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Gucci apologises for ‘blackface’ jumper and pulls it from stores

6676289 $890 balaclava knit top by Gucci sparks outrage as it's likened to blackface
(Picture: Gucci)

Gucci has issued an apology for selling a wool balaclava jumper that many accused of resembling blackface.

The £688 jumper has a red outline to go around the wearer’s mouth, familiar of golliwog imagery.

Images of the piece of knitwear were shared on Twitter and criticised by thousands of people, who called the design ‘unacceptable’ and ‘racist’.

One person on Twitter wrote: ‘Ah yes, blackface but make it fashion huh?’

Another said: ‘This shit is absolutely unacceptable and @gucci needs to get rid of this shit IMMEDIATELY and apologize to OUR [Black] community.

‘The lack of originality and creativity these brands have is absolutely unsettling & the frequent use of black trauma for capital gain is extra gross.’

Early this morning Gucci tweeted an apology for the offence caused by the jumper, writing: ‘Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper.

‘We can confirm that the item has been immediately removed from our online store and all physical stores.

‘We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make.

‘We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond.’

On Twitter, the apology hasn’t been good enough for many critics, who question how the jumper was signed off at multiple levels before reaching stores.

‘If you hire more Black people and cultivate an environment where people on all levels of the company feel comfortable to speak up incidents like this will be avoided,’ wrote model Vanessa Veasley.

Gucci isn’t the only fashion brand that’s been accused of racism in recent months.

Dolce & Gabbana cancelled a major show in Shanghai after people threatened to boycott the brand for their ‘eating with chopsticks’ video series, which was accused of relying on ‘racist stereotypes’.

Last year, Big Uncle came under fire for its ‘colonialism’ collection.

Could it be that racism – and the outrage it inspires – is being used by fashion brands as a marketing tool?

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My Label and Me: I am privileged to be able to call myself a witch


I’ve been a witch for as long as I’ve been alive.

The word itself has tangled and uncertain origins. Some etymologists say it means ‘one who knows’, or ‘one who wakes the dead’. Its associations, too, are equally tangled.

My mother taught me that when someone calls you a witch, whether they mean it as a compliment or not, you must thank them, because it means they see your power.

She was a Tarot card-slinging Pagan back when it wasn’t really the done thing, and if not for that I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

witchcraft, witch, magic
My mum was a Tarot card-slinging Pagan back when it wasn’t really the done thing (Photo: Polly Thomas/Metro.co.uk)

People of any gender or walk of life can practise witchcraft, but misconceptions about it are inextricably intertwined with stereotypes about women, girls, and marginalised people, how we live our lives and the agency with which we do it.

To be called a witch has often meant to be feared, envied, suspected, ostracised and scapegoated. And yet to call yourself one marks you an attention-seeker, or deluded. 

People eventually stopped believing in the religious terror surrounding the witch as a supernatural, malicious villain. Unfortunately, widespread belief in magic went with it.

Those who claimed to be witches were ridiculed instead. Growing up, girls would laugh at me in public or spit at me, and then knock on my door later to ask for a love spell.

witchcraft, witch, magic
Girls who bullied me would later come asking for a love spell (Photo: Polly Thomas/Metro.co.uk)

Witches always have something we want  hidden knowledge that we crave  even if we think her a superstitious fraud.

When witchcraft is fashionable, people think you just want a unique, cool identity, like a teenager from an angsty 90’s movie. Media representations have helped normalise witches, but they’ve also declawed us.

It is a kind of mental acrobatics, as a practising witch, to enjoy pop culture versions of this identity, and still see how they get it wrong.

I get regular messages from random men on the internet, thinking themselves the defenders of science, demanding an explanation of what I believe magic is – how I ‘define a witch’.

witchcraft, witch, magic
The witch always has something we want  hidden knowledge that we crave  even if we think her a superstitious fraud (Photo: Polly Thomas/Metro.co.uk)

To me, a witch is someone who uses their own personal power to create an outcome. If you can wrap your head around meditation, then you can wrap it around witchcraft. Witches have always been practitioners of forbidden science.

When people meet me they are often surprised at how ‘practical and level-headed’ I am for someone who calls herself a witch. This makes me chuckle, as what is a witch, if not infinitely practical?

Witches are just people who take matters into their own hands; who reject the notion that they must be told how to govern their own body, mind, or spirit.

There are as many ways of being a witch as there are witches. I’m simply a girl who has honed her intuition, and spends a lot of time in the garden with a sharp knife doing spells.

witchcraft, witch, magic
I’m simply a girl who has honed her intuition, and spends a lot of time in the garden with a sharp knife (Photo: Polly Thomas/Metro.co.uk)

The same feelings many people get in church — the wonder of our own existence, the connection between all things  I find in the moon, and my love’s eyes.

As I get older I care less and less about making people understand, and can relish even the most twisted portrayals of the witch. She is dark and light and inspiring and fearsome and mysterious and viscerally known, all at once.

A witch is an agent of karma. It is one of the words that feels most like ‘me’.

witchcraft, witch, magic
Many hundreds of thousands of people have been persecuted and died because someone called them a witch (Photo: Polly Thomas/Metro.co.uk)

We are in the middle of a major cultural reawakening to witchcraft, and it feels to me like people are starting to get it.

Witches are coming out of the broom-closet and sharing their magic with the world, and in turn the world is becoming more open to how magic can work for them, and more aware of the incredible power of nature and the human mind.

Many hundreds of thousands of people have been persecuted and died because someone called them a witch, and in many places this still happens. I recognise how privileged I am to be able to wear the label proudly.

I get to spend my days making magic; writing about witchcraft, sexuality, and self-empowerment, reading the Tarot that I’ve grown up with, helping people create the life they want, and for that I’m profoundly grateful to all the witches that have gone before.

The witch is never really gone; she is always here, reborn in each generation in a shape they can understand.

You can find out more about Holly on her blog


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 jess.austin@metro.co.uk

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What I learnt from being in a relationship where we both have anxiety and depression

metro illustrations
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

‘I’ve had a bit of hit and miss in my twenties. Some depression. Some anxiety. But I’m hopeful it is passing and I can get on with living.’

The words of my now boyfriend, a few days after we met, almost one year ago.

At the time, I had two thoughts.

  1. Wow, this guy is a very open person.
  2. How do I tell him that I am exactly the same?

I’d been blighted by anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember but I wouldn’t have admitted that this time last year.

I knew my overwhelming worries and periods of sadness were sometimes a problem but I told myself it was fine – it happened to everyone.

When I met Stephen, I was almost six months into my first ever dose of antidepressants. And as far I was concerned, I was better. My mood was good. I was coping well. Everything was fine.

I hadn’t told many people when I started to take them. I think I mentioned it to a few friends and my mum but I passed it off as something to help the extreme fatigue I had been feeling a few months earlier.

Without any long term relationship experience, I’d definitely never mentioned it in a dating context. I think it was plain to see for the guys I dated for more than a few weeks but I just didn’t bring it up and they never asked.

That message from this guy who I barely knew was out of my ‘everything will be fine if I just don’t talk about it’ comfort zone, but if he was so open about his mental health and I hadn’t been scared off, maybe he would be just as understanding of my situation.

So I replied: ‘I had both and I know it sucks.’

That was it and no one got ghosted. Telling each other really was pretty straightforward.

We fell into the intense honeymoon period – days out to museums and long late night chats.

Stephen never held anything back – his mental health was not always stable, with periods of low mood, intrusive thoughts and anxiety and he would tell me about it all.

My mood was fine, I kept telling myself as well as him. A few months after I met him, I came off my antidepressants and other than a week or so of some ups and downs, I was feeling ok. I was done with that and I wasn’t going back.

I was enjoying work, I was having fun with my friends and I was falling in love.

Here we are looking happy in Bath (Picture: Laura Abernethy)

Falling in love with someone was strange though. In one way, I had this person who made me feel safe and happy and warm but the problem with that when you have anxiety is that now you have a new person to worry about.

Throw in the fact that that person also has anxiety and deals with it in a very different way – by hiding away and going off the grid for a few days – and it becomes more difficult for my anxious brain to deal with.

He needs some calm, peace and quiet to process what he’s thinking but the radio silence would cause me to panic that something was wrong with us or that I had done something wrong.

It became a cycle of us worrying about each other, and worrying that the other person was worried.

We’ve figured that out a bit more now – I know he needs space when he is in an anxiety and low mood spiral. He knows I need reassurance that he’s ok and just taking some time – it’s never my fault, he doesn’t hate me and he isn’t going to come to any physical harm.

But I think, at some point, I realised that maybe I wasn’t cured. Alongside my worries about Stephen, I could feel the familiar cycle of anxiety very slowly dripping back into my life and then overwhelming me all at once, like a burst pipe.

Then I’d be hit with waves of low mood where I would do the bare minimum to seem like I was functioning like a normal adult and spend the rest of the time crying in my room, or toilet cubicles or anywhere that people wouldn’t see me.

Like how we dealt with our anxiety very differently, Stephen and I took very different attitudes when it came to talking about it.

Stephen would post on Facebook, tweet about it, drop it into conversations with friends.

I struggled to even admit to myself I was still depressed and anxious sometimes but the more he spoke to me about his own problems, the more willing I was to turn to him on bad days.

We celebrated six months together in August, which was also the month I had minor surgery and spent three weeks recovering.

The weekend before my operation (Picture: Laura Abernethy)

Before the operation, my anxiety peaked. I had never had surgery before and the thought of being put under an anaesthetic petrified me.

I lay awake every night (ironically) imagining not being able to wake up after the operation.

But the operation was fine – everything went as plan. Physically, I recovered just as the doctor told me I would.

But mentally, I was a mess. I cried and panicked about everything. I was about to start a new job (the one I am currently in) and although I knew I should be excited about this amazing opportunity, it was like my brain just wouldn’t listen to the positive thoughts. I spent hours picking over every part of what would happen and turning it into something to be concerned about.

And that pipe I mentioned earlier, well it was very much about to burst.

Celebrating my ability to leave the house for the first time in weeks, Stephen wanted us to go on a day out together before I started my new job.

We went to the National Gallery. One minute, my mind was absolutely absorbed in Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – but then it wasn’t. Suddenly it was absorbed in the number of people around me and how I didn’t know the way out and a fear that something was wrong.

Sensing my rising panic, Stephen directed me away from the crowd to a cafe so I could calm down.

But in the middle of Pret, I had the worst panic attack I have ever had.

My eyes stung from the tears and my chest hurt so much I felt like my ribs had been broken.

Celebrating New Year’s Eve 2018 (Picture: Laura Abernethy)

Stephen tried to get me outside and home to safety but about 10 steps in, I couldn’t move my legs and there I was, crying hysterically and struggling to breathe against a lamppost in the middle of London.

It was the sort of panic attack that made me anxious just thinking about it. Public, extreme and unstoppable.

Somehow he managed to get me on a tube and home, putting me straight to bed.

Exhausted from the expulsion of every single emotion at one time, I fell asleep.

A few hours later, I woke up with him stroking my hair and although my heart was still racing with worry, I was calmer.

I could tell he was scared for me. This was at a point beyond what he could handle.

I said what I knew he was thinking. ‘I need to go back to the doctor,’ I said.

My mental illness can be controlled but it’s not going to go away.

My second tearful trip to ask for antidepressants was much easier. I said it out loud. Because after six months of this person who I spoke to for hours every day telling me the inner workings of his similarly messed up brain, I knew I never judged him and no one would judge me.

I was given more antidepressants and put on the waiting list for therapy.

When friends started to notice that I had been a bit distant, for the first time, I didn’t lie.

I told them why – they hugged me and told me about their own struggles. It helped me grow closer to them. They told me what helped them – never in a ‘you have to do this way’, just as a gentle tip.

(Picture: Laura Abernethy)

The more I talked about it, the easier it became to talk about it, so now, here I am, talking about it on the internet.

I’m not better. In fact, I had another panic attack in work a few weeks ago. For no real reason, sometimes I just wake up feeling anxious. It just happens.

But I am better at speaking about it to anyone and everyone. It helps me but I also think that maybe it will help someone else who was like me a year ago. I was too afraid to admit that I have mental health issues and it was making it so much worse.

This weekend, Stephen and I celebrate our first anniversary together and without being disgustingly soppy, I am grateful to have Stephen in my life for thousands of reasons but the one that has made the biggest difference is really realising that talking is ok.

Today is Time To Talk day and despite everyone becoming more and more open, there is still a taboo around the way we talk about mental health.

Talk about your mental health, talk to others about theirs and let everyone know that there is never anything to be ashamed about.

Need support? Contact the Samaritans

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

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Lean On Me: Is it possible to stay friends with my ex?

Can I go against my friends’ advice and suggest being friends with him? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Welcome to Lean On Me – a weekly agony aunt style column from Metro.co.uk where Kate Leaver answers your friendship woes.

Dear Kate,

Can you ever really be proper friends with an ex? I’d really like to but everyone in my life is telling me it’s not possible and that I shouldn’t.

My boyfriend and I broke up about three months ago and I miss having him in my life in some capacity. It was pretty harmonious, as far as break ups go, and I still respect him as a person.

Can I go against my friends’ advice and suggest being friends with him? Is it messy and stupid or is it possible?

Caitlin, 27

You may need a little longer than three months to feel strong and detached enough to really be buddies (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

My personal policy on this one is pretty clear: I always have enormous hope that friendship with exes is possible.

In ideal circumstances, some semblance of loveliness between you is preferable. It is possible, if your relationship was devoid of abuse and your break-up was, as you say, relatively harmonious.

I think it’s an entirely different story if your ex was cruel to you, if they behaved reprehensibly or if they broke your heart irreparably. Or, for that matter, if you did any of those things.

I do not condone or encourage anyone feeling as though they owe friendship to someone who made them feel small or frightened or in danger. There should be no obligation to be friends with a person who made your life darker.

You sound as though you’re in pretty good shape since your break-up. I’d say, first, that you need to do a little test with yourself.

If you’re just prolonging the break-up by loitering in emotionally complicated territory, this is not a great thing

Ask, in a quiet moment, why you feel the need to be friends so soon after you’ve split. Is it because you miss him and you just want him in your life in some way? Are you ready to be around him without your usual intimacy?

Or is it because you’re still emotionally attached to him and having difficulty severing that once-so-strong tie? It’s important you know your intentions here – it’s fair to him and it’ll make you feel clearer about what you’re doing.

If you’re just prolonging the break-up by loitering in emotionally complicated territory, this is not a great thing. You need to go into a friendship with an ex honestly and respectfully. You need to protect your heart – and his.

Friendship is gorgeous, obviously, but not if you’re still craving relationship-level intimacy with someone.

Then, you need to find out how he feels about it. Did you break his heart? Is he ready to see you, or is he still in that phase where being out of touch is healthiest?

Does he need more space to recover and move on? Does he have a current partner who is comfortable with you being mates? And are you both in a place where you feel like you could genuinely keep it platonic?

Once you’ve assessed all of this satisfactorily, then you may proceed. I’d hazard a guess that you may need a little longer than three months to feel strong and detached enough to really be buddies, but I don’t know your specific circumstance.

My general feeling is that it takes at least six months to feel liberated from the ache of breaking up with someone, so maybe you’d like to hang out with your other mates a while longer and then suggest a coffee with your ex. Be gentle and patient here; remember how tender you can be after a break-up.

I am friends with most of my exes, so please know that it’s possible and I absolutely get the impulse to want to keep someone you once cherished in your life. I was with a guy for seven years, we lived together, we had a dog, we made a life that belonged just to us.

In my eagerness to keep him in my orbit, I think I probably forced him into a friendship too soon and didn’t necessarily respect his desire for a bit of space. I’ve done it before, with teenage boyfriends. Usually, it’s because I haven’t properly processed the idea of letting go.

I think I’d approach it differently now. I’d leave it a little longer before I even suggested hanging out. I’d pay my former beloved the courtesy of having space for as long as they need before I got all chummy about it.

I’d be gentler about it; I wouldn’t insist they stay in my life if it didn’t feel right for them. I suggest you do the same.

I very much hope that you and your ex can be friends, but take your time and respect his boundaries. Don’t rush this, especially if you want your friendship to last.

In the meantime, call on your other friends. Fill your life with less complicated companionship, lean on your girlfriends, spend time with people who lift you up and remind you who you are without this man.

For your sake and his, take the time to work out how to be apart properly before you waltz into a tender new friendship.

About Lean On Me

Kate Leaver is the author of The Friendship Cure and she will be answering your friendship woes in her weekly Metro.co.uk column.

If you’d like to submit a question or problem, email LeanOnMe@metro.co.uk with ‘Lean on me’ in the subject line.

Submissions are anonymous and you can follow the discussion on Twitter #LeanOnMe.

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Life with agoraphobia: I only felt safe in my bedroom

agoraphobia, time to talk day, time to change
I used to drive my dog Mavis to the park two streets away for his walk, as my car acted as a safety net should my anxiety necessitate a quick getaway (Photo: Anna Gekoski)

Around five years ago, I didn’t leave my bedroom for three months. It had become the only place in the world where I felt safe from panic.

And this is essence of agoraphobia – not, as commonly thought, fear of open spaces or the inability to leave the house (although it may encompass both) – but the fear of being in places or situations from which escape is difficult, embarrassing, impossible, or in which help is not readily available, in the event of having a panic attack.

I was so convinced that I would never recover, that I made a pact with God – a God I’m not sure I believe in. If I could simply go downstairs in my own home, without panicking, then I would forfeit ever actually leaving the house again.

If the deal had been offered I’d have shaken on it there and then. And been grateful.

Thankfully no such deal was on the table. As, in time, I gradually started to recover and today I am the happiest I have been for years.

So how did I get to such a dark place?

To understand agoraphobia you need to understand anxiety and panic attacks, as agoraphobia is almost always a consequence of panic disorder.

I started to have panic attacks at the age of 18, characterised by palpitations, hyperventilation, uncontrollable shaking, nausea, hot flushes, and a feeling of doom so profound that I was absolutely convinced that death was imminent.

Soon I had fully fledged panic disorder, where I experienced regular and sudden panic attacks which could occur almost anywhere.

People would ask me, reasonably enough: ‘What’s there to be so anxious about?’ They would start telling me to ‘just calm down.’ And that’s the thing, unless people have experienced intense panic themselves, most simply don’t get it.

It only makes sense when you grasp the ‘fear of fear’ cycle: the idea that ultimately what is so frightening is fear itself. Once I had experienced a few panic attacks, I came to dread the accompanying physical and mental symptoms. The absolute conviction that I was about to drop dead of a heart attack, go crazy, pass out, or throw up.

I had panic attacks when travelling, so I stopped going on holiday. I had them in lifts, so I used the stairs. I had them in supermarkets, so I shopped online. I had them at work, so I worked from home. Eventually, devastatingly, I started having them at home.

In order to keep functioning, I started to use what are known as ‘safety behaviours’, which are cognitive and behavioural strategies that temporarily reduce anxiety.

At one point in my life, for example, I used to drive my dog Mavis to the park two streets away for his walk, as my car acted as a safety net should my anxiety necessitate a quick getaway. When questioned about this seemingly odd behaviour, I told people that my love of high heels made it difficult to walk far.

Yet such strategies only acted as a sticking plaster, they didn’t solve the problem. Rather, they maintained my anxiety. Not only did they never allow me to fully experience anxiety-provoking situations without a get-out clause, or Plan B, but they led to the false belief that the safety behaviour had warded off the panic, reinforcing its necessity.

It’s like that old joke: A man guards a rock night and day. When someone asks him: ‘Why do you always stand by that rock?’ He replies: ‘To ward off snakes.’ ‘But there aren’t any snakes here,’ the person says, puzzled. ‘Effective, isn’t it!’ replies the man.

Gradually, over time, my safety behaviours became less and less effective and my comfort zone, and with it my world, shrank. And so I turned to the only safety behaviour left to me: avoidance.

I had panic attacks when travelling, so I stopped going on holiday. I had them in lifts, so I used the stairs. I had them in supermarkets, so I shopped online. I had them at work, so I worked from home. Eventually, devastatingly, I started having them at home. And this is how my bedroom became my only safe haven.

Today I remain mildly agoraphobic as I still avoid certain situations. But I’m no longer constantly afraid, living in fear of my next panic attack.

It’s been a long hard journey but with the help of medication, therapy, dogs, family and friends, I started to slowly challenge and confront panic-inducing situations to break the cycle of fear.

So agoraphobia doesn’t have to be a life sentence. I’ve gotten immeasurably better and, if you suffer from it, so can you.

Today is Time to Talk Day, which asks the nation to have a conversation about mental health to help break the stigma that can surround mental health problems. You can find out more about Time to Talk Day and Time to Change here

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Over 50s dating app shows their most eligible singles in the country

(Picture: Lumen)

Last year, Tinder revealed their most right-swiped people, with the line-up filled with young things who loved puns and gifs in their chat up lines.

Lumen – a dating app for over 50s – has now given us a glimpse into what their users are after, and it’s all very refined.

Their top six member list features three men and three women, all of whom have been interacted with more than others on the platform.

As a group, they receive three times more profile views and messages than the average user, and it’s not hard to see why given the results of this glamorous photoshoot.

Let’s take a look at some of the eligible singles, all of whom are between 50 and 60:

Angela Hodgson

(Picture: Lumen)

Angela is a 50 year old Admin and Customer Services Assistant from Reading.

She had a 24-year relationship which ended 11 years ago, and is now a confident dater, saying she won’t make compromises just to be with someone.

She told Metro.co.uk: ‘My type is tall, fairly good-looking, nice teeth and employed. I have been single for a while and I would love to find something long term. However, I won’t settle into something that isn’t right or suitable for my current lifestyle.’

Genevieve Allaker-Buis

(Picture: Lumen)

59-year-old Genevieve was previously a French and Spanish teacher but is now retired.

Compared to the average user she racks up three times more messages, which might be due to the fact she loves the finer things in life and can speak three languages.

She’s looking for a man who enjoys art and culture like her, and says: ‘I’m looking to find somebody that shares similar interests to me such as dancing… I speak seven languages and I am a former French and Spanish teacher so it would be fantastic to meet a man also cultured but it’s not essential!’

Rather than wanting a lifetime companion, though, Genevieve is simply dipping her toe in the dating pool, telling us ‘I am not looking for a serious relationship but I am hopeful to meet somebody that is sophisticated, well educated and well presented.’

Kamay Lau

(Picture: Lumen)

London-based model Kamay is 56, and works as a model.

She’s had a whopping our and a half times the number of profile visits and three times the number of messages compared to the average woman.

After being married and divorced twice, she’s had a few different relationships, and now wants someone ‘would like to meet someone that is witty, spiritual, easy on the eyes and with an interesting character – someone with richness in their heart and soul.’

Kamay also values kindness and fun.

Rob Smith

(Picture: Lumen)

60-year-old Rob works in security and facilities, and has had six times the number of profile views compared to the average man.

He’s never been married before, but has been single for the last year, and is now hoping to find someone who he can have experiences with.

Rob told us: ‘I’ve been single for a year now and have been on a few dating apps before Lumen. I’m looking to meet someone with a genuine connection and would rather get to know someone properly. I feel young so I’d like to meet someone who is on the same page.’

Antimo Pedata

(Picture: Lumen)

Born in Italy, 52-year-old Antimo now lives in London. He’s a professional chef and yoga instructor, which is a pretty fantastic set of professions if we do say so ourselves.

He has three children from his previous marriage which ended a decade ago, and would like to meet a woman who enjoys sports like him.

Antimo adds, ‘I look for a woman with strong character and a nice smile… I am a yoga instructor and a chef and it would make me happy to meet someone to share those wonderful activities with.’

Joel Nathan

(Picture: Lumen)

Corporate catering entrepreneur Joel also has children – two young daughters. The 50-year-old gets four times more profile visits and eight times more messages than the average man.

He’s appreciates loyalty, fun, and a family-orientated attitude in a partner.

Joel tells us: ‘I am looking to date and see where it goes with the hope that there is a future together.’

If you think you’re what any of these daters are looking for, you can meet them on the app now.

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How to do a side plank: the perfect technique for the tricky core exercise


The side plank is the trickier brother of the plank.

It requires strength, balance and coordination and, if done right, it can really target those difficult to reach oblique muscles.

All to often, the side plank is overlooked when it comes to core strength. People tend to focus on crunches and sit-ups when they’re working on their abs – but they are limited moves.

Whilst effective in some ways, you’re never going to build well-rounded core strength if you exclusively stick to crunches. They don’t work all the muscles in your stomach and the range of movement is limited.

The side plank engages your core in a new way – and brings your back, shoulders and spine into the equation.

By working the under-used muscles in your abdomen and around your spine, you can improve your overall strength, and also help protect against lower back pain.

In order to reap all these benefits, you have to do it right.

Luckily, our expert James, Creative Director of Sweat by BXR, is on hand to teach you exactly how to execute the perfect side plank – just take a look at the video above.

(Picture: Getty)

How to do a perfect side plank

Start on your side with your feet together and one forearm directly below your shoulder.

Engage your core muscles and raise your hips until your body is in a straight line from head to feet.

Hold the position without letting your hips drop – aim for 30 seconds to begin with and work up to holding the position for a full minute.

Don’t forget to repeat the move on the other side for an even workout.

Tips for the perfect side plank

  • Make sure you’re balancing on the side of your foot and not the sole – this will give you loads more stability.
  • Try to keep your head and neck straight – your spine is involved in this movement, and you want to keep it fully aligned for as long as possible.
  • Contract your core – your stomach muscles are at the heart of this move. Keeping them engaged is the only way you will be able to hold your position without letting your hips drop.

MORE: How to do a push up: the perfect technique for the full-body move

MORE: How to do flutter kicks: the perfect technique for the tough core exercise

MORE: These are the best stretches to help deal with back pain

Don’t worry about being weird: Check in with people you care about right now

Woman types on computer and thinks of friends
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

What stops you from getting in touch with someone you care about?

If you’re anything like me, it’s the fear of being weird or annoying.

You haven’t been in touch in a while, and feel like too much time has passed to send a text.

You’re not sure if they want to hear from you, and don’t want to take up their time.

You assume they’re busy, or they haven’t been in touch because you’ve pissed them off, or worry that you don’t know them well enough to send a message.

This Time to Talk Day, it’s time to squash down all those worries and just check in with people you care about.

There’s a lot of chat about how important it is to talk when you’re struggling mentally. That’s valid, but it puts the pressure on the person suffering.

As anyone who’s experienced mental illness will know, it can be incredibly hard to make the first move and ask for help.

What we could really do with is someone reaching out and giving us an easy way to open up.

Talking can literally save lives. When you’re in the pit of depression and feeling like there’s no way out, just a helping hand can give you hope again. It can be the thing that stops you from ending your life in the moment, it can give you the nudge you need to get help, and, on a smaller scale, it can bring some light to a day that just feels absolutely rubbish.

That helping hand doesn’t need to be a big, grand gesture. You don’t need to be a professional to make that difference.

Just a message asking how everything’s going, or to ask if someone wants to chat, or even a text completely unrelated to mental health, can remind someone that they’re not alone – someone cares about them.

I was in my teens when I came close to making my first suicide attempt. I was home alone, I had planned it out, and I felt as though no one would care if I died.

Then my brother gave me a call from university. He hadn’t known anything was wrong and we didn’t talk about what I was going through – we just had a catch up about what he was up to and what mum and dad were doing. Just that phone call stopped me in my tracks. My brother doesn’t know this, but a call from him stopped me from ending my life.

The great thing about the power of reaching out is that anyone can do it.

If you have a pal you haven’t spoken to in a while, it takes less than a minute to send them a quick text.

If there’s someone at work who you think is cool, you can send them a friendly Slack message. Even a tiny compliment (love your hair today!) could be a cheering moment someone desperately needs right now.

Does someone seem a bit stressed? Ask how they’re doing.

Check in with your family, check in with your partner, make it your mission today to make the first move and open the lines of communication.

It doesn’t matter if they seem to be doing wonderfully on social media, or if you haven’t spoken in a while, or if they’re busy. A message just asking how someone’s doing, sent with genuine care and interest, will never be annoying.

If they don’t respond, fine, your confidence might be a little knocked, but that’s such a minor risk to take for the sake of potentially saving a life.

Advice for talking about mental health:

  • Ask questions and listen. Choose open, non-judgmental questions to give the person space to talk freely
  • If something seems off – ask. Someone might not say there’s something wrong, but they’ll behave differently – seeming jittery or tired. If you feel like something’s not right, ask what’s going on
  • Ask twice. ‘I’m fine’ often doesn’t mean ‘I’m fine’. Ask ‘no, really, how’s everything going?’ so they know that you’re not just being polite, you really care
  • Mental illnesses aren’t dirty words. If you know someone has OCD, you don’t need to talk vaguely about their ‘troubles’. It’s okay to ask how they’re handling their illness.
  • The same goes for suicide. A lot of people are nervous to say ‘suicide’ – that’s dangerous, because it can mean thoughts stay locked away. If someone is in crisis, it’s okay to ask if they’re having suicidal thoughts and whether they think they’ll act on them. This will allow them to get the urgent help they need.
  • Be conscious of time and place, but don’t worry too much. Asking someone about their darkest moments in the middle of a work day might not be the best idea. If you’re planning to have a deep chat, make sure it’s through a mode of communication they’re comfortable with and at a time when they won’t feel under pressure
  • You don’t have to fix everything. Just listening can be a huge help. Don’t worry about having all the answers.
  • If they don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay. You don’t have to be talking about depression to help someone with depression. Any conversation is a reminder that they’re not alone. If someone says they’re not comfortable talking about a certain topic, accept that – just don’t let it put you off entirely.

Need support? Contact the Samaritans

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

MORE: What I learnt from being in a relationship where we both have anxiety and depression

MORE: Thinking kind thoughts could boost physical health, research says

M&S wants you to taste their ‘Love Sausage’ this Valentine’s Day

(Picture: M&S)

What says romance more than a giant, heart-shaped, bacon-wrapped sausage?

M&S have launched their ‘Love Sausage’ especially for Valentines Day, and we are absolutely swooning over it.

Made for sharing, the ‘Love Sausage’ sounds pretty delicious. Slightly truffled and wrapped in salty bacon, the meaty creation is perfect for a lovers’ breakfast in bed.

Serve it with fried eggs and get ready for the object of your affections to fall helplessly at your feet – how could they not be bowled over when presented with processed meat lovingly crafted into the shape of a love heart?

It costs £5, and it’s available in stores from the 8th February, so there’s plenty of time to stock up ahead of the most romantic day of the year.

M&S announced the launch in a Tweet, and the people of the internet were shocked and appalled by the retailer’s brazen innuendo.

‘We’re encouraging customers to start the fun of Valentine’s Day celebrations early with a Love Sausage for breakfast,’ said an M&S spokesperson.

‘The recipe includes a hint of delicious truffle to make it extra special and my top tip is to crack two eggs into the centre of the heart, eight minutes before serving for the breakfast of dreams.’

Truffle is said to be a natural aphrodisiac, so serving this for breakfast could be a sure fire way to ensure you get exactly what you want this Valentine’s Day.

MORE: Morrisons is selling rainbow LGBTQ+ roses this Valentine’s Day

MORE: M&S launches £20 dine in Valentine’s Day menu – and there’s a fully vegan option for the first time

MORE: Aunt Bessie’s launch heart-shaped Yorkshire puddings for Valentine’s Day

11 little changes that can totally alter every room in your home


Believe it or not, there’s just a matter of weeks before the clocks go forward to ring in the coming of Spring. I know, it feels like we were just singing Auld Lang Syne. But after seemingly spending night after night in hibernation to take shelter from icy rain and those dark nights, it’s time for a change, and there’s no better time than the beginning of a new year to start plotting how to spruce up your home.

Re-decorating doesn’t have to cost the earth, with a few key elements, it can really lift what you’ve already got and change the whole space so that it gives it a whole new vibe.

DELAKTIG, created by IKEA and Tom Dixon, is a key item that has been designed to be versatile and adapt to your living space. If you’re also keen for a switch up every once and awhile, fear not, as it has many designs, configurations and even its covers are easily switched up so will suit your mood and style.

Designer Tom Dixon said of the DELAKTIG: ‘You get married, or you split up, and you might want a different configuration. Or, maybe you’re renting out a spare room to somebody. Don’t chuck DELAKTIG away if you’re finished with it – turn it into something else, something new. Or, save it for the children so they can bring it with them when they move out.’

Eco-conscious homemakers can feel less guilty about DELAKTIG as you’re able to reuse it and make it feel fresh and new and perhaps use it in different spaces in your home, whether that’s the living room, study or even bedroom. It’s called smart furniture.

Here’s 11 little ways to help transform your room:

DELAKTIG LED floor lamp. WIth its sleek and simple design, this lamp will be right at home in any room, (£70)
The SKYMININGEN pendant light makes the perfect focal point (£55)

1. Change your lighting scheme

Most people have overhead lighting, but make sure it’s not your only source of light. Choose a floor lamp or table lamp to introduce light at different heights around the room. The right lighting can really transform the mood of a room without breaking the bank. Accent this with a few candles to add some warm lighting to your room and keep your home smelling fresh.

2. Hang draperies high

Make your ceilings look higher by putting your curtain poles as high as you can. It’s a little designer secret that can make your rooms look bigger if you hang your curtains around two inches below the ceiling or the crown moulding if your house has it. If you choose to add a pop of colour with style fabrics, like IRMELIN, then also make sure that the pole is extended beyond the window (around four inches) so that not only does it make the window look bigger, it will also let more light in.

3. Mirrors

We’re sure you heard this before, but mirrors do the business. No, it doesn’t mean you’re super vain! But mirrors will help not only create more space but also help you magic the illusion of more room. It works. They don’t have to be just a one off, you can even mix and match different styles and sizes to add a bit of style.

IRMELIN fabric is guaranteed to bring joy either a wall hanging or cushion (£5/m)
The striking SVALLERUP rug makes a statement with a bold pattern (£60)

4. Boring floors

Replacing a carpet for an entire room is expensive, but a stylish and versatile rug is the wallet-friendly and savvy option. Change your entire room by adding a rug, whether it’s to fit under a coffee table or to spread beneath a bed. They work wonders to hide miserable stains that have been haunting you – as well as worn patches, or just to give your flooring a whole new feel.

5. Colour

Let’s face it, it’s definitely more of a ‘don’t move, improve’ time in this current climate, but a dash of paint can really go a long way without putting too much dent on your rainy day savings. It can give your home an instant lift, whether you decide on a feature wall or really go the whole hog and decide on refreshing the whole room with a vivid colour. If you want more neutral walls, you can add your colour through your fabrics, whether that’s utilising the DELAKTIG and its array of colours with its rich, jewel tones. Complement that with a catching design for your bed covers and it will do a lot of the heavy lifting.

6. Texture

Don’t be afraid of adding different fabrics and designs to your room. Without texture a room can seem a little flat, but you can add your personality into your home by picking affordable cushions, curtains or bed linen to help give that added lift. But don’t go too crazy, stick to a couple in a single space. You don’t want sensory overload. Texture is particularly important when working with a particular colour scheme, you can pick similar colours but in different textures to add contrast to your design.

The DELAKTIG armchair is sustainable and stylish (£450)



Super comfortable and uber-cool this SKARVFRO cushion is great in the bedroom or living room (£4)

7. Have a seat

IKEA’s DELAKTIG will allow you to create your home, your way, whatever space you have. Its design allows you to style the furniture to suit your lifestyle. Whether you decide on expanding the basic seating platform by adding back rests, arm rests or even a table. The choice is yours, and you can add later if you choose. You can always scale it back and remove any additions, choose a different cover in a new colour, add some cushions and a throw, and it’s a whole new vibe.

8. Accessorize with towels

An absolute essential, but they don’t have to be scrunched up in the back of an airing cupboard or hung on the back of the door. Pick bold bath towels and make a statement by displaying the beautiful ones in your bathroom to add a bit of colour and texture.

The SANDVILAN hand towel will inject excitement into any kitchen (£6)

9. Storage is key

Use this time of year to have a spring clean. Give your belongings a home of their own and and official place, where they must be returned to. This will help you declutter and get organised to create a bigger space. Remember storage is your friend, and you can make it stylish whether you pick a vintage trunk, or patterned boxes, it will help you create that extra room you’ve been looking for. Putting up a shelf can also change the dynamic of your room, where you can add lighting like the EVADEL lamp or scatter picture frames and add character.

10. Get a handle

One way to instantly change the mood of your home is to change the handles. It means you don’t have to relegate your furniture to the charity shop just yet, as you breathe new life into it once you find new handles that tickle your fancy. This works on your doors as well as cupboards, and can be picked up in stores like IKEA or you can trawl reclaim sites for more vintage pieces.

11. Plants

Get yourself some greenery to go with your new design. Studies suggest that indoor plants help your concentration, reduce stress and enhance your mood, so all the more reason to snap up some greenery. Just one plant can transform your entire room and mood too!

What can cause a penis to smell?

(Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Let’s say you wake up one morning and notice a smell coming from your penis.

What’s causing it? Why is it happening? And what should you do?

Do not fear, friends, for we have the answers.

Let’s start by looking at the why.

Why does my penis smell?

The NHS explains that there are four common causes of a penis that’s smells: a build-up of smegma, balanitis, or an STI.

Smegma is a natural lubricant that is found around the head of the penis and under the foreskin. When it builds up, it begins to look like a white, cheesy substance (that’s why it’s sometimes called ‘penis cheese’).

It’s made up of secretions from the sebaceous oil and dead skin cells. When this builds up, it can provide the perfect host for bacteria. It can also start to smell and cause soreness, particularly when it comes to moving the foreskin back and forth.

Smegma is more common among those with an uncircumcised penis, but it can also build up on those without their foreskin. It can also occur in women, building up between the folds of the labia or around the clitoral hood.

Balanitis is a type of skin irritation that affects the penis and foreskin. It’s often caused by a build-up of smegma, but can also be caused by irritation by urine, the use of soaps and shower gels, thrush, a bacterial infection, an STI, or a skin condition such as eczema.

Alongside an odour, symptoms of balanitis include a soreness, itching, redness, swelling, and pain when urinating.

Some STIs can cause a penis to smell, including gonorrhoea and chlamydia. We’re sure you’re getting regular sexual health checkups already (right?), but if your penis is emitting an odour is definitely a reason to get to your local clinic.

illustrated image of a man looking into his underwear
(Picture: Dave Anderson for Metro.co.uk)

What should I do about a smelly penis?

If your penis smells, seek medical advice rather than trying to do any at-home remedies, which could end up making the issue worse.

Book an appointment with your GP or find a walk-in sexual health clinic.

They’ll find out the cause of the odour and treat the underlying issue, whether it’s by prescribing antibiotics or an antifungal cream or advising you against using a certain shower gel.

How can I prevent my penis smelling in the future?

It’s easy! Keep your penis clean, don’t have unprotected sex, and be careful with any products you’re rubbing on your member.

Not everyone knows how to clean their penis (it’s not something that’s often taught in sex ed), so here’s a quick guide:

  • Gently wash the penis with warm water (no need for fragranced soap or shower gel, which could cause irritation) each day when you have a shower or bath
  • If you have a foreskin, gently pull it back to wash underneath
  • If you feel the need to use a shower gel, choose one that’s unscented and ditch it if it causes tingling or soreness
  • Make sure to clean the base of the penis and the testicles, too, as that’s where sweat can build up and leave a stink
  • Don’t spray your penis or balls with perfume or any other harsh products

Make sure to use protection when having sex, and go for regular sexual health check-ups – after every new partner or every six months, whichever is sooner.

MORE: Men describe what an orgasm actually feels like

MORE: 15 men share their wildest sex stories

MORE: Man who lost part of his penis to cancer is talking all about it on stage

Woman disgusted after finding open condom wrapper in PrettyLittleThing parcel

(Picture: Twitter)

A woman has shared photos of an open condom wrapper she found stuck to her PrettyLittleThing skirt.

Leonie Pattinson had ordered clothes from the online fashion website, and upon opening a skirt found an open condom wrapper stuck to it.

She shared to Twitter a photo of the skirt and condom wrapper, which had ‘Trojan’ sprawled across it in big letters, writing: ‘I am absolutely HORRIFIED. Just opened my package from @OfficialPLT to find an OPEN CONDOM WRAPPER stuck to the skirt?!?!

‘@OfficialPLT_CS think you need to be more thorough when checking returns and sending products out to people!!!’

Since posting the tweet, people have been commenting in disbelief.

One person said: ‘Oh my god’, while another wrote: ‘F*** off’.

Metro.co.uk reached out to PrettyLittleThing for comment, but they’ve yet to reply.

Horrified woman finds USED condom wrapper stuck to her PrettyLittleThing skirt Picture: @leojpattinson METROGRAB https://twitter.com/leojpattinson/status/1092084496923590656
(Picture: Twitter)

However, they did respond directly to Leonie’s tweet, writing: ‘I am so sorry this has happened.

‘So we can investigate this, can you send us a DM with your order number and email address. -Louise K.’

Hey, at least it’s not a used condom.

PrettyLittleThing has been receiving a number of complaints recently – though Leonie is the first (or so we’ve seen) to find a condom wrapper with her items.

Others have been taking to Twitter to complain about the material of the clothes, being sent the wrong outfits and the length of the items.

Horrified woman finds USED condom wrapper stuck to her PrettyLittleThing skirt Picture: @leojpattinson METROGRAB https://twitter.com/leojpattinson/status/1092084496923590656
(Picture: Twitter)

One girl ordered a pair of flares so long they were even too big on her 6’2 boyfriend.

Elodie Hicks had ordered a pair of size 4 printed flared trousers, and they were so long that she made her boyfriend try them on for a photo.

She shared it to Twitter, writing: ‘When your size 4 flares are even too long for your 6’2 boyfriend… @OfficialPLT sort your sizing out’.

Another girl shared an expectation vs reality photo – after a cute mustard dress she’d ordered ended up being what looked like a bright orange high-vis jacket.

MORE: Woman orders coat online, gets one a little more ‘oversized’ than she expected

MORE: Woman buys ‘flattering’ dress online but gets a ‘bin bag’ instead

Alleviate back pain by doing these stretches at your desk

Woman stretching at a desk
(Picture: Getty)

Back pain is no joke.

It can be chronic, debilitating and affect almost every aspect of your life.

Many people who suffer from back pain feel as though they have to resort to taking long-term medication, or opt for invasive surgery.

But simple stretching and movement can really do a lot to help alleviate pain.

This week we have looked at stretches you can do at home to help deal with back pain, but then we thought – what about when you’re at work?

Slumped over your computer for eight hours a day, back pain often hits the hardest when you’re stuck at your desk. And sometimes you just need instant relief.

We’ve collated the best, simple stretches you can do at work, without leaving your chair, and without looking like too much of an idiot.

Osteopath and founder of the Woodside Clinic, Anisha Joshi, is adamant that spending the majority of your day at a desk is a huge contributor for back pain.

‘We were built to hunt for food and not sit for hours and hours, so our bodies are built to move, not be sedentary,’ Anisha tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Sitting can affect your blood flow, muscle tension and nervous system. Muscles tensing and tightening causes restrictions on our spine which can lead to malalignment. This can turn from acute to chronic pain which can last a long time.

‘Patients often come into me and say they have pain on and off, but then it is OK when they do a bit of stretching.

‘More and more of us are doing sedentary jobs and commuting and sitting on the sofa.

‘It is important to show our muscles the full range of movement. This also increases the blood flow in the body and helps reduce inflammation. Stretching helps oxygen flow around the body and can also help reduce stress.’

Try Anisha’s stretches next time you’re feeling a bit stiff – and encourage your work pals to do the same.

Woman stretching at a desk

Posterior shoulder blade stretch

Bring one arm across your chest and use your other arm to stretch/pull it across your body, holding the arm you are stretching above the elbow.

Hold each stretch for five seconds and then repeat on the other arm.

Repeat five times on each arm.

Benefits: This stretches the muscles between the shoulder blades which attach to the top of neck that get tight which can tense up when looking at a screen.

Neck stretch

Sit on one hand, palm down, and turn your neck to the other shoulder so you feel a stretch in one side of neck.

Hold each one for 10 seconds and then repeat five times.

Do the same for the other side – sit on the other hand and repeat five times.

Benefits: Reduces tension and neck pain from hunching and looking at screen – all muscles which attach into the shoulder and neck are anatomically connected to the upper back.

Nerve supplies come from the neck to the upper back so restrictions can impact nerve functions which can compromise the upper back and cause pain.

Shoulder shrugs

Bring your shoulders up towards the bottom of your ear – hold for a couple of seconds and then release.

Repeat 10 times.

Benefits: Reduces tension and mobilises the shoulder blades and upper back.

Backward stretch

Stand up and interlace your fingers behind back.

Pull your arms backwards away from you to stretch your muscles across the front of your chest.

Benefits: Your pecks are typically hunched when at your desk, so contracting anteriorally when hunching forward.

Think of them as elastic bands from your sternum to anterior parts of shoulder. By stretching them it helps alleviate pain in your upper back.

Middle back rotation

Sit forward on your chair so you are perched on the edge.

Hold your elbows in front of you, so your arms form a square against your body (often known as the Cossack position).

Rotate gently and slowly from left to right 10 times.

Benefits: This rotation stretches your lateral muscles and trapezius muscle, which attaches to your mid back to prevent mid back pain.

Roll down

Stand up from your desk, giving yourself enough space to bend forwards without banging your head.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and gently rock backwards and forwards from heel to toe until you settle slightly towards the ball of your foot.

With your arms by your side, slightly bend your knees so you are upright, but the knees aren’t locked in a straight position.

Inhale and on your exhaled breath, tuck your chin to your chest and slowly nod the head and roll down towards the floor, one vertebra at a time.

Roll down as far as your comfortably can whilst keeping your neck and shoulders relaxed.

Just hang down there for a few seconds and enjoy the stretch, breathing naturally.

On your exhale breath, slowly roll back up, one vertebra at a time, until you are standing upright.

Repeat three or four times.

Benefits: This stretches the lower back and is good for the core and posture.

Stretching can be really helpful, but it can only do so much. If you are experiencing new, severe or chronic back pain then you should definitely have a chat with your GP.

MORE: How to do a side plank: the perfect technique for the tricky core exercise

MORE: These are the best stretches to help deal with back pain

MORE: What on earth is a Gyrotonic workout?

KitchenAid releases limited edition misty blue mixer to celebrate 100th birthday

(Picture: KitchenAid)

One of the best things about Bake Off is of course the pastel kitchenware.

It might be a tent in the middle of a garden but the colour scheme is pretty.

We all lust after the KitchenAid mixers that the bakers use for all their creations.

And now, to celebrate 100 years, the company have released a limited edition misty blue colour.

It has a white trim and white textured ceramic bowl – a nod to their early models 100 years ago.

It has a special centenary logo, which lifts away to reveal an attachment hub. With accessories, you can turn it into a tool for slicing, grating, chopping and peeling, to juicing and spiralizing or even to make pasta.

KitchenAid is celebrating 100 years of rustling up our favourite dishes with a special, limited edition, pale blue mixer. The new Centenary Stand Mixer in Misty Blue is packed with all the features home cooks and Michelin-starred chefs alike have come to love, along with a whole host of impressive new tech. And it appears to have already sold out online.
(Picture: KitchenAid)

It comes with the 4.8 ceramic bowl, stainless steel 6-wire whisk, dough hook, flat beater and a flex-edge beater.

The mixer has already sold out in most UK stores but once it’s restocked, it will be available at Lakeland, John Lewis and from the KitchenAid store for £699.

MORE: Alleviate back pain by doing these stretches at your desk

MORE: Woman disgusted after finding open condom wrapper in PrettyLittleThing parcel

Mum needs your help to find dream man she mistakenly thought was her blind date

Jacky Rom was on the dating app 'Plenty of Fish'
Jacky Rom is looking for the man she mistakenly thought was her blind date (Picture: BPM Media)

Can you help this woman find the one that got away?

Jack Rom, from Romford, had gone to a Chelmsford pub for a date arranged on Plenty of Fish. She and her date had planned to meet at the Fox and Raven on Barnes Mille Road.

When she arrived, she met a man… a man who was not her date.

Jacky, an author who’s been single for nine months, said: ‘When I pulled up in the car park I saw a guy behind me and thought he looked nice, I did think it was a bit funny that he didn’t say

‘I went inside and ordered a drink and sat down, when he walked in he came over to me straight away greeted me with a peck on the cheek and said “I thought you were a redhead”.

‘When he said that I didn’t think much of it, because I have always had different coloured hair, I just thought I was pleased with my choice.

Jacky and her date had a coffee at this Chelmsford Pub
The pub where they met (Picture: BPM Media)

‘He had a twinkle in his eye and he was a gentleman, even though I wasn’t what he expected when he saw me he said “it’s ok, it doesn’t matter”.

‘He then went over to the bar and got himself a drink, at which point my actual date walked in.’

Yep, the man was actually there to meet his own date, not Jacky. An easy mistake.

But here’s the thing, the man Jacky met up with from Plenty of Fish wasn’t the right match – and she reckons the man she mistook for her date might be her dream guy.

She’s now desperate to track him down and get to know him better.

‘It didn’t even occur to me he was the wrong person,’ says Jacky. ‘I didn’t even think of that I thought oh a nice guy for a change.

‘My actual date was nowhere near as nice as the other man, but we all at that point had realised what had happened and laughed about it.’

The man’s date turned up at the same time, but Jacky has no idea how that went.

Jacky Rom was on the dating app 'Plenty of Fish'
(Picture: BPM Media)

‘It was so annoying, we were sat there chatting away and I was not giving him my full attention,’ said Jacky. ‘I was thinking about pretending to go to the toilet and instead running outside and putting my business card on his car windscreen, because I knew what car he had as he followed me in.

‘But after about 40 minutes they just left and I couldn’t do anything, I didn’t know if they had had a good date or not.

‘It’s a shame I had the coffee with the wrong one. I would like the chance I missed.’

Jacky describes her mystery man as around 50 to 55 and says he had an Essex accent. She can’t remember if he had facial hair, but he did have an ‘unusual’ haircut – grey, closely shaven at the sides, and longer on the top.

She says he was around 6 foot tall and was wearing grey skinny jeans.

We imagine that if the man is reading this story he’ll remember the confusion, but in case he needs reminding what Jacky looks like, at the pub she was wearing black ripped skinny jeans, black boots, and a beige top with a silver diamante star on the front.

Jacky reached out to Essex Live for help, asking the man to get in touch if he’d like to meet again.

‘I would kick myself if I didn’t at least try to reach out and find him,’ she said.

If you’re the man in question and fancy another date, email paige.ingram@reachplc.com.

MORE: Over 50s dating app shows their most eligible singles in the country

MORE: What I learnt from being in a relationship where we both have anxiety and depression

MORE: Why do younger men go for older women?

Woman slams PrettyLittleThing for sending dress that flashes her vagina

(Picture: bethanie_nicola/Twitter)

A woman has criticised PrettyLittleThing for their sizing after being sent a dress that barely covers her bits.

21-year-old Bethanie Moore, a student from Wolverhampton, tweeted the fashion retailer after the black long sleeve wrap midi jersey tea dress which she’d ordered in a size bigger than her usual to compensate for the company’s renowned sizing disparities, barely covered her privates.

She posted a simple question to the brand, saying: ‘Explain this please’

METRO GRAB TWITTER An online shopper has criticised Pretty Little Thing for their sizing after being sent a dress that barely covers her modesty. Bethanie Moore, 21 ,a student from Wolverhampton tweeted the clothing brand after she found that the black long sleeve wrap midi jersey tea dress, which she had already ordered a size to big to compensate for PLT???s renowned sizing disparities, barley covered her modesty. She posted a simple question the brand ???Explain this please??? Talking to Jam Press Bethanie said - ???The dress was a totally different design to what was displayed online, and as you can see from my picture the sizing is WAY off! ???I even sized up when ordering to a 14 as I knew pretty little thing and other brands are know for having dodgy sizing and it was still awful!??? ???I think it really knocks a girls confidence having to size up, even though the average UK size for females is 12 were constantly seeing the models wearing 6-8??? https://twitter.com/bethanie_nicola/status/1089471985011380224
(Picture: bethanie_nicola/Twitter)

Bethanie said the dress was a completely different design to what was shown online, and that the sizing is way off.

She said: ‘I even sized up when ordering to a 14 as I knew pretty little thing and other brands are know for having dodgy sizing and it was still awful!

‘I think it really knocks a girl’s confidence having to size up, even though the average UK size for females is 12 we’re constantly seeing the models wearing 6-8.

‘I think it’s important sizing is accurate and girls aren’t made to feel any bigger than they are when we already feel pressure to be slim!’

METRO GRAB TWITTER An online shopper has criticised Pretty Little Thing for their sizing after being sent a dress that barely covers her modesty. Bethanie Moore, 21 ,a student from Wolverhampton tweeted the clothing brand after she found that the black long sleeve wrap midi jersey tea dress, which she had already ordered a size to big to compensate for PLT???s renowned sizing disparities, barley covered her modesty. She posted a simple question the brand ???Explain this please??? Talking to Jam Press Bethanie said - ???The dress was a totally different design to what was displayed online, and as you can see from my picture the sizing is WAY off! ???I even sized up when ordering to a 14 as I knew pretty little thing and other brands are know for having dodgy sizing and it was still awful!??? ???I think it really knocks a girls confidence having to size up, even though the average UK size for females is 12 were constantly seeing the models wearing 6-8??? https://twitter.com/bethanie_nicola/status/1089471985011380224
(Picture: bethanie_nicola/Twitter)

PrettyLittleThing didn’t respond to Bethanie’s tweet. She went through the standard returns procedure and got a refund.

‘I didn’t even reorder the dress as the design was different,’ she said.

‘I also ordered a green dress that I couldn’t even get over my shoulders, which I’ve reordered in a 16 and it fits even though I’m usually a 12!’

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What is smegma?

(Picture: Getty)

An episode of Channel 4’s The Sex Clinic previewed this week, putting smegma at the forefront of everyone’s minds (to our chagrin).

The unsuspecting protagonist of the show visited their doctor to resolve an issue he was having with retracting his foreskin, only to find that it was down to the fact he wasn’t washing his penis correctly.

There had been a build up of smegma under his foreskin which was causing the pain, as well as creating an unpleasant odour down below. Not great for the lad to find out such a thing on national television.

While the word smegma may seem like a schoolyard taunt, however, it’s actually a medical term, and a very real problem for people with penises who aren’t sure of the correct shower techniques to remove it.

What exactly is smegma?

The dictionary definition of smegma is: ‘a sebaceous secretion in the folds of the skin, especially under a man’s foreskin.’

It can be made up of dead skin, oil, and general moisture, and isn’t just a ‘knob-cheese’ type substance – fresh smegma is secreted all the time and is actually necessary.

Fresh smegma is smooth, and helps lubricate the skin (particularly useful for erections) and stop you getting abrasions.

It’s only when it’s left unwashed to build up and breed bacteria that it becomes a problem. It can smell, and eventually cause pain like it did in the case of the Sex Clinic patient.

Although we tend to think of it purely as a penis issue, you could also find it in the folds of the labia, or around the clitoral hood.

Why does build-up of smegma happen?

As mentioned, smegma itself is not the problem, rather the build-up.

This can happen when those hard-to-reach parts aren’t washed correctly and the smegma stays there and thrives in the moist, warm environment.

Bacteria will continue to grow, causing a cheesy smell and texture and potentially balanitis.

Karin O’Sullivan, Clinical Lead at the sexual health charity FPA, told Metro.co.uk: ‘Balanitis makes the head of the penis red, inflamed and itchy and can cause problems with peeing. If you suspect you have balanitis go and see your GP who may prescribe a topical treatment.’

Eventually, this could lead people to experience phimosis, which is when it’s difficult to retract the foreskin.

What can you do to prevent the build-up of smegma or treat it?

Regular washing should avoid build-up of smegma.

That doesn’t simply mean a quick swipe of a bar of soap. Pull back the foreskin and wash with gentle soap around the glans and corona (the ridge at the bottom of the head). Once a day should keep smells and excretions in check.

For those of you with vaginas, go for an unperfumed soap, and give the vulva a wash, making sure to pay attention to any folds.

Any problems relating to a build-up will have to be dealt with by a GP.

Is smegma a sign of an STI?

Karin told us: ‘Smegma is not a symptom is an STI, but if you notice any other unusual discharge from your penis in terms of colour, consistency and smell, or have any other irritation it could be worth getting an STI test.

‘Bottom line – wash your penis every day and smegma shouldn’t be too much an issue for you’

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You can now name a venomous snake after your ex for Valentine’s Day

(Picture: wildlifesydneyzoo)

Is your ex a snake? Well, you can now tell the world, as Wild Life Sydney Zoo is giving away the opportunity to name one of their most venomous snakes after your ex.

The Australian zoo has made it possible to name one of their brown snakes after your ex.

All you have to do is fill out the competition entry form, provide your ex’s name the the reason why they deserve to have a snake named after them along with a $1 AUS donation that will go towards the Wild Life Conservation Fund.

And, not only will you know that your ex has a snake named after them, but you’ll also receive a certificate and the opportunity to visit the snake for free every day for the next year.

Instagram Photo

However, if you’re from the UK, of course you’ll have to get flights over to Sydney first.

All donations will go towards the Wild Life Conservation Fund – a fund dedicated to conserving Australian native wildlife by funding research and conducting educational programs and events.

Mark Connolly, General Manager at Sydney Zoo said: ‘We hope that by providing someone unlucky in love the opportunity to name WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo’s very own brown snake after their ex, we can give them something else to celebrate on Valentine’s Day this year.

‘We’re also throwing in an annual pass to WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, so that you can also visit the snake in Darling Harbour as many times as you want during the next year!’

The winning name will be selected by the zoo’s reptile team, and will be announced on Valentine’s Day – meaning the winner will get the ultimate Valentine’s gift.

The competition ends at 11:59pm on 13 February – so go forth people, and start explaining why your awful ex is a poisonous snake.

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Woman became friends with the stranger she saved on the side of a road – and it changed their lives

Jo and Keith, the first time they met after the day of the cardiac arrest (Picture: Jo Michaelides)

On a Sunday afternoon nine years ago, Jo Michaelides was driving home with her three-month-old son when she saw a commotion at the side of the road.

She thought for a minute about whether she should stop or drive on.

But as her baby was asleep, she decided to pull over and see if someone needed help.

That decision changed everything. She saved a man’s life, changed her own life and together, they went on to train over 1000 people how to keep someone alive in an emergency.

Jo, 40, from Farnham, Surrey, explains: ‘I could see people looking quite shocked and a man flat on his back, no one was really doing anything. I made that split second decision to stop and help.

‘I pulled over, put my hazzard lights on and got out. I went over to him and asked what had happened.

‘People around him said: “I think he has fallen off his bike.”

‘I thought back to the first aid course I had done at work. It is amazing how it does pop into your head when you need it.

‘I started checking him, like I had learnt but when it got to checking that he was breathing, it became evident very quickly that he wasn’t.

‘I had another moment of thinking about how I had to do this thing that I had only ever done on a mannequin. I had a lot of adrenaline though so I just started doing CPR and rescue breaths.’

Jo helped to keep the man alive and continued performing CPR when the first responder arrived, while he prepared a defibrillator.

What is a cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest is when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood round your body, commonly because of a problem with electrical signals in your heart.

When your heart stops pumping blood, your brain is starved of oxygen.

This causes you to fall unconscious and stop breathing. 

There are usually no symptoms before a cardiac arrest and, without immediate treatment, it will be fatal.

If someone is in cardiac arrest:

  • they won’t be conscious
  • they won’t be responsive
  • they won’t be breathing, or breathing normally.

A cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If you witness a cardiac arrest, you can increase the person’s chances of survival by phoning 999 immediately and giving CPR.

British Heart Foundation

About 15 minutes later, the ambulance crew arrived and took the man to hospital.

Jo adds: ‘We were just a group of people who were stood there thinking “Goodness, that was not how I thought I would spend my Sunday afternoon.”

‘Some of the people there were quite traumatised because they were there before me and they didn’t know what to do. If you don’t have first aid training, and you aren’t able to help.

‘I went home and I held my baby very tight that night. I did phone the hospital to see how he was but they couldn’t tell me anything because I wasn’t a relative.’

She wondered what happened to the man but had no way to find out.

Until nine months later, she had a phone call from her mum about an article she read in their local paper.

Keith, Jo and her son, and Stuart Aslett, who was from the South East Coast Ambulance who was the first paramedic to get to them that day (Picture: Jo Michaelides)

Jo explained: ‘All I knew about him what his name was because someone had gone through his wallet. His name was Keith Aston.

‘My mum rang me up nine months later and said: “You know that man you gave CPR to? I’ve just read about him in the local paper. Not only is he alive and well but he has just cycled 200 miles for the British Heart Foundation from London to Brighton and then back again.”

‘He stated in the paper that he did that because somebody had started CPR and a chain of survival that went on to allow him to make a recovery from his cardiac arrest.

‘It was quite emotional to read that. My mum got in touch with the paper and said how glad we were to hear about what has happened.

‘The paper had reported that I was a nurse but my mum wanted to explain that I wasn’t a nurse and I was just an ordinary person who happened to do a first aid course.

‘She wanted to show how important it is to do a first aid course. The paper printed that letter, Keith saw it and the paper put us in touch.’

Keith wrote to Jo, thanking her for what she had done and a few weeks later, they met for the first time.

Keith on the London to Brighton bike ride in 1997 (Picture: Keith Aston)

She explains: ‘I think one of the thing that struck both of us was that number of people who had been there before me and didn’t know what to do.

‘We resolved to do something about that. We wanted to make sure the people in our local community did not feel helpless in that situation.’

With some help from the South East Coast Ambulance Service and the British Heart Foundation, Jo and Keith set up the Heartstart Farnham Lions group, to provide training in basic life support for members of the local community.

Since it was set up, they have trained over 1000 people, with some going on to use their skills to save a life in an emergency.

‘Our group was lead by Keith and what had happened to us,’ Jo adds.

‘He liked to pay forward his second chance. He did that every day.

‘He was a real advocate for people learning what to do and getting awareness for defibrillators. We found that hugely rewarding.’

Keith and Jo with Peter Glover from the South East Coast Ambulance Service (Picture: Jo Michaelides)

Working with the group inspired Jo to give up her job, working for a law firm, to become a full-time first aid trainer alongside her volunteer work.

‘Meeting Keith completely changed my life.

‘Not only did I start volunteering to teach people these emergency skills but I also retrained to work as a first aid trainer. It was inspired by the group,’ she says.

As well as her job and the group they created, saving Keith’s life created a bond between them and they became very close friends.

‘It turned out he lived just down the road from my mum and we had probably passed eachother on the street without even knowing, before it.

‘We had a lovely bond – it was such an unusual experience to share.

‘He ended up feeling more like family and I was very grateful to have known him and to have been welcomed by his family.

‘It has been lovely to have that friendship over the years.’

Sadly, last June, Keith suffered a stroke while out training for the London to Brighton ride for the British Heart Foundation that he had continued to take on over the years.

Keith never recovered from the stroke and he died at the age of 78.

Jo had such an impact on his life since they met nine years ago, his family asked her to speak at his funeral.

‘He was very fit and could cycle for miles and miles but sadly when he was out, he had a stroke and he never recovered,’ Jo said.

‘It was a huge blow to our group and obviously to me personally as well.

‘It made our resolve stronger to carry the work he started forwards. His motto was “don’t be a bystander”. It was something he lived by and we want to continue to promote that idea wherever we can.’

The London to Brighton team: Graeme Main, Gary Read, Jo, James Dorset and Jo’s husband Jason. Josh Main and Mike Bassett are not pictured but they will also be part of the team (Picture: Jo MIchaelides)

After his death, Jo and the rest of the Heartstart group resolved to keep his memory alive.

They started the Aston defibrillator fund to maintain and fund the devices in their local area.

‘We want people to know what they are and how to use them as well. It’s no good putting them there and just forgetting about them,’ Jo says.

‘People who live slightly further away from cities need this sort of thing because it takes ambulances longer to get there and having someone there to start emergency life support can makes a huge difference.’

And in Keith’s memory, Jo is taking on the London to Brighton cycle ride for the first time this year.

She explains: ‘I was inspired by Keith’s commitment and it was something that was so important to him to give back to the incredible support the British Heart Foundation has given our group, and him as well.

‘There is a team of us now that are riding in his memory to raise money, awareness and to pay tribute to him. he was such a fantastic friend and leader of our group.

‘My husband is riding with me as well as one of Keith’s oldest friends, some of his colleagues and one of my oldest friends.

‘I had a chat with his daughter quite recently and she said I could ride his bike, which will be lovely.

‘I am trying to get up my level of fitness and I am confident that I can get there. I am looking forward to it but it’s not until June so I have a little bit of time.

‘Because of Keith, there are people out there who are alive who might not have been otherwise.

‘There were moments in my life and also in Keith’s where we both thought about what would have happened if I hadn’t decided to stop.

‘I’m so glad I did, that’s all I can say. It was a very humbling experience and a pivotal moment for both of us.’

How to join the BHF bike rides

Bike rides for the British Heart Foundation take place across the country every year

You can get information on how to sign up and how to get fundraising, on their website.

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Meet the group helping black people reconnect with the natural world

A group of people walking in the forest.
(Picture: Wild In The City)

There is an enduring myth that black people don’t ‘do’ nature.

We don’t go rambling, we don’t wear wellies, we certainly don’t go out in the rain.

Much like the myth that black people don’t swim, it’s a crude, self-limiting stereotype and it perpetuates BAME exclusion from the natural world.

It may seem like a ridiculous concept – how can people be excluded from nature? It’s literally just outside. But when you consider that most national parks and outdoor-led institutions are predominantly created and run exclusively by white people, you can see how easily ethnic minorities could be made to feel unwelcome.

Think about it, when you go on a country walk it’s rare to see a black face. And when you don’t see anyone who looks like you, that space can immediately feel hostile, unwelcome and like it is ‘not for you.’

Wild In The City is a group that’s sole aim is to make nature in the UK more inclusive.

They want to help BAME people who live in urban areas reconnect with the natural world and, at the same time, improve their well-being and mental health.

The group was created by Beth Collier, a nature-based psychotherapist who is dedicated to helping people of colour find their place in nature.

‘People of colour in the UK spend less time in nature than white communities. This is such a contrast to what happens in our countries of heritage, where we are often extremely close to nature,’ Beth tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Something happens when we come to the West, to the UK, and we lose that connection.

‘Very often, people of colour report experiences of racism or being fearful of feeling isolated or feeling more visible when there are fewer numbers of other people of colour.

‘And these are the reasons why they end up avoiding nature altogether.

Three women build a fire in the woods.
(Picture: Wild In The City)

‘It’s particularly the case for black men. They are often made to feel that they have to show that they are “safe” and that they are not a “threat” to anybody else.

‘It can be such a burden having to feel as though it’s your responsibility to make others feel safe. But for a black man in woodland or remote areas, that responsibility to prove that they are not a threat, or not aggressive is very real.’

Beth says this dissonance with nature is passed down through families – and that displacement is at its heart.

‘The impact of this is generational. When our parents didn’t take us outside, neither did our grandparents, there’s a loss of knowledge about the kind of nature and wildlife in the UK.

‘In our countries of heritage, we would naturally learn from our parents and grandparents about the world around us, about the land and green spaces and natural resources. That gets lost in the journey to the UK, so there’s no one to tell us about what we’re seeing.

‘Most environmental activities are run by white, middle-class organisations, and that can lead to feelings of being patronised or not being welcome.

‘We do tell these myths about ourselves – that we don’t walk, that we don’t like the outdoors. And I think a lot of that is coping with the sense of trauma and disconnect.

‘When you don’t have something, or when you’re denied something, a common coping mechanism is to dismiss it, trivialise it, say that you didn’t want it anyway. It helps people deal with the pain of not having something they long for.’

Beth says the effects of the nature therapy have been overwhelmingly positive. And for the people who join her club, being around other people of colour makes a huge difference.

‘It has helped people to feel comfortable in the space, and for nature to become a friend,’ explains Beth.

‘It also increases their sense of entitlement, and lets them know that they do belong, that they have permission to be in those spaces.’

Mike Barrett White is a trainee Nature Guide for Wild In The City. He’s working towards being able to lead nature sessions and walks for other groups of minorities in London.

‘Being in nature has given me the space and time to be still and reflect,’ Mike tells us.

‘The effect on my mental health is really positive, and I just feel really good and at peace when I’m spending time in natural spaces.

‘I’ve learnt a lot about my natural surroundings, and feel far more comfortable entering natural spaces – which in turn has made me spend more time in nature.

‘Being with other people of colour made all the difference. I had tried to join a walking group at my university but it just didn’t feel enjoyable – I felt uncomfortable being the only black person there and really felt I had to water myself down to fit in with the stereotypical “outdoorsy” crowd.

‘This group feels like a safe and welcoming community – I feel supported and never feel like I have to be anything other than myself.’

A group of people walking
(Picture: Wild In The City)

Wild In The City offer group walks and activities in easy-to-access natural spaces all around London. As well as walking and therapy, they learn practical skills such as how to build a fire or create a shelter using natural materials.

Beth thinks it’s vitally important for black people and ethnic minorities to carve out their own safe spaces within nature, so they can reap the benefits of experiencing the natural world.

‘As well as exploring our social, emotional, human relationships, there’s an opportunity to explore our relationship with nature,’ explains Beth.

‘There are so many traumas in daily life in urban areas. We are more disconnected from each other because our lives are driven by technology and this leads to a fragmentation in our social relationships, we don’t see each other face-to-face as much as we used to.

‘Many of us feel lonely and isolated in the cities, so gathering in nature is a great way to find a sense of belonging and have real contact time with other human beings.

‘Nature plays such a big part in our mental health. Whether it’s our subjective experience, we tend to feel calmer and happier and have clearer thinking when we are in nature.

‘But there is also some great neuroscience being done which shows that just looking at pictures of nature can lower levels of depression and anxiety – it reduces out cortisol. So when you’re actually in nature, the responses are even better.

‘Being in nature is shown to improve our mood, our concentration, our memory and our feelings of well-being. So, having a therapeutic interaction in nature, just by being there, feels comforting for people.

Wild In The City want you to join them for walks and nature-based activities in the capital. They make sure that all of their walks are accessible to public transport, so you don’t even need a car.

The hope is for the scheme to expand to other UK cities, if they can find funding sponsorship.

Beth has seen the results and knows how important it is to enable people of colour to rediscover the joys and benefits of being in the natural world.

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