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‘Britain is bismillah’: Muslim poet pens incredible spoken word poem


Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is a writer, spoken word poet, speaker, and educator, known online as The Brown Hijabi.

A Cambridge University graduate from Bradford, Suhaiymah explores the complex and intricate relationship of being a British Muslim woman.

Her latest spoken word poem, performed at an event hosted by the Runnymede Trust and the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London, has gone viral – but she has received racist comments since it was released.

Entitled British Values, the poem which claims Britain is bismillah (meaning in the name of God), has ruffled a few feathers but also won wide praise among the Muslim community and beyond for the scathing but accurate look at Britain’s history.

In it, Suhaiymah questions Britain’s failures like Grenfell, Windrush and current-day Islamaphobia.

She juxtaposes it with the brilliance of Britain’s current day diversity, saying ‘Britain is bismillah, basmati and bilingual, box braids and black barber shops, Bollywood, and bhangra’.

Muslim poet wows audiences with incredible spoken word poem
Suhaiymah’s spoken word poem Britain is Bismillah has gone viral on Twitter (Picture: Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan)

She decided to perform the poem after she was asked to speak on the whitewashed history curricula in schools and universities in Britain.

In it, she says: ‘Britain is body-popping outside of the tube, Brick Lane before it was cool, Britain is the burqa, Britain is praying in the changing rooms, Britain has its feet in your sink, Britain is barbaric, Britain has blood on its hands, Britain is blindly patriotic, Britain is built on false narratives.’

‘I was partly inspired by headlines I saw, partly by my own feelings of “Britishness” as a grassroots identity of multifaceted meaning as opposed to an unchanging, static “culture”,’ Suhaiymah explained to Metro.co.uk.

‘That narrative from the top down doesn’t really resonate with anyone I know.’

The idea came to her after her postgraduate research and took some time for Suhaiymah to write.

Muslim poet wows audiences with incredible spoken word poem
The Cambridge grad was asked to perform on the whitewashed history of school curriculums (Picture: Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan)

Suhaiymah has performed the poem in several places in the UK and internationally. Though it provokes some people, she says she wasn’t nervous about performing it.

‘This is one of my favourite poems to perform as people generally get very into the references that I make and I think it resonates with anyone born in this country who has had to grow up dealing with its contradictory narratives about itself.

‘The reception has been fascinating. I didn’t expect it to be shared at the rate it has been – I’ve had some people I really admire share and respond to it.

‘But I’ve also had a few people really disingenuously ignore the message of the poem and personally attack me on grounds that I should not critique an arbitrary structure like a nation-state.

Muslim poet wows audiences with incredible spoken word poem. Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan performs 'British Values' spoken word poem.
The poem looks at Britain’s violent past and juxtaposes it with its current-day diversity (Picture: Institute of Historical Research)

‘I never understand how the same people who tell me I should be “grateful” for the “free speech” Britain gives me, try to silence my speech.’

Muslims online have commended the powerful poem, saying it shines a light on the skewed history Britons are taught.

They liked, particularly, the last line of the poem which said: ‘I am the great in Great Britain…and aren’t you terrified?’

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Man runs to every Burnley FC away game totalling 3,092 miles

Scott Cunliffe who ran to every Burnley FC away game, totalling 3092 miles
Scott Cunliffe who ran to every Burnley FC away game, totalling 3092 miles

For most people, getting to an away game might involve booking your seat on a coach, making sure your away kit shirt is clean and belting out some killer tunes on the motorway.

But for Burnley native Scott Cunliffe, it meant making sure his gym kit and running shoes were ready to go.

Over the course of the 2018/19 Premier League season, 45-year-old Scott created and completed The RunAway Challenge – 19 runs, all starting from his team’s home ground, Burnley FC’s Turf Moor.

‘When I returned to the UK in April 2018, I wanted to do a challenge that would make me strong, happy and healthy,’ he says. ‘I also wanted to do something that had not been done before. The idea was inspired by others that have cycled and run to games before. I took it one step beyond running to one game. The idea was born in June 2018, just six weeks before the start of the season.’

The shortest run came in at a mere 26 miles to Huddersfield Town, the longest 279 miles to Brighton, taking Scott nine days to complete. He finished his final run last Friday to the Everton home ground. His total mileage? An incredible 3,092 miles.

Scott says: ‘Physically, the hardest runs were the first runs to Southampton and Fulham, when my body was not used to multiple days of over 30 miles per day. Over time the body adapted to this reality. Mentally, the hardest run was going to Watford. This was because I failed to prepare myself for this run.

‘As it was the 5th time I’d run to London I took it for granted, but it was really tough. After three days I had to have a long, hard word with myself to regain focus.’

Scott Cunliffe holding the Burnley FC moto at the Everton home ground, after his final run

Training involved a mixture of running, yoga, HIIT classes, hiking and cycling as well as mental training, teaching the mind to be ‘resilient to pain and boredom.’

Amazingly, he rarely listens to music as he believes the mind becomes stronger in the face of adversity but, if he did ever pop on the odd tune, his go-to was drum and bass, ‘particularly by Burnley’s finest Marcus Intalex, RIP.’

Scott says he turned to running because of its benefits to both mind and body. ‘I did this because I know, from personal experience how running is a powerful tool to achieve positive mental and physical well being,’ he says.

After spending over two decades working for charities and organisations like the UN and Search for Common Ground, in parts of Southeast Asia seriously affected by violent crime and poverty, it took a toll on Scott’s mental health.

His experiences left him with both PTSD and depression – and running becoming a huge part of his recovery.

‘I’ve suffered depression for a decade, it comes and goes, he says. ‘Running in wild places has been a big part of my therapy. I really love being out for long days. The RunAway Challenge allowed me to do just that.’

Scott didn’t always do it alone either. Like Forest Gump, he inspired others.

‘I had many people run with me, some planned, some unplanned. Five people ran their first marathons with me, that was very special.’

Scott Cunliffe and his fellow runners at the end of their run at Old Trafford
Scott Cunliffe and his fellow runners at the end of their run at Old Trafford

Scott is currently at 96% of his £38,000 fundraising target, with the money going to Burnley FC in the Community – the official charity of Burnley FC.

‘The club have been very supportive from the start, providing away tickets, great media coverage and lots of other support,’ says Scott.

Burnley will distribute 50% of the funds raised by The RunAway Challenge to local charities in Burnley. The other 50% will be divided between the community trusts at each of the Premier League clubs Scott has run to.

As Scott explains: ‘This way, I hope the challenge will leave its mark on communities across the country – not just here in Burnley.’

You can donate to The RunAway Challenge’s page here.

You can follow Scott on Twitter and Instagram: @sekott.

Need support?

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

Man addicted to being naked says wearing clothes makes his skin crawl

Man from Canada is addicted to being naked and strips off where he can
Kyle hates wearing clothes and doesn’t want to feel different for being nude (Picture: MDWfeatures / Kyle Durack)

Kyle Durack, an actor and producer from British Columbia, Canada, says he is addicted to nudity.

The 27-year-old has such an aversion to clothes that he says whenever he wears them for too long, it makes his skin crawl.

When he was a child, Kyle would wait for his parents to go to bed before stripping off. Now he does it wherever he can, whether he’s among other nudists or not.

He insists that after the initial shock, people quickly adjust to it and he thinks nudism should be accepted as a public lifestyle choice.

Throughout his life, Kyle has become increasingly fascinated with the nudist community and began to do more things in the nude.

He now hates the feeling of any clothing, but has to wear clothes to work, much to his dismay.

Often while working, he yearns to strip off somewhere and be in his natural state.

Kyle sitting naked on his clothes under a tree
He says his skin crawls whenever he has to wear clothes (Picture: MDWfeatures / Kyle Durack)

‘I always loved being nude, but for me it’s not really a choice,’ said Kyle.

‘If I go too long without enough nude time then my skin starts to crawl, and my mind becomes a broken record, nagging me to take my clothes off. It becomes my only focus to find a safe place to strip down.

‘When I was a teenager I thought something was wrong with me, and I remember Googling people who are addicted to being naked to try and find some answers.

‘But at that time, I was too conditioned by body shame to be able to accept that I was a nudist, although I definitely was.’

Kyle playing pool naked
Kyle hopes that society will become more accepting of the nudist community and that seeing someone naked will no longer be a shock (Picture: MDWfeatures / Kyle Durack)

He added that when he’s naked, he is more relaxed and his body can breathe.

‘I can feel the air on my skin and feel the texture of different surfaces instead of the same fabric rubbing against me all day.

‘At home, I am always nude. I’d love to be naked throughout my day outside of my home, but unfortunately, society doesn’t accept nudism as an appropriate public lifestyle choice.’

Kyle naked at home, sitting under a wooden table
He thinks nudism should be accepted as a public lifestyle choice (Picture: MDWfeatures / Kyle Durack)

Kyle points out that if he were to wear all black or body piercings or women’s clothing, people may not object to it as much as they do nudity.

‘But if my choice of dress is to not wear anything at all and be comfortable, I could get arrested. Something is very wrong with that in a supposed “free country”.’

Although his parents don’t have a problem with it, Kyle admits that some of his friends have struggled to accept his nudist lifestyle.

Kyle stripping all his clothes off
He has to wear clothes to work but can’t to strip off (Picture: MDWfeatures / Kyle Durack)

But he’s made other good friends among the nudist community who he feels is more open and equal among one another than the clothed.

‘Nobody has anything to hide and everyone is completely equal. It makes for creating great friendships,’ he added.

‘There’s a certain morality to the nudist community, everyone accepts each other as they are. It doesn’t matter what your size is, body shaming is highly frowned upon regardless.

‘I think the world could use a little more of that perspective.

‘There’s no difference with talking to a nudist than talking to a person wearing clothes. They are still people, you can just see all their skin. At the end of the day, skin is just skin.’

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Pim the bald guinea pig is best friends with a dog

Pim and his doggy friend
Pim was born bald (Picture: Caters News)

A hairless guinea pig lives life to the fullest with his best friends – his owner’s dogs.

Pim is a unique and special breed of hairless guinea pig.

Commonly known as skinny pig, Pim only has fur growing on his feet, legs and muzzle, while the rest of his body is completely bald.

But Pim doesn’t mind – and he still loves his life.

He made friends with Rox the Miniature Pinscher, at home with owner, Jessica Oliveira Pires in Schiedam, The Netherlands.

Pim was born bald
He’s very happy with dogs (Picture: Caters News)

Jessica said: ‘Pim is great friends with the dogs.

‘They love him so much and every time Pim gets close, they get extremely excited.’

Having owned Pim since he was six weeks old, Jessica has loved, fed and cared for Pim for the past two-and-a-half years, and the novelty of owning such a cute creature still hasn’t worn off.

Pim sleeping with the dog
A very sleepy Pim! (Picture: Caters News)

Jessica said: ‘Pim is the cutest when he lays in my arms or on my chest to cuddle.

‘Pim does funny things all the time. For example, every morning when I wake up, I’ll give him a vitamin C tablet.

‘Pim will just sit in the corner waiting for his tablet making noises to make sure I don’t forget it.’

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Burger King launches chicken french fries

Burger King launches Chicken fries
Chicken Fries are here (Picture: Burger King)

Have you ever thought your chicken just isn’t made for dipping?

Putting a nugget in a square pot of sauce doesn’t always work.

It’s probably not your biggest problem but Burger King has a solution anyway – the chicken fry.

Tender strips of chicken shaped like giant French fries, which apparently make them perfectly shaped for dipping in whatever sauce you want.

They’re made with 100% chicken breast, coated in a light crispy breading and seasoned with herbs and spices.

They’ve already trialed them in selected restaurants and apparently the Chicken Fries have been very popular.

They’ll launch exclusively through Just Eat from today and across all stores from next Monday 20 May.

Burger King launches Chicken fries
You can get the fries by themselves or in a meal (Picture: Burger King)

And to make them perfect for Instagram, they come in Chicken Fries Face boxes, which come with colourful stickers so you can get creative.

You can buy Chicken Fries on their own or as part of a meal alongside Burger King’s signature  french fries and your favourite drink.

Six pieces on their own cost £2.99 or £4.99 as a meal, or the nine piece box costs £3.69 and £5.69 as a meal.

Although obviously not suitable for vegans or vegetarians, the launch comes not long after the news that Burger King is launching the Impossible Whopper – a meatless burger.

Although initially only launched in the U.S., the fast-food chain said they are exploring meatless options for their customers in the UK – so watch this space.

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Woman shares hilarious photos of her unfortunate fake tan fail

Louise's fake tan disaster
Louise had a fake tan disaster (Picture: Kennedy News)

A single mum woke up to find her fake tan had left her with white streaky ‘fangs’ across her face, after dribbling in her sleep.

Louise Harper was preparing for one of her gigs on 4 May when she decided to put on some St Moriz Darker than Dark fake tan the night before.

The following morning her 13-year-old son asked her what had happened to her face – saying she looked like she had fangs.

Louise, 40, got out of bed and ran to the mirror to find she’d dribbled in her sleep – washing the tan off and leaving pointy tide marks.

Conscious of her gig that evening Louise tried scrubbing the £3.99 product off with a loofah for 20 minutes in the shower, along with face wipes and camouflaging it with make-up.

When none of that worked the mum-of-one was forced to make an emergency trip to a department store in nearby Hemel Hempstead to buy a £35 foundation to conceal her patchy skin.

Single Louise reckons her nocturnal dribbling habits are holding her back from finding ‘the one’ and wakes each morning checking the pillows quipping ‘no wonder I can’t get a boyfriend’.

Louise had white fangs
Her fake tan lines… (Picture: Kennedy News)

Louise, from Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, said: ‘My heart dropped when I looked in the mirror and I felt a bit sick.

‘It’s not like I could hide at home away from everyone for a couple of days – I’m a singer and a musician I had to go and do my gig.

‘The tan itself was really good everywhere else in the end but these two white dribble patches were so prominent – it was horrendous.

‘The only time it will only come off is if it gets wet and I’d obviously been dribbling in my sleep.

‘I don’t dribble regularly, not that I know of, but now I’m patting my pillows in the morning. No wonder I can’t get a boyfriend.

‘I got straight in the shower and I remember looking in the chrome shower fitting and using it as a mirror.

‘I used face scrub and then my pink loofah with a load of scrub on that but it was still there. I was in the shower a good 20 minutes.

‘When I got out of the shower I ferociously scrubbed my face using cleansing wipes.

She won't be going to bed with tan on in the future
Oops! (Picture: Kennedy News)

‘It started to fade a little bit but you could still see it – just not as prominent as in the picture but still very patchy.’

Louise tried to cover the blotchy areas with her makeup but could still see the patches so turned to pals on social media for advice.

Louise said: ‘A friend recommended a foundation so I went into town with a scarf wrapped around my face to hide it.

‘The makeup worked but, because of being on stage under the lights, I did have to keep topping it up every so often.

‘Thankfully the patchiness is gone now.

‘At the time I didn’t even think about that happening as it usually just washes off.

‘It’s a good brand and the rest of my body looked great – really lovely and tanned, it was obviously the fact it got wet on that bit of my face that caused the problem.

‘My son was mortified when I put the picture up on social media but I reckon if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?’

A St Moriz spokeswoman said: ‘St Moriz is the brand to give you the ultimate all over tan with product designed specifically for face and body.

‘We recommend a minimum of four hours without allowing the tanned area to get wet, to ensure an all over, even tan. In this case, our customer’s deep sleep made her tan a bit patchy!

‘We do have products to be able to counteract this and a drop of our facial serum will even out her tan in no time, or we even have a Tan Remover if she wanted to remove and reapply.’

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You can stay in a tree house in Bali overlooking stunning views for £30 a night

The tree house and amazing view
The view is stunning (Picture: Airbnb)

If you’ve ever dreamed of going to Bali but you haven’t been able to afford it, you’ll be over the moon to know you can now stay there for under £30 a night.

We’re not talking a hotel or a hostel. There’s this stunning treehouse overlooking the ocean and it’s absolutely dreamy.

Tree House Rumuh Pohon is a lovely little wooden house sat on the top of a tree. It has a ladder so that you can get in and out – though people who have stayed in the past have been pictured posing on it for photos.

The tree house is available for two guests, and has one bedroom, a bed and a shared bathroom.

Would you stay here?
We need to stay here (Picture: Airbnb)

The tree house sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean and is surrounded by greenery – and best of all, it costs just £29.

Yep, you can stay there for a pretty cheap price.

The Airbnb listing states: ‘In this tree house all your childhood dreams embodied in an miracle.

‘Imagine waking up from sleep accompanied clean air, the sound of birdsong, and the smell of fresh trees.

‘Moreover, coupled with a panoramic view of the sea, sunrise and sunset are certainly amazing

The views are stunning
Imagine waking up to this (Picture: Airbnb)

‘In Indonesia, now your dream can be realized because we have found exotic tree house that you can stay.’

The reviews for the place have also been incredible, with people saying staying in the tree house was the most amazing experience.

One person said: ‘Words can’t describe the absolute beauty of this place. The hosts are wonderful. We will be back to stay again.’

Another said: ‘This was the most beautiful place I have ever stayed. It is a work out to get there but it is so worth it. I didn’t think there would be a shower so that was a nice surprise. The food was great and the staff was extremely nice and welcoming.’

Someone else added: ‘The view is unforgettable. Great to fall asleep to the ocean. It is very minimalist conditions. Bed with sheets and blanket, toilet and shower shared with the other tree house nearby, includes towel. You are paying for the exclusive view and you will never find a better one. The sunrise in the morning is out of this world. This is for people who are into camping and are in decent shape to climb up and down a cliff. Well worth it.’

That’s it, we’re off to Bali.

Woman holds wedding and aunt’s funeral together to cut church costs

Coffin on stage
A bride-to-be told her Facebook followers she was going to be combining her wedding with her aunt’s funeral (Picture: Getty)

We all know weddings are expensive. Sadly, even in death, we incur costs as funerals too are very expensive.

One woman preparing for her wedding sadly had to arrange for her aunt’s funeral at the same time, which meant double the costs.

But instead of organising the funeral first (which is arguably the more pressing issue), the bride-to-be decided to combine it with the wedding.

Posting on Facebook, the woman from Santa Maria, California, said the funeral costs had skyrocketed so she was going to combine the two occasions.

She said anyone wanting to say goodbye to Aunt Karen could do so as there would be an open casket session at on the big day.

Apparently, Aunt Karen always loved a wedding.

Bride and groom standing at altar during wedding ceremony
She said there would be an open casket for people to say their goodbyes (Picture: Getty)

In the post shared on the Facebook page That’s It I’m Wedding Shaming, she wrote: ‘Dear friends and family of the wedding, some of you may have gotten the news already but Aunt Karen has sadly passed away from natural causes.

‘We are all deeply saddened about her loss but we promise that we will not cancel the wedding next week.

‘In her honor, we know that she would want us to celebrate and have a day filled with love and joy.’

The bride-to-be then went onto explain her decision to hold a funeral at the wedding.

‘I would also like to add that funeral costs are skyrocketing and we will have an open casket session during some of the wedding processions.

‘Feel free to stop by during the wedding to say goodbyes, she will be on display for those who wish to gain some closure.

‘Remember, even though losing ones we love can be heartbreaking – there is also a joy in celebrating love and partnership in marriage.’

‘We are excited to see you all there on Saturday’.

In a comment below the post, one person wrote: ‘RIP Aunt Karen. That woman loved weddings, good thing she will get to partake in one last one.’

People on the group were somewhat disturbed and couldn’t understand why a lifeless body would be ‘on display’ during a wedding.

One person wrote: ‘I’m all for honouring the woman but a joint wedding/funeral is weird’ while another said: ‘She will be on display is the icing on this weird, weird cake of an event’.

Another said: ‘On display is like saying she’s part of the decor or a prop’.

We’re not sure if she went through with the events.

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McDonald’s is giving away free veggie wraps this week

McDonald's is giving away free veggie wraps this week
(Picture: McDonalds, Getty)

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch but clearly they didn’t have the McDonald’s app.

McDonald’s is giving away free spicy veggie wraps and they’re surprisingly easy to get your hands on.

You could be enjoying a free vegetable medley encased in a tortilla or, for vegans there, there is also the option without mayonnaise.

Non-meat eaters can enjoy the vegan spicy veggie wrap which contains red pesto veggie goujons, spicy relish, tomato, lettuce and red onion.

The fast food company is giving away the stuff out of the kindness of their hearts – or to get back at Burger King’s taunts – while customers in-store have to pay £3.49.

All you need is the app to claim your freebie, so grab the phone quickly.

Veggie wrap
This could be yours (Picture: McDonald’s)

The offer is available on the top of the home screen on the app and users simply have to press ‘claim now’ to be able to get their hands on it.

You’ll then have to pop down your nearest branch to claim it – but make sure it’s one of the stores that are part of the deal as not all are involved in the promotion.

To find out which stores are involved in the deal, you can look at the list available on the app.

But only mobile orders will be able to get the wrap so you won’t be able to just claim one by walking into your nearest restaurant.

The offer will only be around this week so you’ll want to act quick as it ends on 17 May.

All orders also have to be made after 10.30am.

This could be seen as McDonald’s fighting back after Burger King gave away free Whoppers.

Go forth and enjoy your freebies, people.

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Woman wants to step down as maid of honour because best man cheated on her

The woman had broken up with her ex
The woman didn’t want to go to the wedding (Picture: Shutterstock)

What would you do if you turned up to a wedding and the best man was your cheating ex?

Well one woman has that exact problem – but to make it even worse, she is the bride’s best friend and maid of honour.

In a post on Reddit, she asked whether she would be in the wrong if she refused to go.

‘I was with my ex fiancé for 6 years. Loved him with every fiber of my being, wedding planned for August.

‘Refused a job offer so could move with him for his next Air Force assignment. Monday a call girl from a website called massage republic texts him in the middle of the night saying she’s reaching out to old clients because she’s back in the game (his phone was at my house while he was flying) I text back she must have wrong number. She says she doesn’t.

‘In a moment of brains I pretend to be him instead of the jealous girlfriend and call girl gives me all the details. I’m such a fool this had been happening under my nose for years.’

The woman confronted her now-ex, who claimed to be a sex addict and promised to change.

Apparently, she considered it for ‘half a second’, but said no.

She continued: ‘Cue uncontrollable crying, self doubt, a battery of STD tests, awkward encounters with him, fight over the ring, his mom (who I loved) calling me non stop and begging me to reconsider and on and on.’

‘And on top of all this my best friend is marrying his best friend May 11th. Groom doesn’t want to rock the boat at this late date and selecting a new best man. Bride says she has way too much in her plate and is begging me to just go through with it and she’ll “make it up to me”.’

The woman's ex cheated on her
Her ex had cheated on her (Picture: Shutterstock)

She added that she’s never ‘hated a human being as much as him’, and can’t be in the same room as him let alone walk arm and arm with him down the aisle.

She said: ‘I understand the whole wedding doesn’t need to fall apart because I’m upset. So I just want to not go and spend the day downing the left over percocets from my wisdom teeth operation, f***ing as many tinder dudes who can stand to be around me after not showering and burning all his s***.

‘Would I be the asshole if I back out of the wedding?’

The post went viral with nearly 2,000 people commenting to say she definitely wasn’t in the wrong.

One person said: ‘PLEASE don’t go. NTA!!! I would bet my last pair of clean panties that the groom is trying to help foster a “talk to her at the wedding” type of thing. I am planning a wedding and hell yeah, I am stressed to the max, but I wouldn’t ask my best friend to just suck it up.

‘You can’t make up for that kind of torture. I know it’s their day, it’s supposed to be everyone doing all they can for the bride and groom, but this crosses the fucking line.

‘Honestly, what kind of friend is she being to even ask such a thing, stressed or not.’

Another added: ‘HOLY. BAWLS. Youre NTA. But your ex is a huge one, and your “best friend” is a selfish jackass. I would dump all of them and get a new life.’

The next morning, the woman updated the post to say she’d made the decision to ‘suck it up’ and go to the wedding.

She said: ‘I’m going to suck it up, participate, have fun, make my lock screen image the text from “Panama” where she said “remember, you liked tounging my asshole?”

She ended up going to the wedding
The woman wanted to step down as maid of honour (Picture: Shutterstock)

‘So when I get sad I have an instant reminder of who he really is. And then when it’s all over I’m going to scream myself hoarse and beat the ever living f*** out of my pillows.

‘If I can update a week from now I will. I still have a lot of reading to do so thank you all for commenting.’

In yet another update, the woman explained that she did go to the wedding, and that she and her ex walked down the aisle together – and were actually smiling, happy to be there for their friends.

She said: ‘As night went on ex was more and more out of it and sitting by himself either on his phone or with his head in his hand.

‘I didn’t want people talking about him so I asked him to dance with me which was actually really, really nice since we both didn’t say anything.

‘At the end of it he but his hands around my face like he was going to kiss me (I would have totally let him, in that moment) and just whispered how sorry he was and walked away.

‘I got distracted and turned around he had apparently left the reception. I hate myself for it but I was so sad to see him go.

‘This wedding is literally the last thing we ever have to do with each other. There’s no expectation of GOT Sundays or Bloody Mary brunches with his mom, we won’t argue over how bad IPA beer smells or who forgot to put gas in the car.

‘Like the reality of him just being able to leave without me arguing that I’m not ready to go yet (classic introvert/extrovert pairing here) sunk in that this is over.

‘Like over…over. I went and cried uncontrollably in the kitchen of the hotel until the bride found me and cried with for a good half an hour. With that I knew I made the right choice in being there for my friend.

‘So that is that, wedding is over and done with. No real drama, lots and lots of hurt feelings and a huge broken heart that I’m not sure how it will ever heal. I wish I could just turn off loving him but it’s not going to happen.’

MORE: Bride with fertility issues slams guest for giving her a pregnancy test and onesies as a wedding gift

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Woman with rare condition that means she sees words as pictures and her autobiographical memory means she can remember every day of her life

Sue and her father, Ted
Sue and her father, Ted (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)

When Sue Holmes talks about what day it is, she doesn’t just hear it like most people.

A rare condition called synaesthesia means she sees words as graphic pictures.

It also means that she has an incredible autobiographical memory which allows her to remember every day with very accurate detail.

Sue, 63, of Eastbourne, East Sussex, who retired from her public sector job two years ago, was just three when she first told her mum, Sheila, of her unique way of seeing things.

‘When my mother was teaching me the days of the week, I quickly told her their corresponding colours,’ Sue explained.

‘It wasn’t until 50 years later I realised not many other people saw the world that way.’

Sue has a form known as spatial sequential synaesthesia, meaning she sees things like a day of the week or the time of the day not only as a picture, but as a vivid image in her mind’s eye.

Sue, a mother-of-two, explained: ‘I see everything to do with time and space as a vision. I see the days of the week as a straight line and a year as a distorted loop to my right.

‘I see Monday as a small quarter inch olive green circular saw shape, standing on cream tiles in front of me. Tuesday is the same image and in the same position, but pale green and Wednesday is a little pile of blocks.

‘Thursday and Friday are the same shape as Monday and Tuesday, with the former a silvery grey and the latter an indistinct blueish grey and green.

‘Saturday is really beautiful. I see seven little Liquorice Allsorts sweets and Sunday is another circular shape, but this time, golden yellow.’

Sue's artwork, with blue, white and green lines (PA Real Life/Collect)
Sue’s synaesthesia helps to inspire her artwork (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)

A rare condition which is caused by a merging of sensations, there are many different types with some synaesthetes see colours when they hear music, others experience taste when they see words and for people like Sue, letters, numbers, words and timelines, feel coloured in some way.

According to the American Psychological Association, is most common amongst artists, musicians and writers – with famous synaesthetes including the painter David Hockney.

Pharrell Williams, who also has it, sees it as a gift, which helps with his creativity.

Despite its drawbacks, Sue agrees, saying: ‘Someone asked me recently if there was a pill you could take to get rid of it would you take it and I said no because it would erase what I see as a beautiful gift.’

Believed to be a condition which means the brain processes things like numbers using several senses at once, often those who have it do not know they are synaesthetes for many years – until they realise other people experience things so differently.

And it was not until she was 50 that Sue realised the way she viewed the world was so extraordinary.

Sue's artwork with red, green, yellow and white mix of colours (PA Real Life/Collect)
Sue says her condition makes her more creative (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)

Talking about synaesthesia, for which there is still no formal diagnosis, she said: ‘It’s not an illness or something you need to treat, it’s as much a part of me as your foot is a part of you.

‘I’ve always had it and for a long time I didn’t realise everyone else did not have it too.’

Another symptom of Sue’s particular form of the condition is having an amazing autobiographical memory, which she finds a mixed blessing, as while she can recall exactly where she was on, say, July 30 1966 – walking down the road with her friend, Marianne, and wearing a pink T shirt – she also has to live with vivid images of sad memories, including the death of her father Ted in 2012.

‘It is exhausting living with synaesthesia because you never switch off,’ she admitted. ‘Even as a child, having quiet time was very important to me. I live alone and when I am in the house, I need silence, so I don’t play music or the radio.’

With other famous synaesthetes including the late musician Jimmy Hendrix, actress Marilyn Monroe and Kanye West, it is not surprising that Sue is also very creative.

Describing her art work as ‘abstract fluid,’ Sue will be exhibiting with the Eastbourne-based Devonshire Collective group of artists later this year and says painting relaxes her brain.

‘As I watch the paint flowing, I do relax. I love seeing all those beautiful colours flow and even enjoy preparing the paints,’ she explained.

She also loves living by the beach and the sounds of nature, which relax her too.

‘I don’t see what I see in 2D, 3D or even 4D,’ she said. ‘I see what I see in holographic and rich technicolour shapes.

‘If I think about the Universe, I see a globe shape suspended at my waist level and I see the Milky Way four inches below my right shoulder.

‘I would like to erase some of the visions that are upsetting, like my dad’s last 48 hours and when I had a car crash at 21, but the synaesthesia is part of me, and I can’t imagine my life without it.’

MORE: Woman wants to step down as maid of honour because best man cheated on her

MORE: Woman holds wedding and aunt’s funeral together to cut church costs

Should we use the word ‘disabled’?

Flying with disability Flying airplane travel disability chair access Credit: (Picture: Dave Anderson/ Metro.co.uk)
I recognised that the words we use about other people say a lot about the way we see each other and ourselves (Picture: Dave Anderson/ Metro.co.uk)

As far back as I can remember I’ve always known I’ve had a connection to the word ‘disabled’. I heard the word used by my parents, teachers, medical professionals and even strangers when they referred to me.

‘Disabled’ seemed to be the word that let people know that I was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, used a wheelchair, visited hospitals a lot, went to physiotherapy once a week and had a teaching assistant to support me during class.

I knew ‘disabled’ meant I was different in some way, but for me, I was just Samantha.

I never challenged it or have ever felt defined by it in any way either, to be honest, I didn’t really think about what the word meant to me, that is until I began work as a campaigner and started my career in television and media, where I became increasingly mindful of the choice of language I used to describe others.

I recognised that the words we use about other people say a lot about the way we see each other and ourselves.

The words we use to describe different groups of people can have an enormous impact on the way people are seen and treated by others within society and a negative label can be internalised and hold negative consequences for the person being labelled.

We can see this in particular when we look at the trans community and the importance of using correct gender pronouns, for example.

The same respect and acknowledgement should, therefore, extend to those within the disabled community, who have throughout history seen language used to belittle, humiliate and degrade them at times.

True, we have seen the extinction of some of the most degrading words associated with disability – cripple, deaf and mute, Untermenschen (subhumans).

And we shudder at the thought of them ever actually being used to describe human beings, yet I wonder in 10, 20, 50 years from now with the future generations shudder at our use of the word ‘disabled’?

Self-employed stress
For many the term, ‘disabled’ has become positive and empowering, as it denotes the recognition of oppression (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Is the word actually so dated that we should be using different terminology and remove ‘dis’ from ’disability’ as comedian Adam Hills suggests by calling us ‘mutants’, or shall we just leave it as it is? Does the word ‘disabled’ mean more to the community in a way of pride and identity rather having negative connotations?

Suggestions of eradicating the word ‘disabled’ have been around for some time now and most certainly gained momentum around the 2012 Paralympics.

Having a word that, if taken literally denotes the inability to do something, is used to describe some of our finest athletes leaves something amiss but changing a word overnight is no easy task, with so many opposing views on the subject.

One theory that must be taken into consideration when looking at the word ‘disability’ and its definition is the social model of disability which identified impairment and disability as two completely separate entities.

Disabled people use the term ‘impairment’ to talk about their medical condition or diagnosis or description of their functioning.

On the other hand, ‘disability’ describes the social effects of impairment namely attitudinal and physical barriers.

I am Samantha Renke (person) who has osteogenesis imperfecta (impairment) when discrimination and barriers (the disability) are removed from society I will no longer be ‘disabled’ however I will still have my impairment.

For many the term, ‘disabled’ has become positive and empowering, as it denotes the recognition of oppression.

If we use the word ‘disabled’ to identify that I am disabled by attitudes, I am disabled by physical barriers such as stairs, lack of accessible bathrooms or television programmes that do not use captions.

It recognises disability as a social oppression something that is external to the person. More importantly, it also identifies that in fact, something within society has to change and has to address the attitudinal and physical barriers the disabled community faces on a daily basis.

When it comes to the word ‘disabled’ the jury is still out. Many of whom I have spoken to have taken ownership of the word and it has, in fact, empowered them.

There is most certainly a sense of disability pride which I too over the years have come to cherish. I am certainly proud to be part of the disabled community and in fact so many of my greatest accomplishments, memories and life experiences have derived from the fact that I was born with osteogenesis imperfecta and hand on heart if I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change who I am, ‘disability’ and all.

Others would like to see a change and have started to favour person first language, a person with a disability, or ‘differently-abled,’ but that is still not widely adopted.

Language isn’t there to confuse, isolate or embarrass anyone who may use the ‘incorrect’ term and non-disabled shouldn’t use language as an excuse to isolate those within the disabled community out of fear of putting their foot in it.

As research conducted by the charity SCOPE identified that a staggering three quarters (78 per cent) of Brits said that they would not be comfortable speaking about disability in front of a disabled person.

Personally rather than changing the word ‘disability’ I’d much prefer to see society as a whole starts to understand that its not all doom and gloom for those living with an impairment but in fact something to feel proud, to take ownership of and to acknowledge that lives like my own are equally as fulfilling and joyous as everyone else’s.

MORE: As a disabled person I shouldn’t have to wear a nappy if I want to travel by plane

MORE: Woman gets hammer out in row over disabled bay parking outside KFC

MORE: You Don’t Look Sick: ‘I sneak out of the disabled toilet because I don’t want people to judge me’

This idyllic bar in the middle of the Caribbean Sea is looking for a new bartender

*** FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE *** With the help of supermodel turned publican Jodie Kidd, Virgin Holidays has commenced the search for a bartender to take on the job opportunity of a lifetime; manning Floyd?s Pelican Bar ? Jamaica?s iconic floating haven. The lucky applicant will take their position behind the bar this summer, letting Floyd put his feet up to enjoy time off for the first time in eight years. Serving pi?a coladas and rum punches at a bar only accessible by boat will be the order of the day for the selected bartender ? a far cry from Britain?s summer drinking joints. Applications are open at virginholidays.co.uk/pullpintsinparadise PHOTOGRAPHER: Joe Pepler/ PinPep
You could be working here this summer (Picture:Joe Pepler/PinPep)

Bartenders, don’t have it easy.

If you work behind a bar, you’re probably sick of watching people wave money to try and get served, cleaning up those split drinks and then stepping out into the dreary British weather after closing time.

This could be the perfect opportunity for you – a beautiful floating haven in the middle of the Caribbean sea, needs a new bartender for the summer.

Yes, you might still have to shake up a few cocktails but at least you’ll be enjoying the sunshine and scenery at the spot off the coast of Jamaica.

Floyd’s Pelican Bar is run by Floyd Forbes and although he spends all day working in paradise, he hasn’t been able to take a holiday in eight years.

So this summer Virgin Holidays is looking for a temporary bartender to work at the bar while Floyd has a break.

Embargoed to 0001 Tuesday May 14 Undated handout photo issued by PinPep of Floyd's Pelican Bar in Jamaica. One lucky bartender is being offered the holiday of a lifetime, serving pints at the bar in the middle of the Caribbean sea. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday May 14, 2019. The successful applicant will run the bar, which is a floating haven only accessible by boat, one mile off the coast of Jamaica. Virgin holidays said flights and accommodation are all paid for. See PA story TRAVEL Bartender. Photo credit should read: Joe Pepler/PinPep/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Give Floyd a holiday (Picture: Joe Pepler/PinPep)

Floyd’s Pelican Bar is regularly crowned one of the best bars in the world.

It’s located approximately one mile from Jamaica in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, the unique floating structure is only accessible by boat.

Floyd built the bar in 2001 after spending years enjoying the scenery and it’s so popular, he doesn’t have a chance to take much time off.

According to the job advert, the perfect candidate must be:

  • Willing to commute by boat or paddle board, even when the weather is a little too beautiful to go to work
  • Eager to chat to locals and tourists alike and get to know them over a cool bottle of local beer
  • Manage the music playlist to ensure chilled beats are playing at all times
  • Throw the occasional fish to the resident pelicans, who gave the bar its name
  • Welcome passing boats looking for a refreshment with a smile
  • Able to multitask – it can be tricky to hand out beer and appreciate the glistening turquoise water at the same time

Joe Thompson, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays, said: ‘We think the Caribbean is your playground – filled with so much fun and beauty to explore, from the white beach sands to the vibrant culture.

‘We have sent millions of British holiday-makers to explore this idyllic part of the world over the last few decades, but never like this. It’s an opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the Jamaican culture – a once in a lifetime experience.’

The successful applicant will get return economy Virgin Atlantic flights to Jamaica, seven nights’ accommodation in a 4* hotel, the chance to work  at Floyd’s Pelican Bar, and £1,000 spending money.

If you currently work in a bar or restaurant, you can apply online between now and 28 May.

MORE: Woman wants to step down as maid of honour because best man cheated on her

MORE: Woman with rare condition that means she sees words as pictures and her autobiographical memory means she can remember every day of her life

What I Rent: Billie, £800 a month for a one-bedroom flat in Walthamstow

What I Rent: Billie Dee Gianfrancesco lives alone in a one-bedroom flat in London
Billie Dee Gianfrancesco lives alone in a one-bedroom flat in London (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)

Is it possible to live alone in London?

It’s tricky, absolutely. Affordable flats are few and far between, and you’ll have to search to find one that also has decent transport links and isn’t a teeny-tiny cramped studio.

But it is possible – even if people keep telling you flatshares are your only option.

In our weekly series What I Rent, we take an honest look at how people are renting right now, from what they pay to the issues they face.

This week we’re nosing around the flat rented by Bille Dee Gianfrancesco, who you might recognise from one of our other series, Mixed Up.

Billie lives alone in a one-bedroom flat in Walthamstow, along with her emotional support cat.

Billie pays £800 a month to live in the flat with her emotional support cat
Billie pays £800 a month to live in the flat with her emotional support cat (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)

Hey, Billie! How much do you pay to live here?

I pay £800 a month for rent, and about £99 a month in council tax, around £52 a month in gas and electricity, and £18 for wifi, totalling around £170 for bills per month.

I think I have an excellent deal. I don’t know anyone else living in London with a one bed flat to themselves for this price, I’m very fortunate.

What do you get for what you pay?

I have one bedroom with an ensuite bathroom with a toilet, bath and shower. I have a reasonably sized kitchen, a separate toilet, a large lounge room and some good hallway space and staircase as well.

How did you find the flat?

My boyfriend broke up with me and I was living with him at his place in Kent, so I had to move out fairly sharpish.

I went on Rightmove, set my budget at £850 per month and drew a search radius around the areas of London I wanted to live in, which was basically anywhere within zone 4 or below.

I viewed a couple of tiny, very out-of-the-way studio flats and was feeling pretty hopeless when I spotted my flat.

The pictures weren’t great and the price had been reduced, so I wondered what the catch was. When I arrived to view it, there were loads of other people looking around, so I offered the estate agent £10 a month more to secure it – and the landlord accepted my offer.

I moved there in October 2017, so I’ve been here about a year and 8 months.

She makes music in her spare time
She makes music in her spare time (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)

Do you like the area? 

My flat is on Wood, a four minute walk from the overground station which goes to Liverpool Street in about 20 mins. I’m also a 15 minute walk from Walthamstow Central which is on the Victoria line and has 24 hour tubes on the weekends, and a 10 minute walk from the gorgeous boating lake at Epping Forest.

The transport links are superb and I love the little community where I live. It feels very safe. It feels like a little village really, I’ve made friends with many of the shopkeepers, restaurant owners and hairdressers on my street which is really lovely.

I love the fact that I’m a short walk away from Walthamstow Village, full of its quaint little restaurants and shops, and one stop on the overground away from the bustle of Walthamstow itself, which has lost going on.

In the summer I spend a lot of time hanging out near the boating lake in Epping Forest, just a ten minute walk away.

Sometimes London can feel quite overwhelming, so I’m incredibly fortunate to be in such close proximity to the most beautiful nature with its geese and terrapins and all sorts of gorgeous wildlife.

The flat gets pretty chilly, but Billie is still happy here
The flat gets pretty chilly, but Billie is still happy here (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)

And what about the flat? Are you happy with it?

I have never been happier in terms of where I live. My flat is perfect for me.

I adore my flat because it is so quirky and spacious, and I don’t really have any neighbours so I can be pretty loud without having to worry (I write and make music on the weekends and love a little dance).

It also came unfurnished which allowed me to decorate it to my own taste and with my own things.

How did you make the flat feel like home?

When my parents divorced and moved abroad, they left a lot of furniture behind from my family home. So I picked my favourite, most nostalgic pieces to decorate my flat with, including the rocking chair that my mother breast fed me in, and a giant mirror which I used to sit in front of for hours dreaming in my youth, like Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets.

I’m obsessed with plants, so I have as many as possible and a lot of them I have grown from cuttings and nurtured for years… They really make the space feel fresh and calming.

Do you feel like you have enough space?

Even though I’m very lucky to have so much space, and I have much more space than anyone else I know, it still isn’t enough!

She doesn't feel like she has enough space, though
She doesn’t feel like she has enough space, though (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)

My parents divorced, left the country and sold the family home a few years ago, so I don’t have anywhere else to keep my things – stuff like my old school reports and certificates and toys which I’d like to keep for sentimental value.

I’ve got some of these belongings in a storage container but I need to pull my finger out and get some clever storage put in so that I can fit the rest of my stuff in the flat.

What’s it like living alone?

I hated it at first as I’d never lived alone before – but now I can’t imagine ever having to live with other people again, until I get married or whatever.

I love having my own space to sing, dance, play loud music, cry, burn incense and leave the washing up for a few days if I want to without all the passive-aggressiveness of other people’s hygiene standards.

I struggle with my mental health and being by myself I have learned to put myself and my needs first, and practice unapologetic self love and self care, in a way I couldn’t do when having to consider other people I live with.

You have a cat! Was it easy to find somewhere that would allow one?

No… Most places don’t. I don’t make people aware that I have a cat when I’m looking as I feel that gets you immediately written off as a tenant.

But I’ll do a full professional carpet clean and deep clean and repainting when I have to move out.

My cat is an emotional support animal so we have some additional rights which makes it difficult for landlords to evict us. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t live with my cat.

a jewellery tree in the living room
Trinkets and plants make the flat feel like home (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)

Are there any issues with the house you have to put up with?

The place is not very energy efficient, it gets so cold in the winter as there’s no double glazing and the heat just escapes.

I have to use an electric heater which pushes my bills up a lot, and I’m always wrapped up in jumpers and blankets… But I still feel like I’ve got a bargain.

There have been a couple of stabbings and shootings a few metres from my doorstep which is scary, but I’ve never actually witnessed any crime and I feel very safe in my community.

Do you have plans to move again?

I hope I don’t have to move again. I think I will live here until I buy my own place (although, that is just a dream at this stage).

This is the eighth place I’ve lived in the last 10 years, and I hate moving, so I’m keen to hang on to this beaut for as long as I possibly can.

Have you considered buying a place?

I’ve considered it, sure, but it’s just not a practical possibility for me at the moment. I’m still paying off debts and I won’t be in a position to save for a mortgage for at least a couple more years, so it’s not something I waste too much of my energy thinking about. Although, I do dream.

Shall we have a look around?

the living room
the living room (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
It doubles as an area for eating and working
It doubles as an area for eating and working (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
The kitchen
The kitchen (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
oven gloves hanging in the kitchen
(Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
A red toaster and coffee maker in the kitchen
We do enjoy kitchen appliances with a colour theme (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
The tiles are nice too, no?
The tiles are nice too, no? (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
the microwave and slow cooker
Yep, that’s a slow cooker in the corner (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
A good selection of spices
A strong selection of spices (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
the hallway
(Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
Here's the small toilet room
Here’s the small toilet room (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
books in the bathroom
With plenty of reading material (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
roller skates by the toilet
Count how many leopard print items you see in this place (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
the bedroom
The bedroom (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
leopard print cushions on the bed
See why we said to count the leopard print? (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
Billie's shoes tucked under the bed
(Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
beauty products on the shelf
Nice mirror (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
the second bathroom
The bigger bathroom, complete with a tub (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
the bathroom
(Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
candles and plants on the toilet cistern
We think someone likes candles (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
the shower and its contents
And exfoliation (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
bath and beauty products on a shelf
(Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)
toothbrushes and toothpaste
And finally, the toothbrushes (Picture: Alison Jenkins/Metro.co.uk)

What I Rent is a weekly series that’s out every Tuesday at 10am. Check back next week to have a nose around another rented property in London.

How to get involved in What I Rent

What I Rent 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 fancy taking part, please email whatirent@metro.co.uk.

You'll need to have pictures taken of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your room. Make sure you get permission for your housemates!

You'll also need to be okay with sharing how much you're paying for rent, as that's pretty important.

MORE: What I Rent: Claudia and Steve, £1,260 a month for a two-bedroom flat in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

MORE: What I Rent: Jess, £625 a month to share a one-bedroom flat in Deptford

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Man with learning disability couldn’t find a wife so family throws him wedding without bride

Indian man on a horse on his wedding day
Ajay who has learning disabilities always dreamt of getting married (Picture: ANI)

Sadly for us, dreams aren’t always realised no matter how much we want them.

When Ajay Barot, a 27-year-old Indian man, couldn’t find a suitable partner, he feared he’d never be able to get married – something he always dreamt of doing.

The Gujrat native, who has learning disabilities, worried it was never going to happen – so his family decided to show him otherwise.

With much fanfare, they gave Ajay his dream wedding day – filled with colours, hundreds of guests, music, the lot.

The only difference was, the wedding didn’t have a bride.

But no matter for the Barot family, they had all the traditional trimmings of an Indian wedding – with 200 guests in attendance and even a haldi (pre-wedding) ceremony.

A female member of the groom's family applying vermillion, a red powder on Ajay's head as is the norm in Indian weddings
The Bardot family gave Ajay a traditional Indian wedding (Picture: ANI)

Ajay’s uncle, Kamlesh, explained to The Times of India that it was his own son’s wedding that further sparked his interest in getting married.

‘Ajay had always wanted such an occasion for himself and that wedding intensified his demand,’ said the uncle.

‘The family got together and decided he would have a wedding procession. We had wedding invitations printed, performed all the rituals by getting a priest and organised the feast. Ajay was beaming throughout.’

Ajay’s parents found out that he had learning difficulties when he was a child, shortly after which his mum died.

Though they tried, the family said it was difficult to find him a match.

They added that it was a respectful ceremony, not intended to be mocking.

‘The event was not just to keep Ajay happy. it was also about the family finding solace in the fact he could experience it,’ added dad Vishnu.

‘There was no intention of mocking weddings or his sentiments.

‘We were heartened that so many of our relatives and villagers became part of the event.’

People online loved the idea. One person wrote: ‘Almost brought tears to my eyes. Believe me, it was a lifetime of happiness for Ajay. And kudos to his parents to make it special for him.’

What a sweet gesture. It certainly gives some of us singletons an idea.

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We need to see anti-depressants as a personal solution, not demonise or idolise them

Why imposter syndrome makes me feel like I'm faking my mental illness Mental health depression sad cry woman mask fake pills illness sick Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro.co.uk
(Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro.co.uk)

Mental illnesses are strange beasts, and seem to affect everybody slightly differently.

While you might see some people with depression who are barely unable to leave bed, others with the illness find that most of the time, it barely limits their day-to-day routine.

Similarly with anxiety, some people who have the condition find that it takes them longer to be diagnosed due to the fact their symptoms don’t fit into the neat checklist of what the ‘standard’ experience is.

On top of that there’s the fact that many experience co-morbidity, living with more than one mental health issue at a time (45% of those in the US with one mental disorder met criteria for two or more disorders).

That’s why it’s so vital to treat each case of any mental illness as a separate entity with its own unique way forward.

Medication is one such way that people choose to manage their illness.

Stats from Chemist-4-U show that only 30.62% would say the antidepressants they take are very effective, and 36.84% have taken non-prescription medicines such as herbal remedies to treat their mental health conditions, rather than taking antidepressants.

There are two things at play here, with one being so-called pill shaming.

This is the belief that mental illnesses shouldn’t be medicated, or the perpetuation of myths like ‘antidepressants change who you are’ or ‘taking medication for mental health is for the weak’.

Actor Jim Carrey recently advocated for depression not be ‘medicated away’, prompting a number of angry comments from those who felt it had been a beneficial experience for them.

That’s the other side  –  the view that medication is a catch-all cure that deserves no criticism because it has helped patients.

No treatment works for everybody, but there are screeds of research showing efficacy before these drugs can go to market. There are also numerous stories showing that abruptly stopping medication can hamper recovery.

Han, 28, who runs mental health blog Wellness and Wonder has been on anti-depressants for eight years and says, ‘I am on Citalopram which I take every day and I also have Propranolol for the bad days. I don’t really have side effects when I take my meds consistently, but I do have times I run out or forget and I get awful vertigo. I feel like I’ve just got off a roundabout and can’t walk straight or stand up for long’.

Similarly, 23-year-old Charlotte tells us, ‘I’ve been on and off medication since I was 18 or so. Since then, I’ve tried about 4/5 different medications. Currently I don’t take any because the side affects of the last became too scary for me. I’m starting to think that medication does not work with my form of mental Illness and so me and my secondary care will hopefully look at other options. In the past the meds have not worked at all or have made me worse.’

Side effects are a common theme among the people I spoke to. Lisa, 36, was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression when she was 17: ‘I started off on fluoxetine, then my doctor decided to try effexor because I guess I wasn’t getting better fast enough?’ she says.

‘Effexor made me actively suicidal, so one day I flushed them down the toilet. I was then off meds for like two years.’

However, she has now been on sertraline for around a decade. She started on a 50mg daily dose, before moving up to 200mg, and trying to taper it down to a loser dose. She says, ‘I got as far as 50mg every second day and managed that for two weeks before my levels of ambient anxiety became unbearable. I think it was an interesting exercise, because it allowed me to see the minimum dose I needed to be a functional human being and that I do genuinely need antidepressants’.

Withdrawal symptoms are undoubtedly part of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; the kind of anti-depressant most commonly prescribed) experience. A Mind spokesperson tells Metro.co.uk: ‘If you have been taking anti-depressants for a while your body will have adjusted to them which may mean you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them. For this reason, it’s always advisable to reduce the dose slowly instead of just stopping taking them’.

Carmel, 52, started taking citalopram after getting panic attacks when her mother died: ‘I tried to come off them but started to get them again, so I haven’t tried since.

‘I would say why bloody suffer with stress when there is medication out there to provide a balance? Its the same old story isn’t it. You wouldn’t self medicate a physical illness, but because its mental health you are expected to be able to get over it. Why would I just to go back to being all anxious?’

For every person online who will claim there’s a paid shill movement pushing pills on the vulnerable, you’ll find another claiming that they’re the most important part of mental health treatment.

Rather, there needs to be a middle ground where we really listen to people with mental illnesses and find multiple-pronged plans for their future. That means disclosure of side effects and withdrawal symptoms, and a trial and error system that allows medication that doesn’t work to be ruled out.

We’re currently experiencing an overstretched NHS that can’t give people all of the therapy and in-person care they may need. So instead of looking in black and white at how mental health is treated, we must see a spectrum where everybody’s ideal (and doable) care fits somewhere dinstinct to their experiences.

Mind continue: ‘If you are thinking about changing your dosage or coming off your medication entirely this needs to be done carefully and in close consultation with a health professional such as your GP.’

In the same vein, if your needs change in any way, it’s important to vocalise that with your GP. They will understand that you’re a person, and that your care is personal, too.

MORE: Life’s ‘happiest moments’ can negatively impact your mental health

MORE: New 24/7 helpline lets you text if you need mental health support

Ibis hotel praised for setting up free suhour breakfast for fasting Muslims

Room service; breakfast in hotel room.
Ibid Dublin were praised for providing a free suhour meal (Picture: Getty)

A week into Ramadan, Muslims around the world have gotten into the swing of fasting every day but to do that they need to get up in the middle of the night for suhour – a pre-dawn breakfast.

For travelling Muslims, it can be hard to prepare the meal. So one hotel in Dublin decided to help out their guests of the Islamic faith.

Ibis hotel has been praised for putting out a breakfast buffet at 2:30 am to feed a Muslim man staying with them.

When he asked staff for a snack to be eaten before his fast begins, they decided to offer him a little more than that.

So they told him to come down to the restaurant in the middle of the night and when he did, he was pleasantly surprised to see a spread laid out for just for him.

His colleague Hemant told the story on Twitter where it blew up.

People commended the hotel for their kindness while mentioning other hotel chains that offered similar services.

Hemant tagged AccorHotels, the hospitality company that owns the likes of Ibis, Novotel, and upscale chains such as Grand Mercure and Sofitel.

He wrote: ‘Humanity is still alive amidst all the hatred.’

The cricket director added: ‘My point was not about Ramadan in particular, but just about kindness and service and love and understanding.

‘I generally take a bleak view of the world and the people that inhabit it. But this simple act for someone else really uplifted me.’

Another user Sharafat wrote that AccorHotels had a good track record as a Mercure hotel also supplied suhour for him.

‘Mercure Singapore provides a pre-dawn meal menu in each room for Muslim guests. The guest then selects a time slot between 4 am to 5 am and food will be sent out to the room.

‘They offer this service without additional charges.’

Twitter users mentioned other luxury and upmarket hotel chains that offered a similar and sweet gesture which included the Sheraton Grand, InterContinental, Taj Hotels, and Four Seasons from all over the world.

Nice to know that these chains are Ramadan friendly.

MORE: Muslim mum makes glorious Ramadan care packages for all her neighbours

MORE: ‘Britain is bismillah’: Muslim poet pens incredible spoken word poem

MORE: Ramadan is my chance to be a Muslim woman on my own terms

What to eat if you have coeliac disease

Fresh baked bread on a display in bakery
Gluten-free bread and flour mixes are available on prescription (Picture: Getty)

It’s Coeliac Awareness Week, but coeliac disease is still an incredibly misunderstood condition.

So many people don’t realise that coeliac disease is not a food allergy or an intolerance – it’s an autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten.

When someone with coeliac disease eats gluten, the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. This causes damage to the lining of the gut and means that the body can’t absorb nutrients properly.

So what can you eat if you have coeliac disease? Well, first of all it’s really important to confirm that you do actually have coeliac disease, and not some other condition or intolerance. Only a test from your doctor can confirm this for sure.

How do you know if you have coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK but only 30% have been diagnosed, which means there are nearly half a million people who have the condition but don’t know it.

If you are experiencing symptoms, including diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, fatigue and stomach cramps, see your GP for a blood test, which will check for the antibodies produced in undiagnosed coeliac disease.

Homemade victoria sponge cake
It’s important to eliminate all gluten from your diet (Picture: Getty)

The test will only work if you have gluten in your diet, so it is essential not to start a gluten-free diet until you have completed the testing for coeliac disease, otherwise you may get an incorrect result.

If the initial blood test for coeliac disease is positive, your GP will refer you to a gastroenterologist for further testing to confirm the diagnosis.

Symptoms of coeliac disease

Undiagnosed coeliac disease causes a wide range of symptoms and it affects people in different ways.

  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Anaemia
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Regular mouth ulcers
  • Skin rash

Coeliac UK

What can you eat if you have coeliac disease?

When you have a coeliac disease diagnosis, it’s really important to take action and alter your diet immediately to improve your health and reduce the risk of long-term complications.

On the gluten-free diet you can eat any naturally gluten-free foods, such as meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, rice, potatoes and lentils.

You can also eat processed foods which don’t contain gluten, like ready meals and soups.

Some ingredients are confusing as they can be made from wheat but the final ingredient is gluten-free, for example glucose syrup.

The good news is that there are now loads gluten-free substitute foods available, such as specially made gluten-free bread, flour, pasta, crackers and biscuits. These are available in the free from section of the supermarket and health food stores.

Gluten-free bread and flour mixes are also available on prescription.

Two pints of beer bitter
Beer, ales and stout are out (Picture: Getty)

There are plenty of both alcoholic and soft drinks which don’t contain gluten, including fruit juice, flavoured water, fizzy drinks, cider, wine (thank god) and spirits.

But there are some alcoholic drinks that do contain gluten and need to be avoided; barley squashes, beer, lager, stout and ales.

Will changing your diet improve coeliac symptoms?

Getting to grips with your coeliac symptoms after diagnosis is a journey – and it is different for everyone.

Some people feel loads better after just a few days of cutting out gluten, but some people may see more of a gradual improvement in their symptoms or one symptom might improve before another.

It can take between six months and up to five years (in some cases longer) for the gut damage caused by eating gluten to fully heal.

But if you’re not seeing any improvement, or your symptoms are getting worse, then you should talk to your GP.

What to do if you have coeliac symptoms

1)   Most important thing is to keep eating gluten in your diet.

2)   Go to your GP and ask for a blood test.

3)   Check out Coeliac UK’s online assessment.

Help and support can be found at Coeliac UK.

MORE: 10 symptoms of coeliac disease that you’ve probably never heard of

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MORE: ‘Never kiss someone who’s eaten a bready dinner’: 22 things you only know if you have coeliac disease

How antidepressants changed my life

Do I really need this? How antidepressants changed my life
(Picture: Mmuffin for Metro.co.uk)

I’ve suffered depression most of my life. I first tried to kill myself when I was 12

Thinking about suicide is as normal as wondering what to have for dinner.

It sounds frivolous but, when you live with something for so long, it becomes part of your everyday.

Of course, there are times when it is worse – even darker, overpowering and more suffocating than ‘normal’. Times that make it harder to live with on a day-to-day basis.

Yet antidepressants weren’t an option for me. I pointblank would not consider them.

My father had never played a role in my life but he only lived 30 minutes down the road from me. And, because he treated my half siblings like toys – picking them up when they were of interest to him and ignoring them when they weren’t – I had got it into my head that my father would have taken great pleasure in my demise.

I have no idea if there’s any truth in that. Probably not. But that feeling of him finding out ‘through the grapevine’ and laughing at the effect his absence had had on my life, my ‘weakness’, was too much to bear.

However, my father died some years ago. So he no longer has that hold over me. People wince when I say it, but his death was the best thing that ever happened to me: it gave me closure that he could never give me during his lifetime.

He didn’t kill himself, cancer did it for him, but I also suspect that my depression is hereditary.

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

Then last year, a close girlfriend of mine spoke to me about her experience of antidepressants. She was on them for a few months – both for anxiety mixed with some depression – and they really helped. Our personalities are similar and we have always been very open and frank with one another.

I asked her endless questions about how it felt before and after, what the side effects had been, how she felt coming off them and what differences she noticed at home and at work.

At the time, I was living in America and really struggling. I could function for work, but not for myself.

But having these conversations with someone who I felt I identified with, changed my mind about antidepressants.

The day after I landed back in the UK, I was sat face-to-face with a doctor. ‘I’m 33. I’m sick of not having control over my emotions. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. I want to go on Escitalopram,’ I said.

I wanted the same antidepressant my friend had been on.

The doctor told me that only two months earlier, Oxford had released results from an independent study they’d done to see if antidepressants actually work. Turns out they do and Escitalopram came near the top.

I was put on the lowest dose for depression of 10mg and had to come back three weeks later to let him know how I was getting along.

Escitalopram can take two to six weeks to kick in. But that wasn’t the case for me.

Day one I was tired, day two I was nauseous, day three I had diarrhoea and day four they kicked in. The difference was notable. It was like a fog had cleared from my brain. I became more motivated, more productive. I kickstarted my directing career – something I don’t think I could have done previously.

sleep well
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

My mother noted that I was a completely different person, I was a lot easier to be around – previously I was too quick to react – and that made our relationship, albeit already a close one, a million times better.

A year has passed and I’m still on them. Still on the minimum dose. When I asked the doctor about this, he said some people need them for a short time, some people never come off them. My antidepressants work on the serotonin receptors in my brain. They’re a class know as SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). If I have a chemical imbalance, which I suspect I do but can’t know for sure, I need that balance addressed.

My experience is unique to me. And the effect this drug has on other people will differ. One of my exes, for instance, went on Escitalopram, as I’d had such great results with it and he’d had really adverse reactions to other ones in the past. But his journey was not mine – his heart raced, he struggled with sleep, and quite often felt nauseous. I think it got better over time but we’re no longer in touch.

I’m not advocating for antidepressants. And things like meditation, exercise, eating and sleeping well definitely have a huge role to play. But I’m not anti-antidepressants anymore.

Everyone has their own path. You just need to work out which one is the right one for you. And f*ck everyone else.

Hannah Berry George is a writer and director. Find more from her at hannahberrygeorge.com or on Twitter and Instagram @veryberrygeorge

Need support?

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

How to use your internal monologue to combat negative thoughts and anxiety

Illustration request - How to use your inner monologue to overcome anxiety
We all talk to ourselves – in one way or another (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Most of us have an internal monologue. It’s that voice we hear inside our heads whenever we think… well, anything.

For some it’s a constant chatter, whereas other people might not have an actual voice at all – they might think in images and pictures – but what is certain is that we all talk to ourselves in one way or another.

This ‘self-talk’, as it’s also known, can be hard to shut up sometimes. Particularly when we’re stressed, anxious or depressed. Our inner voice can create a spiral of negative thoughts that can be really difficult to climb out of – and it can seriously impact our mental health.

But there are techniques you can use to change the way you interact with your own internal monologue – essentially rewiring negative thoughts into positive thoughts.

Vida Carmel is a qualified neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner.

She teaches her clients to subtly alter the voice inside their heads to encourage positive patterns of behaviour.

It’s really not as complicated as you might think, and it can be incredibly useful for boosting confidence in the workplace and banishing negative thoughts.

‘You can change patterns of behaviour by paying attention to how you’re communicating with yourself and other people,’ Vida tells Metro.co.uk.

‘NLP is really structural, and it’s very practical.

‘If I said to you now, “close your eyes and don’t think about a pink elephant,” you will immediately think about a pink elephant.

woman with many faces
Our inner voice can perpetuate negative thoughts (Picture: Erin Aniker for Metro.co.uk)

‘That’s because the mind cannot focus on negatives. That instruction – to not think of something – your brain can’t compute that.

‘In the same way that if you search in Google, “I don’t want a picture of a pink elephant”, you will get loads of pictures of pink elephants.

‘As another example, if someone says to you, “don’t forget your passport,” what they’re really saying to you is, “forget your passport”, because the mind will just create its own internal representation of forgetting your passport, because it can’t understand the negative.

‘So instead, it would be more useful to say, “remember your passport.” And that’s just a really simple example of how you can shift your attention from a negative to a positive.

‘We are constantly communicating with ourselves, I encourage my clients to focus on how they are doing that, and then analysing whether what they are doing is useful, or if it’s holding them back.’

What is neuro-linguistic programming?

NLP is the practice of understanding how people organise their thinking, feeling, language and behaviour to produce the results they do.

It is an outcome focused model based on how our minds (Neuro) and communication (Linguistic) interact with each other. By focusing on our patterns of behaviours and beliefs (Programming) we can get different results.

So how does this work in real life?

Vida says mastering these strategies and techniques can improve confidence, self-esteem and overall mental well-being.

‘Self-talk is a huge thing,’ she says. ‘We say things to ourselves that are holding us back all the time. I see it particularly with women. Their self-talk will include phrases like, “I’m not good enough,” “I can’t do this,” or “my opinion isn’t important.”

‘So when you show people how to pay attention to their self-talk, you can show them how to change the quality of that talk.

‘Sessions are always interactive, I take people through exercises to help them notice unconscious patterns that are so ingrained they would never think twice about them – things as simple as brushing your teeth every morning.

‘Someone who was bitten by a dog when they were little, they may have learnt to be scared of dogs. They then have this strategy that every time they see a dog, they get put into a state of high adrenaline – fight or flight mode, and they they try to get away from the dog – that maybe isn’t such a useful strategy.’

A practical NLP strategy to try

Anytime you notice that you’re having a negative thought about something, just ask yourself; what do I want instead?

Because immediately, you’re re-framing yourself towards a positive outcome.

There’s only so long you can stay in the problem.

It’s useful to realise that there is a problem, but once you have recognised that, it’s time to refocus on to – now, what do I want to differently?

It’s also useful to experience the chaos.

My definition of learning, or growing or developing, is that I will feel uncomfortable. Because otherwise, if I feel comfortable, then it’s something I know already.

So open yourself up and be curious. Take the opportunity to actually to feel a bit uncomfortable. And if it’s challenging, then that’s OK, it should be.

It sounds really simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

The higher quality of life you have, the higher quality a problem you will likely have.

Vida Carmel, NLP master practitioner 

How can you use self-talk to your advantage?

Vida says that so many of the women she sees have really negative self-talk.

She says that this constant loop of negative affirmations that is happening inside our heads, really limits our beliefs about our own abilities and, ultimately, holds us back.

Changing the voice that you use to communicate with yourself is a vital step in breaking negative cycles.

‘I often ask people – is it your voice? Is it someone else’s voice? Is it loud or quiet? Is it in one ear more than the other? Is it moving? All these different elements of how we self-communicate that we don’t really realize.

‘But when we realize that we have a choice, and when you become aware of the things that you’re saying to yourself that may be holding you back, then you can do what you really want to do.

‘My belief and philosophy is that everybody has the skills they need to do what they would love to do. It’s just a question of finding out how.

‘For me, my biggest learning so far has been about finding my voice, and learning how to say no.

‘Both professionally and personally. NLP has helped me realise that with certain relationships, I  have actually been contributing to the problem in terms of the dynamic of that relationship, through the way I’m behaving.

‘By saying “yes” all the time I was actually damaging myself, I ended up getting really ill.

‘So an important part of NLP is realising that it’s not always the world doing something to you, it’s having agency and realising that you do actually have a choice.’

Vida has run rehabilitation programmes in prisons across the UK using these methods, but they can be applied to everything from workplace confidence to improving you relationships with your family and friends.

The voice inside your head is powerful – it’s in your hands to make sure it’s telling you what you need to hear.

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