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You Don’t Look Sick: ‘My lungs are broken but people don’t think I am disabled’


Welcome to You Don’t Look Sick – our new weekly series about invisible illness and disabilities.

There are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, but for many of them, you would have no idea anything is wrong.

Lots of people suffer from debilitating symptoms and daily struggles but when they are out in public, they are challenged when they use priority seats or disabled parking.

They’re told ‘but you don’t look sick’ because they don’t use a wheelchair or something people associate with disability.

This series is a look at what it’s really like to live with a disability or illness that no one can see, discussing the symptoms that affect their lives every day and how they are treated when they are out in public.

Kim Lam, who has COPD, stands in her house in Aberdeen
Kim at home in Aberdeen (Photo: Ross Johnston/Newsline Media)

Kim Lam, 32, from Aberdeen, Scotland, has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), a condition which causes long-term inflammation of the airways.

COPD usually affects older people and people who are heavy smokers but Kim was in her 20s and had never smoked.

Outwardly, Kim looks like a normal healthy, young woman but her condition means an intense schedule of medication and breathing exercises just to make sure her lungs can cope each day.

On a good day, she can leave the house and do normal day-to-day things but she has to be careful not to over exert herself.

Kim Lam, who has COPD, wearing a nebuliser mask on her face for treatment
Kim uses a neubiliser every day to help her breathe (Picture: Kim Lam)

But when she uses things like disabled parking spaces, she has faced judgement.

She explains: ‘My condition really can vary, I can have a really good day, go for a walk, go to the gym etc and feel fine, but just as quickly, I can feel very ill the next day. It’s just about balance and being careful – not overdoing it, but not being afraid to challenge myself slightly.

‘I have had people say things like “but you don’t look sick”. On one occasion, I had parked in a disabled spot in the shopping centre (with my disabled badge) and got a scathing remark from a young couple who were with their baby in a pram. The woman had retorted that those spaces “are for disabled people only”.

‘I was too shy at the time to speak up but my boyfriend at the time screamed back and asked if she had any idea what condition I had and told her she shouldn’t be judging people based purely on their looks.’

Kim, who works as a marketing manager, was diagnosed five years ago when she moved from Scotland to London for work and suddenly her health deteriorated.

Kim Lam, who has COPD, with her dog in a car, showing her feeding tube, which she had to use for two months.
Kim had to use a feeding tube for two months because she burns calories faster and she lost a lot of weight (Picture: Kim Lam)

She explains: ‘After about three months of living there, I noticed I was getting more and more breathless, experiencing what seemed like severe asthma attacks.

‘I struggled going up one flight of stairs and sometimes when my body was run down, even just walking at a fast pace got me out of breath.

‘I started seeing a chest/respiratory specialist in London, where continuous tests were run from MRI/CAT scans, blood tests, breathing tests etc.

‘I was hospitalised about 11 times over two years in London, all because of an inability to breath properly or constant chest infections.

‘Eventually, I moved back to Scotland with the support of my work and doctor, to see if a less polluted environment would make any difference.

‘Under a new respiratory team in Scotland, I was eventually diagnosed with COPD.

Kim Lam, who has COPD, sitting on a hospital bed when she was having treatment for COPD.
Kim in hospital (Picture: Kim Lam)

‘It’s usually associated with heavy smoking or old age, but neither of those are relevant to me.

‘I was born with under-developed lungs when I was a baby but ‘grew out of it’ when I was two.

‘Doctors back then diagnosed me with asthma and I never really had any problems in child or adulthood until moving to London in 2014.

‘I guess the vulnerability of my lungs and the pollution brought it all to surface. COPD is a progressive disease, so it is hard to notice it, until it is too late almost.’

When she was diagnosed, Kim said she was overwhelmed with a range of emotions.

She adds: ‘I was constantly searching for answers because my lifestyle didn’t match up to the diagnosis. I have never smoked a day in my life, don’t drink, eat healthily and fairly active.

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a group of lung conditions including bronchitis and emphysema that make it difficult to empty air out of the lungs, because the airways have been narrowed.

Symptoms include breathlessness doing everyday tasks like walking upstairs and a persistent cough.

COPD usually develops over time due to long-term exposure to harmful substances.

The most common cause is smoking, however working in an environment where you are often around dust, fumes or chemicals can also lead to COPD.

Some people are more affected than others by breathing in noxious materials.

COPD is a long-term condition and currently there is no cure, however treatment options are available.

British Lung Foundation 

‘That’s where the anger and bitterness part came in and I was in a ‘why me’ mentality.

‘It really didn’t make sense to me at the time and I couldn’t understand why I’d be subject to such suffering.

‘The constant hospitalisations were exhausting and I felt I was ‘missing out’ on a lot- from career opportunities to normal social functions.

‘It was also overwhelming, it was a lot of information to take in and had its emotional toll.

‘It was life-changing. I did lose a lot of confidence at the time, my ambitious nature was gone and all of a sudden, I was avoiding or couldn’t attend social affairs.

‘Both physically and mentally, it was exhausting, restrictive and seemed very unfair.’

After moving back to Aberdeen, Kim started to take control of her condition and has learnt how to manage it.

She says: ‘Thankfully I am 10 times better now I have, not just moved back to Scotland, but also because I have learned so much more about the condition.’

Now Kim is doing well thanks to a strict treatment routine and careful monitoring but she still has stays in hospital, particularly in the winter months.

‘It can vary and it can be unpredictable. Most days I am generally okay, but it is always a challenge to do any form of exercise or to go walking for example,’ she says.

Kim Lam, who has COPD, with her two friends in a restaurant having dinner and drinks.
(Picture: Kim Lam)

‘Even in my daily practice of yoga, I go at my own pace but do enough so I can continue to strengthen my respiratory muscles.

‘I still do all of these things, but it might be at a slower pace than others. Any faster, I get really out of breath.

‘The other byproduct of it is lying down, on a bad day, the wheezing gets in the way. So going to sleep can be a challenge sometimes but that is why breathing exercises are so important.

‘What is more trying about this condition is vulnerability though. I will get constant infections, such as cold and flu, more so than other people.

‘If you’re immunocompromised already, you’re more susceptible, so you have to work harder at avoiding these.

‘Winter is the most challenging time and even as a recent example, I was in hospital in September 2018 because I picked up a superbug, then in November because I got the flu.

‘It’s not just a sniffle for us, it’s dangerous and it lasts much longer. Keeping your immunity up is very important.

Kim Lam's tablets and nebuliser that she used to treat her COPD when she lived in London
Some of the medication Kim needed to be able to breathe when she was in London (Picture: Kim Lam)

‘People don’t realise I spend about an hour or more in the morning just to accommodate to my condition.

‘I’ve just come off a feeding tube, which I had to wear for two months, as a result of catching the flu and being hospitalised in November 2018 and losing too many calories.

‘My weight was dangerously low (not because I didn’t eat, but because my condition meant I burn calories up to 10 times more than average) and we all know weight impacts immunity and my ability to fight off infections at the time were terrible.’

Dealing with the condition has also affected Kim’s mental health, which is common among people who are dealing with invisible illness.

She adds: ‘Mental strength is important because it’s what sees you through and keeps your spirits high. There are times where I’ve missed special occasions, such as a friends 30th birthday or had to cancel my yoga trip to Bali, due to hospitalisation and poor health.

‘These things have reduced me to tears and for the first time last year, I experienced full-on depression.

‘I entered a state where I almost ‘gave up’, for lack of a better phrase. I got to the stage where I was fed up of the constant battles, I didn’t want to continue a life with hospitalisations, ill health or for it to ‘get in the way’.

‘At the time I felt like it was a poor quality of life. I couldn’t understand all the suffering nor what my purpose was. And for those two months, it was either non-stop crying or I was staring into space ruminating over everything.

‘I couldn’t speak much, not even to my family or friends, who were there by my side and every step of the way, willing me to get through. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t motivate myself and I couldn’t see my own worth at the time.

‘But somehow, I pulled myself out of the pits. Because it’s worth remembering you don’t go through all that for nothing and everything is temporary.

Kim Lam sitting in a swing hammock seat when she was on holiday
Kim on holiday (Picture: Kim Lam)

‘I went back to the basics of gratitude and started to just focus on positive aspects of life. It was also a time where I really immersed myself in proper counselling with a focus on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

‘This has helped me greatly and therapy isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Many people need help and bettering yourself just means you value and respect yourself enough to do so.

‘Depression and anxiety is common among society and can be even more prevalent in those with a chronic condition because there are extra obstacles to cope with.’

Kim feels that people don’t know enough about invisible illness and there needs to be more down to raise awareness.

‘When people challenge me about being disabled it really angers me, because they really never know and never think about it before saying anything.

‘I had an internal disability. I could have a colostomy bag, be an amputee with a false leg, or just be recovering from surgery. I ask myself, why I was try to justify it, because essentially I have broken lungs, but no one can see them. It’s inside and it’s invisible but because I’m not in an visible wheelchair, people don’t see it as disabled.

‘The same goes for mental illnesses, I know many are discriminated against this. And we have a long way to go before equality for these sorts of things, but that’s why it is important to raise awareness.

‘I do not expect VIP or special treatment, but I do expect awareness, respect and consideration from others.‘

She is keen to normalise the way we speak about illness and disability by talking about it openly online.

Kim wearing a jumpsuit and heals with a red handbag on a night out
Kim is embracing life as much as she can (Picture: Kim Lam)

She says: ‘I think we’ve to begin with understanding how people consume things today. No one is going to read a medical journal and usually people only start panicking once they’ve been diagnosed with something. We need to be much more proactive than this.

‘I think we need national awareness campaigns and mandatory tests as part of routine health MOT’s.

‘If we think about the mental health awareness campaigns – they have come really far, driven by a lot of celebrity endorsement from the likes of Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. Being outspoken about it, helps to normalise things. And knowledge is power.

‘Personally, I’ve come to a stage of acceptance and it has made me realise priorities in life, gave rise to my passion for yoga, increased my levels of compassion for others, gratitude, learned what brings happiness and contentment. It has been eye-opening.

‘The growth hasn’t been instant. It’s taken 5 years, and I’m still learning. But that is okay, it’s a miracle in itself too. I’ve also realised how much I want to help others going through a similar thing, which is why I started my blogIts purpose is to provide advice, tips and guidance on navigating this condition.’

You Don’t Look Sick is a weekly series telling the stories of people with invisible illness and disabilities. Next week, we speak to Amelia who has multiple sclerosis. 

How to get involved with You Don't Look Sick

You Don’t Look Sick is Metro.co.uk’s weekly series that takes you inside the places in London people are renting, to give us all a better sense of what’s normal and how much we should be paying.

If you have an invisible illness or disability and fancy taking part, please email laura.abernethy@metro.co.uk.

You’ll need to be happy to share pictures that show how your condition affects you, and have some time to have some pictures taken.

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My Odd Job: You never stop being an astronaut


Space travel got in my blood at an early age and never got out.

The space race was just starting when I was a kid and it was very exciting. When NASA started launching rockets, my best buddy and I started building them in my basement. We even had our own launch pad.

I started out as a navy pilot, which increased my chances of becoming an astronaut as nearly half of all the astronauts that had flown before were navy pilots. That’s what NASA thought they needed back in those days, and it stayed that way for a long time.

To be picked to be an astronaut you had to be in almost perfect health – NASA could select from millions of people so why not start with the healthiest?

Jon McBride
When NASA started launching rockets, my best buddy and I started building them in my basement (Photo: Jon McBride)

They also looked at your education and experience. I had flown 25-30 different types of airplane and had an aeronautical engineering degree. I fit the package that they wanted but there is no definitive way to become an astronaut – people come from all backgrounds and walks of life.

When we got to the space mission program NASA started selecting non pilots, called mission specialists. In my class we had the first non-pilots, the first women and the first African American people. We were a well-rounded group and I was very fortunate.

Training was pretty primitive back in those days. How do you train to go into space in a vehicle you’ve never flown before? It was their best estimation. The first simulations were pretty rudimentary but as we progressed through the Space Shuttle Program they got better and better.

John McBride
Training was pretty primitive back in those days (Photo: Jon McBride)

By the middle of the Program we had simulators that could be put into vertical positions, launch and actually fly up a way off the ground, so when you got in the shuttle to fly, it was like you had been there before.

It was up to us to maintain our own workout ethic and stay in shape – there was nobody standing over you telling you to do 20 press ups or 40 jumping jacks. You had to take a minimum of one physical a year but when you got into active flight status and were assigned to a mission, you’d get one almost every month until your flight.

A lot of people in my class loved to run but I hated it, so I played on an astronaut basketball team – we were actually pretty good! – and was part of a great softball team that travelled around Texas.

I first went into space in 1984 as part of the first crew of seven on an Earth observation mission, aboard space shuttle Challenger.

Jon McBride
I was just so excited to be up there doing all these things in microgravity (Photo: Jon McBride)

The best word to describe going into space? Indescribable. There’s no simulation that can take you from zero to 25 times the speed of sound in eight and a half minutes.

For the last three or so minutes you’re subjected to continual acceleration at three times the force of gravity, being pushed back in your seat as you got faster and faster and faster.

You can try to simulate it all you want to but until you’ve got in that thing and done it for real, you’ve never really experienced it. It’s a unique adventure.

Sitting up front as one of the pilots, all I could think about was: I better do my job. I remembered everything I’d been taught and was ready to handle any situation.

Astronaut Jon McBride poses at The Trafalgar St James, Central London, as part of the My Odd Jobs series.
Taking off was one of the most benign, enjoyable, exciting things that I’ve done (Photo: Joe Newman)

That’s the beautiful part about the launches: in the simulator, while you were working on one problem the training team would inject another failure into the system. But during my actual launch I was ready and thought, ‘just throw it at me, I can handle it.’

So we take off… and nothing goes wrong! All the lights stay green. It was one of the most benign, enjoyable, exciting things that I’ve done. You’re in the world’s most complex vehicle, surrounded by some of the world’s most talented individuals, being controlled by the sharpest people in the world on the ground. It’s hard to describe the excitement of being one of the people that got to do that.

On board we all worked 16 hour days with a half hour to have breakfast and get ready then half an hour before bed to have dinner.

John McBride
It only took a day or two to regain my ‘Earth legs’ after we landed (Photo: Jon McBride)

I say ‘work’… it was a joy to me, a pleasure, because I was just so excited to be up there doing all these things in microgravity. I would look out of the window and see the Arctic go by and 45 minutes later, the Antarctic was coming up. Those memories will stay with me forever.

I had a flight plan with stops and checklists that I kept chained to my waist but we’d practiced the mission so many times on the ground I hardly had to open it.

During our flight, almost nothing went wrong. We had a couple of minor problems but we not only achieved 100 per cent of our mission objectives, we got through the extra stuff NASA had put on our stand-by list to do if we had time.

For meals, we could eat anything we wanted – I liked a filet mignon with green beans and mashed potatoes.

All the meals are pre-ordered before you go then pre-cooked, vacuum packed and thermally stabilised before lift-off. Once you’re up there, you pull out the aluminium pouch, put it in the oven for five minutes, cut the top off and squeeze your steak out – I like mine medium rare.

I was in space for almost nine days. It only took a day or two to regain my ‘Earth legs’ after we landed. The biggest thing you lose is your sense of balance. The dizziness lasts for several hours but it can take several weeks to get back to normal if you’re up there for longer.

I do miss space. I wouldn’t mind taking someone up there and back every day. I think that’s going to be the future of space travel, but there are so many things we have to do and learn before we can have commercial space flights, or the big one – go to Mars.

We first have to be able to recycle and re-use everything we take with us. We need to start using these types of technologies here on Earth first otherwise we’re going to run out of all our resources – we’re going through them at an astronomical rate.

Astronaut Jon McBride poses at The Trafalgar St James, Central London, as part of the My Odd Jobs series.
The things we do in space are spectacular (Photo: Joe Newman)

I now work at The Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, scheduling the visiting astronauts, giving talks and doing special tours. I’ll be there until they kick me out but you never stop being an astronaut.

I’m a member of the Association of Space Explorer, and was president for three years. To be in that group you have to have flown into space above 50 miles and around Earth at least once, so it’s a very select group of people.

We do face a problem with how to keep the public interested in space travel if you’re not doing something spectacular every year, but the things we do in space are spectacular.

Each and every mission does unique things to better life here on Earth.

Jon McBride is an ambassador for Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. For more information, go to KennedySpaceCenter.com

Jon was photographed at The Trafalgar St James, London. For more information, go to trafalgarstjames.com

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After being diagnosed with no sperm, I started a group for men to talk about fertility

Male fertility stories (1): I had lazy sperm, but no one to talk to about it Pregnancy fertile mental health male female man hospital baby child kids pregnant body sperm sex relationships Picture: Dave Anderson/Metro.co.uk
I kept thinking ‘this can’t be right’ (Picture: Dave Anderson/Metro.co.uk)

As a newly-wed couple in our early 20s, my partner and I wanted to try and do things in the best order. We got married, bought our first home together and then began trying for a baby.

I had surgery in my teenage years due to a mass on one of my testicles and, in the back of my mind, thought conceiving might be a little harder for us than most couples.

But I hadn’t been prepared for what was to come.

After trying for a natural pregnancy for the required 18 months, we consulted with a GP for advice. A few weeks later the results from our tests came through.

I had zero sperm.

I remember it like it was yesterday – I kept thinking ‘this can’t be right’, left work early and went home to talk about the diagnosis with my wife, hoping there had been an error made somewhere. What followed was seven years and eight rounds of IUI treatment (artificial insemination) which failed to work. We racked up quite a lot of debt and my wife had given up hope.

Trying to make sense of it all, I desperately wanted to talk to other men in a similar situation to mine. But, while my wife had the support of web groups and social media throughout our treatment, mine was a very different scenario.

I looked into a few forums, but always felt my thoughts were somewhat insignificant and lost in the conversation of the women’s struggles.

The women understood each other’s feelings, but as the man, I couldn’t relate to it and thought I was being selfish to air my thoughts given what they were all going through.

There was nowhere for men like myself to talk, discuss or vent our frustrations.

The few male support groups I did find were public and full of men who would close up when they thought their posts could be read by others – many of them need a controlled and private environment to feel comfortable enough to open up.

A lot of men feel they have let their partner down if they have the fertility issues

So I decided to set up a private Facebook group, just for men to voice their views.

Over the last few years, it has grown significantly, with each new man bringing his views and reassurance to others on the page.

We discuss anything from costs, to emotional difficulties and how, as the other half, we generally feel pretty useless in not being able to help our partners get the miracles we are hoping for.

Some themes come up more than others.

A lot of men feel they have let their partner down if they have the fertility issues, and many, myself included, feel or have at one point felt that not being able to father a child makes you less of a man.

It’s that primal instinct that says if you wanted to, you could father a child – and then being told that actually, you can’t.

Personally, I was hugely unprepared and uneducated for the diagnosis.

You are taught early on in school about sex education and about taking precautions not to conceive before you’re ready, but at no point are we taught what to do if you want a child but cannot have one.

Something as common as infertility is still a taboo subject, with very few speaking openly about their difficulties. If more people did, it would limit feelings of isolation.

After a year off, my wife and I decided to have one more round of IUI, and finally we were one of the lucky couples – we now have a beautiful boy.

After he came into the world, I wanted to help others even more.

Since then, I have campaigned for the media to talk more about men and infertility, so that we’re included in the conversation as much as women are.

Despite some negative comments, I usually see an upswing in members in the group after articles or interviews around male fertility have been published or broadcast.

If something good can come from the pain that we have been through, and if I can help another person feel OK about their diagnosis, then what happened to me wasn’t for nothing.

For me that is enough – knowing that I’m doing the right thing, and that the more awareness we give the topic, the more people can find the help they need.

Fertility Diaries

This story is part of Fertility Diaries, an ongoing series covering all aspects of fertility.

We launched it thanks to an overwhelming response to Metro.co.uk's Fertility Month, a month-long series of content that we published across November.

Across four weeks, we spoke to people at all stages of the fertility journey as well as doctors, lawyers and fertility experts who shed light on the most important issues.

The feedback we received has been uniformly positive.

We talked to so many women and men who had the courage to share their stories with us and who told us how much it helped them to hear stories from others.

We had dozens of stories flooding our inbox every day throughout the month. As a result, we simply did not have time to tell all of the stories.

For that reason, we have decided to continue our fertility month as Fertility Diaries and we will continue to publish articles - and to tell your stories - under this tag.

If you have any feedback on the content or your own story to tell, please do get in touch at fertilitystories@metro.co.uk.

You can find all Fertility Diaries content here and a selection below.

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Anguilla: The Caribbean haven celebrities don’t want you to know about


When you book your holiday to Anguilla, you will soon grow tired of all the people that ask you about Antigua, but that feeling of frustration will soon subside when you feel the white powder between your toes.Anguilla is a little known island just 20 minutes by boat from St. Martin, and a trip away from St. Barts which is why it’s the perfect destination for A-listers. While the stars ring in New Year’s Eve at the renowned party in St Bart’s, many of them often recuperate from the festive shenanigans on this tiny isle.

So why do the likes of Beyonce, Jay-Z, LeBron James and Justin Bieber pick Anguilla over the other islands to get away from it all?

Anguilla is one of the few Caribbean islands that doesn’t play home to all-inclusive resorts, and so isn’t overrun with visitors on deals and flights from the UK aren’t direct. You can get away from being shepherded around in groups, and being ferried around the island on a stuffy coach while having to listen to orders and instructions.

To some, who like everything straightforward, Anguilla might be a bit of a stretch as you need to organise connecting flights from St Martin or Antigua or even, the short ferry ride from St Martin. When you think of a long-haul flight, the last thing most people want to do is then have to get on another flight, let alone organise it. But, who wants to be most people?

Classic Rum Punch on the beach is a must (Picture: Claire Rutter)
Classic Rum Punch on the beach is a must (Picture: Claire Rutter)
Anguilla - CuisinArt - The Reef - Claire Rutter
The incredible views of St Martin from CuisinArt’s The Reef (Picture: Claire Rutter)

It’s less than an hour’s ride – whether by boat or by air, and gives Anguilla an exclusive feel. It’s a natural filter, but for the extra effort – you get to basque in the luxury that this island has to offer.

While locals are used to mingling with celebrities during the high season, there is no stampede for selfies. There is an unspoken rule to let visitors enjoy the island as the islanders do, and go about your business. So much of the locals work in the hospitality industry that it’s just part of everyday life, so celebrities can relax as they sip rum punch or tuck into freshly-caught snapper at the beach shacks.

Without the all-inclusive tags, hotel guests and visitors to the island are encouraged to explore. This means you can cater, quite literally, for your own budget. This means you can get a Hollywood-style holiday, but without crippling your bank account. There are 5 star dining options, many of which with ocean views, for example at The Reef at Cuisinart which is a great lunch spot looking out to St Martin or, relax at Zemi Beach House.

One of the main differences you’ll notice about Anguilla is that it’s not overrun with tourists, and you can stop to pick up a Johnny Cake for breakfast or slide into Tasty’s, where you can grab a bush tea with a breakfast you won’t be able to forget. I had salt fish with their renowned Johnny Cakes for breakfast and I’m ready to book a flight back just to get that taste back.

Instagram Photo

LA Lakers star LeBron James put the island on the map when he jumped off the rock, and stayed at The Beach House, where Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin also spent their holidays for a cool $75,000 a week. But if you don’t have that kind of change, fear not, because you can stay on the same beach for a fraction of the cost. Just a few yards up on Mead’s Bay is Carimar Beach Club. A top three-star resort, Carimar offers a full kitchen, where you can prep some of your meals to keep your spending down but still enjoying one of the best beaches in the world. Paradise Cove is another hotel where self-catering is an option and is one of the only hotels to remain open throughout the year. The rest close down to take care of renovations and prepare for hurricane season. You can still see the damage that Irma caused on the island, with battered buildings and sheets of metal wrapped around trees after horrifying wind and rain pummelled the island at 180mph. A lot of the businesses hadn’t re-opened a year on because of the cost of damage.

But, as a holiday destination, you can lay back and listening to your tunes or podcasts, whatever you fancy, and be safe in the knowledge that your soundtrack will not be punctuated by the irritating sounds of jetskis buzzing around. That’s one of the greatest rules on the island as they’re not encouraged, so you’re not fenced in but are able to literally lap up the bays. You can however enjoy a boat trip around the island, and live the day like a celebrity as you take to the ocean and explore the island’s best beaches and go snorkelling. Funtime Charters offers a number of different vessels, all of which are looked after to a high standard, where you can play your own tunes, get taken to the best spots as well as visit nearby destinations like Prickly Pear Island. You won’t want it to end. Or, if you’re a little more adventurous, you can even try kayaking by night. This, I assure you, is not for the faint-hearted if you’re not into fish touching you. The lights around the boat that allow you to see through the floor of the boat attract energetic ballyhoo fish. You can end up fishing them out of your shorts, but it pales in comparison to watching turtles in their natural habitat without disturbing them, or even spotting blowfish and sting rays while paddling near to Scilly Cay.

Anguilla was battered by Hurricane Irma in 2019, with the damage still very much in line of sight. Locals historically build their properties in stages and so it can seem like parts of the island are abandoned, or unfinished, making it appear a little rougher than what visitors might be used to on more commercial islands with palm tree-lined streets and ‘fresh paint jobs on front-facing stores’. Instead, what you get outside of the hotels, is a more gritty Caribbean island, especially in The Valley, the island’s capital. If you’re looking to get your tastebuds popping and are bored of bland buffet meals from chow-time on an all-inclusive, then you don’t have to look more further than The Strip, where you can get local food from Sharpy’s or even try a bit of curry from Good Korma. Without a tablecloth in sight, this is a spot where locals come and chill out, so you already know it’s going to be good. With real flavour, you can grab a quick bite and even take it back to your hotel or enjoy it with the sand between your toes. Being a Caribbean island, it’s always fun to enjoy a festival as no one can throw a festival like West Indians, with Moonsplash (21-24 March) and Festival del Mar (20-21 April) coming up.

In Anguilla, the choice is really yours.

Anguilla: Everything you need to know

How to get to Anguilla from London?

One of the easiest routes to Anguilla from London is by heading to Antigua. British Airways have daily flights London Gatwick to Antigua. Prices start from £520 return, and from there you can pick up a short connecting flight via Trans Anguilla, this costs around $219 USD each way.

Alternatively, a flight to neighbouring St Martin and a transfer via the 20 minute ferry is also an option, but will often mean a change via Paris, France or even New York.

Where to stay?
While celebrities who visit the island often stay in the private rentals. There's a great choice of accommodation on the island. We stayed at Paradise Cove Resorts. One night at Paradise Cove Resorts cost from £158 per night for a Garden View Studio Suite (April - October).

Handy info
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar
Plug adaptor: Type A / B (USA adaptor)
Easiest route to the Island: Fly into Antigua and get a Trans Anguilla Airways flight to Clayton J. Lloyd International airport.
Beer: $4-$9
Regular cappuccino: $4
Local lunch: $13 - $25
Mid-range restaurant, 2 people, 3 courses: $85

Explore more information pls visit www.ivisitanguilla.com.

Kinder Bueno ice creams are finally available in the UK

Kinder Bueno ice cream cone pack cover
(Picture: Ocado)

Last year, we told you Kinder ice creams were a thing.

But sadly they weren’t available in the UK.

Well, good news – they have finally gone on sale here.

It might not quite be the weather for ice cream, but who cares. These look delicious.

You can get Kinder Bueno cones, Kinder ice cream sandwiches and Kinder ice cream sticks in multi packs.

Instagram Photo

According to Instafoodietwins, they cost £4 at Asda or they are currently available on Ocado for £3.50.

The Bueno cones are made with creamy hazelnut ice cream, topped with a hazelnut disk and chocolate pieces. Inside in the centre of the ice cream, there’s milk chocolate sauce.

The Kinder Ice Cream Stick is a milk ice cream stick and coated with milk chocolate and the Kinder Ice Cream Sandwich is made with milk ice cream, nestled between two biscuits.

MORE: Anguilla: The Caribbean haven celebrities don’t want you to know about

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Girl who has seizures when she laughs saved by pet dog Elmo

On the right, Millie smiling and holding Elmo. On the left, Millie sleeping with Elmo in her arms.
Millie Webb, 11 with three-year-old Bichon Frise, Elmo (Picture: SWNS- Cambridge)

A girl with epilepsy has forged a life-saving bond with her ‘best friend’ – a pet dog who can predict the onset of a seizure.

Millie Webb, 11, has refractory epilepsy and can suffer more than 100 seizures a day.

She has a ‘unique’ form of the condition as medication doesn’t seem to help control the seizures which can be triggered by her own laughter.

If she is left alone, a fit could be fatal, as a seizure could result in a serious brain injury or cause her to choke on her own saliva.

Playing with friends, attending birthday parties and even splashing about in the family paddling pool have all triggered fits in the past.

She has now forged a bond with pet dog Elmo who it’s claimed is able to predict the onset of a fit before it happens.

The three-year-old Bichon Frise is now learning how to be a potentially life-saving companion for Millie through the Good Citizen dog training scheme.

She is in training to register as a service dog and once it’s completed Elmo will be able to attend school with his best friend.

Millie Webb, 11, with three-year-old Bichon Frise, Elmo. Millie is asleep and holding Elmo in her arms.
(Picture: SWNS- Cambridge)

Elmo already licks saliva off Millie’s face, barks to alert her parents when she is having a seizure and will be eventually taught to fetch medicine.

The pet dog once ran to the rescue Millie, from Warrington, Cheshire., when she suffered an attack in a swimming pool and dragged her out.

Elmo currently has a service dog vest which allows her to accompany Millie into shops and restaurants in case she has a seizure.

Stuart Webb, Millie’s dad, has told how Elmo amazingly started to pick up on Millie’s seizures in 2016 without any training.

He said: ‘Since they were young, they were both inseparable – like best friends. Elmo always follows Millie around and sits and cries when she goes out.

Millie Webb, 11 with three-year-old Bichon Frise, Elmo. Millie is standing outside her house and holding Elmo in her arms.
(Picture: SWNS- Cambridge)

‘Elmo is overprotective but the issue is she is Millie’s pet until she completes training she won’t be able to go to school with her.

‘Elmo picks up on it just prior to a seizure she becomes disturbed, clingy and will stay with her until she comes round.

‘At first we didn’t realise what was happening but a dog trainer pointed out that Elmo was actually helping Millie. Our other dog Cookie – Elmo’s mom – would walk away but Elmo didn’t.

‘When she is having a seizure, she produces a large amount of saliva and the dog will lick and clean her face.

‘Part of Elmo’s training is to notify us of Millie’s seizures by finding us and barking, she’ll eventually be taught to fetch the medicine to help Millie afterwards.

‘Elmo is a source of security for her.’

Millie underwent major brain surgery in December 2017 to try to stop her condition, 15 to 20 per cent of her brain was removed to help reduce the seizures.

The surgery was unsuccessful but it helped to improve Millie’s memory and concentration, she was able to transfer to a normal high school from a special needs school.

Tests done by doctors on Millie, who was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was four, indicate there are no abnormalities which cause her seizures, she can be triggered at any time.

Stuart said: ‘When Millie went through surgery, she stopped getting seizures for roughly 29 days then they gradually came back.

‘She can have up to 160 a day now but they are smaller ones, the seizures leave her tired and stressed which can end up like a vicious cycle.

‘It took her a few months to recover and she suffered for a bit afterwards, she’s been able to enjoy the past two Christmases but there’s always a risk of a seizure.’

There have been no formal identifications of what causes her seizures and several tests have been unable to be any help.

They are hoping new treatments and medicines may become available.

Mum, Linda, explained: ‘She is under two hospitals, Warrington and Alder Hey.

‘They have been so good and so supportive but they are stuck now and don’t know what to do.’

While the family wait, Elmo is continuing her training and has even captured the hearts of the nation by appearing on ITV’s Britain’s Top 100 Dogs which aired in January.

MORE: You Don’t Look Sick: ‘My lungs are broken but people don’t think I am disabled’

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Maarten the monkey needs someone to answer his lonely hearts column and adopt him for Valentine’s Day

Maarteen the monkey on the left and the loney hearts ad on the right, circled with a pink heart. The ad says 'Handsome monkey with GSOH seeks an adoption this Valentine's Day. See details below.

Maarten the colobus monkey is looking for love in the form of an adopter and was entered into the lonely hearts column by his keepers.

The six-year-old primate is a favourite among staff at Drusillas Park in East Sussex, but his adoption plaque remains empty.

The forlorn monkey is one of the only animals at the zoo without an adopter and keepers are keen to find him a match in time for February 14.

Head keeper Sophie Leadbitter said: ‘Obviously Maarten is loved by his keepers and visitors alike.

‘But it’s heartbreaking for us to see his empty adoption plaque outside his enclosure every day.

Maarten the colobus monkey at Drusillas Park, East Sussex. See SWNS copy NNmonkey: A handsome monkey has been entered into a lonely hearts column in a bid to find him a perfect match for Valentine's Day. Maarten the colobus monkey is looking for love in the form of an adopter and was entered into the lonely hearts column by his keepers. The six-year-old primate is a favourite among staff at Drusillas Park but his adoption plaque remains empty.
Maarten the colobus monkey (Picture: SWNS.com)

‘He is a gentle monkey who enjoys relaxing in the summer sun or enjoying a snooze on his back after a tasty meal.

‘He has beautiful dark eyes and a bushy white tail and is a perfect animal to adopt fora loved one this Valentine’s Day.’

Black and white colubus monkeys are found in forests in central Africa, eat fruit and leaves and can weigh up to 20 kilos (44 pounds).

Their stomach works like that of a cow, using three or four chambers and lots of bacteria to break down the leaves.

A spokesperson for the zoo said: ‘Digesting often makes them burp but keepers have cleverly left this out of Maarten’s column.

‘Maarten is a favourite among the keepers as he is so peaceful and relaxed.

‘Honest, bubbly and an all-round nice monkey, Maarten is looking for love in the form of an adoption.’

All animal adopters receive complementary tickets to visit their adopted animal, an adoption certificate and plaque and a picture of the animal species they have adopted.

MORE: You Don’t Look Sick: ‘My lungs are broken but people don’t think I am disabled’

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Man discovers flowers he picked up from his desk on his first day were never meant for him

(Picture: @JonQuiQui/@clickdominique)

Your first day at work can be stressful.

Will everyone like you? Will you know what to do? Will you be able to find your way around?

So finding some really welcoming colleagues can make a big difference.

This man, Jon Qui Qui, posted on Twitter in October last year about how he was given some flowers on his first day.

He assumed they were from his colleagues and was touched by the kind gesture.

He asked his manager, who happens to be a photographer, to take some pictures in his new office. He said she had no idea about the flowers but was happy to take some pictures.

But five months later, he discovered the flowers were never meant for him.

He posted: ‘I found out these flowers were misplaced on my desk and supposed to be for someone going on maternity leave because they don’t give flowers to new hires but they saw me taking pics with them and felt too bad to take them away. I’m caaaackling.’

Yes, that’s right. It turns out Jon took someone else’s flowers.

He later updated to say they were actually for a different colleague, not the one who was going on maternity leave, but still not for him.

He said that he did receive a welcome box so he just assumed the flowers were part of that.

We wouldn’t want to take the flowers of someone who looks that happy either.

What are nightshade vegetables and should you be cutting down?

(Picture: Getty)

What do potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, goji berries and aubergines have in common?

No, it’s not a bad joke – they are all nightshades.

It’s a term that is given to things that are part of the Solanaceae plant family and you might have read on the internet, that they are all dangerous.

Nightshades contain alkaloids – a natural insect repellent.

Alkaloids are safe for human consumption but some reports suggest they could cause inflammation in the body as well as problems with autoimmune conditions, like diabetes.

Nightshade foods also contain lectins, which reportedly stick the cells in our body together, causing potential damage and pain.

Some bloggers and influencers say that cutting out these foods helps to reduce inflammation in the body.

People who follow a low-nightshade diet tend to do it as a way to help a health condition, particularly Rheumatoid arthritis,  joint issues, digestive issues and autoimmune diseases.

Although some people say it helps with their symptoms, there haven’t been many studies into the benefits – so don’t believe everything you read online.

It’s also worth remembering that nightshade foods also have a lot of nutritional benefits so cutting them out may mean you miss out on some vital vitamins.

Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert explains: ‘Nightshade vegetables, like all other vegetables, are a source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, all of which are needed by the body in order for it to function optimally.

‘In that respect, these vegetables should be enjoyed as part of a varied, balanced diet.

‘It is sometimes advocated that avoiding nightshade vegetables can help those with arthritis.

‘There is some evidence that suggests that avoiding nightshade vegetables could help rheumatoid arthritis patients, however there is no evidence to support the idea that avoiding them would benefit those with osteoarthritis.’

So unless you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or some inflammatory conditions, these foods probably won’t do any harm.

If you think reducing your nightshade intake could help your condition, speak to your doctor.

MORE: You Don’t Look Sick: ‘My lungs are broken but people don’t think I am disabled’

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Japanese company launches ‘drinkable’ crisps for one-handed eating – and we want them here

Japan introduces “drinkable” chips for one-handed snacking
Pictures: @koikeya_cp/Getty

Everyone is pretty busy these days and multitasking is key.

When it comes to eating crisps, it’s a two-hand job (one to hold the packet and one to lift the crisps out) so they aren’t really multitasking friendly.

And then when you’re finished, your hands are greasy and you end up with sticky smudges on your phone screen.

Now a Japanese firm have launched drinkable crisps – a tube of broken up crisps so you can pour them into your mouth.

You can eat at your desk with fewer crumbs too.

Koike-ya Inc.’s One Hand tag line is the ‘new snack style humankind has been waiting for.’

Ok, it might sound silly but it actually sort of makes sense.

If they’re big enough to still get that crunch but small enough to ‘drink’, this could be perfect.

Let’s just hope the trend catches on and comes to the UK soon too.

MORE: You Don’t Look Sick: ‘My lungs are broken but people don’t think I am disabled’

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All the best looks from the Baftas 2019


Awards season is in full swing and the Baftas is one of the highlights.

London’s Royal Albert Hall played host to a raft of home-grown and American celebrities, as well as members of the Royal Family, as some of the biggest film accolades were handed out.

It’s yet another nod towards what the results may be at the Academy Awards later this month. And The Favourite and Roma both cleaned up.

But aside from the excitement of the awards, what we really care about is the fashion.

Who was wearing what?

We’ve picked out some of our favourite looks from the red carpet – and, in true Hollywood style, the stars did not disappoint.

Rachel Weisz

Rachel Weisz poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Viola Davis

Viola Davis poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Timothee Chalamet

Timothee Chalamet poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: PA)

Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Olivia Colman

Olivia Colman poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: PA)

Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: PA)

Regina King

Regina King poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: PA)

Mary J Blige

Mary J Blige poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: David Fisher/BAFTA/REX)

Lily Collins

Lily Collins poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: Anthony Harvey/BAFTA/REX)

Spike Lee

Spike Lee poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: David Fisher/BAFTA/REX)

Zawe Ashton

Zawe Ashton poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Yalitza Aparicio

Yalitza Aparicio poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: Getty)

Rachel Brosnahan

Rachel Brosnahan poses at the BAFTA awards 2019
(Picture: WireImage)

MORE: Richard E Grant dances like no one’s watching as he attempts to show us his Louboutins ahead of Baftas

MORE: Kate Middleton wows at Baftas with stunning Alexander McQueen white dress

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All the hottest looks from the Grammys 2019


The Grammys 2019 was a celebration of the hottest talent making waves in the charts this year.

From pop stars to hip hop legends, the Grammys brings together the very best of the music industry and awards stand out performances, singles and albums.

It’s also a chance for celebs to dress up to the nines.

Most of these stars are not exactly known for being the shy, retiring types – and the red carpet was the perfect excuse for them to be truly extra.

There were bold shapes, statement pieces and some seriously enviable tailoring.

We’ve chosen some of our favourite, unforgettable looks from the 61st annual event.

Cardi B

Cardi B poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Getty)

Katy Perry

Katy Perry poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Matt Baron/REX)

Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Getty)

Bebe Rexha

Bebe Rexha poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: AP)

Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: AP)

Camila Cabello

Camila Cabello poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Getty)

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: AP)


BTS pose together at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Getty)

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: AP)

Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Getty)

Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Getty)

St. Vincent

St. Vincent poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Getty)


Ashanti poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Getty)

Halle Bailey and Chloe Bailey

Halle Bailey and Chloe Bailey of Chloe X Halle pose together at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Getty)

Jada Pinkett Smith

Jada Pinkett Smith poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Getty)

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: AP)

Hennessy Carolina

Hennessy Carolina poses at the Grammy Awards 2019 at the Staples Center in California
(Picture: Rex)

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Exfoliation benefits, tips and best skincare products

A woman cleaning her face
(Picture: Getty Images)

There’s plenty of advice about how to take better care of your skin. But it’s the basics, such as cleansing and exfoliating that really should be a regular part of your skincare routine.

Ask any dermatologists, or skincare expert on how to achieve glowing, blemish-free and even skin and there’s no doubt they’ll recommend exfoliation.

Good and regular exfoliator will instantly revitalise the skin by polishing away dead skin cells; as our bodies become sluggish at shedding skin cells and generating new ones as we get older.

Why should I exfoliate?

We hate to break it to you, but if you don’t exfoliate regularly, you’ll experience dullness, texture and clogged pores. Sound familiar?

Plus, freshly exfoliated skin absorbs creams and treatments better than skin that isn’t. Helping your skincare products work that bit harder.

How regularly should I exfoliate and when?

Typically you should cleanse and then exfoliate before your serum and moisturiser. And it’s important to remember skin is delicate, so you don’t necessarily need to exfoliate everyday, especially if you have sensitive or rosacea skin, as you may find it irritating.

It is actually possible to over-exfoliate, which can potentially worsen breakouts and other skin concerns. So forget scrubbing your skin until it’s squeaky clean – generally speaking, once to twice a week should do the trick.

What type of exfoliators are there?

There are three types of exfoliators; physical, chemical and enzymes.

  • Physical exfoliators buff away dead skin with a fine grit or beads and effectively unblocking pores reducing blackheads.
  • Chemical exfoliators (AHAs BHAs) penetrate deep into the skin, breaking down the ‘glue’ that keep dead skin cells stuck to the skin’s surface.
  • And enzyme exfoliators dissolve the dead skin cells without little to no scrubbing.

What is the best face exfoliator?

If you’re after some kickass product recommendations, we’ve picked a handful of our favourite exfoliators from face scrubs to liquid exfoliators to suit a variety of skin types.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
(Picture: Beauty Bay)

Don’t be put off by it’s scary sounding description, chemical exfoliators such as the Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution smooth skin by dissolving dead cells.

Not only does gycolic acid slough away dead skin, with continued use it will also help even out pigmentation and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

But while gycolic acid does a great job, it can easily irritate sensitive skin. So to avoid a reaction patch test on the back of your ear, or the inside of the arm.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, £6.75, beautybay.com and cultbeauty.co.uk

PIXI Peel & Polish

PIXI Peel & Polish
(Picture: Cult Beauty)

Lactic acid is similar to glycolic, but it’s less intense and very good for hyperpigmentation.

PIXI Peel & Polish contains fruit enzymes, lactic acid and finally ground sugar extracts, to nibble away dead skin.

Just apply a generous layer to cleansed skin, leave for five minutes, massage with warm water and rinse for smoother, brighter and clearer skin.

PIXI Peel & Polish, £26, cultbeauty.co.uk, boots.com and lookfantastic.com


FOREO LUNA Play Facial Cleansing Brush

FOREO LUNA Play Facial Cleansing Brush
(Picture: Cult Beauty)

This cotton-pad-sized skincare device from FOREO helps you cleanse more thoroughly and is more hygienic than other regular cleansing brushes as it’s made from non-porous silicone.

It’s kind enough for everyday use and offers ultra-gentle, non-irritating exfoliation thanks to its sonic pulsations.

Plus, LUNA Play is under £30, so you can give the cleansing brush a whirl and see how it fairs for you, before splashing the cash on the full sized version.

FOREO LUNA Play Facial Cleansing Brush, £29, cultbeauty.co.uk


Origins GinZing Refreshing Scrub Cleanser

Origins GinZing Refreshing Scrub Cleanser 
(Picture: Feel Unique)

This zingy gel cleanser from Origins is a great way to kick-start your day.

Not only does it gently exfoliate, it also contains radiance-boosting Panax Ginseng and Caffeine – it’s like an espresso shot for your face.

In short, it smelly yummy, is non-abrasive, refreshing and suitable for all skin types.

Origins GinZing Refreshing Scrub Cleanser, £16.50, feelunique.com, and lookfantastic.com


The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask

The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask
(Picture: The Body Shop)

This vegan exfoliating face mask from The Body Shop includes a mixture of gentle yet effective ingredients, including charcoal, green tea and tea tree oil.

So it will help to unblock pores and balance oil levels – ideal for blemish-prone skin.

The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask, £17, thebodyshop.com

ESPA Refining Skin Polish

ESPA Refining Skin Polish
(Picture: Look Fantastic)

For those with congested, or dry skin who fancy a luxury skincare product that’s fit for a facial, ESPA Refining Skin Polish is worthy of a place on your skincare #shelfie.

The polish has a sand-like texture that gently exfoliates and also contains hydrating ingredients shea butter and rose damascena to look after the skins protective barrier.

ESPA Refining Skin Polish, £30, espaskincare.com, johnlewis.com and lookfantastic.com



Don’t forget to apply sunscreen after using exfoliators, as you skin becomes more sensitive to the sun, as you’ve effectively stripped away the upper layers of skin cells that safegaurd your face from UV damage.

We love Glossier Invisible Shield (SPF 30) a board-spectrum sunscreen which helps to counteract baddies by protecting your skin from UVA and UVB rays.

Glossier Invisible Shield, £20, is available to buy online here.

Student says people assume she’s ‘sexist and racist’ because she lives in a 1940s time warp

(Pictures: PA Real Life)

You might assume the young woman in this photo is old-fashioned.

But despite living like she is in the 1940s, Emily Spangler’s views are very modern.

The politics student is proud to be part of the gay community and hopes one day to run for Congress.

Emily, from Chicago, Illinois, U.S., laughed: ‘Because of the way I dress, some people assume I have vintage morals to match.

‘They think I’m going to be sexist, racist and old fashioned but, of course, I’m the opposite.

‘The 30s and 40s are decades I’m fascinated by, as I think there was a real sense of community during World War II and I love the fashion, but my views are rather more progressive than those commonly held back then – although there were liberal people in every decade.’

Often mistaken for an actress because of her ‘time warp’ outfits, it was Instagram rather than history books that inspired Emily’s style.

‘It’s not unusual for people to think I must be an actress in a 1940s play, because my outfits are so authentic,’ said Emily.

‘I got into this look about three years ago, after seeing people dressed up in 1940s gear on Instagram.

‘Then I started listening to old music, like the 1940s jazz singer Anita O’Day and big band sounds, like Glenn Miller – finding their records on the digital music service Spotify.

‘I’m not much of a movie goer, but I have big crushes on some of the iconic Hollywood actresses of the era like Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford

‘I’ve even been to World War II weekends and went to a great one in Pennsylvania last year with my friend Kevin Jackson, who’s 21 and is also a vintage fan.’

Finding clothes everywhere from charity shops to specialist vintage stores, flea markets and the internet, Emily normally spends between $10 (£7.72) on a blouse and $90 (£69.50)on a special dress.

Emily at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's Annual World War II Weekend (Collect/PA Real Life)
Emily at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s Annual World War II Weekend (Picture: PA Real Life)

Her vintage hobby is funded with money from her part-time job in an upmarket clothing store, and she said: ‘I’ve even managed to get some vintage items from my mum.

‘Nearly all of my clothes, including my pyjamas and my slips, are vintage. My slippers aren’t, but I want a pair of authentic ones to be my next purchase.

‘I have about 70 vintage clothing items – from the late 1930s and 1940s, which is my favourite era – right through until the 1960s, which have set me back in total about $1,000 (£772).

‘I do own some leggings and one pair of sweatpants, for when it’s really cold, but I’m trying to gravitate towards everything being vintage.

‘It can be difficult to find warm vintage clothes, though, as a lot of the blouses are super thin. I own a lot of layers, so I layer up like crazy in the colder months.’

While Emily has received some flattering compliments for the way she dresses and does her hair – which she also tries to style according to the era of her clothes – the way she looks has also prompted insults.

She continued: ‘Some people have told me I look feminine and glamorous, but I’ve had people ask me, “Why do you dress like my gran?”

Emily does not restrict her vintage trendsetting to her clothes and has furniture, crockery and bric-a-brac to match (Collect/PA Real Life)
Emily does not restrict her vintage trendsetting to her clothes and has furniture, crockery and bric-a-brac to match (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘I just ignore them and, anyway, it’s not true, as I always look at pictures of people from my age group in each era and try and copy their style.’

And Emily, who is in her last year at Roosevelt University, Chicago, does not restrict her vintage trendsetting to her clothes. She now has furniture, crockery and bric-a-brac to match and has even found herself a community of pals who share her passion.

She said: ‘In my apartment, I have vintage mirrors, tables, curtains and some kitchenware. It’s all great for the environment, as nearly all my things are recycled.

‘And I’ve connected through FaceTime with a load of people who also love vintage style, as does my roommate Mia, who I met on Instagram.

Emily says she has a 'big crush' on 1940s film stars like Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford (Collect/PA Real Life)
Emily says she has a ‘big crush’ on 1940s film stars like Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘She introduced me to all the vintage community in Chicago. I didn’t know they existed and it was so cool to walk in somewhere and see people all dressed from a different era and we’re now friends.’

But, while she now feels like an expert on the past decades she dresses from, Emily admits to knowing very little about the style icons most people of her generation look to for inspiration.

She laughed: ‘I used to listen to a lot of indie music, so occasionally I’ll know a song that other people my age are into, but most of the time, I’m just wondering what the hell they are talking about – same with actresses and clothing lines.

‘I keep up with modern politics and that’s about it!

‘Sometimes I feel like an older person in my 50s, or 60s, but I’m fine with it.

‘Now it’s my ambition to hold a 1940s dinner party and, when I turn 21 in March – the age when you can legally drink in America – I’m dying to have a dessert wine or a gin and tonic in a swing bar.’

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Whirlwind couple bought a house in two weeks, got engaged in eight and had three kids in nine months

(Picture: PA Real Life/Fran Boloni/www.theparisphotographer.com)

A woman reunited with her school crush through a Facebook message after years apart went on to have a whirlwind romance with him – buying a house after two weeks and having three babies in just nine months.

When Rachael Kirkwood, 34, first spotted her now husband, Paddy, 35, in the corridors of the secondary school they both attended in Manchester, she fell head over heels.

Overcome with shyness, she never plucked up the courage to speak to him, instead admiring him from afar and sending anonymous Valentine’s Day cards every February 14th.

In time, they both left school and began their adult lives, with Rachael even living in New Zealand for two years, and having a son, Oliver, now seven.

But then, in April 2015, she sent Paddy, who also has a son from a previous relationship, a message after stumbling upon his Facebook profile.

After meeting for a first date around a week later, things moved fast, with the pair buying a house together after two weeks, getting engaged in July, married in December and having three babies in nine months, as Rachael fell pregnant with twins just six weeks after giving birth to their first child together, Mollie.

When the twins were born early, they realised that they had welcomed three children in nine months.

Speaking out in defence of whirlwind romances, Rachael said: ‘People thought it was way too fast and told me it wouldn’t last, but I was sure we were meant to be together.

‘I believe in love at first sight. I loved Paddy as soon as I saw him back at school, and still felt the same after years apart. If something feels right, you have to go for it.’

Paddy and Rachael on their wedding day (PA Real Life/Fran Boloni/www.theparisphotographer.com)
Paddy and Rachael on their wedding day (PA Real Life/Fran Boloni/www.theparisphotographer.com)

When Rachael first saw Paddy, who was in the year above her at secondary school, she fancied him right away, but was too shy to speak.

When she left school, she put him to the back of her mind.

But then, a chance comment on Facebook in April 2015 threw the couple back together.

She recalled: ‘I saw his profile pop up as he’d commented on a mutual friend’s post, so I had a look through his photos and plucked up the courage to message him. I said, “You haven’t changed a bit.”

‘I wasn’t even sure if he’d remember me, given that we’d never spoken. But he replied right away saying, “Neither have you.”‘

From there, Paddy and Rachael began to speak every day over Facebook, swapping tales about life, love, and everything in between.

After a week, he asked the question she’d longed to hear ever since she was a teenager – ‘Want to go on a date?’

‘We’d arranged something for the following week, but in the end, we couldn’t wait. I ended up texting him a few days later when I was on a night out in Manchester city centre to see if he wanted to come and join me,’ said Rachael.

‘He did, and as soon as I saw him, it was like we’d known each other forever. Which we had, I suppose.’

The spark between them clear to see, Paddy and Rachael spent virtually every day together from then onwards.

Mollie, Niall and Luke (PA Real Life/Collect)
Mollie, Niall and Luke (PA Real Life/Collect)

Then, two weeks later, he mentioned he was house-hunting, and suggested she join him for a viewing of a property near to where she was then living.

She recalled: ‘He asked me what I thought of the place, and I told him I loved it.

‘Then he turned to me and said, “I don’t want to get it unless you move in too.”

‘I thought, “Is he mad?” It had only been two weeks. But part of me just knew it was right.’

So, though her family and friends thought she was ‘nuts,’ Rachael agreed, and the couple jetted off to Madrid the following week to celebrate.

There, under the Spanish sun, they discovered the offer they’d put in had been accepted, meaning they returned to the UK to start their new life together.

And just six weeks after that, in early July, Paddy had another important question for Rachael.

‘He proposed to me in Paris. It was like something from a fairytale,’ she said. ‘People thought it was way too fast and told me it wouldn’t last, but I was sure we were meant to be together.’

Shortly before their trip to Paris, Rachael had discovered she was pregnant, meaning she had gone from single to engaged and expecting within just three months.

Oliver with Niall and Luke (PA Real Life/Collect)
Oliver with Niall and Luke (PA Real Life/Collect)

She was delighted but, sadly, things weren’t meant to be.

At around 12 weeks, she raced to hospital after feeling dizzy, where a scan revealed she was experiencing a molar pregnancy.

The condition occurs when a lump of abnormal cells, rather than a healthy foetus, grows inside the womb.

In some cases, when the cells do not go away on their own, they can lead to a condition called persistent trophoblastic disease (PTD), which the NHS says is similar to cancer, if untreated.

That meant that – heartbreakingly – Rachael’s ‘baby’ had to be removed.

She said: ‘I couldn’t take it in. I had never even heard of a molar pregnancy.’

Looking back, Rachael said she would never have got through the ordeal without Paddy, who she married that December in Paris, in front of 60 loved ones.

‘We hired a boat afterwards and sailed down the Seine, past the Eiffel Tower. The way we saw it, we wanted to be together, so there was no point in waiting – even though we hadn’t even been together a year,’ she recalled. ‘When you know, you know.’

In the wake of the molar pregnancy, Rachael feared the same thing could happen again and she would never be able to start the family with Paddy that they both so desperately wanted.

But then, in early 2016 – a month after their wedding – two little blue lines, later followed by reassuring scans, changed all that, and the pair’s daughter Mollie, now two, was born that September.

Paddy and Rachael then began to have that chat all new parents do, idly daydreaming about whether they would have another.

But that daydream became a reality much sooner than they expected, when Rachael fell pregnant just six weeks after having Mollie – with identical twins.

‘We couldn’t believe it. We were basically doubling the size of the family,’ she said. ‘At first, I was terrified about how we’d cope, but Paddy said it was like winning the lottery.

‘I knew then that we’d get through it together.’

The babies, Niall and Luke, were born early in June 2017, meaning Rachael had given birth three times in nine months – and the children will all be in the same school year, when the time comes.

‘It was hard work having three tiny babies. The twins had colic, so would cry a lot, then Mollie would wake up wanting a feed. Even getting out the house for five minutes took rigorous planning,” she said. ‘We got a nanny to come and help two times a week, which was amazing. Plus Paddy was fantastic.’

Incredibly, despite the fact she was taking the contraceptive pill, Rachael soon added to her brood once again, with baby Orla, who was born in November 2018.

Life for the Kirkwoods now is hectic but happy, with six children in the house when Paddy’s other son comes round on the weekends – and Rachael’s own fairytale romance has even inspired her to set up a charity called Wish For A Wedding, which helps provide weddings to couples dealing with a terminal illness.

Given that she’s been through so many different types of pregnancies, she also wants to help others, and so has set up a blog called MumToBe.com, where she shares advice and candid posts, especially aimed at those who may feel isolated as they don’t have many friends with children. She also has an Instagram account, showing their life together.

Now, as they’ve just celebrated their third wedding anniversary, Rachael says she’s proved the cynics, who told her that her whirlwind romance would never last, well and truly wrong.

She said: ‘I know we aren’t conventional, but I wouldn’t change the way we did things for the world. Paddy and I are like teenagers together, still as in love now as we were on day one.

‘I’ve never met anyone like him, and know that, given all we’ve been through and not been broken, I’ll be with him forever.

‘To anyone out there doubting whirlwind romances, I’d say this – If something feels right, go for it.’

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Why is it so hard for people to acknowledge their own privilege?

What happens if you hold in farts around your partner?
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

I am privileged.

I have parents with professional jobs, I have a university education which my family helped fund, I am able-bodied, I am slim, I am relatively young.

These are all factors that make existing in this world easier for me than for other people. Society rewards me for these things, which are entirely out of my control, and it effects the opportunities granted to me, my potential for success and the way people treat me in day-to-day life.

That’s what privilege essentially is. Advantages that are handed to you on a plate, without any personal input whatsoever.

Existing alongside my privilege are the systemic and societal disadvantages I also face – equally due to factors entirely outside of my control.

I’m female. I’m not white.

But then, even within my non-whiteness, my light skin and proximity to whiteness provide me with a certain privilege in the context of colourism and respectability politics. So it’s far from simple.

Privilege is a sliding scale. You’re not either ‘privileged’ or ‘not privileged’ – it’s not that black and white. Most of us are both privileged and disadvantaged to some extent, and it is absolutely worthwhile interrogating your position on that scale and working out where you sit.

Thanks to the current political climate and generations of hard work and incremental progress by marginalised groups, we now, on the whole, recognise inherent privilege as a reason for the advancement and superior position of certain groups in society.

But when it comes to personally acknowledging that privilege – for some reason that becomes incredibly difficult for people to do.

Plus-size fashion blogger Stephanie Yeboah, tweeted about privilege this week, in response to comments from slim people refusing to accept that being slim in today’s society provides them with privilege.

Stephanie correctly identified that being called ‘privileged’ is now seen by so many as a slur.

She went on to say, ‘we live in a landscape now where everyone wants to feel oppressed though, so people take it as an insult now when you say that they receive adequate treatment as human beings. A weird flex, but OK.’

The mental gymnastics people will perform in order to avoid the label of ‘privileged’ is impressive. And this desire to ‘feel oppressed’, as Stephanie puts it, is symptomatic of a society that is reluctant to claim responsibility for its systemic inequalities.

It’s vitally important to accept and acknowledge your privilege. It relates to your ability to empathise with other people, and your ability to use your own privilege to advance the more marginalised voices around you.

If we are all adamant that we are not privileged, that we haven’t had a leg up in life, then it’s not possible to recognise the real injustices and discrimination that so many are facing.

It also undermines the struggles of disadvantaged groups – if inherent privilege isn’t a thing, it suggests that their limited position in society is somehow their own making.

Not only that, but denying your own privilege will just really annoy people.

Muslim sex attack victims are more believable according to a study - but it's outdated to think that
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

A recent Vice article looked into the phenomenon of people pretending that they’re working class, when their families are actually incredibly wealthy. We’ve all met those people.

Friends who cover their tracks when they buy new clothes and insist they got everything in the sale, friends who don’t want to tell you that it was the bank of mum and dad that helped them buy their first home, friends who carefully omit the fact that their uncle owns the company where they’ve just landed a big promotion.

It’s maddening, and patronising. I want to shake these people and tell them to just admit it already. No one will hate you for having wealthy parents who can help you buy a property, but they might hate you for lying about it and pretending you did it on your own.

Why are people so afraid to admit that they have privilege? As I’ve already mentioned, privilege is out of your control – it’s something that’s handed to you, something you’re born in to, so it seems ludicrous to be ashamed of that.

I get that it’s a bit of an ego hit – people would much rather give the impression that they’re completely self-made, that any success that comes their way is down to nothing more than their own hard work.

But being completely devoid of any privilege whatsoever is incredibly rare. Hardly anyone makes it on totally on their own, and it’s disingenuous and annoying to insist that you have,

It would be far more helpful if people could recognise their privilege and use it to help people around them. Or, if not that, at least provide the clarity for people to really understand how and why they have got to where they are.

The willful refusal to acknowledge that you’ve had a helping hand in life, be it due to being conventionally attractive, born into family money or the simple fact of being a white male, is so destructive for the people who have never and will never have a helping hand.

There’s nothing wrong with being privileged. But accepting the benefits of that privilege whilst denying its existence is damaging.

Ignoring and refuting the existence of privilege helps to perpetuate destructive societal inequalities. But recognition, clarity and openness about the different forms of privilege is the first step in tackling the unfair disparities and redressing the balance.

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Forget the love sausage, the sweetheart steak is the next meaty treat for Valentine’s Day

Morrisons love steak.
(Picture: Morrisons)

Last week, we had the love sausage – the slightly cheekily named bacon-wrapped heart-shaped sausage from M&S.

And now Morrisons is launching the sweetheart steak – basically a ribeye in the shape of a heart – for Valentine’s Day.

So if you want a special meaty treat for the day of romance, the steak will be available from butcher counters from today until Saturday.

Morrisons butchers will be crafting the steaks in stores using traditional butchery skills that avoid any of the meat being wasted.

Paul Robinson, butchery specialist at Morrisons, says: ‘This is the perfect Valentine’s Day food for customers that are looking to impress. Before you even cut into it, this steak sends a romantic message and it tastes great too.’

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The internet is creating optical illusion paintings in paintings and we can’t look away

(Picture: SWNS)

A mum who took an art class has sparked a social media craze of ‘paintings within paintings’ after her son posted a picture of her work on Reddit.

Cindi Decker, 55, sent a picture of herself proudly posing with the oil painting of an egret to her son after her second visit to evening classes.

He posted it onto Reddit and another user, Kristoffer Zetterstrand from Sweden, decided to paint a picture of her holding the artwork as a joke.

Another Reddit user then painted a picture of Kristoffer holding his image of Cindi holding her image – and the craze snowballed from there.

The photo that started it all. Cindi Decker, 55, from Jacksonville Florida holding a painting of an Egret. The pic was posted on Reddit by her son with the caption "My mom painted this and said no one would like it. It's her 2nd painting.".See SWNS story SWBRpainting.A viral internet phenomenon of paintings within paintings has taken social media by storm, and it all started with one mum's proud son. Social media users on Reddit have jumped on the trend, producing dozens of paintings of paintings which have been viewed millions of times. It all started with one Florida mum, who painted a picture of an Egret on her second visit to an evening art class.Cindi Decker, 55, from Jacksonville, Florida said she had on idea her son had even shared the picture online ? let alone that her painting had become a viral sensation.
(Picture: Cindi Decker /SWNS)

It has since proliferated into a global challenge, with an estimated 50 paintings of paintings within paintings – which all start with Cindi in the middle.

Reddit users have even created diagrams and a ‘family tree’ of all the associated images and how they are related.

Cindi, from Jacksonville, Florida, said she had no idea her son had even shared the picture online – let alone that her painting had become a viral sensation.

She said: ‘This is only the second painting I have done. I have gone to two art classes in my area designed to walk us through a painting and teach us while having fun.

Professional artist Kristoffer, 45, from Sweden, kicked off the viral trend when he saw a photo of Cindi holding her Egret painting on Reddit and decided to paint her. .See SWNS story SWBRpainting.A viral internet phenomenon of paintings within paintings has taken social media by storm, and it all started with one mum's proud son. Social media users on Reddit have jumped on the trend, producing dozens of paintings of paintings which have been viewed millions of times. It all started with one Florida mum, who painted a picture of an Egret on her second visit to an evening art class.Cindi Decker, 55, from Jacksonville, Florida said she had on idea her son had even shared the picture online ??? let alone that her painting had become a viral sensation.
(Picture: Kristoffer Zetterstrand / SWNS)

‘I really had no idea what Reddit was, in fact, I am still learning. I thought my son was just showing his friends on Snapchat and later learned he posted it to Reddit.

‘I’m not a big social media person, so did not know what to expect. It exceeded my expectations, in a good way.’

Cindi says she has had people contacting her daily to say they’ve loved watching the paintings, some have even said she’s inspired them to start painting again.

She said: ‘I am glad a little old bird from Florida brought some fun to others for a few days.

‘I have had a lot of thank-yous to all those that took the time to paint and draw themselves.

Laila Amer, 19, from Canada with her painting of Kristoffer holding his painting of Cindi holding her Egret.See SWNS story SWBRpainting.A viral internet phenomenon of paintings within paintings has taken social media by storm, and it all started with one mum's proud son. Social media users on Reddit have jumped on the trend, producing dozens of paintings of paintings which have been viewed millions of times. It all started with one Florida mum, who painted a picture of an Egret on her second visit to an evening art class.Cindi Decker, 55, from Jacksonville, Florida said she had on idea her son had even shared the picture online ? let alone that her painting had become a viral sensation.
(Picture: Laila Amer /SWNS.COM)

‘I do have to give all the craziness to the first artist, Kristoffer Zetterstrand for creating the movement. I do not know him, but boy did he start something fun.’

Artist Kristoffer, 45, kicked off the viral trend when he saw a photo of Cindi holding her egret painting on Reddit and decided to paint her.

‘I thought it was cute, and had the idea that I would paint one of those photos. I usually do a small “warmup” painting when I get to the studio – and the motif usually isn’t that important,’ he said.

‘I pick some photo off the internet or the paper. So this day I decided to do that photo, just for fun.’

Kristoffer said the painting took him a couple of hours and he posted it back on Reddit for fun with the caption: ‘I painted somebody’s mom.’

His post took off shortly afterwards, getting hundreds of ‘upvotes per minute – he now estimates his picture has been seen by over a million people.

‘When the first paintings of me dropped in I realised I might have started something. I had no idea how big it would be,’ he explained.

Seamus Wray holding his painting of Laila holding her painting of Kristoffer holding his painting of Cindi holding her Egret.See SWNS story SWBRpainting.A viral internet phenomenon of paintings within paintings has taken social media by storm, and it all started with one mum's proud son. Social media users on Reddit have jumped on the trend, producing dozens of paintings of paintings which have been viewed millions of times. It all started with one Florida mum, who painted a picture of an Egret on her second visit to an evening art class.Cindi Decker, 55, from Jacksonville, Florida said she had on idea her son had even shared the picture online ? let alone that her painting had become a viral sensation.
(Picture: Seamus Wray /SWNS.COM)

‘It’s a bit absurd to see a quick oil sketch that I did for fun completely blow all my serious work out of the water in terms of views.

‘I’m not complaining, and it is funny. Many have contacted me and told me that it made them genuinely happy. It’s touching, really. I never intended this, but it’s really fun.’

Kristoffer said he’d spoken to Cindi, who loved his painting. He said: ‘As soon as the painting is dry enough I will be sending it to her in Florida.’

Canadian Laila Amer, 19, was the first to paint Kristoffer holding his painting of Cindi holding her Egret.

‘Kristoffer’s painting was amazing, and the gesture was super cute, and I thought I could just join in the fun and take it further,’ she said.

A detailed look at Krsitoffer's painting that started the whole viral trend.See SWNS story SWBRpainting.A viral internet phenomenon of paintings within paintings has taken social media by storm, and it all started with one mum's proud son. Social media users on Reddit have jumped on the trend, producing dozens of paintings of paintings which have been viewed millions of times. It all started with one Florida mum, who painted a picture of an Egret on her second visit to an evening art class.Cindi Decker, 55, from Jacksonville, Florida said she had on idea her son had even shared the picture online ??? let alone that her painting had become a viral sensation.
(Picture: Kristoffer Zetterstrand /SWNS)

‘It took about a whole day. I knew it was going to get attention cause it’s kinda funny but I was surprised at the amount of paintings that came out of it.’

Kristoffer said when he last checked there were 40 or 50 paintings, seen by millions of online users.

Didi, a 20-year-old graphic designer and animator from Sydney painted Liala holding her painting of Kristoffer holding Cindi’s.

She said: ‘I meant to spend my day applying for commission work but I felt like painting and I’m a bit of a procrastinator, so I spent my time caught up in this Reddit thread.

‘I was feeling like I kind of wasted my day, until I got a direct message on Reddit from someone who saw my post and needed graphic design work done.’


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Women, don’t feel you have to accept Valentine’s gifts from men you’re not interested in

Problem is, presents often come with strings attached (Photo: Getty)

There is nothing wrong with Valentine’s Day in theory.

Either you can go all out, shower your loved one with presents and pay 25 per cent more money for a 25 per cent less good meal at a restaurant, or you can ignore the whole thing and let 14 February sail by.

That said, Valentine’s Day does present women with a very specific annual problem. Namely, the problem with unwanted gifts.

Being given a present is, in theory, a nice thing. Who doesn’t like getting a thoughtful, wrapped gift and opening it? So objecting to the idea of gift giving might sound churlish.

Problem is, presents often come with strings attached. A present from someone you know and love is a wonderful thing. But a present from someone you’re not sure about, or someone who makes you feel just a little bit uncomfortable? It can feel like an act of aggression.

If you’ve never experienced it then it might be hard to understand how being given something nice can actually be awkward, embarrassing and even upsetting.

When I was a teenager I lived in Florence for a summer. One night a drunk American man who was stationed at the military base there bought some roses from a passing rose seller.

He shoved them into my hands around the same time that he was trying to put his hands into my bra. When I expressed confusion he looked genuinely abashed. ‘I bought you a rose,’ he said, as if that explained everything.

I’m not suggesting that all men, or even a significant portion of men, think that they can buy access to a woman’s body with flowers. But the reality is, advertising has long perpetuated the idea that buying things is the best way to impress a woman and therefore to woo her.

Saying no to someone who is trying to be nice is one of the hardest things you can learn to do. It flies in the face of everything that we are taught as women.

Men are taught that they should buy women gifts, and women are taught that it’s rude to reject those gifts, and as such we find ourselves in a vicious circle.

Women who deviate from this pattern by rejecting men who are being ‘nice’ because they are not romantically interested have found themselves on the receiving end of verbal abuseviolence and even murder.

Is it any wonder, then, that women are nervous of rejecting unwanted gifts?

Handing out some Lindt balls to your team in the office, or getting all of your female friends a card is arguably not going to do any harm. But singling out one person and giving them a token of your affection without knowing if they feel the same way? Not good.

‘A guy in my office bought me chocolates and roses a few years ago,’ said Kate, a 29 year old charity worker from London. ‘I was really uncomfortable because it was public and everyone in the office was discussing it. He asked me out for a drink and I said yes because I didn’t want to be rude, but it was a really uncomfortable experience and afterwards I avoided him as much as possible.’

Saying no to someone who is trying to be nice is one of the hardest things you can learn to do. It flies in the face of everything that we are taught as women – the ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ mentality that we’ve been raised on since infancy.

But one of the perks of being a grown up is that you’re not obliged to do that anymore. You don’t have to be rude – a simple, ‘Thanks, but I don’t feel comfortable with that’ is perfectly reasonable.

In expecting women to be grateful for gifts they neither asked for nor wanted, we are pushing them to place their own comfort and desires below that of a stranger. We are telling them that their cooperation can be purchased for the price of some Valentine’s chocolate or a bunch of flowers.

Just because a gesture is dressed up as something ‘nice’ doesn’t mean that you’re obliged to enjoy it. You’re perfectly within your rights to say ‘no thank you’ to a card or gift, and if the person in question makes you feel guilty about that, talk to your manager or HR.

Presents are great for people who you know. But they might well make someone you’re not friends with feel uncomfortable or obliged towards you, and are probably best avoided.

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Depressing books and spiky plants could be turning your home into a man repellent, apparently.

We’ll have none of that (Picture: Getty)

The women of Twitter are sharing their amusement at a list of tips to avoid your home repelling men.

Writer Liz Hoggard invited interiors therapist into her home to asses her styling after a recent date was apparently unimpressed by it.

Interiors therapist Suzanne Roynon then went through and explained why the house was repelling men.

Liz’s house contains 51 images of single women, which apparently send the message that she is happy on her own and doesn’t want a man in her life.

Suzanne also told Liz that her cactus was ‘too spiky’ and that she should ditch her books with depressing titles such as Little Deaths (which is a great read, by the by) and The Suspect, according to Suzanne: ‘The imagery you have around you needs to be supportive. And strengthening.

On the topic of books, apparently you shouldn’t have any in the bedroom, as it should be about ‘rest and love’.

Suzanne does a bit of feng shui too, telling Liz that having a Budda in her wealth corner is a disaster, as is a step ladder in her relationship corner.

She’s also not best pleased with the idea that Liz has a portrait of herself hanging on the wall.

Clothing isn’t exempt either. She makes Liz throw away a t-shirt with a print of a woman’s face on it, asking her, ‘why would you wear another woman’s face?’

Twitter was predictably amused by the idea that cacti and depressing books were the way to make men avoid you, with many people vowing to spend their next pay cheque on spikey plants and depressing books.

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