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- 11/20/19--08:24: _Poundland ditches ‘...
- 11/20/19--12:00: _Tips to make your p...
- 11/20/19--21:45: _Winter Wonderland o...
- 11/20/19--23:01: _People are getting ...
- 11/20/19--23:19: _Meet Charlie, your ...
- 11/21/19--00:00: _My Label and Me: Ca...
- 11/21/19--00:03: _Metro.co.uk is now ...
- 11/21/19--00:16: _Couple criticised f...
- 11/21/19--01:47: _Woman hilariously c...
- 11/21/19--01:55: _Long Furbies: The h...
- 11/21/19--02:24: _How I Save: The 23-...
- 11/21/19--02:45: _What is on the McDo...
- 11/21/19--03:41: _How to make the per...
- 11/21/19--03:41: _Man wants to reunit...
- 11/21/19--03:42: _Plastic-free and re...
- 11/21/19--04:08: _When is Thanksgivin...
- 11/21/19--05:00: _How to manage your ...
- 11/21/19--06:42: _Brain cancer surviv...
- 11/21/19--06:54: _Entrepreneur shares...
- 11/21/19--07:39: _Student thought she...
- Matchmakers for 75p (£1.75 Sainsburys)
- Walkers 24 packs of crisps for £3 (£4 Sainsburys)
- L’Oréal Elvive Fibrology shampoo for £2 (£2.49 Boots; £2.75 Asda)
- Comfort Blue Skies fabric conditioner for £4 (£8 in Wilko)
- Nivea Men Fresh Power 0% deodorant for £1.50 (£3 Sainsburys)
- Ice skating
- Bar Hutte Karaoke
- Ice sculpting workshops
- Bar Ice
- Winter Wonderland Comedy Club
- Magical Ice Kingdom – A Christmas Carol (new for 2019)
- Zippo’s Christmas Circus (new for 2019)
- Cirque Berserk (new for 2019)
- Paddington On Ice (new for 2019)
- Mr Men and Little Miss – The Show (new for 2019)
- Giant Wheel (new 70mm wheel, new for 2019)
- 11/20/19--23:19: Meet Charlie, your new favourite cat with a Chaplin-esque moustache
- 11/21/19--00:00: My Label and Me: Call me ‘too much’ if you want, I know I’m perfect
- The public was divided by Labour’s pledge to offer free broadband in the UK. The internet reacted, with some saying it would kill business and the free market, and others saying internet access is a necessity in 2019. If the policy is adopted, you could have faster broadband for less cost. But as one critic added: ‘what next, free water?’
- A bar in Dubai has made headlines for offering free drinks to women based on how heavy they are. The heavier they weigh, the bigger the bar tab they receive. The vice-president of the bar told Metro.co.uk that the offer is designed to show that ‘it’s good to gain weight’.’
- During Tuesday night’s leaders’ debate, the Conservatives came under fire for rebranding one of their official Twitter accounts ‘Fact Check UK’. This was seen as both provocative and misleading and heavily criticised by their opponents who say the Tory Party are taking the British public for fools. However, some users hit back by changing their accounts to fact check the Tory’s new Fact Check UK account. Unfortunately for Royal Family actor Ralph Little it led to Twitter suspending his account.
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- 11/21/19--02:45: What is on the McDonald’s Christmas menu and is it now available?
- 11/21/19--03:41: How to make the perfect Christmas Eve box
- 11/21/19--04:08: When is Thanksgiving 2019 in the USA?
- 11/21/19--05:00: How to manage your social life in the hectic Christmas period
- Persistent stomach pain
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- Difficulty eating/feeling full more quickly
- Needing to wee more frequently
Poundland has ditched their ‘everything’s £1’ slogan – because um, everything isn’t £1 anymore.
Yes, the store where you didn’t need to ask the price is changing.
Rather than just offering everything for £1, items will be priced between 50p and £5 with some special items available for £10.
The store has been selling special deal items outside the normal £1 range since 2017 but this is a wider roll out with more items spread throughout.
75% of things will still be £1 but it means that they can offer a wider range of items, with some needing to be priced lower and some higher than £1 but they still say it will be good value.
The move comes after a successful trial in 24 West Midlands stores but it has now been rolled out across the UK.
They’ve also introduced clothing ‘shop-in-shops’ in around 300 stores and fresh and frozen ranges in five stores in Yorkshire and Derbyshire.
What products are on offer in the new Poundland price structure?
Barry Williams, Poundland managing director said: ‘We’ve introduced simple pricing in time for Christmas so we can offer customers even more choice and even better value for money.
‘Our shoppers love the amazing value we provide and now we can begin bringing that value on wider ranges that they now can find in stores for the first time.
‘Our team of talented buyers has moved heaven and earth to bring these ranges to store in time for Christmas and I’d like to thank them for all their hard work.’
We all know the drill. We say we’re going to bed early, so we do our intricate skincare routines, light a candle, maybe even drink a chamomile tea.
Then, suddenly, it’s 2 am, you’re still scrolling Instagram and you have to get up in four hours.
Our phones are sabotaging our sleep. In fact, new research has found that almost one in four UK adults have trouble sleeping because they spend too long on their phones before bed.
As many as 12 million people in the UK could be affected by the problem – and a lot of it stems from the blue light that our phone gives off. It mimics daylight which may prevent the body releasing melatonin, the hormone which aids sleep.
But there are proactive things you can do to change your relationship with your phone before bedtime and help you drift off into a peaceful, screen-free slumber.
We asked the experts at meditiation app Calm for their top tips to make your phone sleep-friendly, because while it’s not always feasible to turn your phone off or put it in a different room, you can make its effects less harmful.
‘Smartphones are brilliantly useful and have become our 24/7 companions. However, phones can actually disrupt our sleep, explaining why we often feel so tired but can’t seem to nod off at night,’ they say.
‘Rather than mindlessly using your phone in all the wrong ways to perpetuate the cycle of tossing and turning, learn how it can improve your bedtime routine.
‘With the appropriate settings and with the apps, your phone can help – rather than hinder – your transition from the hustle and bustle of the day to the calm of the evening and bedtime.’
How to make your phone sleep-friendly
Switch on night mode
This setting reduces the brightness of your phone’s screen and filters out the blue light.
If you like, you can automate this setting to turn on at a certain time every day. Certain apps, such as Twitter and f.lux, have night-time versions.
Set up an automatic ‘do not disturb’ or use airplane mode
This turns off all notifications and mutes all calls and messages. Airplane mode lets you continue to use the alarm clock certain apps, so no need to worry about accidentally sleeping in.
Turn off or customise notifications
Some apps, such as Snapchat and Instagram, have default settings that trigger notifications to draw you back to the app.
Customising such settings to reduce the number of notifications you receive can help you use your phone more mindfully.
Track and limit your usage
Use an app like Moment, Toggl or Harvest, or even inbuilt features of your phone, to track your usage time.
If you find yourself on Twitter until the early hours of the morning, it might be useful to switch off activity from a certain time or after a certain number of minutes in an app.
Listen to a bedtime story
Calm’s library of Sleep Stories is designed specifically to send you to the land of nod, with soothing voices from the likes of Matthew McConaughey reading fairy tales.
If you’re looking for something a little more ambient, the range of natural soundscapes on the app include the likes of gentle rain, a crackling fire, or even background urban noises, to help relax your mind and send you to dreamland.
Turning off the alarm
With Christmas fast approaching, it’s time for things to get festive in London’s Hyde Park as the annual Winter Wonderland opens for business.
The event is always hugely popular, with people making the most of the rides as much as they enjoy the mulled wine and bratwurst on offer in addition to all of the attraction’s other Christmas goodies.
So just when does it open for business, and how much does it cost to get in?
Here’s what you need to know…
When does Hyde Park Winter Wonderland open?
Winter Wonderland 2019 opens its doors in Hyde Park on Thursday, 21 November from 4pm.
It’s then open every day (except for Christmas Day) until Sunday 5 January 2020.
What time is Winter Wonderland open until?
Apart from its opening day it’ll be open from 10am to 10pm every day that it’s open.
How much are Winter Wonderland tickets?
Entry to Winter Wonderland is free – but you’ll have to pay for the various rides and attractions once you’re in there.
If you want to go on the rides you’ll need to pay for them with tokens, which you can buy from the token booths on site.
Alternatively you can use your contactless card on rides with their ‘tap and pay’ system, or purchase a Season Ride Pass which has unlimited use – just top it up on site, online or on your phone.
There’s a minimum of £20 pre-payment when you first order the card – while organisers will give you a £5 bonus if you spend £80 on it.
How much are the rides at Winter Wonderland?
Prices for the rides vary, and the fairground rides cannot be booked in advance.
However the various special attractions can be booked in advance online,with prices varying according to when you go.
For example, an adult ticket for the ice-skating costs £14.50 on a weekday, but £15.50 if you go on a Saturday evening.
This year there are also several new attractions at Winter Wonderland which can all be booked before you go.
Here are the attractions you can pay for in advance this year:
As well as buying tickets for those attractions, special ticket bundles are also available for the ice rink Paddington on Ice, Zippos Circus, Cirque Berserk and Mr Men and Little Miss Show.
For more information on prices and how to buy, visit the official website.
Is there a map of Winter Wonderland?
There most certainly is – check out the above for more details of how to plan your visit.
London's Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
Social media has turned all of our lives into a comparison-fuelled hellscape of one-upmanship.
Back in the day, we only had to compare ourselves to our next-door neighbours, or maybe our siblings. Now, thanks to the beauty of connectivity, we have access to the shiny, curated lives of everyone we have ever known.
And everyone is living their best lives. All the time. Dinners at the best restaurants in the city, cocktails on tropical beaches, weddings in idyllic country manors with fireworks, live doves and a unicorn.
Keeping up can be exhausting. And expensive.
In fact, lots of people are falling into financial difficulties in their attempts to maintain a particular lifestyle for their online personas, and it really is getting out of hand.
Last year, one American woman confessed that she had got herself into $10,000 of debt trying to become Instagram-famous. An anonymous Brit created a whole blog dedicated to following her journey of clearing debts of £25,000 – racked up on expensive interior designs for her perfect Instagram posts.
But it’s happening on a micro-level too. Loads of us are pushing our financial boundaries, taking out pay-day loans and maxing out our credit cards all to save face for the ‘gram – and it points to a deeper problem.
Ellie* is still paying off a loan she took out to pay for holidays, dinners and nights out she went on after breaking up with her partner. She says the grip that social media had over her during that time was scary.
‘As I was booking the flights, I was literally thinking about how the pictures would make my ex and my friends feel. I was going through a rough time, so I thought this was the best way to make it look like I was doing better – like I was smashing life again.
‘I booked an all-inclusive holiday to Dubai – my friend came with me, but she earns a lot more than me and I didn’t tell her that I had put the entire amount on my credit card.
‘I didn’t think about money the whole time I was there. I just focused on taking balcony photos in all these amazing outfits, and making sure I was putting every minute of our trip on my stories. I did have an amazing time, but I wasn’t really living in the moment, I was so focused on documenting it for my followers.
‘A few weeks later, when I came back and realised how much I had spent, I felt sick. I had to take out a loan to pay off my credit card bill, and I had to make some serious life changes.
‘When I go on Instagram now, I still get urges to say; “f*** it, let’s just go on a big, fancy night out”, because it looks like that’s what everyone else is doing. But it’s just such a dangerous spiral.’
According to a poll commissioned by BBC Radio 5 Live and HuffPost UK, just over a third of 20- to 29-year olds agreed that social media posts by influencers made them spend money they otherwise would not have wanted to spend.
39 per cent agreed that targeted ads on social media caused them to part with money they otherwise would not have spent.
One of the tricky things about social media is that it can be hard to tell what’s an ad and what’s real life (even despite recent changes to improve clarity). This can present a false picture of how everyone else is managing their money.
It’s an easy trap to fall in to.
‘Social media can become a financial problem when it turns into a spending competition, and users feel the pressure to keep up with others’ extravagant lifestyles,’ says Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk.
‘You must remember that lots of social media influencers are paid by brands or receive things like holidays or products for free, so they don’t actually pay for their lifestyle themselves.’
Salman says that trying to emulate people you see online is a mistake and can land you in debt that only you will have to deal with – not any of your followers or online inspirations.
But he has some advice for people who have found themselves in that situation.
‘The first step is to reduce your outgoings,’ he suggests. ‘Make a list of exactly what you’ve spent in the past month and ask yourself – how much of it was absolutely necessary?
‘If you have racked up credit card debts, ensure you move the balance when introductory rates are up to avoid paying additional interest, and consider consolidating multiple debts into one monthly payment, as it may work out cheaper and easier to manage.’
Next, Salman suggests setting yourself a budget. Deduct your essential monthly costs – like your rent or mortgage, debt payments, energy and mobile phone bills, transport, and food from your income.
‘What’s left is your disposable income,’ he explains. ‘The amount you have available to pay for eating out, your social life and, more importantly, your Instagram content.
‘You can save money and still create social media content by having confidence in yourself and showcasing what’s great about you as an individual.
‘If you can’t afford an expensive trip to Thailand, find photogenic locations around where you live and take pictures at sunset when the golden light makes everything look magical.
‘Instead of filling your wardrobe with new clothes you’ll never wear, take a trip to the local charity shop and grab a few bargains. You can donate them back afterwards to boost your eco-credentials.
‘Don’t waste your money trying to live a lie online. Show off what’s unique about your life and you’ll sleep better at night, untroubled by debts that you don’t need.’
This is very solid advice.
But for some people, it’s not even their own Instagram dreams that lands them in financial hot water – it’s their friends’.
Becca* ended up going way beyond her budget paying for her friends’ expensive weddings and hen dos. She says her friends’ desire for Instagram-perfect venues caused the costs to skyrocket.
‘One of my friends stipulated that her hen do had to be abroad – somewhere picturesque,’ says Becca.
‘I ended up spending more on that hen do (which was five days with people I didn’t even know particularly well) than I have ever spent on myself on a holiday in my life.
‘On top of that, for her wedding I had to pay for three nights in a hotel, travel, alongside buying bottles of champagne for every dress fitting and wedding orientated event. Everything had to be photographed and looking “top”.’
Becca says after spending beyond her means in the past, she now has rule of saying ‘no’ to any hen dos that are abroad, but as a result says she’s been shunned by certain friendship groups.
‘I’ve certainly been made to feel left out,’ she says. ‘And that’s in part because of the social media presence these weekends have. I don’t know if they are always having as good a time as it looks on Instagram, or if this is just what the weekend has been geared to. The whole focus seems to be incredible-looking party pics.’
Another friend has recently demanded her hen do needs to be abroad, and Becca thinks it again comes down to external appearances.
‘We had to go abroad somewhere with a pool, a beach, somewhere “luxe” for a night out. Reading between the lines, the reason was that the stag going abroad and she couldn’t bare the thought of people seeing that he had gone away if she wasn’t.’
Becca says she is filled with anxiety when she goes on these trips and knows that the bills are racking up. She hates the idea that we are all just expected to foot the cost, regardless of individual circumstances, and it has made her resent being asked to attend.
‘Sometimes I think I just feel guilty for not having the money to do these things without worrying about it. I’m also just not as fussed about being on a big group holiday abroad, but for some people that’s truly just how they want to celebrate their special time, Instagram or no Instagram.
‘But from where I’m sat, it does feel hard to deny that social media presence is something we all buy in to, and has gradually impacted they way we celebrate and plan events.’
As we have been writing about all month; debt is never a good place to find yourself in.
But Instagram expert Sara Tasker doesn’t think spending money on your Instagram lifestyle is always a problem – as long as you do it responsibly.
‘It sounds ridiculous, but it’s not always a terrible idea to spend money for good Instagram content,’ she says. ‘If you know an amazing dress or poolside villa will make for a viral image, you can easily rack up a tens of thousands of new likes and followers in return for your investment.
‘It’s not really all that different to a company paying to boost their post – it’s just a different strategy to reach a similar outcome.
‘In the fashion and travel sphere in particular it’s incredibly competitive and increasingly expensive. The best deals and biggest audiences go to the people with the most original content to share, which means the most impressive trips to luxe resorts, and the most new outfits and beauty products.
‘The problem comes when people try to make this happen with every image, or build a false facade they feel they have to live up to.’
How to tackle 'Instagram debt'
The first step is to sit down and work out a weekly or monthly budget.
Be realistic in your goals but also question everything you’re currently spending money on; do you need to spend money in a coffee shop every morning, or can you make your morning drink and breakfast yourself at a fraction of the price?
This period will allow you to reflect on what you want and decide if it’s just a fleeting whim, or if it’s something which will truly be of value to you.
You can also check whether you’re getting the best deal on your utilities, and check on comparison sites at least once annually.
Check your phone contract – do you use all of your data every month, or is there any way you could switch to a cheaper deal?
Sales can be a great way to save money, but be wary not to purchase something just because it’s on sale – check if it’s really something you need.
Now that you’ve got a plan, be realistic on what you can save each week or month, and as soon as you receive your wages put this amount in a reputable savings account. This will stop you from accessing these funds unless necessary.
And if you’ll need a loan, try shopping around for low-cost value loans. When you’re comparing deals, make sure you watch out for the APR and not the amount in repayments you’ll be making.
If you feel that you can’t cope with your debts, the last thing you want to do is ignore them. Seek free professional financial help, or go online to the many self-help websites. However, be aware that debt management companies will often charge you fees for managing your debts.
And lastly, remember not everything you read or see on social media is true!
Diane Patterson, Moneywise
Sara has worked with influencers who have racked up thousands in credit card debt on clothes, hair and makeup to try and create popular images – she says she works with them to help bring them back to who they really are.
‘Sure, there’s an audience for the latest designer handbag or tropical island escape – but with 500 million daily active users, there’s an audience for who you really are, too,’ she adds.
The issue seems to be that social media is exacerbating our deepest insecurities and fuelling a need to present a perfectly polished version of ourselves – that we often can’t afford.
So, maybe the best way to avoid this kind of debt is to step away from these toxic traits of comparison, and learn to be happier with living within our means.
‘Social media presents a version of a truth, not the presentation of the truth,’ The Comparison Coach, Lucy Sheridan tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Someone might be appearing to casually check in at The Ivy for dinner, but the reality is there is nothing casual about it and the dinner is a very carefully planned and saved-up-for event to celebrate a special evening.’
Lucy says social media makes living a vibrant, balanced, exciting life look effortless.
‘The perfect wedding appears without capturing the fights and tantrums that it took to get down the aisle, pictures of luxury trips scroll by without comments on the credit cards being maxed out every day to fund the trip, work promotions are announced minus the details of it taking six less than ideal temp jobs before arriving at the desired career path.
‘Ultimately our social media feels can only capture a snapshot – literally – but this is enough for our self judgement and criticism to cling to in order to bring on feelings of being left behind and not making the most of life.
‘This triggers comparison and self worth issues when we feel we are falling behind or deemed to not be as successful as that cohort when we should be using our own goals and dreams as the measure for our own success.’
Lucy recommends tuning in to the exact posts that are making you feel rubbish, and asking yourself why.
‘The key to getting over the compare and despair of social media is to notice what you notice,’ says Lucy.
‘For example, if travel pictures are making you crave adventure and feel unhappy being at home, that is our cue to look at what we can do to bring adventure into our own lives – whether that is going rock climbing at your local activity centre, or starting a savings account to invest in your own version of a travel experience.’
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.
Instagram has changed the way we eat
A cat that looks like he has a moustache? That’s internet gold.
So it’s no surprise that Charlie, a cat with markings that look like Charlie Chaplin’s iconic moustache (hence her name), is getting loads of love online.
Charlie was found in a neighbour’s garden with her mother and siblings by Stacy Music, from Alabama.
When the cat was three or four months old, her unusual markings started to show through, giving Stacy the idea to name her after Charlie Chaplin.
Now eight years old, Charlie’s a bit of an Instagram star, racking up thousands of likes on every photo.
Stacy has no plans to make Charlie a full-on celeb, mind you. The kitty is just happy living her life and relaxing at home.
Stacy, a secretary, said: ‘People love seeing pictures of Charlie – I’m forever posting pictures of her on social media and she always gets a great response, with some posts generating over 5,000 likes!
‘When Charlie was around three or four months old, I noticed a little moustache and thought she resembled Charlie Chaplin – which is where I got the idea for the name ‘Charlie’ from.
‘Then, over the years, the moustache got a bit bigger so the name stuck.
‘To us, she’s just Charlie. She’s part of the family.
‘When I first found her with her mother and siblings, they were completely wild and the mum had obviously given birth beneath my neighbours van.
‘The others didn’t show much interest in becoming a domesticated, but Charlie kept coming up to the house which is why we ended up taking her in.
‘Her mum and siblings stayed wild, but my neighbour kept an eye on them to make sure they were doing OK.
‘She’s a great cat and she loves her family very much and if anyone is too loud, she will walk in and kind of referee.
‘Charlie always walks up to me when it’s bedtime and sleeps next to me.
‘People tell me she looks more like the singer Freddie Mercury or actor Tom Selleck, but she has been Charlie for almost nine years, so too late to change her name now!
‘People love Charlie and also comment on her moustache – a few even go as far to say she’s the cutest cat they’ve ever seen.’
‘You’re just too much, I can’t handle it,’ said my ex-boyfriend.
‘What do you mean?’ I asked him, puzzled.
‘This, you, your energy, your vibe,’ he replied. ‘It’s all too much…’
You could have heard a pin drop. All I had ever been was myself so it felt like a personal attack. ‘What am I supposed to do to make you comfortable then? Try to be less of what I am?’ I asked. He shrugged.
Was I gutted? Very much so. Surprised? No.
I’m excitable, talkative, curious, and have a zest for life. I love a good therapy session with an Uber driver after a night out, and dancing like nobody’s watching on the streets of London on the way to work.
Since I was child I was always known as the vivacious, ambitious one out of my sisters and friends – the ‘loud’ and ‘crazy’ one. My family told me that I wouldn’t just be able to date ‘any’ bloke, that he would have to be a ‘specific kind’ to be able to handle me.
Handle what? A woman who is confident, honest, and comfortable in her own skin? Since when has that been a crime?
But if you’ve always been upfront and honest about your standards, the phrase ‘too much’ will be a term that is all too familiar and it can almost feel like a punishment of some kind. I’ve been told I’m ‘a lot’, that I’m ‘over the top’ and had people make comments like, ‘you just wear what you want without a care in the world’. It always interests me who decides what’s over the top – what are we comparing that to?
I’ve always had big hair, loved big prints and mini skirts, and enjoy reinventing myself from time to time like a modern Madonna, as it’s an outlet for me to express myself. I genuinely wear what I like with zero consideration about what people may think. I am not seeking people’s approval for my outfits, but from the comments I get sometimes, it feels like I should be.
It would be so easy for me to believe these comments as I’ve heard them all my life, and maybe they have a point. Perhaps I am too much. I am reactive, extroverted, fearless and never afraid to speak my truth, whether people want to hear it or not.
But it’s not my burden to bear. If we live by other people’s opinions, we’ll never truly live a fulfilled life. I believe listening to other people’s opinions on the way we choose to live our lives will restrict us of a happiness we all deserve to feel. We shouldn’t let people decide who we are. I mean, who knows you better than you?
What I’m clear about is that it is an insult. At its core, ‘too much’ is an accusation that means you are not acting according to how society believes people – especially women, and even more so, black women – should behave.
Women are constantly being categorised and stereotyped for speaking our truth. Stating a point can make us come across as being ‘bossy’ or a ‘bitch’. When it comes to relationships, we are ‘the clingy girl’, ‘the psycho ex’ or ‘the cat lady’. When we stand up for what we believe, or express our identity, and don’t fit the mould expected of us, it can result in being subjected to the ‘too much’ label.
As a black woman, it is even more problematic. Black women are characterised as having larger than life personalities in a pejorative manner, from the ‘angry black girl’ to ‘hyperemotional’ and ‘sassy’.
Black women are not supposed to push back and when they do, they’re deemed to be domineering. Aggressive. Threatening. Loud. Confrontational. These phrases are used to silence black women like myself and tell us, in short, that we are overreacting and hypersensitive – that we are too much.
People often respond to the emotions of black women ‘from a place of perceived fear’, which means we become somewhat paranoid and go above and beyond to make people feel comfortable around us.
An article in the Harvard Business Review on black women’s experience at work quoted one woman saying, ‘My mentors talk to me about dimming my light. I always thought I had to bring that down to make people comfortable.’
These women tended to feel that their organisations ‘weren’t ready’ for them. The piece, written by a New York University researcher continues, ‘and they felt like they couldn’t be their authentic selves in the office at the risk of making others feel uncomfortable or hurting their chances of professional advancement.’
This is damaging because many black women train themselves to be anything but themselves in order to be deemed ‘professional’, when we should be able to be whoever we choose.
When someone calls me ‘too much’, I remind myself that it says far more about the person delivering the message than it does about me. They are restricted and confined by what they believe society deems acceptable, out of fear, shame and embarrassment, so they place their insecurities and fears onto me.
On the other hand, the ‘too much woman’ is confident – a mindset that not everybody can attain. It’s powerful and freeing to speak your mind in a society where the tradition is that women should not be heard. We have a voice and we are not afraid to use it.
The British way is ‘keeping calm and keeping quiet’, especially on the tube. Londoners have a reputation for being unfriendly and impatient on public transport, but I challenge the status quo of sitting in silence by disrupting it.
I actually met one of my strongest supporters of my career, Danny, in an Uber Pool, which most people sit in in pure silence and awkwardness. I want to change the dynamic and talk, I even got the driver to sing and dance with us!
Not a tube or bus journey goes by where I haven’t had a great conversation with someone new, or started bonding on the 43 to Angel with a tired-looking mum and her baby, who has gone from looking at me like an alien to wanting to high-five me.
I’m proud to be a ‘too much woman’, and I embrace every single part of me – leopard print leggings and all.
We must remember that there’s something unique about each and every one of us and the day we stop caring what people think of us and our too much-ness, we set ourselves free. Because being too much is being unapologetically yourself.
Affirming yourself is a gift. Being you, standing tall and owning who you are is something money cannot buy. To me, it’s being a person who’s proud of their imperfections – because that is what makes them perfect – and owns it with style. Why conform when you can be yourself?
I believe I am never too much. I am just right, like a nice cup of tea with no sugar needed because I am sweet enough.
Labels is an exclusive series that hears from individuals who have been labelled – whether that be by society, a job title, or a diagnosis. Throughout the project, writers will share how having these words ascribed to them shaped their identity — positively or negatively — and what the label means to them.
If you would like to get involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Keeping up with everything that’s going on in the world is tough.
There’s proper news to stay on top of, sports, celebs, and all the goings on of the internet. It can be a bit overwhelming.
But don’t panic, because we’re here to help.
You might not have time to know everything that’s happening, but Metro.co.uk is now here to quickly arm you with one essential thing you need to know each day – so you at least have one easy topic for small talk.
We’ve teamed up with Amazon Alexa to launch our own command.
It’s pretty simple. If you have access to an Alexa, just ask: ‘Hey Alexa, what do I need to know today?’
We’ll then give you a recap of one bit of news to know about that day. We’d recommend checking in each morning so you can head into your day prepared for all the office chit-chat by the kettle.
Some examples of the tidbits we’ve decided you needed to know:
As you’ll see, we’re delivering a combo of politics, general goings on, and more fun stuff – from what ok boomer means to why everyone’s suddenly talking about emotional labour.
Of course, reading all our content will get you feeling informed, but it’s pretty handy to have a quick cheat sheet. We’re here to make sure you’re equipped with the news you need to know about most.
Chat to Alexa, ask what you need to know today, and do let us know how you get on.
Metro updates on Amazon Alexa
A couple has been accused of ‘promoting rape’ for announcing their pregnancy with a photoshoot themed around The Handmaid’s Tale.
Leah Hampton, 28, and her husband Marquis Wimberly, shared the news of their baby by posting photos of the mum-to-be wearing the red robes and white bonnet of the fictional handmaids, who in the books and TV show are forced into sexual servitude in order to repopulate the earth.
Marquis wore a suit to pose as one of the male masters of the fictional series, in one shot doing up his tie as Leah lies on the bed behind him, which people accused of being a reenactment of a rape scene from the TV show.
When Leah shared the photos on Facebook on 29 October, the post quickly received more than 4,500 shares and 15,000 comments.
People flocked to the photos to accuse the couple of ‘glorifying’ rape and call the photos ‘repugnant’. Some people commented that the photos suggest the couple’s baby is a result of rape, as that’s the case for pregnancies in the show.
One commenter wrote: ‘Do they not realise they’re literally promoting rape by doing this photoshoot?’
Another said: ‘Nothing says “I’m excited about my baby” like rape references.’
The former foster parents have spoken out about the backlash, saying they ‘don’t give a f***’ about the criticism.
Marquis said: ‘We were not expecting the negativity that came from it – not even a little bit.
‘Not just the negativity, we didn’t expect any sort of reaction outside of our friends and family. We thought maybe some friends of friends might see it but not total strangers.
‘It would be unreasonable of us to expect everyone to be in love with what we did. We knew there would be some mixed reactions but not to the level it has been.
‘I think people felt like they could shame us into removing them or into apologising.
‘But we were not going to take the post down or issue some sort of apology. That’s what we mean when we say we are unmoved.
‘I’m comfortable with what we put out there and what we did. I’m okay if some people don’t like it. I’m just not okay with people saying crazy things.’
Marquis has called out commenters for judging him and his wife as parents based only on the pregnancy announcement photoshoot.
‘Me and Leah have been foster parents in the past,’ he said. ‘I feel like we have done enough in our lives to trust our judgement.
‘Not that we can’t get things wrong but I can’t take people seriously who call into question our parenting off of a photoshoot.
‘People were saying they don’t get what kind of parents we’re going to be and then in the next breath asking Leah ‘do you need help? This is the number for a survivors’ hotline’.
‘It’s disingenuous. It makes me question whether people are actually worried or they just want us to feel ashamed.
‘The most disturbing to me was that people made this sort of connection like our photo shoot was there to portray the manner in which our child was conceived.
‘It never occurred to me that people would go that far and read into it in that way.
‘Of all the pregnancy shoots I have seen, I have never known any to offer some insight into how the couple conceived their child.
‘If we had dressed up as Bonnie and Clyde, who are real life murderers, would people assume that our child was conceived on the run and we bought our crib with bank robbery money?’
The first-time parents, who have been married for four years, were over the moon when they found out they were expecting in June.
While most of their friends and family knew about Leah’s pregnancy after the couple sent out baby shower invites at the start of October, they decided to do a social media announcement for their more distant relations.
Leah and Marquis contacted Brittany Garcia Photography, who came highly recommended by a friend, and showed her stills from The Handmaid’s Tale as she hadn’t seen the show.
The mum-to-be initially posted the pictures on Facebook so they were only visible to people on her friends list but got such a positive reaction, she decided to make the public.
Leah, who is 26 weeks pregnant, said: ‘We wanted to do a pregnancy announcement but we didn’t want the usual ‘stand around in a meadow’ kind of photos.
‘We are both fans of the show. I got Marquis hooked to it so we decided to use it as our theme.
‘Our photographer had never seen the show so Marquis showed her some pictures from the show from memorable scenes.
‘It’s clear she got a good sense of what it looks like because the photos perfectly recreate the tone. I was ecstatic when I was the photos. They’re beautiful.’
Leah’s post alongside the photos originally said: ‘Blessed Day! We are happy to announce that I am carrying the precious fruit, arriving February 2020.. Happy Halloween!’
When things quickly turned sour, Leah was shocked and says her immediate response was to start deleting the negative comments.
However, instead of trying to silence the critics, Leah instead decided to update her post with a defiant message that read: ‘Some people have been so viscerally moved by the Handmaid’s Tale that our photoshoot has upset their sensitivities.
‘They care so deeply and passionately about women that they have resorted to harassing a pregnant woman on Facebook.
‘Folks, we are UNMOVED.
‘We hope you continue to enjoy our Halloween/Baby Announcement photos and our take on the fictitious television show, The Handmaid’s Tale.
‘Not everyone will like or agree with our theme. We don’t give a f***.’
Leah has now turned off notifications for the Facebook post, but the comments continue to roll in.
The couple say the photos weren’t intended to promote or make light of rape, but to celebrate their love for the series.
Marquis said: ‘A lot of these people are crazy. This is a fictional TV show. That they’ve had that response to something that isn’t real or tied to real events doesn’t make sense to me.
‘Saying it’s fictional, our point was not to say that there isn’t an important message in the show or to downplay or make light of people’s connections with the show and their own experiences.
‘The show does a good job of getting those issues talked about. We do get that. But that doesn’t make it any less fictitious.
‘We felt like we were displaying our connection with the show. We like it so much, we wanted to really capture it.
‘Maybe people think that content should be protected or it’s sanctified or off limits.
‘We felt like people dress up as both real and fictional characters all the time and we didn’t feel this was off limits.’
Couple announce pregnancy with handmaid\'s tale photoshoot
Heartbreak is hard. But purging every trace of your ex on social media can be the first step towards healing.
But what if you look cute in some of your old pics with your ex? One woman has found that deleting is not always the answer.
Rosie from Singapore decided that instead of removing the old pics, she would simply update the captions to make them more honest.
After breaking up with her old flames, Rosie never actually deleted any photos of the two of them together, but she archived them, which hid them from her timeline.
‘Decided to unarchive all the pictures I had with shitty guys because I look cute but updated the captions to be more accurate,’ she wrote on Twitter.
She posted three screengrabs from Instagram of her posing in romantic snaps with guys she is no longer seeing.
In the first pic she is being literally swept off her feet by a boy, as he holds her in his arms at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
‘Not a fan of Valentine’s Day but a huge fan of my Valentine,’ reads the original caption.
But the new edit underneath reads: ‘He broke up with me the next day!’
The second pic shows her kissing an ex’s cheek: ‘Like if you think I can do better.’
Underneath she added: ‘Edit: He broke up with me through Facebook messenger so yes, I can do better.’
The final pic was taken with a beautiful city skyline as the backdrop: ‘
‘Took a 7 hour bus to Boston to take this picture.’
The edit reads: ‘Was not worth the trip.’
Rosie’s tweet has been liked more than 57,000 times and she has even inspired other women to look back over their old pics to do the same.
One Instagram user edited an old pic that had the original caption: ‘Happy two year anniversary and new year to my love. I’m so excited for our future together, I know we are going to do amazing things! Thank you for making me smile everyday and for all of your support an motivation.’
The edit told a different story: ‘I had to post things like this or else he didn’t believe that I loved him and he would cheat on me because he felt “insecure”. This was the third time I dyed my hair red bc I was desperately seeking attention bc things weren’t OK.’
Lots of people have praised Rosie for being so honest on social media, where people usually only show off a perfectly curated version of themselves which doesn’t always reflect real life.
‘You’re an icon,’ said one commenter. Another added: ‘This is a damn smart thing to do.’
Rosie went on to explain exactly why she edited her captions.
‘I just wanted to clarify this tweet isn’t about shaming any of the men pictured.
‘This post is about me, how I moved on by acknowledging my experiences and pain, and knowing that I deserve better. & also that I look good in these pics.
‘Remember that healing is not always about forgiving and forgetting, and however you choose to heal and move on know that you deserve the world.’
Woman is branded an 'icon' for changing the captions of all Instagram images that feature bad ex-boyfriends to make them 'more accurate'
A spectre is haunting the internet: you might find it lurking on Instagram, or Twitter, or simply in the darkest corners of your subconscious.
It could manifest itself as a vague blur in the corner of your eye or a feeling of nameless dread that you can’t quite shake.
It might be a soft scratching outside your bedroom door as you awake from uneasy dreams.
We’re referring, of course, to the long Furby, an unholy variation of the half-owl, half-hamster robotic toy that was hugely popular in the late 1990’s, and has now returned to wreak a terrible revenge.
If you’ve never heard of long Furbies before then count yourself lucky and stop reading this article now. Please, we beg you. Get out while you still can.
If you’re still reading, on your own head be it.
Metro.co.uk spoke to one of the people responsible for unleashing this evil onto the world.
He creates these himself by taking existing Furbies, removing their faces and feet, and then sewing together a grotesquely extended new body. The results are both impressive in their creativity and absolutely terrifying – like if Dr Frankenstein ran an Etsy store.
‘I think there’s always been something inherently creepy about Furbies, even back in the 1990’s before the recent revival,’ he says. ‘Everyone I know has a story about owning one as a child, and how unsettling they were.’
While Devin didn’t start the long Furby craze, he is largely responsible for the twisted direction it’s taken.
‘My account has definitely taken a plunge into “cursed content” more than I ever expected. If you look back to some of the earlier posts, they’re relatively tame,’ he says.
‘The more cursed the content became, the more cursed I aspired to make the next post. At this point, it’s become a personal competition to see how far I can push the limit.’
And push the limit he certainly has: the account is filled with a genuinely unsettling aura of dread.
These Furbies are blood-drenched and murderous. They weave webs to catch their prey. They lay eggs and give birth.
They have long, skeletal spines which protrude from their fur, usually at moments of violent rupture.
But for Devin, there’s some light amidst the dark.
‘As unsettling as some of the content is, I feel there’s a strange tone of wholesomeness underneath that resonates with people. My long Furby “family” goes on plenty of bizarre adventures.
‘They might bully one other from time to time,’ he says, presumably referring to the posts in which the Furbies flay each others fur and leave each other for dead, ‘but at the end of the day they’re all having fun as a group of oddball friends.’
Having learned to sew especially to create long Furbies, running the account is now Devin’s full-time job.
Not all fans of long Furbies are quite so devoted to the grotesque as Devin. One online seller, Megan Hicks, who posts under ‘MadHatterPlushies’, sees their appeal quite differently.
Megan says: ‘Although I do think long Furbies have a spooky vibe, I mostly love how wholesome the community is and the culture around customizing them.
‘For me, it’s about how much people love them, the way they name them and make up personalities and stories. That’s what makes them cute to me, rather than their actual appearance.’
Ultimately, whether you consider long Furbies adorable or menacing, the popularity of the trend speaks to the internet’s resurgent desire for ‘cursed’ content – that is, things which are strange, eerie, and not quite of this world.
Although this craze for the ‘cursed’ might have spiked in popularity recently, it speaks to an age-old human impulse.
As cultural theorist Mark Fisher wrote: ‘We could go so far as to say that it is the human condition to be grotesque, since the human animal is the one that does not fit in, the freak of nature who has no place in the natural order and is capable of re-combining nature’s products into hideous new forms.’
He might have been talking about long Furbies, although he wasn’t.
In an internet culture which has become increasingly sanitised, commercialised and ruled by monopolies, it’s nice that there are corners of the web still dedicated to being really f**king weird purely for its own sake.
It all seems refreshingly free of cynicism: no-one gets involved in the long Furby scene for social clout and the people involved are unlikely to be doing any corporate partnerships any time soon.
In fact, it represents a kind of anti-aspirationalism: posting a picture of a spider Furby with skeleton hands is about as far removed from a beach selfie as it’s possible to get. The level of creativity on display is also admirable.
But that said, I still would round up every single one of these foul creatures, burn them in a fire and then salt the earth so they might never return. Keep them the hell away from me.
How do you feel about your finances?
Are you a budgeting icon? Or is your spending a shambles?
If it’s the latter, How I Save is here to help.
Each week we follow the saving and spending of someone who’s been brave enough to share the reality of their money situation. Sometimes that person will have saved up loads of money, and thus we can learn from their wisdom. Other times they’ll be finding saving a tad tricky, in which case we can pick up some tips from the expert advice we offer up at the end of a week’s diary of spending.
In both cases, we’re keen to get honest about the awkward topic of money and give you an insight into how people really spend and save.
This week we’re peeking inside the wallet of Nadine*, a 23-year-old student services assistant at a college in Birmingham.
How Nadine saves:
I earn £17,658 a year (before tax) and in my savings account right now I have £1,807.
I’m saving for a house deposit and driving lessons.
I’ve saved by putting between £100 and £300 into a savings account for the last year. In recent months, I have not managed to save anything at all but I always put £100 into my Help to Buy ISA.
I don’t buy unnecessary material items, such as new clothes or electronics, but I struggle with saving because I spend too much on eating out and drink, sometimes at work but mostly over the weekend when socialising.
How Nadine spends:
A week of spending:
Monday: I have a busy day at work ahead as two of my colleagues are on holiday and Mondays in Student Services are always busy (lots of problems seem to crop up over the weekend, particularly as the new academic year has only just started).
Unfortunately for me, I had a bout of insomnia last night so on the way to college, I buy a ready-to-drink iced coffee (Vita Cold Brew) from WH Smiths for £1.99. I don’t usually buy these as they are a bit overpriced and I take my own flask of coffee to work every day, but I knew by 3am that it was a two coffee day.
As my boyfriend’s birthday is approaching, I stop by the shops during my lunch break and purchase some wrapping paper. I’ve got his presents sorted. The wrapping paper comes to £3.80 and then I wander into Accessorize and buy myself some blue stud earrings, which have 70% off – they were only £1.50.
Later at home, my boyfriend and I visit Asda for our weekly shop, leaving it as late as possible to avoid the crowds. We usually get an online delivery from Tesco but don’t need £40 worth tonight, which is the minimum order to avoid the basket charge. It is quite a small shop (all the bread is essentially gone by 8pm) and we only spent £22.90. We go halves so I spend £11.45.
I budget £50 a week for spending on whatever I like and for weekend outings, so £200 a month. Unfortunately, I have gone over my budget the last two weeks so now have £30 in my current account left to last until October 24th. This is because I went clothes shopping with my sister, who I rarely see, and it’s my boyfriend’s birthday soon so I had presents to budget for. We can safely assume I’ll be going into my general savings pot and/or my credit card this month!
Total spent on Monday: £18.74
Tuesday: I buy a bottle of 7up for £1.37 on my way to work, because I forgot to buy any at Asda yesterday.
I have the O2 app so can claim a free hot drink from Café Nero once a week. I am trying to cut back on my hot chocolate consumption, hence the slightly less satisfying summer fruits tea I order during my lunch hour after going for a short run.
On my way back to college, I go into M&S and buy a single blueberry muffin from the bakery for £1; that’s my boyfriend’s birthday cake sorted. Now I’ll have to resist eating it for the rest of the day.
Total spent on Tuesday: £2.37
Wednesday: I cycle to my train station then take the train to college, as I usually do.
At lunch time I walk into town and buy a two pint bottle of milk, paper cups, sugar and plenty of biscuits for a staff wellbeing event that I am hosting tomorrow. I spent £7.05 but I am getting all the money I spent reimbursed tomorrow.
I head home a few minutes late as I have some admin to do, but the trains all run smoothly, for which I’m grateful because my partner and I are going out for a meal tonight. It was part of a voucher deal purchased three months ago, which included a three course Indian meal for two for only £17. This is my second Indian in the last week and I’m almost certain that’s not excessive. We bought drinks alongside and some rice and tandoori roti, so we only had to pay £16.90 tonight.
Total spent on Wednesday: £23.95
Thursday: I left the bottle of milk I needed for my staff event at home so a quick trip to the shops before work results in me spending another £1.50 for milk. I then drift into Café Nero and order a regular mocha with coconut milk, which comes to £3.30, as I didn’t sleep again the night before. I am reimbursed for the milk and other provisions I bought for the event, so I only really end up buying my own coffee.
I promise myself not to buy anything else today. I feel guilty about the amount of money I waste on things like coffee during the working week but I am yet to find a strategy that stops me spending.
My event goes well and I head to the shops after work to look at clothes and shoes in Next and the rabbits in Pets at Home. I then end up in Sainsbury’s. I buy a ready meal (vegetable jalfrezi with rice and a bag of salad) for my dinner, as my partner is out tonight, and some wholemeal bread for the weekend. I spend £4.15.
I walk home in the rain while catching up with my mum over the phone. Once home, I have a candlelit bath while listening to Atli Örvarsson, put my dinner in the microwave, and watch the Apprentice with our cat. My boyfriend gets home and we catch up for an hour before heading to bed at 11:45.
Total spent on Thursday: £8.95
Friday: I am out of the door by 7.15 this morning and my boyfriend gives me a lift to the train station. However, I manage to forget two important items today on the rush out of the door; my lunch and my Swift card, which I use for my train fare. The Swift card slashes my train costs in half and is only £66.60 per month – not much considering that my commute is an hour. Alas, as I don’t have the card, I buy a day return for £6.50.
I get lunch from Boots for £3.39 because I love the vegetarian food in its meal deal, especially the Vegan Chicken and Sweetcorn sandwich. I also collect Boots points and spend those when I’ve saved enough but alas, I only have a 19p worth of points at the moment.
I’m going to go for a run at lunchtime in the woods near college, which should give me an energy boost. A quiet night at home, so no money spent!
Total spent on Friday: £9.89
Saturday: We get up at a relatively reasonable time and do some household shopping, spending £7.50 at Home Bargains and £10.25 at Wilco. We needed a new spatula (among other things) as I melted one on the hob the previous night. We share the costs of household shopping again.
My boyfriend treats me to a hot chocolate and we then go for a walk in the woods. I also order some hemp/CBD oil online for £8.99, to see if it helps with my sleep, but as my boyfriend has Amazon Prime, postage is free.
After a few hours at home, we head to the pub and share a bottle of house white wine, which costs £9.55. We then head for dinner around 9pm – I have tapas and my boyfriend has a burger – and we share a cocktail pitcher. We spend £42 in total at dinner, so £21 each. We’re home before midnight.
Total spent on Saturday: £48.41
Sunday: I spend the day window shopping and make a quick call to a friend. I succeed in not buying any more clothes or other trinkets.
I do go to Tesco and Boots, buying reduced sandwiches and bread to feed the garden pigeons, and spend £5.50. I then head home and my partner and I play the Xbox together, before I have a bath and make pizza for dinner.
Total spent on Sunday: £5.50.
How Nadine can save:
We spoke to the experts over at money tracking app Cleo to find out how Nadine can save better (and what we can learn from her spending).
Note: the advice featured is specific to one individual and doesn’t constitute financial advice, especially for a London budget.
Here’s what Cleo said:
You’re not one to miss a trick, Nadine. There’s not a lot of splurging going on, and you know which pennies are going where. Excellent work.
Where you’re going right:
We love your thriftiness. Taking your own flask of coffee to work, looking for voucher deals and using your Swift card are all neat ways to trim your monthly spending.
For anyone reading: The reduced section of your local supermarket is a great way to fight those pricey lunchtimes.
Putting money into your Help To Buy ISA – this is great.
For anyone reading: As of 30 November 2019, Help to Buy ISAs will be shutting down. Google now or forever hold your peace…
Where you’re going less right:
You mention you haven’t been able to put anything into your savings in recent months. We all go through spendy times and it’s important to have flexibility here. If you know you’re going to have a super expensive couple of weeks, maybe tweak your budget for the following month. If you’re lacking in motivation, book that first driving lesson to help you visualise the goal.
You ate out twice this week, which came to £39 (you’re spending £156 on eating out per month if this is a regular thing). We’re going to suggest you try eating out every other week and cap the bill to £30 each. This will save you £96 a month.
On top of your free Caffè Nero, let’s try to stick to one takeout coffee per week. *Cough* Cleo actually has a ‘watch category’ feature that can help you with this *cough*.
For anyone reading: Pick a day where you try to make as few purchases as possible. It works.
Being thrifty when it comes to the boring stuff so you have room for the fun things is what Cleo is all about. We think you’re doing a great job at this. Stick at it.
How I Save is a weekly series about how people spend and save, out every Thursday. If you’d like to anonymously share how you spend and save – and get some expert advice on how to sort out your finances – get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
*Name has been changed.
How I Save
Yup, the fast food chain’s been getting festive, with their own seasonal offerings arriving in branches across the UK yesterday.
They’ve got everything on offer from special burgers to desserts and even a coffee or two – but just what is on their festive menu?
Here’s what you need to know…
What is on the McDonald’s Christmas menu?
The McDonald’s Christmas menu sees the return of some old favourites as well as a few new items for the festive season.
For starters, the Big Tasty is back for Christmas, bringing customers a beef burger topped with Emmental cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and the special Big Tasty sauce.
On its own it’s £4.29 or you can get it as a medium meal for £5.89 – and if you’d like bacon on top, that’ll cost you an extra 40p.
Also look out for their brand new Chicken Deluxe burger, which includes crispy chicken, tomato relish, mayo, cheese, lettuce and red onion rings.
if you want to feel really festive, meanwhile, they’ve added camembert cheese dippers to the menu.
Five of those will set you back £1.69, or a sharing box costs £4.40
If after all that you still have room for dessert, the good news is that the mint Matchmaker McFlurry is returning to the menu for the first time since Christmas 2013.
The festive treat will come in two sizes, the regular for £1.39 and a mini version for 99p.
Oh, and don’t forget about Santa’s reindeer either – as McDonald’s carrot bags have been renamed Reindeer Treats for the season.
Is McDonald’s doing festive coffee?
There are indeed festive drinks to be found on the McCafe menu, as you can also nab yourself a Millionaire’s Latte – making a festive return to the menu – complete with caramel syrup and chocolate cream – a Toffee latte or Hot Chocolate.
Also back for Christmas is the chocolate brownie, along with new additions including a mixed berry muffin and millionaire’s doughnut, topped with biscuit pieces and a dark chocolate drizzle.
Big Tasty with Bacon-02f4
Christmas is a magical time, so it makes sense that we would want to drag it out as long as possible.
The festivities don’t have to begin on the 25th – more of us are taking up a new tradition and starting the holiday a touch earlier; Christmas Eve.
And one way to help your family reach peak festive excitement is to present them with a gorgeous Christmas Eve box filled with goodies.
If you’ve never heard of a Christmas Eve box, allow us to explain (not that it’s particularly complicated).
What is a Christmas Eve box?
A Christmas Eve box is essentially an early Christmas stocking – designed for kids who just can’t wait until Christmas Day. Although you can easily whip up a box for any excitable adults in your life too.
It’s said to come from the German tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve.
Online parenting forums have been buzzing with chat about this new tradition since 2016 – when it first started to boom in the UK.
They’re a great way of getting your loved ones together, exchanging gifts and treating your favourite people to some extra goodies. And if you’re worried about the creeping expense of this time of year – Christmas Eve boxes can be rustic and homemade – it’s more about being thoughtful than splashing the cash.
How to make a Christmas Eve box
Start off with a box. A shoe box, or anything with a neat, fitted lid will work perfectly.
Wrap the box using festive paper, or plain paper that you can then design yourself – depending on how much time you have on your hands. (Think glitter, stencils, tinsel and ribbons).
Then, simply fill your box with your chosen goodies and set the scene to present them to your family.
Maybe stick on your favourite Christmas movie or line-up a particularly festive playlist, get the hot chocolate and mulled wine on the hob – and hand out the boxes just before bedtime for maximum excitement.
What to put in a Christmas Eve box
If you’re lacking on the creativity front, do not fret, we asked Sophie Morris, one of the founders of Box of Hugs London, for her top tips on what to put in your Christmas Eve box.
Include an activity
Children – rightly so – get very excited on Christmas Eve. While this is lovely, it can also mean there’s a lot of energy for parents to contend with!
An activity inside your Christmas Eve box, such as an activity book or a game, is ideal for keeping excited minds focused with some festive fun.
Include a novelty item
Christmas Eve boxes are made for festive novelty items. There are plenty of entertaining ideas around this year, however one of our favourites are the Magical 3D Christmas Glasses.
Children put the glasses on and the lights on the Christmas tree turn into snowmen or dancing Santa.
Include a sweet treat
Yes, we know children will consume way too many sweet treats over Christmas. However, a small character chocolate or tasty lollipop will certainly put a smile on their faces.
It might come in handy to use as a negotiation to eat vegetables at dinner time too. After all, children always sleep better after a good meal.
Include reindeer food
Putting out a drink and mince pie for Santa makes Christmas Eve extremely magical.
Pop some food for Rudolph and the reindeer in your Christmas Eve box and you’ll create even more magic at bedtime.
You can easily make your own reindeer food with porridge oats and edible glitter. However, if you plan to place Rudolph’s food outside, just make sure ingredients are bird-friendly.
Include a Christmas story
Stories at bedtime – especially on Christmas Eve – are a must.
Include a new Christmassy-themed book in your Christmas Eve box and make bedtime even more special.
Children will get so excited about reading their new story they’ll be even more motivated to say ‘yes’ to bedtime too.
Finally, make it personal
Children love seeing things with their name on. So, make their Christmas Eve by including a personalised card, or their name on the box.
You could go one step further and pop inside a message from Santa. Now, that really would get them excited about the celebrations ahead.
Due to give a speech and in need of inspiration?
You might want to go flicking through some old books.
Reece Wane, 27, was lucky enough to find a best man’s speech – albeit one that’s a tad cringey – stuffed in the pages of a secondhand book
Reece had ordered a book about the Teutonic Knights for £6.50 from Amazon Marketplace.
As he was flicking through the pages, two pieces of A4 paper fell out. It turned out those pieces of paper contained a best man’s speech packed with jokes and puns.
Is it a speech we’d recommend copying? Perhaps not.
But it could jog your creative juices if you’re staring at a blank page. Next time you’ve got writer’s block, go to a secondhand bookshop and leaf through the pages.
The speech was written for the wedding of a Tom Fletcher and his wife-to-be Becky (so no, not the guy from McFly).
Now, Reece hopes to track down the mystery best man and reunite him with his speech.
The speech starts with a joke: ‘If anyone here feels nervous, apprehensive or queasy… It’s probably because you’ve just got married to Tom Fletcher’.
Then it compares Tom’s dancing to that of David Brent, jokes about the groom’s work ethic, and says that Becky ‘couldn’t have done any worse’.
There’s also the classic line of referring to the speech as the ‘worst five minutes of your life’, then saying ‘Becky – your worst five minutes will probably come later tonight’.
Hotel manager Reece, from Leeds, said: ‘I thought it was absolutely hilarious.
‘It’s so generic and he’s used so many classic British humour jokes.
‘There is some real personal stuff in there and you can see he’s properly trying to wind his best mate up.
‘When I found it me and Molly had such a laugh about it.
‘I was really surprised because I was just sat there with a brew and it popped out.
‘I wonder if he popped it in there for safekeeping and just forgot where he put it.
‘If the wedding hasn’t happened yet then I do want to get it back to him before the big day. There’s a lot of work gone into it.’
The speech suggests the wedding of Tom and Becky Fletcher will take place on 5 June – but doesn’t say in what year.
Reece said: ‘We have tried to track down the author but haven’t had any luck.
‘From one bloke to another I’d like to get it back to him.
‘It takes a lot of hard work to write a best man’s speech. He probably spent says writing it and now he has lost it.
‘If I’d lost one I’d be gutted, the wedding might not have even happened yet.
‘It hasn’t been there for long because the paper is really fresh.
‘I’ve got his back if he wants to have it returned for sure.’
Best man\'s speech in second hand book
Christmas Day isn’t complete until you’ve had a full blown fight with your nan about who won the cracker present.
Those paper hats are also a prerequisite for a festive time, and it’d be a crying shame to nix crackers from the the merriment.
With people’s eco-consciousness growing, however, you’d be forgiven for wanting to be a bit Bah Humbug about the huge amount of needless plastic included.
From plastic in the cracker’s outer to the pointless toys that just get thrown away (has anyone ever used those plastic pinging frogs after 25 December?), it’s all a bit wasteful.
You don’t need to go full killjoy to keep things sustainable, though. There are loads of different options for you right on the UK high street and web.
Both the crackers themselves and the box for these are made from cardboard, which is easily recycled.
Not only that, the gifts are all made from silver or cardboard (except from a plastic cookie cutter which you can use for ages).
You could bag yourself a silver bowling game, nail clippers, silver money clip, snap hook, bottle opener, nail file, silver dice, silver whistle, cookie mould, silver notebook, magic trick, or playing cards.
Get them here. £7 for a pack of 12.
These crackers have a selection FSC certified tree decorations and are plastic free, so you can impress any eco-conscious guests.
You’ll get hats and jokes as usual – as well as the all-important snap – but instead of toys and games you’ll find gorgeous tree decorations.
They’re not suitable for children, but children would probably not appreciate the aesthetic, sustainable gifts anyway.
They also come in a paper bag, so when you’re done you just sweep the crackers into the bag and pop straight into the recycling.
Get them here. £16.79 for 12.
There are foil accents on these adorable crackers, so you will have to be careful when recycling.
However, the real standout is the gifts inside, which are all wildlife themed keyrings.
The wooden keepsakes are genuinely pretty and usable, so you know they won’t end up in the bin.
Get them here. £23.00 for 8.
For something a little bit different, try Keepthiscracker.
They’re fill-your-own, but can be used year on year, and all you need to do is add new gifts and replace the snap element.
They bang when you pull them but don’t tear open, so no waste. As well as this, they come in paper packaging, and even the ribbons are made 100% used plastic bottles sourced from Europe.
When you do eventually get new ones, they can be recycled as you would any cardboard.
Get them here. £19.00 for 6.
Nancy & Betty
Aren’t these sprout designs cute?
The gifts inside these bespoke crackers are also amazing. You can get wooden golf tees, a wooden honey drizzler, a mini whisk, a large wooden die, an egg cup, a salt scoop, a nutmeg grater and mini pencils, mini strawberry jam, luxury tea or wild flower seeds. Dibs on the cute, tiny jam.
Everything’s recyclable except the bows (which you can use for crafting) and the box doesn’t have that annoying plastic window in it, which is even better.
Get them here. £35.00 for 6.
No gifts in these little Selfridges numbers, but you will get the classic hat, snap, and motto combo.
They’re made from eco-friendly cardboard which you can stick in the recycling when you’re done. As for the ribbons, keep them for next year.
Get them here. £28.00 for 6.
Made of natural linen and embroidered with satin thread, each of these gorgeous crackers is tied either end with a green satin ribbon and has a durable plastic inner tube to reuse year after year.
Made by Kate Sproston Design, they don’t contain a snap, but can be filled with whatever your heart desires. We vote mini jams.
Get them here. £64.50 for 6.
If you’ve got little ones at the dinner table this Christmas, they’ll love making these crackers.
Made from recycled cardboard that can be recycled after use, they’re environmentally friendly, and they come with hats and jokes you can add when you make them.
Decorate how you want, and add anything else you fancy.
Get them here. £6.00 for 8.
Plastic-free crackers and reusable crackers to make Christmas go off with a (sustainable) bang
Much like our celebration of Halloween and the bargain bonanza that is Black Friday, Thanksgiving is an American holiday and tradition that although more widely celebrated in the USA, does get marked over here in the UK too.
The tradition of Thanksgiving originated in 1621 when the Pilgrims who settled in what is now New England, showed their gratitude to the Native Americans who taught them how to farm the land and helped them survive, by inviting them to a feast of thanks.
Many of the settlers had died from starvation following crop failure before the Wampanoag tribe taught them how to grow corn, beans and squash on the land and the very first Thanksgiving feast is thought to have lasted for three days.
When is Thanksgiving 2019 in the USA?
Thanksgiving always takes places on the fourth Thursday of November annually, meaning that this year, the widely celebrated American holiday occurs on Thursday, 28 November 2019 in the USA.
The tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November dates back to 1863 when President Lincoln declared that all Americans should: ‘set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.’
As Thanksgiving falls on Thursday 28 this year, that means that Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving that used to officially mark the start of the American Christmas shopping period and now is a day that brands offer major discounts on their products globally to encourage shoppers to part with their cash before Christmas – falls on Friday 29 2019.
Thanksgiving day dinner table with pumpkin pie, roasted turkey and festive autumn decoration and candles
It’s cold. It’s dark. The twinkly lights are already up in town, we’re surely just hours away from hearing Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas playing on the radio.
The lead-up to the most important turkey meal of the year can be a difficult time for socialising. All of a sudden, everyone’s trying to book in a pre-Christmas catch-up over a mug of mulled wine, but our diaries are more crammed than ever. It can be seriously overwhelming, and it might even be making you feel a little Grinch-y.
So, how do you get through this hectic time of year with all your friendships intact by the time we start a new decade?
Gather round the fireplace, let’s talk it through. Here are a few things you could do right now to settle your social life down a little, and get through this frantic festive time.
Book in some ‘you’ time to minimise the overwhelm
If one peek at your diary for the next month makes you want to hyperventilate, you may need to chill out with all the festivities. It’s perfectly OK – in fact, very sensible – to book in some free time for you to just do you, at home, by yourself.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by social engagements at this time of year, simply stop saying yes to everything. It’s going to be OK, people will forgive you if you’re not present at every single social event of the season.
Respect your boundaries, especially if you’re an introvert. Give yourself permission to chill when needed. You can explain it to people if you like, or you can simply RSVP as ‘not attending’ to the events you’d like to skip. Sit down and block out some time to stay at home, put on a face mask, order Deliveroo and mainline some decent TV. Actually put it in your diary, so you don’t accidentally book something in that involves actual human interaction. Reserve a little time to make like a bear and hibernate.
With all these Christmas and NYE parties coming up, you’ll be grateful later that you made time to conserve a bit of energy. Protect yourself a little, the overwhelm is real.
Circulate a Doodle poll to simplify things
Is it just me, or is it virtually impossible to find a single date that all your friends are free for a group catch-up? It can be seriously painful, trying to coordinate a bunch of people – and sometimes, you look away from your phone for an hour and return to 72 missed WhatsApp messages just trying to sort it out.
Going back and forth trying to pick a date to hang out, when everyone is so busy, is frustrating, exhausting and boring. It can even make you dread seeing your mates, which is not ideal.
May I recommend taking the lead a little and circulating a Doodle poll to everyone concerned? You might also wish to remind people how to use one correctly, because most people get them wrong. You’re meant to indicate any date you can be available, not just tick a couple of your favourite days and be done.
You should fill it in promptly and get on with the business of choosing where you want to meet and what you want to eat. Be decisive about this, and suggest somewhere easy for most people to get to.
If you can’t find a day when everyone is available, split up the group and do several catch-ups. Sometimes the perfect group outing is just not possible. Your friendships will survive it.
Make peace with not seeing everyone before an arbitrary festive date
You may not be able to see every person you like before the end of the year – and that’s OK. Santa will still bring you presents, and you still get to have roast potatoes on 25 December.
There is no real reason why you have to squeeze so many social interactions into the final weeks of the year. We all just arbitrarily decide that we absolutely must see as many people as possible, and it’s all a bit mad.
2020 is just around the corner, and there’ll be plenty of time for catching up then, too. It’s not 1999, we’re not planning for the Y2K bug here; there’s truly no reason why you can’t postpone some of your socialising till January or February.
Keep in touch in other ways so you still feel connected
If you don’t end up seeing everyone in the lead-up to Christmas, find other ways to invest in your cherished friendships.
You could be an absolute old-school cutie and send them Christmas cards, if that’s your style. You could send them voice memos of you singing carols and telling them your best gossip. You could just do the easiest thing and stay in touch by regular text, WhatsApp or actual phone call. And of course, you’ve got to like all their festive selfies on social media.
If you’re not going to physically hang out with a person this Christmas or New Year, and you’re actually quite fond of them, simply find an alternative way to be present in their lives. You could even use Christmas as an excuse to be sentimental and remind someone what they mean to you. It’s as good a time as ever to tell a person that they matter.
Oh, and why not be extra nice, just because? One of the loveliest things about Christmas is that people tend to feel a little surge in generosity. So, in the spirit of any cast member in the romantic comedy Love Actually, reach out to people who might be lonely, might need friends, or mightn’t otherwise feel very jolly.
DEC 24 Going back in the closet for christmas
Brad Woodhouse found a new purpose in life after facing gruelling treatment for a rare type of brain cancer – and has now launched an app to help others stay healthy.
The entrepreneur was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 24, and he had to undergo four major operations on his brain in a matter of weeks.
‘From signing a will, to saying goodbye to my parents and family to then waking up after 13 hours of brain surgery, and I mean really waking up, my whole purpose in life had shifted,’ says Brad.
‘I was acknowledging a primal need in the pit of my stomach to help people.’
While Brad was recovering from the life-threatening illness and painful surgery that left him with PTSD and survivor’s guilt, he began creating WELD, an online health and fitness appdesigned to challenge the ‘outdated’ health and fitness industry in the UK.
WELD stands for Wellbeing, Exercise, Lifestyle and Diet, and aims to make getting and staying fit and healthy more accessible and affordable.
‘I want to make it easier for people to live a healthier and more active life,’ says Brad.
‘After I was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011, and had four surgeries in three months, I finally came out at the end of the tunnel.
‘I had survived, and I had to believe I survived for a reason. People began contacting me regarding their recent cancer diagnoses and wanted to hear my approach, what I ate, what I drank, how I exercised, and what my physical and mental state was.
‘It was in those moments of sharing my experience and advice that I felt like I had found something, I had found purpose.’
Brad still has 30 per cent of the tumour lodged in his brain, but is currently in remission. He’s now 32 and lives in north London with his wife and young son, and says that he appreciates every moment he has with them.
He now takes his personal fitness and health incredibly seriously and competes as an endurance athlete in his spare time.
Brad developed the app to help people maintain their health and fitness: ‘You have the choice of duration, type of session, health professional, session fee, and location that suits your needs all through one platform,’ he explains.
‘It’s actually hard to find a simple way to access the market of health professionals, and to learn more about them through an open and transparent reviews system, where the professionals, premises owners and users all rate each other.
‘You can also see the health professionals’ and premises’ rates, which they can change at their discretion.’
Brad Woodhouse comp
By the time he was 26 years old, Rob Moore was in £50,000 of debt.
Today he’s a millionaire, having written eight books and retired (then unretired, just for fun) multiple times.
How did he get here?
Rob started racking up consumer debt when he went to university, after taking out multiple loans and using credit cards without fully understanding the interest rates.
He was only overspending a small amount each month, but it added up fast.
‘I’d put purchases on my credit card and think that I’d just pay my credit card off at the end of the month, when in reality I couldn’t,’ Rob tells Metro.co.uk. ‘I wasn’t earning as much as I was spending and then I racked up another debt on a car loan and it just went on over a seven-year period.
‘The first two to three years I didn’t think much of it. At the time it wasn’t vast amounts of money and I genuinely thought I could keep on top of it.
‘Then when it started to get bigger and I realised that all the money I was earning was only going on servicing the debt, I realised I wasn’t actually paying off any of the capital because I was only able to hit the monthly minimal amounts – and that was just the interest.
‘It made me feel useless, worthless, terrible at managing money and my own personal affairs. It gave me a very low sense of self-worth. I was embarrassed and felt shameful.’
Rob was trapped in a cycle of debt, with interest on repayments building up far more quickly than he could earn enough money to pay them off. Working as an artist and pulling pints in his parents’ pub wasn’t particularly lucrative.
It was a family emergency that pushed him to make a change.
When his father – who had paid for Rob’s university fees and given him a job in his pub for years – had a nervous breakdown in front of his customers in December 2005, Rob felt partly responsible for the immense stress he was under.
The guilt of depending on his parents for money gave Rob the shake he needed to take decisive action and start to clear his debt.
He moved into property and business. One year later he had cleared his debt. By the age of 30 he was a millionaire.
That involved some big life changes – chief among them making a total career switch and getting into the property market.
Rob was first encouraged to get into property by the owner of the gallery where his art was displayed. At first he ignored him, dismissing the recommendation by saying he didn’t know anything about property and had neither the time nor money to get fully involved.
But one evening, having nothing better to do, Rob listened and went to a local property meeting. There he met Mark Homer, who later became his business partner.
Rob was able to wrangle a job sourcing property for a company, earning commission on top of a minimal wage. With no experience, he read a bunch of books to learn the skills he needed, and managed to sell some property deals alongside selling his art.
That meant he had enough money to start a company, Progressive Property, with Mark, who had relatives the duo could borrow money from for property deposits.
One year on, Mark and Rob had 20 properties. Rob had not only managed to clear his debt but was also earning six figures.
That’s a speedy journey, but Rob is keen to emphasise it took a lot of hard work.
‘I was motivated and desperate and hungry to succeed,’ he explains. ‘I felt like my whole life had been gearing up to this point. You can get a lot done in a short period of time. If you put the work in and work smart and if you really want it it is achievable.
‘I had to work really really hard to clear my debt. I had to learn sales and marketing and educate myself instead of just avoiding them.
‘I had to embrace collaborations and listen. I learnt not to hide from rejection. I put in ridiculous hours and spent the time working on the right tasks and important tasks, the income-generating tasks. I became more productive. I virtually gave up my social life but I really didn’t mind as I knew it wouldn’t be forever.
‘I didn’t have kids or a wife at the time so they seemed like small sacrifices to make. I avoided spending money and only purchased necessities and never on an impulse buy.’
With a strict budgeting plan and a massive increase in income, Rob was able to pay off his debts. Once those repayments were cleared, he could just earn money without the fear and guilt of owing anything.
His early experience of debt and his sudden success pushed Rob to look more deeply into the subjects of earning and saving money.
He read ’40 to 50 books’ in that first year and went on some courses alongside earning money through his business, leading him to eventually write eight books to share all he’d learned and to start his own podcast, The Disruptive Entrepreneur.
He also does public speaking engagements to guide people through similar financial journeys.
Rob says the secret to achieving similar levels of financial success is actually down to one simple lesson: ‘Never spend more than you earn’.
Once you’ve learned that, you’ll avoid going into debt and can start using your money more wisely.
Rob's ten steps for getting out of debt:
Basically, the first step is to figure out how much you are spending and then figure out ways you can cut that down.
Identify Fixed Costs and Variable Costs
Fixed costs are things like your mortgage/rent, necessities and direct debits.
You need to figure out the difference between what you actually need and what you want. You need somewhere to live and food to eat but you want a holiday.
Get rid of a lot of your variable costs
Once you have figured out these costs, cut back on them. You can reduce variable costs like socialising and travel.
Rob recommends setting a target time of one, three or six months and agreeing to not have any non-necessity spending in that time.
Cancel all the direct debits you don’t need
Rob says that instead of the gym you can try doing workouts at home from Youtube.
Stop spending money on coffee and lunch every day and reduce socialising costs. You could pay for Netflix for £7.99 and watch movies there rather than going to the cinema.
Set a specific monthly budget
No matter what you earn, you need to figure out what you can really afford to spend each month.
Rob recommends setting up a direct debit to a separate bank account, where all your bills can be paid from, and then another for a savings accounts. Take whatever is left out in cash for that week and don’t spend more than that.
Target the day where you get to zero
Set a deadline for when you pay off your debt. That could be a few months or years but have something to focus on. Put it in your calendar.
Only buy stuff you need
You do need to buy stuff sometimes but wait for sales and buy in a little bit of bulk to store it. Obviously you need to be careful that a deal is as good as it seems but if it is, stock up.
Sell stuff you don’t use
Use eBay, Gumtree, Etsy, Shopify, Amazon and Facebook to sell the things you need. Rob recommends going round your house every three months and having a clear out.
Pick up some short term overtime if you can. A few hours occasionally is doable and it could make a big difference to your debt.
Learn to sell
Rob’s final tip is to learn how to sell something – whether that is a product you believe in or just selling yourself to get a pay rise. He recommends focusing on building a brand and getting good at marketing.
He adds: ‘The second thing is to preserve capital at all costs, so lumps of cash that you earn, preserve it, save it and don’t spend it.
‘Take that capital and invest into assets you can earn from. Many assets will match your capital sometimes on a ratio of four or five to one. You can then leverage and get good debt on the capital and use this to invest into assets. What happens then is the assets produce the income and then you must then only spend the income. If you spend capital it’s gone and you’re screwed.’
Rob also advises against spending emotionally. Instead, think about your longterm goals and prioritise the vision you have for the future over your immediate wants.
Think about how Rob lived pretty miserably for those years he was paying off debt – going out for food, buying nice clothes, and all the fun stuff goes on the back burner when you know you have major debts to pay off. A year or so of little fun can mean financial security later.
‘I used to spend emotionally and would spend money to cheer myself up,’ Rob says. ‘I didn’t feel good about myself so would buy clothes to make myself feel better, spend money on expensive food or drink for a nice time.
‘I’ve learned not to buy there and then and not make a purchase on impulse, which is what I previously did.’
Personal finances and budgeting (still) aren’t something we learn about at school, so it’s no wonder so many of us end up in damaging cycles of spending and debt – or simply feel clueless about what we’re supposed to be doing with our money.
While we wait around for a more widespread change, Rob is keen to spread the lessons he’s learned far and wide – and that means talking openly about money.
He tells us: ‘I really do believe that as soon as you learn something and master it, not only is it fun to teach, it’s humanity’s obligation to pass on to others.’
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.
Anna Maria Szalay was studying for her university exams, as well as working a part-time job and finishing up her coursework.
She thought that was the reason she was always tired. But just a few months later, she was told that it was actually because she had ovarian cancer at just 19.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘The symptoms of ovarian cancer aren’t very well known so I never thought about anything like that. I thought it was just university stress.’
Anna Maria was in the second year of her law degree at Oxford Brookes University when started feeling unwell around September 2017 – but with so much going on, she initially put off going to the doctor, thinking it was nothing serious.
In December, as she started to feel worse, she went to see her GP but it took three visits before she was referred on – something that is common with ovarian cancer symptoms.
Ovarian Cancer Action found that on average it takes a woman eight visits to the GP to be diagnosed.
It was particularly difficult for Anna Maria because of her age – according to Cancer Research, just two in 100,000 people between the ages of 15 and 19 are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.
Anna Maria says: ‘I was brushed off numerous times. That’s common with lots of people but I think particularly because I was so young. It can spread quite quickly so it’s important that it is caught early.’
By then, Anna Maria also had persistent bloating, unexplained weight loss and a change in bowel movements but admits that she didn’t realise they were all things that show it could be ovarian cancer because they are symptoms for so many things.
The third GP she saw told her to trust her instincts that something was wrong because we know our bodies better than anyone.
She was referred for a blood test and scan, which showed that she had a mass on her ovary. Doctors told her that they thought it was cancerous but they wouldn’t know how advanced it was until she had surgery to remove it.
‘I knew something was wrong but I just didn’t ever think it would be cancer so it was a huge shock to the system,’ she says.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
The four main symptoms are:
Ovarian cancer symptoms might also include back pain, changes in bowel habits (going more often or a lot less), and extreme tiredness for no obvious reason.
‘The whole process between starting to experience symptoms and having surgery took less than six months so it just shows how quickly it can spread.’
She had the surgery on 22 January 2018 to remove it that they told her it was stage three.
Two weeks later, she had an intensive course of chemotherapy which led to complications.
Anna Maria added: ‘Chemotherapy was really tough. I developed sepsis and had blood clots and it was just really hard to go through.’
Cancer had a huge impact on Anna Maria’s life and because of the gruelling treatment, she was forced to withdraw from the university.
Before starting treatment she tried to talk to university staff about her options but says that she eventually felt she had no choice but to leave.
Anna Maria wanted to continue studying but with lots of medical treatment and the effects of treatment, it meant she had to miss classes.
She says: ‘My doctors told me that I wouldn’t be able to do this. I couldn’t have chemotherapy and keep studying.
‘I felt there wasn’t an awful lot of support and when I told them I wanted to withdraw, it was the same process as withdrawing to go on holiday.
‘The university said it was a personal choice for me to withdraw and I had to get my doctor to write a letter saying I didn’t choose it. It was really upsetting.’
But in May 2018, she had her last dose of chemotherapy. The treatment had been successful and she was now in remission.
She adds: ‘I do have that fear of it coming back. I have checkups every two months and the longer I stay in remission, the further apart those will get.’
Now doing better, Anna Maria reapplied for university after finishing treatment and decided to start at a new university, moving away from Oxford, where she had grown up and studied before cancer.
She says: ‘I decided I wanted to start afresh. I felt there wasn’t an awful lot of support before. For that reason, I wanted a fresh page in a new place after I finished treatment.’
She’s now studying law with business and management at the University of Sussex and says she is very happy there.
She adds: ‘There is an amazing support system in place here. I felt like it had lots of reminders of life before cancer so I wanted to go somewhere new.
‘Now I am enjoying having a normal life again.’
Anna is speaking out as part of an Ovarian Cancer Action campaign to raise awareness and fund research.
The campaign is centred around a video with the voice of Kate Winslet, who lost her mum to the disease in 2017.
The video, with music by Birdy, aims to encourage women to trust their instincts and to go to the GP if they worry that something is wrong.
It highlights that one woman dies of ovarian cancer every two hours in the UK.
Anna Maria adds: ‘There is so little awareness for ovarian cancer. We need more research, prevention and treatment.
‘Many GPs are amazing but ovarian cancer is being misdiagnosed as less serious conditions so I want women, their families and their doctors to know and understand the symptoms.
‘If you are worried, don’t be scared to go to the doctor and say that it is an issue.’
Cary Wakefield, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Action, said: ‘For many years ovarian cancer has been overlooked and underfunded. It’s a cancer that takes the life of a woman every two hours here in the UK, and early diagnosis can be the difference between life and death.
‘Today less than a third of women are diagnosed before their cancer spreads, where treatment becomes harder and chance of survival becomes low. But we can change this. Investing in research now could produce a reliable screening tool, better treatments, and will transform the lives of the next generation. If we act now, they will survive.’
Addressing Anna Maria’s concerns about withdrawing from the university, a spokesperson for Oxford Brookes said: ‘While the university will not comment on individual cases, the wellbeing and care of our students is of utmost importance and we are committed to offering a range of support and services.
‘The University’s Exceptional Circumstances Policy is designed to ensure that students are not unfairly disadvantaged when experiencing circumstances beyond their control.
‘Any student experiencing difficulties also has access to support which includes Wellbeing services, Student Support Coordinators, Academic Advisers, and the Students’ Union Advice Service.
‘The University has a range of flexible study options for students experiencing exceptional circumstances. These options can range from the implementation of adjustments for the student, through to temporary withdrawal of studies.’
Anna Maria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 19