The Sideshow … … found on the boardwalk, set up on a grassy field, a Detroit rave, a darkened alley, or on the plains of a blasted future America, tantalizing, forbidden, electrifying beyond imagination. It is everywhere and every-when. And at some point, everyone gets a ticket. The Sideshow … … a mirror to the blackness inside the human soul. How dark is your shadow?
Rob M. Miller, C.B. Doyle, Jody Neil Ruth, Phil Hickes, Leigh M. Lane, Shawn Pfister, Carole Gill, E.A. Irwin, Tina Swain, S. MacLeod, and me! The illustrator is Melissa Stevens.
One reviewer said:
A good scary anthology! I love the illustrations which give this book a very vintage circus feel. There is a good variety of psychological horror, monsters and gore and supernatural mystery. My favorite stories so far at Punch and Judy, Tattoo and Karma Carnival. It just keeps getting better each story I read. Especially recommended for fans of American Horror Story Freakshow. It has a lot of the same throw back feel but even more horror!
I killed a spider tonight and now I sit alone and stare up at the empty space on the ceiling where it should be. Where it had been for the past three days and nights, disgusting me and fascinating me in equal measures.
And now it’s gone. Quickly. Cheaply. An ignoble death, knocked from its flawless, warm web and crushed beneath the sole of a dirty once white trainer, laces frayed and leather cracked. A weapon used in panic, in defence of my self in the end although I know – I know – that a spider, a tiny little spider sitting alone in its web and waiting with such patience for something to come along so that it could survive, could not hurt me. I know that. But I couldn’t bear it being there. I could not share my space any longer with that monster.
Shocked at myself, skin crawling with revulsion and stomach squally as though to suggest I had done wrong, I hurled the shoe away, my hand contaminated just by holding the thing that had touched the furry body of that spider. And as for that body… I left it there, crumpled, folded in on itself, legs in pieces on the carpet, hardly daring to walk past it for fear of… What? For fear of what? It was dead, very much so, I had seen to that. Yet the idea of being near it still sent shudders through me, my limbs dancing their own funeral jig, backing away from the broken thing that had, moments before, lived.
Just as I had watched it for the past three days and nights, making sure it didn’t move or, worse, disappear completely, building my cowardly courage to the point where I could finally get near enough to kill it, I watched it now. To make sure it was dead. Hoping it was because if it was not then surely even a thing such as a spider must feel pain and I hated that thought more than I hated the thought of leaving it where it was, to give it free reign and to let it, possibly, crawl over me as I slept.
Its body is much smaller now, trampled and beaten, lesser in defeat. And as I watch the empty, broken web wave in a breeze that I cannot feel, I wonder why I waged war on it.
I’m afraid of pandas. Don’t laugh, it’s the truth. Oh, they may look cute and cuddly, they may seem soft and soppy, but they are, in actual fact, cruel and creepy. They are evil.
I don’t say this lightly. I say this with a heavy heart and a troubled mind. But, you see, the thing is… I have had first hand experience with pandas. With a panda. And it was not pleasant.
I was four years old, and that is long enough ago that I really shouldn’t be able to remember it, but I do. The entire episode is as clear to me now as it was then.
I should probably explain…
One night when I was four, I had a nightmare, as children often do. I’m sure that I had many a nightmare at that age, many before and many since, come to that, but this one was so vivid, even though it made no sense in any way, that it’s never left me.
I awoke – in my dream – to find a giant panda sitting on my bed, watching me. There was nothing unusual about this panda (apart from the fact that it was there in the first place). It wasn’t some demon creature, it didn’t have bulging red eyes or scales or horns, it wasn’t holding a knife or even baring its teeth. But it was terrifying. It didn’t blink. It barely moved. It just watched me, and the part that worried me the most was that I didn’t know how long it had been there before I woke up.
Even at four that unnerved me.
To think that it had been waiting for me, silently, patiently.
I wanted to cry out for my mother, but I was too scared to make a sound. I wasn’t sure it knew I was awake.
So I lay there, paralysed with fear, my heart slapping against my ribs, my eyes mostly closed but just open enough to watch the panda watching me.
We stayed like that, the panda and I, for an eternity.
And then, out of nowhere and for no discernible reason, the panda plucked a cigarette out of the air, lit it with an unseen match, and smoked it, right there, in my bedroom. On my bed. It’s large, furry rump nudging up against my stiff, sweating legs.
I found my voice.
It was meek and weak, trembling and far too soft to attract any attention, but I called out anyway, desperate, needing to do something; “Mummy! Mummy! Help!”
Now the panda looked at me. It turned its head and stared into my eyes, smoke curling from its snout. It was angry. Its eyes narrowed and it hunched backwards. And then it was gone, I could feel its weight lifting from the mattress, and I saw it bolt.
The dream becomes hazy after that. My mother appeared in the doorway and I think I must have woken up by then because she was really there. She remembers it still, remembers me calling out so pitifully, so quietly, and yet waking her anyway. But what she doesn’t remember, and what I can’t explain, is that she passed the panda on its way out.
It ran out of the door as she ran in.
She never saw it, but it saw her. It growled at her.
She took its place on my bed and told me not to worry about it. It was just a dream, after all. Just a panda, and it was just smoking a cigarette. Nothing else.
I believed her then. But in the morning I cried out for her again because in the dawn light I could see something that we had both overlooked the night before.
There was a cigarette burn on my duvet cover.
We still talk about it. Every now and then it comes up in conversation. And neither of us can explain it.
I’ve been trying to exorcise that demon ever since.
Recently there was a news story about an Oklahoma teacher who ‘forced’ a 4 year old boy to write with his right hand rather than his left. Investigations are ongoing, but it seems as though the teacher was concerned about associations with left handedness and unlucky or wicked behaviour.
Whilst this may sound strange today, it wasn’t so very long ago that making left handers write with their non-dominant hands was usual in schools. But why was (and, as it now appears, is) being left handed such a problem?
Throughout history, the left side of the body was considered to be a negative influence. In fact, the Latin word ‘sinistra’ meant both ‘left’ and ‘evil’ or ‘unlucky’, so the idea was well ingrained in society. Today, ‘sinistra’ has become ‘sinister’, so the wicked connotations remain. This, along with the idea that the word ‘right’ also means ‘correct’ and ‘proper’, reinforces the belief that anything on the left side had to be influenced by evil in some way.
Superstition has us throwing salt over our left shoulder when we spill it. Why? To blind the devil that sits there. A devil on the left shoulder is counterbalanced by an angel on the right, so turning to the left, using the left side of the body, working with the left in anyway is seen as working or using the devil. Bad stuff indeed. Whereas using the right side of the body is seen as working with the angels, which, of course, is seen as a much better option.
There are always studies going on to discover why some people are left handed and others (the majority of society) are right handed, but as yet there is no conclusive evidence for anything. Maybe one day we will understand, or maybe – as I believe is most likely the case – there is no reason. It just is.
I’m a left hander, and so is my daughter. So far so good for both of us – we’ve not yet met the devil. But I suppose I’ll keep throwing the salt just to make sure…
It happens to us all. That sinking, shrieking, sudden moment of realisation that we simply cannot go on. No matter what. No way. No how. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, what the reward is, why we have to do it, we just hit that figurative wall (not Pink Floyd’s fabulous album) and that’s it. Done. Finished.
We slink away, defeated, feeling terrible, wishing we had the energy or the will to carry on, but knowing that if we even attempted it, we’d fail miserably.
You’ve done it. I’ve done it. Bill Gates or David Beckham or J.K. Rowling (insert role model of your choice here) has done it. And the thing of it is, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s natural and normal and it’s the ones who just keep going that we really ought to worry about… After all, they’re only going to hurt themselves, right? Right.
So rather than panicking when we hit the wall, we ought to embrace it. Or at least take the opportunity to step back and reassess. Perhaps there’s another way around that you hadn’t considered before. Instead of barrelling straight ahead, why not change direction, go sideways, under, over, even backwards. It’s a wall, not a mountain. Walls are scalable.
Walls are also a bit like bullies. There they stand, big and bold, basically laughing at you and your efforts to get through them and find whatever it was you wanted on the other side. Despite their nastiness of them, we do all know what it is we’re supposed to do with bullies, don’t we? Yes. Ignore them. Ignore them and they’ll go away. And it’s exactly the same with walls. Ignore the wall that you’ve suddenly come up against, and turn around. Leave it. Come back after a rest and a think, and you might find that it’s disappeared, crumbled away leaving your path perfectly open.
What if it hasn’t, you might ask? Not a problem. If it’s still there you have two options: either ignore it some more, or try the alternative route.
You’ll never have to hit a wall again. It’s a pain we can all do without.
Could it be a specific talent? The same barber? A liking for peanut butter sandwiches? The link between Ian Fleming and Sting sounds like a truly unanswerable riddle, but there is actually a solution – and it is a rather surprising one.
Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels in Jamaica, sitting at a certain desk. Decades later, that same desk was used by Sting to pen his famous song, Every Breath You Take.
Finding this out made me wonder whether creative talent can be passed on. Not necessarily through inanimate objects (although why not? Why shouldn’t a desk or pen or chair or anything else become infused with creativity? We don’t know what causes it in the first place, so we can’t dismiss anything when it comes to skill and talent, and I may just use this idea in my next short story… we’ll see if it has legs (pardon the pun)), but perhaps through being in proximity to someone.
According to some scientists, everyone has some kind of talent, even if it’s hidden in most people (that’s what it’s only a handful in the grand scheme of things who can sing, compose, write, paint, draw, and so on). But what if, simply by spending time with people whose talent is most definitely out there, we can soak up some of that creativity and be better at the things we want to do?
Talent by osmosis certainly has a ring to it; and could this be why some children follow in their parents’ footsteps, or some siblings go on to be just as talented as their brother and sisters, even though the law of averages would say it should really be possible?
It’s an experiment I’m willing to trial… Now, where would I find J. K. Rowling?
Don’t complain. It sounds like a simple philosophy for life, a mantra that can be repeated over and over until it sticks and no more ungrateful, complaining words come out of your mouth.
It sounds like bliss, and at first glance the above quote does seem to be a good one. Don’t like something? Change it. Don’t complain.
On second glance, thinking about it, changing a situation isn’t always possible without a bit of complaint.
But it’s okay, because of the second part of the quote – if you can’t change the situation that’s making you unhappy, change how you think about it.
Only, actually, I don’t get it at all.
I can’t suddenly make myself like something that I didn’t before. If I don’t like it, I don’t like it. I have my reasons. It’s not just a matter of looking at whatever it is from a different angle and realising that my original thoughts were wrong all the time (oh look! Actually the fact that my car broke down and there are no buses and I have a broken leg so I can’t walk anyway is actually fine! It’s great! I was just looking at my situation from the wrong angle! Now that I’ve changed my attitude all is well!).
I think complaining is essential in life.
I don’t mean complaining for the sake of it, just for fun, but if something is really wrong, and no amount of attitude changing will right that wrong, then a complaint may well help you. And, although it may not feel like it at the time, if the complaint is aimed at you it can help you too. Don’t just assume that whoever is doing the complaining is wrong – they may have a point, and if you think about it, that point may help you grow and succeed.
So, yes, if something is bringing you down, change it. If you can’t change it – and sometimes you definitely cannot – then by all means complain. You never know, the situation might change after that. It could even get better than ever.
If you want some help writing a complaint letter, just ask. As a freelance writer I’ve often complained on other people’s behalf!
Moira Kerr is something quite special, not only in terms of her writing, but in terms of her humanity as well. The freelance journalist who hails from Oban won both the feature writer of the year award (this was thanks to three articles written for the Daily Record) and journalist of the year award for her diverse portfolio of articles, news reports, and features at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards.
Moira said that she appreciated the awards, and was excited to receive them – but that it was all down to her contacts, kept in her Smartphone, who kept her up to date with everything that was happening all across the Highlands and Islands. She called these contacts her ‘phone-a-friends’, which caused a laugh, but which is also absolutely true!In her spare time, Moira is a volunteer fundraising secretary for the Oban RNLI Lifeboat, and so she decided to donate the majority of her £500 prize money to that cause which is clearly so dear to her heart. She gave away £300, and it went towards buying the volunteers at the Lifeboat some Wellington boots which, they say, were much needed and very happily and gratefully received.
If you need any freelance articles, news stories, or blogging done, please contact me; I’m happy to help.
Lisamarie Lamb| 9th March 2016 0
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I started writing in my late teens but it was only with the birth of my daughter that I decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision in 2010, I have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.
Many business people and particularly, perhaps, business leaders, feel that running for political office has something attractive about it. Once they have done all they can do in their work life, it can often be that moving into politics is something that interest them, so they start a campaign and begin a new life. For some this works out wonderfully, but for others it isn’t so great and they soon realize that being in politics is not as ‘fun’ or as ‘easy’ as it might have seemed at first. It takes a lot of thought before moving in this direction, so here are some of the things that will need to be considered first.
You Will Need To Ask For Money
No matter what branch of politics you are choosing to go into, whether you are creating presidential slogans or you would prefer to do something a little more local, you are going to need money to do it. Politics is a surprisingly expensive business, which is why you will most often see those who have already made it in their professional lives (or those who were born into a wealthy family) running for political office – it is simply out of the reach for most ‘everyday’ people.
In order to be able to finance your campaign in such a way that it gets noticed, you will need to ask for money, and lots of it. Political campaigns that falter part way through because the money ran out will not be remembered fondly, if they are remembered at all. A politician who cannot budget and who spends unwisely is not going to be a particularly popular choice when it comes to picking a candidate at the polls.
It can be hard to be constantly asking for money, but it is essential that it is done. If this is not something you feel comfortable doing, you may need to look at another way to help the public because in politics you will need to ask for money time and time again.
Speak To Your Family
Although running for political office is an individual endeavor in some ways, it also needs a strong team to run the behind the scenes parts of the campaign. Some of those team members will need to be your family; they have to be on board if you are running for political office because, like it or not, they will become part of the campaign and they will be thrust into the public eye.
Although as a business leader you may have been able to and wanted to keep your personal life private, as a politician that will no longer hold true. Your opponents will be looking into your past to see if there is anything untoward there, and the press will most likely be doing the same. The more popular you are, the better you are doing in your campaign, the more digging will be done about you.
This is why it is important to speak with your family first to ensure that they understand what is probably going to happen and what might be required of them. If they aren’t happy with the idea you may need to reconsider whether your political office plan is worth risking your family over.
Be Ready For Hostility
Politics can be an ugly place to be and there is often hostility on both sides. It won’t matter how nice you are or what your intentions are, someone will also be against what you are doing. When you are running for office you need to be ready for the attacks against you that will come. If you believe in what you are doing and you are an eloquent person then you need to speak out and be strong. Not only will this wrongfoot your opponent (whether a political one or someone on the street) but it will also show others how strong your intentions are – sometimes someone else’s hostility can be what drives you on and makes you more popular.
Remember, never return hostility with hostility as that will solve nothing. It’s far better to be civil in the face of someone’s ire and anger and maintain a dignified stance as this will better enable you to put your point across and make sense to those who are listening.
Find A Good Lawyer
Having a good lawyer in side will be a useful addition to your team and can stop you from making mistakes when it comes to what you are and aren’t permitted to do during a political campaign – the rules are strict, and if you fall foul of them you might have to remove yourself from the race. This would mean your entire campaign had been a waste of time and money (and other people’s money) so no one wants that to happen.
Be Prepared To Lose
No one is going to win all the time and in politics, although it is wise to keep a winning attitude, you should also be prepared to lose. If you look at the numbers, you’ll see that the majority of people lose when it comes to politics because there are very few positions open in the first place. That means that a huge percentage or those campaigning will walk away with nothing after the ballot, despite the good feeling created and the money spent.
If you do lose, you should have a plan in place for what you will do next with your life. It will depend on whether you felt that politics was something you desperately had to do, or whether you might now try something else. There should always be a plan, however, so that you are not left feeling low with nothing to do. It is easy to become emotionally invested in your campaign (in fact, it is expected) but this can mean problems when it is all over; you might feel depressed and deflated. So having a backup plan should you lose that means you can get on with the next thing right away will solve these issues and help you to feel better.
Many schools offer kids the chance to be on the debating team but not all of them want to take this opportunity up. However, if possible, parents should encourage their children to try debating because it has many fantastic benefits that can help the kids now and in the future. Here are some of the most important reasons why debating is good for kids and why they should at least try it to see if it is for them.
Debaters Win Arguments
It’s a simple fact that those who are good at debating will always win an argument. They will never let anyone get the better of them when discussing something because they will know exactly how to word their points, and how to research their opinion in the first place. It means that as adults in the workplace, they will never have to worry about trying to find the right words to explain what they mean and why – this can help them immensely during presentations, pitches, and other negotiations.
Debaters Don’t Mind Crowds
When debaters first begin, they are only arguing their point in front of the judge and the other team, or even just one opponent. As the competition progresses, there will be more and more people in the crowd and in the final there could be many thousands depending on what level you are debating. Everyone will want to see how you do and will want to watch you closely. This can be intimidating at first, but over time the children involved get used to it. This will help them hugely in the future because it means they will be used to pressure and be able to work – even thrive – when under it. Nothing will faze them.
Debaters Are Good Travelers
Traveling is all par for the course when you’re a good debater, and those who make it to the national levels will become extremely well practiced at traveling through airports and on coaches – they might even take the car. Whichever mode of transport they choose, those kids will turn into adults who are great travelers. They will be able to go anywhere at any point without fuss or worry, and they will probably know how to travel pretty light too with just a few clothes, their notes, and their team baseball caps, flags, and badges.
Debaters Have Fantastic Communication Skills
Arguing your point is one thing, and it’s obvious that debaters can do that, or they wouldn’t be much good at debating. However, communicating and speaking clearly is something entirely different – yet great debaters are able to do this as well. Speaking clearly and concisely is an important skill to learn; it enables others to always understand what you mean, and it denotes a sense of authority, professionalism, and intelligence. Mumbling quickly and not being understood is not going to help anyway, and yet that is exactly how many people who have not had the chance to be a debater do speak. It’s refreshing to find someone who can communicate clearly and this will help your child stand out from the crowd.
Debaters Have Great Memories
When in a debate the rounds are pretty fast paced and there isn’t a lot of time to get your point across. Therefore, a debater has to be an excellent memory in order to be able to put their argument forward and include all the relevant facts and details. Some people naturally do have amazing memories but others require some ‘brain training’ to get there. That’s where debating can help because the more it is done, the better at remembering those facts the child who is debating will be. In the future this skill will help them in their work progression.
Debaters Take Notes
Taking notes is something that all high school and college students will need to be able to do well in order to get the most out of their classes and do well in their examinations. It is also important at work when in a meeting or in an important phone call. It makes life a lot easier when good notes can be taken and lessons can be learned. Debaters need to be good at taking notes, a skill acquired with practice, because if they can’t remember everything (as mentioned above) they will need to have the information written down quickly and efficiently.
Debaters Are Empathetic
Debaters are excellent at looking at arguments from both viewpoints. After all, each debate topics has a pro and a con side to it, and it is only the flip of a coin (or similar) which determines what side your child will be arguing on. So they need to be able to see both sides of each debate because they could be asked to argue either way. Being able to do this and be empathetic to other people’s opinions, ideas, and situations will be useful for a child when they become an adult and have to interact with other people. It makes them kinder, more humble human beings.
Debaters Are Speed Readers
Speed reading is an essential skill for a good debater. They need to be able to find out as much as possible about their given topic in a short amount of time, so it will help them hugely if they can read quickly and accurately. This skill will also help when they get to college whether they are debating or not – they will be able to absorb all the information they need to know and digest it well enough before an exam that they not only know the facts but understand them as well.
Debaters Are Great At Teamwork
Debaters have to work alone when it comes to making their argument, but they also have to work as a team in order to win their rounds. In a debate team, you could be working with the same people for a number of years, so it’s important to be able to strategize with each of them, working out what their strengths are and using those against their opponents. Again, this is a skill that will be a wonderful advantage for the workplace where working in a team will certainly be part of most jobs.
Confidence… No one can be confident at all times, no matter what. Even those who seem totally self-assured will have moments of self-doubt, and it can happen for a variety of different reasons. Taking a knock when it comes to your confidence can really be an issue; no one wants to feel bad about themselves, after all. However, there are ways to get over these problems and get back to being a happy, productive, self-possessed person sooner than you might think. Here are some ways you can help yourself.
People do have a tendency to be judgemental; you’ve probably done it yourself without meaning to (perhaps without even realising it). Unfortunately, these slip ups can cause others to feel bad about themselves, and if you are the subject of someone’s judgement, your confidence can be sorely tested. It doesn’t matter whether you know the person or whether they’re a stranger in the street, the outcome is the same; you’ll go from being a happy person going about your business to someone who is now wondering whether you should just head home and hide.
There are three things you can do if someone makes a comment that you think is judgemental. The first is to take them to task about it, letting them know that their words have made you feel bad (after all, they may have been talking in the abstract and didn’t know that what they were saying would affect you). Next you can walk away and remove yourself from the situation. Finally you can just ignore them. These last two ideas will require you to also remind yourself how great you are in the process, of course, and that can take some practice.
Not Being Praised
If you’ve ever done something great at work or on a personal level, something that you were truly proud of, yet no one noticed or, if they did, they didn’t mention it or deem it praiseworthy, your confidence can take a serious knock. The problem is that it’s not ‘normal’ to ask for that praise either, for fear of being seen as needy or high maintenance, so even if we feel that we desperately deserve some kind of acknowledgment for the hard work we put into something, we can’t demand it.
What can be done? The best thing to do is to speak to the person you feel should be noticing what you’re doing, whether that’s a boss, a partner, or perhaps a parent. Take them to one side and ask them why your efforts haven’t been noticed, or what they think you can do to improve. If you don’t like the answer then it could be time to move on; after all, this is your life and you need to live it the way you see fit. Having all your confidence taken away from you will stop you from achieving the success you deserve if you leave it too late.
Shopping for clothes can be a lot of fun, but it can also be something that seriously damages our self-esteem. Body image is something that many people struggle with, and taking a trip to buy clothes can make things worse rather than better. Take the advertisements that use models who have been airbrushed and changed completely – even though we know this is the case, it can still make us feel bad about ourselves. Then there are the mannequins and even though we understand these are not real people, there is a still a niggling worry that we just don’t measure up. Not only that, but as we’ve mentioned above people are judgemental (even when they don’t mean to be) and the fear that someone will say something or look at us askance is real. Add that to the fact that clothing comes up in different sizes in different shops, and there is a real issue at hand.
These issues can be overcome, however. Firstly, choose a shopping buddy. Take someone with you that you know well and trust implicitly. This makes the whole experience much more fun (you can make a day of it and stop for lunch and coffee too) and you can be sure that you can trust their honest opinion when they tell you clothing does or doesn’t suit you.
You can also make a plan before you leave the house and make sure you avoid any shops that have odd sizes or don’t do the size you need (or the style of clothing, come to that). This means doing research, but it will be worth it, making your trip a much happier experience. If you’re really unsure then stick with the shops you know and like – you’re sure to find a great outfit there without the worry of a new place to explore and be uncertain about.
Being constantly undermined be someone is demoralising and can really chip away at our self-confidence. If this is happening to you at all, you need to speak up. This is a form of bullying and unless something is said it will just continue. Is someone always stealing your ideas at work? Does no one listen to your opinion at home? Does your ‘best friend’ only ever talk about themselves and dismiss anything you might have to say as irrelevant? These things can easily become a regular pattern of behaviour, eroding our confidence over time and leaving us to expect that this is how it has to be.
This is not how it has to be, and it is not how it should be, so talk to them about it and let them know you’re not happy. They may be completely self-absorbed and not realise what they are doing. They may, of course, be totally sure of what they are doing and these are the toxic people you need to stay away from. When you talk to them, pick somewhere neutral where you both feel comfortable and try not to point a finger right from the start. Find out why they do what they do and you might be able to move on.
Picking a spot to visit for your summer holiday is never an easy task, but it is an exciting one. Looking through travel brochures, weighing up the pros and cons of each country, working out the budget, then finally booking – it’s all part of the experience. To give you a head start when it comes to working out where you want to go this summer, we’ve put together some great reasons why Spain should be your ultimate destination. Here they are.
Spain has many different festivals and fiestas that span the entire year. No matter where you go or when, you’ll find there is some festival or other being prepared for. Some are more serious, like the ones you’ll come across during Holy Week, and some are more frivolous and fun, like the many food festivals across the country. Each festival is full of color and life, and is certainly something for you to remember for many years to come.
Spain really is its own country. Although part of Europe, it is often considered a little bit of an outsider due to its location; geographically it is a little more isolated from the rest of the continent. That means that although there is a lot of European culture in Spain, there is more solely Spanish culture. This is completely different to anywhere else you’re going to have a chance to visit, and even if you’ve been to many other European destinations, Spain will be something new which is a great reason to go there.
Spain is famous across the world for its food and for good reason. Paella is perhaps the most famous single dish, but you’ll discover that it is prepared different in each region (sometimes in each town or city). The basic ingredients of rice, stock, shrimp and prawns, and mussels tend to remain the same, but plenty more besides can be added. It is entirely possible to travel around Spain subsisting on paella alone – it wouldn’t become boring because there are so many variations.
Tapas is another famous Spanish cuisine. Tapas is not one food but a type of food made up of lots of small dishes that you can pick and choose and share. It’s a fun way to eat and it means you can try many different Spanish delicacies in one sitting.
Let’s not forget the drink either. Spanish wine has made quite a name for itself, but it is sangria which is most well known. Sangria is made from red wine (usually Spanish rioja) with fruit and it is a refreshing, delicious adult beverage.
So Many Cities
Spain is one country but by visit some of the many different cities across it you might be forgiven for thinking it is many smaller countries bundled together. That’s because each region in Spain is entirely distinct from the next, meaning you can travel from one end of the country to another and experience a multitude of different things. If you find that you have seen enough of one place, you can easily hop on a train and head off to another. Remember not to get too carried away though, as travelling can sometimes become expensive. The key is to set a budget before you leave.
Although it might sound like something of a generalization of cliché, the Spanish people really are incredibly friendly. You can be confident in trying out the Spanish language, for example, because the Spanish people will appreciate your efforts even if you get it wrong! By the end of your holiday your confidence and your Spanish will be much greater than they were before you left home.
No matter where you go, whether it’s the beach, a museum, a café or bar, you will find someone who will be happy to talk to you about their country and culture. You’ll discover so much more this way and your vacation will be a much more fulfilling one. Lying on the beach for two weeks is fine (in fact, it’s good for you as long as you wear the right sun block), but mixing that with learning about the country you’re staying in is even better.
When you think of Spain, the famous flamenco dancers might be the image that comes to mind. All across Spain you’ll be able to find flamenco shows and it is definitely something you should experience. The proud woman with her fan and hair up on her head and her beautiful dress dancing passionately across the stage is a sight to be seen. There is a kind of contagious energy that comes with flamenco and once you start watching you won’t be able to draw your eyes away.
If you are looking for a family-friendly holiday to take the children on so that they can also experience new cultures and places, Spain is a great choice. This is not a country where it is frowned on for children to stay up late; in fact, the locals will enjoy seeing your kids having fun and it will be a refreshing break for the parents to be able to relax and let the children run (relatively) free. With great, fresh food, plenty of space to play, and wonderful beaches as well as museums and adventure theme parks and the like, your children will love Spain as much as you do.
Spain has the same kinds of seasons as the UK which means when you travel in the summer you’re sure to get some great weather when you arrive in Spain. That’s not to say it never rains, but for most of your holiday you should have great sunshine and hot weather. If you’re looking for somewhere hot to relax and enjoy, Spain can be the ideal choice. When it gets too warm you can head back to your hotel for a siesta like the locals do, ready to enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures when you wake up.
For many people, working from home is the ultimate dream. There’s no long, soul-sucking commute, you can be in a place you find most comfortable, and – if you’re really lucky – you can even choose your own hours (this is even easier if you’re self-employed). Yet in some cases working from home can make us a lot less productive than we might normally be if we went out each day to an office environment. Here are some great tips for making the most out of your home office and getting everything done.
Because you don’t have to catch a certain train or head out the door at a specific time to miss the traffic, you can get up nice and early and make a good start on the day. If you begin work when you would normally start a commute to an office (or before that if possible) then you will have achieved something before most people even switch on their laptops. When you reach that point you can get up, stretch, have some breakfast, re-set, and start again.
When you begin with such a positive, achieving mindset, you will get so much more done. Plus you might even be able to finish early because you started before everyone else.
Imagine You Are Going To The Office
For some people, there is a big psychological difference between working from home and working from the office. The daily commute, although not perhaps the best part of the day, sets them up ready for the work they have to do. So too does wearing more formal attire and leaving the house. If this is the case for you, you can trick your mind into feeling as though you are heading to the office and it can make you more productive at home.
Firstly, set your alarm and get up as though you have to be in the office. Get dressed in office clothes, pack a bag with your lunch, make a flask of coffee, do whatever it is you need to do to get ready. Then leave the house. It doesn’t matter whether you need to drive around the block a couple of times or you go for a walk to the train station and back, if this puts your mind in the right place then go for it. When you get back to your house, you’re at work so all other distractions – housework, shopping, chatting to a neighbor – can’t happen. When the work day is over, go out again and when you come back you can relax into your evening at home.
Have A Dedicated Work Space
Although you might feel as though working from your bed, the couch, or even the kitchen table is a perk of working from home it might be making you less productive than you could be. You really need a dedicated office space that you can go into and shut the door behind you, cutting off as many distractions as possible. That way you don’t have to keep packing away your things and moving somewhere else because someone wants to watch TV or cook dinner.
Another bonus of having a dedicated work space is that you can leave it at the end of the day and not go back until the morning. One of the issues many people find when working from home is that they can’t stop working; it’s too tempting to check emails or spend 10 minutes here and there finishing off some task. They key point to remember is that if you worked at an office you wouldn’t be able (or, perhaps more importantly, expected) to do these things, so you shouldn’t do them just because you work from home.
Stay Off Social Media
Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be fun but they can also be hugely distracting. Many offices have a policy that doesn’t allow them to be used during working hours and in those office productivity is increased. At home, there are no hard and fast rules about it, so make one for yourself. Don’t look at social media during working hours; whatever is there can wait until you finish work for the day, or take a break (although beware: if you use social media on your break you might lose track of time and get behind on your tasks).
Many people are addicted to social media and can find that they unconsciously type in the URL whenever they’re online. If this is the case you may need to block those sites from your work computer (unblock them when work has finished if you use the same computer for personal browsing too) and remove the apps from your smartphone.
Make A Plan
The best way to be as productive as possible is to make a plan. Planning your next day’s work should be the very last task you do the day before. That way, you’re already pumped for whatever it is you need to do the next day, plus you can get straight to it without wasting working time wondering what you should begin with. Try to do the hardest tasks first to get them out of the way and then move onto the easier ones as the day goes on.
When sex is enjoyed by both partners it can be fulfilling and satisfying. The problem is that many people are so worried about ensuring that they are doing well in bed that they forget to enjoy themselves, or they forget to make sure their partner is having a good time. However, there are some easy ways to become a better lover and none of them require having to learn (many) new positions or get into costume (unless that works for you).
Although our natural pheromones are what attracts people to one another, that doesn’t mean you can allow your body odor to become overpowering. Someone who is clean and tidy, who showers regularly, and who uses deodorant is always going to be a better idea than hopping straight into bed after a long day at work. That isn’t going to make your partner want to get close to you.
Talking to your lover is more powerful than you might think. It may be embarrassing to start with, but talking about sex, finding out what your lover wants from you, and letting them know what you like in bed will go a long way to ensuring that your lovemaking is not just good but great.
If your partner feels pressured to sleep with you, they aren’t going to enjoy themselves very much. Even if they do want to make love, pressuring them into trying a position they aren’t keen on, for example, is going to kill the mood significantly. So make sure that you are doing things that you both want to do. When you do want to try something new talk about it first to gauge their reaction.
Although looks and physique aren’t what’s important in a relationship and lover, keeping as fit and healthy as possible means that sex will be a lot better. Your endurance will be increased, you won’t get so out of breath, and you’ll be more flexible too. Eating the right foods and exercising regularly are both great ways to start this keep fit routine off correctly, as is reducing the amount of alcohol you drink and completely quitting smoking.
Get The Basics Right
Good sex really doesn’t have to be complicated. Get the basics right and make sure you can find the right erogenous zones in simple positions before you try to switch things up. If this means having to do some research then go for it – plenty of magazines and website will give you the details on how to make sure you’ve got it all exactly right.
Feeling like an afterthought or as part of a routine is not sexy. Although it’s a good idea to plan sex, try to make it seem spontaneous if you can. That way you get the best of both worlds as a lover; you know you’ve got enough time because you’ve planned in advance, but you can still enjoy the thrill of the spur of the moment.
There are many reasons why owning a pet is a good idea, and one of those reasons is that they can be good for your health. Studies have shown that there is a definite correlation between having a pet in your home and feeling fitter and healthier. It’s good for you on an emotional level too and can even improve your immunity. Here are some of the ways that owning a pet can be good for your health.
Being able to be with a beloved pet can reduce our stress to a more manageable level. This is because, when looking after or playing with a pet, we are fully in the moment, feeling utterly present in our lives and not thinking about anything other than what we’re doing right now. Therefore, those stressful moments that might have been worrying us won’t be in our minds. When we do come back to the ‘real world’ after being with our pets, we’ll be feeling calmer and happier, so those situations that were causing us concern won’t seem so insurmountable anymore.
Stress can be the cause of many other illnesses, so having less of it in our lives is a good thing.
Lower Blood Pressure
Having a pet has the potential to lower our blood pressure, which is hugely beneficial to health. This links to the point above about decreasing stress, as when you are stressed you have higher blood pressure. This can cause many problems including strokes, heart disease, heart attacks, and even type 2 diabetes. Remember, however, that if you have seriously high blood pressure over a prolonged period of time, it could be a good idea to see your doctor as pets alone might not be enough to keep you healthy; you may also need medication.
If you suffer from chronic pain such as that experienced with arthritis or migraines, for example, a pet could help you feel it less. When you are in pain, you feel more anxious. Unfortunately, that anxiety actually makes pain feel even worse, and then you feel more anxious. This can go on and on until you make yourself feel incredibly unwell.
With a pet to take care of, you’ll feel less anxious, and that means that the pain you are feeling will be lessened too. A dog, cat, or other kind of pet won’t cure you, and it won’t take away the pain entirely, but it should help a little.
You’ll Feel Happier
Owning a pet will make you feel happier in general, which has a hugely positive effect on your mental and emotional well-being. Having a pet means that you will always come home to someone who loves you unconditionally, and this alone can boost happiness levels. When you are feeling happy in one aspect of life, you’ll most likely feel happier in other aspects too.
Clinical depression, of course, is another matter entirely, and although pets can help in some respects, this is another time when an expert is essential in order to get to the root of the problem. If you experience any mental health issues, or try to stop any form of self-medication and start to feel signs of alcohol withdrawal, we recommend booking an appointment with someone who can help. You’ll get treatment and your pet will thank you for it because you will be able to take care of them properly once again.
You’ll Socialize More
Owning a pet will give you many more chances to socialize with people, and since studies have shown that spending time with people you like is good for you, and can increase your health and happiness, it’s a good thing. A dog is the best pet for socializing as you need to walk them at least once a day and this means going out and seeing people. You might bump into the same people walking their dogs each day and strike up a conversation. Even a simple hello is better than nothing.
Other pets can also enable you to socialize. You might join local groups, for example, or go to workshops that teach you how to care for a certain type of animal and meet people that way. You could add yourself to an online group or forum and find people to chat to there. Or it could simply be a matter of having something in common with someone you’ve met for the first time.
Can Improve Immunity
It may seem like the logical thing to say that if someone is allergic to animal fur, they shouldn’t have a pet. However, studies have shown that actively being around these animals can improve immunity towards them, particularly for children. This can mean that allergies become less severe or even disappear altogether. Studies are still ongoing as to whether this can help an adult who suffers from pet allergies, however.
Another benefit of owning a pet is that your immune system can be improved in general, and not only in relation to pet allergies. That means you’ll be less likely to catch colds and other illnesses so you’ll feel more healthy all year round.
Helps With ADHD
If a child has ADHD it is difficult for them to express themselves properly. An animal can help them to focus and give them something to talk to when they need help. Simply being able to tell their problems to a pet can make a big difference in the lives of children suffering from ADHD and similar conditions, and it is especially helpful if they are unable or unwilling to communicate with their parents.
Pets offer a predictable, safe routine which can be ideal for ensuring that these children feel more at ease and confident. The simple act of holding an animal, of stroking and petting them, can be a soothing sensory experience. If you’re unable to have a pet due to work commitments or other reasons, then a visit to an animal shelter can also be of help to a child suffering from one of these conditions.
We’ve all been in that terrible position of picking what looks like a great restaurant only to find that the food is tasteless, the service is slow, and the prices are far higher than they should be. It can make us worry about picking another restaurant for dinner, or, perhaps more importantly, for a special occasion.
You shouldn’t worry too much, though. There are some useful tips on how to choose the perfect restaurant and if you put them to good use you shouldn’t ever have another problem with one of your picks.
Where Do The Locals Eat?
This tip is perhaps most useful when you are in a foreign country, or even somewhere other than your hometown, but it is a good one to think about nonetheless. Ask a local where the best restaurant is and make sure to find out why they think it’s good; everyone’s opinion is subjective, and what they like about somewhere (loud music and pizza) might not be what you like (quiet jazz and steaks). It’s best to ask someone who isn’t going to be earning any commission from their recommendation either; otherwise you won’t find an entirely unbiased response.
If there is no one to ask you should walk or drive around and see which restaurants have the local people in them. Those are the ones to try out.
Avoid The Tourists
No matter where you are, there will be some restaurants that cater specifically for tourists. That’s a definite no if you’re a local, but even if you do happen to be a visitor these places should probably be avoided. They tend to have a more limited menu (which won’t necessarily be authentic if the restaurant serves foreign cuisine) but the prices are much higher than elsewhere. They might also have a theme or be gimmicky. They will be fun, but for good food at good prices you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Thanks to the internet it’s now possible to read restaurant reviews on the go. If you want to know what a certain place is like before you step inside, check it out online. You’ll have a whole range of opinions because, as mentioned above, what people enjoy is subjective, but by reading them you should be able to decipher what the restaurant is really like and whether you think you would like it in there.
If you have no idea where to even start, that’s not a problem either. You can search for ‘the best steakhouse in New York’, for example, and find the information you need that will help you make a decision.
Look At The Menu
Before you make a decision whether to eat in a restaurant or not, take a look at the menu. You can usually do this online, but if not you might find the details in the restaurant window. If it is nowhere to be seen you might be best moving onto the next place on your list, unless you want to go inside and ask to see it before making your decision. This can be difficult, though, as you may feel obligated to stay even if you don’t like the look of the food being served!
When you are looking at the menu you are looking for a few different things. One is whether there is enough choice for you and whether you would eat what is served. The next is the price; does it seem reasonable? Too expensive? Too cheap? What about the drinks? If you are taking your whole family out for dinner does the restaurant cater to children with a special kids’ menu, or will they need to choose their meal from the main menu? Are there dishes that you’ve never heard of before? If so, this could mean that it is an authentic place to eat because they have real dishes from the country the cuisine comes from rather than those that have been changed to meet the local palettes.
All of these things need to be taken into consideration before you step through the door and ask to be seated.
Watch For A While
Stand at the window (assuming there is one) and watch the goings-on inside the restaurant for a while. Don’t put anyone off their food by staring, of course, but just take note of how the food is being served; do the waiting staff seem rushed or unhappy? Are they pleased to be doing their job and making customers feel at ease? Does the food look appetizing? This is perhaps particularly important. If people are really tucking into their meals with a smile on their faces that’s great; if they’re moving food around their plates and not really enjoying what they’re eating you should absolutely turn away.
If you spot staff idling around, looking bored, making everything seem like an effort when it comes to actually doing their jobs, that’s not a good sign. If you spot staff that look grubby and messy, that’s not a good sign either. What you want to see are clean, tidy, happy people who are making their customers’ meals a thing to remember (in a good way).
Employ Your Sense Of Smell
A really good thing to take note of is how the restaurant smells. Can you detect delicious aromas coming from the kitchen? Great! That means the food is cooked freshly to order (plus a delicious smell usually dictates a delicious taste).
Trust Your Gut
Gut instinct is something that all humans have, even if we do try to repress it at times. In situations when you’re trying to make the right decision, allowing your immediate gut response to help you is a good thing. If there is something about a place that, even though the menu looks appetizing, the staff are happy, and the prices are reasonable, tells you not to eat there, you’re probably right. The same is true if you like the look of a place even though it doesn’t quite match up to all the requirements you have set for a perfect meal.
Losing weight is excellent for your overall health; it reduces the risks of developing certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, for example. However, losing weight has many additional benefits that you may not think of straight away but that are just as important as improving your health. It’s incredible to think that weight loss can have such an effect on your body and mind but it’s absolutely true, and if you’re struggling to find the motivation to shed those unwanted pounds, this list may give you the perfect reason to do it.
When people first start to lose weight they will notice a huge boost in their energy levels. That’s because, when you are not as heavy, you don’t have to use all your energy up just to move around. You’ll have excess energy so you can do more. Plus your oxygen efficiency will improve so you won’t be out of breath when you climb the stairs or run for a bus.
Studies have shown that after losing weight the brain is more easily able to store memories. The brain actually showed more activity. Although research is still ongoing as to exactly why this would be, it could be linked to the point above regarding more energy. If the brain has more energy available to it, it can do more – including storing more memories and recalling them more easily.
Less Risk Of Cancer
There are many things in this life that can increase your chances of developing cancer including smoking, too much exposure to the sun’s rays, and radiation. Obesity is another cause for some types of cancer (such as breast, bowel, pancreatic, and liver), so losing weight will reduce your risk immediately. Losing just five percent of your body weight should have a positive effect on your health levels.
Working Out Is Easier
Doing exercise is necessary for losing weight; when you burn more calories than you are taking in, the weight disappears. However, when you are overweight exercise is a chore. It’s hard to do because the body has less energy and less mobility, and it is often de-motivating to go to a gym or a workout class and see other people who are slim and fit. As the weight comes off, however, exercise becomes easier – it even becomes fun. That means we’re more likely to go out and do it, so weight is lost more quickly.
You May Get A Raise
In a 2004 study published by Health Economics, it was shown that an obese person’s pay cheque came in at around 2.5 percent lower than a ‘normal’ sized person’s. There may be an unconscious (or even conscious in some cases) bias from bosses towards people who are overweight, with stereotypical ideas of laziness coming to the fore, and therefore they may be paid less. Losing weight in these cases could get you that raise you’ve been wanting.
You’ll Sleep Better
When you are overweight it can be difficult to sleep. Getting comfortable in bed is the first obstacle and then, when you are finally asleep, breathing can be an issue. If you don’t get enough good quality sleep you can become ill, developing conditions such as heart disease, increasing your risk of heart attack, and being more prone to developing depression. Losing weight will make getting to sleep (and staying deeply asleep) much easier, which in turn has amazing benefits for your overall health.
Fewer Aches And Pains
Being overweight takes a terrible toll on your joints, muscles, and bones. They are doing a lot more work if they need to carry more weight around, and this can mean that you are more susceptible to aches and pains, and even debilitating injuries. Losing weight will ease the pressure on your joints and bones, making them a lot less painful and resulting in fewer injuries. If your back pain doesn’t get any better after losing weight, or if it is causing you major distress it is best to get advice from an expert.
If can be difficult to become pregnant when you are overweight, so slimming down can certainly improve your fertility. Not only that, but if you are slimmer during your pregnancy you will be healthier throughout, and so will your baby. A mother’s weight during pregnancy has been linked to the health of her child, so it is in both of your interests for you to lose the excess weight. However, dieting in pregnancy is not recommended, so it is best to lose the weight before you become pregnant.
For many people, losing weight can actually protect their vision. Obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes can cause blindness, or at least reduced eyesight, so it is far better to lose weight before this becomes a problem.
Seasonal Allergies May Disappear
If you develop seasonal allergies that make your spring and summer something of a misery because you are always sneezing and rubbing your itchy eyes, losing weight might help you. When you are overweight your adrenal glands and respiratory system can be strained making allergy symptoms much harsher. Losing weight will reduce that strain, and you may be able to combat pollen and grass seeds much more easily.
A lot of people are choosing to eat a much more vegetable based diet and for many the next logical step is to incorporate a vegan diet into their lives as well – or even instead of the vegetarian or omnivorous one. Diet is hugely important in our lives and getting it wrong can result in a variety of life-limiting diseases and conditions. Get it right, however, and you can live a long and happy life. Veganism makes it much easier to get that diet right, which could be why so many people are enjoying it. There are many reasons to try a vegan diet; here are some of them to think about.
Prevents Some Conditions
Heart disease and type 2 diabetes are most often the results of bad choices in our diets and they are the most common chronic diseases in the world. When you realize that these illnesses are not something that anyone necessarily has to suffer from if they just changed their eating habits you’ll see how vital a vegan diet can be. It can even reverse some cases of cardiovascular disease if the changes are made properly.
Reverses Some Conditions
Just like cardiovascular disease mentioned above, a vegan diet can have a hand in reversing all manner of other nasty diseases. Studies have shown that vegans have lower cancer rates, fewer strokes, less chance of type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and even fewer reported cases of Alzheimer’s disease. A plant-based diet can help a lot more than any kind of medication or surgery, so it really can’t hurt to at least try it for a while to see if any improvements are made.
Lose Weight And Keep It Off
Vegans tend to have a health body mass index (BMI) which means that their weight is perfectly in relation to their height and body shape. For those who eat meat, it’s much harder to maintain this kind of BMI without a large amount of exercise. This is because animal products are much higher in fat and have more calories than any vegan product. These things are converted into fat in the body, which is then difficult to remove. Vegan food, however, has more carbohydrates which are converted into energy instead of fat. That’s why vegans are able to lose weight and keep that weight off easily.
This may not be the kind of argument that works for the majority of meat eaters; they like to eat meat and will continue to do it. However, for some it is reason enough to try vegan food. Showing kindness and compassion to animals is something that many vegans feel passionate about, particularly because animals are innocent sentient beings and killing them just to eat them doesn’t seem very fair at all.
Good For World Hunger
There is a huge demand for food all over the world and a lot of this is fueled by the need for animal products; although there is a lot of meat around, when it is produced in emerging and third world countries the majority of it is sent to first world countries, leaving those in the country of origin to be hungry. Not only that, but over 70 percent of the grain grown in America is used to feed livestock, even though that grain is enough to feed 800 million people. If more people were vegan, there would be more food available for everyone and world hunger would be severely reduced, if not eradicated altogether.
Vegan Food Is Cleaner
Vegan food has a lot fewer instances of bacteria, hormones, antibiotics, and other toxins found in it whereas meat and dairy products do have a lot of these within them and they can cause health issues in people. This includes food poisoning which affects 75 million people each year; and it can be fatal. Vegan food can be eaten without these issues and those who enjoy this kind of diet won’t have to worry about falling ill because of it.
Good For The Environment
Somewhere between 18 and 50 percent of manmade pollution comes through factory farming for the meat industry. The more people who cut meat out of their diet, the less need there will be for this kind of industry and the better that will be for the environment.
Fantastic New Flavours
Did you know that there are more than 20,000 kinds of edible plants in the world? Although not all of them have been ‘domesticated’, there are roughly 200 different types that are farmed in the Western world today (and you’ll discover even more if you go traveling). This means that there are always new and exciting flavours and recipes to try; if you love cooking then cooking vegan recipes is something that will keep you happy for a long time to come. You’ll certainly never get bored!
If you need to study for an exam, or generally be more productive at work, changing to a vegan diet can really help you. People who eat vegan food are much more focused with better concentration. Whether you want to be able to complete an escape the room game, work out a tricky crossword puzzle, or bring in a huge contract for your company, you’ll need to be able to concentrate so ditch the meat (at least for a while) and see the difference it will make.
Although you may think that switching from a meat-based diet to a vegan one will leave you sluggish and without energy it’s the opposite that is true. It can actually boost your energy levels and help you reach your fitness goal much more quickly. This is because you’ll be enjoying a lot more healthy protein in your diet. Not only that, but with a vegan diet almost all of the food is able to be used within the body in some way. In an animal-based diet much of the food is removed as waste, and really not required at all.