I would never tell anyone that there are positives to experiencing homelessness. But equally, I think it’s important to look back at experiences of adversity, and consider what they taught us. Looking back, my experiences of homelessness made me far more resilient. They enabled me to look at tough situations as things I can get through rather than just things I have to accept. And they’ve taught me that to make it through, you have to truly believe you can find a solution.Resilience can take many forms, but broadly it means we develop coping mechanisms and maintain balance in what could otherwise be overwhelming situations. It means the ability to stay calm in the face of a crisis. Something I know about first-hand.It’s without a doubt terrifying when you don’t know where you will be sleeping from one night to the next, but when it’s your only option you have to just get on with it. Fight or flight takes over, and without knowing it you’re on autopilot.When you’re expecting to stay in the same place all weekend and then you’re told with half an hours notice you have to leave, there is literally nothing you can do about it. At first that lack of control is hard to deal with, but you realise that kicking off or trying to fight it will only make things worse for you. The only way to deal with it is to focus on the few things you can control, your attitude, your mindset, and getting through one hour at a time. You have to learn to accept the things you can’t control, including the unpleasant feelings and emotions that undoubtedly come with any experience of homelessness. You get to a point where you realise you can’t avoid them; you just have to let them pass. When you get put in a hostel with 18 other young people where drugs and antisocial behaviour are commonplace, it changes how you view the world.When you get put in a hostel with 18 other young people where drugs and antisocial behaviour are commonplace, it changes how you view the world. It makes you realise that while everyone is responsible for their own behaviour, they are not responsible for many of the often traumatic things they have been through, which have a direct affect on their attitudes, thoughts and actions. Often people have very few options, and you can never judge the choices someone makes when you don’t know what options they had to begin with. While you come to understand that everyone you’re living with is dealing with a tough situation the only ways they know how, it doesn’t make it any easier when you’re living it. You have to learn to live with the constant noise, arguments and fighting and the fear that brings, because what other option do you have? Things will kick off. It’s inevitable when so many young people are living under the same roof, so you can’t show weakness; it can and will be used against you – your sexuality, your mental health, the fact that your best friend died recently, anything that will get a reaction. At first you react. How could you not? Eventually you learn that whilst it’s hurtful, it’s also coming from a place of hurt – they want to get to you, but they don’t really mean it. It makes you more responsible for your own behaviour when you realise how much of an impact other people’s behaviour has on you. You have to respond positively and treat everyone how you want to be treated, even if it’s not reciprocated. You have to stand up for yourself otherwise people will walk all over you. Whether it’s saying no to drugs or lending someone money, people will take advantage of your kindness, but that doesn’t mean you should stop being kind.  At times the fear takes over and will continue to if you let it, but sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself will get you nowhere. You have to be proactive, come up with your own solutions and make the best of bad situations. It’s safe to say that the things I learnt whilst I was experiencing homelessness helped me massively during six months of lockdown.Services that are stretched beyond their means will give up on you; they will pass you off to the next charity. But it teaches you that no matter how many people give up on you, you must never give up on yourself. You have to have your own back even if no-one else does.It’s safe to say that the things I learnt whilst I was experiencing homelessness helped me massively during six months of lockdown. I was able to stay calm and develop coping mechanisms to deploy when my usual support networks weren’t available. I was also aware that many of the things I was seeing online we’re fuelled by fear as so many people we’re suddenly living in fight-or-flight, and I know what that’s like. I was used to the unknown, so I found not knowing how long I’d be stuck inside, or unable to see my friends for, easier than a lot of people. Resilience isn’t something you either have or you don’t, it’s something we can actively choose to build and work on.  It’s about coping in tough situations, but also about adaptation and positive growth.Anyone who has experienced homelessness will tell you that it doesn’t define them, however some of the thing’s homelessness teaches us, such as resilience, do and will continue to define us. It can be hard knowing that we can never forget tough experiences, and obviously I couldn’t choose not to experience it. Some days I wish more than anything I could forget, but I know I can’t, so I choose to use what the experience taught me as a force for good. Hannah Green is a writer, speaker and lived experiences specialist at the Centre for Homelessness Impact. Follow her on Twitter at @h_green21More from HuffPost UK Personal I’m An NHS Doctor. Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories Are Making Our Job Harder I'm Young, I Have MS, And I'm Worried How I Fit Into A Post-Covid World Pubs Like Mine Have Become Scapegoats For The Government’s Covid Failures
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People in Wales say a rule banning supermarkets from selling non-essential goods during the country’s 17-day “firebreak” lockdown is confusing – and could damage people’s mental health. On Thursday, the nation’s first minister Mark Drakeford said the rule was a “simple matter of fair play” for hundreds of small businesses that have been forced to close under lockdown restrictions. “We are looking to minimise the amount of time that people spend out of their homes during this two-week period,” he added. “This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods.”According to guidance published on Friday afternoon – just hours before the lockdown is set to begin – the list of “non-essential” supermarket aisles that must be closed off includes electrical goods, telephones and clothes. Toys and games, products for the garden and homeware products also made the list. A photo circulating on Twitter showed a supermarket shelf, seemingly stocked with bedding, being covered with plastic.  You absolute tool @[email protected] covering what YOU THINK are non essential items. So what happens if my child is sick or has an accident and I need to replace the quilt. #steptofar#lockdown#walespic.twitter.com/9gRtSN8w0P— Danielle Jones (@sullydano1) October 23, 2020But people living in Wales have slammed the new regulation as a “step too far”. Carl Twinney, who lives in Bridgend, told HuffPost UK it felt as if the government was “punishing” people during lockdown. “What’s more worrying to me is I think it’ll have a big effect on mental health,” the 27-year-old said. “Sometimes when you’re struggling to pass the time, you need things to help keep your brain active like DVDs, PlayStation or Xbox games or puzzles. “Or maybe you just fancy treating yourself to help cope with low mood – treating yourself may sound silly but it counts as self care and that’s one of the most important things to do to keep going during a lockdown.” Twinney also questioned how the move would protect small businesses, with people still able to order items online. “It’s just going to push people to order stuff from online retailers that deliver within 24 hours, so smaller businesses will suffer either way,” he said. A confused, last minute announcement that will simply send business to Amazon instead of the Welsh economy. Mark Drakeford thinks no-one needs to buy a hairdryer before 9 November but if mine blew up, I would! And now I’d buy it from Amazon.— Gill Phillips (@GillyMac99) October 23, 2020It’s a concern echoed by Gill Phillips, who called it a “confused, last minute announcement that will simply send business to Amazon instead of the Welsh economy”. “Mark Drakeford thinks no-one needs to buy a hairdryer before November 9 but if mine blew up, I would. And now I would buy it from Amazon.” Meanwhile, Susie – who is retired and lives in Prestatyn – said the new rule would hit the poorest in society the hardest: “Those with the least who have to live on day-to-day and for whom everything is a struggle at the best of times.”“It’s ok for people who can afford to order online when their child needs some new trousers because he’s ripped his or some pants or warm socks.” But for the poorest families, clothes from the supermarket are often the most affordable option, she said. Susie added: “I am just so angry at the Senedd thinking it can decide what is essential in people’s lives and yet classing alcohol as essential. So a bottle of designer gin is fine, a coat for a child isn’t?” The circuit-breaker lockdown in Wales – which is due to begin at 6pm on Friday and end on November 9 – comes amid a spike in coronavirus cases across the UK. On Friday, 20,530 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the UK – 761 of which were in Wales.As of Thursday, there were 546 coronavirus patients in hospital in the country, 47 of whom were on ventilators. As the second national lockdown for Wales loomed on Friday, Drakeford said the measures “are about saving lives, not Christmas”.“That’s the seriousness of the position we are in,” the first minister said. “Our ambition is we will not need to have this level of restriction again in Wales before Christmas.“I want shops to be able to trade. I want people to be able to prepare. I want to offer people some hope that, provided we all do the right things, then we will still be able to enjoy a version of the holiday that we would have otherwise enjoyed.” Related... Revealed: Number Of Covid Patients On Ventilators Nearing Pandemic-High At 4 NHS Trusts Hope As Coronavirus R Rate Drops Slightly To Between 1.2 And 1.4
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The number of coronavirus patients on ventilators is already nearing the figure recorded at the peak of the pandemic at a handful of NHS trusts in England, new data have revealed. Figures published by NHS England on Thursday show there are four trusts where the number of mechanical ventilation beds occupied by Covid-19 patients is approaching the highest figure recorded between April and the start of October. It does not mean these trusts are close to being overwhelmed – but it’s an indicator of how the second wave of the virus is developing in England. Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were among those where the number of mechanical ventilation beds occupied by coronavirus patients is at 75% or more of the highest recorded figure. Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Trust and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust also made the list. NHS England said it was vital the public did everything they could to try and control the spread of the virus.Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Peak number of ventilator beds occupied with Covid patients during first wave: 14 (April 14)Number of ventilator beds occupied October 20: 12 (85.6% of peak)  Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation TrustPeak number of ventilator beds occupied with Covid patients during first wave: 27 (April 5)Number of ventilator beds occupied October 20: 23 (85% of peak)  Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS TrustPeak number of ventilator beds occupied with Covid patients during first wave: 21 (April 5)Number of ventilator beds occupied October 20: 17 (80.9% of peak)  East Lancashire Hospitals NHS TrustPeak number of ventilator beds occupied with Covid patients during first wave: 25 (April 7)Number of ventilator beds occupied October 20: 19 (76% of peak)  It comes as England faces a second wave of Covid-19, with swathes of the country under additional restrictions in a bid to get the virus under control. On Tuesday, 26,688 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in the UK – the highest figure since records began. Almost 23,000 of these cases were in England. According to government data, there were 601 coronavirus patients in England in mechanical ventilation beds as of October 23.Kevin McGee, chief executive of the East Lancashire Hospital, said that the “huge rise” in infection rates across the north-west was having an impact on the trust and its ICU. But he added: “Our critical care capacity is fluid and we have the flexibility to expand and contract as required, dependent upon the acuity of our patients.“We have robust plans in place which we have escalated to ensure we can accommodate the growing numbers and also to prepare effectively for the coming winter months.” McGee was quick to emphasise the importance of the public following coronavirus guidance, including social distancing, washing their hands, covering their faces and making space.“It is absolutely essential that everybody reading this understands the seriousness of the situation,” he said.  In a separate response on behalf of hospitals across Lancashire and South Cumbria – including Blackpool – McGee emphasised that while NHS services are “under a huge amount of pressure”, they remain open. “As a result of the increases in Covid admissions in our hospitals, it is important that we are continuing to provide services for our patients for treatments such as cancer and routine appointments and patient safety remains of the highest importance,” he said.“It’s important that anyone with concerns continue to come forward for help and treatment.” In a statement, a spokesperson for NHS England told HuffPost UK: “Coronavirus cases and hospital admissions are rising and so it is vital everyone does what they can to control the virus, particularly by following government guidelines.“Social distancing is the first line of defence, followed by the test and trace programme, but if infection still then spreads, the NHS has no choice but to activate local and regional escalation plans.” Related... Hope As Coronavirus R Rate Drops Slightly To Between 1.2 And 1.4 Has Boris Johnson’s Test And Trace Gone Beyond The Point Of No Return?
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There is no doubt that Marcus Rashford is a hero. A 22-year-old playing professional football for his country, after growing up in child poverty is an incredible story.And, despite the ad hominem attacks by Tory MPs in Parliament – accusing Rashford of being a celebrity merely “virtue-signalling” – he has kept his head held high, expertly highlighting the humanity deficit in British politics by rising above their attempts to politicise poor children.Indeed, I myself grew up in child poverty on a council estate in Birmingham, and relied on free school meals at various points during my childhood to get by, so I know, first-hand, how vital they are. Related... Marcus Rashford Is Tweeting Out Every Place Offering Kids Free Meals No.10 Keeps Refusing To Praise Businesses For Offering Free Meals To Children That’s why the necessity of Rashford’s campaign horrifies me. That a footballer has to lead a campaign to feed hungry children because his government refuses to, that struggling businesses are stepping in to give what little they have to help our nation’s kids, is not and must not be seen as a victory for humanity – it’s a tragedy. We are currently facing the biggest global recession in history. Businesses up and down the country are struggling to weather the storm, and millions find themselves completely left out by the government’s economic support.And it is now these businesses that are having to step in to provide food for starving children with what little they have left. We’re also seeing underfunded local councils and authorities stepping forward such as Manchester and Birmingham – Rashford and I’s cities respectively – to try and help.These are areas that have publicly, and, at times, explosively, stated that they need more financial support than the government is offering to prevent a spike in poverty during the pandemic. Because, like Covid-19, child poverty in the UK is a national crisis.Related... Five Baffling Reasons Tories Have Given For Voting Against Free School Meals At present, 4.2 million children live in relative poverty in the UK – with 2.4 million in absolute poverty. It is becoming such an issue that the UN described it as “systemic and tragic” in 2019 – and that was before the economic crisis we’re in now.The government was failing our nation’s children even before the pandemic hit. But now they have compounded their moral bankruptcy by choosing to continue to ignore them.These children cannot vote, do not have a platform, and cannot speak for themselves. Indeed, it is this that led Rashford to say: “For as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.”So, when I see Rashford tweeting constantly over the course of the last 24 hours with various places across the country that are offering to feed children, I can’t help but feel despair that this is happening in the sixth wealthiest nation in the world.So, while I support Rashford’s campaign, and all those sacrificing what little they have to help children, I also despair at its necessity.How is it that a 22-year-old footballer has more humanity than the House of Commons? And my despair is deepened by the rhetoric coming out of the government during this bleak and desperate time. Conservatives presented arguments against feeding children in the run up to the vote on free school meals, saying they can’t “nationalise children”, “create dependencies”, “wreck” the economy, or “take responsibility from parents”.Not only are these statements disingenuous, barefaced lies, they completely overlook the fact that 72% of children living in poverty are in working households. And have they forgotten that the state has a responsibility to ensure there is food for children, as outlined under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. But things don’t have to be this way – despite what the government says.Scotland this year announced its intention to enshrine the convention in Scots law, which would make it illegal for the government to stand idly by in the face of child food poverty.Nicola Sturgeon has announced that children will continue to be fed over the holidays, as well as the policy of parents being provided with £10 food vouchers per child. Let’s be clear: Rashford’s campaign is an emergency measure to prevent a catastrophe of the government’s making.Unlike the Conservative government, the Scottish Parliament show how the rights of children should not be an ideological game or political football; these are children’s lives, and futures.Statistics show that children in food poverty have worse outcomes; from malnutrition, to the ability to concentrate in the classroom, food insecurity has serious long-term social, economic, and health consequences. And, as Rashford says, child food poverty “is never the child’s fault”. So, while I support Rashford’s campaign, and all those sacrificing what little they have to help children, I also despair at its necessity.We must make sure the government do not see the kindness of the British public as an opportunity to continue their shameless and wanton negligence of their responsibilities to the nation’s children.Because, let’s be clear: Rashford’s campaign is an emergency measure to prevent a catastrophe of the government’s making. The enduring, structural change we need can only come from the top – from a government that puts the lives of children before their ideologically toxic and morally bankrupt approach to child food poverty.  Nadine Batchelor Hunt is a freelance journalist.Got a unique opinion on a news story that will help cut through the noise? We want to hear from you. Find out what we’re looking for here and pitch us on [email protected] in Opinion... Opinion: Angela Rayner Was Right To Give Scummy Behaviour The Name It Deserves Opinion: The Tier System Is Doomed To Fail – But There Is A Way Out Opinion: Boris Johnson Knew Test And Trace Wasn't World Beating – And Ignored it Opinion: Andy Burnham Was Right To Demand Better. And He Speaks For The Rest Of The Country Too
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People will die if the Home Office goes ahead with planned immigration rules allowing non-UK nationals to be deported for sleeping rough, outreach workers have warned. The government is set to introduce new powers at the end of the Brexit transition period that would mean rough sleepers’ UK status could be cancelled or refused if they turn down offers of support or engage in “persistent anti-social behaviour”. According to the Home Office – which insisted the rule would be used “sparingly” – this behaviour could include “aggressive begging” and street drinking. The proposed regulation has sparked a huge wave of anger from homelessness campaigners and charities, who say it will “dehumanise and criminalise” people for not having a home. Jon Glackin, who runs outreach project Streets Kitchen, called it a “vile, evil proposal”. “This will strike fear among all rough sleepers – people will be afraid to access services,” he told HuffPost UK. “People will die because of this.” This could happen in the UK, or after they’re sent back to their home country, he said.  “We know people who have been sent back to Poland – cold countries – and have died on the streets.” The Outside Project has also raised concerns about what the new policy could mean for LGBTQ+ people sleeping rough, who face being sent back to countries which are becoming “increasingly hostile” to people from their community. “The Home Office is becoming increasingly hostile to migrants, but for some people a return to their country is extremely unsafe,” said outreach worker Harry Gay.“This is a disgraceful, harsh and deeply unethical policy announcement,” added Matt Turtle, from the Museum of Homelessness. “Not only that, but four years ago a similar move by the government was ruled unlawful by the High Court so it is very upsetting that they are trying to resurrect this flawed idea.”He continued: “The targeting of marginalised and destitute people who already face huge problems because of the hostile environment needs to end, and we will work tirelessly to make that happen.” Meanwhile, Glackin said that the government’s insistence that only people who refuse support will be affected was also misleading. “With all homelessness services, generally you are given one single offer.” Often, that offer is not suitable – or could put the person sleeping rough at risk, he said.  This could be a woman offered housing in Manchester because she has connections in the area, despite the fact she has fled to London to escape her abusive partner. Or it could be someone with a drug issue offered a bed in a shelter that’s “full of drugs”.“If you refuse that offer, that’s you taken out of the system,” Glackin said. The new rule – which is set to come into force on January 1 – is made even more cruel by coming at a time when the UK is facing “a tsunami of homelessness”, Glackin said. “It’s going to be a dire winter.“We’re seeing more and more people losing their jobs, more and more people not being able to pay their rent, more and more homeless people.” It’s a thought that has been echoed by shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds. “These plans would be appalling at any moment, but what makes it even worse is putting this forward as we face the deepest recession in generations and in the middle of a global pandemic,” the Labour frontbencher said in a statement. “It’s completely unacceptable and tells you all you need to know about this morally bankrupt Tory government.”Homelessness charity Crisis said the government must end rough sleeping in the UK by offering housing and support, “rather than threatening deportation”. The Home Office’s new policy will push people facing homelessness “further into the fringe of society, rather than encouraging them to seek support”, chief executive Jon Sparkes said. “We know through our services that people who have no recourse to public funds because of their immigration status have little or no access to support in the first place, and are forced into rough sleeping if they are unable to work,” he explained.“This is a situation that will only worsen as the economic impact of the pandemic begins to bite.” A spokesperson for the government said ministers were “committed to transforming the lives of some of the most vulnerable in society and to ending rough sleeping for good”.“This year alone the government is spending over £700 million in total to tackle homelessness,” they said.  “The new rules provide a discretionary basis to cancel or refuse a person’s leave where they are found to be rough sleeping and refuse offers of support or are engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour. “The new provision will be used sparingly and only where individuals refuse to engage with the range of support available.” Related... Rough Sleepers Face Choosing Between 'Horrific' Violence On Streets Or Catching Coronavirus A Guide For Young Homeless LGBTQ+ People And Their Allies Use Empty Office Blocks To Solve Winter Homeless Shelter Crisis, Say Campaigners Opinion: Lockdown Shows We Can Defeat Homelessness – If We Care Enough
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People who have noticed an unusual or persistent symptom like a lump, bleeding, weight loss or pain that can’t be explained during the pandemic are being urged to see their GPs. It comes as a survey by Cancer Research UK found more than half (53%) of GPs say they are concerned fewer older adults are contacting them with symptoms compared to before the pandemic.Other groups they were worried about hearing less from included patients with learning difficulties (40%), those whose first language is not English (35%), people from poorer backgrounds (23%), ethnic minorities (22%) and those with existing health conditions (21%).Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s GP advisor, said GP surgeries and hospitals are changing the way they do things to keep patients and staff safe – and people should be reassured it’s safe to visit them. The first contact is likely to be by phone, and where appropriate, a face-to-face appointment will follow.Related... ‘I Had Ovarian Cancer, Then Coronavirus. But I’m Still Determined To Be A Mum’ “If you’ve noticed an unusual or persistent symptom like a lump, bleeding, weight loss or pain you can’t explain, tell your doctor, we do want to hear from you,” said Dr Roope. “In most cases it won’t be cancer, but if it is, catching it early gives the best chance of successful treatment. For those who’ve been unable to get through to your surgery, I would encourage you to keep trying.”The findings come from a September survey of 1,000 UK GPs who were asked to compare their experience to before the pandemic.While some progress has been made since the first monthly survey in June, with fewer GPs reporting reductions in the number of patients contacting them (62% in June compared to 29% in September), GPs are still concerned some groups may not be coming forward to get the help they need.That’s not to say it’s easy getting an appointment, however – some patients told Cancer Research UK they’ve faced difficulties making one. Age is the biggest risk factor for cancer and every year more than a third (36%) of all cancer cases in the UK are diagnosed in people aged 75 and over. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, however, the better the chance of survival.Covid-19 is making cancer diagnosis more challenging, and progress to see fewer patients diagnosed late is likely to be held up.The pandemic has had a huge impact on cancer services across the board. Patients have faced delays and altered modes of screening, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as disrupted follow-up and palliative care.Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said the government needs to act now to help cancer patients. “With a backlog of patients to get through, the NHS needs the support of government now more than ever, so that people can get the care they need,” she said.“The upcoming spending review is the perfect opportunity for the government to act and provide the equipment and staff required.”HuffPost UK has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for comment and is waiting to hear back. Related... The Pandemic Put Our Grief On Hold. Here's How We're Coping Why Am I Tired All The Time? We Asked A Doctor When To Seek Help Seeing Red? Here's What To Do If You're Bleeding From Your Bum
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Atlas Obscura, the media and experiences company that promises to take travelers off the beaten path, has expanded its board of directors to include former Marriott global marketing officer Karin Timpone alongside former HuffPost editor in chief Lydia Polgreen. Both are expected to help Atlas Obscura grow in an uncertain environment as the brand's heavy...
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A cat who escaped from a cattery has finally been reunited with his loving family – eight years after he first went missing. Mo the cat was staying on the outskirts of Swansea eight years ago, while his humans went on holiday for a week. While one of the family’s cats, Tibby, was waiting for them on their return, they were devastated to find Mo had gone missing.“We were utterly shocked and heartbroken when we found out that the cattery had lost Mo, our little black cat,” says Izzy Harris, who was a teenager when her beloved moggy, then three, went missing.Harris and her parents searched for months for their little pet – printing flyers and posters, knocking on doors and putting adverts in the newspaper hoping to find him. But they also knew there was a slim chance they’d see him again, as the cattery was so far from their home.Related... Why Black Cats Are No Longer Being Overlooked For Adoption “I was 15 at the time, and losing Mo really took a blow to my mental health,” Harris, who is a student mental health nurse and blogger, tells HuffPost UK.“There was something so horrible about imagining him alone and frightened in a scary place he didn’t know.“The cattery was by some really busy main roads as well so we couldn’t stop picturing the worst, that he’d been hit by a car and that we’d never know.”After months of looking, the family accepted he was gone, but clung to the idea he’d found someone else to live with and look after him – and they were right!Mo had moved in with an elderly lady who lived near to the cattery. On October 21, the Harris family received a call from a volunteer at the Llys Nini RSPCA branch, from where they’d adopted Mo when he was a kitten.“They said they had found a cat matching Mo’s microchip, and that he’d been living with an old lady near where he got lost,” says Harris, now 23.“Unfortunately, the lady had passed away and the RSPCA had come to collect her cat, when they matched him with his original home – us!”Harris and Mo, who is now 11 years old, were properly reunited on October 22 and the RSPCA’s Paula Milton said returning him was one of her “best ever jobs” as an animal rescue officer.“It’s incredible to have reunited Mo with his family some eight years on. We all need some good news at the moment,” she said, adding that Mo’s “incredible” story is a reminder about the “amazing power” of microchipping.“A tiny microchip can make a huge difference. Mo is a great example of how pets can be returned home years and years later – all thanks to identifying an animal in this way. We’re absolutely thrilled to see Mo settling back into his new home – and he has already taken Izzy’s social media by storm!”The black cat has a lot of catching up to do – the family now has three other rescue cats. “We can’t ever thank the RSPCA enough for bringing home our little one,” says Harris. “I feel incredibly relieved but also, so hopeful. If this can happen, anything can. It’s made me see the world more positively.”As for Mo, he couldn’t be happier, she says: “He’s settled in so well, it’s like he never left. He is just as we remember him. He doesn’t want to leave our side.”I can’t believe he remembers us! He’s just as he was when he went missing! pic.twitter.com/qX1s8oqsvT— IzzyWanders (@Izzy_Wanders) October 22, 2020Related... Cheeky Cat Returns Home With Hilarious Note From Toby Carvery Around Its Neck 'Slow-Blinking' May Help Humans Bond With Cats 5 Signs Your Cat Genuinely Bonded With You During Lockdown
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possible pic >  England’s tiered lockdown system, designed to simplify the rules and restrictions around coronavirus, appears to be causing even more confusion.Since the tier system came into effect  it has been unclear what areas can do to move back down to lower tiers with fewer restrictions.This has fuelled growing unease among members of the public and MPs alike.Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, recently urged the government to “set a clear end date and a strategy for returning life to normal”.While we don’t yet have any firm details of a clear end date, here’s what we know – however vague – about how areas can move back to lower tiers.So, how can areas move down a tier?Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, Boris Johnson confirmed the way for areas to get out of the higher tiered restrictions is to “get the R [rate] down to 1 or below”.As well as following the rules of their specific tier, people should keep washing hands, wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, and maintaining a sensible distance from others, he said.However when pushed on the finer details of the tier exit strategy by Labour leader Keir Starmer, there was not a huge amount of clarity offered. “Obviously the R is one of the measures we look at,” Johnson said, “and we will take a decision based on a number of things including the R but also, of course, rates of infection, rates of admission to hospital and other data.”Health minister Edward Argar was also asked about the criteria that impact whether or not a region can exit the tier it are in, and said the government will look at the area’s infection rates per 100,000 people, the impact on the NHS in terms of hospital capacity and hospitalisation rates, as well as relying on knowledge from local public health officials.“Areas in tier 3 or tier 2 will remain in those areas as long as is necessary to protect the health of the local people and the NHS in that region,” he said.The prime minister said when areas enter a new tier, they are “only in there for 28 days” before the government will review an area’s position within that tier.“Areas that have gone into tier 3, I believe, are already making progress and areas where there are restrictions in place are already showing signs of progress,” he added.Does the government have an exit strategy?As it stands, UK Covid-19 cases are continuing to rise, alongside hospitalisations and deaths. This week, the UK recorded 241 Covid-related deaths in a single 24-hour period, the highest number since the start of June.The lack of clarity surrounding how places like Greater Manchester might move back down a tier has left many wondering if and when they’ll be able to see loved ones again, and is causing a great deal of concern over how people will afford to live if they can’t work for months on end. “Tier 3 is a gateway to weeks and weeks, more likely months and months, of agony from which there’s no likely exit,” Starmer told the Commons. “Can the prime minister not see the problem if there isn’t a clear exit?”The measures for Greater Manchester will be reviewed by November 11, HuffPost UK understands.Related... Greater Manchester Forced Into Tier 3 Lockdown After Talks With Government Collapse Data on the spread of the virus across local areas is being monitored and then used to provide advice and recommendations on areas of intervention to ministers. After consultation with local authorities and leaders, the government makes a final decision on the appropriate tier for each area.In response to HuffPost UK’s request for comment on the matter, a government spokesperson said: “The Covid Alert Levels simplify and strengthen rules to help protect lives and reduce the transmission of the virus, whilst minimising the impact to livelihoods and the economy.“Decisions are made in close consultation with local leaders and public health experts, informed by the latest evidence from the JBC and NHS Test and Trace, PHE and the Chief Medical Officer for England.“We constantly review the evidence and discuss measures with local Directors of Public Health and local authorities, and do not wish for restrictions to be in place for longer than is necessary.”Are there alternatives to the tier system?Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have implemented a range of heavier, albeit temporary, lockdown measures to try and reduce infections – a method referred to as a ‘circuit breaker’. The aim is to try and reduce the R rate and prevent health services from being overwhelmed.The option of a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown in England hasn’t been ruled out, however there is a reluctance from the UK government to resort to this measure, because some areas have a much lower number of infections than others.England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam acknowledged this week that infections are “heating up” across the country but said the virus was only “out of control” in some areas, mainly concentrated in the north, so a national circuit breaker lockdown wouldn’t be right.There are some experts who believe the tiered system isn’t having much of an effect. Independent Sage points out that cases have continued to rise despite the introduction of tiers “and although cases are highest in the North of England, they are rising rapidly across the country”.“We do not believe the current tiered system is sufficient to reverse the growth of the pandemic,” the independent panel of scientists said. Related... Why England Might Get A Circuit Breaker Anyway, Despite What Boris Says Professor Deenan Pillay, an expert in virology at University College London and a member of Independent Sage, tells HuffPost UK he believes there should now be a national circuit breaker, along the lines of the two-week circuit breaker introduced in Wales.Everyone in Wales is currently required to stay at home – this means working from home where possible, with the only exceptions being critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible. All non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses have also been forced to close.Prof Pillay says: “The varying tiers [in England] are a blunt instrument for an infection which is rapidly spreading in all parts of the UK – albeit with varying numbers at present. It just makes no sense to wait until hospitals are starting to fill up, and deaths increase, to clamp down on the infection.” Instead, he says, we should be focusing on preventing that rise. Why test-and-trace matters just as muchScientists have been calling for improvements to the test and trace system in England for some time now, arguing that it is one of the key ways to keep cases down. At the start of October, the service reported its worst ever figures for tracking down “close contacts” of people with Covid.“The apparent dichotomy between protecting the economy on the one hand, and stopping virus spread on the other, is false,” says Prof Pillay. “Those countries which have implemented the most stringent lockdown, and have a fully functioning test and trace system, are those whose economies have fared the best.” Singapore, for example, has recorded fewer than 30 deaths despite almost 60,000 confirmed cases, which experts believe is down to its effective rapid test-and-trace programme.Currently, there isn’t a single part of England that would be classed as “safe” from coronavirus using the government’s own threshold for quarantining overseas travellers.When will the tier system end then? Ultimately, we just don’t know. Professor David Hunter, Richard Doll Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at the University of Oxford, tells HuffPost UK that “from an epidemiological perspective it might appear to make sense to have a tiered system, but from a social and political perspective it does not seem to be working very well”.Prof Hunter says it’s “impossible” to say how long the tier system will be in place “because the government has been conducting a series of U-turns at regular intervals for almost the whole of the epidemic”.“If the question is whether the system of tiers is going to control the epidemic, my expectation is that we would all wind up in tier 3 eventually,” he says.“It’s just a matter of time before tier 2 places become tier 3, and tier 1 places become tier 2, because the evidence is the epidemic is increasing across the country, it has just started with a higher baseline in the areas that are currently tier 3.”He says a nationwide ‘circuit breaker’ would “make more sense at this point” and would potentially stop tier 1 areas moving up to tier 2, “so it would be a benefit to the whole country” – but he caveats that it wouldn’t be easy (due to the obvious economic and mental health implications) and that we’d almost certainly need another circuit breaker in the future.We also need a fully functioning test, trace and isolate system that is “decentralised and effective”, he points out (not for the first time, either). For those wondering whether to make plans for the foreseeable future, Prof Hunter believes that realistically we won’t see an end to the restrictions and measures until well into 2021. “We won’t get to herd immunity without a vaccine, and I think no-one is ready to let the NHS be overwhelmed,” he says.“So we are stuck with intermittent lockdowns or ‘circuit breakers’ until the weather gets better in the late spring or early summer and we can be outdoors again and that does seem to help limit transmission.”Another way to return to normality is to have a vaccine widely available, he adds. But he estimates suggest that’ll be “Q2 or Q3 next year at best”.Related... This Is How Bad The Coronavirus Picture Is In Greater Manchester These Are The Places With The Highest And Lowest Covid-19 Infection Rates In England Covid-19 Has 7 Key Strains. Here's What You Need To Know
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Black Lives Matter has hit back at a Conservative minister after she branded the movement as “anti-capitalist” and “political”, and claimed teachers who present the idea of white privilege as a fact to their students are breaking the law.Kemi Badenoch, the women and equalities minister, told MPs on Tuesday: “We do not want to see teachers teaching their pupils about white privilege and their inherited racial guilt.“And let me be clear, any school which teaches these elements of political race theory as fact, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.“But why does this issue mean so much to me? It is not just because I’m a first generation immigrant, it is because my daughter came home from school this month and said ‘we’re learning Black History Month because every other month is about white history’.“This is wrong and this is not what our children should be picking up. These are not the values I have taught her.”Badenoch also told MPs that a White Black Lives Matter protester called a Black armed police officer guarding Downing Street during this summer’s protests a “pet n*****”.She added that examples such as this are why the Conservatives “do not endorse that movement”.Responding to the general debate on Black History Month in the Commons, Badenoch said: “Some schools have decided to openly support the anti-capitalist Black Lives Matter group – often fully aware that they have the statutory duty to be politically impartial.“Black lives do matter, of course they do, but we know that the Black Lives Matter movement – capital B, L, M – is political.”Alex Kelbert, a spokesperson for Black Lives Matter UK, told HuffPost UK: “Whether or not it is taught in schools, white privilege is real because racism is real.“Racism is real in our healthcare system, where black mothers are five times more likely to die during pregnancy.“Racism is real in our schools, where Black Caribbean pupils are nearly twice as likely to be excluded as white pupils.“Racism is real when we apply for a job, or try to rent a house or take home on average 21.7% less pay than our white counterparts.“BLM is proud to be political, but it is the Conservative party that is playing politics. They try to deny the racism we can see with our own eyes.“We will continue to fight this divisive politics through our organisation and alongside the wider movement.”Related... MI5 Chief Says Black Lives Matter Movement Shone Light On Racism Within The Agency How Boris Johnson's Vow To Tackle Race Inequality Stands A Year On BAME People Pleaded For Help During The Coronavirus Pandemic. This Is How They Were Let Down
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How would you feel if you settled down to eat your favourite meal, only to find out that your beef had been pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones, or your chicken was reared in such cramped, unhealthy conditions it had to be washed with chlorine to remove bacteria before it was safe to eat, or that your bread was made using grains that had been sprayed with pesticides banned in the UK?On Monday there is a really important debate happening in Parliament as the Agriculture Bill returns to the House of Commons.For the first time in almost 50 years, we have the opportunity to develop our own agricultural policy, and we need to see MPs doing everything they can to ensure we have the foundation to continue to build a sustainable food and farming sector.At a time when we are fundamentally reassessing our trading relationship with the world, we have to ask ourselves: what do we want for the future of food production in this country?Do we want a food and farming industry that is renowned around the world for its quality products and its first class welfare and climate-friendly production?Or do we want to be known on the world stage as a country that betrays its values in the pursuit of trade deals?For me, it’s a no-brainer. But with trade discussions already ongoing with multiple countries including the likes of Australia, New Zealand and, of course, the US, and only 81 days until the end if the transition period, the government is running out of time to make its stance clear in legislation. We’re getting to crunch time.Our children and grandchildren are going to inherit the legacy of the decisions we make about our food this week.Will they thank us for waving away our own high food standards in the pursuit of trade deals that could see food imported into the UK it would be illegal to produce here?Farmers in this country take great pride in producing food to some of the highest standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety in the world, and we know the people who buy our food trust and value the quality we place under the Union Jack.As well as being president of the NFU, I am also a beef farmer; I know the time, care and attention it takes to rear top quality, climate-friendly meat. Simply put, I take care of my animals and I look after the land around me. This is what our customers rightly expect and as food producers we don’t want to deliver anything less.But not everywhere in the world has the same values we do, and not everywhere in the world produces food to the same standard.Chlorinated chicken and hormone treated beef are just a couple of examples of practices not allowed here. But the reality is that you could be eating them in the coming years. It’s the reality we face if our elected MPs aren’t given stronger powers to properly scrutinise new trade deals.It’s essential that the newly formed Trade and Agriculture Commission is given the formal role to advise Parliament on the impact of any new trade deal. If the government continues to oppose this, there will be no meaningful opportunity for scrutiny over what these deals will mean for the way the food on our plates is produced.And I know this is an issue that matters massively to people.Back in June, more than a million of you made your voices heard by signing our petition, which called for a trade commission to be set up to oversee new trade deals – and ensure imported food, produced to standards that would be illegal here, is kept out. Given a million people believe this issue is so important, their elected MP must be able to have their say.British food and farming has a fantastic story to tell but warm words will not protect our farmers or shoppers if trade deals are struck that undermine our standards, the very foundations on which we have built our world-leading reputation.Giving the commission a formal role, to scrutinise trade deals and report back to parliament before they can be signed, will.So in the debate on Monday, we need to see MPs recognising the importance of strengthening the Commission’s role, and pushing for a solution to ensure they have a voice in future trade deals.Because it’s not just their voice that matters, but the constituents they represent who want to be able to tuck in to their favourite meal with confidence.Minette Batters is president of the National Farmers’ Union.Welcome to HuffPost Opinion, a dedicated space for reliable, expert commentary and analysis on the day’s biggest talking points. Got a unique angle or viewpoint on a news story that will help cut through the noise? We want to hear from you. Read more here.
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My manager asked me to come into the shop on a day I wasn’t supposed to be working. It was 5.30pm and the closed sign had been flicked around, the card spinners packed away and taken inside. I walked through the shop and into the back, where the piles of damaged books and proofs lived, and sat down on a stool. She was serious and her expression only confirmed what I already knew: I was in trouble. I had called in sick two days before, when I was supposed to be working a shift in the shop by myself. I had done the same the month before that. The reason for my absence, rather than the sick day itself, was the problem though: period pains. She went on to explain, in no uncertain terms, that taking time off work for something so trivial as the arrival of dear Aunt Flo was not the feminist thing to do.Related... Pantone Launches 'Period' Shade – And People Are Unconvinced How People With Chronic Pain Feel About The 'No Painkillers' Approach I have suspected (though not officially diagnosed) endometriosis. Every month I spend at least the first day of my period in agony, unable to do anything besides breathe deeply and desperately – in for four, out for four – clutching a hot water bottle and swallowing ibuprofen every four hours. Sometimes I get lucky and the rest of my period is manageable: I am able to work and socialise reasonably normally, only with a cocktail of painkillers in my system and the drone of discomfort deep within my lower abdomen. That first day of my cycle though, that is always an endurance test. And it is always a write-off. Sitting in the backroom of the bookshop at the age of 18 while my manager admonished me for “letting women down”, I felt simultaneously deeply ashamed and burning with indignation.I have worried endlessly that a prospective employer would prefer to hire a man (or a woman who doesn’t get bad periods) over me.I walked home wondering how on earth I was going to enter the workplace as an adult and not endlessly disappoint people. Women. The women who had come before me to forge a place in the working world where one hadn’t been before. I was letting the side down. I was showing our feminine weakness. A weakness that was so deeply feminine that men didn’t – couldn’t – understand: the simple fact that we had to bleed every month. And the fact that it hurts.It is believed that 10% of women worldwide have endometriosis, which is a condition known to cause chronic pain, bowel and bladder issues, depression and, crucially, difficulty fulfilling work commitments. Around 1.5 million women in the UK suffer from the illness, and yet the stigma and lack of awareness around it leads to those same women dragging themselves to work when they are unwell and/or lying about their reasons for taking sick days. After I left that job, on the cusp of a career I was so desperate for, I went on to work in multiple offices. In every single one, there was a culture of staying sitting at our desks as late as possible, even if we’d finished doing actual work at 5 o’clock. I personally found that the men I worked with were far more likely to take a sick day than the women. I quickly realised that if I needed to take a day off because of period pains I would have to blame it on food poisoning. Or a migraine. (Experience showed that I couldn’t blame it on a cold and then be back in the next day without so much as a runny nose). Throughout most of my early twenties I was terrified that I was constantly on the verge of giving away our womanly secret. The fact that I take a day off doesn’t take away from the good work I produce.There is still so much work to do when it comes to equality in the workplace, but strides have indeed been made by the generations before us. When we were just simply trying to get a seat at the table, admitting that we might have to rush off to the loo to change our tampon in the middle of a meeting wasn’t on the agenda. When the question wasn’t how we work, but whether we work at all, periods didn’t get a look in. That makes sense, but what has been left is a system that undervalues women who suffer with their menstrual cycle. I have worried endlessly that a prospective employer would prefer to hire a man (or a woman who doesn’t get bad periods) over me. That I am deceiving them by not announcing at my interview: “I get really bad cramps by the way.” But in doing so I am overlooking everything I have to offer – the fact that my taking a day off doesn’t take away from the good work I produce. Now, I am 28 and I am self-employed. I am my own boss and I work from home all the time. My decision to enter the turbulent world of the freelancer was not completely based on my periods – I also have mental health issues that make working for myself appealing – but it was certainly a large factor. My job was reasonably easy to shift into freelancing.But many women do not have that option. Somehow, we must create a work place that values every one of them, regardless of how heavy or painful their periods are. Claire Maxwell is a freelance writer.Got a unique opinion on a news story that will help cut through the noise? We want to hear from you. Find out what we’re looking for here and pitch us on [email protected] in Opinion: Opinion: Covid Has Reignited The North-South Divide With A Vengeance Opinion: One Year Ago, I Survived The Halle Synagogue Terror Attack. Here's Why I’m Worried About the Left Opinion: Why A Covid Vaccine Won't Be A Magic Bullet Opinion: Could The Second Wave Spark Riots? We're Entering Very Dangerous Territory
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In the upper left corner of the United States resides an inconvenient truth for President Donald Trump and his followers: A highly successful mail-in voting system.Amid a pandemic that has made in-person interactions dangerous, Trump and his allies have attempted to sow fear and uncertainty around mail-in voting even as he attends in-person rallies and events that we now know may have exposed hundreds to Covid-19. But his dangerous tall tales of fraud and tossed ballots are readily dispelled against the backdrop of Washington state’s entirely by-mail voting system. Voting by mail is the safest, most secure way to get this election done and to restore trust in a bedrock of our democracy.I know this because I chair the council for King County, Washington, which has run vote-by-mail elections for over a decade. We are the largest jurisdiction in the United States to conduct all elections by mail. Our nonpartisan regional government represents 2.2million people who live in Seattle, Bellevue and dozens of other cities and surrounding communities. And we have been voting exclusively by mail here since 2009, and statewide in Washington since 2011.This means that our elections — for president, Congress, governor, county and city councils, school boards, special districts — are all conducted fully by mail. And I can tell you without any doubt whatsoever that Trump, and those repeating his propaganda, are wrong about voting by mail. Voting by mail is simple. It works. It’s convenient and secure. It has bipartisan support. In fact, Washington state Republicans overwhelmingly support the system, including our Republican Secretary of State, who herself was elected by mail-in ballots, in our increasingly blue-trending state. Even after being inundated with months of the president’s outright lies, a new poll released last week by the respected western states research, public affairs and communications firm Strategies 360 found that a majority of conservatives in our state still support it. Our system has been reviewed and found to be very accurate. In the 2018 election, Washington state found just 142 cases of improper voting out of 3.1 million ballots cast, an error rate of 0.00004581.A well-designed vote-by-mail system is at least as secure ― and far more inclusive ― than voting in person. In Washington, we take a multitude of steps to ensure that neither ballots, nor ballot drop boxes, are tampered with. Ballots are tracked and verified. Votes are not dumped or double-counted. Only ballots from confirmed registered voters are counted. Our system has been reviewed and found to be very accurate. In the 2018 election, Washington state found just 142 cases of improper voting out of 3.1million ballots cast, an error rate of 0.00004581.In King County, the effect of our robust vote-by-mail system means voter turnout in record numbers. We saw 82% voter turnout in the 2016 general election, and 76% in 2018. Compare that with the national turnout of 61.4% in 2016 and 53.4% in 2018, according to U.S. Census Bureau records. Indeed, an August study published in Science Advances found that mail-in voting increases voter participation, often significantly. We are so confident that our system is accessible to everyone that our county’s nonpartisan elections director has credibly set an audacious voter turnout goal of 90% in this year’s general election.Voting by mail also reduces the opportunity for voter suppression through intimidation or other factors and it offers a physically distant way to vote as the Covid-19 pandemic wears on. Voters cast their ballot from the privacy of their home and then mail their ballots (no postage necessary in Washington state) or drop them in a ballot box without interacting with anyone. President Trump seems to fear this ease of voting. During the first presidential debate last week, he told his followers to go out to the polls and “watch very carefully,” a suggestion that could amount to illegal voter intimidation. Earlier this month, Trump supporters blocked voters from entering a polling place in Virginia. But with mail-in ballots, neither he nor his henchmen can stand in the way.So, what can we do? First, make a plan for how and when you’ll vote. Check your registration, be sure your ballot will be mailed to your current address or update it if you need to. If you are traveling away from home, request a ballot be sent to you if your state or county allows it. Talk to your friends and family about voting and how you can be sure your voice is heard. Vote early if you can. Once you cast your vote, track your ballot. You can track your ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.This pandemic-year election will chart the course for the future of our country. Voters must be given every opportunity to take part in it. Vote-by-mail is the best way to give all voters every opportunity to take part in it. We must ignore the fear-mongering and attempts to suppress our vote and instead embrace this safe and easy method that allows everyone to have a say in our selecting our government leaders.Claudia Balducci serves as Chair of the Metropolitan King County Council, the governing body for King County. This article first appeared on HuffPost Personal.Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on [email protected] from HuffPost UK Personal I'm More Afraid Of A Second Trump Term Than My Cancer Coming Back. Here's Why I Run A Muslim Mental Health Helpline. Covid Has Put My Community In Crisis I Found Out I Was Losing My Cineworld Job On Social Media
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The Christmas tunes are playing, the turkey’s in the oven – but this year, your house isn’t filled with loads of people. In 2020, December 25 is likely to be a quieter affair.With the rule of six in place in England and households unable to mix across the rest of the UK (unless you’ve formed a bubble), this Christmas will see more families stay at home, keeping things local and low-key.In some areas, family members who live far away may be replaced at the dinner table with friends, or even neighbours, who live nearby – and there won’t be any more than six there. Unless, of course, the prime minister suspends the rule of six over Christmas, which he has hinted at. Should he do so, however, it could not only be dangerous, given the rates of infection we’re seeing, but also unfair after areas were forced into lockdown with barely any notice the night before Eid-al-Fitr. For Muslims, Eid was a quieter celebration. And for those who celebrate Christmas, it will likely be the same.In fact, the majority (59%) of Brits believe household restrictions should stay in place at Christmas, a Sky News poll found. We spoke to HuffPost UK readers to find out how they’re celebrating the festive season differently, as well as noting other trends we may see in 2020. No one yet knows where we’ll be with Covid in December – but here’s what Christmas could look like. Related... Opinion: If Christmas Isn't Cancelled, Boris Johnson Will Have To Answer Questions About Eid Virtual churchesChurches up and down the UK face hurdles hosting services this year, but Father Lee Taylor, vicar of Llangollen in north Wales, has a backup plan – a few, actually. He looks after four churches and last year, they had 500 people attend one carol service by candlelight at his church. Currently, communal worship can be attended by more than six people where groups don’t mingle, but only as many people as the place of worship can safely accommodate. If these gatherings are still allowed by December, Taylor’s plan ‘A’ is to continue with carol services but with a limited number of people in attendance. “I think ticketing is the best way,” he says. “First come, first serve.”If tighter restrictions come into place, he’ll implement plan ‘B’. Ideas include: inviting the town to stand on doorsteps at a certain time to sing Silent Night in Welsh and English; or to host a livestream event from his home where he makes his “special trifle” and interjects with carols that people have requested. Another option is to host a community Zoom get-together where local children can take on the role of a nativity character and he interviews them.“It’s such a challenge preparing for the Christmas period,” he says. “We just don’t know where we will be in December.”A focus on communityWith people not wanting to (or unable to) travel over the festive break, it’s likely we’ll see more of a focus on community and charity – with people helping out in their neighbourhood and volunteering with local initiatives, like food banks.“I think we will see a great deal of creativity in smaller communities over Christmas,” says Taylor. Like we saw with the rainbows in people’s windows thanking key workers during lockdown, we might see more community advent calendars cropping up – where neighbours dress their windows with a festive scene. This will also keep the magic of Christmas alive for kids.A Christmas trend report from Marks and Spencer suggests there’ll be a resurgence in sending cards – particularly charity cards – as people want to give handwritten thanks, as well as send wishes to loved ones. People may send cards to neighbours they’ve bonded with during lockdown, too. Rise of the Mini-masM&S’ Christmas report suggests more than a quarter of Brits anticipate smaller celebrations and gatherings this year, which the retailer has coined: Mini-mas. If households are allowed to mix, we’ll see people entertaining in smaller groups in the run up to Christmas, as well as on Christmas Day and the week following. DeAna D’Monte, based in Folkestone, Kent, usually spends Christmas with a full house. She’d have gatherings at her home for Christmas dinner – she’d cook, while friends and family members from across the country came to her home for laughter and fun. The maximum amount she’s catered for is 18 people.This year, it’ll just be her and her two adult children, aged 27 and 30. The 49-year-old, who runs her own gift business, says her kids will head to her house at any mention of lockdown by the government, so they won’t be separated over Christmas. “I expect the three of us will do Christmas Day and end up getting back working now, which is a shame,” she says. “On Boxing Day, we would normally have booked a meal out for all of us and gone to the cinema.”It’s different, for sure, but a smaller Christmas doesn’t always have to be seen as a negative – after all, you’ll no longer be hit by that endless Christmas socialising many of us are used to. Connection, but not as we know itTechnology is going to play a huge role in keeping people connected this year, particularly grandparents unable to see grandkids due to the risks involved, but also those on the shielded patient list who are unable to see their families.People may get creative with their virtual hangouts: a return of the pub quiz, perhaps; watching a film together while on a Zoom; or even video calling other family members while you’re both eating dinner. Nana Marfo, 37, is in the shielded patient group, as he lives with a serious respiratory condition. He’ll be spending Christmas alone. The disability advocate and founder of Unique Abilities tells HuffPost UK: “Being from a Ghanaian household, my typical Christmas would entail running around doing Christmas shopping, buying gifts and assisting with food preparation,” he says. This year, he’ll prepare his own Christmas turkey and celebrate at home with his cat to stay safe. “What I’ll miss is the massive family gathering and having laughs while eating and playing board games,” says Marfo, based in Lewisham, south London. He plans to use Skype, WhatsApp and phone calls to keep in touch with family on the day, “to feel that Christmas is a little normal”.D’Monte says she’s going to organise a mass Zoom call for her friends who will be spending Christmas alone, so they can touch base on 25 December. “It’s the best we can do this year,” she says. Related... I’m Spending Christmas Alone, And I’m Just Fine With That A shift in the way we giftWith fewer families seeing each other, we might see an uptake in gifting to compensate for the fact we’re unable to see loved ones.While there’s nothing quite like doing your Christmas shopping on the high street – and many people will opt for that, with a renewed focus on buying locally and supporting smaller businesses – it’s likely we’ll also see a boom in online shopping, too. Especially for those who are more vulnerable.People can order gifts online and get them sent straight to the recipient. Some websites even offer gift packaging so your present turns up, well, presentable.Online shopping has never been more popular. From March to May, which coincided with lockdown, there was a huge spike in internet sales. This has been declining slowly since, but is likely to rise again in the run-up to Christmas. This year I want to buy all my Christmas presents for people from local and/or small businesses. If anyone knows any, send then my way❤️❤️— tatum (@taytat89) October 7, 2020A bigger focus on foodFood is set to become an even bigger focus for many, with plenty of new launches across the UK’s biggest retailers. Some have already started their Christmas food order services. We’re also seeing lots of new vegan and vegetarian launches, including a vegan fondue at Waitrose – with Christmas already uprooted, it might be the perfect time to try something new. Around one in five (19%) of us are already looking forward to our first mince pie, according to M&S. And some of us have had one already.The joy of small thingsWe can still keep the magic of Christmas alive during Covid. It’s likely we’ll see trees and lights up even earlier, as people focus on the joy of small things. There are lots of things we’re can’t do – but there are also many things we can do. Think: movie nights, festive baking sessions, winter lights walks, Christmas craft afternoons, and bigger and better decorations in our homes.  Lucille Whiting, 38, from Suffolk, will be staying at home this Christmas with her immediate family – her husband, 42, and their five kids aged 14, 12, nine, six, and four. They usually alternate between their parents’ homes, but this year the risk is too great. Her family came down with Covid-19 in April, so they recognise the devastating impact it could have on elderly relatives. “Both sets of grandparents are older and have health conditions and we couldn’t take the risk of them catching anything from us,” she says. “From our point of view, there’s no way any of them would survive what we went through. It’s sad, but it’s not an option.”Related... Sensory Baubles And Tissue Paper Wreaths: 4 Homemade Christmas Decorations To Make With Kids Whiting plans to make decorations with her little ones and do Elf on the Shelf from December 1. They’ll make reindeer food and flour Santa footprints on Christmas Eve.“I’ve already bought moulds and cutters in to make gingerbread houses, star cookies, snowman cake pops and mince pies,” she says. “We’ll be going out in the evenings for long walks spotting all the Christmas lights and we’ve got quite a few movie nights planned.”She also plans to stop working a bit earlier in the month than she usually would, to spend some quality time with her family. She says the children are going to make their own Christmas cards, and they’ve volunteered to deliver cards for some people that can’t get out and about. “I absolutely love Christmas, so it’s an adjustment,” she says. “The children are disappointed, but all things considered, they’ve been very understanding and accepting. It’s been one hell of a year.”How are you going to be spending Christmas this year? We’d love to hear from you. Send us your plans, and how you’re hoping to keep the magic of Christmas alive, by emailing [email protected] Related... Lindt Is Launching Its First Ever Sharing Tin, So That's Christmas Sorted Then 55 Hilarious Tweets About The Questions Kids Ask People Who Wear Mesh Face Masks Are Losing The Covid-19 Battle On Every Level
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