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

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    All the damage you're doing by holding in your pee at work
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Charley Child thought she had planned for her new business.

    But despite saving for a full year before giving up her job as a fashion buyer to start her knitwear brand Iggy & Burt, she was living far beyond her means.

    With the business yet to take off and all her savings tied up in start-up costs, she relied on credit cards to get by – quickly building up £15,000 worth of debt.

    She explains: ‘Essentially our household going went from two to one. I was 27 years old living in South London, with very little money, but hadn’t quite adjusted my lifestyle to the change in income and credit cards were what saw me through.’

    Charley realised that to help her business take off, she needed to clear her own debt and change her lifestyle.

    For people like Charley who run their own business, work freelance or are self-employed, you don’t always have the same regular stream of income you get when you work for someone else.

    Debt is a problem for many self-employed people. Figures from a charity for people working for themselves Business Debtline in 2018 show that over half of those who contacted them now have debts of more than £10,000, with 23% owing more than £30,000.

    More than six in 10 callers said they had used personal credit to pay for business costs in the last two years.

    Some months, self-employed people can earn a lot and other months, almost nothing. Some times they could be expecting a big payment that sees them through that month – but if it never comes, they have no way to pay the bills.

    If you are sick and can’t work, the business might have to stop and you end up with another unexpected gap.

    If your income is irregular, taking on credit can be an option that some people take to see them through.

    But what if something else happens the next month and soon you find your debts spiralling, like Charley.

    There are of course two types of debts when it comes to your business – money that the business owes, and then personal debts that you owe, which may be because there is not enough money to pay yourself.

    Charley was able to pay her personal debt quickly and learnt to live on a lower income while she started the business.

    She explains: ‘I had a life overhaul for a year. I started a household budget that I checked religiously each week.

    ‘I changed over all the cards to 0% interest credit cards and worked how much I needed to pay a month.

    ‘I started small – I planned all my meals each week to cut our weekly shopping bill in half. I got rid of all subscriptions bar Spotify.

    ‘I swapped out all my lovely branded skincare to more affordable stuff. I changed how I had my hair to stop expensive straightening treatments. I looked at every aspect of my life.

    ‘Spontaneity went out the window – there were no meeting up for a few drinks here and there. 

    ‘The apps for me were lethal, I stayed away from Uber, Just eat, anything like that. I completely shut down on Facebook and Instagram because I just wanted to buy stuff I saw on there all the time.

    ‘For me getting rid of any debt was about dedication to the business and being self-employed so it didn’t really feel like a sacrifice.’

    Illustration of a woman with her head bowed, along with a letter that says 'final notice' and a pink credit card on a yellow background with money flying around
    Take control of your finances (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Cutting back on spending is important if you are self-employed, especially in the initial stages of a new business

    You should try to create a safety fund and don’t be tempted to overspend just because you’ve had a really good month.

    Always have a few months worth of savings for when things are quieter.

    Charley adds: ‘Treat yourself like a business and check your cash flow and budget every week. 

    ‘Look ahead as much as you can, but also look back at the costs that arose in certain months to help with future planning. And save about 25% of what you have earned as a back-up plan.’

    Although you may have the idea to start a business, you might not have the skills and experience to manage your finances.

    Business debtline found that only 59% of callers knew how to complete a business plan and only 47% were confident about completing tax and VAT returns.

    Part of being self-employed is getting to grips with these things and if you don’t understand them, ask for help and advice.

    A huge unexpected tax bill can completely knock you back and it’s important to factor it into your budget.

    Mike Parkes, Technical Director at GoSimpleTax, a self-assessment tax software, said:There are many challenges which you’re faced with when you’re self-employed. It is no longer about just being an expert within your own industry, and you are quickly forced to establish a well-rounded business knowledge to stay afloat.

    An illustration of a man holding a large bag with a pound sign on it, on an orange background
    Be prepared to pay your tax bill (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    ‘If you fail to do this, it can be the difference between making self-employment work for you or your business failing at an early stage.

    ‘As the HMRC advertising campaign said “tax doesn’t have to be taxing” but the facts are that it can be and can certainly cause stress when juggling so many different elements of your business and working for yourself.

    ‘The key is to make the self-assessment process as simple as possible. From knowing when the deadlines are to the right amount you need to set aside for your tax bill.

    ‘These people need to ensure they’ve made provisions for tax throughout the year. We would urge those sole traders filing a tax return to keep good records as you go and to utilise the technology now available to them.

    ‘Crucial to avoiding debt is ensuring they put away a minimum 15%, maybe more depending upon the nature of the business, of sole trader earnings to help cover their tax bill and avoid any nasty surprises.’

    Beyond personal debt, sometimes taking on debt for the business is necessary to help it grow.

    This is something that should be done with careful planning and care to make sure it is something you can repay.

    Hannah Cox, 35, from Manchester, recently took on a business loan as she wanted to grow her business BetterNotStop, which offers travel experiences for entrepreneurs, founders and freelancers.

    Hannah researched and thought carefully about her plans before she committed to anything.

    She had experience of debt as she had paid off over £20,000 before starting the business.

    She explains: ‘I ended up in debt living a few hundred pounds a month beyond my means as a student, then struggling to find a job in London once graduated. 

    ‘Despite my degree, I worked as an intern for £100 a month, sleeping on a friend’s floor, then in a low paid marketing job. 

    ‘I struggled to pay off enough with my salary, despite doing everything I could to save money – packed lunches, walking to work you name it! Before I knew it a loan and few credit cards had amassed to nearly £20,000. 

    ‘I consolidated it into an IVA, moved out of London to have a lower cost of living and started to work for myself so I had more control on how much I could earn and pay back.’ 

    Now, she admits that taking on debt again has made her feel sick but she feels like this time she knows what she is doing and it is for the sake of growing her business, rather than for keeping up spending she can’t afford.

    She adds: ‘I feel alot more in control of it – its one business loan (which I am a personal guarantor for) which, even if everything goes wrong with the business, I know I can afford to pay it back quite easily, as I live within my means currently. 

    ‘It’s affordable and much less stressful.’

    So can you avoid debt if you are a freelancer or self-employed?

    Of course it is possible with careful research, budgeting and planning.

    But you shouldn’t be totally afraid of debt either. It’s about ensuring that any debt you do take on, is for the right reasons and is something that really is affordable, even if your circumstances change.

    There is support out there for people who are self-employed. Business debtline, run by the Money Advice Service, offers advice for people who work for themselves.

    But although Hannah says there is advice available online, Hannah feels that more needs to be done to ensure that those with ideas for businesses have the support to survive while they get it off the ground.

    She says: ‘There needs to be more information and support from the Government in the help offered to self-employed people, especially when it comes to managing your finances, taxes and accounts. 

    ‘This should all be online and offline training to make it accessible as possible and of course, available for free. 

    ‘It’s the same issues new freelancers and self-employed people have year after year and yet still it’s not being dealt with.’

    Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs Business Debtline, agrees. She said: ‘Many of the people behind these businesses are in need of advice and information at an earlier stage of their journey.

    ‘There is support out there but the government needs to do more to proactively champion these opportunities to ensure that these businesses receive the help they need to succeed.’

    Debt Month

    This article is part of a month-long focus in November all about debt.

    Scary word, we know, but we're hoping if we tackle this head on we'll be able to reduce the shame around money struggles and help everyone improve their understanding of their finances.

    Throughout November we'll be publishing first-person accounts of debt, features, advice, and explainers. You can read everything from the month on the Debt Month tag.

    If you have a story to share, a topic you want us to cover, or a question that needs answering, get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


    All the damage you're doing by holding in your pee at workAll the damage you're doing by holding in your pee at work

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    Sian McLean, from Oxfordshire, took to We Love Mrs Hinch Facebook account to share snaps of her messy room filled with clothes and clutter, before declaring anxiety had 'got the best of her.'
    Struggling with your mental health can mean even the simplest tasks feel impossible (Picture: Sian McLean)

    Struggling with your mental wellbeing can have an impact on every part of your life.

    Depression and anxiety can make the simplest tasks feel impossible, from brushing your hair and taking a shower to cooking yourself a decent meal.

    It’s no wonder, then, that people having a tough time will find their living space becomes overwhelmingly messy.

    That was the case for Sian McLean, from Oxfordshire, who shared photos of her clutter-filled room on the We Love Mrs Hinch Facebook group.

    ‘Anxiety got the better of me (complete lack of motivation),’ Sian wrote.

    The photos show clutter piled high on the bed and covering the floor and her makeup table.

    Messy room due to anxiety
    This was Sian’s room after anxiety ‘got the better’ of her (Picture: Sian McLean)

    But on a good day (because yes, even with depression or an anxiety disorder you can have highs and lows), Sian was able to sort out her room and get back on track.

    She shared photos of her room after giving it a good tidy, writing that she was (rightly) proud of managing to overcome the challenge.

    ‘Today I put a stop to it,’ she wrote. ‘Still lots to go but for only one day I’m super proud.’

    Messy room due to anxiety
    And the room’s transformation as Sian decided to ‘put a stop to it’ (Picture: Sian McLean)

    Sian’s post has been flooded with comments from people congratulating her for the room’s transformation and thanking her for so honestly sharing her struggles.

    One group member wrote: ‘That is completely amazing, you should feel so proud of yourself.

    ‘I suffer from depression and anxiety and know that feeling of no motivation.

    Messy room due to anxiety
    The post has received hundreds of messages of support (Picture: Sian McLean)

    ‘My flat is a tip, I have no idea where to start. You’ve inspired me to try through. Thank you xx.’

    Another said: ‘Well done. Anxiety didn’t get the better of you, it came, it went, you won.’

    Sian isn’t the first person to open up about how mental illness can make keeping things neat and tidy feel impossible.

    Last year Brittany Ernsperger shared a photo of piles of washed up pans on her kitchen counter, that ended up being shared more than 188,000 times.

    She wrote: ‘This is what depression looks like. No. Not the clean dishes. But that there were that many dishes in the first place; that I’ve gone two weeks without doing them.

    ‘Three days ago I sat on the kitchen floor and stared at them while I cried. I knew they needed to be done. I wanted to do them so bad. But depression pulled me under. It sucked me in. Like a black hole. Rapidly, sinking quick-sand.

    ‘I walked by them morning and night and all day long. And just looked at them. Telling myself that I could do them. Telling myself that I would. And feeling defeated everyday that I didn’t. Making the depression only that much worse because not accomplishing something that needs to be done is failure.

    ‘Worthless. Failure. Piece of shit. Incompetent. Stupid. Lazy. All things that roll through the mind of someone with depression. All. Day. Long.

    ‘Throw anxiety on top of it, and you’ve got yourself a real treat. Being scared your husband will leave because he thinks you’re lazy. Being scared to let people into your home because they’ll think you’re nasty. Feeling like you’re failing your kids because for the third night in a row you don’t have any clean dishes to cook dinner on.. so pizza it is. Again.’

    The lesson here: If your mental health isn’t great and the clutter is piling up, you’re not alone. You’re not a failure.

    Things will get better. One day you’ll wake up and have a window of feeling motivated. Use it – call your GP to make an appointment and get help, sort out your living space, and do all the life admin that will help you if things get bad again. You can get through this.

    To talk about mental health in a private, judgement-free zone, join our Mentally Yours Facebook group.

    Need support? Contact the Samaritans

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

    MORE: What does postnatal depression feel like and how can you get help?

    MORE: Can you ever get rid of depression?

    Messy room due to anxietyMessy room due to anxiety

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    LGBTQ+ flag and trans flag
    Transgender people are people just like you, trying to make the best of what they’ve got (Picture: Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images)

    I was six years old when I was first told I was a sissy, because I threw a basketball ‘like a girl’.

    I remember blood rushing to my cheeks as loud laughter pierced through my body. I didn’t quite understand what I had done, but I remember feeling deeply embarrassed by something I had no control over.

    This is the first time I remember being bullied in school, and it continued throughout all my school years. Instead of being able to enjoy activities like the rest of my classmates, I felt forced to hide away and hold back out of fear of being ridiculed.

    I wish that back then there would have been more awareness about people like me. Then maybe I would have been able to be myself. Because I didn’t know why I was so different from everyone else, I just knew I didn’t fit it and I was deeply uncomfortable with how people saw me and responded to me.

    But thankfully things have changed. November is now officially marked as Transgender Awareness Month – a month dedicated to raising awareness of transgender people and their lives. It reaches its height on 20 November, which is Transgender Day of Remembrance. The day is in honour of the transgender people whose lives have been taken, many of them simply for being transgender.

    Personally, I am always a bit cynical about days, weeks and months that are to raise ‘awareness’ about something. Not because I don’t want to celebrate and raise awareness, but because for me, awareness doesn’t begin and end on a calendar day. I live it every single day.

    But, cynicism and exhaustion aside, Transgender Day of Remembrance is an important time of reflection for me.

    We are currently living in very polarised times. On the one hand, many countries, such as Iceland, are taking huge steps forward for transgender equality. Healthcare for transgender people is constantly evolving and improving, and people are able to come out and be themselves much sooner than they ever have. 

    As someone who wasn’t able to come out when I was a kid, it is impossible to describe how happy I am for those who can. We are now seeing a whole generation of trans people who have never had to go through a traumatising puberty, making their lives so much better than the lives of previous generations. That’s tremendously positive for the wellbeing of young people.

    Transgender people are people just like you, trying to make the best of what they’ve got

    But, at the same time, transgender people are also facing huge challenges. 

    In the UK, hate crimes and transphobic harassment has increased and waiting lists for trans-related healthcare are ludicrously long – waiting for a first appointment can take up to two years. All discussions about legal rights for trans people are hijacked by misleading and demoralising debates.

    The focus never gets to be on the real challenges trans people face in society, but rather on the perceived, often made-up issues we allegedly cause. It’s exhausting to have to constantly live in reaction to things that simply aren’t true.

    While most murders of trans people take place in South America, the UK is sadly no safe haven. In 2018, two two trans women, Naomi Hersi and Amy Griffith, were both murdered in the UK. Behind all the statistics and headlines are real people – people with hopes, dreams and aspirations just like everyone else.

    That’s why we have things like Transgender Awareness Month. It’s not because transgender people just love to keep banging on about themselves, but because we still have a long way to go. 

    I would love nothing more than to be able to live my life in peace and not have to talk about being trans, but I simply can’t. My everyday life is constantly impacted by the fact that I am trans. We’re all in survival mode.

    We need to create a society where transgender people are free to be themselves without prosecution, harassment and bullying. I want to be able to walk down the street without worrying how someone might perceive me or what they might do if they know I’m trans. As Travis Alabanza recently wrote in their Metro.co.uk column, trans people need more than awareness, we need to feel safe. Everyone deserves that. 

    Transgender people are your colleagues, your family members, your loved ones, and people you encounter on the street. We share this world with you, and we share hobbies, interests, jobs and values with you. Transgender people are people just like you, trying to make the best of what they’ve got. 

    If you’re someone who’s reading this who isn’t trans, and you feel helpless hearing these stories, remember that you can make a difference. You can remember to be kind to transgender people. Believe transgender people. You can be critical of what you hear on the news and seek out information from transgender people instead.

    You can speak up for us, elevate our voices by talking about and sharing our work, and challenge transphobia where you encounter it. You can educate your boomer relatives, or your colleague at work that said something rude about a trans person. It all counts.

    The 331 people that were murdered this year all had their own individual lives. They didn’t deserve to be killed. I feel helpless about it too, but I do know that it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Together we can make a change. May they all rest in power.

    MORE: The trans community needs more than awareness – we need to feel safe

    MORE: Like Freddy McConnell, I know the hoops transgender parents have to jump through to be recognised

    MORE: It’s great to see ‘non-binary’ added to the dictionary – but there’s so much more to change

    Transgender day of remembranceTransgender day of remembrance

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    Jeanette Nkwate has a Filipino mother and a Cameroonian father. She says people don’t expect mixed-race people to look like she does.

    ‘Being mixed-race but not light-skinned, I’ve received interesting reactions from people of all backgrounds,’ Jeanette tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘Albeit a sweeping statement, but with white and Asian people, I typically get shock because I don’t fit into what they deem to be mixed-race.

    ‘While black people are often hyper-curious to figure out my heritage and quite frequently are inadvertently a little prejudiced with their statements – normally it’s something about my eyes.’

    Jeanette’s dad had a really bad accident when he was younger, so his family sent him to London for treatment. Her mother was a nurse in the hospital where he was recovering.

    She knows that her particular ‘mix’ is considered unusual, as many people still assume that being mixed-race always means that you are part white.

    ‘I know that I don’t fit into what people generally think of as mixed-race because I don’t have a light skin-tone,’ she explains.

    Picture: Jerry Syder for Metro.co.uk. Mixed Up Natalie Morris
    ‘With white and Asian people, I typically get shock because I don’t fit into what they deem to be mixed-race’ (Picture: Jerry Syder for Metro.co.uk)

    ‘It annoys me that in questionnaires, being mixed-race is only presented as white and otherness. I always opt for “mixed other”, “other” or “mixed”.

    ‘I also don’t see being mixed-race and being black as mutually exclusive things. I know that people like to classify others, but I identify myself as both: I’m a black woman but I’m also a mixed-race woman.’

    Jeanette says that being mixed-race gives her a unique experience of life. She says she loves being able to dip into and celebrate different cultures; ‘and that’s something that I feel more comfortable doing and vocalising now, as I’m older.

    Jeanette's parents
    Jeanette’s parents met in a hospital where her dad was being treated and her mum was a nurse (Picture: Jeanette Nkwate)

    ‘I love and identify with both sides,’ she adds. ‘I would say I possibly lean slightly towards my Dad’s heritage, but only because I know that when people see my skin tone they see me as “just black”.

    ‘I would say that both communities are inclusive, but the black community is more immediately inclusive because they can easily identify me as one of their own.’

    Jeanette says that growing up, she did feel isolated at times. There weren’t many mixed-race children where she was living, and any that she did come across where much more likely to have black and white heritage. There was no one else quite like her.

    Baby Jeanette with her dad
    ‘I know that I don’t fit into what people generally think of as mixed-race because I don’t have a light skin-tone’ (Picture: Jeanette Nkwate)

    But that wasn’t her only problem as a youngster.

    ‘We didn’t have as many hair products for curly hair types as we do now,’ says Jeanette. ‘So I feel like my parents just went through a trial-and-error phase of using endless products.

    ‘When I was really young, I had a little ‘fro because my dad was accustom to cutting my hair short – it’s common in Cameroon and other African countries for little girls, as it’s easy to manage and it’s so hot. I remember lots of people thinking I was a little boy because of my hair.

    ‘But generally, I feel like most of my difficulties in terms of race, have been because people were ignorant of people of colour in general, not because of me being mixed-race specifically.’

    Jeanette comp
    ‘I remember lots of people thinking I was a little boy because of my hair’ (Pictures: Jeanette Nkwate)

    Jeanette says that in some ways, she has had similar experiences to mixed-race kids who have a white parent, but she says there are specific differences with having parents who are both people of colour.

    ‘It’s not completely foreign for my mum to be on the receiving end of micro- and macro-aggressions,’ she explains.

    ‘Colourism also plays a huge role. Within both sides of my families’ communities, skin tone is still a huge conversation point.

    ‘Regardless of being mixed-race there was, and still is, negativity around being tanned or being darker.’

    Jeanette thinks there is both a conscious and unconscious element to this kind of prejudice, but she says it always manifests in the glorification of lighter and brighter complexions. Which made growing up with darker skin hard for Jeanette at times.

    Baby Jeanette
    ‘Regardless of being mixed-race there was, and still is, negativity around being tanned or being darker’ (Picture: Jeanette Nkwate)

    ‘When I was younger I had a bit of complex about my skin-tone,’ she tells us. ‘I wanted to look clearly “mixed”, like Kimora Simmons or Cassie.

    ‘But now, I consciously work on loving my skin-tone as it is, and I try to not praise characteristics that are stereotypically “mixed-race” or overly Eurocentric – like a lighter skin-tone or loose curl patterns.

    ‘I try not to fetishise, and although things are slowly starting to change, mainstream and popular culture continues to under-represent people of colour and their different ranges of skin-tones.’

    Jeanette says she has experienced racism throughout her life, but the form of the hostility she faces has shifted over the years. Where she used to have to deal with people being aggressive or verbally abusive, now the racism she experiences is much more covert.

    ‘It’s funny the things that people say when they think they are “safe”,’ explains Jeanette. ‘I’ve had a lot of people be racist about Asian people around me, without knowing that I’m Asian.

    ‘No one has ever explicitly called me the n-word, but I’ve been called p*** many times.

    ‘I used to feel scared about calling people out, but now I feel less scared about making people feel uncomfortable about their ignorance.’

    Jeanette has created this confidence by developing resilience over her lifetime, but she thinks it also stems from her access to a larger pool of cultural references.

    ‘I love that I can draw from different cultures,’ she says. ‘I think that it makes me see more perspectives and that is definitely a unique experience.

    ‘I wish that people understood that being mixed-race isn’t a binary thing.

    ‘It covers a whole spectrum and being part of different cultures is definitely something to be celebrated, but it’s not better than being from one culture.’

    Mixed Up

    Being mixed-race is so much more than just black and white (Pictures: Jerry Syder)

    Mixed Up is our weekly series that gets to the heart of what it means to be mixed-race in the UK today.

    Going beyond discussions of divided identity, this series takes a look at the unique joys, privileges and complexities that come with being mixed-race - across of variety of different contexts.

    The mixed-race population is the UK's fastest-growing ethnic group, and yet there is still so much more to understand about the varied lived experiences of individuals within this hugely heterogenous group.

    Each week we speak to the people who know exactly how it feels to navigate this inbetween space.

    MORE: Mixed Up: ‘Being mixed-race is the loneliest group – no one can ever truly reflect our experiences’

    MORE: Mixed Up: ‘My daughter’s teacher recoiled when I tried to take her because I don’t look like her’

    MORE: Mixed Up: ‘Being stopped and searched by police taught me to identify as black’

    Mixed UpMixed Up

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    It’s now what we believe is scientifically referred to as ‘really bloody cold’.

    Thus you may have gone out to your car this morning and spotted a load of ice and frost clogging up your windows.

    You could try the sandwich bag hack or go at it with a special scraper, but if you’re looking for another quick and easy way to clear ice from your windows, you’re in luck.

    A woman has shared a ‘genius’ trick to clear car windows, using an old bottle of carpet stain remover.

    You see, certain carpet stain removers have bottles with a special brush attachment to help you massage the cleaning product into fabric.

    It turns out that brush attachment also works as a gentle ice scraper.

    Ice removal trick for car windows Taken without permission
    Simply fill with warm water and get scraping (Picture: Angela Hickling)

    Angela Hickling shared her wisdom on Facebook, explaining that she filled an emptied out Dr Beckmann carpet cleaner bottle with warm water, then dragged the brush over her car’s windows.

    The warm water comes out through the brush and is spread evenly, quickly melting and wiping away ice. Smart, right?

    Just make sure you use warm water rather than boiling water straight out of the kettle, otherwise you’re risking the glass cracking.

    Obviously, this hack requires that you happen to have a carpet stain remover bottle with a brush attachment just lying around, otherwise you’ll need to shell out £2.80 for a bottle – only to immediately empty it out.

    FYI, you can just buy an actual ice scraper for the same price or cheaper. Or just spray your windows with warm water then use a cloth to wipe away.

    Despite all those caveats, the trick has still been hailed online, with Angela’s post being shared more than 17,000 times.

    Do try it out yourself, or give the sandwich bag hack a go. Or, if you want all the imaginary bonus points, get in touch with us by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk to share your own cold weather hacks. 

    MORE: Woman’s messy room transformation shows the reality of living with anxiety

    MORE: Spill It: What a 53-year-old train cleaning manager on night shifts drinks in a week

    Ice removal trick for car windowsIce removal trick for car windows

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    Marie Kondo introduces her new line of storage boxes during a media event in New York, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
    Our foremost advocate on getting rid of clutter is now selling us clutter (Picture: AP/Seth Wenig)

    Marie Kondo has finally done the tidying guru equivalent of jumping the shark this week, and officially launched an online store.

    It was an inevitable step perhaps for this folding behemoth, after a best-selling book and a hit Netflix special. Where to go next except swiftly into selling merch?

    The irony has not been lost on the world that our foremost advocate on getting rid of clutter is now selling us clutter. And we feel a little – I don’t know, betrayed?

    Because Marie promised us we were alright just as we are, except now here’s a shop to make us just that little bit better. Without anyone noticing she’s played the ultimate long Kon, and transitioned from quietly teaching us to fold T-shirts to running a Goop-style e-commerce empire.

    An astonishing array of treasures are for sale. A crumb brush for £20. A very satisfying looking serving bowl that looks like a giant thumb made it out of blue tack (a breezy £170). A ceramic set of nesting trays (£100 for the full set).

    They’re all very elegant and of course, minimalistic. Perhaps they’re designed to look beautiful sat all alone because once you’ve bought one thing you can’t afford to buy anything else.

    In a remarkable display of cognitive dissonance, there is also a tote bag for sale for £33. THIRTY. THREE. POUNDS. For a tote bag. As if we don’t all have 800 tote bags in the house already. In the cupboard. Under the sink. Under the bed.

    We couldn’t throw them away because they ‘might be useful’ and now Marie is trying to sell us another one for THIRTY THREE POUNDS. (Yes it’s dark blue and it’s specially for wrapping cut flowers and I’m considering buying it, but that’s not the point).

    When Marie’s book first came out, it was revolutionary and ground-breaking in the simplicity of its approach.

    It was very clear that you didn’t need any of the extra stuff. No fancy boxes or storage techniques. 

    If you’re already a folding, thanking, fully signed up member of the Marie Kondo fan club, you already own everything in this store.

    You didn’t need any more of the ‘24 life hacks to transform your kitchen’ articles. No pyramid schemes, no courses to go on, no extra things to buy.

    You only needed to reset your approach to the things you owned – it was all about the within. Just you and a book whispering ‘thank you’ to an old jumper and then letting it go. Now suddenly you can spend literally thousands of pounds on sparking joy with these specially chosen items.  

    But here’s the thing: if you’re already a folding, thanking, fully signed up member of the Marie Kondo fan club, you already own everything in this store. She’s preaching to the choir.

    We’ve already got the empty mason jars and the trays and the storage boxes. We got in this mess because we kept believing that this jar or this bowl or this crystal tuning fork was going to fix everything.

    She may have told the Wall Street Journal that if our bowl already sparks joy then we shouldn’t replace it, but that doesn’t matter. We’ve seen what she thinks is a joyful bowl now and we can’t go back.

    What Marie is really selling here is ‘new notebook promise’. That start of term fresh new notebook feeling – all promise and potential.

    The dream that you too are only a burnished brass ladle, hand-loomed wooden tea container or glass jar away from finally reaching your true potential.

    Marie used to be our faithful guide through the life changing magic of tidying. This tiny and unassuming woman who taught us that you only needed to find joy in the things you already had, let go of what was not serving you, and crucially stop believing in quick fixes. 

    Now it turns out at the end of the experience you can also visit the gift shop.

    That was never the spirit of the KonMari method. This eye-wateringly expensive online store is selling exactly the sort of quick fixes she once rallied against, albeit beautifully handcrafted limited edition quick fixes.

    The world is full of people trying to sell you things to fill the void. Marie was the shining light saying ‘love that old weird frog pencil topper? Put him on display!’ Now it’s all ‘this £200 brass plated utensil holder is your only path to joy’.

    From the state of the online backlash it would seem that this is an about-turn from Marie Kondo that won’t be tolerated. But then, the ceramic organising tray is already sold out online, so maybe we’re just as stupid as we look.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I have crumb brush to buy.

    MORE: Cleanfluencers are debating whether you should leave lines on your carpet when vacuuming

    MORE: Marie Kondo no longer takes own advice as she admits to ‘letting go of a perfect home’

    MORE: You can hire a ‘KonMari master’ to declutter your home for £90 an hour

    Marie KondoMarie Kondo

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    Ellena brice before and after using fake tan
    Ellena before and after her fake tan fail (Picture: Caters News Agency)

    If there’s one thing you should learn from the beauty corner on the internet, it’s that fake tan has the potential to go very wrong.

    You could end up stained green, make your friends think you’ve been kidnapped, or dribble your way to some interesting facial stains.

    Or, like Ellena Brice, your fake tan fail could make you look ‘like a Dorito’. Just be careful, ‘kay?

    Ellena, 18, decided to try fake tan for the first time after the cold weather had made her feel a tad glum.

    Wanting to restore her summer glow, Ellena took the advice of her pals and picked out the darkest shade available.

    She went right ahead and smothered herself in the stuff, leaving it on for the instructed time before washing it off.

    As you’ve probably guessed, the results weren’t quite what Ellena had hoped for. Instead she was far darker and more orange than intended, despite trying to exfoliate the fake tanner off her skin.

    Ellena Brice with the fake tan
    Ellena describes her resulting look as like a Dorito or tiger bread Picture: CATERS NEWS AGENCY)

    The Dorito-esque tinge lasted for around two weeks and Ellena said she had to wear darker makeup in an attempt to cover up the mishap.

    Ellena, from Orpington, Greater London, said: ‘I have always gone to a professional to get my tan done, but because I was feeling down with the cold and dark weather I decided to do it myself.

    ‘I was so pale and was going out for a meal so wanted something to make me feel a bit better.

    ‘So I asked my friends’ advice of what to get and didn’t even think about how the colour would look on me.

    ‘When I got home I put it all over the place but was shocked with what I saw when I washed the initial layer off.

    ‘It looked disgusting – it was all in my pores, I had a brown hair upper lip – I was literally a walking Dorito!

    ‘The worst part was, it took another two weeks for it to completely disappear so I had to wear darker make-up and try not to touch things as I was staining everything.’

    Ellena’s attempts to scrub away the stains only made things worse, leaving her skin ‘crusty’ and ‘looking like a loaf of tiger bread’.

    She says she’ll leave her tan to professionals in the future.

    Do you have a beauty-related fail you’re brave enough to share with the world? Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk

    MORE: Marie Kondo’s new shop does not spark joy

    MORE: Mixed Up: ‘People are shocked to learn I’m mixed-race – but you can be mixed and have dark skin’

    MORE: Woman shares quick way to clear ice from car windows using an old carpet stain remover bottle

    Epic Fake Tan failEpic Fake Tan fail

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    Jimmy Choo shoes on a background of the fluffy cleaning shoes
    The shoes have been compared to a cleaning brush (Picture: Jimmy Choo)

    If you spend £495 on a pair of shoes, you’re probably not going to clean the house while wearing them.

    But shoppers are suggesting that a pair of Jimmy Choo flats look like something you would use to actually wash the floors.

    The green shearling shoes from the designer brand have been compared to a £5 cleaning brush because of the fluffy design.

    The description for the shoes on the Jimmy Choo website says: ‘Merlin is a fun and funky rework in fluffy AstroTurf coloured shearling.

    ‘With a strong, contemporary chiselled toe this green style has a sense of pragmatism, but also of fun.’

    But people on social media weren’t impressed with the style.

    One said: ‘I love shoes. I would love a pair of Jimmy Choo.. But what in the mother of all crap are these???? £495 to look like I have turf or carpet on my feet.’

    Picture of the Jimmy Choo shoes compared to a cleaning brush
    The shoes cost £495 (Picture: jimmychoo.com)

    Another added: ‘Sorry Jimmy Choo but no I do NOT want to pay £495 for dust mitts and wear them as shoes…’

    A friend replied to her post and said: ‘Get some to shuffle round the house. Clean up the dust!.’

    ‘I could stick dusters to my feet for about 50p!!!,’ she laughed.

    Picture of Facebook comments responding to the Jimmy Choo shoe which shows a duster on Amazon and a comment from Jim Rimmer saying 'They cost less than a fiver on Amazon'
    They were compared to a duster (Picture: Facebook)

    Jim Rimmer simply added a picture of a duster on a post about the shoes and said: ‘They cost less than a fiver on Amazon.’

    But the fleecey shoes are already popular with half of the sizes already sold out online.

    If you can’t afford the £495 price tag, you could always try these mop slippers instead for £7.99.

    MORE: Teenager left ‘looking like a Dorito’ after her first attempt at using fake tan went wrong

    MORE: Marie Kondo’s new shop does not spark joy

    Jimmy Choo cleaning brush shoesJimmy Choo cleaning brush shoes

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    The 2003 film starring Will Ferrell follows Buddy as he tries to bring Christmas cheer to New York City, making hundreds of paper snowflakes and singing as often as he can. Now, Club Wyndham, part of the world's largest vacation and ownership exchange company, is trying to do the same with a room inspired by "Elf" in its New York City location.
    Have you ever seen anything more magical? You have not (Picture: Club Wyndham)

    Christmas in New York is a magical thing. We’ve seen the movies. We know it involves, ice-rinks and shopping for diamonds in the snow and an unlikely romance.

    And now you can spend your NYC Christmas trip literally inside your favourite festive film – in an Elf-themed hotel suite.

    Throughout the month of December at Club Wyndham Midtown 45 in Manhattan, will be transforming one of it’s suites into a room fit for Buddy and his friends.

    The 2003 film starring Will Ferrell follows Buddy as he tries to bring Christmas cheer to New York City, making hundreds of paper snowflakes and singing as often as he can. Now, Club Wyndham, part of the world's largest vacation and ownership exchange company, is trying to do the same with a room inspired by "Elf" in its New York City location.
    Snowflakes and popcorn on the ceiling (Picture: Club Wyndham)

    The ceiling will be adorned with paper snowflakes and popcorn garlands, the bathroom looks like a giant Christmas present, and there are enough sweets and Pop-Tarts to satisfy the biggest sweet tooth.

    There’s a fully decorated Christmas tree with presents underneath, toy trains, a giant nutcracker and one wall is entirely made of presents.

    The bedroom is all about the red and green, with snowy white blankets, and fake snow on the window sill. It also has a present wall around the television.

    The bathroom is decked out in a similarly over-the-top fashion. The walk-in shower is wrapped with a giant red ribbon, and cotton wool buds are held in a basket that looks like Santa’s shorts.

    The 2003 film starring Will Ferrell follows Buddy as he tries to bring Christmas cheer to New York City, making hundreds of paper snowflakes and singing as often as he can. Now, Club Wyndham, part of the world's largest vacation and ownership exchange company, is trying to do the same with a room inspired by "Elf" in its New York City location.
    A wall made of presents! (Picture: Club Wyndham)

    In the kitchenette you’ll find all of Buddy’s favorite foods including spaghetti, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, Pop-Tarts, cookie-dough rolls, M&Ms, and fizzy drinks.

    ‘Every detail of this Elf-inspired suite was designed to put families in awe from the moment they walk in,’ says Noah Brodsky, chief brand officer for Wyndham Destinations.

    The 2003 film starring Will Ferrell follows Buddy as he tries to bring Christmas cheer to New York City, making hundreds of paper snowflakes and singing as often as he can. Now, Club Wyndham, part of the world's largest vacation and ownership exchange company, is trying to do the same with a room inspired by "Elf" in its New York City location.
    View’s not bad either (Picture: Club Wyndham)

    ‘Visiting New York City during the holidays is at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. We think there’s no better way to do it than to get families immersed into Buddy the Elf’s whimsical Christmas world.’

    Prices start at $399 (£309) and it sleeps four with a pull-out couch

    It is open to the public for booking from 2 December to 20 December, and Club Wyndham members only from 21 December to 26 December.

    MORE: Mixed Up: ‘People are shocked to learn I’m mixed-race – but you can be mixed and have dark skin’

    MORE: Teenager left ‘looking like a Dorito’ after her first attempt at using fake tan went wrong

    MORE: Woman’s messy room transformation shows the reality of living with anxiety

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    Sainsbury's giving store lets children experience the joy of giving this christmas
    Add some charitable donations to your Christmas shopping trip (Picture: Sainsbury’s)

    If, like us, you love the joy of browsing shelves but simply can’t justify buying anything else for yourself, rejoice.

    Sainsbury’s is launching a magical popup shop that lets you fulfill your shopping cravings without filling up your cupboards with stuff you don’t need.

    Oh, and it’ll let you do some good as well.

    How, you may ask? Well, it’s all down to one simple concept: buying food and other goods for those who actually need the items, rather than for yourself.

    The Giving Store, located in Covent Garden, will let people browse aisles and take their pick of what they fancy picking up, which they can then donate at the tills to people in need.

    Not only do you get to enjoy the act of shopping, but you can also feel the joy of giving. Which is what Christmas is all about, right?

    Sainsbury’s is urging parents to bring along their children to the store to teach them about the importance of thinking of others during the festive period.

    Don’t worry, the experience won’t be like your average grocery shop. The Giving Store has special characters taking kids through the process of creating a Christmas dinner and discovering a snow-filled forest, up to the interactive donation containers where kids and parents can drop off their items.

    To get in, adults will need to pay £5, which gets donated directly to a local food bank. Children go free.

    Judith Batchelar, the director of Sainsbury’s Brand, said: ‘If every person doing their Christmas shopping this December donated one extra item – be that a can of soup or a roll-on deodorant – over 50 million products could be donated to those in need this festive season.

    ‘We want to do what we can to encourage shoppers to donate food and toys and do so in a way that teaches children the importance of helping others, particularly around the festive season’.

    Nice idea, we think.

    If you fancy popping along, the Sainsbury’s Giving Store is open from Thursday 5 December to Sunday 8 December, from 4pm to 8pm on Thursday then 11am to 8pm on all the other days.

    It’s right in the heart of central London, at 11 Short Gardens, WC2H 9AT, so you can easily tag on a visit when you go to look at the Christmas lights.

    MORE: You can now get paid to eat Christmas afternoon tea in the Lake District

    MORE: Mum creates genius hack for affordable Christmas tree that kids can’t knock over


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    All the parenting points in the world to Sarah Balsdon, who just made the home we dreamed of as kids a reality.

    Sarah, 29, managed to transform the conservatory of her home into an incredible soft play area, complete with its own ball pit and slide.

    Sarah and husband Kyle were able to complete the renovations in secret, only revealing the finished room to the youngest of their four children, Elijah, on his second birthday.

    The thrifty mum-of-four stuck foam tiles to the floor then attached strips of material to the ceiling to make the conservatory look more like a circus.

    Then it was time for superhero wallpaper, soft play equipment bought online, and a pit filled with second-hand balls.

    A clever mum-of-four has transformed her conservatory into an incredible soft play room for her kids complete with a ball pit and slide. Sarah Balsdon, 29 and her husband Kyle, completed the renovations in secret - revealing the finished room to their youngest child, Elijah, on his second birthday on Tuesday (November 19). The thrifty mum used foam tiles stuck down with tile adhesive on the floor and then attached strips of stripy material to the roof along with fairy lights to create a space like a circus. She used superhero wallpaper to cover the walls and bought the soft play equipment online before filling the ball pit with some second-hand balls. Sarah, a nurse and also mum to nine-year-old Shannon, eight-year-old Lucy and five-year-old Jack, said the whole project cost them less than ?500. SEE CATERS COPY
    The conservatory before its secret makeover (Picture: CATERS NEWS AGENCY)
    A clever mum-of-four has transformed her conservatory into an incredible soft play room for her kids complete with a ball pit and slide. Sarah Balsdon, 29 and her husband Kyle, completed the renovations in secret - revealing the finished room to their youngest child, Elijah, on his second birthday on Tuesday (November 19). The thrifty mum used foam tiles stuck down with tile adhesive on the floor and then attached strips of stripy material to the roof along with fairy lights to create a space like a circus. She used superhero wallpaper to cover the walls and bought the soft play equipment online before filling the ball pit with some second-hand balls. Sarah, a nurse and also mum to nine-year-old Shannon, eight-year-old Lucy and five-year-old Jack, said the whole project cost them less than ?500. SEE CATERS COPY
    Along with soft padded tiles and play equipment, Sarah added a ball pit and a slide (Picture: Caters News Agency)

    Sarah, a nurse, said the entire project cost less than £500.

    She said: ‘We recently moved house and will eventually be extending out the back so didn’t want to spend too much.

    ‘I wasn’t sure what to do with the space and that’s when I came up with the soft play idea.

    ‘We have curtains leading out onto the conservatory and we kept them closed so we could surprise Elijah on his birthday.

    conservatory turned into a soft play area for under £500
    The entire project cost under £500 (Picture: Caters News)

    ‘He was so excited and his little face was a picture.

    ‘The first thing he did was dive in the ball pit and then go down the slide.

    ‘It’s nice as well because the other children are still at an age where they can enjoy it.

    ‘It was actually really easy to do and has definitely earnt me some mum points.’

    Have you transformed your home or created something brilliant for your kids? Get in touch with us at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk to share your story. 

    MORE: Mum becomes friends with stranger who found ruined parcel and sent gifts to her daughter

    MORE: Sainsbury’s launches Giving Store to let you donate food and gifts to those in need

    MORE: Woman shares quick way to clear ice from car windows using an old carpet stain remover bottle

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    A baby in a white vest staring at the camera
    Choose something that suits either gender (Picture: Getty)

    If you’re expecting a baby next year, you might still be struggling for a name.

    Apparently gender-neutral baby names are going to be a trend next year so it might be worth considering one for your little one.

    Perfect for parents who want to keep the sex of their baby a surprise until he or she is born, or just for those who want something a little different.

    Looking at the trend, brand JoJo Maman Bébé has created a list of names that suit a girl or a boy that they think could be popular next year.

    They are just names that they’ve chosen to fit with the gender-neutral trend, rather than based on research or statistics, but the list offers some ideas for parents-to-be.

    They said: ‘Unisex names are more popular than ever – which could be because we’re breaking down gender boundaries or we’re just more likely to be set on a name before we find out whether we’re having a boy or a girl.

    ‘This naming trend looks like it’s here to stay, and if you need a little inspiration for your next baby, look no further.’

    Top of the list was River, which they said has traditionally been male but has become more popular for girls too.

    Gender-neutral names for 2020



















    Other names included Quinn, Rowan, Aubrey and Remi.

    Some of the names appeared on the list of the most popular boys’ names in the UK in 2019, including Max, Teddy, Jude and Albie but JoJo Maman Bébé suggests considering them for either gender.

    The name Evelyn appeared on the most popular girls’ names list this year but it could be used for boys too. JoJo Maman Bébé says that it used to be a predominantly male name, for example, in the case of writer Evelyn Waugh.

    MORE: Mum-of-four turns conservatory into soft play area for son’s second birthday

    MORE: Jimmy Choo is selling £495 shoes that look like ‘a £5 cleaning brush’

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    Credit scores and how they affect you
    Products like payday loans can affect things (Picture: Getty)

    Debt doesn’t end once you pay back what you owe.

    This is the ugly truth of borrowing money in the day and age where algorithms are everything, and products like mortgages and even jobs are decided off the back of your credit score.

    While it’s not the end of the world if you have a bad credit score, and a history of ‘bad debt’ (including missed payments, defaults, and a high amount of borrowing), it can affect things in the future.

    Thankfully, there are many ways to improve your credit score – and after six years, any negative marks will be wiped – but it’s worth knowing that your credit score really is more than just a number.

    Here’s what can be affected:


    It might seem strange, but a lot of jobs will credit check you before you start working for them.

    In legal and financial roles this is pretty much a necessity as you’ll be handling money a lot for your job.

    However, you could also be subject to a credit check at call centres and for a number of other office-based positions.

    They’ll check whether you have a history of handling money well, and you can be rejected for the job if they find your record isn’t up to scratch.


    Mortgages – which are often seen as a form of ‘good debt’ – are one of the main things you can be rejected from if you have poor credit.

    Mortgage providers can be relatively picky about who they lend to – given the size of the loan – and even small things can affect whether they’ll choose you.

    For example, some will refuse to lend to you if you’ve had any sort of payday loan over the last few years, as they may deem you to be a high risk borrower.

    Each lender will have a completely different criteria for what they want in a customer, so you can have a ‘perfect’ credit score on paper, but can still be rejected due to high debts in the past.

    In some cases, you might not be outright rejected for a mortgage, but may find that you pay a much higher interest rate.

    The best thing to do is to get a mortgage broker, who will be able to advise you on the best course of action based on your credit history.

    What if I have no credit rating?

    It may sound odd, but this can actually be detrimental too.

    Banks and other lenders are unlikely to lend to you if they don’t know you at all, and your credit history is what helps them do this.

    Things like phone contracts can count towards your credit scores, so you don’t necessarily need to go out and grab a credit card to rectify things.

    The most important thing is that, if you do borrow any money or have any contracts, you pay them back on time and as fully as possible.


    Even letting agents and landlords now use credit checks to see if you’re going to be able to pay your rent.

    They do need to get permission before running a credit check on you, but can reject you for a tenancy if they find things like County Court Judgments or insolvency agreements.

    This is why it’s so important to keep an eye on your credit report (even though the number you’ll see isn’t the same as the information they’ll see). It can give you clarity, which allows you to be up front with them before your application.

    That way, you can advise them, and either avoid unnecessary fees or being rejected once you’ve paid a deposit, and they may be able to come up with other solutions.

    In some cases, they might be happy to accept despite your poor credit, or may offer the option of using a guarantor.

    Credit scores
    The number you see on your report isn’t what lenders see – but they can see your credit history (Picture: Getty)

    Other forms of credit

    If you ever need a loan, credit card, car finance, or a phone contract, a credit check will be run.

    If you have poor credit, or a high reliance on debt to fund your everyday life, this can you signal you to be a ‘subprime’ customer.

    So, the bank or lender may offer you a product, but because you’re deemed as high risk it may not be a great deal.

    While you’ll often see deals that offer 0% APR borrowing or plenty of bonuses for spending with them, these offers will normally be for those who have a good credit history.

    Subprime customers can face high interests, different payment terms, or expect you to secure your loan with something like your car, home, or a guarantor.

    As mentioned above, having debt on your record isn’t the end of the world. Before you borrow, though, you should be aware of how reliance on borrowing and failure to repay can change your financial future.

    MORE: These gender neutral baby names are predicted to be popular in 2020

    MORE: New York hotel opens an Elf-themed suite for Christmas


    All the things that can affect your credit scoreAll the things that can affect your credit score

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    Avi with the gifts her dad got her from the period fairy, and the dad and daughter together
    Avi with the gifts her dad got her, and the dad and daughter together (Picture: Maverick Austin)

    When Maverick Austin’s daughter 11-year-old Avi called him to say she had pooped her pants, he was sympathetic and rushed to get her a change of clothes.

    But when she called a few hours later to say it had happened again, he wasn’t impressed.

    With a busy day ahead, the single dad, from Texas, promised to sort it when he could.

    He even said: ‘just wipe your butt better then stuff toilet paper in the back of your pants and I’ll have to call you back in an hour!’

    But a few minutes later, he realised that it was actually blood and not poop – his daughter had actually got her first period.

    So he dropped everything and raced to school to find Avi and explain.

    Luckily, by the time he got there, Avi had realised what was happening.

    Posting on Facebook, he said: ‘I interrupt my project meeting and explain to my banking colleagues that I’m VERY sorry but I have to go.

    ‘I’m racing to the school while calling them telling the nurse to “go find my child!”. Speeding and having a panic attack because my child called me for help and I just “left her to die on the battlefield”!

    ‘I run in the office and she’s standing there very calm looking at me and says “Dad…. I officially started my first …” and I stopped her and said “I already know Avi… it hit me a few minutes after I hung up on you”

    ‘The stress of raising a daughter.’

    Avi with the gifts her dad got her from 'the period fairy'
    Avi with her gifts from the period fairy (Picture: Maverick Austin)

    Avi joked that she deserved something like when your tooth falls out so her dad created ‘the period fairy’.

    So to make her feel better about her first period, he bought her chocolate, ice cream, cookies, flower and a ‘you’ve got this!’ card, while she was in the shower.

    The post soon went viral with over 128,000 shares and 199,000 likes.

    People praised Maverick for how he reacted to the moment in his daughter’s life.

    Elina said: ‘Wow, I’m impressed with how amazingly you handled that!! Oh & BTW, I think you might be onto something there with the period fairy!’

    Avi and Maverick Austin
    Maverick and Avi (Picture: Maverick Austin)

    Sarah added: ‘The best dad award!! Got her all the good stuff!’

    Maverick said that Avi made fun of him for getting her a card but made a touching subtle gesture to say thanks.

    He added: ‘I wasn’t sentimental at all because she’s such a jokester and was making fun of me for getting her a card lol

    ‘THEN I go lay on the couch and I come back later into the kitchen and she NEVER gives me more than like 2 M&Ms….. so I look on the counter and she had left me a heart made out of M&Ms!!!! That’s like 12 M&Ms!!! Yep I had to run to my room cuz I got a tad bit emotional.’

    MORE: Mum-of-four turns conservatory into soft play area for son’s second birthday

    MORE: These gender neutral baby names are predicted to be popular in 2020

    Single dad praised for the way he handles his daughter\'s first periodSingle dad praised for the way he handles his daughter\'s first period

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    Cupcake the therapy poodle visiting patients in hospital
    We love Cupcake (Picture: Caters)

    When Karen Simmons, 62, developed epilepsy and had to retire from her job in the ambulance service, her 11 dogs helped her keep going.

    But she noticed that one of her pooches, Cupcake, was particularly good in stressful situations.

    She decided that Cupcake would make a great therapy dog and now the poodle visits care homes and hospitals to make patients feel better.

    Seven-year-old Cupcake has been a therapy dog for four years now and her striking appearance never fails to make people smile.

    Cupcake visits the Lister hospital in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, where she puts a smile on both staff and patients’ faces.

    Karen, from Cheshunt, Hertfordshire said: ‘As we walk through the hospital corridors, there is a sea of smiles and it makes me happy knowing we are cheering other people up.

    =Karen Simmons with Cupcake visiting a hospital patient
    Karen Simmons and Cupcake visiting a hospital patient (picture: Caters News Agency)

    ‘Cupcake is an amazing dog who is calm and obedient – she is perfect for the job.

    ‘She loves meeting new people, but she is so well trained and would never jump up or bark, she knows exactly how to behave in the hospitals.

    ‘She goes from patient to patient and puts her head on their laps and it puts a huge smile on their face.’

    Karen developed the long-term condition epilepsy in 2012 and had to give up her job but Cupcake and the others helped her.

    When she started to improve, she wanted to do something to carry on helping people.

    Cupcake visiiting a hospital patient
    Karen has been experimenting with colours to make Cupcake stand out on her visits (Picture: Caters News Agency)

    She continued: ‘I was determined to keep on doing my bit to help other people and considering I love dogs so much it only seemed right to appoint the calmest poodle for the job.

    ‘She has always had something special about her and a natural ability to remain calm in stressful situations.’

    Cupcake is registered with Therapy Dogs Nationwide – a charity which assesses dogs and owners for voluntary roles in hospitals, elderly homes and schools.

    They have a team of 12 therapy dogs to mentally stimulate, entertain and distract the patients.

    Seven-year-old pooch, Cupcake the therapy poodle
    Seven-year-old pooch, Cupcake (Picture: Caters News Agency)

    All dogs have been vaccinated and patients must use anti-bacterial gel before and after stroking to avoid passing germs between patients.

    Karen said: ‘We previously used to visit in nursing homes, so Cupcake is excellent with the elderly – many of which have dogs of their own at home.

    ‘A visit from Cupcake helps them when they are missing their pet and allows them to forget they are in hospital for a while.

    ‘It is fantastic to see patients’ faces light up as she walks in the room and they are always impressed with her coat.’

    ‘It can be hot in the hospital, so I have to keep on top of her grooming, but I recently started experimenting with colours which the patients adore.’

    Jane Shaw, who is the Patient Experience Project Coordinator, at the Lister Hospital, said: ‘Hospital days can be long and a bit boring for patients, but a visit from Cupcake and the other dogs is a real highlight.

    ‘Patients’ faces light up when they see Cupcake and her visits give them a touch of normality and helps alleviate stress and anxiety.

    ‘Sometimes staff tell us that the first time they have seen a smile from a patient is when Cupcake walks on to the ward.

    ‘It isn’t just the patients, but the staff too who are thrilled to see Cupcake.

    ‘They have very busy and intense jobs and seeing Cupcake gives them a moment to regroup and re-energise before they return to a busy day.

    ‘Cupcake and the other dogs brighten up everyone’s day and we are so grateful for their visits.’

    MORE: These gender neutral baby names are predicted to be popular in 2020

    MORE: Single dad praised for his response to his 11-year-old daughter’s first period

    Cupcake the Therapy PoodleCupcake the Therapy Poodle

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    Woman makes beautiful memory bears out of lost loved ones' old clothes
    (Picture: Mary Mac)

    Although memories of loved ones who’ve passed on will never fade, it makes things easier to have a physical reminder of them.

    Clothes can be particular precious, with their favourite cosy jumper or silly tie instantly bringing you back to a moment when they wore it.

    Mary MacInnes takes these items, and makes them into something that people can proudly display in their home, and pass on through the generations to keep memories alive.

    The memory bears are made from the favourite clothes of people who have died, and can also include jewellery or ashes. They can also be made with a special pocket at the back, where you can put letters or other mementoes that are special to you.

    As well as this, they have jointed legs and arms, so can be posed differently depending on where you put them. They’re not toys, and start at £50 (with prices depending on specifications), but can be given to children to help them with bereavement.

    At just 21, Mary has already been in business now for nearly six years.

    Woman makes beautiful memory bears out of lost loved ones' old clothes
    Mary is just 21, but has already made such a difference to people’s lives (Picture: Mary Mac)

    Her sewing career initially began in the bridal industry, and she studied fashion tech at Heriot Watt University, as well as gaining an award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year at just 16.

    She tells Metro.co.uk that the memory bears weren’t in her initial plan: ‘I made my first memory bear five years ago as a favour for a friend and was constantly asked to make more, but turned them down because I wanted to concentrate on university and a career in bridal.

    ‘I gave in to requests for bears and once I uploaded photos to my page it just exploded – so at the moment I’m fully committed to making them.’

    Woman makes beautiful memory bears out of lost loved ones' old clothes
    All sorts of different fabrics can be made into bears (Picture: Mary Mac)

    Each bear takes around five to six hours to make, including the design, planning, cutting, sewing, and completion.

    Mary makes them between two studios – one in her home town of Kilmarnock and one in Galashiels – and currently has a waitng list that stretches way past Christmas.

    Woman makes beautiful memory bears out of lost loved ones' old clothes
    It can sometimes be hard not to get emotional when making the bears (Picture: Mary Mac)

    ‘It can be emotionally draining some days,’ she tells us.

    ‘Recently I had a 37 year old man pleading with me to make his two daughters aged 10 & 12 bears before Christmas. He insisted on paying in full and gave me £10 extra asking me to post them to his girls.

    ‘It turned out he has terminal cancer and won’t see Christmas. I cried the whole time I cut out, sewed and stuffed those two little bears.’

    Woman makes beautiful memory bears out of lost loved ones' old clothes
    People find huge comfort in seeing special items made into bears (Picture: Mary Mac)

    Although it can be hard – particularly when she has the added responsibility of handling ashes or precious jewellery – Mary says ‘it really is a privilege to be asked to create something from people’s personal possessions.’

    It’s always worth it for Mary when she gets a great reaction from customers.

    She says: ‘I love seeing their faces take on character and I’m absolutely loving life. I really enjoy meeting my customers when they collect bears – 80% burst into tears.

    ‘I think that’s because garments arrive as sad reminders of the past then it’s almost as if new life is breathed into them. They become something that’s much more acceptable to cuddle and talk to, and the feedback is they definitely can help the grieving process.’

    If you think that one of these bears might help someone in their grieving process, you can find out more on Mary’s Facebook page.

    MORE: Meet Cupcake the therapy poodle who visits patients in hospital to help them feel better

    MORE: Single dad praised for his response to his 11-year-old daughter’s first period

    Woman makes beautiful memory bears out of lost loved ones\' old clothesWoman makes beautiful memory bears out of lost loved ones\' old clothes

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    teacher asks kids not to buy her a christmas present
    Rather than asking for gifts, teacher Louise Gardner wants to teach students about money and the power of giving (Picture: NCJ Media)

    For teachers, Christmas is a magical time when desks are loaded up with Guylian chocolate shells, heartfelt messages in homemade cards, and – if you’re really lucky – a bottle of Baileys.

    Gifts and cards are a lovely way to thank often underappreciated teachers for all the work they do.

    But one teacher wants to get rid of the pressure on kids and their parents to spend time and money picking out something she doesn’t really need.

    Instead of spending money on a ‘best teacher’ mug or a box of chocolates, Louise Gardner, the deputy head and year two teacher at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided School in Dipton, Stanley, asked parents to donate money to a local family in need.

    In a letter to parents and carers, the teacher explained that she would be sending blank envelopes home with the children. If able, parents were asked to put in a donation of no more than £2, which would go towards a class fund to buy items for a family in the area.

    She wrote: ‘At this time of year there can be pressure from children to buy their teacher a gift.

    ‘I would like to take the opportunity to say while I am always really grateful for parents’ kind generosity I would like to reduce your stress a little and ask that you don’t buy me a gift.

    ‘I thoroughly enjoy teaching your children and my job is a pleasure to do.

    Harriet Waring's teacher sent her home with a "heart-warming" letter - Parents have praised a teacher who asked her students not bring her a present - and do something "heart-warming" instead. With presents to buy for family, friends and the kids, Christmas can be a difficult time for parents before they even consider the tricky question of gifts for teachers. So this year, one??County Durham??teacher decided to make things easier for everyone. She wrote: "I thoroughly enjoy teaching your children and my job is a pleasure to do."
    Harriet, a student in Mrs Gardner’s class (Picture: Steff Ravenhall/NCJ MEDIA)

    ‘This half term we are focussing on money in maths and the real meaning of Christmas in our RE lessons.

    ‘With this in mind I would like the children to be involved in the social responsibility of giving and kindness and plan to support a local family.

    ‘I will be sending blank envelopes home with the children, in which if you would like, you can place a donation (no more than £2). Please don’t put any names on this.

    ‘The envelopes are to be returned by Monday 9th December where the children will count up the money and shop for the items they think a family would need.

    ‘This also helps them with their understanding of different food groups and luxury items!’

    Mrs Gardner ended the letter to ask that if any kids were really desperate to give her something for Christmas, they could make a homemade card or draw her a picture instead of asking their parents to fork over money.

    Lovely, right?

    A teacher who urged parents to give to their community instead of her this Christmas says she hopes other teachers might follow suit. Louise Gardner, deputy head and year two teacher at St Patrick's Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided School, in Dipton, Stanley, decided last week to send a letter home with her pupils to "take the pressure" off parents to buy gifts for school staff. In it, she said she was "really grateful" for the "generosity" of parents who send in seasonal gifts, but asked that they refrain from giving her anything other than a card this year. Instead, she said, anyone who wanted to give something could send in an optional donation of ?2, which students would then use to buy food and luxuries for a local family in need. Harriet Waring's teacher sent her home with a "heart-warming" letter
    Louise hopes her letter will inspire other schools to do the same (Picture: Steff Ravenhall/ncjmedia Ltd)

    The teacher’s letter was shared to Facebook by Steff Ravenhall, the mum of one of her students, who wrote: ‘Such a good idea’.

    The post has been flooded with positive comments from fellow parents and teachers, and has been shared over 8,000 times.

    Louise Gardner, 43, now hopes her letter will encourage other teachers to copy her idea.

    She said: ‘It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years. I think it’s become a very commercial thing in recent years: there’s no expectation at all from teachers that they should get gifts, so I don’t really know where it’s come from, but I think parents do feel the pressure.

    ‘Since I’ve become a deputy head I’ve seen families who’ve come to us and said they’re really, really struggling. As a school we already support the food bank, but when you realise how much your own families in school are affected, you want to do something.

    ‘People think everybody has and everybody can afford, but they just can’t.’

    Louise came up with the idea to collect small cash donations after noticing how few students were used to actually seeing or handling money, as most parents use card payments day-to-day.

    She thought that by asking for donations, she’d teach kids about money, take the pressure off parents, and help people in need.

    She said: ‘I would like it if the idea helped other schools. I think sometimes teachers don’t know how to say something without sounding like they are not grateful.

    ‘It’s obviously up to each individual school what they want to do, but I know this what we wanted to do and what we wanted our children to get out of it.

    ‘We’ve got such fantastic parents, they’re so supportive, and this is our way of saying: “take a little bit of pressure off, don’t worry about us, focus on your family”.’

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    Teacher\'s idea instead of kids buying presentsTeacher\'s idea instead of kids buying presents

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    The $1 a night hotel room where your every move is watched by strangers
    The $1 a night hotel room where your every move is watched by strangers (Picture: YouTube/One Dollar Hotel)

    If you enjoy attention, don’t like spending money and harbour a desire to visit the southern Japanese city of Fukuoka, then we have some very good news for you.

    But for anyone else, this might sound a little dystopian: the Business Ryokan Asahi hotel is offering travelers the opportunity to stay in its rooms for a mere $1 (77p) a night. But there’s a catch, obviously.

    In order to get this deal, you have to consent to having your every moment in the room filmed and then broadcast live to the hotel’s Youtube channel, where a surprising number of people watch and comment in real-time.

    I say ‘surprising’ because there’s no microphone in the room and nudity and sex are banned, and as a result, the live-stream is not exactly riveting entertainment.

    But you can check it out on YouTube if you fancy watching someone look at their phone for a couple of hours and maybe, if you’re really lucky, hold up a sign that says ‘hi’.

    If this all sounds like something that doesn’t make financial sense, there’s a rationale behind it: the deal only applies to one room, which was the least booked to begin with.

    This way, the hotel is able to fill up the room and drum up some viral publicity at the same time – although some online booking sites are reluctant to list it.

    Given the high cost of travelling in Japan, the $1 offer is certainly tempting, but there’s something sinister about the set-up, which feels like the beginning of a high-concept horror film.

    And might I direct the hotel management towards a little-known novel called 1984? Written by some obscure old scribbler named George Orwell? Ringing any bells, gentlemen?

    It’s been a while since I read it, admittedly, but I seem to recall it took rather a dim view of installing cameras in peoples’ personal space in order to spy on them.

    But then again, perhaps the most chilling aspect of the arrangement is having to go 24 hours without having a w*nk – now that is Orwellian.

    MORE: Britain’s ‘worst hotel chain’ has poo stains, creepy art and a rotting pigeon

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    $1 a night hotel where your room is livestreamed$1 a night hotel where your room is livestreamed

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    Ranger has pituitary dwarfism. With a tennis ball, German Shepherd Jesse and at home in Phoenix, Arizona.
    Ranger has pituitary dwarfism (@ranger_thegshepherd/SWNS)

    Ranger the German shepherd is two – but you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s still a puppy.

    He has pituitary dwarfism – which means he looks young for much longer than is normal for his breed.

    Ranger was diagnosed with a parasite called giardia and his owners initially thought that was why he was smaller than the rest of the litter.

    After recovering from the infection, his owners noticed Ranger, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, wasn’t growing at the same rate a German shepherd should.

    They took him to their vet who thought he might have the pituitary dwarfism mutation.

    Shelby Mayo, who is Ranger’s guardian, said: ‘When we originally got Ranger from the breeder, he was smaller than all his other littermates, but we figured that was because he had a parasite.

    Ranger the German shepherd wearing a bandanna
    He’s now two years old (@ranger_thegshepherd/SWNS)

    ‘In the weeks following we took him home and he was parasite free but later on ended up getting a parasite called giardia.

    ‘At the same time, we also discovered that Ranger had a large infection on his neck.

    ‘We were eventually able to get the infection under control, fast forward a few months later we were finally able to get rid of giardia.

    ‘During this time Ranger remained very small, the vet had suspected that he may have pituitary dwarfism, a genetic mutation.

    Ranger the German shepherd has pituitary dwarfism
    After sorting out some health conditions, he’s now doing well (@ranger_thegshepherd/SWNS)

    ‘But we were still sceptical as this condition is very rare.

    ‘Over time Ranger still did not get much bigger, and at this point, we are certain he does have this condition.’

    Although the condition makes him look cute, it has also caused various health issues including shedding fur and flaky skin caused by hypothyroidism.

    But his owners and some of his online followers have helped with treatment. and he now has his health issues under control.

    After a few more months we got him neutered and that’s when we started to see big changes.

    Shelby adds: ‘He lost his appetite, started to lose weight, lost almost all of his fur, and had extremely dry and flaky skin.

    Ranger the German shepherd has pituitary dwarfism. Stood outside with a water bowl, licking his lips.
    Cute (@ranger_thegshepherd/SWNS)

    ‘Many people on our Instagram page warned us that pituitary dwarfs can have many medical issues, but up until that point we hadn’t experienced any.

    ‘One of our followers ‘Guardians Farm’ is a small company that makes handmade soaps, lotions, etc and they sent us goat milk soap, which ended up helping Rangers skin immensely.

    ‘At the same time, another one of our followers who also has a Dwarf German Shepard told us to get his thyroid levels checked as many dwarfs suffer from hypothyroidism.

    Ranger the German shepherd has pituitary dwarfism. He has a tennis ball and is tilting his head.
    That head tilt (@ranger_thegshepherd/SWNS)

    ‘So our vet checked his thyroid levels and sure enough, he was low, this can cause hair loss and a loss of appetite.

    ‘After getting Ranger on Levothyroxine and using this soap his fur grew back and the dryness went away.’

    Now Ranger is healthy and loves playing with his sisters Hazel the Labrador and fellow German shepherd, Jessie.

    He’s become a star on Instagram with over 65,000 followers.

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    Dwarf German ShepherdDwarf German Shepherd

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    Badger family come to dinner every night in woman's Stockport garden
    The family having their snack (Picture: Christine Ian/ CATERS NEWS)

    Christine Ian appears to have a touch of the Dr. Doolittle about her. Or perhaps it’s more like Snow White?

    Each evening, a family of badgers (as well as the occasional fox and squirrel) come to her garden – so regularly that she’s made the space into a sanctuary for the nocturnal animals.

    The 53-year-old from Stockport has lived in the house with her husband for 14 years, and found a path (which she later found out was a badger’s run) when she first moved in.

    She began leaving out the odd bit of food for them, and once they became more comfortable and used to her being around, they frequented Christine’s garden more regularly.

    Christine is now even able to hand-feed them right from the patio door, as they’re so bonded to her.

    Badger family come to dinner every night in woman's Stockport garden
    Nine month old cub Bella enjoys some food in Christine Ians garden (Picture: Christine Ian/ CATERS NEWS)

    The four badgers have been affectionately named by Christine as Mr and Mrs Lumpy, alongside their cub, three-year-old Humbug and more recently Humbug’s cub, nine-month-old baby, Bella.

    Mr. Lumpy was the first of the brood to visit. Initially Christine wasn’t sure if it was the same badgers coming back each time, but when she started using a camera phone a few years back, she was able to identify them and see that it was the friendly family that had taken a liking to her snacks.

    ‘People often wonder how I tell them apart but I see them every day so I know them really well,’ says Christine.

    Badger family come to dinner every night in woman's Stockport garden
    Despite Bella being the youngest, she’s not shy (Picture: Christine Ian/ CATERS NEWS)

    ‘Aside from the woodland we live near a really busy road so feeding them is a way of keeping them safe.

    ‘They don’t need to venture far for food because the woods provide everything for them that they would naturally need. The badger buffet I give to them is just an added bonus. They have the best of both worlds here so they choose to keep coming back and I love having them.’

    They can’t just eat anything, either. After taking advice from the High Peak Badger Group on what to feed the badgers, Christine prepares their usual menu including nuts, grapes, raisins and raw eggs.

    Badger family come to dinner every night in woman's Stockport garden
    Christine’s famous badger afternoon tea (Picture: Christine Ian/ CATERS NEWS

    Occasionally, they’ll get an extra treat in the form of a badger afternoon tea, c)omprising of biscuits, scones, and pate on toast.

    Alongside the badgers, Christine is also visited by foxes called Foxy Loxy and her cub Roxy, as well as squirrels, rats, wood mice, bats, owls and even a polecat.

    The animals enter through an archway made from a bright pink frame which Christine calls ‘Narnia’ because she doesn’t know what creature might come through next.

    Her animal-attracting powers are so popular that she now hosts regular meet-ups with other nature enthusiasts. They come to her house, and can see all the animals having their dinner right up close.

    She said: ‘It is proving to be extremely popular. People don’t often see badgers in the wild and they tend to get quite emotional. I have had a few people crying before.

    ‘I run around one a month but the demand is definitely there for more. The money raised from these go to wildlife charities too.’

    On top of that, Christine has started her own merchandise shop, with money raised going to badger conservation. There, you can purchase everything from art prints to woolly hats.

    She hopes to start a Mr Lumpy and Friends children’s book series too, so young people can learn more about wildlife and the importance of conservation.

    MORE: German shepherd with dwarfism still looks like a puppy at two years old

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