifth of the Southampton residents surveyed identified as vegan or vegetarian but the remaining 80% admitted they never visited meat-free restaurants.

    While cities such as London and Brighton failed to secure a top ten spot, it’s worth noting that the sample size of the survey was only 1,000 people. 

    Here’s the full list of the UK’s top 10 vegetarian/vegan-friendly cities, according to the survey:

    1. Norwich
    2. Edinburgh
    3. Glasgow
    4. Newcastle
    5. Bristol
    6. Manchester
    7. Liverpool
    8. Cardiff
    9. Southampton
    10. Nottingham

    MORE: Burger King’s halloumi burger is cooked in the same fryer as its chicken and fish, meaning many vegetarians can’t eat it

    MORE: I’m not just a vegan. I’m a fat vegan

    MORE: Impossible Food is developing a new vegan fake fish


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    Grainne and Ryan have paid off all their debt, cooking with musclefood
    Grainne and Ryan have paid off all their debt (Picture: Musclefood.com)

    Have you ever added up how much you spend on food every month?

    Grainne McNamee was shocked when she discovered that together with her husband Ryan, they spent over £500 a month on food alone.

    With Ryan facing being made redundant from his job at a bank just as they took on a £16,000 debt, they knew they needed to do something.

    The couple ditched takeaways, meal deals and top-shops and learnt how to batch cook meals for as little as £1 per portion.

    Now Grainne buys meat in bulk from musclefood.com, combines with low cost vegetables, cupboard staples, and fresh spices, to cook around 45 portions for less then £60.

    They’ve paid off their debt and now save so much, Grainne has managed to cut her hours of work down to two days a week.

    Grainne, 33, who lives in Belfast with Ryan and their dog Jessie, said: ‘We were dealt a bit of a blow in 2017 when my husband faced redundancy, and it made us realise just how mindless we’d become with our spending.

    ‘We’d recently bought a new car on finance, but it was on a complete whim. We literally walked into the car dealership and drove out in a brand-new car the same day, having signed up to what was essentially another £11,000 loan.

    ‘This meant that each month, we were forking out over £400 in loan payments, just to meet the minimum required.

    ‘It was at this point that I made the decision to try and clear over £16k worth of debt in just 12 months – something that some friends and family thought was far too ambitious at the time.

    Grainne and Ryan in front of a blossom tree
    Grainne and Ryan (Picture: Musclefood)

    ‘But I was really determined to get our finances back on track so in order to hold myself accountable I made a dedicated Instagram page, @WannaBeDebtFree, where I began logging day-to-day spending, loan payments, and our finances in general.

    ‘It was quite intimidating to start off with because people are usually so tight lipped about anything to do with income, spending, and debt in particular, but I found a huge online community that were incredibly helpful using the hashtag #DebtFreeCommunity.

    ‘It took a while to get Ryan on board but eventually we were able to sit down and really fine tune our spending – cancelling memberships and direct debits that weren’t absolutely essential, and changing the way we viewed money in general.

    ‘Soon we were paying about £1000 in loan overpayments each month, and our total debt gradually reduced.’

    The pair usually ate out or ordered takeaways once or twice a week and shopped day-to-day at various convenience shops and supermarkets the rest of the time.

    Grainne with her hamper from Musclefood
    Grainne with some of her bulk meat order (Picture: Musclefood)

    As such, their food bill alone racked up to a whopping £500 each month for just the two of them.

    So Grainne started to meal plan, batch cook and stuck to a weekly food shop.

    In order to bring this cost down, 33-year-old Grainne decided to start meal planning, batch cooking, and doing a weekly food shop.

    Grainne now prepares over a weeks’ worth of evening meals with leftover portions for lunches, for as little as £2.05 per meal.

    Grainne continued: ‘When you’re really trying to be careful with your spending and get the absolute most for your money, Musclefood hampers are fantastic.

    Grainne making pizza
    Grainne making a homemade pizza (Picture: MuscleFood)

    ‘Using chicken breast, minced beef, pork, and steak as bases, I now cook up hearty but healthy meals like Chinese pork ramen, meatball marinara and chicken katsu curry.

    ‘And I can use any meaty leftovers to make a big meat feast pizza which feeds three for about £4.90 – which is better value than most supermarkets.

    ‘When meal planning, I usually make a mental note of one night where we will be eating leftovers, usually just before our weekly food shop.

    ‘This gives us an opportunity to raid the fridge of any veggies or produce that hasn’t been used. Not only does this save money it also cuts down on the level of household waste.

    ‘Another tip would be to learn how to eat repeatedly, so eating dishes throughout the week which have similar or the same components.

    Ramen Grainne made with her hamper from musclefood
    Chicken ramen (Picture: Musclefood)

    ‘This may sound boring, but it gives you the opportunity to be really creative whilst being cost efficient as you can buy in bulk, and really make your groceries stretch further.’

    Grainne now works two days a week, which gives her time to focus on her blog too.

    Grainne added: ‘Our journey to become debt free hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it.

    ‘Ryan and I got married last year with no debt, and we’re now saving so much money every month that I can actually afford to just work two days a week!

    ‘This gives me time to concentrate on my Instagram blog and I even wrote a book in December last year, called How to Get Out of Debt: An Eight-Stage Strategy to Pay Off Debt and Fix Your Finances for Good.

    ‘People often think that living frugally means being miserable, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been”

    ‘Often all it takes is some time to re-address your attitude to your finances and make some little changes that all add up in the long term.’

    Grainne's low cost recipes

    Chicken Stir Fry (serves 2)

    Musclefood chicken breasts 200g 71p
    Rice 150g 15p
    Sweet chilli sauce 50ml 12p
    Fish sauce 25ml 8p
    Dark soy sauce 10ml 6p
    Carrots 250g 19p
    Broccoli 180g 28p
    Red onion 0.5 12p
    Spring onion 2 10p
    Spray oil 1 spray 1p
    Garlic granules 5g 3p
    Chilli flakes 2g 3p
    Lime 0.5 15p
    Salt & pepper 2p
      Total: £2.05 £1.03 per head

     

    Chinese Pork Ramen (serves 4)

    Musclefood pork loin, roasted 1 £3.93
    Rice noodles 400g £1.50
    Chicken stock cube 2 15p
    Frozen ginger 30g 10p
    Garlic granules 20g 6p
    Dark soy sauce 5ml 3p
    Fish sauce 30ml 8p
    Water, boiled 800ml
    Boiled egg 2 30p
    Cabbage leaves 4 5p
    Mushrooms 4 28p
    Spring onion 4 20p
    Chilli flakes 10g 6p
      Total: £6.74 £1.69 per head

     

    Meatball Marinara

    Musclefood Extra Lean Free-Range Meatballs 1 pack of 20 £2.63
    Tinned tomatoes 800g 56p
    Onions 1 25p
    Garlic bulb 1 25p
    Fresh basil 20g 30p
    Dried basil 5g 15p
    Dried oregano 5g 15p
    Sugar 5g 2p
    Cherry tomatoes 8 20p
    Broccoli 180g 28p
    Mushrooms 2 8p
    Red onion 0.5 12p
    Pepper 0.5 28p
    Pasta 300g 30p
      Total: £5.57 £1.39 per head

    MORE: The UK’s most vegan-friendly city revealed – and it’s not London

    MORE: Best Amazon Prime Day deals for fitness and health


    Woman pays off ?16k debt in a year by ditching supermarket meal deals and buying meat in bulkWoman pays off ?16k debt in a year by ditching supermarket meal deals and buying meat in bulk

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    Tori and Eddie, a couple with 27 years age gap
    Tori and Eddie are sometimes mistaken for being father and daughter (Picture: MDWfeatures / Tori Barron)

    Tori Barron who works as a nanny was 19 when she met Eddie Smith at a karaoke bar in Maryland, U.S.

    The now 21-year-old hit it off with Eddie, 48, and soon they started dating.

    Despite their 27-year age gap, the pair fell in love after a few weeks of getting to know each other and they moved in together after two months.

    But Tori was a bit cautious due to being abused in a past relationship. Eddie’s twin daughters are also 27, six years older than his girlfriend.

    Eddie and Tori have overcome their challenges though and now live together.

    They’re not bothered by comments about whether they’re father and daughter or if Eddie is Tori’s sugar daddy either.

    Eddie and Tori pictured looking loved up.
    Tori was 19 when the pair met (Picture: MDWfeatures / Tori Barron)

    ‘We had a crazy beginning for sure. When things calmed down and we started getting serious, Eddie would always tell me he liked me a lot,’ explained Tori.

    ‘One night he picked me up and he was driving. He said “I’m in love with you” and my heart just sunk, I felt so much joy and happiness.

    ‘At first, of course, it was uncomfortable. That’s the problem with dating someone older and younger, you’re bound to get questions.

    ‘Now, we just laugh at it and completely be smart about the whole situation.

    ‘The only time that I can say really shocked me was we went to a breakfast spot regularly in the weekends, and the waitress was like, “is that your daughter”

    ‘Eddie’s response was, “does it look like I can make a redhead?” She got offended by it and wouldn’t speak to us when we came in anymore.’

    Tori pictured with Eddie.
    Tori was reluctant at first, having come out of an abusive relationship and struggling to commit again (Picture: MDWfeatures / Tori Barron)

    Eddie’s daughters, who are six years older than Tori, also had some doubts at first but were soon used to the couple.

    The only people reluctant to accept their relationship are strangers but they said it doesn’t bother them.

    Tori pictured kissing Eddie on the cheek.
    People ask if Eddie is Tori’s sugar daddy sometimes (Picture: MDWfeatures / Tori Barron)

    ‘A bartender once asked us if he was my sugar daddy,’ added Tori. ‘I’ve had people tell me that dating someone old enough to be my father is disgusting.

    ‘To anyone in an age gap relationship or curious about being with an older or younger person- go for it. You only have one life, don’t pass on an opportunity because the age difference might scare you.

    Eddie and Tori pictured together making silly faces
    Eddie has two daughters who are six years older than his girlfriend (Picture: MDWfeatures / Tori Barron)

    ‘This is the happiest I have ever been. Don’t miss out on what could be your happy ending. Don’t let anyone tell you who you can and can’t be with.

    ‘To anyone who might criticise my relationship – I tell them to mind their own business. It’s my life. Not yours. We are no different from a same-age couple, we are just a normal couple who love one another.’

    MORE: Woman, 24, gets mistaken for her 79-year-old husband’s nurse because of 55-year age gap

    MORE: Lesbian couple with 37-year age gap say it doesn’t affect their relationship

    MORE: Couple with 40-year age gap reveal secrets to their happy marriage


    Age gap coupleAge gap couple

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    Woman eating cheese, woman sleepwalking, woman holding wine by a sofa with her child, man driving while yawning
    The sleep myths you shouldn’t believe (Picture: Getty)

    From avoiding cheese before bedtime to having a nightcap to help you nod off, there are plenty of myths about how to get a better night’s sleep – and a new poll reveals which ones are the most widely believed.

    With so many of us struggling to get to sleep thanks to stressful jobs, burning the candle at both ends and midnight scrolls through Instagram, it’s no wonder we look for advice on what might help us to get some shut-eye.

    But it seems we Brits believe far more old wives’ tales about sleep than we should.

    In a YouGov survey conducted on behalf of Calm, the sleep and meditation app, more than 4,000 British, French and American adults were quizzed on their beliefs over the most common myths.

    Asking users to mark 10 statements as ‘True’, ‘False’ or ‘Don’t Know’, the study revealed Brits are more likely to believe some of the more dangerous myths that might even put them in harm’s way.

    Whatever your sleep issue, one thing’s for sure – we’re fairly clueless when it comes to our sleep health.

    ‘There are so many common myths about sleep that we wanted to find out which ones are, in fact, most widely believed,’ says Michael Acton Smith, co-founder of Calm.

    Here are the most commonly believed myths and why you shouldn’t be losing sleep over them:

    Cold air will keep you awake when driving

    A worrying 66% of us Brits believe a bit of air con or winding the windows down will keep us alert when driving.

    You’d think it would be obvious, but feeling sleepy when you’re at the wheel is a sign you need a break or a coffee – not a breath of fresh air. Pull over for 15-45 minutes of nap time before hitting the road again.

    Your brain rests when you sleep

    Actually, while our body is taking some much needed time out, our brain is pretty active while we’re sleeping – something 48% of Brits didn’t know in the poll.

    Proving that our minds never really switch off, it stays busy – and is even more active in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stages of sleep. No wonder we have all those crazy dreams.

    Woman in checked pyjamas sleepwalking
    It’s best to lead a sleepwalker back to bed (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

    You shouldn’t wake a sleep walker

    So common that 48% of us believe it, this myth is exactly that – and you may even be putting them in danger if you don’t make them come to, especially if they’re anywhere near the stairs.

    Focus on guiding them back to bed and don’t worry if they wake – it’s all about staying safe.

    You swallow spiders as you sleep

    Terrifying, but thankfully not true, even if a third of us do believe the rumours. Phew.

    You’ll only dream during deep sleep

    It makes sense really – your brain is more active during REM, which is when you’ll have your most vivid dreams.

    Blonde woman fast asleep and cosy, wrapped up in a grey patterned duvet with a mobile laying on the bed
    Ditch the nightcap and you’ll sleep better (Picture: Getty Images/EyeEm)

    If you can’t sleep, stay in bed

    Surprisingly if you are struggling to nod off, bed might be the worst place for you.

    The National Sleep Association recommends heading to another space in the home to do something relaxing like reading a book for a few minutes, so that you only associate your bedroom with healthy, sleepy thoughts.

    You can catch up on missed sleep

    Sadly not. If weekend lay-ins are becoming a habit, you’re probably in the 20% who believe you can make up for all those late nights in the week – but recent studies have shown that consistency is key.

    A nightcap will help you to sleep

    Step away from the red wine – unfortunately the age-old idea of a little drink before bedtime could actually be harming our sleep patterns because as it wears off, we’re more likely to wake up in the night. Damn.

    Snoring is always harmless

    A quarter of Brits believe that, while annoying as hell, snoring is nothing to worry about – but they’re wrong.

    While it’s usually harmless, the National Sleep Foundation warns ‘it can be a symptom of a life-threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea, especially if it is accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness.

    Get it checked out.

    Cheese will give you nightmares

    Yes, that old chestnut – 22% of Brits believe eating cheese before bed will give you bad dreams despite there being no proof.

    In fact, it might even help you to sleep better thanks to the fact it contains tryptophan, which helps the body to produce more serotonin. Pass us the brie.

    MORE: Daily Fitness Challenge: How long can you hold a low plank?

    MORE: Woman says her little sister had a seizure because she curled her hair

    MORE: Parents, you can buy a £6.99 ‘pee cup’ so your kids can go anywhere without mess


    The sleep myths that are most-believed (and why they\'re wrong)The sleep myths that are most-believed (and why they\'re wrong)

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    Lady Gaga beauty line
    Fierce (Picture: Haus Laboratories)

    Amazon Prime Day is about buying weird and wonderful goods that you can justify with ‘well, it was on sale’.

    What you probably don’t expect on a bargain day is an exclusive celebrity makeup line – but this year is different.

    Lady Gaga is finally dropping her beauty range exclusively on Amazon.

    Haus Laboratories is the much-awaited line that Gaga has been teasing keen fans with for a year.

    The exciting new beauty bits will officially drop in September but you can pre-order the collection during Prime Day on July 15 and 16.

    Haus Laboratories makeup collection in black packaging
    You can pre-order during Prime Day (Picture: Haus Laboratories)

    Lady Gaga, real name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, follows the footsteps of singer/actress turned businesswoman Rihanna who’s enjoying much success with Fenty.

    Much like Rihanna, Gaga is sure to take all our money.

    And we’re completely willing. Six of the new items for the collection include Haus of Chained Ballerina, Haus of Goddess, Haus of Rose B*tch, Haus of Rockstar, Haus of Dynasty, and Haus of Metal Head.

    Hand swatches of different make up products
    Okay fine take all our money (Picture: Haus Laboratories)

    Each line will contain a lip liner called RIP Lip Liner which is available for £29. Also included is a lip gloss named Le Riot Lip Gloss for the same price.

    You can also expect a shiny multi-purpose pigment that can be applied all over, called Glam Attack for £34.

    And you can get these products in various limited-edition duo sets.

    For those who miss out on Prime Day, all of it drops on the Haus Laboratories website soon.

    So watch this space.

    MORE: Rihanna claps back at fan who asks for an album not Fenty Beauty bronzers and it’s brilliant

    MORE: Rihanna did not come here to play as she drops new Savage x Fenty line

    MORE: Amazon Prime Day 2019: The very best beauty deals from ghd, Maybelline, Elemis and more


    Lady Gaga beauty lineLady Gaga beauty line

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    The outside of The Rubens hotel, the tea and the silver tea service
    That tea looks pretty fancy (Picture: The Rubens At The Palace)

    There are plenty of places in London to get a good cup of tea but this could be the most expensive.

    A hotel is offering a pot of rare Golden Tips tea for £500 – that’s £166.66 a cup.

    The tea is available at five-star luxury hotel The Rubens at The Palace, alongside an afternoon tea, which costs £45.

    The hotel in Westminster has teamed up with ta merchants PMD tea to source the tea.

    It’s produced in the highlands of Sri Lanka, with tea pluckers picking it by hand and drying it on a velvet cloth to turn the buds from silver to gold, giving it it’s name.

    It is, quite rightfully, served at the hotel with a bit of ceremony – the delicate tea is weighed with precision at The Rubens using golden scales, and each tip is then placed into the silver teapot individually with golden tweezers.

    The outside of the The Rubens At The Palace
    This is where you could be having the tea (Picture: The Rubens At The Palace)

    The tea is infused with still mineral water to produce what the hotel describes as ‘an extraordinary liquor and a smooth, light and mellow texture, with hints of fruity notes.’

    You can enjoy it with a selection of scones, finger sandwiches and pastries.

    The tea leaves can be infused up to three times and apparently the flavour profile changes each time.

    Apparently this type of tea has a history of exclusivity and the cost hasn’t changed much since the Victorian era.

    In 1801, a pound of golden tips was sold for the equivalent of £1,260 back then.

    Dananjaya Silva, Managing Director & Tea Master at P.M.David Silva & Sons, told the Daily Mail: ‘The exquisite Rubens Golden Tips tea leaves can be infused as many as three times, with the flavour profile changing each time so you can enjoy a new depth of flavour.

    ‘On first infusion, you will notice a smooth and velvety floral note on the tip of the palate paired with flavours of melon, pear and sweet honey.

    ‘After the Rubens’ staff top up the pot with special hot water, notice a dry oaky finish on the back palate. The final infusion is far drier but the sweetness is still present, mixed with a delicious citrus and oaky note.’

    MORE: Amazon Prime Day includes much-anticipated Lady Gaga makeup

    MORE: The biggest sleep myths that Brits believe in – and why they’re wrong


    ?500 for a cup of tea?500 for a cup of tea

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    crickets rich in antioxidants
    Crunch time: Crickets are rich in antioxidants says new study (Picture: Charles Haynes/Flickr)

    It may sound like the nightmare stuff of a Bush Tucker Trial, but swapping your morning glass of OJ for a handful of critters has a substantial health benefit, says a new study.

    Research from the University of Teramo in Italy found that crickets have antioxidant power five times higher than fresh orange juice.

    What’s more, the squirmish study found black ants, mealworms and grasshoppers have the highest levels of the antioxidant polyphenols – after they were grounded down to produce water soluble extracts, that is.

    But it doesn’t stop there. The studywhich focused on commercially available edible insects – also found that silkworms and the fat from African caterpillars have twice the antioxidant power of olive oil.

    Antioxidant-rich foods are important for protecting cells against free radicals, which can play a role in heart disease and cancer.

    Researchers decided to take up the study after they saw a global rise in entomophagy (the practice of eating insects and invertebrates) with people actively trying to reduce their carbon footprint from animal food consumption.

    Professor Mauro Serafini, the study’s lead author, said: ‘At least two billion people – a quarter of the world’s population – regularly eat insects.

    ‘The rest of us will need a bit more encouragement.

    ‘Edible insects are an excellent source of protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and fibre.

    ‘But until now, nobody had compared them with classical functional foods such as olive oil or orange juice in terms of antioxidant activity.

    ‘In the future, we might also adapt dietary regimens for insect rearing in order to increase their antioxidant content for animal or human consumption.’

    MORE: The UK’s most vegan-friendly city revealed – and it’s not London

    MORE: London pub pop-up to serve ice cream topped with fried chicken, chips and hot sauce

    MORE: Would you dare attempt this 4,671 calorie deep-fried munchie box?


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    Donald Trump outside the White House
    Donald Trump has defended his suggestion that four non-white US Congresswoman should go back to where they came from claiming ‘many people agree with me’ (Picture: AP)

    Donald Trump defended a racist tweet about four non-white US Congresswomen, saying the anger it prompted ‘doesn’t concern me, because many people agree with me.’

    Speaking outside the White House Monday, the President of the United States shrugged off a reporter’s question about whether white nationalists would find ‘common cause’ with what he said.

    Trump added: ‘All I’m saying, they wanna leave? They can leave now.

    ‘It doesn’t say leave forever, it says leave, if you want.’

    ‘What that says is if they’re not happy with the United States, if they’re doing nothing but criticizing us all the time.

    Racist tweets sent by Donald Trump
    Trump defended these tweets sent Sunday, which are believed to have targeted US Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Presley (Picture: Twitter)

    You see these people walking down criticizing the United States. We just hit the highest stock market in history…’

    Trump then continued to hail his own economic successes as president.

    Compilation of pictures of England cricket team visiting Prime Minister Theresa May outside Number 10, Downing StreetTheresa May giddy with excitement as she hosts England cricket team at Downing Street

    He added: ‘If these people that I watch in those debates ever got their hands on the US government…Everything else we walk about that we’re so proud of, it’s down the tubes.

    ‘You’ll have a crash like you’ve never seen before, and, I’m really good at this stuff, I know what I’m talking about.’

    The tweets which sparked the latest storm were posted Sunday, and appeared to target Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York representative whose parents are of Puerto Rican origin.

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pictured with Ayanna Presley, and Ilhan Omar pictured alongside Rashida Tlaib
    Trump’s original tweets are believed to have been a dig at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pictured with Ayanna Presley, as well as Ilhan Omar pictured alongside Rashida Tlaib (Pictures: AP)

    It is also believed to have been aimed at Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, a Somalian Refugee, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, whose parents are Palestinian, and Ayanna Presley, an African-American Massachusetts representative.

    He wrote: ‘So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.

    ‘Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.

    ‘Then come back and show us how it is done. ‘

    ‘These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.

    ‘I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!’

    Trump later stepped up his attack on the women, which included branding Omar a ‘Jew hater’.

    He also condemned Ocasio-Cortez for helping scupper Amazon’s plans to set up its second headquarters in her native New York City, which cost the area 10,000 jobs.

    His original tweets and subsequent defense of them have prompted widespread condemnation.


    Made in America Product Showcase Hosted by President TrumpMade in America Product Showcase Hosted by President Trump

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    Today’s fitness challenge is chest-to-floor burpees – how many can you do in a minute?

    As part of our Staying Active summer series, we teamed up with experts to set you daily challenges to try at home, at the gym or in the park.

    The aim is to get you active every day for six weeks over summer. And today’s challenge is a tough one that will send your heart-rate through the roof.

    These daily challenges can be done on their own, or you can build them in to a larger workout – it’s completely up to you. As long as you’re moving, that’s what counts.

    Throughout the series, fitness experts Elia and Amanda – both qualified instructors at Flykick – will be on hand to show you how to do each challenge and give you their top tips.

    Check back every weekday to see what the next challenge is – you can even film your progress to make a record of how far you’ve come.

    A woman during every stage of a burpee
    Get your chest all the way to the floor before powering up again (Picture: Getty)

    We know doing the same fitness routine every week can get really tedious, trying a new challenge every day will keep your fitness fresh and fun – and you might even learn some new moves.

    How to do a chest-to-floor burpee

    From a standing position, squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you, just outside of your feet.

    Jump both feet back so that you’re now in a high plank position wit straight arms.

    Lower down into a push-up position – for chest-to-floor burpees your chest should touch the floor. Obviously.

    If you can’t do a full push-up, drop to your knees, but still get that chest all the way to the floor.

    Push up to return to your plank position, then jump the feet back in toward the hands.

    From this squat position, jump explosively into the air, reaching your arms straight overhead. You’re aiming for height.

    I am Team GB

    Toyota has teamed up with Team GB to re-launch the hugely successful participation campaign ‘I am Team GB’.

    Inspired by the achievements of Team GB athletes and the amazing efforts of local community heroes, Team GB has created ‘The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day’, which will take place on the 24thAugust.

    Over the weekend, there will be hundreds of free and fun activities across the country, put on by an army of volunteers; the ‘I am Team GB Games Makers’.

    To Join the Team and be part of The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day sign up at: www.IAmTeamGB.com


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    What it's like to come out as a sex and porn addict - Erica Garza picture: Ella Byworth
    Women watch porn too (Picture: Ella Byworth)

    It’s commonly thought that men are just more ‘visual’ than women when it comes to getting turned on.

    Women go for personality, we’re told, while men go for looks.

    That’s why women don’t watch porn.

    …Except women do watch porn. And some women quite enjoy it.

    New research suggests that women and men are both turned on by watching porn, and there’s no evidence that men are ‘visual’ while women are not.

    Researchers analysed the results of 61 studies involving adults of different sexes and sexual orientation. Participants were shown pictures of everyday, non-naked, people as well as more erotic images while they sat in a brain-scanning machine.

    There was little difference in the brain’s reaction to the erotic images depending on gender. In other words, the brains of men and women reacted in the same way when they looked at porn – turned on, as noted by activity in the amygdala, insula, and striatum.

    Researchers also looked at the differences in men and women’s grey matter in the insula and anterior cingulate, both areas that have been linked to sexual arousal. Analysing more than 30 studies on the subject, the team found no difference.

    All this suggests that women can be just as turned on by porn as men are.

    ‘Men are presumed to respond more strongly to visual sexual stimuli than do women,’ wrote the researchers. ‘The assumed sex difference in the neural processing of sexual stimuli might have been due to various factors, including hormonal status, opposing attitudes toward sexual material, differentially pronounced arousal, varying levels of sexual motivation, or simply due to insufficient sample sizes.’

    Researchers suggest that if there is a difference in women’s reactions to porn versus men’s, it might be because women aren’t exposed to porn as much as men are.

    They suggest that there’s still shame around women openly admitting they watch and enjoy porn, meaning they may not actively seek it out.

    The lesson we can learn from this research, though, is that being a woman doesn’t automatically mean you won’t enjoy porn, or that watching sexy stuff isn’t for you.

    Give it a go, work out what you like, and enjoy without shame.

    MORE: Oxford Dictionary needs to update its sexist definition of ‘woman’

    MORE: If you’re not worried about deepfake porn then you absolutely should be


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    Model is wheeled down the runway on the Sports Illustrated catwalk
    The dancer is battling an undiagnosed condition (Picture: Getty)

    A model with serious leg injuries took to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit runway in a wheelchair in a positive move for diversity by the brand.

    Djaniel Carter, from Arizona, suffered the injuries after years as a professional dancer, and has been battling a condition that makes it difficult for her to walk and stand.

    But that didn’t stop her from taking centre stage – and she was wheeled down the runway by the publication’s editor, MJ Day.

    Judging by the pictures, she loved every second of it.

    Sporting a red, striped bikini, Djaniel danced with her arms above her head, her legs slung over the side of the wheelchair – beaming every second. At the end of the runway she briefly stood to strike a quick pose for photographers before returning to her chair.

    Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shared the incredible moment in a clip on Instagram – and fans have been commenting with messages of praise and support.

    Model is wheeled down the runway on the Sports Illustrated catwalk
    The runway show featured women who lead on important social issues (Picture: Getty)

    ‘After several years as a professional dancer, @djaniiel sustained traumatic injuries to both of her legs and has been battling an underlying medical condition that has yet to be diagnosed,’ read the caption.

    ‘Despite the fact that she has a weakened ability to walk and stand, she has not let that stop her from pursing [sic] her dreams.’

    The video clip has since amassed more than 100,000 views and dozens of comments, with many people calling the model ‘inspirational’.

    Model strikes a pose at the end of the runway after being wheeled to the end in a wheelchair
    Some people on Instagram called the model a ‘fraud’ because she was able to stand (Picture: Getty)

    Images from the event show that Djaniel was wheeled down the catwalk a second time, this time wearing a chic, cut-out one piece in all white.

    ‘This is amazing and beyond inspiring. Thank you @si_swimsuit and @mj_day for constantly giving that runway the gift of diversity and all of us the empowerment to embrace our unique,’ said one Instagram user.

    Another said: ‘Truly beautiful woman! Inspirational is an understatement!’

    Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model Raine Michaels said: ‘This. Is. Everything. @djaniiel you are amazing.’

    Despite the messages of positivity, a small number of people left cruel comments calling the model a ‘fraud’ because she was able to stand at the end of the runway.

    But Djaniel was quick to call out the critics and remind them that disability comes in many different forms.

    Model strikes a pose at the end of the runway after being wheeled to the end in a wheelchair
    Djaniel shut down the critics telling them that they don’t know what she has been going through (Picture: Getty)

    ‘I already got called a “FRAUD” I am going to open up about my story and about what my body goes through you don’t know me,’ she wrote on Instagram in response.

    She shared behind-the-scenes images from the show – in one of them she was lying down after the rehearsal.

    Another image revealed that she had stitches in her foot. Over the picture she wrote the caption: ‘I was fighting more than just my brain and spinal cord last night.’

    The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit runway was part of Miami Swim Week at the W South Beach. It showcased inspirational women wearing socially conscious swimwear looks.

    The show opened with model, Halima Aden in a custom designed burkini by Cynthia Rowley that read; ‘Don’t change yourself, change the game’.

    MORE: Yes, women do get turned on by porn

    MORE: Daily Fitness Challenge: How many chest-to-floor burpees can you do in a minute?

    MORE: How to get your kids to exercise without them realising


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    Elle Linton running outdoors
    Working out outside is so accessible – no fees or equipment required (Picture: Anna Jackson)

    New research has revealed that 50% of UK adults spend less than an hour outside each day and 70% would like to spend more time outside.

    The study, conducted by Lindahls also found that 60% say their ideal place to exercise would be in the great outdoors – which isn’t surprising when you take into consideration that 82% of those surveyed don’t like going to the gym.

    The solution is obvious. Ditch the dingy gym and the poorly-lit spinning studios and embrace the outside world. The endless daylight and warmer temperatures of summer mean it’s the perfect time to give it a go.

    We have already written about how simply being outside can improve your mental health – a proximity to nature appears to have the power to help us de-stress – so add endorphins to the mix and you have the perfect recipe for an improved mood.

    And the experts agree.

    Personal trainer and fitness pro Elle Linton swears by getting sweaty in the great outdoors – but she didn’t always feel this way.

    Elle Linton doing a side lunge outdoors
    Dip low in those side lunges (Picture: Anna Jackson)

    ‘I remember about eight years ago or so, I was not the outdoors type, especially when the weather wasn’t on my side.

    ‘Then I ended up teaching an outdoor class which meant I had to show up every week no matter the weather.

    ‘One week, the ground was covered in snow and still, five ladies turned up to train with me. They really inspired me and helped me to understand what commitment looked like when you had a goal to achieve… and also that there is no such thing as bad weather if you’re dressed appropriately.

    ‘If the weather is something that might put you off, then rope a friend in or book a class (that you can’t cancel) for some accountability.’

    We asked Elle to create a simple workout to get you started in the great outdoors. All you need is a park bench and a little bit of space.

    Simple outdoor workout

    Warm up: two minutes of brisk walking.

    Sumo squats 

    Elle Linton doing a sumo squat outdoors
    (Picture: Anna Jackson)

    Do 30 of these.

    Your legs can be wider than hip width for sumo squats – but keep your knees directly over your toes.

    100-200 metre run

    Pick a spot in the distance to run to and back.

    Tricep dips

    Do 30 of these.

    Use a park bench to rest your hands on and extend your legs straight out in front of you.

    100-200 metre run 

    Pick a spot in the distance to run to and back.

    Side lunges 

    Do 30 of these.

    Aim to dip as low as possible, keeping your back straight and your chest up.

    100-200 metre run 

    Pick a spot in the distance to run to and back.

    Pistol squats 

    Do 30 of these – 15 on each leg.

    This is simply a single-leg squat. Tap your bum against the edge of the bench as you lower down for added stability.

    100-200 metre run 

    Pick a spot in the distance to run to and back.

    Elle Linton doing tricep dips outdoors
    Feel the burn with a set of tricep dips (Picture: Anna Jackson)

    Working out outside can be joyous – but preparation is key. As Elle says, prepping adequately for the weather is a big one. Knowing you can still get outside and active come rain, shine, hail or blizzard can help to keep you on track with your fitness goals.

    Additionally it is helpful to scope out outdoor spaces that will work for the kind of training you want to do.

    If you’re running – make sure your route isn’t right alongside busy roads full of traffic and pollution. If you want to find outdoor space for bodyweight and strength work – find a local park and plan to go at times when it won’t be full of children.

    What are the mental benefits of exercising outdoors?

    A study from the Peninsular College of Medicine and Dentistry found that exercising outdoors can provide more mental health benefits than indoor exercise.

    The study was based on results of indoor and outdoor exercise trials. It did find that the wellbeing outcomes of both types of exercise showed an improvement.

    On average, the following benefits were reportedly even stronger after exercising outdoors than they were after indoor activities:

    • Revitalisation
    • Increased energy
    • Positive engagement
    • Enjoyment and satisfaction

    Similarly, it seems exercising outdoors decreased the following sensations even further than indoor exercise did:

    • Tension
    • Confusion
    • Anger
    • Depression

    ‘I personally love outdoor workouts for the freedom, the creativity and the views,’ explains Elle.

    ‘There’s nothing you can’t do outdoors – from running, cycling, walking, a workout – on your own, with friends or an organised event.

    ‘You don’t have to follow a route unless you want to, just go with the flow. No matter where you are – even in London and big cities – you’re never too far away from some greenery, near a canal, or just a quiet spot a little bit off the beaten track, away from the crowds.

    ‘If you want a good laugh, get a group of friends together and play a game of old school rounders and prepare for your competitive streak to come out.

    ‘We spend so much time cooped up whether that’s at work in an office, in a car or on public transport that being outside not only benefits you physically, it can benefit you mentally.

    ‘It’s the perfect space to gather your thoughts or leave them behind all together and you’re almost guaranteed to have improved your mood after an outdoor workout.’

    The best thing about exercising outside is that it is incredibly accessible.

    You don’t need equipment, there won’t be any membership fees and you can go at any time that suits you – which is perfect if you have young children or work unpredictable hours.

    I am Team GB

    Toyota has teamed up with Team GB to re-launch the hugely successful participation campaign ‘I am Team GB’.

    Inspired by the achievements of Team GB athletes and the amazing efforts of local community heroes, Team GB has created ‘The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day’, which will take place on the 24thAugust.

    Over the weekend, there will be hundreds of free and fun activities across the country, put on by an army of volunteers; the ‘I am Team GB Games Makers’.

    To Join the Team and be part of The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day sign up at: www.IAmTeamGB.com


    Elle Linton running outdoorsElle Linton running outdoors

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    eyelash curler
    For your lashes, not your nose (Picture: Getty)

    Eyelash curlers are for curling your eyelashes – not attempting to squeeze out blackheads.

    We assumed the name of eyelash curlers gave that away, but apparently not.

    In a video from the ‘5-Minute Crafts’ channel, a man is shown using a curler to clamp down on the skin on his nose, forcing out what lies within the pores.

    Skincare experts are warning that this really isn’t a good idea.

    Dr Anton Alexandroff, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesman has warned that using a lash curler to squeeze your skin could cause scarring.

    Plus, it won’t actually work to clear your skin. It will more likely make it worse.

    Anton says: ‘Squeezing blackheads or whiteheads with an eyelash curler is not recommended because the content may go in the wrong direction – ie. further into the skin.

    man using eyelash curler to squeeze blackheads out of nose
    Don’t do this (Picture: Marco Richards)

    ‘This may case additional inflammation of the skin, including acne cysts which may subsequently scar.

    ‘The best thing to do is seek advice from a medical professional such as a dermatologist or your GP who will be able to advise the right treatment for you.’

    Aesthetician Candice Brown, of London Bridge Plastic Surgery, notes that this sort of extreme can stretch out your pores and leave them permanently enlarged, making them even more prone to getting blocked up with gunk.

    ‘Lash curlers are for lashes, not for blackheads,’ she says.

    ‘When you squeeze the nose it releases bacteria which can spread.

    ‘And while you are squeezing you might also be causing more blackheads to form, introducing yet more bacteria. You’re also at risk of scarring.

    ‘Applying such pressure with a lash curler can also cause irritation and inflammation.’

    using an eyelash curler to squeeze blackheads
    As satisfying as it may feel, this isn’t a good idea (Picture: Marco Richards)

    If all that doesn’t put you off trying this ‘hack’ at home, perhaps the knowledge that what you think are blackheads on your nose probably aren’t blackheads at all will sway you.

    Yep, those open pores on your nose you feel an irresistable urge to squeeze aren’t necessarily blocked up. What you’re more likely seeing are sebaceous filaments, the tiny hairs that help to transport your natural oils to the surface of the skin.

    When you squeeze the skin on your nose and see a sort of cream-coloured substance emerge, you’ve just squeezed out a sebaceous filament – not a blackhead.

    Facialist Andy Millward's recommendations for safely getting rid of blackheads:

    First, determine if you actually have blackheads, or if you’re looking at sebaceous filaments. A blackhead is a blockage you can feel within the skin, while sebaceous filaments are freeflowing, but visible due to the pore being enlarged.

    ‘Prevention is always better than a cure,’ says Andy. ‘So avoiding skin care and makeup that contains comedogenic ingredients is first thing.

    ‘Then using non-drying cleansers, gentle exfoliants and lightweight hydrating products etc to avoid blackheads from forming.

    ‘Some facialists or skin care professionals may offer extractions and will use steam or a softening solution prior to extraction to aid with their removal. Personally I prefer to use lipid-soluble hydroxy acids like Salicylic acid or Mandelic acid, either in the form of a mild peel or home care products that can help to dissolve and dislodge blackheads as well as reducing the appearance of sebaceous filaments.

    ‘Ingredients like Vitamin A (retinol or retinaldehyde), Saw Palmetto and DHEA also work by regulating sebum production so again, reducing the appearance of sebaceous filaments.

    ‘But remember, you can’t, and shouldn’t try to, stop them completely.

    ‘It’s important to have a realistic expectation and not try to obtain a completely ‘pore-less’ look, which only really exists in magazines and Instagram filters.’

    It’s totally normal and healthy to have sebaceous filaments (they’re quite important, in fact) and larger pores, and, as satisfying as it may be, aggressively squeezing your pores won’t be remotely beneficial.

    Blackheads happen when dirt gets trapped in an open pore. The best way to remove that dirt is through professional extraction (going for a facial) and maintaining a solid cleansing routine.

    There’s no way to close pores – they’re always open and able to get dirt inside – and there’s no way to shrink them, either. When you squeeze, however, you may be enlarging your pores, making it easier for dirt and grime to get inside. You’ll also be irritating the skin, spreading bacteria, and potentially causing infection.

    If you’re worried about blackheads, see a professional, regularly use a clarifying mud mask, and use products containing salicylic acid, which works to break down materials that clog the pores, such as excess oil and dead skin cells.

    Resist the urge to squeeze, and please put down your curler.

    MORE: Beauty bloggers are using floss to ‘get rid of blackheads’ but it’s not a good idea

    MORE: We really wouldn’t recommend this ‘blackhead-melting’ cling film and Vaseline trick

    MORE: Why you need to stop using pore strips to try to clear your nose of blackheads


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    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield
    Sophie rents a one-bedroom flat alone in Sheffield (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)

    What’s it like to rent your own place?

    For most Londoners, this is a distant dream – unless you earn enough to spend £1,200 a month on rent and don’t mind having a teeny-tiny kitchen.

    But outside the city, it’s perfectly affordable to live alone.

    In Leeds, PR specialist Laura pays £595 for a two-bedroom flat all to herself, while in Nottingham a lovely one-bedroom flat costs £550 a month between two.

    In this week’s edition of What I Rent, our weekly series in which we take an honest look at the world of renting, we’re in Sheffield with 24-year-old Sophie, who lives alone.

    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield, sophie in her bedroom with a toy dog
    She pays £525 a month plus bills (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)

    Hey, Sophie! How much do you pay to live here?

    I pay £525 a month for rent, which for the area I’m in and the fact I get a parking place, is pretty good.

    I have to pay £41 for gas and electric, my water bill is split through the building I’m in so that’s about £40 every 3 months, and then I pay about £24 for Internet.

    My council tax is quite high, but I’m going to be applying for a single persons discount.

    What do you get for what you pay?

    It’s a one bedroom flat which has an en-suite as the bathroom. It’s a really small flat, but it’s only me so I really don’t mind.

    I have a decent sized lounge, and my kitchen is great.

    How did you end up living here?

    I’ve actually only been living here for about two weeks, but it already feels like home.

    I had been previously living with my best friend, however we decided we wanted to have at least a year of living on our own while in our twenties.

    I’m a huge believer in being able to be independent, which before this, I wasn’t very good at.

    I’m so glad I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

    I found the flat on RightMove, I had been looking for months and viewed about 20 properties.

    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - a wooden plaque hanging on the doorknob reading 'bless this house with love & laughter'
    Sophie only moved in two weeks ago, but the flat already feels like home (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)

    Do you like the area?

    It’s in a really beautiful leafy area.

    I really wanted to live somewhere that was quiet as before this I lived in Kelham Island which was amazing, but very loud. I always had FOMO on a Friday and Saturday night if I wasn’t going out because you could always hear everyone out in Kelham island.

    Now I honestly love getting back and sitting in my lounge not hearing anyone out on a mad night out. Also, there are some seriously cute coffee shops nearby, which is great, and I’m close to some other bars and pubs.

    I’m so happy with where I live. It feels so safe, and the neighbourhood is so lovely.

    I love the fact I can hear birds in the morning, rather than cars. I like that I’m in walking distance of some great roads such as Ecclesall Road and Abbeydale Road. I really feel like I have the best of both worlds.

    Do you feel like you have enough space?

    I do, however I wish I had some storage space such as a cupboard to store a vacuum and other things in.

    I have a great big wardrobe though, and I’m planning on getting a desk and a dressing table which will create more storage.

    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - tray with plants and reed diffuser
    Cute plants (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)

    What’s it like living alone?

    It’s actually really nice!

    Don’t get me wrong, when I first moved in I was like ‘oh my god, I’m all alone’.

    It’s hard to adjust to the peace and quiet when you have lived with other people, but you quickly adjust to being on your own. Also, my boyfriend comes round a couple of times a week which is really lovely, and I see my friends in the week, so I never feel lonely.

    I’ve got to admit, one of the best things about living on your own is being able to do the mad (naked) dash when you’ve forgotten something in another room before jumping in the shower. There’s no worrying you’re going to be caught.

    Are there any issues with the flat you have to put up with?

    The only issue I have is that my shower drain can sometimes smell a bit, but honestly it hardly happens so I can’t even count it as a major issue.

    Do you have plans to move again?

    I think after living here for a year I would maybe look again. Ideally in the future I would live with my boyfriend, but I’m a great believer in letting everything happen at its own pace.

    Have you considered buying a place?

    I would love to buy my own place, I just don’t have the funds to do so at the moment. Also, I like the fact that with renting I have a lot of freedom and don’t feel tied down!

    Good point. Shall we have a look around?

    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - the living room
    The living room (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)
    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - Sophie sitting on the sofa in her living room
    Sophie decided to live alone to have some independence (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)
    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - the living room
    Nice view, right? (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)
    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - Sophie's kitchen
    The kitchen (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)
    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - the kitchen
    Sophie loves how quiet the area is (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)
    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - cupboard full of gin
    A well-stocked booze cupboard (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)
    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - the bedroom, with yellow cushions and a toy dog
    We like the sunny yellow in the bedroom (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)
    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - jewellery heart organiser
    How do you organise your jewellery? (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)
    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - the bedroom
    The flat isn’t massive, but it’s perfect for Sophie (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)
    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - the bathroom
    And finally, the bathroom (Picture: Paul David Drabble)
    What I Rent Sophie Lee Sheffield - cup of toothbrushes in the bathroom
    Oh hey, toothbrushes (Picture: Paul David Drabble/Metro.co.uk)

    What I Rent is a weekly series that’s out every Tuesday at 10am. Check back next week to have a nose around another rented property in London.

    How to get involved in What I Rent

    What I Rent is Metro.co.uk's weekly series that takes you inside the places in London people are renting, to give us all a better sense of what's normal and how much we should be paying.

    If you fancy taking part, please email whatirent@metro.co.uk.

    You'll need to have pictures taken of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your room. Make sure you get permission for your housemates!

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    The Great Wheel in Seattle at sunset
    Picture: There are stunning views at every turn in Seattle

    Seattle is renowned for its awesome music scene, cute coffee shops and stunning scenery – but this buzzing seaport city, situated on the west coast of the United States, has much more to offer.

    Alongside epic evergreen forests, imposing mountains and pristine lakes, the Emerald City is also a hub of innovation and is home to some of the world’s most recognisable brands – meaning it’s a draw for adventurers and entrepreneurs alike.

    It’s also a cultural epicentre; you can wander down colourful streets and see stunning artwork at Chihuly Garden and Glass or spy world-famous architecture such as the iconic Space Needle.

    Feeling inspired to take a trip? Who could blame you! While the summer months between May and October are typically most popular, Seattle is a year-round destination that offers visitors incredible arts and culture, music, a world-class culinary scene, and jaw-dropping nature to explore – regardless of when you visit.

    And to help you hit the ground running, here are 10 things everyone should do in Seattle…

    1. Capitol Hill

    When you’re not exploring the surrounding nature or getting acquainted with the wildlife around Washington State, you’ll find plenty to do in Seattle’s diverse neighbourhoods – and one definitely worth a visit is Capitol Hill.

    This corner of the city is a must for mouthwatering brunch spots, quirky, cool bars and boutiques aplenty. Foodies will be blown away by the incredible brunch with a side of blackberry Moscow Mules at Tallulah’s, or the refreshingly moreish potato crab salad at Single Shot.

    Music-lovers can meander around a host of vintage record stores in this neck of the woods, before enjoying a tipple in vibrant venues such as Neumos, a local indie rock venue where you can see live bands or throw some shapes at a themed dance party.

    Top tip for visiting Seattle!

    If you’re planning a trip to Seattle, consider purchasing the Seattle CityPASS to save as much as 49% on the city’s top attractions and landmarks.

    2. Space Needle

    Aerial view of the Space Needle, Seattle
    Picture: Get a whole new perspective of this city from the Space Needle. Photo credit: Nick Hall Photography.

     

    Standing majestically over the city since 1962, the Space Needle has recently completed a $100 million renovation to make it bigger and better than ever before.

    Travel up in a glass lift to reach the observation deck and enjoy the jaw-dropping views at 160-metres, where you’ll be able to see Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and the rest of Seattle’s growing skyline.

    If you’re feeling brave, pay a visit to The Loupe, the world’s highest revolving glass floor which enables you to experience the beauty of this city from every angle. You have to see it to believe it!

    3. Year-round festivals

    Regardless of when you visit Seattle, you can be assured there is some kind of festival or event on that celebrates local talent, world-famous musicians and food; it’s a city that’s always on the go.

    And this year is no exception; October, for example, will see the launch of Refract, a four-day, citywide festival featuring glass exhibitions, festive art parties, fascinating talks, tours and demos, open studios and exclusive collector events.

    If that’s your vibe, you won’t want to miss out on Chihuly Garden and Glass, one of the city’s most visited attractions showcasing a stunning collection of world-famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly’s works, and hosting a variety of events and exhibitions.

    Sports fans, meanwhile, will find everything from American football to baseball throughout the year, and culture fans can hit a number of celebratory events, like Bumbershoot, Capitol Hill Block Party or Seafair, Seattle’s long-time summer celebration that spans the months of July and August.

    If you somehow manage to miss the festivals entirely, then don’t panic – Seattle is home to museums galore. From traditional galleries to new-age centres like the cool Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), there is literally something for everyone here.

    4. Hiking

    Hiking might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Seattle, but this city is home to some truly breathtaking trails suitable for all fitness levels, and offering rewarding views at every turn.

    Enjoy a stroll along the 2.8-mile flat loop trail in nearby Discovery Park, or check out the peaceful waterside at Elliot Bay Trail for views over the water, and a varied landscape with a mix of city streets and wide, green spaces.

    For something more challenging, check out Mount Si – just 30 miles east of Seattle centre – where you can tackle the four-mile long trail, that climbs a total of 3,500 feet (and it will certainly look familiar to TV fans; it’s where Twin Peaks was filmed).

    5. Volcano visit

    Shot of Mount Rainier in Seattle across the water
    Picture: Take a walk on the wild side in Seattle’s parks and mountain ranges

    Just a two-and-a-half hour drive from Seattle is Mount Rainier National Park. Get a true taste for the natural majesty of this site by signing up to one of the many day trips here and get up close to this active volcano.

    Summer months offer unbeatable hiking conditions and the opportunity to view wildflowers in bloom. Winter is just as magical – and you can trade in your hiking boots for snow shoes.

    To get a taste for the year-round appeal of Seattle’s natural treasures, visit Crystal Mountain. Here, you can ski down sugar-dusted slopes in winter or rent a bike to explore the hills when the sun’s out. Then, after a day of adventure, you can tuck in to a well-deserved meal at Summit House restaurant at the top of the mountain.

    6. Explore by water

    Take an alternative tour of the area by hitting the water. Crystal Seas Kayaks provide escapes to the stunning San Juan Islands where sightings of whales, eagles, seals and more are not uncommon.

    Don’t worry if you’ve never been in a kayak before – your guide will show you the ropes (or paddles, should we say) while filling you in on all the beautiful sites you cruise past.

    Another option is to take a boat tour; sit back, relax and enjoy Seattle with minimal effort required by touring with Argosy Cruises.

    7. Take to the skies in a seaplane at South Lake Union

    Seattle is big, diverse and fabulous – and one of the best ways to get a real feel for the scope of it is to take to the skies and see it from above with Kenmore Air.

    Gather your friends and explore the area by sky with an expert guide in the cockpit. Your pilot will fly you past woodlands, over the city, across the sea, and back to Lake Union, which is mere minutes from the city centre.

    Then, once you’re back on dry land, a short walk into the South Lake Union neighbourhood will lead you to craft beer and cocktails at Bravehorse Tavern, or rooftop views at the high-energy Mbar.

    8. Ballard Farmers Market

    Mix with the locals and experience the real Seattle with a trip to the Ballard Farmers Market. This bustling hive of foodie goodness boasts around 100 street vendors selling everything from fresh, organic fruit and vegetables from local Washington farms to freshly baked bread.

    Locals bring their kids and pets along to the market – come rain or shine – between 10am and 3pm on Sundays throughout the year.

    9. Get a taste for Washington wine

    USA, Washington, Woodinville. Chateau Ste. Michelle is the state's largest winery.
    Picture: Visit the state’s largest winery for some of the finest tipples in town

    With more than 900 wineries, Washington is the second largest producer of vino in the USA – and Woodinville Wine Country is the perfect place for visitors to explore Washington’s widespread wine region in one location.

    A perfect day trip for wine novices and aficionados alike, the short journey from the hustle and bustle of the city gives way to over 125 wineries and some of the best vintages in the country.

    Grab yourself a Woodinville Wine Pass and enjoy sipping sessions at top tasting rooms, including DeLille Cellars and Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington’s founding winery. You can also check out Taste Washington, an annual celebration of Washington wine and food, which serves up wines and dishes from the region’s top chefs and winemakers.

    10. Olympic Sculpture Park

    The Olympic Sculpture Park is home to over 20 pieces from the Seattle Art Museum’s sculpture collection – and is super easy to get to from the buzzing city centre. With works from renowned artists such as Richard Serra (Wake), Jaume Plensa (Echo) and Alexander Calder (Eagle), it is definitely a worthwhile visit.

    Here, visitors can wander around the nine-acre site before settling down to enjoy the views over Puget Sound – a wonderful way to round off your visit to Seattle.

    Another option is to stroll down to nearby AQUA by El Gaucho, a dreamy waterfront venue where you can sip fine wine and try the incredible local oysters as the sun sets.

    Visit Seattle

    Aerial view of the Seattle coast as the sun rises

    Fly daily to Seattle with Virgin Atlantic from £356* return. For more information and to book visit virginatlantic.com/Seattle

     

    *Ts&Cs apply. Visit virginatlantic.com for full conditions. Fare quoted is based on a return to Seattle departing from London Heathrow only. Travel in Economy Light. Fares subject to availability and include all pre-paid taxes, fees and surcharges. Travel restrictions apply. Book before midnight on July 23, 2019.


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    There comes a time in all of our lives when we stop holidaying with our parents and our phones become our main social lifeline.

    But what happens when you stick a mum and (grown up) child together in the middle of nowhere for a weekend – with no technology?

    We sent our reporter and her mum to a digital detox weekend at The Detox Barn in Suffolk.

    Miranda is a vegan wellness millennial who’s used to all the yoga and raw food stuff…but hasn’t gone for over a decade without her phone surgically attached to her hand.

    Her mum Margaret is in her mid-60s and loves nothing better than a roast pork dinner. She also has a chronic iPad addiction and is very definitely not here for any kind of spiritual awakening.

    She was more than happy to come along, having been giving the promise of a luxury weekend in the country away from the travails of east London.

    The aim? To see if 48-hours of being tech-free, meat-free and stress-free is enough to reconnect across the generations.

    Daughter Miranda’s experience:

    When was the last time you went 48 hours without your phone? Or the last time you went a week without a cup of coffee? How about the last time you spent 48 hours with your mum with no chance of escape?

    Before I took my mum to the Detox Barn for a weekend of ‘gentle detoxing’, I couldn’t answer any of those questions. I couldn’t remember a time I’d gone longer than a few hours without a caffeine hit or a scroll through my phone.

    Yet here we are a week later and I’ve managed to swap my morning cafetiere for herbal tea, ditched the sugar for an evening smoothie and haven’t had the urge to supplement my lunch with a bag of crisps. Oh, and my mum and I are now in our first ever WhatsApp group together.

    The Detox Barn is a retreat run by sisters Sharon and Loretta Gavin – two actors who split their time between north London and Suffolk.

    Sisters Lauretta and Sharon run the retreat which focuses on vegan wellness and reconnection
    Sisters Lauretta and Sharon run the retreat which focuses on vegan wellness and reconnection (Picture: Miranda Larbi)

    It’s a relatively common story these days; Sharon was struck down with an autoimmune disease which left her needing to use a wheelchair. Determined to heal herself away from a plethora of drugs, she took up a vegan diet, started juicing and today is the picture of health. It was the same with Deliciously Ella’s Ella Mills.

    Their three-day weekender is set in glorious Suffolk countryside, with beautifully decorated bedrooms and communal areas and acres of garden.

    We arrived on the Friday evening feeling the way any mum and daughter would having been stuck on the A12 for two hours, largely thanks to the fact that I got on the wrong train from work.

    Sharon came out to usher us into a feast of sweet potato cottage pie, wild garlic and bean salad and a raw cheesecake as good as any I’ve had in a restaurant. After that initial bump, we didn’t have cross word again for the duration of the weekend.

    Every day begins with a cup of lemon and hot water (which for some reason didn’t taste like the mug of Toilet Duck I seem to end up with when I try to do it at home), before an hour’s yoga led by the wonderful Wendy. Totally inclusive, with a number of modifications, everyone seemed either to improve or to gain more confidence in the practice.

    Breakfast was served on the terrace – a fresh smoothie and bowl of oats and berries. Lunch is either courgette or soup (no pudding) and then you had to hold out until a 6.30pm dinner with the help of herbal teas and fruit.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BzAfStyHY5d/

    If you’re like me then you’ll be used to eating until you’re really full and going between snacking and fasting.

    If there’s been a day free from bloating in the past two years, I can’t remember it – until this weekend. Maybe it was the gut-friendly grub. Maybe it was mindfully eating at a table. Maybe it was binning coffee and snacking. Whatever, it felt pretty miraculous.

    In the evening, we set out for a walk across wheat fields either talking and getting to know each other or in complete silence. For the first ten minutes all I could think about was how much of a hit my Instagram presence was taking from not having my phone. But you know how they say that taking a picture of something actually stops your memory from storing it as vividly? Well, I think that’s probably true – for the first time in ages, I think my senses were working around the clock.

    The connections you can make when you have no distractions really made me worry about how much we’re missing on a daily basis.

    Mum chatting with strangers in the detox barn garden
    When was the last time you spent 48 hours with strangers…without spending time scrolling through IG? (Picture: Miranda Larbi)

    Seeing my mum make new friends, getting her first facial from the visiting therapist, tucking into vegan food and listening to people talking about quantum healing really gave us an opportunity to bond. She gets my lifestyle and is now kind of part of it, even if she’s not ready to swap her roast pork for a nut roast just yet.

    For the first time in years, we were able to orbit the same world for 48 hours.

    I left her to enjoy the last day on her own (and in peace) as I had to scuttle back to London – but I returned refreshed, focused, and caffeine-free.

    Mum Margaret shares her experience:

    No one in their right mind would choose to drive out of London during rush hour on a Friday night. However, having picked up my daughter, Millie, knackered from another arduous day in the office, that is just what we did, heading off on the A12 in frazzled silence to deepest Suffolk, for a long weekend of ‘gentle plant-based detox.’

    Arriving late and still stressed, at the Detox Barn, we were immediately met by Sharon Gavin, whose delightfully open welcome immediately set us at ease. She and her sister Lauretta, had kindly delayed the start of dinner to accommodate us.

    a smoothie at the detox barn
    We had a number of juicing and smoothie making demos (Picture: Miranda Larbi)

    And what a dinner it was. I must say that I had a few reservations about what a largely raw vegan diet entailed but the huge main course of sweet potato shepherd’s pie accompanied by a wild garlic and bean salad was to die for. As was the superb strawberry cheesecake – which was largely eaten in a silence only punctuated by sighs of rapture from each of the ten guests who were all amazed that anything so delicious could possibly be totally vegan as well as sugar-free.

    After a superb night’s sleep in a beautifully appointed room, we were greeted with a cup of hot lemon tea before yoga at 8.30. What a way to start the day.

    Expert yoga teacher, Wendy Brown conducted the first of two 90 minute sessions on successive days based on gentle and detoxing flow routines from which both beginners and experienced practitioners could benefit equally – and her air of calm and mindfulness set the mood rubbed off onto the rest of the group.

    If you’d asked me previously to enthuse about the thought of cold porridge for breakfast, it would have been a no from me – but the pots of overnight oats run through with a generous portion of berries and topped with cinnamon, taken together on trestle tables in the sunshine surrounded by shrubs heaving with bees and butterflies, had everyone groaning with surprised delight.

    the daily schedule at the detox barn
    Loads of free time and lots of life-affirming activities (Picture: Miranda Larbi)

    The rest of the morning was ours, to lounge in the two acres of garden reading and chatting with only the sounds of birdsong, insects and the occasional horse clopping by. It was bliss. Not one phone was seen or heard until the final day. And nobody had missed them.

    The rest of the weekend was made up of more yoga and meditation sessions and of walks through gently rolling fields of wheat and rye. Particularly appreciated was the silent walk, led by Sharon, on which one was obliged to listen intently to all the natural sounds surrounding us – completely unpunctuated by engines or other man-made sound of any kind.

    How to recreate your own digital detox at home

    The beautiful thing about The Detox Barn is that the premise is so simple. It’s a supposed to be a complete break from mental and physical stress. That’s it.

    That means turning off your technology and helping the digestive system to repair from all the strain it’s usually under.

    Here’s how to do it:

    • Carve out a weekend in your diary – from Friday night until Monday morning
    • Turn off all your technology. You don’t need an alarm and you definitely don’t need to watch Netflix in bed.
    • Start every day with a cup of hot water and lemon
    • Try to go coffee-free over this weekend
    • Start every day with a yoga session. There are loads of amazing free videos on YouTube like Yoga with Adrienne.
    • Take an hour’s walk every day – with no particular purpose in mind. If you can, try to get to an open space like a park. Don’t take your phone or headphones.
    • Try to stick with eating between 10am and 7pm. We’re trying to give our systems a break so a weekend of intermittent fasting may be a good idea (if you have no disordered eating history).
    • Go for whole, plant-based foods. Give the meat and dairy a rest this weekend and see what vegan goodies you can rustle up. Sharon and Lauretta share lots of tips and recipes on their Instagram.
    • Read in bed.
    • Set goals. At some point during the weekend, get a notepad and have a think about what it is you really want to achieve. Is your relationship serving you? Are you happy in your job? What do you want to change? We often don’t give ourselves time to actually stop and think about our situations, so use this weekend to do that.
    • Watch a documentary. We saw Knives Over Forks and when we got home, we saw Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Both were pretty inspiring films about the power of food and the loss of connection we have to our bodies. Watch something that might inspire you – it doesn’t have to be about veganism or health.

    Also very much appreciated was the five mile walk on the Monday morning led by the marvellous Margaret Bull, a stalwart of the local Ramblers’ Association, and a mine of information about local history as well as about plants and their myriad uses. It is also, by the way, Margaret who supplies most of the organically grown produce used by Lauretta and Sharon in their meal preparation.

    Come Monday morning, nobody wanted the experience to end. We were a varied bunch – each there for their own reasons – and we had all gelled marvellously. So much so that we immediately created a WhatsApp group, the better to share recipes for the type of meals, smoothies and juices we had just experienced – as well as to arrange new meet-ups in the future.

    green smoothie at the detox barn in suffolk
    Yep, that’s another smoothie (Picture: Miranda Larbi)

    Of course, everyone wanted to return, at some point, to the Detox Barn. For me, it was a rare opportunity to reconnect with a generally time-pressed and stressed Millie in a meaningful way and without the intrusion of any kind of social media.

    Having dropped her at the Stowmarket station the previous afternoon, I made a solo journey back down the A12 on the Monday reflecting all the while on what a rare, delightful and surprising experience it had been. For once, I had had no abdominal discomfort and had breathed more easily than I had in months.

    Miranda – a dedicated practitioner of veganism for the past couple of years had been proved right – and I had been set on the road which will hopefully culminate in a lifestyle largely based on an organic plant-based diet.

    The takeaway

    Going tech-free is a bit tricky at first. You have no idea how much…time you have on your hands – literally.

    We fiddle, we stare, we swipe away aimlessly and although ten minutes here and there don’t seem like anything, it all adds up.

    Getting rid of your phone actually seems to slow life down a bit.

    And as for spending time with our parents/kids when everyone’s grown up? Well, we just don’t do it enough.

    We learnt a load of stuff about each other from seeing how we intereacted with other people and from chatting openly while we walked in the countryside. Our lives are very different but this was an opportunity to invite each other to share in a kind of half-way moment.

    You don’t have to go to a retreat to reconnect but in an age where we’re having better relationships online than we are in real life, we can’t afford not to take a pretty dramatic step if we want to protect our most valued connections.

    The practical stuff

    We stayed at The Detox Barn.

    Retreats take place once a month, with most lasting three nights.

    It’s £395 for a shared room, or £495 for a single occupancy.

    All classes, food and drink are included.

    There’s also off-site accommodation in the little hamlet surrounding the retreat (a walk away) and that’s available at a discounted rate.

    For booking enquires please contact detoxbarn@gmail.com or call 07974-329094

    MORE: What I Rent: Sophie, £525 a month for a one-bedroom flat in Sheffield

    MORE: I put timers on my phone apps for a ‘digital detox’ and this is what I learned


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    South-eastern Sicily has long been a well-kept secret among travellers and, despite Conde Nast Traveller naming it their destination of the summer, that hasn’t changed. It still feels like a hidden gem.

    This beautiful Baroque corner is one of the most enchanting places Italy has to offer and it’s still relatively untrodden.

    This summer, while others fly into the capital of Palermo, the wise will fly into Catania on the Eastern coast of Sicily and discover all that this special spot has to offer.

    The Baroque town of Ragusa at dusk (Picture: Getty)
    The Baroque town of Ragusa at dusk (Picture: Getty)

    From Catania, Mount Etna is an hour to the north – worth a first day or end of week pilgrimage – but an hour or so down the coast and down to the south-west, closer to Comiso, you’ll find beguiling Baroque towns, extraordinary cliff-side villages, monumental architecture, acres of vineyards and deserted, white sandy beaches.

    Oh, and of course – trattorias serving incredible food and wine at every turn.

    This little corner boasts 14 UNESCO world heritage sites and countless film location credits among its nine Baroque towns – Caltagirone, Militello, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa, Ispica and Scicli.

    The beautiful architecture came as a result of the devastating 1693 earthquake that led to the rebuilding of the entire Val di Noto at once, in the late Baroque style. This move was described as ‘the final flowering of Baroque art in Europe’ and has left this part of Sicily as a stunning example of the period.

    Driving into Modica as the sun goes down you are treated to these beautiful Baroque towns built into hillside and bathed in pink light (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)
    Driving into Modica as the sun goes down you are treated to these beautiful Baroque towns built into hillside and bathed in pink light (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    We flew into Catania with easyJet (2hr 30m flight time) and drove just over an hour to our hotel along practically empty roads through picturesque countryside.

    To make the most of the region while still managing a relaxing, fun holiday, we chose a laidback, rural hotel away from town centres where we could enjoy pool days but have historical hot spots at our fingertips. Without a hub to relax, it can feel like you’re always on the move.

    A view of the Artemisia Resort, Sicily (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)
    A view of the Artemisia Resort, Sicily (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    We lucked out with Artemisia Resort, a pretty, serene agroturismo hotel made up of cottages arranged around an 1800s Sicilian farmhouse.

    Artemisia resort, Ragusa, Sicily
    The pool at Artemisia resort, Ragusa, Sicily (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    We arrived just before sunset and were checked in and relaxing with a glass of wine on the sun-warmed terrace in less than five minutes.

    Less than five minutes after that, my nine-year-old son had darted out the door to play hopscotch and table tennis with some Maltese pals he had already met from the cottage next door.

    Hopscotch at Artemisia resort, Ragusa, Sicily (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)
    Hopscotch at Artemisia resort, Ragusa, Sicily (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    It was about as smooth a transition from London’s bustle to an idyllic rural retreat as you could hope for.

    The beautiful eco-hotel, set in a pretty courtyard within acres of grounds, is perfectly placed for the combination of lazy pool days and short trips to Sicily’s most beautiful towns.

    It’s 15 minutes to Ragusa, 20 minutes to Modica, 30 to Scicli. Noto is a little further, an hour away, but well worth spending a day there – so set out early and make a day of it.

    Similarly, Ortigia, 1hr 30m from Artemisia – an island that merits the journey (more on Ortigia below).

    Artemisia resort, Ragusa, Sicily (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)
    A warm welcome at Artemisia (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    Artemisia has well-executed rustic charm. Flowers in abundance, colourful dragonflies flitting over lily pads on a mosaic pond, swings hanging from trees, ping pong, table football, quoits, family bikes to explore the countryside.

    An instagram moment plant wall at Artemisia hotel, Ragusa, Sicily
    Just another Instagram moment at Artemisia (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    A pool – peaceful and almost empty during the day, even in August – surrounded by Instagrammable painted walls, flowers and palms. A barbecue area for nights in that the staff will light for you, as well as lay the table and clear up afterwards.

    Breakfast is included, served inside or on the pretty outdoor terrace overlooking the grounds and has a km0 ethos, meaning that the food has zero food miles.

    The pretty courtyard at Artemisia resort, Ragusa, Sicily (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)
    The pretty courtyard at Artemisia resort, Ragusa, Sicily (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    We had traditional homemade cake, local cheeses, coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast, but you could find too local cold meats, eggs and fruit from local farms, pastries, biscuits, and jams typical to Ragusa.

    Depending on the season, you’ll be served oranges, figs, prickly pears, blackberries, peaches, almonds, walnuts, pomegranates harvested in the Artemisia gardens.

    Breakfast at Artemisia resort was local cakes, biscuits and cheese with a km0 ethos
    Breakfast at Artemisia resort was local cakes, biscuits and cheese with a km0 ethos (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    There is no restaurant for dinner, but guests can order from a long list of local restaurants who will deliver lovely food – think fresh burrata with olive oil and basil, handmade pasta, steak – to your farmhouse.

    It’s like having a gourmet version of Deliveroo on speed-dial in rural Sicily.

    The staff come before the food does to set up a table cloth, wine glasses, candles and cutlery on the terrace as the sun goes down.

    The idea of being able to eat restaurant food at our place without having to spend hours with a child in a restaurant is one of the biggest selling points of this hotel – it really does get family holidays right, but would be just as charming for a couple or group of friends.

    Like our own Deliveroo for local, fresh Sicilian restaurant food (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)
    The aftermath of our own gourmet Deliveroo for local, fresh Sicilian restaurant food (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    The days we did go out, we drove to local towns for walks and dinner, to the sensational towns of Modica, Ragusa and Scicli, perched high on hills and carved into rock.

    Everything about these towns is a feast for the eyes. Perfectly preserved picturesque towns with ornate buildings and churches that are artworks themselves.

    Another handy aspect of this part of Sicily: You are immersed in beauty and history at every turn – meaning you needn’t ‘go in’ anywhere. If you are with children who think queuing, tickets and tours are a bore, this is a huge bonus.

    Surrounded on all sides by culture, they (and you) can soak it all in while sitting in the sun with a gelato. 
It’s the perfect compromise.

    We would set off before sunset and arrive at these beautiful Baroque towns, set into the cliff side and glowing pink in the dusk, at the golden hour. 
It was always easy to find somewhere spectacular to eat – often in the main square, in the shadow of the cathedral.

    Most diners come out at around 9, so we would have our meal at 7.30, with the pick of the tables in town – bowls of fresh pasta, grilled squid and white wine – and be on our gelato hunt by the time restaurants got busy.

    In Scicli we found Scicilli Street Food, an unassuming kiosk with a couple of tables in a side alley.

    For a handful of euros we ate spectacular calamari followed by a very local speciality – deep fried pizza dough dipped in chocolate sauce. Sicily’s answer to churros and worth the visit for these alone, but the town itself is magnificent too.

    If it’s too hot to tour by day, in the last hour of daylight you can fit in a quick walking tour that takes in the caves – dwellings in the rock faces that were inhabited by the town’s poor as recently as 1958 – and the main Baroque sights, lining the charming pedestrianised streets and seeming to glow pink as the sun sets. The town itself is sensational – visit it before it gets dark so you can appreciate it in full. 

    Scicli street food: deep fried pizza dough dipped in chocolate sauce (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)
    Scicli street food: Deep fried pizza dough dipped in chocolate sauce, photographed in a blur because it was being eaten so fast (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    Mid-week, for a change from the hillside baroque towns, we set off for Scoglitti, a historic seaside village that still has the fishing industry at its heart. There is a fish auction every day when the trawlermen come in and you’ll find the catch in one of the local seafood restaurants we were assured are uniformly good.

    You will also find miles of clean, light sandy beach and a sparkling turquoise sea that can at times get quite choppy – ideal for wave jumping and body boards and perfect for sandcastles and drinks by the water in one of the low-key beachfront bars and restaurants. 

    The beaches are long and pristine, miles of white sand stretch out with hardly another person in sight. 

    One morning we rose early and set off for Ortigia. 
A beautiful harbour town in an island linked to the mainland by a peninsula on the east coast, it is famous for its fish market, beautiful Baroque square and charming stone alleyways lined with cute shops and restaurants.

    Zefiro beach club, Ortigia island (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)
    Zefiro beach club, Ortigia island (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    We booked in for a boat trip around the island and into the caves (book your time as you arrive in town as they get busy) then wandered the pretty streets of the town, ate fried fish in the market place and swam at the Zefiro beach club as the sun set.

    Zefiro beach club, Ortigia island (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)
    Zefiro beach club, Ortigia island (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    We finished the day eating grilled calamari on a cliff top restaurant right on the sea edge. 
Sensational and highly recommended for an itinerary in south-east Sicily – you could easily spend a weekend here.

    Sunset supper of squid on the clifftop on Ortigia island (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)
    Sunset supper of deep-fried squid on the clifftop on Ortigia island (Picture: Deborah Arthurs)

    As a destination, this corner of Sicily has everything going for it.

    Natural beauty, sensational food and wine, friendly, affordable and uncrowded – even in the height of summer.

    There is no doubt about it – we will be back.

    Even if it’s just for that chocolate-dipped pizza dough.

    WHERE WE STAYED

    Metro.co.uk was hosted by Artemisia Resort, Sicily.

    Artemisia Resort, Sicily – £999 per adult and £545 for one child aged 2-11 years – based on two adults and one child sharing.

    Prestige Holidays has a week’s stay departing 18 August 2019 including return flights from Gatwick to Catania with TUI, accommodation in a Twin Double room with a Garden/Country View on bed and breakfast and car hire. (01425 480400, http://www.prestigeholidays.co.uk).

    To book, visit Prestige Holidays’ website here.


    ISan Nicolo cathedral and Palazzo Ducezio, NotoISan Nicolo cathedral and Palazzo Ducezio, Noto

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    Aerial view of beautiful tropical island with white sand beach. Seascape: Ocean and beautiful beach paradise. Guyam island, Siargao, Philippines. ; Shutterstock ID 1303445515; Purchase Order: -
    Fancy a trip to Siargao? (Picture: Shutterstock)

    If you’re planning a getaway, you might want to head to Siargao in the Philippines.

    Why? Because it’s just been voted the best island in the world by Conde Nast Traveler readers.

    And if you’re going abroad, you might as well go to the best possible place.

    We can see why Siargao is so popular. Just a quick look at photos reveals gorgeous white sand beaches and peaceful forests with a remote, untouched feel.

    The island has a population of 200,000 and isn’t overrun with tourists, making it a paradise for anyone keen for a genuine escape.

    That does mean it can be a little tricky to get to.

    Tropical Guyam Island with traditional fishing boats, Siargao, Philippines; Shutterstock ID 732876757; Purchase Order: -
    Doesn’t it look dreamy? (Picture: Shutterstock)

    Siargao doesn’t have an international airport, so to visit you’d need to go to Manila, Singapore, Seoul, or Hong Kong, then get a little propeller plane flight which takes around two hours. You can find reasonably priced flights, but prepare for a full day and night of travel.

    That’s all worth it, though. As well as being absolutely stunning, the island is perfect for anyone who loves to surf.

    Siargao is known as the surfing capital of the Philippines, with 15 spots that are dreamy for catching a wave. There are plenty of surfing schools and places to rent boards so newbies can join in, too, and the crystal clear water also provides the perfect place to try paddle boarding or snorkeling.

    Siargao is not only the surfing capital of the Philippines but also the up and coming vacation destination for local and international tourists because of its beautiful beaches, hospitable residents, islander lifestyle and world-class resorts. This photo was taken by a DJI Mavic Pro drone at Guyam Island just a few kilometers off-shore from Cloud 9 surfing spot.
    Siargao is known as the surfing capital of the Philippines (Picture: Getty)

    If you don’t fancy doing any water sports, you can just hike through the woodlands, laze on one of the many beaches, or snap pics by the rock pools at Magpupungko.

    If for some reason none of this appeals, don’t stress. Conde Nast has shared the runners up for its best island of the year, revealing the top islands in different areas of the world.

    Take a look at the list and get packing.

    Conde Nast Traveler's best islands in the world 2019:

    Top five in Asia:

    1. Siargao, Philippines
    2. Boracay, Philippines
    3. Palawan, Philippines (FYI, this won three years running)
    4. Langkawi, Malaysia
    5. Bali, Indonesia

    Top five in Australia and the south Pacific:

    1. Whitsunday Islands, Australia
    2. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
    3. Moorea, French Polynesia
    4. Tahiti, French Polynesia
    5. Fiji

    Top five in the Caribbean and the Atlantic:

    1. Bermuda
    2. St Vincent and the Grenadines
    3. Aruba
    4. Cayman Islands
    5. Turks and Caicos

    Top five in Europe:

    1. Mykonos, Greece
    2. Crete, Greece
    3. Paros, Greece
    4. Ischia, Italy
    5. Ibiza, Sapin

    MORE: Secret Sicily: The destination of the summer is Sicily’s Baroque corner

    MORE: Can you really solo travel to Bali as a woman and how safe is it?

    MORE: Boy with leukaemia travels 4,000 miles to visit Henry the Hoover factory


    Best island in the worldBest island in the world

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    Hoi An in Vietnam
    Night markets are a must in Hoi An (Picture: James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

    The Vietnamese city of Hoi An has been named the best in the world at the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.

    Jumping up from 8th place in last year’s annual readers survey, it knocks Mexican San Miguel de Allende off the top spot, which is has held for the last two years (and now sits second).

    Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value. One person called Hoi An a ‘little gem of a place’, while another praised its vegan and vegetarian options.

    For some, it was the shopping that really shone, with a reader saying ‘you can have anything made to order’. Others praised the infrastructure, crediting the chilled atmosphere to the fact the city’s located right beside a river, and the Old Town area is completely pedestrianised.

    Hoi An is considered one of the safest cities in Asia, and the night markets are renowned for their street food and fresh produce.

    Hoi An in Vietnam
    The streets light up at night (Picture: James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

    Bike hire costs less than £2 a day, allowing you to see the stunning beaches and scenery, as well as tourist hotspots like Hue Imperial citadel, My Son Ruin Temples, and Phong Nha Cave.

    In general the Vietnamese area is incredibly affordable, with cost of living site Numbeo stating that a meal at an inexpensive restaurant in Hoi An can cost as little as £1.03, while a pint of beer is around the same price.

    Hoi An in Vietnam
    Sun rises and sunsets are stunning here (Picture: John Lander/John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images)

    Some of the things to do in the area include a basket boat tour through a local mangrove forest, or learning fishing with residents who have perfected their technique through the generations.

    Travel + Leisure’s Editor Jacqui Gifford said of the win: ‘Brands and properties from all over the world – from Peru to Japan, India to Italy, and right here at home in the United States (where the magazine in based) – are recognized by our audience because they deliver exceptional experiences, rooted in a sense of place.

    ‘I congratulate all of this year’s winners, who have worked so hard to be among the world’s best.’

    Other cities that made the cut include Chiang Mai in Thailand, Mexico City, and Oaxaca. Florence, Rome, and Seville were the only European destinations that made the top 15, with Britain losing out completely.

    MORE: Which celebrity favourite restaurant is actually the best? An investigation

    MORE: Secret Sicily: The destination of the summer is Sicily’s Baroque corner


    Tourism in the Old Town of Hoi AnTourism in the Old Town of Hoi An

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