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Why we secretly love being scared

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illustration of a scared woman
There’s a reason we love being frightened (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s the season to enjoy haunted houses, scary stories and horror movies.

But why do we love scaring ourselves silly quite so much? Turns out science might have the answer…

My grandmother lived in a village in the North Yorkshire Dales. I loved the barren beauty but there was something about the dark, rolling moorland that unnerved me, a fear heightened by my grandmother’s ghost stories about bloodthirsty sheep stalking the moors.

I’d clamber into bed only after comforting myself with many under-bed inspections.

I’m now in that sweet spot: confident that bloodthirsty sheep won’t savage me in my sleep and able to enjoy the thrill of a good scare.

Last week, I was in Germany’s Harz mountains, hiking the Witches Trail, a route that winds through creaking woodland towards north Germany’s highest mountain – once, as the name suggests, a meeting point for witches.

And a few years ago, I sailed along Mexico’s Xochimilco canals to Isla de las Muñecas where decapitated, eyeless dolls hang from trees, supposedly as tributes to a girl who drowned nearby.

Recently, I joined a Hound Of The Baskervilles-themed tour of Dartmoor on a glorious weekend seeking out Arthur Conan Doyle’s phantom dogs.

 Dolls from La Isla de las Munecas - The Island of the Dolls, Xochimilco Mexico
Few places are more chilling than the Isla de las Muñecas(Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)

And I’m not alone in my love of fear. Alton Tower’s annual Scarefest has nothing on this year’s events, which include the seances held in late October at County Durham’s Beamish Hall, a PADI-organised Halloween dive into the murky waters near Lancashire’s Devil’s Bridge, and a night sleeping in Warwick Castle’s haunted grounds.

But why do some people relish being scared? Dr Dean Mobbs, a California Institute of Technology neuroscientist and expert in fear, says there’s a logical reason for our love of a good fright.

‘When we’re scared, our bodies prepare for attack by producing opioids to prepare for pain,’ he says. ‘When we enter horror houses or watch scary movies, the knowledge that we’re safe but simultaneously in danger causes the release of neurotransmitters that excite us.’

Weirdly, my most frightening experience to date was the time I took on the role of the scarer, going undercover as a scare actor at Universal Orlando’s Horror Nights.

Tamara as a zombie at universal orlando
I transformed into a zombie at Universal Orlando (Picture: UNIVERSAL ORLANDO)

I assumed I’d poke around the wardrobe department and watch make-up artists slap on some fake blood.

Universal had other ideas, starting with a makeup session that saw prosthetic scars and slashes moulded on to my face.

Being turfed out into the theme park and told to leap out behind unsuspecting visitors and crawl along the ground like a zombie was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done (mainly because I hate acting).

But then it dawned on me: if ghosts and vampires exist, they probably hate their job. Knowing that people will run for the hills when you float or crawl into a room can’t be fun.

Casper the Friendly Ghost might have appeared well adjusted but I’m pretty certain there was a level of trauma beneath that impish grin…

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Loved Rebecca? Head to Fowey Harbour Hotel and experience the romance of a Du Maurier novel

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Fowey Harbour Hotel, Cornwall Standard Doubles from ?215 per room, per night BB / Seaview Doubles from ?240 per room, per night BB. www.harbourhotels.co.uk
The clifftop hotel boasts incredible views of the sea

Did you watch Rebecca, starring Lily James, on Netflix and find yourself obsessing over the location? Read on to find out how to experience it firsthand for your next UK holiday.

I’m racing across the waves in a powerboat, past coves and inlets and the house where Daphne du Maurier spent her final idyllic years, and as we reach the majestic Fowey Harbour Hotel where I’m staying, I get a sudden glimpse into why the author so loved this corner of Cornwall.

Forget the fact it’s raining. These rocks and cliffs and ghostly watery inlets give you a sense of the adventure and romance in old-fashioned Fowey.

This is where, walking in woods in 1926, Du Maurier discovered the overgrown but spectacular (and still sadly private) Menabilly country house, which became the inspiration for Manderley in her classic novel Rebecca – where the ghostly presence of a deceased wife haunts her widower’s new bride.

Now, with the release of the film starring Lily James, this spectacular setting is fresh in our minds (although James herself is being haunted by pictures rather than spirits).

Rebecca: Lily James as Mrs. de Winter, Cr. KERRY BROWN/NETFLIX
Lily James stars in the 2020 film adaptation of Rebecca (Picture: Kerry Brown / Netflix)

So if you’ve seen the latest movie, read the book or fancy a romantic getaway as a couple (ahem), there’s no better place to go than Fowey, where the ultimate gothic romance first began.

Here, in decidedly happier circumstances, my romantic other and I have set out on a boat trip armed with a tartan blanket and pristinely packed picnic hamper provided by our hosts at the hotel.

As we speed across the waves, skipper Dan tells us about local legends of pirates and wartime secrets with the relish of a true historian. Seriously – this man should be on the Discovery Channel.

The hotel is just the place to flop into after a wet two-hour sea trip. Along the entire back of this gorgeous, cliff-hugging Victorian pile is a colonial-style bar and striking open-plan restaurant complete with 1920s-style ceiling fans, jungle-inspired wall art and turquoise theme.

Their massive windows overlooking gardens and the sea beyond will inspire you to head outdoors. Good news: there’s a balcony ripe for sipping a locally distilled gin and tonic.

Fowey Harbour Hotel, Cornwall Standard Doubles from ?215 per room, per night BB / Seaview Doubles from ?240 per room, per night BB. www.harbourhotels.co.uk
With a calming blue colour scheme and sea views, the rooms in this hotel are simply luxurious

There are more epic sea views from our superior double, which we’ve been slowly eased up to via the building’s original Victorian lift. Elsewhere, White Company toiletries and Hunter wellies available for guest use are just some of the other little luxuries here.

Food is not overly fussy but tantalising: locals clearly like it here. Our griddled scallops, pea purée and crispy bacon (£11.50) and cod with crab and herb crust £21.50) are classily executed.

Has Covid spoilt the fun? Not at all – there’s the usual air of friendliness and calm from the ever-cheerful staff, despite social-distancing measures.

It’s taken us just six hours to drive from London – and approximately six minutes to decide that we never want to leave. Plenty of time to dream about the ghosts of Mandeley here.

What you need to know about Fowey Harbour Hotel

What’s great about Fowey?

The hotel’s colonial style is Instagram-worthy at every corner yet nobody is taking selfies. They’re all watching the boats go by instead.

Who goes there?

There’s all ages, bonded by an appreciation of the unique setting.

What is there to do in Fowey?

A short stroll into town unveils history at every turn. You’ll walk past the stairs where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert alighted from their boat, greeted by cheering locals.

For a more moving slice of history, drive for 30 minutes to the Lost Gardens of Heligan – 200 acres of historical gardens once forgotten after the workforce went off World War I but now restored to their former glory (heligan.com, £16 adults, £8 for children up to 17).

Standard doubles start at £145 B&B. Other experiences including gin tasting, yoga, fishing and hidden beaches can be booked via harbourhotels.co.uk.

A powerboat trip with Fowey Maritime Centre costs £300 for a half-day charter or £25 per person for a one-hour Rib trip, with an additional hotel picnic priced at £25pp

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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Finnair is selling business-class meals in supermarkets

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A Finnair meal is pictured in Vantaa, Finland
Missing plane food? (Picture: Reuters)

If you’re from Finland and love airplane food or just miss the thrill of being in the skies then you may want to head to the supermarket.

That’s because Finnair is offering their business class meals in a store located near Finnair’s main hub, the Helsinki-Vantaa airport

The in-flight meals have quickly become a hit with 1,600 meals sold within days at the supermarket.

The airline has said it plans to sell in more outlets around the country.

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Sadly, due to current global travel restrictions, last Tuesday, the airline said it would cut around 700 jobs by March 2021 but plans like this help them make money in other ways.

Finnair Kitchen’s main courses, which consist of beef with teriyaki-radish sauce served with grilled spring onion and rice or smoked arctic char with chantarelle risotto come at €12.9 (£11.70).

‘There are redundancies and layoffs going on already at Finnair and we are trying our best to find new innovative ways,’ head of Finnair Kitchen Marika Nieminen told Reuters.

Finnair meals at the supermarket
The airline is selling its food at the airport with plans to expand around the country’s supermarkets (Picture: Reuters)

Marika said Finnair plans to introduce new dishes, including reindeer meat from Finnish Lapland and Japanese-style pork shoulder, for supermarkets.

Finnair Kitchen’s head of product development, Juha Stenholm, said the food’s high quality justified the relatively high price for a packed takeaway meal.

Juha Stenholm, Finnair Kitchen Chief poses for a picture in Vantaa, Finland.
Brought to you by the chefs at Finnair Kitchen (Picture: Reuters)

‘Our unit is focusing on business class food so, premium raw materials,’ he told Reuters.

They aren’t the first airline to try out the idea. In Thailand, an airline launched an entire cafe serving up their in-flight meals.

The Thai Airways restaurant uses recycled plane seating and parts for guest to sit at and it’s been a huge hit.

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Email metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk to tell us more.

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M&S reveals recipe to make Colin the Caterpillar toffee apples

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The Colin toffee apples
The Colin toffee apples (Picture: M&S)

2020 has been quite a year for Colin the Caterpillar as he celebrates his 30th birthday.

We’d had lots of new Colin themed products and some delicious recipes to encourage the nation to celebrate three decades of the popular M&S caterpillar cake.

In August, the brand posted a guide to making the Colin the Caterpillar trifle for summer and people loved the idea.

Now for Halloween, M&S has Colin’s take on another classic – the toffee apple.

Using sponge roll, toffee sauce,, chocolate and a pack of Colin faces, the brand has created this recipe for sticky apples with a resemblace to the cake.

The apples are perfect to make for Halloween this weekend or Bonfire Night next week.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 4 large apples
  • 1 bottle toffee dessert sauce
  • 1 chocolate sponge roll
  • 1 jar jazzie sprinkles
  • 300g milk chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 100g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 4 mini Colin chocolate faces

Method

  1. Place a lollipop stick in the centre of an upright apple and push firmly down into the core until secure.
  2. Pour toffee dessert sauce into a deep bowl and roll the apple in the sauce. Place upright on greaseproof paper on a large baking tray and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  3. On a large plate break up the sponge roll until you have large, breadcrumb-like pieces. Pour over ⅔ jar of jazzie sprinkles and use a spoon to mix together.
  4. In a deep bowl melt the milk chocolate in the microwave on a low heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t burn.
  5. Remove the apples from the fridge. Some of the toffee sauce may have pooled to the bottom of the apples; use a spoon or knife to spread back over the apple.
  6. Dip the apples in the milk chocolate to evenly coat.
  7. Roll the apples in the cake crumb and jazzie sprinkle mixture.
  8. Place upright back on the greaseproof paper and chill for 15 minutes.
  9. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave. Using a knife, drizzle the melted chocolate over the apples to create stripes. Sprinkle with remaining jazzie sprinkles.
  10. Using the leftover white chocolate, use your knife to carefully spread some on the back of a white chocolate Colin face. Stick on the front of your apple. Chill for a minimum of two hours.

Do you have an easy recipe to share?

Get in touch at metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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‘Slum’ London apartment bought for £1,000 is now worth £3.7 million

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London flat
The building is Grade II listed (Picture: Lord Estates)

This London flat’s rags to riches tale all began with a chance meeting, on a boat.

Back in 1974, the British economy was in the doldrums, and a young man invited on what would be a life-changing Thames boat trip was decidedly down on his luck.

Colin (who does not want to reveal his full name) had lost his job and was facing such uncertain financial times that he had been forced to sell the little basement flat he had bought only a few years earlier.

But two of the fellow partiers on the boat trip were faring even worse.

They were living in a large four-bedroom apartment in one of London’s most salubrious addresses – Great Cumberland Place. But they had just a year left on a nine-year lease and were terrified that the landlord, The Portman Estate, would demand that they spend money upgrading a property that had become distinctly substandard since World War Two.

There was no central heating, paint was peeling, and a little, ancient gas heater provided the only hot water for the single tiny bathroom. They shared the flat with ten Australians – and everybody wanted out.

apartment
Colin invested in a stunning kitchen/diner extension (Picture: Lord Estates)

Colin was then offered the chance to take over the lease, for a (since prohibited) ‘key money’ payment to the couple of £1,000. This gave him the right to negotiate with Portman, who knew nothing of the payment. Portman approved him and in 1975 granted him a further nine-year lease.

‘The property was in a terrible state and £1,000 was not the pittance it seems now,’ Colin recalls. ‘I had to borrow the money from my mother.’

He could not have known it, but it was a highly worthwhile investment in a Grade II-listed building. Today the spacious 1,790sq ft flat is a four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom delight and – after extensive refurbishment by Colin – is on the market for £3.695 million.

Colin lived in the property from 1974 until a few years ago – he has been recently renting it out since he and his wife and son moved to the south coast. In some ways, Colin admits that he is reluctant to say goodbye to the property – and says that if it doesn’t sell he will continue to let it, for around £1,450 a week.

London flat
Colin has had to put a lot of work in over the years (Picture: Lord Estates)

‘I do have an emotional attachment to it,’ he says. ‘I lived there for so much of my life. But my life is on the south coast now and at 76, I probably need to sell it.’

But the rags to riches story of £1,000 to £3.7 million doesn’t tell the full story.

‘It makes a great tale, but it is rather misleading,’ Colin says.

‘When the houses were built, Great Cumberland Place was a very prestigious address. Alexander Murray, who became the 8th Earl of Dunmore, lived there with his wife for four years from 1901, while in far more recent times Madonna and Guy Ritchie had two houses down the road.

‘But it really suffered in the war and the flat, when I first lived there with five of my friends, was a truly primitive place,’ Colin says.

‘It was freezing cold with no heating except a gas Aga water heater and an electric bar heater.

apartment
Lovely outdoor space (Picture: Lord Estates)

‘I remember watching The Two Ronnies’ TV show on an old TV, with the help of a coat hanger aerial, where Ronnie Corbett did a monologue that described a man who’d become a success and moved from Lewisham to Great Cumberland Place. We fell about laughing because our flat was really a slum. More like a squat.’

In 1984, however, Colin joined with the four other apartment owners in the building to buy a 74-year-lease. And here he did strike it lucky. Because he was a sitting tenant it cost him £40,000 rather than the £80,000 it was valued at at the time.

The lease was extended to a 125-year lease, (at a cost of £35,000) and 35 years later a share of the freehold was granted. But over the years the legal negotiations with The Portman Estate, which today owns no apartments in the buildings, cost Colin around £150,000.

In the 46 years since Colin has owned the apartment he has also made vast improvements – including a large kitchen-dining room extension at the rear with a skylight – at a spend of around £350,000.

Today, Colin is refurbishing it again with a team of builders repairing the parapet, balcony and front elevation.

Indoors, the large and airy apartment, on the ground and lower-ground floors has engineered oak floorboards in hallways and lobby areas, with plush carpet in the large living room at the front of the house and the bedrooms. The bathrooms are modern and dressed in marble.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years, of course, is the fabulous location – which ironically has become one of the quietest streets in central London.

Close to Marble Arch, Hyde Park and Bryanston Square Gardens, when the street of Georgian terraces was built in the early 1800s it was a major thoroughfare for horses and carriages. Today it sits in tranquil isolation from the hurly burly of nearby Oxford St.

For Colin, a retired sales and marketing manager, the property could not be further from his humble youth growing up in Eastleigh where his father Ernie worked as a milkman alongside the later-to-be-famous comedian Benny Hill.

And yes, you guessed it, Ernie was the role model for that song.

This property is on the market for £3.695 million or from £1,450 per week to rent, via lordestates.com.

Do you have a property story to share? We want to hear from you.

Get in touch: metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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10 London property hotspots to check out for a new home

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London property hotspots
Some of the places to buy in London right now (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

London is changing at pace as it undergoes a building boom, with huge sums of money being poured into transforming rundown and redundant sites and creating new, rejuvenated residential neighbourhoods.

Amenities and infrastructure are being improved to cater for the expanding population. And that means that residents will be able to benefit from new schools, shops and health centres and better transport links as a result.

Whether you are looking for your first home, climbing the property ladder or investing in a buy-to-let, these are some of the developments to keep an eye out for in and around the city.

Nine Elms

Extending along the Thames from Lambeth Bridge to Chelsea Bridge, Nine Elms is central London’s biggest regeneration project, covering an area larger than Hyde Park and encompassing the new US Embassy, New Covent Garden Market, a completely refurbished Battersea Power Station, green spaces, public squares, restaurants, shops and 20,000 new homes.

Brilliant connectivity is one of its major assets with Westminster and Victoria a short walk across the river, and two new Tube stations on the Northern Line Extension – at Nine Elms on Wandsworth Road and at Battersea Power Station – are due to open next autumn.

Sky Gardens, SW8

From £614,000

Sky Gardens
Sky Gardens (Photo: Atanas Chankov)

There are one and two-bed flats currently for sale in this 35-storey building with views of the river, a 24-hour concierge, gym and communal gardens on the eighth and top floors.

Battersea Power Station, SW11

£870,000

Battersea Power Station
Battersea Power Station (Photo: Grain London Ltd)

Industrial interiors in this one-bed apartment, in the listed Power Station building, reflect its unique heritage. It’s set to become a mixed-use destination with 100+ shops and eateries.

Wembley

Wembley Stadium’s 133 metre-high arch is visible for miles and one of London’s most recognisable landmarks. The surroundings are generating lots of interest, too, with over 50 restaurants, street food stalls at Boxpark Wembley, London Designer Outlet for bargains, a market, public art trail, playpark and theatre.

You’ll also find the UK’s highest number of new private rental homes – some still under construction – available through Quintain Living, and several private sale and shared ownership developments. Connectivity is another plus point as there are three stations in the vicinity, and Baker Street is only two stops away.

Williamson Heights, HA9

One-bed flat from £98,500 for a 25% share of £395,000

Williamson Heights
Williamson Heights (Picture: Peabody Sales)

With a roof garden, concierge, fitness studio, cinema room and co-working space, the amenities here are hard to beat, and every apartment factors in a homeworking area, too.

Wembley Parade, HA9

Three bedroom, two-bathroom apartment £750,000

Wembley Parade
Wembley Parade (Photo: Matt Livey)

Less than five minutes’ walk from Wembley Park station, this 11th floor apartment has three double bedrooms, two bathrooms, an all-in-one kitchen/dining/living room and a balcony.

Royal Docks

An incredible 25,000 homes and 60,000 jobs are planned for London’s only Enterprise Zone, where tax breaks and government support are provided to new and expanding businesses, making it a great place to live and work.

Sited on the waterfront east of Canary Wharf, it’s home to City Airport and ExCel, and Mayor of London’s office City Hall is gearing up to move from Tower Hill into The Crystal, one of the world’s most sustainable buildings.

Royal Albert Dock is being turned into a state-of-the-art business hub for Asian finance companies, and Crossrail will stop at the New Custom House station.

Royal Eden Docks, E16

One-bed flat, £450,000

Royal Eden Docks
Royal Eden Docks (Photo: mountanvil.visualbank.co.uk)

A one-bedder in the latest phase, The Wellspring. All homes enjoy private outside space and have access to a rooftop running track, reflexology walkway and other communal outdoor amenities.

Royal Wharf, E16

Four-bed house, £1,253,250

Royal Wharf
Royal Wharf (Picture: Knight Frank)

At over 2,300sq ft, this four-bedroom townhouse has tons of space for a busy family, and a garden, balcony and parking. The Thames and two DLR stations are moments away.

Colindale

Until recently, this north London district probably wasn’t on most buyers’ radars, but it’s certainly making up for lost time. More than 10,000 new homes are being delivered across various developments – among them Redrow’s Colindale Gardens, on land formerly part of the Metropolitan Police Training College.

The Northern Line Tube station is getting a makeover, bus services are being improved, and the North Circular and M1 are moments away. Supermarkets and gyms have opened, and buzzy Bang Bang Oriental – the capital’s largest Asian food court – is a very welcome addition.

Colindale Gardens, NW9

One-bed flat £357,500 with London Help to Buy

Colindale Gardens
Colindale Gardens (Picture: Red Row)

This ground flat includes an open-plan kitchen/living/dining room and a double bedroom, both opening onto a wide terrace, and has underfloor heating throughout.

Beaufort Park, NW9

Three bed, three-bath apartment, £834,950

Beaufort Park
Beaufort Park (Photo: Matt Livey)

There’s tons of space in this family-friendly three-bed, three-bath, fifth-floor apartment, and you’ll have access to landscaped gardens, a spa and gym.

Tottenham

Rapidly gaining popularity with first-time buyers priced out of neighbouring Walthamstow, Tottenham is one of north London’s best-connected addresses with the Victoria line, Overground, Liverpool Street, Stansted Airport services and the proposed Crossrail 2 route all intersecting at Tottenham Hale station.

It’s close to the A10, under 15 minutes from the M11 when traffic is light, and the open spaces of Walthamstow Wetlands and River Lee are on the doorstep. Argent Related is delivering over 1,000 new homes at Tottenham Hale, and Lendlease will be transforming High Road West, next to Spurs’ new stadium.

Tottenham Hale, N17

One-bed flat, £424,000, with Help to Buy

One Ashley Road
One Ashley Road (Picture: Tottenham Hale)

A one-bed apartment in the inaugural phase, One Ashley Road. Residents have use of two roof gardens, and Walthamstow Wetlands is a ten-minute walk.

Hale Works, N17

Three-bed apartment, £865,000

Hale Works
Hale Works (Photo: Billy Bolton)

A three-bed, two-bath home high in the 32-storey tower in the final phase of the Hale Village regeneration scheme. The building has a 24/7 concierge and a sky lounge and garden.

White City

This well-connected corner of west London has never been afraid of ambitious builds. Named after the White City stadium constructed for the 1908 summer Olympics, its mid-century Television Centre was the HQ of the BBC from 1960 until 2013, and Westfield London – which opened in 2008 and was extended in 2018 – is Europe’s biggest shopping mall.

Now the iconic BBC building has been converted into luxury apartments with a branch of the Soho House hotel and private members’ club, and St James is delivering nearly 1,500 homes at White City Living, between Westfield and the new Imperial College campus.

Ellerslie Road, W12

One-bed apartment £400,000, with Help to Buy

Ellerslie Road
Ellerslie Road (Picture: Winkworth)

One of just seven high-spec flats in a newly-converted Victorian house with superb sound insulation. Consists of a kitchen/living room, shower room, double bedroom and terrace.

White City Living, W12

Two-bed apartment, £1.36million

White City Living
White City Living

Underfloor heating, air conditioning and superfast broadband are all included in this two-bed apartment, located in 35-storey Cassini Tower which offers touch-free access.

Southall

Try as it might, Covid-19 hasn’t succeeded in dampening the spirit of this multi-faceted, multicultural area which lies west of Ealing and only a couple of miles from Heathrow. Locals call it Little India due to the concentration of south-east Asian curry houses, food stalls, bakeries, fabric and jewellery stores stretching along the Broadway – and the annual Diwali celebrations are a sight to behold, though will be more restrained this year.

The forthcoming Crossrail station sparked an extensive programme of housebuilding, and Berkeley’s The Green Quarter, comprising 3,750 homes, is west London’s most sizeable regeneration scheme.

The Green Quarter, UB2

From £297,500, with Help to Buy

The Green
The Green Quarter (Picture: Berkely Group)

The first phase, launching soon, is made up of apartments in a variety of sizes and layouts, among them this ground-floor studio incorporating plenty of storage and a terrace.

Citypark Gardens, UB2

Three-bed, two-bathroom flat, £645,000

Citypark Gardens
Citypark Gardens (Picture:galliardhomes.co.uk)

As big as a house, this eighth-floor apartment in the City Loft Collection has three bedrooms, two bathrooms a combined kitchen/living/dining room and two balconies.

Greenwich Peninsula

The O2 is the backdrop to a thriving new community of 15,000 homes, also called Greenwich Peninsula and spread across seven new neighbourhoods on the banks of the Thames. The commute couldn’t be easier or quicker as the local station, North Greenwich, is on the Jubilee line, just one minute from Canary Wharf and seven to London Bridge.

Not that residents need to go very far when off duty as the site incorporates green spaces, including London’s first elevated riverside linear park, cafés, restaurants, sports facilities and two schools. A Design District, offering work and gallery space for creatives, opens next spring.

Greenwich Millennium Village, SE10

From £427,500

Greenwich Millennium Village
Greenwich Millennium Village (Photo: countryside.visualbank.co.uk)

November 7 is launch day of 67 Park Central, 115 one to three-bed apartments, with a day porter.

Greenwich Peninsula, SE10

Two-bed penthouse, £1.175million

No 5 Upper Riverside
No 5 Upper Riverside (upperriverside.co.uk)

This penthouse is one of nine in the No 5 Upper Riverside Building, and finished in natural materials to enhance the changing light and colours of the river outside.

West Ham

Just like Royal Docks, West Ham is part of Newham, a borough that hasn’t looked back since it hosted the 2012 Olympics. According to a report by Knight Frank, in terms of population it’s one of the capital’s youngest but fastest growing areas , and although average property prices have risen by over a quarter over the past five years, they’re still 35 per cent below the London average.

West Ham has tons of open space, the tube and DLR, and several large-scale housing developments, including Berkeley’s TwelveTrees Park and Upton Gardens from Barratt, which is taking shape on West Ham United’s former football ground.

Upton Gardens, E13

One-bed flat, £365,000

Upton Gardens
Upton Gardens (Photo: Creative Partnership Ltd)

This one-bed apartment in a new community of 842 homes features an open-plan kitchen/living/dining room with integrated appliances and a balcony.

TwelveTrees Park, E15

Three-bed apartment £935,000

Twelve Trees Park
Twelve Trees Park (Picture: Twelve Trees Park)

Amazing views are guaranteed from this 21st storey home, due to complete in the first half of 2024. The scheme is set around green space and has a wifi-enabled park.

Barking

London’s cheapest and fastest developing place to live, and also the location of its largest single housing scheme: Barking Riverside. When complete it will boast 10,800 homes, housing 29,000 people and become the capital’s only designated ‘healthy new town’.

Further, a new Overground station opens in December 2021, enhancing Barking’s already good transport links, as the station in the town centre has District, Hammersmith & City and Overground services, plus superfast c2c trains to Fenchurch Street and Southend.

Fresh Wharf, IG11

From £310,000 with Help to Buy

Fresh Wharf IG11
Fresh Wharf (Photo: Tony Mitchell)

A one-bed, first floor apartment with an open-plan layout and balcony in a development overlooking the River Roding and very convenient for the North Circular.

Barking Riverside, IG11

Four-bed townhouse, £512,495, with Help to Buy

Barking Riverside
Barking Riverside (Picture: Bellway)

The last townhouse in the current phase extends over three floors, and includes a kitchen/dining room and separate living room leading to a terrace.

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Former shopaholic saves £15,000 for a house by slashing monthly food bill to £20

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Abbie and her house
Abbie was able to save up enough for a deposit for a small home (Picture: PA Real Life)

A reformed shopaholic has revealed how she saved enough to buy a house by cutting her monthly food bill and moving into her sister’s garage for two years.

Selling the house she bought with her boyfriend after they split in March 2012, customer services advisor, Abbie Drown, came out with nothing and, to help her save money, her sister Lorna Burton, offered her garage as alternative accommodation, for just £20 a week.

Abbie, of Truro, Cornwall, managed to save a £15,000 deposit for a property in two-and-a-half years by living without nights out, holidays and heating.

‘I moved into a house-share for about six months, but then my sister suggested I came to live with her family and save for a deposit,’ Abbie explains.

‘It had a tiny window and I changed the door from one that opened upwards to one that opened outwards. My friend put some carpet down, but I was in there among the bikes and the fridge.

‘I paid her £20 a week to stay there, she made meals for me and I used their bathroom.’

Abbie with her sister
Abbie and her sister Lorna (Picture: PA Real Life)

The frugal habits Abbie learnt during this period have stuck with her. She still saves around £700 a month by being smart with her money.

‘It was tough, as I really didn’t do anything,’ says Abbie.

‘I’d maybe go out for a slice of cake at the weekend, but that was about it. I had no holidays, but luckily living in Cornwall I was able to go to the beach.

‘My friends would ask me if I wanted to go out and I’d refuse. I would say, “When I’ve stopped saving will you remember me?”

‘I was working full-time and really I didn’t spend any money. My savings grew to £15,000 during the two-and-a-half years I lived there.’

But this hadn’t always been Abbie’s way of life. Before this, she admits that she used to be frivolous with money.

‘I remember, my laptop broke and I just went to buy a new Apple mac on my credit card, not thinking anything of it,’ she says.

‘I didn’t care about money at all. I would always get things on credit if I could not afford them, but this experience completely changed me.’

In March 2015, Abbie bought her house – a two-up-two-down with parking and a garden for £103,205. She used an interest-free credit card to pay for carpet, flooring and furniture.

She also made sure she bought her sofa in the sales, while her television was a gift from her brother.

She paid her credit card off within a year, so she did not start being charged interest.

‘I wanted to keep saving and I’d got good at shopping on a budget,’ she says.

‘I still keep my food bills to £20 a month. I will always use my clubcard, nectar and advantage card points.

‘I will buy eight tortilla wraps for 90p and make pizzas with a bit of tomato paste at 35p, mozzarella for 45p and some vegetables.

‘With eight wraps that can be a meal for eight days.

wrap pizza
Abbie’s homemade pizza (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘I’ll spend £3.60 on all of the ingredients – but they stretch to at least four meals – making it 90p a portion.’

Abbie also makes a lot of meals in bulk. She makes big pots of chicken curry or Bolognese and freezes them, or she makes giant veggie stir fries with noodles and soy sauce.

‘I don’t deprive myself but I’ll always look at ways of saving,’ she says.

‘I use a lot of apps to get deals. I’ll use the Meerkat app by Compare the Market, because if you’re going on holiday and buy travel insurance for about £3, they will give you discount on meals.

‘If I’m going out for dinner I will search beforehand to see if there are any money-off vouchers.’

Abbie is also a fan of Top Cashback, which works by partnering with retailers, who pay commission when shoppers are directed to their stores and make purchases – some of which is repaid to the customer as cash or vouchers.

‘I joined in May 2019 and have earned £289 in cashback so far,’ she says.

Other tips include using websites such as YouSwitch to get the best deals on energy providers.

‘Living in the garage, I got used to not having the heating on, so I hardly ever put it on now, which saves me a lot of money,’ she says. ‘I have an electric blanket on my bed which I put on while I’m brushing my teeth.

‘I’d rather wear layers and have a hot water bottle, or snuggle under a blanket if I’m watching television, than put the heating on.

‘I turn all the plugs off before going to bed, except for the internet and I’ll always unplug my phone charger. The television is never left on standby.

‘As the water in Cornwall is quite expensive, I keep an egg timer in the bathroom so I can keep my showers to under four minutes, which is good for the environment and save money.’

Abbie's shower
Abbie uses an egg timer in the shower (Picture: PA Real Life)

Abbie will allow herself holidays now, but she always makes sure to look out for good deals.

‘In January this year, I got a two-night trip to Venice for £99 per person.

‘I will look for deals on holidays and then go through Top Cashback so you get cashback on your discounted holiday.

‘Then I shop for second-hand clothes on websites like Vinted, which give a good deal to the seller, too.’

And for Christmas, her large family does secret Santa rather than buying individual presents. Abbie also keeps an eye out on Black Friday on November 27, to try to pick up some bargains.

‘I’ll also use Boots to buy two for one gifts as stocking fillers, or save up my advantage card points to use at Christmas,’ she says.

All of these tricks and hints has meant Abbie has continued to save since buying her property.

‘I’ve saved £7,000 so far this year, which I used to pay off my car and will use to pay off a bit more of my mortgage,’ she adds.

‘I think my family are proud of me. Perhaps they think I take it a little bit too far, but when they see how much money I actually save they are really impressed.

‘I do wish I had started saving in my early twenties, as I would have been able to accumulate so much more.’

Do you have a money-saving story to share? We want to hear from you.

Get in touch: metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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My First Home: Big Brother winner Craig Phillips spent over two years looking for the right property

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Editorial use only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ken McKay/ITV/REX (10349525dt) Craig Phillips 'This Morning' TV show, London, UK - 29 Jul 2019 LOVE ISLAND: THE GOSSIP AND AN EXCLUSIVE CHAT WITH ANTON AND BELLE It?s finally here. Ahead of tonight?s Love Island final, we?re joined by Kem and a special reality winners panel of Big Brother?s Craig Phillips and I?m A Celebrity?s Vicky Pattison, as well as talking to last night?s dumped islanders Anton and Belle from Mallorca.
(Picture: Ken McKay/ITV/REX)

A builder by trade, Craig Phillips won the first series of Big Brother in 2000.

He has since become a regular face on TV, as a DIY expert on ITV’s 60 Minute Makeover and as a presenter for the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4.

As part of our series, My First Home, Craig explains how he bought his first property in 1995 and still owns it.

Where did you buy your first home?

I bought my first home in Newport, Shropshire. It’s a four-bedroom detached house with a drive and a large garden, plus parking around both the front and side of the house. I bought it for £68,000, 25 years ago.

Why did you decide to buy at such a young age?

My construction business was doing well and so it made sense to buy.

Also, I had been living with my mum and stepdad in a pub which they ran, and they were planning to retire and so I had to find somewhere to live.

What was on your property wishlist?

A small, detached cottage with a lot of space to be able to build a workshop. I wanted the cottage to be quite secluded as I didn’t want neighbours to be able to look through my windows.

I also wanted a personal project, so it didn’t matter how derelict the house was because I was capable of renovating it.

Did you get what you were looking for?

Yes, but it took me two and a half years to find the right place at the right price. I found places but they were over £100k, which was way of out of my budget, and so I just had to sit tight.

Little did I know that the right property was right under my nose – 500 or 600 metres from the pub where I lived, down a little private lane, just off the high street. I had driven down that lane thousand times over the years but didn’t know what was at the end of it.

How did it feel to be a home-owner, once you purchased it?

Exciting, as I was able to jump in and start work on the house. It was a little nerve wracking too, but exciting more than anything because I knew that getting on  the property ladder was the right thing to do.

Craig Phillips
Craig on Big Brother (Picture: REX)

What work did you do on it? 

I had to do quite extensive work on the roof, the windows and the doors, which were not high enough to comply with the mortgage company’s rules. So, I secured the sale of the property and did £12k of work before they agreed to give me a mortgage.

Once I secured the mortgage I replumbed the house, rewired the electricity, installed a kitchen and a new central heating system. I also got rid of the carpet and wallpaper which looked like it had been around since the 1940s.

Then I built a workshop on the land. I lived in a caravan while trying to make the home liveable. I lived there for four months and spent weekends and evenings after work renovating the property. The work on it cost me around £70,000.

What advice would you give to first-time buyers?

Just do it. You’ve kind of got to step back to go forward in life. So, if you’re going on holiday two or three times a year, sacrifice that so you can get a deposit together and get on the property ladder – it’s vital.

If you rent for the next 20 years, that is money you can use to pay a mortgage on a property that will go up in value and you’ll finish paying off after 25 years. So, bite the bullet and cut back on going to the pub, buying fancy clothes and get a house.

For how long did you live in your first home?

Close to ten years. I really enjoyed living there. It was a crossover house for me because I had it for five years before Big Brother in 2000, and then after the series ended, I still lived in it for another five years.

Where do you live now?

Me, Laura [Craig’s wife], and our daughter Nelly live on the outskirts of Liverpool. It’s an eight-bedroom detached house with four bathrooms, with a detached studio/workshop we purposely built for our Mr and Mrs DIY work.

The house also has a gym, games room, bar, office, utility room, two balconies, and a nice long open-plan kitchen, dinner and living room.

See Craig Phillips’ creations on Instagram, @craigbigbro1

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch at metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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23-bedroom ‘island’ home in the middle of the Solent up for sale for £4.25 million

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23-bedroom 'island' home in the middle of the Solent up for sale for £4.25 million
No Man’s Fort is located off the Isle of Wight (Picture: Strutt & Parker)

£4.25 million is a lot of money, but it can get you a whole lot in the middle of the Solent.

For that amount, you’d nab yourself a mini island of your own, with 23 bedrooms ripe to be used as part of a hotel – as well five bars, a restaurant, a spa, and everything you need to create a business.

No Man’s Fort is located 35 minutes by boat from Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth – or 20 minutes from London in a helicopter if that’s the kind of life you lead.

You can either use the fort as a huge house (which we imagine would be ripe for parties) or as a business premises, with agent Strutt and Parker saying it could easily be a spa, casino, hotel, or event space.

There are 23 en suite guest bedrooms at No Man’s Fort, along with a seven-bedroom staff quarters, and plenty of huge communal areas.

As part of these communal areas you get a rooftop terrace, hot tubs, a sauna, a fire pit and a rooftop bar and BBQ decks.

23-bedroom 'island' home in the middle of the Solent up for sale for £4.25 million
The huge fort has had millions spent on it (Picture: Strutt & Parker)

There’s also a spa with four treatment rooms, a pool room, a snooker room, and a nail bar.

On the food and drink front, No Man’s Fort has a 200-cover restaurant, five themed themed bars, and a lighthouse private dining and a traditional English pub.

23-bedroom 'island' home in the middle of the Solent up for sale for £4.25 million
Imagine the parties you could have here (Picture: Strutt & Parker)

The current owners have spent £8 million renovating both No Man’s Fort and its sister ‘island’ Spitbank Fort.

It was originally built between 1867 and 1880 as part of the Palmerston Forts, and originally served military purposes, before being used for hospitality purposes in later years.

23-bedroom 'island' home in the middle of the Solent up for sale for £4.25 million
The rooms are ripe for a business (Picture: Strutt & Parker)

No Man’s Fort was the setting of a Doctor Who episode back in 1972 before its refurbishment into the 99,000 sq ft venue you see today.

If you’re feeling extremely flush, you can buy Spitbank Fort and Horse Sand Fort alongside this one.

Then you can survey the seas from them just like they did in WWII – but with a margarita or pint in hand from one of your many bars.

Take a look or enquire here.

Do you have a story you’d like to share?

Get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk.

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Tinder launches ‘Face to Face’ video chat function

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Tinder
Take your online dating to the next level (Picture: Tinder)

Tinder is set to launch a new video experience that allows you to connect visually with your matches, without having to exchange personal information.

Face to Face allows you to hit a video notification with someone that you have matched with. Once you have both selected that option, you’ll be able to connect on a video chat.

Which sounds way more intense than just messaging – but it could also be a great way to create new connections and deeper bonds with prospective daters.

Face to Face was built by the Tinder Trust and Safety team, and ensures control along the way, which they say prioritises your safety.

The new feature was tested erlier this year and includes some key differences which stand out from your typical video experience.  

How does Tinder Face to Face work?

You both decide when it’s time for video: 

Just like matching, Face to Face is enabled on a match-by-match basis. Once the conversation is flowing and you’re ready to show you’re interested in a video chat, tap the video icon.

The feature won’t be enabled until you’ve both opted in. And it doesn’t tell your match when you turn it on.

You can disable it at any time:  

Just like you can enable the possibility of a Face to Face on a match-by-match basis, you can also turn it off at any point.

Not feeling like a video chat today? No problem. 

There are rules:

After Face to Face is unlocked, callers must agree to Tinder’s ground rules, so your chat can hopefully start on the right foot. 

The video will be split down the middle: 

Your match’s face will be as big as yours on the video screen, as the chat is split down the middle, rather than having one of you in a small corner. Which means you can keep an eye on your hair and makeup.

You can give feedback: 

Once the call has ended, Tinder will ask how it went.

Remember: you can send a report to their team at any time once the call ends. 

‘We’re excited to share that our Face to Face feature is rolling out to our global community  after receiving positive feedback from our members who have had early access to it,’ says Rory Kozoll, head of trust and safety product at Tinder. 

‘This adds to our growing list of features built focused on member safety throughout their dating journey, like Photo Verification, Safety Center and our offensive message detection technology.’ 

What are the Tinder Face to Face rules?

When you start a Tinder Face to Face chat, you will have to agree to the following guidelines:

No nudity or sexual content.

No harassment, hate speech, violence or other illegal activities.

No content involving minors.

Tinder rules
These all seem fair (Picture: Tinder)

Tinder's tips to get speaking on Face to Face

  • Start slow 
    Just because we’re virtual, doesn’t mean romantic penmanship is lost. Speaking via text on Tinder is a great way to get to know someone and kick things off, then when you both feel comfortable, tap the video icon and get to know your match a little better.
  • Be flexible
    Once you’ve agreed with your match to move from messaging to a video call, be willing to work around when best suits your match and find a time that’s good for both of you – you want to be feeling at your best and most comfortable. 
  • Keep it interesting with a background or accessories
    An unusual hat or piece of jewellery can help get the conversation flowing immediately when you have your first Face to Face meeting. Better yet, why not position yourself in front of an interesting background, such as your book case to show just a hint of your personality or your favourite poster to spark conversation. 
  • Be understanding
    Taking your conversation from text to video can be daunting, so be understanding if your match wants to duck out of the conversation or would like to keep messaging for a little longer. Good things come to those who wait.
  • Suggest an activity
    Just like a date IRL, sometimes nerves can kick in and put a lot of pressure on finding common ground. If you suggest a light-hearted game of Pictionary, or cooking up a dish together, then it should help to ease these initial nerves.

Lockdown has changed the world of dating for the time being, and chatting on video from an early stage could be a really helpful tool.

However, if you struggle to even talk with your matches on a phone call, this could be your idea of hell.

Luckily, there’s no obligation to get involved in the video chats, and video screen can’t just pop up when you match with someone.

So if slapping on your makeup and changing out of your lounge wear feels like too much effort, don’t worry – you can stick to messaging.

Do you have a story to share? We want to hear from you.

Get in touch: metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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Woman sick of bodybuilding diet becomes a competitive eater and now has up to 16,000 calories a day

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Katina is now a competitive eater
Katina is now a competitive eater (Picture: MDWfeatures/katinaeatskilos)

After taking part in a bodybuilding competition, Katina DeJarnett was tired of feeling hungry on a diet.

So in April 2019, she decided she would stop that way of consuming food and become a competitive eater instead.

The 29-year-old, from Washington, USA, now enjoys thousands of calories in one sitting around once a week, but she still weighs nine stone and wears a UK size six.

Katina started out watching restaurant challenges on YouTube and decided to try one herself.

She bought a cheap camera and filmed herself at a local restaurant challenge, eating the ‘Fatburger XXXL Kingburger’, a cheeseburger with three half-pound patties, and later uploaded the video to YouTube.

After her success, she started pursuing larger restaurant challenges, and tried calorie challenges too – with her toughest so far being 16,000 calories consumed in one day, gorging on fast food, cookies and peanut butter.

She now has more than 200,000 subscribers and she also posts on Instagram as @katinaeatskilos.

She said: ‘Growing up, I always loved food and have always been a big eater. I could eat a huge burger and chips faster than my dad when I was six years old, and I’d still ask for seconds.

‘I got into video gaming in my teenage years and became overweight. By twenty-one I weighed 11st 4lb and decided to quit gaming.

Katina is now a competitive eater
She now does challenges about once a week (Picture: MDWfeatures/katinaeatskilos)

‘I got into bodybuilding, and in April 2019 I competed in a local women’s physique bodybuilding show.

‘While preparing for the show, I was always extremely hungry as I was dieting, so I started watching videos on YouTube of competitive eating and food challenges to compensate.

‘I ended up placing in the top five of the bodybuilding show, and decided to bulk up and gain more muscle – all while putting my huge appetite to use.

‘I bought a cheap camera and went along to a local restaurant challenge, which was a relatively small two-pound burger that had to be eaten in twenty minutes.’

Katina said that after her first challenge, she still felt hungry so she realised she could take on more.

She said: ‘I pursued larger restaurant challenges, always recording them and uploading them to my YouTube channel, and then started doing home challenges too.

‘During a challenge, I try to eat as quickly as possible so my stomach doesn’t have time to tell my brain I’m full.’

Her new hobby has also helped her find love as in July 2020, she met fellow professional eater Randy Santel, 34, from Missouri, USA, while doing a food tour in Alaska.

They bonded over their mutual passion and became a couple during their 10-day trip. Next year, they hope to tour the world together and taking part in global eating challenges.

Between challenges, Katina eats less, having just one large meal with plenty of leafy green vegetables, wholegrains and protein.

She aims for an overall amount of calories per week, rather than per day.

‘I’m careful to balance my calorie intake, and generally aim to eat between eighteen-thousand and twenty-thousand calories per week,’ she said.

Katina is now a competitive eater
Katina first started eating challenges in April 2019 (Picture: MDWfeatures/katinaeatskilos)

‘If I film a restaurant challenge that is seven-thousand calories, I know I only get to eat eleven-thousand for the remainder of the week.

‘I’m also active in the gym and take at least ten-thousand steps a day, so this and my understanding of nutrition helps me to control my weight.

‘I generally only do one food challenge a week, but when my boyfriend and I tour in 2021, it’s likely that we’ll do them more frequently, so I’ll probably gain some weight.

‘I get asked how I maintain my weight all the time online. Some people will stumble upon my videos and think it’s gluttonous, rather than realising I eat a calorie-controlled diet overall.

‘I just happen to eat a ridiculous amount all at once as opposed to spreading it out. Dealing with negativity or harsh opinions is just part of being in the public eye and, for the most part, the viewers are very positive and supportive.’

The competition she found most difficult was the Screaming Demon Wings challenge in Spokane, Washington.

She ate a pound of hot wings with no water, and the chicken was covered in a spicy gravy that was ‘incredibly painful’ and caused her sickness for over a week afterwards.

She said: ‘The hardest part of an eating challenge is overcoming flavour fatigue – which is when your mind gets sick of a certain flavour and tells you not to eat anymore.

‘It becomes hard to continue eating even if you aren’t physically at full capacity. It can be a struggle to swallow each bite.

‘But mostly I love doing the challenges. My favourite memory was in Amarillo, Texas, completing the seventy-two-ounce Big Texan Steak challenge.

‘I had wanted to try it ever since I was a teenager because the restaurant sets you up on stage, and it is just a very fun environment with a supportive crowd.

‘Challenges are a bit like putting on a show, it’s just a blast. I do it for entertainment – and because I love a good challenge.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch at metrolifestyle@metro.co.uk.

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What I Rent: Vikki, £625 a month for a two-bedroom house in Derby

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what I rent: Vikki, 625 a month for a two-bedroom house in derby - vikki in the bedroom
Vikki rents a two-bedroom house in Derby (Picture: Vikki Tristram)

In this week’s What I Rent we’re in Derby with Vikki, who’s managed to create a rented space that totally fits her aesthetic.

Vikki, 37, works for a nationwide letting agent, so has ‘the inside scoop of the ins and outs of renting properties’. She knows her stuff, to put it simply.

She’s been in Derby her entire life, having grown up in the suburbs and rented in the city centre since she was old enough to leave home.

Her current home is a two-bedroom house that she’s lived in for nearly six years and shares with a housemate, a dog, and two cats.

We chatted with her about how she’s transformed her space without pissing off her landlord.

Hi, Vikki! How much do you pay to live here?

The rent is £625. Bills are an additional £250 to £300 a month.

And what do you get for what you pay?

The house is deceptively small from the outside but we have a hall, stairs and landing, a large living room and dining room, a kitchen, two large double bedrooms, and a massive bathroom. I also have a small rear garden with a little grass area and a decking patio.

Do you feel like you have a good deal?

Although the rent is quite high for a two-bed terrace in this particular area I’m happy to pay it for the beautiful original features and the character of the property.

What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - vikki in the living room with her chihuahua
Rent is just £625 a month (Picture: Vikki Tristram)

Who lives here?

I initially moved in just over six years ago with my ex-husband. After we split my current housemate Dani moved in and has lived here for 18 months.

Sadly she’ll be moving out in the next couple of weeks but on the plus side my boyfriend Jon will be moving in and we’ll share the house with his son and our combined pets; Evie the Chihuahua, Yuna the Bengal and our new kitten, Chester.

Do you like the area?

I live very near an area highly populated with students. I don’t particularly love the area but I live in a little cul-de-sac and have lovely neighbours that share their home-grown veg, help us with the odd repair job and we look out for each other, which is really nice.

I also love the convenience of living close to the city centre and some lovely local parks.

How did you find this property?

I found this property on Rightmove. When I saw the advert I immediately fell in love, I even did a drive by of the house that night. It had beautiful features including a roll top bath, Minton tiled flooring in the hallway and original doors.

I was really nervous when I put in the application as we have a little dog, which often isn’t allowed in rental properties but luckily as he’s a private landlord we could speak to him directly and reassure him how well behaved she was.

What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - chihuahua and cat sleeping on a beige chair
Evie and Chester having a snooze (Picture: Vikki Tristram)

How have you made the house feel like home?

When I collected the keys to the house and saw it for the first time without any furniture I actually cried – it was in such a mess.

The walls were grubby and covered in marks, the carpets were ditched and it was filthy throughout. There were also some quite questionable feature walls (lime green and brown horizontal stripes in the lounge and a completely black flock wallpaper in the dining room, which is the darkest room in the house).

I asked the landlord if I could decorate, to which he agreed and initially I just got a paint match to all of the original colours and gave it a freshen-up and painted over the feature walls.

After a few years though I decided I wanted a change of scenery and that’s when I really go into decorating and DIY and started my Instagram account for inspiration. The house is quite dark as it’s north facing so I decided to go white and grey throughout but with a navy feature wall in the kitchen.

Every room has been redecorated, including skirtings and woodwork. The only exception to this is the hallway, which is my next big project.

I like classic traditional décor but with a rustic-cottagey feel. More recently though I’ve introduced a slight Scandi vibe too with lots of house plants, and I’m obsessed with dried flowers at the moment.

What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - autumn decorations by the fireplace
Vikki says she’s obsessed with dried flowers and pampas at the moment (Picture: Vikki Tristram)

As well as painting I’ve given new lease of life to all of the beautiful but very tired built-in cupboards, particularly the one in the living room which previously had glass doors to the top section that I removed and I repainted the entire unit to create bright open shelves.

The doors have been saved to put back on if the landlord would prefer at the end of the tenancy.

I’ve added rustic scaffold board shelves to the bathroom and recently used tile stickers to completely change the look of the fireplace hearth in the dining room.

I love smaller creative projects too and usually have several on the go at once. These include creating wreaths for the walls, upcycling anything I can get my hands and making seasonal décor, I especially love it if I can create something for nothing (or at least very little).

The entire house has been furnished with second-hand furniture which I’ve repurposed. The only furniture that I purchased brand new was my bed, which was a bargain from Argos and my sofa, which was ex-display from an eBay shop. Everything else is either Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace or donated from friends.

It feels good to live in a beautiful house that I’ve created myself for next to nothing. It’s important to me not to spend too much money decorating and furnishing a home that’s not my ‘forever home’ but it’s equally important that my home is a place I want to be and feel proud to live in.

What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - a door with navy blue painted walls and drawings of foliage
All pictures are stuck up using landlord-appeasing command strips (Picture: Vikki Tristram)

Has your landlord been okay with you doing all of that?

My landlord has agreed to every request I’ve put to him, including painting the front door and replacing a large flower bed in the garden with turf.

I’ll be completely honest, though… I haven’t asked for permission for every project but he does visit from time to time and is always happy with the changes I’ve made and I’d never make alterations that I couldn’t put back if needed when I move out.

I genuinely feel that I’ve added value to the property and I believe my landlord thinks I’m a good tenant because of this.

Do you feel like you have enough space?

I definitely feel like I have enough space… with the exception of the kitchen, which is just tiny in comparison to the rest of the rooms in the house, it’s smaller than the bathroom!

I also have a lovely little garden which has been my passion project during lockdown over summer. My boyfriend and I created a pallet sofa and table and painted the decking and some of the outside walls.

What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - fireplace in the bedroom
The vases here are all from charity shops (Picture: Vikki Tristram)

Are there any problems with the house you have to deal with?

The house is very dark. We only get the sun in the garden until 4pm, which means no after work drinks in the sun!

The windows are only single-glazed so it’s freezing in winter and very expensive to heat.

The main thing I hate about this house though is the carpets and flooring. The carpets upstairs are covered in stains and are actually threadbare in places so I have a lot of large strategically placed rugs.

Downstairs is all wooden floorboards which I love but they’re finished in a dark orangey varnish that’s now very chipped. The flooring annoys me daily but that’s one thing you can’t change in a rental without going to great expense.

Do you have plans to move again any time soon?

My boyfriend and I are hoping to be in a position to buy a house when the current lease runs out here in 18 months. I will have been here eight years by then.

If we’re not in a position to buy I’d happily renew the contract again. There are very few rental houses I’ve seen like this one (and I work for a letting agent!), especially with landlords as flexible as mine so I’ve been incredibly lucky.

Are you happy renting or is buying a house the goal?

In an ideal world I’d always prefer to own my own house simply so I can do exactly what I want with it. I often look around this house and think if I owned it I’d definitely do this or that and I want that sort of freedom in my future. I do love the fact that I don’t ever have to pay for any repairs at the moment though.

Shall we have a look around?

What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - the garden
Look at that garden – it was a lockdown project (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - living room
The living room (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - white shelving and cat sleeping on sofa in living room
The white shelving unit was another DIY project (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - white shelving unit after its diy transformation
It used to have glass doors, which Vikki removed to create a more open look (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - chester the kitten in the kitchen
The kitchen, which is Vikki’s least favourite room in the house (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - kitchen
Vikki says it’s far smaller than it should be (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - painted chopping board and fish print hanging on wall of kitchen
Vikki painted that chopping board herself to create a nice wall hanging (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - dining room
The dining room, complete with a dresser, made by Vikki taking her grandma’s old sewing table, painting it, and adding new handles (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - wreath and closed fireplace in dining room
That wreath is Vikki’s handiwork, too (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby
The dresser is another upcycled find (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - vikki standing in her bedroom, with grey bedding, rug, and fireplace, plus chester the kitten
Vikki uses plenty of ‘strategically placed’ rugs to cover up the dodgy carpet (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - bed with grey sheets and side table
The bedside tables were £20 from Facebook Marketplace (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - the bathroom
Finally, the bathroom (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - bathtub with eucalyptus branches and a plant
We love all the plants (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - chester the cat by the bathtub
Hi, Chester (Picture: Vikki Tristram)
What I Rent: Vikki, £625 for a two-bedroom flat in Derby - shelving in the bathroom
Even the cotton pad storage is nice (Picture: Vikki Tristram)

What I Rent is a weekly series that’s out every Tuesday at 10am.

Check back next week to have another nose around a 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 take pictures of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your bedroom or living area.

Make sure you get permission from your housemates! You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’re paying for rent, as that’s pretty important.

We're not just after the prettiest places out there, by the way. We want the reality of renting, so if you're currently renting a place you hate, we'd love to see that too (and sympathise greatly!).

MORE: What I Rent: Garima, £262 a month for a two-bedroom flat in Noida, India

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How to buy an off-plan property without even stepping foot inside

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House buying
Sometimes all you can see is the land the property will be built on (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Buying off-plan means purchasing a home before it’s finished – and in some cases, before construction work has even started.

It may sound odd to be making the most expensive purchase of your life without actually stepping inside the property first but, in fact, it makes perfect sense.

By snapping up a flat or house ahead of the pack,  you’ll be able to pick the best plot and maximise your options for personalising it by selecting fixtures, fittings and colour schemes that can be incorporated at different stages of the build.

You agree the sale price at reservation, so in a rising market the property will be worth more than you paid for it by the time you move in.

If the scheme is popular, reserving early could mean you don’t miss out later on, as developments often sell out before completion. It may also be the case that all the homes offered with Help to Buy or other incentives sell out.

With pent-up demand from lockdown and the stamp duty holiday (homes up to £500,000 are currently exempt from tax) ending on March 31 next year, developers report that homes are shifting fast right now.

How long does it take to buy off-plan?

If you do buy off-plan, be prepared for a wait – anything from a few weeks to a couple of years or more – and bear in mind that most mortgage offers are only valid for six months, so you’ll have to reapply or get an extension if completion is delayed.

Although you won’t be able to set foot inside your future home, you can make your decision to buy based on floorplans, site plans, viewing the show home or marketing suite, taking a virtual tour,  and discussions with the sales team.

Research the housebuilder’s previous developments and find out if a similar finished property type can be viewed  at another site.

You can also ask whether there’s room for negotiation if you reserve early – if there’s no flexibility on price, you may be able to get an interiors upgrade, for instance.

You’ll also need to find out about access, as being one of the first to move in, roads might not be finished.

What it's like buying off-plan

Steven at his new property
Steven at his new property (Picture: Steven Luemba)

Just before lockdown, interior designer and actor Steven Luemba moved into his first home, a one-bed apartment at Barratt’s New Mill Quarter in Hackbridge, after reserving it in February 2019.

‘It was great fun looking for a home and I knew I’d end up decorating it to my taste,’ he says. ‘Buying something off-plan was attractive as  I could get exactly what I wanted.

‘Obviously, it’s nerve-wracking when you are effectivey buying a floor plan, but the key is asking questions to give you peace of mind – how big are the windows, what do the radiators look like, where are the electricity points?

‘Also, if you’re buying off-plan really question who the developer is. It was comforting knowing that Barratt London had a history of housebuilding and I went to visit several of their completed developments to check out the final product.

‘I looked at different floor plans before deciding what I wanted and measured out the layout too so I could envisage the space. After I’d reserved, my home’s floor plan was stuck to my wall and I’d measure furniture out and design my interiors from it. Between reserving and moving in, I bought furniture and furnishings, and everything was in boxes waiting for me to unpack.’

When should you apply for a mortgage?

Before you start house hunting, contact a mortgage broker who will be able to  give you a good idea of how much you can borrow and the deposit you’ll need. They’ll also be able to give you a mortgage agreement in principle.

Once you’ve found a new home to buy, secure it with a reservation fee – usually around £1,000 – then appoint a solicitor to handle the conveyancing and ensure that everything you’re expecting to be included in the property is written into the contract.

Put your mortgage application in as early as possible as offers are taking much longer than usual to come through, and once all your paperwork is in order you’ll exchange contracts and pay the deposit – usually within 28 days of reservation.

Now comes the wait, and the developer should keep you informed of the build’s progress. When your home is nearly finished, you’ll be given two dates – an estimated completion date, and the date it has to be ready by.

You may only have two weeks’ notice of your actual move-in date, with little flexibility as handovers are staggered – particularly in apartment blocks – to allow for social distancing.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch at metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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The names and professions most likely to ghost you

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The names and professions most likely to ghost you
Isabella, Daniel, and Lily all hanging out (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Ghosts aren’t just for Halloween. Nope, they work hard all year round, ready to stop texting back at a moment’s notice if the mood strikes them.

There are signs to look out for to see if someone might ghost you – have they turned off read receipts on WhatsApp? Do they always give you one word answers? – but apparently we can also get an indication simply from their name.

A survey of 2,000 people into ghosting asked people whether they had ghosted anyone before.

A whopping 80% of Isabellas had done so, with Lily and Mia not far behind. Daniel is the boy’s name with the propensity to ghost the most at 59%, with Matthew following closely at 55%, according to the research by Thortful.

Have a look at the full list of self-confessed ghosters and see if your name makes the list.

  1. Isabella 80%
  2. Lily 76%
  3. Mia 74%
  4. Lauren 72%
  5. Katie 70%
  6. Megan 70%
  7. Chloe 67%
  8. Ava 62%
  9. Grace 62%
  10. Ella 62%
  11. Daniel 59%
  12. Matthew 55%
  13. Olivia 50%
  14. Jack 50%
  15. George 50%
  16. Thomas 50%
  17. Sophie 50%
  18. Adam 50%
  19. Lucy 50%
  20. Jessica 48%
  21. Hannah 48%
  22. Ellie 46%
  23. William 45%
  24. Emily 42%
  25. James 41%
  26. Harry 38%

On top of this, they compared people’s jobs with whether they’d ghosted anyone before. As it turns out, those working in emergency services were most likely to (which is kind of understandable since they’re very busy people).

Lawyer’s came in second, obviously finding direct conversation something of a busman’s holiday and vanishing into the distance. Here’s the top five ghost jobs.

  1. Emergency services
  2. Lawyer
  3. Media/PR/Marketing
  4. Finance
  5. HR/Recruitment

Basically, if you ever meet an Isabella who’s a paramedic, don’t bother expecting a reply any time soon.

Do you have a story you’d like to share?

Get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk.

MORE: How to buy an off-plan property without even stepping foot inside

MORE: What I Rent: Vikki, £625 a month for a two-bedroom house in Derby

You can rent a cabin in Utah which comes with its own private ski mountain

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ski cabin in Utah
No need to worry about crossing paths with others (Picture: Vrbo)

This ski cabin in Utah has space for 16 and comes with a pretty unique feature – its own private ski mountain.

Guests can take to the slope without crossing paths with other skiers or snowboarders and ski instruction and rentals are all taken care of.

And a holiday company is offering a one-off deal for one lucky family visiting the accommodation at Eagle Point Resort in Beaver.

Holiday company Vrbo is offering one family group a three-night rental for just $100 (£76.83) a night – which is considerably cheaper than the usual $800 rate.

When you’re not on the slope, there’s plenty to enjoy in the beautiful 2900-square-foot cabin. It features 2.5 bathrooms and five bedrooms including a master room with a king-size bed, three bedrooms with queen beds and a bunk room that sleeps eight. There’s also space for five vehicles to park.

Melanie Fish, Vrbo’s travel expert, said: ‘Demand for Vrbo properties in mountain destinations within driving distance from home is higher this year, and homes are quickly booking up. 

‘To inspire families to start planning their ski vacations, we created a one-time only listing that combines everything people love about a winter getaway in a Vrbo: privacy, breathtaking natural beauty, access to the outdoors, room to spread out, and an opportunity to make some epic memories together.’

The stay will be available from 15-18 February 2021 and anyone looking to apply should do so on the website before 30 October.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that you’ll also have to follow coronavirus travel restrictions.

Currently British nationals cannot enter the USA if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil or China within the previous 14 days.

Also anyone eligible to enter the USA must be prepared to self-isolate for up to 14 days after arrival.

This could change by February but booking it would be a big risk.

You can keep an eye on the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention website.

Of course, you can book for another time if you’re happy to pay the higher rate.

In terms of other socially-distanced stays, you can rent a private island in Florida with up to five others for £36 a night each.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk.

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I feel extremely guilty about getting pregnant right before returning from maternity leave

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Darryl with her daughter after finding out she was pregnant for a second time
I’ve been dealing with work guilt after discovering that I’m expecting my second child and will need to take time off once again (Picture: Darryl Hannah Baker)

It can be daunting to tell your employers that you’re pregnant

From a legal standpoint, being on maternity leave does not break your employment contract as women have the same right to take maternal leave and receive pay for their second (or third, or fourth) pregnancy as with their first.

However, I’ve been dealing with work guilt after discovering that I’m expecting my second child and will need to take time off once again.

When I fell pregnant with my first daughter, Blake, it was planned to a tee – so much so that I was having sex when an app told me to (talk about efficiency!).

But the second time around, with conception happening just three days after Blake’s first birthday, and two days before my work return, it’s a different story entirely. 

While a second baby – this second baby – is very much wanted, the timing is not. Pregnancy in a global pandemic was not high on my to-do list and neither was turning my out of office back on nine months after switching it off.  

As I peed on that pregnancy test and it came back with a big fat pregnant, the thought of having two infant children instantly popped into my head and I felt guilty for not being completely overjoyed at the prospect of another baby. In fact, I was quite overwhelmed.

This was soon followed by the feeling that I was letting my bosses down, and leaving my team in the lurch. We’re a tiny team and these thoughts are only compounded by the fact that my deputy is on maternity until June 2021.  

Clearly, this is not something a bloke will ever experience or empathise with, as evidenced by my husband’s reaction, who just shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and asked what exactly I had to feel guilty about.

I get where he’s coming from, I do, and would say the same to someone else. But how would he, as a manager, feel if one of his female employees got pregnant with her second before she even came back from being off with her first?

It feels almost like the improper thing to do, unprofessional, and very much like I’m living up to a stereotype of women of a childbearing age.

When I talk to friends, I’m met with ‘It’s not your problem, it’s theirs’. But to me, it is my problem. I may not be responsible for staffing issues during my time away, but the absurd guilt I’m experiencing is all on me.  

Darryl with her family after finding out she was pregnant for a second time
I can’t say I’m looking forward to earning a reduced wage so soon after getting a salary back. But I’m finally relishing being pregnant (Picture: Darryl Hannah Baker)

It feels as though it’s a new manifestation of mum guilt, which is a strange thing. I’ve had bouts of it over the last 16 months, asking myself questions like ‘should I be cooking more varied foods?’, ‘does she watch too much TV?’ or ‘have I made a rod for my own back by cuddling her to sleep because I love those sleepy cuddles so much?’.

As your baby grows, so does your confidence, and while I no longer second guess myself about those things – she’s fed, she’s happy – now suddenly I’m worried about the lack of money coming in again and that I’m failing both babies on the providing front.

And then, further down the line, the extra strain it puts on finances having two children in childcare. I pay for the childminder, but will sending two while I go back to work ultimately be a vanity project on my salary?

I love work; even working from home during this never-ending pandemic and having no face-to-face contact (or beers) with my lovely colleagues.  

I enjoyed my career pre-Blake, but going back post-baby makes me feel like me again. It keeps my brain sharp and means my day doesn’t just revolve around nap times, meal times and bath time.

I had none of the feelings of dread or the sleepless nights reported by my mum friends before returning to my role after a year off. In fact, I was looking forward to it. 

To help alleviate my feelings of shame, I researched my employee rights and Googled extensively about just how common surprise second pregnancies are, with findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) claiming one in six pregnancies in the UK are unintended. 

But the only thing that really quietened the annoying and irrational voice in my head was talking to superiors at work.  

They, of course, congratulated me and reminded me it was happy news when I basically (and I hate myself for this) apologised. I hadn’t planned to say sorry – women do not need to apologise for getting pregnant – it just slipped out.

It does feel like a weight has been lifted though and I realise now that the guilt was just feeding into itself – without talking to anyone from my office, I had made the problem bigger in my head. But in reality, this happens and the company’s not going to go under because of my pregnancy – I’m not the glue holding things together! There is such thing as maternity cover, which for some reason my baby brain seems to have ignored.

In all honesty, I can’t say I’m looking forward to earning a reduced wage so soon after getting a salary back. But I’m finally relishing being pregnant. 

After the long slog of the first trimester, and now that my work guilt has eased, I’m going to enjoy this special time.  

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s just how crazy– and precious – life is. As the saying goes: Man makes plans and God laughs. 

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

Share your views in the comments below.

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Baker cooks cinnamon roll in a mug in minutes

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Cinnamon mug bun
The easy cinnamon bun (Picture: @fitwafflekitchen)

Sometimes the cake cravings just hit and you want something quickly.

Eloise Head posts easy recipes on her Instagram account FitWaffle Kitchen and her latest creation is the treat you need in a hurry.

She makes a delicious cinnamon roll in a mug and cooks it in the microwave.

The dough itself needs just two ingredients – greek yoghurt and self-raising flour.

You’ll also need butter, sugar and cinnamon for the filling and icing sugar and milk to create the glaze.

Eloise’s other recipes, including red velvet brownies and Oreo box cake, have helped her build up over 227,000 followers.

The video of Eloise making the cinnamon buns has proved just as popular and has already had over 27,000 hits.

Ingredients

2-ingredient dough:
50g self-raising flour
60g Greek yoghurt

Filling
10g butter, melted
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Icing:
3 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tsp Milk

Method

  1. Mix together the yoghurt and flour to form a dough.
  2. Roll it out to form a rectangle.
  3. Mix together the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon and spread on the middle of the rectangle.
  4. Fold over the long edges into the middle and then roll the dough up from the shorter end.
  5. Place in a mug, sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon on top and microwave on high for about 50 seconds. Eloise recommends being careful not to overcook it as it becomes chewy. You can microwave in short bursts to check.
  6. Take the roll out of the mug and put on a plate. Mix together the icing sugar and milk and pour over the top of the roll.

Do you have an easy recipe to share?

Get in touch at metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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I couldn’t find any support for LGBT Black dads like me, so I started my own group

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Adoption Month Feature Image
I wanted him to grow up with a daddy who looked like him (Picture: Leon Wenham)

As my four-year old son chatted away to me, it was as if a lightbulb had gone off in his head. 

He’d come home that day from nursery buzzing about the fact that he had a Black teacher that looked like him and me, his papa. 

It was a conversation I’ll never forget, as ever since I brought my son home, I wanted him to be aware of his heritage and culture.

As a Black single LGBT adopter, I know people must assume I’ve had to encounter lots of hurdles – but I really haven’t. 

In fact, it felt like it made the process even easier, as children of colour are crying out for parents like me to give them a forever home.

When I saw my son, Felix (not his real name), it really was love at first sight. 

I’d initially had my mind set on a child under 18 months, but when I saw a picture of Felix, then four, on the database of children up for adoption in the UK, I just knew he was meant to be mine. 

In an instant, I could visualise him in my home and in my mum’s house, him giving his grandmother a cuddle.

In total, the whole process took about 12 months and by April 2019, Felix, now five, had moved in with me. 

While I had obviously moved the goalposts when it came to having a child of his age, one thing I was certain of was that I wanted to adopt a Black or mixed race son.

as much as I was working hard to make sure that Felix didn’t feel like the odd one out, some days it felt like I was

I wanted him to grow up with a daddy who looked like him, who knew the hurdles he might face because of his skin colour and could teach him about his history and our cultures as I obviously knew about it first-hand.

We live in London, so he’s naturally surrounded by a lot of diversity, which was always really important for me.

When it came to choosing his school I made sure there was a mix of children from different backgrounds, as I felt it was so important that Felix saw other kids like himself wherever he went.

I remember heading to the school gates on the first day feeling quite nervous. 

You hear so many things, especially about the cliques, so as an LGBT Black single dad I was anxious that I’d be left standing on my own, but it couldn’t have been more different. Everyone has been lovely and we’ve since made some great friends.

Even so, it did highlight that as much as I was working hard to make sure that Felix didn’t feel like the odd one out, some days it felt like I was.

I’d go online looking for support groups and while there were ones for single dads or LGBT dads, or Black dads, I couldn’t find one that encompassed every aspect of my situation in one hit. 

At first, I simply joined the ones that did exist and while they were great, it never felt like anyone truly understood my situation.

That’s why I ended up setting up my own support group earlier this year. 

I’ve always come from the belief that it takes a village to raise a child, so I decided to create a social media safe space for Black/dual heritage gay dads across the world called Black Gay Dads Global to share our unique experiences and offer support to each other. 

As it’s taken off, I finally feel I’ve found a true connection; it’s like a brotherhood.

Knowing how much love Black parents have to give has also made me realise that more needs to be done to encourage people from my community to adopt

I’ve made friends with dads from America to Jamaica, and it’s so nice to be able to share stories and parenting tips with people exactly in the same boat as me; they just get it.

It’s also something that’s become more vital than ever since the pandemic hit, as lockdown has been an isolating experience for parents everywhere. 

Knowing how much love Black parents have to give has also made me realise that more needs to be done to encourage people from my community to adopt.

It’s a massive issue at the moment, and has been for decades as they just aren’t coming forward. 

I think a lot of it is down to cultural blockages. The assessment process for adoption is incredibly intrusive, with so many questions about your life – from finances to relationships – and I think that a lot of Black people don’t like that level of scrutiny, as culturally and traditionally we are super private within the family household.

There’s also a lot of generational mistrust in the system, which I feel is really important to understand.

It may seem unfounded, but you look at the Windrush scandal and how people trusted the system, ‘the mother country’, only to get massively screwed over.

People were invited to help rebuild the country and were sold the dream of a lifetime, with many leaving their children and loved ones behind in the hope of a better life and opportunity.

It’s also a tragedy that Black boys are the least likely to be adopted because of the connotations associated with young Black men

This reality was very different, and then you look at recent events and how the very same system was turning its back on them; this type of stuff has been happening for years.

On top of that, historically, there was a time in the 70s/80s when Black children were being taken away from their parents, or the family investigated by social workers because they believed they may have been subject to physical abuse.

In reality, the children simply had something called Mongolian spots (which are common amongst Black, Asian communities), a discolouration of the skin, almost like a birthmark, that was often wrongly mistaken for a bruising 

It’s also a tragedy that Black boys are the least likely to be adopted because of the connotations associated with young Black men.

That’s why it’s so important we need to talk more about this disparity and what can be done to change it.

It’s something I’m now working on with Coram, having recently taken a job with them to sit on their adoption panel and help find the right families for vulnerable children. 

I’m the first Black gay male single adopter in the UK to do so, but it‘s crucial that it’s not just white middle class people making these decisions about Black and mixed race children; they need someone who has lived experience to help advise what a child might need.

People always ask if I’m going to adopt again and if I had more money and a live in nanny then the answer would definitely be yes! But it is hard on your own as a single parent. 

Felix once asked me if I got married one day to a woman and he’d get a mummy. I explained that he has a mummy, who sadly wasn’t able to care for him and keep him safe, which is why I became his daddy.

I also said that if I was to get married one day, it would be to a man so then it would mean he would get two daddies. He paused for a second, simply smiled and said, ‘yay, then I’ll get two daddies then’, and just walked off, which was brilliant. 

I know there will be days when someone in the playground might ask him where his mum is or why he only has one daddy or two daddies, but I think as long as every parent is open about these sort of conversations and help normalise love as simply being love, no matter who your partner is, then we can only move forward.

Before Felix came to me he’d lived in five different homes by the time he reached four. It’s such an honour to know I’ve given him his sixth and final home. 

Seeing this amazing little man change, grow and learn every day is the most wonderful feeling – and knowing I’m helping him do that without compromising his heritage and identity is even more of a privilege. 

Leon is currently working on a picture book for children encouraging open conversations around adoption and normalising diversity from a young age.

MORE: What it’s like becoming a single mum by adoption during lockdown

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Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else's child into their family to others who were that child.

We'll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at adoptionstories@metro.co.uk.

Take a 3D tour of this house for sale and get ready to stare into the abyss

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Take a 3D tour of this house for sale and get ready to stare into the abyss picture:redfin.com METROGRAB
There are rooms and rooms filled completely with bric a brac (Picture: Redfin)

With coronavirus putting in-person home viewings on the back burner for many, estate agents have handily decided to offer 3D tours of the homes they’re selling to entice buyers.

That means we can get sneak peeks of pretty much any property we wish – and of those we wish we’d never looked at.

On Twitter, one particular house for sale has caused quite the stir, as people try to process the myriad strange items you can see on the 3D walkthrough function.

The Louisville, Kentucky, home is currently available for £375,000, and has three bedrooms and four bathrooms.

It’s also – according to agents Redfin – been a church, a school, a home business, and a daycare centre in the past, which might explain some (but definitely not all) of the unique features inside.

Redfin adds: ‘Two kitchens, a private living space and many more surprises. This is a must see. The pictures do not tell the full story.’

Take a 3D tour of this house for sale and get ready to stare into the abyss picture:redfin.com METROGRAB
Just some totally normal dolls staring at you from their shelf (Picture: Redfin)

The pictures may not, but we’re dying to know more, because you the tour is not providing us with the answers we so desparately crave.

Each corner you turn on the walkthrough shows you a new – and somewhat baffling – sight. Whether that’s an open box of flea and bed bug remover, or a box set of the hit series Doc Martin.

Take a 3D tour of this house for sale and get ready to stare into the abyss picture:redfin.com METROGRAB
Good luck not getting trapped in this maze-like structure (Picture: Redfin)

Among the many DVDs and games is a topless models calendar from 2017 and a selection of women’s hair dyes.

If the doll collection isn’t enough to whet your whistle, perhaps a chainsaw, a bathroom with two toilets, or every edition of Girls Gone Wild might take your fancy?

Take a 3D tour of this house for sale and get ready to stare into the abyss picture:redfin.com METROGRAB
So much visual stimulus (Picture: Redfin)

If 96 cans of Monster doesn’t rev your engine, maybe the boxes of Ireland-themed decorations or the bath that’s actually an 18th-century-style baptistry might?

Essentially, there’s a whole lot going on here. While it’s clear it’s being used as a business right now, it is a little difficult to imagine it less full at the moment.

Take a 3D tour of this house for sale and get ready to stare into the abyss picture:redfin.com METROGRAB
Whatever’s in that dark corner, we don’t want to know about it (Picture: Redfin)

People on social media have created a game out of the maze-like home, posting a picture of an oddity that followers then have to find themselves on the 3D walkthrough.

If you get lost, you’re out of the game and have to start again.

And, trust us, you will get lost. Check it out here.

Do you have a story you’d like to share?

Get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk.

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Baby boy flips the bird at his parents during 4D scan

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baby flips the bird to parents during scan
Cheeky! (Picture: Kennedy News)

An expectant mother was left convinced her son would be a ‘handful’ after the unborn baby flipped the bird during a 4D scan.

After coronavirus restrictions stopped Jess Johnson’s finance David Lewis, 23, from being able to attend scans, she paid for a private 30-week scan so he could see their baby.

Jess, 24, and David were shocked to see their son stick his middle finger up during the scan.

The couple also captured images of their baby yawning and covering up his face.

‘It was nice for my partner to see him as well, as I don’t think he would have believed me if I told him what he did,’ said Jess, who’s from Nantwich in Cheshire.

‘We went in and they started scanning me. He was a bit shy. He’d been shy in previous scans but he was covering his face up and giving a few yawns as if to say he was getting tired now.

a baby flipping his parents the bird during a scan
It’s undeniable (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)

‘Towards the end of the scan, he started to cover up again as if to say, “You’ve had enough photos, now leave me alone”. We were trying to get a couple more as we didn’t have that many. 

‘Five minutes before the end he decided to give us the middle finger instead as if to say, “That’s enough mum and dad, leave me alone now”.

‘My other half saw it but didn’t immediately clock on to what happened. Me and the sonographer both looked at each other and said, “Did he just stick the finger up?”.

‘She said, “I think so”, so we went back on it. She rewound it a little bit. We were quite shocked and even she was quite shocked to be honest.

‘He sort of put it up and then put it back down as if to say, “I didn’t mean to do that”. As if he knew it was naughty but he still did it anyway, bless him.

‘Once he’s born, I will just be laughing at him more than anything, I think.’

Jess, who works as a courier, is now 38 weeks pregnant and says she and her partner can’t wait to meet their ‘cheeky’ son.

Jess said: ‘He will definitely be cheeky. We know he’s going to be a handful by the looks.

a baby yawning during a scan
He also gave a little yawn (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)

‘I’ve got two dogs as well so I can imagine it will be a crazy house with all three of them together.

‘Dave is definitely cheeky sometimes. I say he takes after his dad in every way so he’s probably like his dad. He’s definitely stubborn like his father.

‘I don’t think he’s going to come on time because, if he’s like his dad, he leaves everything to the last minute. I think he’ll be like him. It’s in his genes, bless him.’

David, from Liverpool, was thrilled to be allowed in the private scan room – where restrictions are different to hospitals – to see the little boy’s gesture.

He said: ‘I’m overwhelmed and excited to be a dad. It’s our first baby so we don’t really know what to expect.

‘It’s going to be a big life change in itself getting everything prepped and ready. We’re over the moon.

JESS JOHNSON AND DAVID LEWIS WHO ARE EXPECTING THEIR FIRST CHILD ON OCTOBER 25
Jess and David ‘can’t wait for him to be here’ (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)

‘I was emotional when I first saw him. It went from literally a scan picture from Jess’s first scan, and it looked nothing like a baby.

‘Then when I went into the first scan and there was a fully grown baby with full features, it was crazy how much he had changed in that little space of time. It was really overwhelming.

‘I did see the moment where he flashed the middle finger on the scan. I laughed. I was shocked – even the lady doing the scan couldn’t believe it.

‘I think she took a picture herself because she couldn’t believe what he’d done. He takes after his dad. He’s probably going to be a little terror if he takes after me.

‘I’ve showed [the scan photo] to friends and family, to everyone. A lot of people came up to me and said, “That scan is amazing”. It’s had a lot of attention.

‘Everyone has been shocked in a good way at how he’s managed to do this.

‘We can’t wait for him to be here. It’s life-changing. It’s going to be amazing.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk

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