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Vans goes green with a Save Our Planet collection

Three Vans from the Save Our Planet collection
Taking steps in the right direction (Picture: Vans)

We’ve all been trying to do our bit for the environment recently, but one footwear brand has gone the extra mile.

Vans has just released a Save Our Planet footwear collection, following in the footsteps of other fashion companies shining a spotlight on the environment.

Famous for its footwear, it makes sense that the collection features a range of high-top and regular trainers.

Every piece showcases a world map – be it in colour or in black and white – and has the slogan ‘Save Our Planet’ printed on it in a graffiti style.

Trainers from the Vans Save our Planet collection
The range includes a variety of designs and styles (Picture: Vans)
A high top trainer from the Vans Save Our Planet collection
A colorful pair of high tops (Picture: Vans)

The range might be shoe-heavy, but there’s also clothing and accessories.

Choose from a cap, puffer coat, bumbag, backpack and a variety of t-shirts – each with their own unique design.

Prices start at £37 for a backpack, and go to £70 for shoes or just over £100 for the puffer coat.

Currently, the US website has more items in the collection than the UK site – so it’s worth checking both to see the products in all their eco-friendly glory.

The streetwear brand has said it will donate up to £160,000 of the proceeds to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii – a foundation that works to tackle coastal pollution – but this isn’t the first time the brand has launched a collection for charity.

Last month, Vans released a Breast Cancer Awareness range and gave some of the proceeds to London-based charity CoppaFeel.

The retailer seems to be a fan of launching themed collections, too.

Earlier this year, Vans dropped Harry Potter trainers and shoes inspired by the artwork of legendary artist Frida Kahlo.

MORE: This new sustainable suitcase is made from 100% recycled plastic

MORE: How to make your coffee habit more sustainable

MORE: How to make ethical knitwear choices this winter

The best Christmas hampers for 2019

The Christmas hamper from Fortnum & Mason and one from Virginia Hayward on a festive background
There’s something for every wallet (Picture: Getty/Fortnum & Mason/Virginia Hayward)

Christmas is just around the corner, which means it’s time to get your festive treats in order.

From decorations to advent calendars, there’s a lot to take care of before the big day, including pre-ordering the annual Christmas hamper.

To help you choose, we’ve rounded up a selection of the best food and drink options for 2019.

From the traditional to the quirky, there’s something for everyone (and many are decently priced, too).

Fortnum & Mason, £100

The Fortnum & Mason Express Christmas hamper
(Picture: Fortnum & Mason)

Often considered the holy grail of Christmas hampers, any option from Fortnum & Mason will bring festive joy to your household.

Albeit amazing, most of the hampers are also quite expensive, which is why we’re loving this year’s Christmas Express Hamper.

At £100, it’s affordable but still contains plenty of goodies such as jars of Apricot and Strawberry Preserve – one of each – a tin of Spiced Biscuits and one of Nutcracker Biscuits, and a Christmas Spiced Butter Biscuit Chocolate Bar.

Of course, you need a cuppa to dunk your biscuit in – try Christmas Spiced Black Tea or loose leaf Ceylon Orange Pekoe. For coffee lovers, there’s a tin of Sandringham Blend included.

Savoury treats include Caramelized Onion Marmalade and Hot English Mustard.

Aldi, £59.99

Aldi's Christmas hamper for 2019
(Picture: Aldi)

Aldi’s Specially Selected Luxury Hamper is perfect if you want to treat yourself, but not break the bank.

Sold in a traditional wicker basket, it features a selection of sweet treats such as Milk Chocolate Honeycomb, Fudge Clotted Cream and chocolates from Moser Roth in milk, white and dark flavours.

As for the tipples, there’s something for every palate with three bottles: Australian Shiraz and Marlborough Sauvignon from the Exquisite Collection, as well as prosecco.

The hamper costs £59.99, but if you don’t want to part with that many pounds, there’s also a cheaper option for just £19.99.

Petersham Nurseries, £180

Add an Italian twist to your Christmas hamper this year.

Although this one from Petersham Nurseries is technically presented in a box, not a hamper, it’s still a viable choice.

There’s a mix of sweet and savoury delights with Gooseberry Preserve and Spiced Tomato Chutney to Poppy Seed and Sea Salt Crackers, as well as Shortbread, Rosemary and Orange Chocolate Truffles and even a bottle of Zisola Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

We recommend munching on fromage from Blackwoods Cheese Company while you enjoy a glass of Villa Marcello Prosecco Millesimato Brut.

The box will set you back £180.

Macknade, £50

Have yourself a very Kentish Christmas with treats from local suppliers in this hamper from Macknade.

It costs just £50 but don’t let that fool you – the product selection is still very exciting.

Leave Christmas Cookies from Zingiberi Bakery out for Santa (or eat them yourself), sip on festive beer from Shepherd Neame or have a jolly breakfast with Macknade’s No. 1 Tea with a dollop of Local Kent Honey.

Other items include a bottle of Hendersons Spiced Cider, Whitstable Pickle Co Chutney and more.

Carluccio’s, £75

Continuing on with the theme of Italian delicacies is the Il Massimo hamper from Carluccio’s.

It will arrive in a blue box wrapped with a white ribbon, and features delights such as apricot biscotti, chocolate clementines, traditional amaretti and the classic Milanese dish, panettone (sweet bread loaf).

You’ll also get a bottle of Prosecco Valentina, as well as a gold coin for the kids to share.

The hamper is yours for £75, which isn’t a bad price given the size of each item.

Fenwick, £120

The department store is presenting a quintessentially British hamper for 2019.

It will arrive in a large wicker basket with leather straps and is filled with Fenwick’s own treats, such as biscuits, mallows and chutney.

The Fabulously Fenwick Hamper also features tipples such as house blended coffee and infused gin liqueurs.

As for the price, it’s towards the pricier (yet still semi-affordable) end at £120.

Paxton & Whitfield, £175

Cheese lovers, assemble.

Paxton & Whitfield is back with a range of new hampers for 2019 and while there are several to choose from, our favourite is The Kensington Hamper.

It comes in a wooden gift box with five cheeses on offer: Smoked Ceodre, Dorset Goat Cheese, Stilton Jar, Cheddar Pounder and Camembert de Normandie.

But that’s not all; you also get apple & chilli jelly, caramelised onion chutney, crackers, two bottles of wine and a bottle of port – and then some.

The hamper costs £175, but then again if you share the box with a friend or partner, it’s just £87.50 each.

Cannon & Cannon, £70

A meat Christmsa hamper from Cannon & Cannon for 2019
(Picture: Cannon & Cannon)

If traditional Christmas hampers aren’t your thing, why not go for a meatier option?

For 2019, Cannon & Cannon has created The Heroes of Craft Christmas Tin – a feast of charcuterie, cheese and wine.

From Ellis cheese, described as ‘light yet robust’ to Moons Green Mushroom and Truffle Salami made in Kent, Rosie’s Bred and Butter Pickles from Wiltshire and cheese biscuits from Norton Barton Farm, there’s everything you need to have a jolly December.

Let’s not forget the bottle of Rouge du Grappin with syrah and grenâche grapes, paired perfectly with Willie’s Cacao Pure Gold.

You can pre-order it now for £70.

Virginia Hayward, £50

The Mistletoe, as it’s called, has everything you need for a magically festive evening (apart from mistletoe).

Pop open the bottle of Zonin Prosecco Brut and pour a glass for yourself, before digging into the gold-wrapped Christmas Pudding or trying some of Grandma Wild’s Mature Cheddar Mini Bites. Apparently they’re ‘perfect for sharing’ – but we’d be tempted to keep them for ourselves.

Caramel macchiato popcorn, sesame peanuts and fruit cake with sticky toffee biscuits are moreish treats on offer, too.

Save the chocolate Christmas tree from Stas Chocolatiers, drizzled with white chocolate and decorated with two stars, for the big day.

The hamper is pretty cheap, considering its contents, at just £50.

The Wolseley, £159

If luxury is what you’re after during Yuletide, you can’t go wrong with a Wolseley hamper.

There are five to choose from but we’re particularly fond of this breakfast selection.

Go to the farmer’s market and pick up fresh sourdough to go with one of the three jams, but don’t forget to nip into the supermarket for some fresh yogurt, too – you’ll need it for the granola.

Then brew a cup of English Breakfast loose leaf tea or pop out the cafetière before flipping through ‘Breakfast at The Wolseley’, a book by the late food critic, A.A. Gill. There’s also a gift card and a silver-plated caddy spoon.

The hamper is available for £159.

Chococo, £50

Vegans, we’ve included something for you, too.

This Christmas, enjoy a sugar coma with a chocolate-filled hamper from Chococo for £50.

There are nine products in total, such as the award-winning Tawny Port & Fig, Date & Cognac and Marzipan.

Other mouth-watering delights include the new Raisetrade Madagascar milc bar, which has a ‘gentle nutty cashew nut finish’ and Colombian Coffee Beans, as well as a 67% dark chocolate hand-decorated lolly with edible shimmer.

Another newbie for 2019 is the limited-edition Christmas clusters – candied orange, cardamom, roasted cocoa nibs and crushed pistachios in dark chocolate – and in keeping with the festive theme, you can also munch on dark chocolate snowmen.

Pick up a bottle of vegan red wine, and you’re sorted for December.

MORE: The best Christmas markets for 2019 so you can get your festive trinkets

MORE: The best drinks advent calendars for 2019 – where to get them, what’s inside, and how much they cost

MORE: Primark launches adorable Christmas jumpers featuring pugs, sloths and cats

Why do we have fireworks on Bonfire Night?

Big fireworks with silhouetted people in the foreground watching
Fireworks are set to light up the night on Tuesday (Picture: Getty Images)

It’s Bonfire Night on Tuesday, which means that the night sky’s about to be lit up with fireworks across the country.

And it actually seems as though we’ve been hearing those flashes and bangs for a while now, what with Diwali last week and firework displays this weekend ahead of Tuesday’s festivities.

However there’s more to the custom of letting off fireworks than just creating pretty patterns and making a lot of noise in the process (which let’s face it, isn’t always that popular with people).

So just what are the origins of fireworks on Bonfire Night?

Here’s what you need to know…

Why do we have fireworks on Bonfire Night?

Bonfire Night marks the anniversary of the attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses Of Parliament in 1605 – and since fireworks contain gunpowder they have an obvious connection to the day’s celebrations.

The plot – known as the Gunpowder Plot – saw Fawkes and his conspirators wanting to protest against King James I and his government over the anti-Catholic laws in England, which was under Protestant rule.

The conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot
The Gunpowder Plot happened in 1605 – but was ultimately foiled (Picture: Getty Images)

They put 36 barrels of gunpowder in cellars underneath Parliament to set off an explosion – except the plot was foiled after one of the gang sent an anonymous letter to a friend who worked there warning him to stay away on that date.

Although he was not the ringleader of the Gunpowder Plot he was the one who was caught in Westminster Palace with the gunpowder all ready to go, and arrested.

Fawkes was tortured into giving up the names of his fellow conspirators, who were subsequently arrested and executed along with him.

Bonfire Night – originally known as Gunpowder Treason Day – has been celebrated on 5 November ever since, even in 1605 when Londoners were encouraged to light bonfires to celebrate the King’s escape from assassination.

When were fireworks first introduced to Bonfire Night?

Fireworks at Alexandra Palace
Alexandra Palace in London puts on a spectacular show every year (Picture: WireImage)

Fireworks were first introduced into the celebrations in the 1650s.

It’s also traditional to burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire – although the tradition of throwing a dummy on a bonfire dates back to the 13th Century, with the effigies only coming to represent Guy Fawkes after his act of treason.

MORE: Sainsbury’s bans fireworks to stop distress in pets and old people

Pret releases its Christmas range – and it features a new sandwich for 2019

Two of the Christmas sandwiches from Pret A Manger's 2019 range
There’s a brand new option for 2019 (Picture: Pret)

Christmas is less than 50 sleeps away, so it’s fitting that Pret A Manger has just released its Christmas menu.

To get you in that extra festive mood, there’s a new sandwich for 2019 and it will be especially popular among coeliacs.

Please welcome Christmas Lunch, the gluten-free edition – with free-range turkey, herby pork stuffing, port and cranberry sauce and mayo, served on a slice of gluten-free seeded bread.

The original Christmas Lunch is also returning and is similar to the gluten-free option, except that it features port and orange cranberry sauce, as well as baby spinach leaves and crispy onions, nestled in-between two slices.

There are two more choices on offer including a tasty vegetarian sandwich with roasted butternut squash, spicy rocket and nutty Christmas-themed pesto, finished off with yoghurt mayo, crispy onions and caramelised pecans.

Pret's new gluten-free Christmas Lunch sandwich for 2019
The gluten-free Christmas sandwich (Picture: Pret)

Don’t despair vegans, there is something for you, too.

It comes in the form of the Very Merry Christmas Lunch, a sandwich stuffed with grilled carrots, crispy onions, baby leaf spinach, port and orange cranberry sauce and, of course, Pret’s vegan stuffing and caramelised pecans ‘for an added Christmas crunch’.

But wait, there’s more.

You can also dig into two seasonal baguettes, including the brie, pistacho and cranberry or Pret’s Christmas Baguette with turkey, port & orange cranberry sauce, herby pork stuffing, rocket, mayo and crispy onions.

For something from the seas, try the Lobster Roll – which was also sold during summer as a limited-edition item – and is crammed full of Maine lobster claw and knuckle, cucumber, crisp cos lettuce, spring onion and mayo.

Pret's vegan Christmas sandwich
The Very Merry Christmas Lunch vegan sandwich (Picture: Pret)
The original Christmas Lunch sandwich and a Melvin the Snowman cookie (Picture: Pret)

Prefer sweet over savoury snacks?

Grab a Pret Mince Pie, Christmas Tiffin – created from a family recipe – and Melvin, the Melting Gingerbread Snowman.

Pair with a hot drink, like a gingerbread latte or crème brûlée latte or hot chocolate with mint or hazelnut syrup.

‘This year, our team of food innovation managers have gone to extra lengths to ensure the ingredients that make up our menu of Christmas items are the most delicious they’ve ever been,’ said Hannah Dolan, Pret’s global head of food innovation.

‘From tasting stuffing at 7am on the hottest day in July, to using a well-loved family tiffin recipe for one of our sweet treats, we’ve been dedicated to getting Christmas right, and can’t wait to hear what the nation thinks of the food.’

The complete Pret Christmas menu

Pret’s Christmas Lunch 2019, from £3.95

Pret’s Veggie Christmas Lunch 2019, from £3.75

Very Merry Christmas Lunch, from £3.75 (vegan)

Pret’s Christmas Lunch on Gluten-Free Bread, from £3.75

Pret’s Christmas Baguette, from £3.99

Brie, Pistachio & Cranberry Baguette, from £3.50

Pret’s Lobster Roll, from £5.99

Pret’s Fish Pie Mac & Cheese, from £5.75

Pret’s Turkey & Ham Soup, from £3.80

Pret Mince Pie, from £1.60

Christmas Tiffin, from 60p

Melvin, Pret’s Melting Gingerbread Snowman, from £1.50

Gingerbread Latte, from £3.00

Crème Brûlée Latte, from £3.00

Mint Hot Chocolate, from £3.00

Hazelnut Hot Chocolate, from £3.00

Getting into the spirit of the season, Pret is also donating 50p from the sale of each Christmas sandwich or baguette to the Pret Foundation, which aims to ‘break the cycle of homelessness’.

The Pret menu launches nationwide at 10am today (5 November) and all of the vegetarian and vegan dishes will also be offered in Veggie Pret Shops.

In other seasonal news, Starbucks has just released its Christmas cups and Costa’s Christmas menu is here, too.

Have a very, merry lunch.

MORE: Primark launches adorable Christmas jumpers featuring pugs, sloths and cats

MORE: When does Costa’s Christmas menu launch?

MORE: Starbucks’ Christmas cups have a release date – and it’s soon

Everything you need to know about your credit score including how to check it

metro illustrations - illustration of a woman checking her credit score on a laptop in bed
Checking your credit score is easier than you think (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Credit scores are the ultimate letters of recommendation – they tell lenders how reliable you are.

Unlike a character reference though, credit scores look solely at numbers – debts and how many loans you’ve taken out (sadly, your willingness to help a friend move home does not count).

You might not be thinking about your credit score too much (owning a home seems to be a pipe dream, after all) but it’s important to know how your spending habits affect it, should you eventually need to borrow credit.

Whether you want to take out a credit card, a personal loan or a mortgage, the first thing a lender will do is check your score.

The higher the score, the more likely are you to be accepted as a borrower. But there are different systems and different scores.

So what does it all mean?

This month on Metro.co.uk we’re looking at debt and all things money. So for those who’ve been meaning to check or too scared to look, here’s how to check your credit score.

What is a credit score?

Your credit report is put together by companies known as credit reference agencies (CRAs). There are three in the UK: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion who create your credit reports.

These CRAs gather information on your borrowing history, calculate a score based on this and then create a report – a credit file.

Lenders then ask one of the CRAs about this information before accepting your application.

James Jones, head of consumer affairs at Experian tells Metro.co.uk that your credit score is your financial CV.

He explains: ‘We collect information from banks and lenders and 500+ companies and piece it all together.

‘We also look at court judgments and the electoral register for details (whether you’ve registered to vote), and your financial record from the last six years.

‘Based on that, the rating figures out the likelihood of you making future payments.’

How do I check my credit score?

Thankfully we live in tech-savvy times so checking these things is super easy. You can do it on a browser or download an app that gives you a score within seconds for free.

While you can check with the three main CRAs Experian, Transunion and Equifax, there are other companies that offer the service.

Money Supermarket, for example, will show you your score and help you find the cards you’re likely to be accepted for.

What’s a good credit score?

Of course, this is the most important part. After all, you want a high number. While the higher it is, the better, not all scales are the same.

A good Experian score starts at 700, with 800 considered excellent while Equifax says it’s 660 and above. Whichever one you choose to use, it will tell you where you are on the scale.

what does your credit score mean
What is a good credit score? (Picture: metro.co.uk/ mylo)

How do I improve my credit score?

If you have a low rating or just want to take it as high as possible then there are some things you can do to improve it.

Some of these things include: paying your bills on time, paying down debt (reducing your credit card balance), making outstanding payments, and limiting new credit requests.

Simple things such as registering to vote can add up to 50 points. A perfect payment record for several years can add 200 points. On the other hand, missing payments can cost you 130 points.

How to improve your credit score screenshot from Money Supermarket
Money Supermarket might tell you how to improve your rating (Picture: Faima Bakar)

Does checking my credit score affect it?

This is not true.

James from Experian tells us: ‘You can check as often as you like, it has no impact. What affects it is if you’re applying for lots of different credit (i.e several credit cards) because each time a lender has to run checks (leaving a ‘hard footprint’).

‘If you’re applying lots, it indicates thirst for new credit. Applying to borrow lots of different things can cause problems. How likely are you to pay these things back?’

If you check your own score or when a lender or credit card company checks your credit to pre-approve you for an offer (known as a soft enquiry), it does not go on your credit report nor affect your score.

And it’s only the bank or the lender that decides to approve credit, not CRAs such as Experian.

Who checks my credit score?

The broad answer is anyone who’s lending you something. More specifically, that’s landlords and utility companies, credit and store card providers, mobile phone contract providers, car insurers and even your employers.

So go forth and spread your credit knowledge.

Debt Month

This article is part of a month-long focus in November all about debt.

Scary word, we know, but we're hoping if we tackle this head on we'll be able to reduce the shame around money struggles and help everyone improve their understanding of their finances.

Throughout November we'll be publishing first-person accounts of debt, features, advice, and explainers. You can read everything from the month on the Debt Month tag.

If you have a story to share, a topic you want us to cover, or a question that needs answering, get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


MORE: People who’ve paid off debts give their tips on how to do it

MORE: How do you know if you’re in a ‘debt crisis’?

MORE: How to support someone who is in debt without giving them money

Woman transforms £3.50 chocolate cake from Tesco into adorable hedgehog


If you’ve got a vision of your dream birthday cake, but don’t fancy investing time in baking it yourself or spending a load of cash to get a professional to make your dream a reality, learn from Rebecca Adshead Williams.

When Rebecca was planning her 40th birthday party, she had her heart set on a hedgehog themed cake – but she couldn’t find one in any supermarket.

Rather than giving up on her dream cake, Rebecca got crafty.

She picked up a plain chocolate sponge for £3.50 from Tesco and set to work transforming it into her birthday hedgehog.

Tesco budget cake turned into hedgehog design
The Tesco £3.49 cake before the transformation (Picture: Rebecca Williams)
Tesco budget cake turned into hedgehog design
Rebecca began by slicing off the sides and positioning them on top of the remaining base (Picture: Rebecca Williams)

Lucky for us, she shared a video of the DIY project on her Instagram, in case anyone finds themselves in the same predicament.

The cake makeover only took about 20 minutes – so it was far easier than making a cake from scratch.

She began by slicing the sides off the chocolate sponge and placing these sections on to the base of the cake, curved side up. Then the front of the cake was trimmed into a triangle to form a pointy nose.

Tesco budget cake turned into hedgehog design
Then came a load of chocolate frosting (Picture: Rebecca Williams)
Tesco budget cake turned into hedgehog design
Buttons served as the hedgehog’s spikes (Picture: Rebecca Williams)

Rebecca slathered the cake with a thick layer of icing, added rows of chocolate buttons for the hedgehog’s spikes, and placed two white buttons on the face for eyes. The cake was finished with a chocolate nose.

The end result does look rather like a hedgehog, doesn’t it?

Tesco budget cake turned into hedgehog design
And here’s the end result (Picture: Rebecca Williams)

Rebecca’s friends and family were pretty impressed – as was everyone on the internet.

‘I had looked in all the supermarkets for a [hedgehog cake] but no one had any,’ Rebecca told Metro.co.uk.

‘I love hedgehogs! My cake couldn’t have been anything else!

‘It was only made because I wasn’t able to find one in the shops and after all this, I’m so happy that I couldn’t.’

MORE: Children’s Halloween cake topper looks much ruder than planned

MORE: Woman transforms cupboard under the stairs into ‘mum cave’ for just £17 to give her somewhere to relax

Londoner becomes world’s strongest disabled woman after life-changing accident

Lucy Dunstan-Beasley
Lucy shattered her entire ankle in a freak accident (Pictures: Lucy Dunstan-Beasley)

Lucy Dunstan-Beasley’s life took an unexpected turn when a devastating roller derby accident shattered her ankle and left her permanently disabled.

The accident happened in 2013, and three years later, Lucy was depressed, unable to work and in constant pain.

The 36-year-old had always loved being active and taking on new challenges – as well as roller derby she also had a passion for adventure racing and channel swimming – so to have that taken away was incredibly hard for her.

Lucy Dunstan-Beasley
‘I was so intimidated at first, but soon realised the gym was very easy going and supportive’ (Picture: Lucy Dunstan-Beasley)

Her luck started to change when she was fitted with an ExoSym limb salvage device to help her regain some movement and stability in her injured ankle, but she was still unsure how to fully adapt to her physical condition.

Now, six years on from the accident, Lucy has relocated to Hither Green and joined her local Anytime Fitness gym, which set her on a new path of discovery.

‘I was so intimidated at first, but soon realised the gym was very easy going and supportive, features which particularly stood out to me in comparison to other mainstream gyms,’ says Lucy.

But she quickly overcame any nerves and threw herself into strength training. She even started personal training sessions which helped her to really start to see the benefits of working out.

‘Joe has helped me find alternatives for when my disability means I can’t do an exercise the conventional way,’ explains Lucy about her PT.

‘Not only has he helped strengthen my body, the team at the gym have all provided incredible support and encouragement while allowing myself to discover my own way into health and fitness with no judgement and pity.’

Lucy Dunstan-Beasley
‘Joe has helped me find alternatives for when my disability means I can’t do an exercise the conventional way’ (Picture: Lucy Dunstan-Beasley)

Deciding to capitalise on her rapid progress in the gym, Joe encouraged Lucy to enter novice powerlifting and Strongwoman competitions. To say that she smashed them would be an understatement.

A year on, and Lucy has won the 2018 World’s Strongest Disabled Woman, as well as national feats including England’s and Britain’s 2018 Strongest Disabled Woman titles respectively.

‘Joe even travelled with me to the world event and looked after me throughout,’ says Lucy.

‘Winning these titles are all thanks to Joe’s suggestion and endless enthusiasm. I always knew they would help me reach my fitness goals – it’s an incredible feeling.’

Lucy Dunstan-Beasley
‘It really is hard at times to knuckle down and keep going’ (Picture: Lucy Dunstan-Beasley)

Lucy’s ambition isn’t waning; she recently trained in the U.S in preparation to compete at the 2019 Arnold Sports Festival in Ohio.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, and Lucy has picked up various knocks and injuries along the way – but she hasn’t let that hold her back.

‘From twanged muscles, to golfer’s elbow, to skier’s thumb – it’s been incredibly useful to have a physiotherapist in the gym itself, enabling me to create workarounds on muscle strengthening,’ she says.

‘Developing the habit of training is tough, it really is hard at times to knuckle down and keep going. I applaud anyone with that determination to succeed.’

After recovering from a recent leg surgery and participating in a strength event in Iceland, Lucy has her sights firmly set on further national and world titles in 2020 as well as planning to start channel swimming once more.

‘I’m a very shy person and when I was walking into the gym that very first time, my heart was in my mouth!’ she says.

‘But, despite everything with my physical and mental condition, I did it, and so can you.’

MORE: Strong Women: ‘Influential women in fitness all look the same – I’m sick of trying to fit the mould’

MORE: 18-year-old becomes first female Muslim jockey to win major race: ‘I love proving people wrong’

MORE: Woman who survived kidney and liver transplants becomes athletics star

What I Rent: Carys and Jamie, £487.50 each a month for a one-bedroom flat in Hove

Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman in Hove, East Sussex: The couple in their living-room
Carys and Jamie moved in together after eight months of dating (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)

In a time when it feels like every Londoner is moving to Brighton (seriously, can you all stop?), we reckon it’s time for What I Rent to take a trip towards the seaside.

In our weekly series exploring the reality of renting in the UK, we take you inside a different person’s rented property.

This time we’re in Hove with Jamie, who runs his own business as a tiler, and Carys, who works as a sales and project manager for a charity team building events company.

The couple have lived together for six months in a one-bedroom flat in Hove, having moved in eight months after they met on Bumble.

Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman in Hove, East Sussex: The couple in their living-room
They rent a one-bedroom basement flat in Hove for £975 a month (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)

Hey, Carys! How much do you and Jamie pay to live here?

We pay £975 a month and split it 50/50, so £487.50 each. We probably pay around £300 in bills including WiFi, council tax, water and electric, and again split this 50/50.

And what do you get for what you pay? 

It’s a one-bedroom flat but the room sizes are huge in comparison to other Hove properties. We have a lounge, kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom.

Do you think you have a good deal? 

Yes! That’s pretty cheap considering the size of our flat. We’re blessed with bright airy rooms and high ceilings.

I was searching for a flat like an absolute madwoman and we viewed a few places before this but nothing quite ticked every box. We were the first people to view this flat and fell in love with it straight away. The next morning the holding deposit was paid and it was ours.

Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman in Hove, East Sussex: Bedroom details
They’ve made the flat feel like home with plenty of plants and artwork (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)

How did you find the flat? 

Sitting on Rightmove every second of every day pressing refresh until something decent came up! Properties go very quickly in this area so you have to be on it. We moved in in May 2019.

Are you happy where you live?

Incredibly! We love everything, I don’t actually think there is anything we’d change.

Our flat is in Hove, just a few minutes walk from the main high street and a minute’s walk from the sea.

We love the location as there is so much to do on our doorstep, we’re spoilt for choice with restaurants and bars and there’s plenty of great charity shops for a few bargains. It’s also only 20 mins on the bus into the centre of Brighton.

We get so many compliments about what a great location we are in and we have no real plans to move in the near future. Hove has a great buzz to it and is a little more chilled than the hustle and bustle of Brighton.

Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman at Hove, East Sussex: Bedroom details
Jamie has lived in Hove for a while but Carys only recently moved to the area (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)

Do you feel like you have enough space?

Yes and no. I would love a two-bedroom flat with a garden but the budget just doesn’t allow it.

The only thing this flat lacks is storage so we’ve had to be a bit more creative with storing items.

What’s it like living together? 

We love it. As we’d only been together about five to six months when we first spoke about moving in together people were a bit judgemental, but we both just knew it would be the right decision.

We both rented studio flats and were paying silly money so the logical thing was to move in together. I was always a bit more keen on the idea but Jamie wasn’t as sure… then one day he turned round to me and said ‘let’s start looking’, and here we are!

Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: Living-room details
You’re going to spy a lot of plants (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)

How have you made the flat feel like home?

I love styling the inside of our home. I share photos a lot on Instagram about where I got things from and Pinterest has been a great influence on my style. I’ve always had a bit of a creative flair so I really enjoy turning a blank canvas into a cosy home.

I think fairy lights make anything instantly feel more homely. We’ve collected a lot of second hand furniture from Facebook marketplace, then trinkets from charity shops and added lots of plants (Jamie keeps telling me we don’t need anymore and then I accidentally buy three more) to each room to make it feel more homely and reflect our styles.

You can put your own stamp and style into a rented property without actually having to redecorate.

Are there any problems with the flat? 

We had a few issues when we first moved in – none of the remedial works had been done but they quickly sorted that out. I think we were pretty lucky apart from that.

These buildings are quite old so it’s a little chilly in the winter and the water tank can run out quickly but that’s nothing, really.

Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: Living-room details
The couple would love a two-bedroom flat with a garden but that doesn’t work with their budget (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)

Do you have plans to move again? 

We really do love this flat and I think it would take something really special to make us move. We planned to stay in our first property together for at least two years and I think that’ll be the case. The first six months has gone so quickly that two years will fly by!

We’ve both moved a lot over the last three or four years so it would be nice to stay put for a while and make a real home out of this place.

Have you considered buying a place?

Hundreds of times. Does anyone else fall into a Rightmove hole where you just end up looking at houses you can’t afford but plan exactly what you would do to them? Because, same.

We wouldn’t be in a position to buy for quite a few years and our priorities reside elsewhere at the moment but we do talk about the future and what we would want.

We both dream of buying a renovation project – a property with some real character that we could transform together and make into a forever home. But for now we want to travel a little more of the world and experience new things before all the ‘adult’ stuff begins. We’re only 29 – still young.

True. Let’s have a look around.

Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: The living-room
The living room (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: Living-room details
They’re fans of fairy lights (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: The living-room
There’s space for a dining table (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: Living-room details
We love a gallery wall (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman at Hove, East Sussex: Living-room details
(Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: The kitchen
The kitchen (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: The kitchen
It’s very neat and tidy, isn’t it? (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: Kitchen details
Fair play (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman, Hove, East Sussex: The bedroom
Points for the matching bed cushion and chair (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: The bedroom
Nice bedsheets, too (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: The bathroom
The bathroom, complete with even more plants (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: The bathroom
A mirror over the toilet is an interesting choice (Picture: Andrew Hasson/Metro.co.uk)
Metro, What I Rent, the basement flat of Carys Oldall and her partner Jamie Coltman Hove, East Sussex: Bathroom details
True love means matching toothbrushes (Picture: Andrew Hasson/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.

How to get involved in What I Rent

What I Rent is Metro.co.uk's weekly series that takes you inside the places 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: Vicky, £395 a month for a one-bedroom flat in Glasgow

MORE: What I Rent: Adelaide, an 18-year-old mum paying £625 a month for a two-bedroom flat in Littlehampton

MORE: What I Rent: Carmel, £650 a month for a four-bedroom house in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire

Couple toast their marriage with Mr and Mrs bongs on wedding day

Coral and Mio swapped a traditional champagne toast on their wedding day for bong hits
Coral and Mio swapped a traditional champagne toast on their wedding day for bong hits (Picture: Kennedy News / Rachel Artime Photo)

Who needs flowers when you have greenery?

When Coral and Mio tied the knot, they decided to change up the traditional champagne toast.

Instead they opted for personalised Mr and Mrs bongs, taking puffs together and blowing smoke into the camera as photographer Rachel Artime snapped away.

The end results are surprisingly beautiful, don’t you think?

The bongs were on-theme for the couple, as Rachel had also taken engagement photos of Coral and Mio smoking blunts.

Coral also had hemp in her wedding bouquet.

Coral and Mio on their wedding day, holding a hemp bouquet
Coral also had hemp in her wedding bouquet (Picture: Kennedy News / Rachel Artime Photo)

Rachel, from Los Angeles in California, US, said: ‘I’m really happy with the pictures. I love the smoke. It makes them look haunting and romantic in a weird way.

‘I’ve never had to photograph anything like this before. This is the most unconventional and non-traditional thing to happen at a wedding [I’ve been to].

‘Every wedding I’ve done is the most normal thing ever, so this is quite the experience to be photographing people literally smoking a blunt at their wedding. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.

They had their bongs custom made to say Mr and Mrs (Picture: Kennedy News / Rachel Artime Photo)
Weed is now legal where they tied the knot (Picture: Kennedy News / Rachel Artime Photo)
The photos have been shared more than 40,000 times (Picture: Kennedy News / Rachel Artime Photo)

‘People all over my Instagram were so into it. People were saying they had never seen this. I have never seen a bong at a wedding.

‘With the positive feedback on a drug that was illegal and is now legal, it’s just fascinating to see how people are supportive and love the photos.

‘It was all mine and Coral’s vision and their passion.

‘It’s cool to see a bride and groom’s passion in all they plan for their wedding, and to be so supported [globally]. It’s their story.

The end result of the pics is surprisingly gorgeous (Picture: Kennedy News / Rachel Artime Photo)

‘Coral is wonderful – she knows what she wants. She told me she wanted this photo with the smoke and we had engagement photos done in the same way.

‘They were really excited about their matching Mr and Mrs bongs, which were handmade and very cool.

‘Being in Santa Cruz in a redwood forest, and in her white dress, the contrast was just so pretty with the white smoke. It’s not a conventional wedding photo at all.

‘It was so fun because I do a wedding a weekend, so it was like a creative challenge to have new things to work with.’

Coral shared a selection of her wedding images online with the caption: ‘to have and to toke, forever and ever’.

MORE: Couple have weed-themed wedding with canna-cake, pot bouquets, and a budtender

MORE: Grandfather moved to tears after his lost wedding ring is found almost 40 years later

MORE: Groom surprises bride with their two-legged cat on their wedding day and her reaction is priceless

Lorde’s right – we shouldn’t work when our pets die

Alice Wright and her dog, Basil
Alice and her dog, Basil, who died in 2017 (Picture: Alice Wright)

It has been reported this week that singer Lorde has delayed the release of her new album because of bereavement.

She has considered that the time and effort that needs to be devoted to her career right now will be affected by grief – and who can blame her? The loss of a loved one can be devastating and your work can most definitely suffer while you come to terms with it.

The fact that Lorde is grieving for her beloved dog Pearl, shouldn’t make any difference.

For many people, dogs are as important as the humans we share our lives with – they are family members. They are a constant, supportive presence in our homes and we would struggle to imagine our lives without them.

The care of a dog can evoke the same feelings as a parent would have for a child; the love, the nurturing, the routine of care that underpins your home – and the loss of a dog radically changes the whole dynamic and rhythm of a household.

You miss them terribly.

The day after my own dog died, I went into work but left before lunchtime.

I was unable to speak to anyone without crying, unable to cope with kind commiserations and yes, I was unable to work effectively. I was as shattered and inconsolable as I had been in the days after I had lost my grandparents.

Maybe more so, because I had shared a home and a sofa with my dog every single day for over 12 years. He loved and looked after us, and we loved and looked after him.

Thankfully, I was in a supportive environment with a team who knew what my dog had meant to me and agreed that it was best for me not to be in the workplace at such a time.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The loss of a dog is sometimes seen as not worthy of any depth of grief or enough of a reason to warrant compassionate leave.

In the UK, there is no specific law surrounding statutory bereavement leave but it is generally agreed that a number of (usually paid) emergency days can be taken immediately following the death of a dependent or close family member.

A dog is not classed as such, despite what we feel for them.

Ideally, long-term ownership of a dog should qualify it as an official dependent, giving owners the same grace of a few days leave, whether paid or unpaid, without inviting a warning or being at risk of dismissal.

Last year, a woman who did take a day off following the death of her dog actually lost her job. She has since created a petition arguing that employers have to take compassion into consideration when an employee loses a pet – it has so far garnered over 25,000 signatures.

Ideally, long-term ownership of a dog should qualify it as an official dependent, giving owners the same grace of a few days leave, whether paid or unpaid, without inviting a warning or being at risk of dismissal.

It doesn’t happen often, it’s usually an extraordinary circumstance and surely employees who are dealt with considerately at this time will be more grateful and accommodating in the long-run, compared to those who aren’t?

What’s more, workers distracted and hampered by grief won’t deliver their best performance and delivery could suffer.

Consider their feelings. It might be ‘just a dog’ to you, but to your colleague or friend that dog might have been their whole world.

Simple gestures such as a card, a cake or an acknowledgement that they had been ‘a good dog’ would be much appreciated. And yes, some time to grieve.

Imagine if you had no close family members and lived alone with your dog.

Imagine if your dog was the reason you got up in the mornings.

Imagine if your dog was your best friend and gave you companionship, joy and contentment.

Why is the grief of losing that relationship not considered worthy of the same recognition and benefits as any other relationship?

As Lorde describes her feelings on needing time after the death of Pearl: ‘As anyone who has felt loss can understand, there’s a door that opens that you step through, and everything is different on the other side.’

That sounds like grief to me.

MORE: I lost my baby at 14 weeks was a bereavement like any other

MORE: Rosie the kitty helps owner Deborah through grief after husband dies from cystic fibrosis complications

MORE: ‘Talking about my son does not make me sad – it makes my heart sing’: Why we need to start talking about child bereavement

Woman taunted for ‘melted yoghurt’ legs learns to love her body


A woman with a condition that causes fat build-up in the legs was taunted by bullies who branded her a ‘melted yoghurt’.

Mum-of-three Jennifer Williams from Los Angeles has lipedema – a disorder that causes the legs to become enlarged due to deposits of fat beneath the skin.

The 44-year-old medical professional has had the condition from the age of 10.

But in 2017, she decided to embrace her body and start an Instagram account with the purpose of spreading knowledge and connecting with others with lipedema.

She said social media has boosted her self confidence and she is finally happy with the way she looks.

For years, Jennifer had never heard of lipedema and constantly questioned why she looked the way she does.

She discovered the condition through a conference held by the Fat Disorders Research Society. It was after this she was finally diagnosed with lipedema, after decades of no answers.

She had thought she was just ‘obese’ which doctors reiterated to her, despite the fact that she had lost 150 pounds.

Now, Jennifer proudly shows off her body and says she isn’t promoting obesity, just ‘self-love and self-acceptance’.

Jennifer who has Lipedema picture in her underwear
Social media helped Jennifer embrace a condition that had held her back all her life (Picture: Colin Weatherby / Barcroft Media)

‘Finally, there’s other people like me, I’m not just a freak by myself with my legs huge and every part of my body smaller,’ she said.

‘Some doctors will say “you’re just fat, lose weight”. But what they don’t realize is I have lost weight. I have lost 150 pounds since 2016 and I still have large thighs.

‘They think it’s cellulite but it’s not, it’s the lipedema fat. And the lipedema fat is not able to be burned by diet and exercise. It’s not going anywhere.’

Getting a diagnosis and turning her life around was a long time coming for Jennifer, who was bullied as a child and developed severe depression as an adult.

‘It was extremely difficult as a child,’ she said. ‘Not fitting in, going to pool parties and not being able to put on a bathing suit.

‘I always wore a shirt or I would go in the water and have someone bring me a towel before I got out of the water so nobody had to see my legs or my body. It was a nightmare.’

Even in adulthood, Jennifer suffered as the condition had an effect on her marriage. She eventually became a single mother and had to take care of her three children.

Photoshoot of women with Lipedema
Jennifer has met up with some of the women with the condition and organised photoshoots with them (Picture: Colin Weatherby / Barcroft Media)

In 2016, she decided to get healthier.

‘I think I was just tired of being unhappy,’ Jennifer said. ‘I was tired of being depressed. I wanted to be how I was before I had kids and just have a drive for life because I was tired of just wanting to die.’

Jennifer credits social media for introducing her to others with similar body shapes and helping her turn her life around.

She now regularly models in bikinis and underwear and has become friends with women who also suffer from lipedema, asking some of them to join her for a photoshoot.

Two women with Lipedema pose in their undwear
She found others like her on Instagram (Picture: Colin Weatherby / Barcroft Media)

‘I am the happiest now than I ever have been in my life,’ she continued. ‘I think a lot of self-acceptance and learning about it has helped me embrace it.

‘You can be beautiful at all sizes, no matter what your shape is. There are so many people trying to shame me saying I look like melted yogurt, I’m ugly, I shouldn’t be promoting obesity.

‘I don’t think I’m promoting obesity. I’m just promoting self-love and self-acceptance.’

MORE: Woman with condition that makes her face sink has fat from her stomach injected into her cheek

MORE: Woman only has sex with her husband once a year because of painful condition

MORE: Woman’s rare condition means she could be ‘internally decapitated’ at any time

You can get free food at Nando’s this month

A hand typing I'm craving into predictive text with Nando's chicken in the background
Show you’re craving it to get free food (Picture: Getty/Nando’s)

Fancy some free food at Nando’s?

Well, the restaurant chain is offering a range of delicious things for free throughout November.

From 4-6 November, you get a free side, followed by three free wings from 11-13.

Then from 18-20, it’s a free veggie burger and finally, a free quarter chicken from 25 to 27 November.

There is one catch – you have to show that your phone shortlists Nando’s or some of the dishes they serve when you type ‘I’m craving’.

There is also a minimum spend of £7 so you’ll have to buy something to get the free food.

The words your phone has to display include:

Nando’s, peri-peri, chips, peri-salted chips, ¼ chicken, wings, spicy rice, coleslaw, garlic bread, corn on the cob/corn, creamy mash, macho peas, saucy spinach, grains ‘n’ greens, long stem broccoli.

The I'm craving Nando's predictive text screen
Does your keyboard look like this? (Picture: Nando’s)

Of course, if you’re a big fan but your phone hasn’t quite caught up, you can tweak the predictive text settings to make it happen.

On an iPhone, you can add it through text replacement in the keyboard settings.

Add the word ‘Nando’s’ as the phrase and ‘craving’ as the shortcut.

On Android, add the phrase to the personal dictionary through the Settings, language and input settings.

The offer is available on any order placed in a restaurant for eat-in or takeaway but unfortunately, it’s not available for delivery.

You can read the full terms and conditions online before you head to a restaurant.

While you are there, you might want to try out their new Mozam wrap. It contains tropical pineapple and coconut chutney, black garlic sauce and peri-peri chicken.

It cats £7.35 on its own, £9.35 with a regular side or £10.85 with two regular sides, with 50p from each sale going towards fighting malaria in South Africa.

MORE: Couple toast their marriage with Mr and Mrs bongs on wedding day

MORE: Woman ‘really recommends’ kissing random hot guys in iconic places

When should you put up your Christmas decorations and tree?

Mother and daughter decorating a Christmas tree
Is it really too early to get the tree up? (Hoxton/Sam Edwards/Getty)

Halloween is over, the nights are drawing in and that can only mean one thing – Christmas is heading our way.

Yes, we know that it’s still almost two months until the big day. But with shops sticking up their decorations, Christmas ads arriving on our tellies, Christmas jumpers filling the shops and festive drinks appearing on the menu at our favourite coffee chains, you’d be forgiven for thinking the season of goodwill was here already.

It appears that some people have also decided to start the celebrations early – and are already putting their trees up well in advance of Christmas Day.

But for those unsure about when the tree and the tinsel should be rescued from the loft, exactly when should you put up your Christmas tree and decorations?

Here’s what you need to know…

When should you put up your Christmas decorations and tree?

There are different ideas about when is the best time to put up the Christmas tree and decorations.

Traditionally the tree and decorations were not put up until Christmas Eve – and in the past having the tree up earlier or later than these dates was considered bad luck.

Image of a Christmas tree by a fireplace
Some traditions state that you shouldn’t put the tree up before Christmas Eve (Picture: Getty Images)

These days however the date varies – with some people putting theirs up in November, and others opting for the first or second week of December.

However the British Tree Growers Association have previously suggested 11 December as a good compromise, as it’s in the middle of the season and is three weeks after advent (which starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas).

This year advent begins on Sunday 1 December.

The Association has also recommended buying your tree at the start of the month if you opt for a real pine, advising that trees can survive for more than four weeks if looked after properly.

How long should you leave your Christmas tree and decorations up for?

Close up of christmas tree with baubles and christmas biscuits
It’s considered bad luck to leave the tree up after Twelfth Night

According to tradition your tree and decorations should be taken down the day after Twelfth Night (5 January) – it’s considered bad luck to leave them up for longer than that.

Some traditions dictate that Christmas trees may be kept up until 2 February to mark Candlemas – the commemoration of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple – which is when the festive season effectively ends.

However it’s definitely considered bad luck if your festive greenery isn’t removed by Candlemas Eve.

MORE: From 19ft trees to reindeer rides: How Mariah Carey’s Christmas puts ours to shame

The UK’s weirdest weddings include nudist nuptials and underwater unions

Underwater wedding
One question – how did they say their vow underwater? (Picture: Greg Lecoeur)

Weddings of the past followed a pretty standard set of traditions and rules.

According to a new poll by jeweller, Beaverbrooks, however, more and more people are opting to showcase their personalities on their big day.

The company asked 1,000 married Brits how they got married, as well as finding out which longstanding traditions remained important to them.

The results on the wedding themselves we revealing, with all sorts of themes and quirks.

One couple opted for a Star Wars-inspired theme where the bride walked down the aisle to ‘The Imperial March’, while another had a ‘witches wedding’ – a gothic occasion that required all guests to be dressed in black.

Another brave couple even hosted a nudist wedding, with guests, bride and groom all completely naked, and a pair of non-conformists tied the knot submerged in an underwater tank, like these water babies.

Themed weddings featured prominently on the list, with Disney, pirates, cowboys, Harry Potter and superheroes all appearing as modern wedding trends.

Star Wars wedding
We can confirm the bride and groom weren’t brother and sister (Picture: Tim Souza)

Also on the list was wedding in a ten-pin bowling alley, and one where the bride and groom opted to say their vows wearing blindfolds. Whether that was to ease their nerves or so they could really focus on the words we don’t know, but it’s certainly interesting.

As for more new directions in the world of weddings, sustainable, eco-friendly weddings were revealed as an emerging trend for environmentally conscious partners. In fact, Pinterest searches for ‘sustainable weddings’ increased by a staggering 181% last year.

There were some, however, that appeared to be dying out. For example, just 9%of respondents said that a morning suit for the groom mattered to them, and the same amount claimed that groomsmen were of low importance to them.

Pirate Wedding
‘Arrrr do, me lubber’ (Picture: Benjamin Paul/SWNS)

The best man and not the maid of honour doing the speech has also fallen out of favour (just 1 in 10 said that was important), followed by the bride wearing a traditional wedding veil (14%).

Others things that are no longer a la mode are a tiered wedding cake (16%) and getting down on one knee for the proposal (18%), as well as throwing confetti (19%).

Despite the changes in attitudes to weddings, though, some things are still seen as important to Brits, with having a ring for the proposal coming top of the list at 34%.

A third still liked the idea of the groom not seeing the bride before the wedding, and 29%said having a best man was a must.

26% think wedding bouquets are still an important tradition, a quarter still like bridesmaids, and 24% think asking the bride’s father’s permission is a custom worth keeping – controversial.

Lorna Haddon, head of diamonds and jewellery at Beaverbrooks, said: ‘While it’s clear from our research that many traditions have changed over the last century, with more and more couples opting for unique ways to tie the knot, it’s also nice to see that some traditions remain important to people across the country.

‘Whether you opt for a themed ceremony, or a quirky and unusual venue – it’s about finding what’s personal and meaningful for you and your partner, so you can create the perfect day that both of you will remember forever.’

MORE: When should you put up your Christmas decorations and tree?

MORE: You can get free food at Nando’s this month

Pets at Home is selling jackets that help to keep dogs and cats calm during fireworks

Dogs and cats wearing the Thundershirt that claims to help calm anxiety
The Thundershirt uses pressure to keep pets calm (Picture: Pets at Home/Getty)

Pet owners probably don’t need the rhyme to remember the 5th of November.

You know Bonfire Night is coming when the fireworks start at this time of year and your poor animal becomes terrified.

To help keep your cats or dogs calm, Pets at Home is selling a range of products, including the Thundershirt – a jacket that acts like a ‘constant hug’ for your pet.

According to the RSPCA, 57% of dogs become stressed when they hear loud bangs and almost half display signs of fear when they hear sudden noises so it’s important to try to keep them settled.

The Thundershirt works by applying gentle pressure, a bit like a weighted gravity blanket, which have become popular for humans with anxiety.

According to Pets at Home, over 80% of dogs showed improvement in symptoms when using the Thundershirt, based on a survey with over 2,000 responses.

They are available for both cats and dogs from £30 and range from sizes XS to XL.

You’ll need to measure your pet’s chest just behind the front legs at its largest point to get the right size.

The store is also selling calming sprays and diffusers to help soothe your furry friends.

It’s also important to make sure your pets are comfortable and try not to leave them alone.

Close windows and doors and pull the curtains to block out flashes of light and try to reduce some of the noise.

Remember that some fireworks displays will happen this weekend so stick to routine all week as well.

MORE: Couple toast their marriage with Mr and Mrs bongs on wedding day

MORE: Why do we have fireworks on Bonfire Night?

The UK’s ‘smartest’ baby names revealed

A baby playing on a laptop
George was top for boys and Emma top for girls (Picture: Getty)

When it comes to choosing your baby’s name, maybe you’ll go for a family tradition or just something you like.

But would you consider a name because it could mean your child is more likely to be academically gifted?

Well, the UK’s ‘smartest’ baby names have been revealed.

Tutoring platform Tutor House has analysed internal data to find the names most commonly associated with getting good grades.

To create the list, they analysed 10,000 names from the last five years, and cross-referenced them with the grades achieved by the children with those names.

Top of the list for boys was George and Emma was top for girls.

Obviously there are lots of kids who aren’t in their database and a name is probably unlikely to actually make you more intelligent, but it gives parents-to-be an idea of what the most common names for smart kids are.

The 'smartest' baby names


  1. George
  2. Thomas
  3. Mohammed
  4. Alfie
  5. Marcus
  6. Hugo
  7. Krishna
  8. Timothy
  9. Rajesh
  10. Daniel


  1. Emma
  2. Fatima
  3. Eve
  4. Amelia
  5. Felicity
  6. Clare
  7. Priya
  8. Zhara
  9. Joanna
  10. Sarah

Alex Dyer, founder of Tutor House, said: ‘Parents often spend a great deal of time deliberating on what name to give their child, and rightly so.

‘It forms part of your child’s identity, with social science studies finding that a name can influence careers, personality traits and even physicality.

‘With that in mind, and considering the wealth of data we have, we thought it would be interesting to see what names are most commonly associated with being academically gifted.

‘While obviously your name has no reflection on your potential, the results are still interesting and might prove useful for parents who are struggling to settle on a name.’

MORE: Billie, Meghan and Ivy predicted to be among the most popular baby names for 2020

MORE: Mumsnet have identified 13 ‘tribes’ based on popular baby names this year

Dog who’s learning to talk using custom keyboard already knows 29 words


If you’re a pet owner then obviously you speak to them (how else will Max know he’s a good boy?). But don’t you wish they could talk back to you?

One lucky dog owner Christina Hunger, 26, can say her canine pal does, in fact, communicate with her.

That’s because Christina, a speech-language pathologist, has given her doggo Stella a customised keyboard which allows her to press what she wants to say.

Stella, an 18-month-old Catahoula/Blue Heeler mix, has been learning to communicate her thoughts and feelings since she was eight weeks old.

Christina, from San Diego, created the device herself.

All Stella has to do is press on the button with the word she wants to express.

Dog pictured with customised keyboard enabling her to communicate
This dog is learning to communicate using this customised keyboard (Picture: @hunger4words

Not only can Stella say when she’s hungry, wants to go for a walk, or just wants a belly rub, Stella has been able to form sentences.

To date, she knows 29 words. Her most remarkable progress came when Stella was able to convey that she missed Christina’s fiancé Jake.

The clever doggo typed ‘want’, ‘Jake’ and ‘come’ and when he arrived a short while later, Stella pressed ‘happy’.

That’s one smart dog.

 Christina Hunger who devised the keyboard pictured holding Stella outside
Christina is a speech-language pathologist and normally works with children (Picture: @hunger4words)

Christina uses a similar device as part of her job teaching one and two-year-old children. She began teaching Stella in her infancy too.

Now Stella can combine up to five words to form a sentence.

‘I’m in constant amazement and shock,’ Christina told People. ‘Every day she says something cooler than she said the day before.

‘The way she uses words to communicate and the words she’s combining is really similar to a two-year-old child.’

Dog learning to talk.
She now knows 29 words (Picture: @hunger4words)

Christina has been documenting Stella’s learning journey on her blog Hunger for Words.

The pair now excitedly chat with each other as much as they can. Stella is also delighted to be able to chat with her human. When she first learned what the ‘walk’ button does, Stella repeatedly pressed on it.

‘I didn’t realise how much she was waiting to say it,’ added Christina.

Dog learning to talk
Stella, now 18 months, has been learning since she was eight weeks old (Picture: @hunger4words)

‘She also loves saying “beach”. She was so happy and still says it very often.

‘I think how important dogs are to their humans,’ notes Christina. ‘I just imagine how much deeper the bond will be’.

You can follow Stella’s progress on the blog Hunger for Words.

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Martial arts teacher drops four dress sizes because she was too big to do her own moves

Dee before and after her weight loss
Dee before and after her weight loss (Picture: Dee Hunter/Craig Connor /North News and Pics for Metro.co.uk)

Dee Hunter loves martial arts and has spent years teaching people how to get fit with the exercise.

But at a UK size 24, she couldn’t do some of the moves herself and when she quickly got breathless in class she felt like a hypocrite.

Her diet consisted of sugary drinks and takeaways almost every night, as the 36-year-old had got into the habit of using food for comfort after a difficult childhood.

A year and a half ago, she decided enough was enough. She wanted to eat a healthier diet and actually practice the martial arts she was teaching.

Now a size 16-18 and getting smaller, Dee, from Newcastle, wants to use what she’s learned to show people how to diet in a healthy way if they want to lose weight.

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I felt I couldn’t be a role model to the people I was teaching martial arts to when I was size 24.

‘I looked in the mirror one day and realised I was just getting bigger and bigger.

‘I just started eating a proper diet and actually doing some exercise. It was about changing my mindset and my lifestyle.

Dee Hunter before she lost weight
Dee before she lost weight (Picture: Dee Hunter)

‘Slowly, the weight started to come off and now, a year and a half on, I have dropped almost four dress sizes.’

Dee started putting on weight when her family moved from the countryside to the city, and she says they faced abuse from neighbours for being different.

She explains: ‘I was seven years old and people threatened us with knives. We had bricks thrown through the window and fireworks put through our letterbox.

Dee Hunter before she lost weight
Dee was a size 24 at her biggest (Picture: Dee Hunter)

‘My family was victimised because we weren’t like everyone else as we had lived a quite isolated rural life.

‘With that, we were also bullied at school and even when I went to a new school, I was bullied there too. Everything really knocked my self-confidence.’

By the time she was a teenager, Dee was a size 10-12 but she started to gain weight because of the problems she had faced when she was younger.

Dee Hunter before she lost weight
She loved teaching martial arts but struggled to do her own moves (Picture: Dee Hunter)

She explains: ‘I was depressed after everything. Things were better because we finally moved and I started to learn martial arts and stick up for myself but I just had no self-esteem.

‘I didn’t want to eat in front of people so I would wait until I was at home, behind closed doors and just raid the cupboards in secret. I would just eat and eat when I was by myself and no one could see.

‘I went up to a size 14-16 and then it just kept going up.’

At 18, Dee started drinking and going out with friends and with more calories coming from alcohol as well as her diet, she gained more weight.

Dee Hunter before she lost weight
Dee at her biggest (Picture: Dee Hunter)

She went to Northumbria University after finishing school and started partying even more, leading to her size gradually increasing.

During her time at university, Dee says she was sexually assaulted and later raped, although her attackers were never convicted.

The incidents caused her depression to return and she started to suffer from panic attacks, turning to food again for comfort.

Dee Hunter when she was younger
Dee was slimmer when she was younger but years of comfort eating and drinking made her gain weight (Picture: Dee Hunter)

Recognising Dee was spiralling deeper into depression, her brother Darren, who set up Solo Studios, tried to help by helping her learn more martial arts.

Dee went on to earn her black belts and her self-confidence improved, eventually working at Solo Studios as a child development coach.

But Dee says that her lifestyle hadn’t changed and she was still putting on weight because of what she was eating.

She explains: ‘I was stuck in the same habits I had been following for years.

Dee's diet before and after


Breakfast: Dee would skip food for breakfast but would sometimes have a tea or coffee (with full-fat milk and four spoonfuls of sugar in a coffee or two in a tea)

Lunch: A pub meal like burger and chips, or a sandwich with cake, crisps, Red Bull, or sometimes chips or Greggs.

Dinner: Takeaway if finishing work late or a microwave meal

Snacks: Lots of cans of pop, energy drinks large, tea, coffee, chocolate bars, crisps, sausage rolls, doughnuts


Breakfast: Dee now always has something for breakfast. Usually, she has cereal or oats with almond milk and no sugar, with a cup of tea (made with low-fat milk and no sugar)

Lunch: A typical lunch is a tuna  and cucumber sandwich with water

Dinner: Something like salad, pasta, soup, with water. Dee never eats after 8 pm and avoids tea at night.

Snacks: Lots of fruit including bananas, melon and carrots. Sometimes she has protein bars and cereal bars.

‘I help other people improve their fitness but it was time to look after myself.

‘I couldn’t jump and couldn’t move the way I had before. I was becoming breathless in class just showing the moves.’

Finishing work late because of night time classes, Dee would eat food that was quick and easy.

Dee now, kicking a punching bag
Dee now works out at least twice a week (Picture: Craig Connor /North News and Pics for Metro.co.uk)

She explains: ‘I was eating takeaways nearly every night – pizza, chips, pasties, McDonald’s.

‘I would finish late and couldn’t be bothered to cook. If it wasn’t a takeaway, it would be a microwave meal. There was never anything nutritious.’

Throughout the day, Dee would drink cans of Red Bull and tea or coffee with three sugars, as well as snacking on chocolate bars.

One day in 2018, Dee decided her diet needed to change.

Dee Hunter now in her martial arts gear
Dee is now a size 16-18 and hopes to continue losing weight (Picture: Craig Connor/North News and Pics for Metro.co.uk)

She cut down the spoonfuls of sugar in her tea one by one and started replacing some of the fizzy drinks with water. She tried eating fruit if she wanted to snack rather than chocolate.

She also increased the amount of exercise she was doing, as although she was teaching classes every day, she wasn’t moving much.

‘Teaching is actually low intensity,’ Dee tells us. ‘It’s the students who do the exercise.

‘So I started doing my own sessions twice a week. I would do a kickboxing workout as well as physical development exercises to build stronger muscles.’

Dee's top tips for introducing a healthier diet

  • When I go to the shop, I write a list and I stick to it. I won’t buy anything that isn’t on the list because it stops me buying unhealthy snacks.
  • Sometimes, like when I’m watching a movie, for example, I do crave something sweet but I satisfy it with fruit like melon. I can chop it up into pieces and snack on it like I would popcorn to help reduce those cravings.
  • I made simple swaps that I didn’t really notice like switching my full-fat milk for semi-skimmed and then I switched it for almond milk.
  • I still have a treat day at the weekend where I can have something I have been craving, like some pizza. Once I’ve had it, I just tell myself that’s it and I go back to my normal healthier routine.

Dee doesn’t weigh herself so doesn’t know how much she has actually lost, instead relying on how she feels and how her clothes fit to measure progress.

She adds: ‘I don’t use the scales because it can be so offputting. One day you might be carrying more water and it says you have put on weight and that can throw it all off. You end up putting yourself down and giving up.

‘I just measure it with my clothes and you start to feel good about things getting looser.’

Dee hopes to continue her diet plan and feels like now she has a whole new way of life, she will be able to reach her goal of a size 12-14.

She’s also working with her clients at the studios to help them understand how to combine diet and martial arts to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Dee now doing martial arts
Dee feels much fitter and has lots more energy (Picture: North News and Pics for Metro.co.uk)

‘It doesn’t happen overnight,’ she says. ‘I’ve done it slowly over a year and a half but I feel like my whole mindset is completely different now and this is for the long term.

‘It’s changed my life. I feel so much better now and I have so much more energy. I’m able to get up so much easier in the morning.

‘Now I do feel like a role model because I’m starting to look like what I should look like.’

And Dee has lots of advice for people who want to lose weight healthily and sustainably.

She says: ‘You need to break habits by creating new ones, like training twice a week. Physical exercise is not only good for weight loss but it helps you feel better too.

‘Find an exercise you enjoy – it doesn’t have to be martial arts. For me, martial arts was fantastic because you are also learning self-defence and building confidence.

‘Start by changing little things and build it up. Replace some of your coffees with water or snacks with healthier things like protein bars or apples.

‘If you’re adding things like sugar to your coffee, again just cut down gradually.

‘It does take effort to change those habits but once you crack them, you stick to it and see a difference.’

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Fish and chip shop sells fried Quality Street sweets

Deep fried quality street
Not your average chippy offering (Picture: Poppies)

If it can be eaten, fry it – an American proverb.

Okay, we made that up but it’s no secret that our neighbours across the pond are prone to deep-frying confectionery.

But the UK isn’t shy when it comes to covering chocolate in batter – after all, deep-fried Mars bar did originate in Scotland.

Now battered chocolate is coming to the capital. A fancy Soho chip shop is now offering battered Quality Street.

That’s right, now you can fight over the Green Triangle and Purple one in fried form.

Poppies of Soho, in Old Compton Street, will be serving up ‘lucky dips’ of battered Quality Street charging £2.50 for five.

If that sounds like it’s right up your street then hurry to the restaurant soon, where the addition to the menu will be available from 1 December all the way to 25 December.

Deep fried chocolate
Looks pretty good, right? (Picture: Poppies)

Yep, they’re even open on Christmas day for those looking to skip the traditional turkey for a bit of fish and chips.

Why wait to fight over the best chocolate bars with your family when you can have a handful of fried goodies to yourself?

The Poppies team has also ranked the famously debateable chocolates, with the Toffee Finger coming out on top:

  1. Toffee Finger
  2. The Purple One
  3. Chocolate Caramel Brownie
  4. Strawberry Delight
  5. Toffee Penny
  6. Orange Crème
  7. The Green Triangle
  8. Fudge
  9. Orange Chocolate Crunch
  10. Milk Choc Block
  11. Caramel Swirl
  12. Coconut Eclair

They’ll be asking for customer opinions and keeping a tally of the most popular flavours, with the possibility of making any favourites permanent menu items.

Of course, if you want to take away the sweets to share among your loved ones, you have the option to pre-order via the shop.

Deep fried Quality Street
You can take it to go too (Picture: Poppies)

Those who are saying ‘pass’ to the battered chocolates might be interested in giving the traditional sweets as presents.

Good thing then that John Lewis is offering personalised tubs, allowing you to pick and mix your faves.

So fill your boots.

MORE: Nowhere near John Lewis? Get tins of your fave Quality Street at B&M for £4.99

MORE: Quality Street introduces Chocolate Caramel Brownie sweets to its tins

MORE: Morrisons is selling two tubs of Roses, Celebrations, Quality Street and Heroes for £7

Customers rave about Home Bargains’ new £3 Christmas Eve boxes

Christmas Eve boxes in home bargains ?2.99
The box is big enough to add in any extras. (Picture: Extreme Couponing and Bargains UK group)

Christmas has already started, as proven by the fact that Pret have released their Christmas sandwiches and the festive cups at Starbucks are also out.

With the kerfuffle of trying to get everything sorted for the big day (turkey ordered, kids’ presents wrapped, Bailey’s cocktails perfected) it’s easy to forget the important stuff – like actually enjoying it.

One way that parents have been savouring the moment with their little ones is Christmas Eve boxes, which have the dual benefit of getting them off to a reasonable sleep the night before.

Some have been making the boxes themselves, filling with sweeties to be left for Santa and bits and bobs to get excited (and then relaxed, most importantly).

But, a new option has been released by Home Bargains, and customers are raving about how great value it is.

The box is just £2.99, and contains everything you need for a pre-Christmas bedtime routine, all wrapped up and ready to be opened on the 24th.

Home Bargains Christmas Eve box contents

  • Christmas story book
  • Letter from Santa
  • Door hook
  • Stickers
  • Cookies (for Santa or your little one)

The deal was shared on the Facebook group, Extreme Couponing and Bargains UK, and racked up thousands of likes and comments in a matter of hours.

One commenter said ‘What a brilliant price!’ while another said, ‘Wow sounds good must see if can get one’.

It was also suggested that, if you wanted to add extra items such as PJs or Christmas slippers, the design of the box means it’d be super easy.

Plenty more tagged friends and family, asking them if they wanted to head down to the discount store. Basically, if the comments are anything to go by, you’ll want to do quickly.

One less thing on the prep list.

MORE: Martial arts teacher drops four dress sizes because she was too big to do her own moves

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