Channel: Lifestyle – Metro
Browsing All 44828 Browse Latest View Live
Mark channel Not-Safe-For-Work? cancel confirm NSFW Votes: (0 votes)
Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel.

Disabled people should have the right to travel freely and spontaneously, just like everyone else

I, along with many other disability activists, am constantly campaigning for inclusion (Photo: Tim Whitby/Getty Images for Right to Play)

When transport is accessible to everyone, we see a more interconnected country with fewer cases of isolation among our citizens. This is crucial to a happy and health society, and the UK’s railway system is supposed to help us achieve this.

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 1970, file photo, newly appointed United Nations Ambassador George H. Bush smiles. Bush has died at age 94. Family spokesman Jim McGrath says Bush died shortly after 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara Bush. (AP Photo/John Duricka, File)17 George Bush Senior quotes as the former president passes away at 94

But figures released this week show that 40% of all British train stations – more than 1,000 – are essentially barring disabled people from being able to travel alone due to a failure to make them accessible.

Lack of step-free access for example makes stations physically impossible for me and many other disabled people to use, especially wheelchair and mobility scooter users.

These issues need to be urgently addressed, but the problem goes beyond just the physically barriers – the emotional impact of inaccessibility is often overlooked.

Disabled people end up feeling isolated and forgotten as entire areas are completely off limits to them. This makes many people less likely to want to use public transport – even when it is physically possible.

I, along with many other disability activists, am constantly campaigning for inclusion. We are often faced with responses that seem to suggest we are a group of whiners and grunters. Yet these figure show the reality of the country we live in, and how overlooked the disabled community is. With time, I have come to the realisation that disability is not the problem; the lack of support and accessibility is the real issue.

After years of negative experiences, I find myself filled with anxiety and panic over getting to appointments late or having to cancel meetings at the last minute. During rush hour I seem to become invisible to other travelers trying to fight to board trains and buses – meaning I have to organise my day around when I can actually use the transport network.

A few months ago, a friend who is also a wheelchair user and I decided to use the underground to go and meet friends for a meal. But even though the signs indicated there was a lift at the end of our journey, when we got there we found out it had been out of operation for months. We had to scramble to find an alternative route which had step-free access which is never straightforward. We ended up being four hours late.

As a wheelchair user, I have to rely on staff assistance to provide ramps to get on and off a train. Recently, on my return home from watching athletics at the Queen Elizabeth stadium, there was no one available to assist me. Fellow passengers offered to lift me on to the train, but even that was impossible because I needed staff to phone ahead to alert them the other end – if there was no ramp available there, I wouldn’t be able to disembark.

My alternative is to try to use the accessible buses, but so many times a driver has chosen to leave me at a bus stop – presumably because the wheelchair space on board is already occupied by a buggy.

Even taxis aren’t reliable: in the past I have been ignored by drivers and watched in despair and frustration when the same taxi stopped to pick up the person at the corner of the next building. Presumably it’s more convenient for the driver because they didn’t need to put out a ramp.

Despite this, I do usually have to resort to using taxis to get across London because using public transport is even more stressful and unpredictable. This is a huge financial burden that many disabled people with lower incomes would not be able to undertake.

Many disabled people can’t just simply get in a car or take a train like non-disabled people can, so a lack of proper services at railways can prevent us from visiting family or attending holidays and events. Even stations that do offer these services require us to book assistance up to 24 hours in advance.

This is particularly relevant this time of year, when many of us have a number of festive events to attend and families to visit. Having to plan all of your trips days – sometimes weeks – in advance to avoid inaccessible stations creates even more barriers, making the journeys longer and more expensive. Many disabled people, in particular older people, will spend Christmas alone because visiting family will not be an option.

I will continue to campaign for accessible transport and alongside Transport For All and other campaigners. We want every station to have specialist staff, from the first train to the last, and step-free access at every station. Station design improvements should consult and engage with disabled people from the outset to ensure that the design is accessible before work begins.

This is not impossible and it’s clear something must be done. Disabled people should have the right to travel freely and spontaneously, just like everyone else can.

MORE: I’m a single mum waiting for Universal Credit. The last time I was this scared I was in labour

MORE: Racism starts when schoolyard ‘jokes’ are left unchallenged

MORE: Foodbanks rely on the kindness of strangers at Christmas, but we shouldn’t have to

In times of division, Knickers the big cow is desperately what we need

(Picture: Channel 7’s Today Tonight via AP)

Knickers is a very large cow.

Yes, I do know he’s technically a steer.

But that’s not all he is.

He’s our saviour in troubled times, an icon of hope, a unifying force.

He is so desperately needed right now.

It doesn’t matter your political persuasion, your views on Brexit, or even your opinions on the thank u, next video (if your opinion isn’t ‘this is incredible’, you are wrong). No matter who you are, you can look upon Knickers and be struck by one thought: That is a very big cow.

Some – *cough* Washington Post *cough* – may try to tear down this fact with facts of their own, but they will be swiftly corrected.

It doesn’t matter what breed of cow Knickers is next to, or how tall he is compared to the largest steer in the world (he’s 8cm shorter, if you’re wondering), you cannot argue that he is not very, very large.

Look at him. He’s big and he’s a cow!

Knickers is the hero we need right now because we’re in a time of division.

The internet can be a miserable place.

Take a scroll through Twitter and you’ll find bleak news alerts about Trump and Theresa, hot takes designed to piss people off or declare that actually, the thing you thought is good is actually bad, and snarky arguments about whether someone is conveying their view in the correct way.

It’s peppered with memes and jokes that are inevitably taken too far and called out for prejudice. That Spongebob meme is actually ableist, sorry. Your ‘video killed the radio star’ picture is insensitive to the complexities of suicide. Turns out that feminist icon from the viral video you’ve been sharing is a racist transphobe.

Knickers the big cow is the antidote to that despair.

He’s politically neutral. He cannot be declared as ‘actually bad’ or ‘fake news’ because it is an undeniable fact that he is large. He won’t get milkshake duck-ed because he is a cow.

The only backlash there can be to Knickers is ‘here is a bigger cow’, which is a wonderful argument to get into. Imagine an internet filled not with squabbles over everything from whether it’s wrong to kiss your child on the lips to the plastic straw ban, but simply people sharing progressively larger cows.

Knickers has even inspired a trickle down interest into regular sized cows. I’ve spotted multiple social media posts appreciating highland cows, show cows, and just plain old normal cows. It’s lovely.

Our love for Knickers is pure and cannot be muddied. In a time when we are so divided and ready to bristle against each other, we needed something we could collectively marvel at, something as unobjectable as a large cow.

Knickers has provided days of internet fodder. He’s provided a small talk subject for a trip to the pub, finally giving people who don’t enjoy football a topic to bridge the gap with coworkers with whom they have nothing in common.

His appeal crosses boundaries of age and culture and gender. You can bring a picture up of Knickers to show your nan, and you know she’ll think: ‘that’s a big cow’. The UN could meet and interrupt all the debate by putting Knickers on the agenda – everyone would agree: ‘that’s a big cow’.

Our cultural attention span is short, especially on the internet, and Knickers’ big moment can’t last forever.

A few days will pass and we’ll have moved on from surgeries on grapes to big cows to whatever the next wondrous thing to provide meme opportunities could be.

But this brief moment in history, when we could come together to acknowledge the existence of a big cow, will live on forever in our hearts.

We’ll enjoy that tiny bit of stress reduction that came from escaping the news cycle. We’ll enjoy the bonds between our fellow humans, strengthened by our shared experience of seeing an extremely large cow.

Years from now, someone will tweet: ‘Remember when the news was just: here’s a big cow?’ and we will look back and feel warm inside.

Perhaps one day there will be a large sheep, or a big chicken, or a very small hippopotamus, and we’ll recapture this feeling.

But today, let us just take a moment to be grateful for the existence of Knickers. He is a very large cow. We love him. And we’re so glad he arrived just when we needed him.

MORE: Cuffing season is cancelled, now’s the time to date yourself

MORE: Skai Jackson’s image is being used to sell fried chicken in London and she wants a cut

A professor declared that we should only have six chips in one sitting

(Picture: Getty)

Sometimes the science is wrong.

Not inaccurate, to be clear. Just wrong. Harmful to the soul.

That is the case with this professor’s suggestion that we should only eat six chips in one sitting.

He’s got a point, but we’d much rather put our fingers in our ears and sing la, la, la to drown that point out.

Professor Eric Rimm, from Harvard University’s nutrition department, says that chips are ‘starch bombs’ and that we should limit ourselves to six in a serving if we want to avoid heart disease.

Speaking to the New York Times, Professor Rimm commented: ‘I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries.’

‘Nice’, he said.

Six French fries would be ‘nice’. Sure.

This suggestion follows research that suggested those who avoid chips entirely live six months longer on average, and that people who ate chips two or three times a week had higher risks of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

So Professor Rimm is actually looking out for our health and all, which is ‘nice’. But that doesn’t mean anyone appreciates his advice.

He adds that we should track how we feel after eating chips, noting that this may change our eating habits.

Perhaps. It makes sense to limit foods that make us feel rubbish.

But at the same time, chips are glorious things. They can be a religious experience.

Good luck to any restaurant who delivers a plate of just six chips with a burger. You can expect a riot.

MORE: Deliveroo creates house made entirely out of food – with curry fireplace and Yorkshire pudding garden

MORE: Woman’s partner drinks her menstrual cup water by mistake (and doesn’t know it)

Stop what you’re doing and look at these adorable dog breeds on Instagram

(Picture: Getty)

We can all agree that dogs are majestic creatures that should be worshipped. And what better way to do so, than to share a pic of your beloved pooch on Instagram?

Sorry, #Dogstagram.

While all dogs are equally lovable, there are some breeds that are more popular than others.

Take a break from whatever you’re doing, sit down and prepare to be bowled over by the beauty that is dogs, as we present the most Instagrammed dog breeds in 2018.

1. French Bulldog – shared in 39.2million posts

Instagram Photo

2. Pug – shared in 29.3million posts

Instagram Photo

3. Chihuahua – shared in 27.6million posts

Instagram Photo

4. English Bulldog – shared in 24.6million posts

Instagram Photo

5. Labrador Retriever – shared in 19.1million posts

Instagram Photo

6. Golden Retriever – shared in 18.6million posts

Instagram Photo

7. Siberian Husky – shared in 17.8million posts

Instagram Photo

8. Dachshund – shared in 17.1million posts

Instagram Photo

9. Pomeranian – shared in 15.5million posts

Instagram Photo

10. Yorkshire Terrier – shared in 14.8million posts

Instagram Photo

MORE: Women sleep better with a dog in the bed, researchers say

MORE: Why does my dog shake?

MORE: Here’s why conkers are dangerous for your dog

This is what it’s like to date after having cancer

Dating after cancer with a stoma Metro illustrations (Picture: Dave Anderson/ Metro.co.uk) Owner Metro_co_uk Local Feed Properties rgb, JPEG, 1.9M (19.5M), 3600w x 1890h, 144 x 144 dpi Copyright (Picture: Dave Anderson/ Metro.co.uk)
‘Over cocktails, Eddie told me about his family, and my stoma responded with a concerto of explosive fart noises.’ (Picture: Dave Anderson/ Metro.co.uk)

We’re often told that romantic relationships move in ‘stages’.

You start off casually dating. If that goes well, you might agree to move to the next stage of being ‘exclusive’.

A toothbrush left at the other one’s place signifies you are ‘serious’. You move in together, you consider getting hitched. It’s a template we’re all familiar with.

But at what stage do you tell someone that you’ve had cancer?

This question has been bugging me since being diagnosed with bowel cancer in February.  A few major surgeries and six months of fatiguing chemotherapy later, I am in recovery.

And I’m returning to the goals I had prior to becoming ill.

Before cancer put my schedule out of whack, I had been planning to take a lover.  I’d had my fun over five years as a singleton – it was time to find someone with whom to trawl Ikea on a Saturday and argue about bath mats.

So in June I decided to ‘get back out there’.  Installed Bumble.  Asked mates to match-make me.  Learnt to contour.

A few months later, I am here to tell you what I have learnt.

If the ads on telly are true, then surviving cancer is supposed to leave you with a war-weary-but-invigorated zeal and a knowing twinkle in your eye.

My cancer left me overweight, covered in scars, and worst, with a stoma – a stoma is a bit of intestine that pokes out of your belly.  My intestines have been rearranged to allow healing where the tumour was removed, and waste is collected in a colostomy bag.

I call my bag ‘Gillian McKeith’.

Prior to my date with Eddie, I had told him about the cancer but not about Gillian.  I soon discovered the problem with this plan.

Without the requisite sphincter muscle, the hole in your belly can sometimes…. fart.

Over cocktails, Eddie told me about his family, and my guts responded with a concerto of explosive fart noises.  Dates should have a backing track of romantic smooth jazz, maybe Ed Sheeran.  If you’re very unlucky James Blunt.  Not flatulence.

To his credit, Eddie pretended not to hear, we cracked on with the date as if nothing was happening and then never contacted each other again.

Lesson learnt: all cards on the table ahead of time.

Your body changes with cancer – it’s unavoidable.  But these are your war wounds, there’s no cause for embarrassment.  I added the words ‘cancer survivor’ to my dating profile after this in order to get a bit of the explaining done ahead of time.

It was also an experiment – would I become less popular on the app as a result?  I’m pleased to report there was no downturn in my ‘match rate’.

Next, I tried Patrick.  I was late to our date owing to fatigue.  Patrick made a joke about how I was fatigued from energetic sex.

This was how I discovered I don’t find fatigue jokes very funny.  It’s a side effect from chemo and it turns out I’m quite sensitive about that.

I called the date short after an hour, using the tiredness as an excuse, and had a great time catching up on Doctor Who instead.  Patrick and I never contacted each other again.

Lesson learnt: fatigue can be a bit of a bummer, but flipside: it’s a perfect excuse if a date isn’t going well.  Use it.

My third attempt was with Pete.

Pete had questions.  He was curious about my treatment, what the future held for me and my prognosis. This set alarm bells ringing.

London daters are discerning.  They treat dating like consumers, with their Bumble or Tinder apps sitting a few icons up on their phones from Deliveroo, or eBay.

If they’re looking for a lasting relationship, they might consider someone whose long-term health is compromised to be a 3-star candidate, and keep swiping til they’ve found someone 5-star.

But here was my final lesson:  all these thoughts were mine, not Pete’s.

It turned out his mum was a cancer survivor, and his questions came from a place of kindness and shared experience.

So the lesson here was: more people have been touched by cancer than you realise.

I’ve set up a second date with Pete.

For information and advice on cancer visit www.macmillan.org.uk or call 0808 808 00 00

MORE: I wasn’t told what stage my cancer was, I was told the code T3 N2 M0. I had no idea what that meant

MORE: The trials and tribulations of losing a testicle

MORE: What it’s like to be in a sexless relationship in your twenties

Welcome the festive season with the bauble bum trend

bauble bum
(Picture: GoGetGlitter)

It’s finally December, and thus you have permission to put up your tree, blast Ariana’s Christmas & Chill, and open that box of mince pies.

But to truly mark the festive season, there’s one thing you must do: Embrace the bauble bum trend.

Because if your butt isn’t covered in glitter and face paint, you’re doing Christmas wrong.

From Go Get Glitter, the same people who brought us pudding boobs, as well as pumpkin butts for Halloween, the bauble bum trend is fairly self-explanatory.

No, you don’t need to find a way to attach baubles to your buttocks. Instead you use a load of glitter to turn your bum into a giant bauble.

Why not?

Instagram Photo

Make sure to include the gold top so you don’t make your bum look like a juicy red apple, and feel free to change up the colour to match your tree’s scheme.

To show off your masterpiece you will need to cut a whole in your jeans, but we’re sure it’s worth it.

Don’t panic if bauble bums aren’t quite your thing, though.

You could also try…

The bauble bump

Instagram Photo

For pregnant people and food babies – turn your belly into a bauble either with the same technique as above or a decorated T-shirt.


The bauble beard

Instagram Photo

Nestle some mini baubles in your facial hair.


Bauble brows

Instagram Photo

You’ll need a steady hand for this one.

Paint teeny-tiny glittery baubles to dangle from your brows.

The bauble nose

Instagram Photo

This one hasn’t picked up massively yet, but we predict it could be BIG.

Use face paint or makeup to turn your nose into a bauble in the middle of your face. Splendid.


Bauble balls

Weirdly we can’t find any photos of people trying this look.

Paint your testicles to look like two jolly baubles hanging under your (Christmas) tree.

MORE: These are the most popular baby names of 2018

MORE: Real life Disney princess creates Beauty and the Beast-inspired Christmas tree

MORE: How to get a letter from Father Christmas through the Royal Mail

Emergency services dispatcher shares emotional essay about what she does

Just a dispatcher essay
(Picture: Lynette McManus Jeter)

A 911 dispatcher has shared an emotional post about what it means to do what can be a challenging job.

Emergency services dispatchers are the people who answer calls to 999 (or 911 in the United States). They’re in charge of getting all the information needed to get the caller the proper help.

A dispatcher has to deal with life-or-death emergencies on a daily basis.

They’ll take calls from people who have attempted suicide, children whose parents have fallen and won’t get up, and provide advice and guidance to those in critical condition.

It’s an incredibly difficult job that can cause serious distress.

And yet, some people think of these everyday heroes as ‘just’ the people who take the calls.

Lynette McManus Jeter wants to challenge that. She posted an emotional essay about what it’s really like to do her job, to correct anyone who thinks she’s ‘just a dispatcher’.

‘I am the person who listens to you cry as you’re begging your mother to take another breath,’ writes Lynette.

‘I am the person who tries to get you to give your father CPR knowing that he has passed but, in some way, may help you to know you did everything that you could.

‘I am the person who walks you thru the Heimlich maneuver while your child is choking on a toy.

Lynette McManus Jeter https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2540623659289059&set=a.213966675288114&type=3&theater
(Picture: Lynette McManus Jeter)

‘I am the person who convinces you that life is worth living and that your family needs you here when you think that all hope is gone.

‘I am the person who leaves my family, my home, and put my own life in danger during snow, hurricanes and bad weather so that I may be here to answer your emergency.

‘I am simply “Just A Dispatcher” in most eyes.’

Lynette goes on to explain that being a dispatcher isn’t just what she does, but who she is, and it affects every part of her life.

‘To my family and friends please understand that when I’m short tempered or impatient it’s not you, it’s the weight of my job that may have taken a toll that day,’ she writes. ‘Instead of bringing it home I choose to keep it bottled up to protect you from the reality of the world in which we live.

‘To my kids please understand when I’m strict and paranoid wanting to track your every movement it’s because I know that a child didn’t make it home to their family that day.

‘To my mother please forgive me for not having the patience to always sit thru your entire conversation, it’s only because I’m trained to get all pertinent information within a certain amount of time. So, I don’t have the patience that I used to.

‘To my friends please understand when I can’t show up for every birthday or event you may have invited me to. Or the times we aren’t able to talk on the phone to catch up, it may be because I may be working or too mentally drained to be there.’

She ends on a reminder that even though the people who call 911 or 999 may never meet the person they talk to over the phone, they have to remember the difference they’ve made.

‘To the thousand of callers that I speak to that think that I’m “Just a Dispatcher” remember that I may not be the first to arrive at your house but I’m the first person that you may speak to on possibly one of the worse days of your life.’

Lynette’s Facebook post has been shared more than 12,000 times, and flooded with comments from people calling her a ‘hero’.

‘Thank you for being a first responder,’ wrote one commenter. ‘Everyone has a part to play and yours is typically the first one that sets the stage to the end of the story you are important and appreciated.’

MORE: Sepsis survivors open up about what it’s like to nearly die

MORE: Woman with ovarian cyst the size of seven newborn babies thought she was ‘just fat’

There are some seriously scary risks involved in penis enlargement methods

(Picture: Getty)

It might not be that surprising, but having surgery on your penis poses some serious risks.

All surgery has a risk, to be fair.

But the particular complications of penis enlargement treatments are especially scary.

A team of researchers had a look at 11 patients between the ages of 21 and 77 who had suffered complications in penis enlarging procedures performed before 2016.

They found a long list of complications that can arise from penis enlargement treatments that are often considered fairly safe, such as injectables and implants.

Those complications included penile skin gangrene, penile shaft swelling and deformity, severe swelling of the scrotum, ulcers on the shaft, and severe shortening.

Most of the patients required corrective surgery, which included areas of the penis being split or stripped away.

In one case, a 48-year-old man had fat injected under the skin on his penis, which caused swelling so severe his penis looked like a potato. To correct this the skin had to be sliced below the head and the skin peeled back like a banana so the fat could be removed.

Another patient had silicone injections in his penis, which led to severe swelling of his scrotum. This forced his penis to become buried beneath a layer of skin.

One patient developed an infection that led to one of his testicles being surgically removed.

(Picture: Getty)

Four of the men surveyed had performed the enlargement procedures themselves, either for aesthetic or sexual reasons, and injected themselves with silicone, saline, fat, or soft tissue.

The authors wrote in their study: ‘Penile enlargement surgeries are often promoted and presented as safe with minimal risks, yet we have seen the risks are significant.’

What’s worrying is why these men are opting for penis enlargement treatments.

Researchers note that ‘most patients who seek penile augmentation have normal penile length and anatomy’. So it’s not that these are men feeling insecure about penises that are below the average size, but that cultural expectations have made the average feel like not enough.

One unnamed clinic said that over a two-year period, every man who asked about a penile enlargement procedure had an entirely normal penis.

What does that say about the pressure we’re placing on men to have massive schlongs?

‘Most men seeking penile lengthening surgery overestimate normal penile length. In some cases, patients may benefit from psychotherapy,’ say the researchers.

‘Instead of risking the potentially detrimental complications of penile enhancement surgery, men with normal penile size and anatomy may experience benefit from less risky alternatives.

‘There is a very real potential for devastating and long-lasting complications.’

MORE: Why treatment for male infertility is failing both men and women

MORE: The trials and tribulations of losing a testicle

MORE: Men are injecting fillers into their scrotums to get bigger balls

Couple build 8ft advent calendar made with 450,000 Lego bricks

Two meter high Lego Advent calendar built by Huntingdon couple Mike and Catherine. Mike Addis age 60 and Catherine Weightman age 55 from Huntingdon have been building Lego constructions for Christmas for the past 25 years this year they have constructed a two meter high Advent calendar and behind every set of doors there is a Christmassy scene made from lego. See SWNS story SWCAadvent.
(Picture: SWNS.com/James Linsell-Clark)

Anyone who’s ever tried to build a Lego replica of anything will know how tedious it can be to keep track of all the little pieces.

But, for one lego-obsessed couple in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, building with Lego isn’t a mere hobby, but an art form that requires real dedication.

Mike Addis, 60, and his wife Catherine Weightman, 55, have built an 8ft tall Christmas advent calendar, painstakingly created with 450,000 bricks.

It’s so big that the top of the calendar nearly reaches the couple’s living room ceiling.

It contains 24 numbered windows, each the size of a shoebox and with a theatrical scene within.

Mike Addis and wife Catherine Weightman with their two meter high Lego Advent Calander. Mike Addis age 60 and Catherine Weightman age 55 from Huntingdon have been building Lego constructions for Christmas for the past 25 years this year they have constructed a two meter high Advent calendar and behind every set of doors there is a Christmassy scene made from lego. See SWNS story SWCAadvent.
(Picture: SWNS.com/James Linsell-Clark)

The attention to detail is exceptional; behind one window you can find a kitchen with miniature stockings hanging from a roaring fire, while in another elves are loading presents onto Santa’s sleigh.

Elsewhere, a man is building a collection of snowmen.

Other scenes include Christmas dinners, ginger bread houses, a snowman, soldiers, and an appearance of Santa Claus, of course.

Mike Addis from Huntingdon with his two meter high Lego Advent Calander. Mike Addis age 60 and Catherine Weightman age 55 from Huntingdon have been building Lego constructions for Christmas for the past 25 years this year they have constructed a two meter high Advent calendar and behind every set of doors there is a Christmassy scene made from lego. See SWNS story SWCAadvent.
(Picture: SWNS.com/James Linsell-Clark)
The Three wise men can be found behind door number 3. Mike Addis age 60 and Catherine Weightman age 55 from Huntingdon have been building Lego constructions for Christmas for the past 25 years this year they have constructed a two meter high Advent calendar and behind every set of doors there is a Christmassy scene made from lego. See SWNS story SWCAadvent.
(Picture: SWNS.com/James Linsell-Clark)
Behined door number 4 is a Lego Christmas pudding mince pies and Christmas cake. Mike Addis age 60 and Catherine Weightman age 55 from Huntingdon have been building Lego constructions for Christmas for the past 25 years this year they have constructed a two meter high Advent calendar and behind every set of doors there is a Christmassy scene made from lego. See SWNS story SWCAadvent.
(Picture: SWNS.com/James Linsell-Clark)

There’s also a miniature Lego replica of Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting Girl with a Pearl Earring, placed above a mantelpiece.

The advent calendar is the biggest sculpture the couple have built to date.

During the last 26 years, they have created a five-storey Victorian dollhouse, Christmas-themed Daleks, a polar bear, Olympic mascots, angels and a cathedral.

The pair, who have three now grown-up children, continued the Christmas tradition after their kids became ‘too embarrassed’ to join in.

Two meter high Lego Advent calendar built by Huntingdon couple Mike and Catherine. Mike Addis age 60 and Catherine Weightman age 55 from Huntingdon have been building Lego constructions for Christmas for the past 25 years this year they have constructed a two meter high Advent calendar and behind every set of doors there is a Christmassy scene made from lego. See SWNS story SWCAadvent.
(Picture: SWNS.com/James Linsell-Clark)

Last year, the couple also raised £4,000 for environmental charities by running Lego competitions and making a giant 3D Lego map of the Great Fen nature reserve project.

Overall, the hobby has cost them almost £50,000.

And you thought the £10 you spent on a luxurious chocolate calendar was pricey.

MORE: My odd job: To work at Lego, you have to be good at keeping secrets

MORE: Welcome the festive season with the bauble bum trend

MORE: The best vegan advent calendars – where to get them, what’s inside and how much they cost

What is Destroy Your Dick December?

(Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Happy 1 December, one and all.

Today is not just a momentous occasion for fans of Christmas music and anyone in possession of an advent calendar, but for all who partook in No Nut November.

Yes, today marks the end of a month spent with no orgasms – neither through sex with another person nor masturbation.

But every end is just a new beginning, and in the case of the end of No Nut November, that beginning is Destroy Your Dick December.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to have successfully completed No Nut November to get involved. There is no official governing body of penis-related challenges, and even if there were, unlike Father Christmas they could not see you when you’re sleeping or know when you’re awake.

The uninitiated may be wondering: What is Destroy Your Dick December?

Do not worry, sweet angels, for we are here to explain.

Like No Nut November, Destroy Your Dick December is a month-long challenge related to orgasms of the penis persuasion.

Unlike No Nut November, it is not about restriction or the avoidance of temptation.

Instead it is about abundance and celebration.

Destroy Your Dick December is like the mashup of an advent calendar and the song Twelve Days of Christmas, in that there’s a daily treat, but each day you have to repeat what you enjoyed the previous day.

By which we mean this: On the first day of December you masturbate to completion once, on the second you masturbate twice, on the third you masturbate three times, and so on and so forth.

Winter penis
(Picture: Getty)

That means that on Christmas day, you will be required to orgasm 25 times in one day (although some guides say that on Christmas you get a day off). On New Year’s Eve you might need to skip the party so you can get in 31 wanks.

We warned you it would be a challenge.

There doesn’t appear to be a deeper meaning or purpose to Destroy Your Dick December – it simply exists to balance out the restraint of No Nut November and add some festive sparkle to your masturbation plans.

It’s worth noting, however, that masturbating as much as 31 times a day really isn’t recommended.

Masturbating too much in a short period of time can cause a condition called oedema, caused by fluid in the tissues. That leads to swelling of the penis, which may not go down for a few days.

Masturbating frequently, in a rush, or too forcefully may also cause soreness and bruising, which seems likely if you’re trying to fit in multiple masturbation sessions in a day.

There’s also a worry over how partaking in such a challenge could affect you mentally.

While No Nut November is designed to tackle porn addiction, a challenge like Destroy Your Dick December encourages potentially unhealthy habits.

Sexual addiction is defined as when sexual urges and behaviours are done in excess and are significantly impacting one’s life in a negative way – and that applies to masturbation, too.

If you’re prioritising masturbation over all else, that’s a symptom of addictive behaviours.

The counselling service Relate says that the symptoms of sex addiction include:

  • Engaging in sexual behaviour that you feel is out of control.
  • Fearing that there may be serious consequences to your behaviour but carrying on with it anyway.
  • Regularly engaging in destructive or high-risk sexual activities.
  • Wanting to stop but not feeling able to.
  • Needing more sexual activity to achieve the same ‘high’.
  • Experiencing feelings of shame, regret or depression after sexual experiences, or intense mood swings around repeated sexual activity.
  • Spending more and more time planning, engaging in or recovering from sexual activities.
  • Prioritising sex over your social life, family life or work.

It’s also possible that masturbating so frequently over the period of a month could have a negative effect on your sexual relationship with others. A reliance on a tight grip can lead to difficulty achieving orgasm through penetration, while masturbating 20 times in a day is likely to reduce your ability to perform sexually with a partner.

Not to sound like a massive party pooper, but while Destroy Your Dick sounds hilarious, it’s not a wise idea to do it in real life.

Masturbation is a wonderful thing, and dedicating a whole month to its celebration is great, too.

But forcing yourself to masturbate up to 31 days – not a good plan.

Maybe we can take the standard advent calendar approach, and enjoy some festive masturbation once a day, every day in December. You could jazz things up by wearing a Santa’s hat, watching Christmas-themed porn, or putting your penis behind a door for yourself to discover.

Don’t destroy your dick this Christmas. Appreciate your dick responsibly. That’s the true spirit of Christmas, right?

MORE: There are some seriously scary risks involved in penis enlargement methods

MORE: People are truly baffled by this story about a man proposing by hiding a ring ‘in his penis’

MORE: How to do the crab sex position

People are fuming after discovering a Bounty behind the first door of their Celebrations advent calendars

Celebrations advent calendar sparks fury and calls that 'Christmas is cancelled' over what's behind door number 1
(Picture: Getty/Mars)

Look, we’re not going to start another argument about the best and worse chocolates in a tub of Celebrations.

Even if there’s an obvious answer.

What we can say, however, is that a lot of people aren’t particularly pleased to have opened the first door of their Celebrations advent calendar and found a Bounty bar.

Take a look over on Twitter and you’ll find disappointed chocolate fans declaring that Christmas is cancelled and it’s all Celebrations’ fault.

For some reason (perhaps because coconut chocolate isn’t very good?) people’s cheer at the start of the festive season is being ruined after they run to open their advent calendars and find only a Bounty inside.

But to match the outrage, there are a whole load of people calling for anyone chucking out their Bounty to send them over.

Yes, there are people in the world who love Bounty bars.

Before anyone rages too hard, we’d like to remind you that you have 24 days to enjoy all the eight different Celebrations chocolates.

Just hope and pray that the brand hasn’t pranked us all by putting a Bounty behind the door on Christmas Eve.

MORE: Couple build 8ft advent calendar made with 450,000 Lego bricks

MORE: The best vegan advent calendars – where to get them, what’s inside and how much they cost

From Christmas markets to rooftop ice skating – here are this season’s most festive experiences

Xmas pop-ups
(Picture: Instagram/Sipsmith/Biscuiteers/Winterville)

December has arrived, which means we’ve got the all clear to bombard you with all things Chrimbo.

Want to sit in an igloo and stare out at the Thames?

Pick up some baubles for the tree at a local Christmas market?

Create your very own festive wreath while you sip on gin cocktails?

Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, London is giving you an early present in the shape of pop-ups galore – and we’ve compiled a list of the best ones, of course.

Shop for trinkets at a Christmas market

(Picture: Getty)

For those not in the know, Battersea Park is home to a lovely little café known as Pear Tree, a regular haunt for both humans and dogs (they’re welcome inside). This year, the team have organised a Christmas market along with 50 vendors, who will be selling everything from artisan food and drink goodies, to luxury gifts.

Shop for seasonal trinkets and munch on mince pies, as carol singers provide the atmosphere.

The market opened today and will run tomorrow too, as well as next weekend.

Make your own wreath, drink gin and be merry

(Picture: Sipsmith)

A tipple helps the creativity, right? For £75, you can make your very own botanical wreath while drinking gin cocktails at Sipsmith popup.

It sounds fun, but the price only includes two cocktails – which doesn’t seem very festive to us.

Ice skate on a rooftop (just don’t fall off)

(Picture: Skylight London)

For the brave, there’s a rooftop ice skating rink known as Skylight at the Tobacco Docks, the only one of its kind in Europe, apparently. Which almost makes us wonder why no one else has done it until now.

There’s also igloos, huts, cocktails, street food and fondue.

Cosy up in a winter chalet and drink boozy hot chocolate

Instagram Photo

King’s Road is good for more than luxurious shopping and filming Made in Chelsea.

The well-known Blue Bird restaurant has transformed its garden into its very own version of Narnia. Step through a wardrobe, and enter an winter wonderland, complete with three large winter chalets, wreaths, twinkling lights, fur rugs, and frosted firs.

There’s not much in the way of entertainment, but it’s a good option for drinks or dinner, with new seasonal menus for both.

Take a tour of the city’s twinkling lights

(Picture: Dave Benett/Getty)

Not all pop-ups stand still. If you’ve got 45 minutes to kill, why not do it on a double-decker whizzing past the most beautiful light displays in the city?

The bus’ll take you on a (pretty short) journey from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Street, and down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus and Hamley’s toy shop.

You get a complimentary Santa hat, too.

Have dinner in an igloo overlooking the Thames

Over by Tower Bridge, soak up the festive season inside an igloo.

That’s right, your very own Christmas-themed plastic bubble, overlooking the river. It’s particularly beautiful at night, when you can see the stars up-ahead, too.

The price isn’t too bad either, with a traditional three-course Christmas feast at £34.95.

Master the art of icing a biscuit

(Picture: Biscuiteers)

Want to take your gingerbread game to the next level?

Learn how to master the art of icing a biscuit; drizzle the white frosting in the shape of trees, Santa hats and little stars at the Biscuiteers icing café in Clapham Junction or Notting Hill.

If you’d rather eat cakes than make your own, there’s always the option of trying their Christmas-themed afternoon tea.

Watch a Christmas classic in a snowy cinema

(Picture: Winterville)

Dubbed the ‘alternative festive experience’, Winterville is very much like Winter Wonderland, minus the pushy tourists and queues.

Yes, it’s not as glamorous and there’s not as much on offer, but what the event does have that its counterpart doesn’t, is a cinema.

Plonk yourself on a comfy bean bag and watch classics like Cool Runnings, Bad Santa, Elf and The Holiday. There are still a few tickets up for grabs, but mostly in the daytime.

You could also check out the rest of the fairground, which includes a street food market, rides and lots of entertainment.

MORE: Welcome the festive season with the bauble bum trend

MORE: Where to buy the best cheap Christmas jumpers this year

MORE: Lidl is selling its first ever, very real Christmas trees

World’s 50 best beaches in 2018 revealed

Beach in Varadero, Cuba.
(Picture: Aguru/Getty)

December has only just begun and we’re already dreaming of beach holidays in the sun.

But, where to go to for the best golden sand and glittering seas?

With the help of information from more than 1,200 travel journalists, editors, bloggers and agencies, Flight Network has ranked the world’s 50 best beaches – and each is a sight to behold.

This year’s winner is Navagio Beach in Greece, on the island of Zakynthos, known for the shipwreck found on its shores. Runner up is Whitehaven Beach on the popular Whitsunday island, Australia, followed by El Nido in the Philippines.

Out of the remaining beaches, sadly only one is located in the UK; more specifically Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, which came in at number 41 on the list.

The beach can be found on the north coast, near Bushmills, and has 40,000 basalt columns – a result of a volcanic eruption.

Navagio Beach, Greece

High angle view of Shipwreck beach (Navagio) ??n Zakynthos Greece ??n a beautiful summer day, Europe.
(Picture: Stefan Cristian Cioata/Getty)

Only accessible by sea, this serene spot has been crowned the winner for the serene calmness of its remote location, sand and water quality. It also sees an average of 275 sunny days per year.

‘It’s something out of a dream,’ said journalist Erin Miller.

‘The crystal clear waters lap against this small beach with the bones of an old ship rusting away in the sand. It’s quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime kind of beach.’

Whitehaven Beach, Australia

Whiteheaven beach, Whitsunday island, Queensland.
(Picture: Naphakm/Getty)

Found on Whitsunday Island, which is actually one of 74 in a cluster of islands, off the coast of Queensland. This one sees 292 days of sunshine, and the beach be reached via boat or plane.

El Nido, Philippines

The Philippines, Palawan, El Nido, sea kayaking in Bacuit Bay.
(Picture:John Seaton Callahan/Getty)

Also known as ‘Hidden Beach’, El Nido can be found on the island of Palawan. Of the top three, it has a more exotic feel, surrounded by cliffs and palm trees.

‘The wild, vegetation-covered rock formations and crystal clear waters of Hidden Beach will make you feel as if you’ve been dropped into a movie,’ said travel industry expert Sachin Aggarwal.

Praia do Sancho, Brazil

(Picture: Jo Vianna/Getty)

Hidden away off the coast of Brazil, on the small island of Fernando de Noronha, you can only reach this gem by climbing down a shaky ladder.

Tulum Beach, Mexico

View of Tulum beach, Mexico.
(Picture: M. Swiet/Getty)

Described as an ‘idylllic, serene getaway’ with ‘white sands and bright teal waters’.

Works for us.

Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

grace bay
(Picture: Peter Gridley/Getty)

Found in the archipelago that is Turks and Caicos, a popular destination with celebrities. The beach itself is on the island of Providenciales, and sees almost year-round sunshine (319 days).

‘From its pure white sand to rich blue water, this beach is absolutely flawless. I cannot imagine a location more picturesque than this,’ said blogger Stuart Brown.

Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

Caribbean Beach
(Picture: Shunyufan/Getty)

Technically, this Caribbean sanctuary is British Overseas Territory, and located a hop, skip and a jump from the capital of George Town.

Anse Source d’Argent, Seychelles

View of Anse Source d'Argent beach, La Digue island, Seychelles.
(Picture:: De Agostini/Getty)

Only accessible by boat, surrounded by rock formations.

‘I am still dreaming of this beach 25 years after spending a day in the shade of the coconut palms on this private stretch of white sand,’ said author Alexander Lobrano.

Maya Beach, Thailand

(Picture: Nigel Hicks/Nigel)

You probably saw Leonardo Dicaprio lounging on this beach in The Beach. Located on Phi Phi island, it’s temporarily closed now, so that the coral can recover.

Varadero Beach, Cuba

Beach in Varadero, Cuba.
(Picture: Aguru/Getty)

Finally, it’s Varadero Beach.

It’s not as remote as some of the others, but scores nine out of 10 for is sand and water quality.

‘Varadero has everything you’d want out of a dream beach vacation; Cuban culture, flawless nature and relaxing amenities. I cannot wait to go back,’ said blogger Shea Powell.

The 50 best beaches in the world in 2018

1. Navagio Beach, Greece

2. Whitehaven Beach, Australia

3. El Nido Beach, Philippines

4. Praia do Sancho, Brazil

5. Tulum Beach, Mexico

6. Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

7. Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

8. Anse Source D’Argent, Seychelles

9. Maya Bay, Thailand

10. Varadero Beach, Cuba

11. Diani Beach, Kenya

12. Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas

13. Anse Lazio, Seychelles

14. Railay Beach, Thailand

15. Playa Norte, Mexico

16. Noetzie Beach, South Africa

17. Balandra Beach, Mexico

18. Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland

19. Honokalani Beach, USA

20. Bavaro Beach, Dominican Republic

21. Coffee Bay, South Africa

22. Platja de Formentor, Spain

23. Lanikai Beach, USA

24. Malmok Beach, Aruba

25. Matira Beach, Bora Bora

26. Radhanagar Beach, India

27. Isla Holbox, Mexico

28. Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

29. Manuel Antonio Beach, Costa Rica

30. Blinky Beach, Australia

31. Long Beach, Canada

32. Camps Bay Beach, South Africa

33. Hyams Beach, Australia

34. Cable Beach, Australia

35. Lucky Bay, Australia

36. Champagne Beach, Vanuatu

37. Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico

38. Honopu Beach, USA

39. Bowman’s Beach, USA

40. Comporta Beach, Portugal

41. Giant’s Causeway, UK

42. Calanque de Sugiton, France

43. Bai Khem Beach, Vietnam

44. Wineglass Bay, Australia

45. Laguna Beach, USA

46. Pianemo, Indonesia

47. Ngapali Beach, Myanmar

48. Grand Anse, Grenada

49. Bathsheba beach, Barbados

50. Cannon Beach, USA

MORE: Winter in Morocco: It’s time you tried a crash course in kitesurfing on the windy beaches of Essouaria

MORE: The gardens of Singapore: Here’s how to get the most out of Asia’s greenest city

MORE: An Italian spa break: Why Bagno Vignoni in Tuscany is the perfect place to destress

Unexpected Gstaad: There’s more to offer in this Alpine resort than Swiss cheese, chocolate and watches


For a certain group of travellers, Gstaad will rise a wry smile and tales of Cristal popping in snowboarding gear that costs about the same as your one bed flat in the centre of London.

There’s lots to discover in Gstaad though, from secret armies hiding in mountains to world championship fondue and a philanthropic art collection.

A wealthy holiday makers’ beacon since the Gstaad Palace hotel was built in 1913, the town has welcomed A list celebrity visitors such as Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Roger Moore with Dame Julie Andrews an honorary citizen since 2014.

There’s no doubting that this is a place to treat yourself – the area’s slogan is ‘Come Up, Slow Down’ – so what more else do you need?

But there’s much more here than the perfect, shiny veneer would have you believe.

The hotels are one of the main draws here so, to look for the unexpected, The Alpina Gstaad was the one to aim for.

The bar at The Alpina Gstaad (Picture: The Alpina Gstaad)
The bar at The Alpina Gstaad (Picture: The Alpina Gstaad)

Being picked up in a Tesla from the station fulfilled many of my Tony Stark dreams, and pulling into the covered entrance to the hotel, past a revamped ice cream van, piqued my interest. There’s more going on here than first meets the eyes.

The Alpina Gstaad was the first hotel to be built in Gstaad for a century, and overcoming local opposition took 13 years alone, so you’d expect the final result to be spectacular – and you wouldn’t be wrong.

While the bedrooms have uniquely Swiss touches, the hotel is a mesmerising mix of luxury charm with an eclectic private art collection featuring everything from Tracey Emin to work by The Bruce High Quality Foundation.

Much of the art, and the ice cream van mentioned earlier, is down to one of the owners’ sons, Nachson Mimran.

He’s one of the founders of To: a platform that collaborates with artists and not-for-profits on projects like creating replicas of the ice cream van, named Shadowman, as community centres in refugee camps in Bangladesh and Uganda.

See, I told you there was more going on here.

The outdoor pool at The Alpina Gstaad. (Picture: The Alpina Gstaad)
The outdoor pool at The Alpina Gstaad. (Picture: The Alpina Gstaad)

The Six Senses Spa within the hotel offers relaxing wellness treatments and tech-assisted fitness programmes, helping you to work off the incredible food you are bound to enjoy across the hotel’s restaurants, all created under the wings of Michelin-starred chef Martin Göschel.

There’s an outpost of Japanese cult restaurant MEGU, a traditional Swiss Stubli showcasing the world championship fondue blend (yes, there is a Fondue World Championship) and signature fine dining at Sommet.

Peeling yourself away from the hotel, depending on the season, you’ll find 200km of excellent ski slopes or green and inviting hiking and camping sites.

Whatever the weather, a mountain lodge restaurant like Berghaus Wasserngrat  will provide all the Instagrammable sights you’ll need, including a huge wheel of locally made meringues and cream.

Once fuelled, there’s more to explore in this seemingly cosy town: a walk with a local guide will uncover tales of the secret army training base part of P-26, when the cows come down from the mountains decorated with flowers, and how there are six different types of bell tolls, all with different meanings.

For thrill seekers in the warmer months, head up to Glacier 3000 for the world’s highest bobsleigh track, the Alpine Coaster, which takes you on a 1 km descent through a loop, 10 curves, six waves, three jumps and two bridges and the only suspension bridge in the world that goes between two peaks, the Peak Walk by Tissot.

Peak Walk by Tissot. (Picture: Destination Gstaad)

Around the town of Gstaad are a number of weird and wonderful sights.

If you hire a car, a scenic 1 hour drive will take you to Chaplin’s World in Corsier-sur-Vevey, a museum in Charlie’s manoir, complete with set recreations from some of his most famous films.

Alternatively, if you like your entertainment a bit more macabre, head for the Gothic Chateau St Germain in Gruyères, which houses the HR Giger Museum.

It’s filled with art from Giger’s various creative projects, including from the film Alien Don’t miss a drink in the astonishing bar.

As the Golden Pass train glides effortless around mountains and skirts around Lake Geneva back to the airport, I reflect on how much more there is to explore in Switzerland and vow to be back, not least for more of that award winning fondue.

What to do in Zurich before you get to Gstaad:

The heart of Zurich (Picture: Getty)

I’d recommend flying into Zurich then catching the train to Gstaad as there’s plenty of weird and wonderful things you can explore in a day or two.

To make the most of a quick trip to Zurich, choose a hotel near the mammoth Zürich Hauptbahnhof train station.

Amble into the Altstadt (Old Town) of Zurich, which is as beautiful and romantic as they come, with its cobbled streets and historic buildings.

For your dose of quirk in this part of town, pop by the Cabaret Voltaire (Spiegelgasse 1). Even on a grey day, the architecture and colours are enough to lift your mood, and you could happily lose yourself for a few hours.

FraumÙnster and Saint Peter church in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by: Prisma Bildagentur/UIG via Getty Images)
View of Zurich old town (Picture: Prisma Bildagentur/UIG via Getty Images)

For a glimpse of modern Zurich, be sure to check out FREITAG , the handmade bags and accessories brand where everything is made from recycled tarp.

The brand’s Zurich Noerd HQ runs group tours so grab yourself a gang and sign up here.

If you don’t make it to their HQ on your trip, make sure you take in the FREITAG Tower in Zurich-West, constructed from 17 shipping containers.

The store is not only a unique shopping experience, but climb to the top of those containers and you’ll be rewarded with a view over the city’s industrial quarter.

FREITAG factory. (Picture: FRIETAG)

Right either side of the FREITAG tower, you’ll find two of Zurich-West’s most popular destinations: the glorious beer garden Frau Gerolds Garten, which hosts independent boutiques, art and a programme of events; and the ever-instagrammable Gerolds Chuchi, with its canopy of umbrellas and late night openings for the party people at Hive.

But should you want to work up an appetite before hitting these foodie spots, look no further than ace shopping street Viadukt, where 36 viaduct arches have been transformed into striking boutiques, studio spaces and restaurants.

For more Instagrammable sights, wander back to the hotel past urban art, the retro thrift paradise of Zurcher Brockenhaus and through the terrace of popular cultural centre Dynamo with its striking outdoor metal workshop.

I hear there’s also a folly filled Bruno Weber art park just outside of town that will be hitting my feed soon.

Where to stay in Zurich and Gstaad and how to get there:

Thanks to Switzerland’s excellent train system, it’s easy to get to Gstaad from any of the country’s international airports. I chose to cross the country by flying into Zurich and out of Geneva.

Swiss Air, British Airways and Easyjet run daily flights from London airports to Zurich, and from there, the journey into the city centre is painless and cheap using the trains. Return flights from the UK start from as little as £60.

I chose to stay for one night in Zurich before continuing on to Gstaad, at the cosy city centre Hotel Continental Zurich – MGallery by Sofitel – the perfect location to dash to from the train station, dump your bag and go explore.

Rooms here start from £200 a night and include a sumptuous breakfast buffet.

Gstaad is a scenic 3 hour journey by train from Zurich with prices starting from £40 one way.

If you are going to Gstaad, you need to treat yourself, and that’s what I did by staying at The Alpina Gstaad. Rooms here start at £440 and include breakfast and full spa access at the Six Senses Spa.

To head onto Geneva from Gstaad, take the trusty trains again for a stunning trip on the Golden Pass Line, which will glide you around Lake Geneva. This journey will take around 2.5 hours and starts from £40 one way.

MORE: Vinegar pies and burgers stacked high: The most delicious side of Pittsburgh

MORE: Feeling adventurous? It’s time you booked a winter holiday to South Tyrol

MORE: Winter in Morocco: It’s time you tried a crash course in kitesurfing on the windy beaches of Essouaria

My odd job: I’m a Guinness World Record-holding domino builder


I always work backwards – focusing on the end of the topple and then coming up with a chain reaction that will create an incredible effect.

I have participated in many unusual topples – from toppling dominoes while upside down, setting up nearly 12,000 of them underwater, creating a 72 sq/m portrait of Steve Jobs, consisting of 150,000 dominoes and even breaking a world record in Germany this summer.

With the help of 20 specialists my colleagues and I achieved three Guinness World Records – for most dominoes toppled in a spiral, the longest domino wall and the biggest domino cube.

It’s definitely not a solo job – we often work with creative teams to develop the domino designs, and effect designers and carpenters for the decorations, gimmicks and special effects.

Having a steady hand and a lot of patience is naturally a requirement for this kind of job.

Christian (centre) and the domino stacking team.

While setting up the dominoes, we often sit on the ground for 8 hours straight, without any room for error, which can be tough.

After working so many hours on the floor, I usually have a sore back and pins and needles by the end of the day.

A hot shower and a good night’s rest is normally sufficient to get rid of this, but I do feel exhausted after working on longer projects, where we build daily for a week or more.

Sometimes things go wrong too – premature topples often mean we have to start again.

To avoid this we use security gaps and other electronical mechanisms to reduce the risk of rebuilding bigger parts of the show – but it’s not a failsafe.

The most nerve-racking experience I’ve ever had was while working in Spain.

We built a set for the biggest late-night show there, El Hormiguero. It was for their guest, singer-songwriter Anastacia.

The show was produced live, which added to an already tense atmosphere.

About one minute before the official launch, after all the security gaps used to stop pre-mature fails were removed and Anastacia was already in the studio, a domino line started to topple by itself.

Hearing the dominoes fall was probably the worst sound that I could have heard in this moment.

My heart skipped a beat and my blood started rushing.

We were able to stop the chain reaction before this failure created major damage but had to rebuild the domino line in less than 5 minutes to avoid delaying the show, which luckily we managed to do.

The show was a big success in the end, watched by more than 4 million people that night.

Our team is usually immune to the stress of these situations, and have learnt to keep calm, but incidents like these certainly gets your heart pumping.

I often get weird looks when I tell people about my job.

I first got into domino building back in 2002, through the popular European live TV show Domino Day, where teams try to break world records with the highest number of dominoes toppled. I always watched the topples on TV and recorded them to rewatch throughout the year.

I developed an interest in chain reactions and started building my own creations.

I´m currently a Software Engineering Student at the technical university of Vienna, so the interest that I also had in domino building somewhat sparked my choice of studies.

I never worked a full-time job before, so domino building is the only profession I do apart from going to university.

Around 2009, I started collaborating with two friends who lived in the same town near Vienna and we built bigger and bigger topples together and uploaded them to YouTube.

The domino community on YouTube is really helpful (Photo: Getty)

Similar groups – all inspired by Domino Day – were forming all over Europe during that time.

That’s how I got in touch with Patrick Sinner, founder of Sinners Domino Entertainment, who I now work for as production manager.

I often get weird looks when I tell people about my job – people are amazed that we spend so many hours setting up for a show.

But this unusual job has given me the opportunity to work for people all over the world and allowed me to get paid for what I enjoy doing.

It is difficult to estimate the salary, since we mostly work as freelancers on a project to project basis, but we can get anywhere between several hundred euros to four-digit amounts per show, in addition to fees for all the pre-show and on-site management.

I also got the opportunity to break several Guinness World Records.

Breaking a world record is an incredible feeling.

It lets you forget all the countless hours you sat on the floor, all the fails and setbacks during the setup, and makes the work and effort that was needed to produce the show all worthwhile.

It also bonds the whole group working on the record, knowing that together you made something possible – that no one else in the world has ever achieved.

My advice for anyone interested in getting into domino building is that you should bring a lot of patience and embrace failure.

Setups that topple prematurely are ‘part of the game’ and should not hinder you in enjoying it.

Other than that, there is no better practice than building things your way, discovering new techniques and ideas.

Also, the domino community on YouTube is always friendly and helpful if you have any kind of questions.

They will surely help you out and give helpful hints if you want to improve your skills.

MORE: My odd job: A burlesque dancer’s world doesn’t end when the odd nipple tassel falls off

MORE: My odd job: I can cure your fear of spiders through hypnosis

Man proposes with six rings to let fiance decide which one she likes best

(Picture: Nathaniel Veal/Instagram)

Pick the perfect venue, make sure she doesn’t have a clue, think of a sweet speech, pick up six rings – just the typical things in any average wedding proposal right?

They are if your name is Dennis Brown II. The doting boyfriend decided to get down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend not just with one ring (like the rest of us peasants) but with five more.

Dennis – a model and fitness enthusiast – made sure everything else was perfect and hired an event planning and styling firm, a photographer, florist, drapery designer, and stylist.

Six-ring engagement
(Picture: Nathaniel Veal/Instagram)

Not wanting to let his bride-to-be, Atara Dallas, spend the rest of her life unhappy with her ring, Dennis chose from six different shapes and sizes, with her eventually choosing a teardrop engagement ring.

Working with event planner ThemeIT, Dennis revealed his sweetest feelings for Atara, and the company then printed it on a large banner, which served as a touching backdrop for the proposal.

In it, he wrote: ‘Today, on your special day I had the pleasure of putting a smile on your face all day. For there is no greater gift that I could think to give you.

‘A woman, whose heart is full of love and devotion to me, a woman whose loyalty to all those she loves stands unmatched, a woman whose generosity and willingness to help others around her flourish knows no depths.

‘A woman who single-handedly made me believe that a soulmate, a lover, a prayer warrior, a confidant and a best friend could be wrapped up in one amazingly beautiful soul that was handcrafted for me.

Six-ring engagement
(Picture: Nathaniel Veal/Instagram)

‘That’s why today I wanted to give you the greatest gift that I could ever give you……my heart and soul completely, unwavering and all yours……will you accept and hold my hand in yours through this journey?’

And in case you weren’t sure, she said yes.

Naturally, the occasion blew up on social media, with everyone weighing in their thoughts.

Many people congratulated the pair, giving props to Dennis for the thought-out proposal, saying he set the bar high for others.

Some said he was covering his back in case she didn’t want to commit to a ring she didn’t like.

Six-ring engagement
(Picture: Nathaniel Veal/Instagram)

Others felt though, as Atara’s future life partner, he should know her well enough to decide which she would like most.

Others joked that they’d keep all six rings if it were them being proposed to. Or at least we think they were joking.

What are your thoughts?

MORE: Man surprises girlfriend with a proposal in an escape room

MORE: Teacher who fell in love with student’s mum proposes to them both at the same time

MORE: People are truly baffled by this story about a man proposing by hiding a ring ‘in his penis’

You can create Yorkshire pudding wraps or pizzas at home thanks to Aunt Bessie’s

Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire pudding wraps
(Pictures: Getty/Aunt Bessie’s)

Yorkshire pudding wraps are the Christmas trend we all needed.

What’s better than a delicious Christmas dinner, wrapped in a crispy cooked batter.

But with queues for stalls selling the snack, you might be tempted to try it at home.

Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire pudding wraps
(Picture: Aunt Bessie’s)

And now you can create the perfect wrap with ease, thanks to good old Aunt Bessie.

You can pick up this two-pack of wraps at Morrisons for £1.50 per pack.

Aunt Bessie suggests using them for a wrap or a pizza but I’m sure there are plenty of other delicious uses.

MORE: Man proposes with six rings to let fiance decide which one she likes best

MORE: My odd job: I’m a Guinness World Record-holding domino builder

What is advent and why do we have advent calendars?

Boy opening an Advent calendar (Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
(Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

December is here and that means we can start to open the doors to our advent calendar as the countdown to Christmas begins.

thumbnail for post ID 8199862What time is the Strictly Come Dancing results show on tonight?

Many of us have chocolate advent calendars that give us a small treat each day in December during the build-up to Christmas, but it has a longer history than that and links to Christianity and the the build to the religious festival.

Advent comes from Latin and means ‘the coming’ and in the case of Christmas it represents the birth of Jesus Christ, the advent season encourages Christians to prepare for Christmas and his arrival.

In the modern day celebrations the season of Advents last for four Sundays during the build-up to Chirstmas, so this means it usually falls on the Sunday that falls between 27 November and 3 December.

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 3: Advent calendars. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
(Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The advent calendars can be depicted in various ways with some churches using candles with the wax lowering each day as part of the countdown to Christmas day.

Other churches also use a wreath of five candles to represent each of the four Sundays as well as Christmas Day itself.

Many of the Christian advent calendars depict a picture of the birth of Jesus and each window that’s opened has a picture behind it and they can often be reusable each year.

They can also include poems and bible verses, as well as parts of the nativity story.

The advent calendars have since developed with many of them offering chocolate each day and you can now get calendars containing cheese, make-up, alcohol and many other items.

MORE: From Christmas markets to rooftop ice skating – here are this season’s most festive experiences

MORE: Couple build 8ft advent calendar made with 450,000 Lego bricks

These orangutans and chimps are having a great time making costumes with bedsheets

(Picture: Karen Edwards/Dudley Zoo)

We all love a sleepy Sunday, pulling the sheets over our heads and just having a relaxing day.

These orangutans and chimps are no different.

These pictures, taken at Dudley Zoological Gardens in the West Midlands, show some of their four Bornean orangutans and seven female chimps playing with sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases and towels.

Adorable, right?

But their stocks of materials are running low and they need help.

(Picture: Karen Edwards/Dudley Zoo)

Head of Upper Primates Pat Stevens said: ‘Our great apes love making up games and wrapping themselves in sheets and whatever else they can get their hands on.

‘Our visitors are always generous when we ask them to donate surplus items to the zoo and our stores are nearly empty.

‘We’re hoping they can help replenish supplies for our orangs and chimps who get a lot of enrichment and enjoyment from playing with the sheets.

(Picture: Karen Edwards/Dudley Zoo)

‘We usually have to throw the sheets or towels away after a day’s play, so we do get through a huge amount and appreciate any help people can give us.’

Any donations of clean sheets, pillow cases, towels and duvet covers (but no duvets or dressing gowns please) can be handed to their Customer Services team in the Safari Shop.

Or if you aren’t able to visit the zoo, you can get in touch.

MORE: You can create Yorkshire pudding wraps or pizzas at home thanks to Aunt Bessie’s

MORE: Man proposes with six rings to let fiance decide which one she likes best

We feel rubbish about our relationships when compared to Instagram baes

XX people reveal the embarrassing messages they've sent by mistake picture: MMUFFIN
(Picture: MMUFFIN for Metro.co.uk)

We know, we know, it’s not a good idea to compare ourselves to those on Instagram.

And yet we can’t help but have travel envy or wish we had those gym bods, or thick silky hair like the attractive people on social media.

But the comparisons are being extended to our relationships too now, according to a new study which revealed that a third of British couples feel their relationship is inadequate after seeing pictures of ‘perfect’ partners plastered across social media.

How getting into a new relationship is wrecking people's sleep
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

We often come across sweet gestures and romantic moments on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram which can make it easy to draw comparisons with our own relationships.

Among the 2,000 Britons surveyed by dating website Match.com, 36% of couples and 33% of singles were left feeling disillusioned with love.

The research reveals these ‘perfect’ partnerships left many feeling jealous or trying to portray their own relationship as great even if things are not going well.

The study found that 60% of those in a relationship and three-quarters of singles feel social media, films and TV have given people unrealistic expectations.

As a result, to portray their relationships in a more positive light, many only post ‘happy’ moments on social media now.

A fifth admitted their social media is a ‘heavily filtered’ version of their relationship and a quarter confessed their relationship looks better online than it is in real life.

A third only post the most fun and romantic pictures of their partner and them online while 43% said they only put happy photos up when their relationship is anything but.

University of Oxford professor and evolutionary anthropologist Dr Anna Machin said: ‘Humans naturally compare themselves to each other.

‘But what we need to remember is that each of our experiences of love and relationships is unique to us and that is what makes human love so special and so exciting to study; there are no fixed rules.

‘So try to look at these images as what they are, aspirational, idealised views of a moment in a relationship which sit some way from the reality of everyday life.’

The study was carried out to celebrate Match.com’s ‘Love With No Filter’ event, which featured artwork exploring whether social media is killing our perception of real love.

Match.com dating expert Kate Taylor added: ‘It’s scary when the pressure to appear perfect leads Brits to feel they need to craft an idealised picture of themselves online.

‘Real love isn’t flawless – relationships will always have their ups and downs and everyone’s dating journey is different.

‘It’s important to remember what we see on social media is just a glimpse into someone’s life and not the whole unfiltered picture.’

The research showed that the more we use our social media accounts the worse we feel.

Those who admitted to heavy use of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – checking more than ten times a day – were twice as likely to feel low self-esteem (18% vs 8%).

If you do find yourself spending a lot of time online, try to wean yourself off or try to go cold turkey with a social media detox for a short amount of time. Try for a week and then the rest of the month.

There is also plenty of material online and in books about how to stop social media addictions.

MORE: Man proposes with six rings to let fiance decide which one she likes best

MORE: In times of division, Knickers the big cow is desperately what we need

MORE: This is what it’s like to date after having cancer

Browsing All 44828 Browse Latest View Live