Hone your survival skills in a stunning West country setting.

Spending a night under canvas, with only the glow of the moon and the occasional hoot of an owl for company, is a sure fire way to make a short-break special. With so many campsites out there, we thought we’d let you in on a secret and reveal one of our favourites.

When you walk into Rocks East campsite near Bath, take a deep breath, drink in those views and then pick your spot in either of the two picturesque glades. It helps to make pitching the tent a race, the loser has to fire up the gas stove and make that first lunch of beans and sausages. Already, you can see what makes camping so special. The campsite sits at the edge of 100-acres of woodland, which has loads of meandering paths, a sculpture trail, walled ponds and the ever so exciting valley of rocks.

With such great woodlands to explore, there are plenty of opportunities to go all Bear Grylls. And when the sun goes down, be sure to build a campfire. When it’s really roaring, it’s time to share a spooky story and toast those marshmallows to a delicious goo. When the fire eventually dies down, all that’s left to do is spread out under the night sky and count shooting stars, and get ready for the type of sleep only the great outdoors can deliver.


Tips for First Time Travellers to the UK…

Tips for First Time Travellers to the UK

A “lorry” is a truck, a “boot” is a car trunk, and the “underground” or “tube” is a subway. There’s more than language lingo that first time travellers to Britain need to know.

Here are some other helpful hints:

  • Shuttle buses, trains, and the underground run from the major airports to the centre of London. There are stairs to negotiate.
  • In London, ride the buses or walk to see the city. Use the underground for quick transportation, avoid it at rush hour if possible.
  • Stand on the right side on tube escalators; walk on the left.
  • Purchase an Oyster Card to use in Greater London–it’s a combination bus, underground, and Docklands Light Railway pass. You can buy them at any underground ticket office. It saves money and time.
  • A London A-Z street plan book is an invaluable resource.
  • Local bookstores are a rich source for cycle and walking maps and local history books.
  • If travelling by train, save money by purchasing a Railpass. Go outside of rush hours and save even more.
  • Outside the cities, buses are called coaches. They are slower than trains, but less expensive.
  • In the UK, cars drive on the left side of the road. Remember to look to the RIGHT before stepping off a curb.
  • If you hold a valid North American driver’s license, an international one is not necessary in the UK.
  • Standard shift cars are the norm. Unless you are comfortable with using your left hand to shift gears, reserve an automatic before you arrive. A 3-mile-to-the-inch road atlas is a necessity.
  • Driving in large British cities can be stressful. Book a room in a nearby village and use the bus or train to visit the city.
  • Petrol stations are few and far between, especially in rural areas. Keep your tank full. Stations are self-serve.
  • Roads don’t have shoulders and most rural roads are narrow.
  • B&B’s serve traditional English breakfasts of fried eggs, sausages, bread, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Many also have a light buffet style breakfast–cereals, yogurts and such. If you want something different or have specific allergies, let them know beforehand.
  • Pub grub is quick, reasonable, and accessible, though not necessarily good. Local bakeries and deli’s offer take-away options. In the UK, french-fries (called chips) come with vinegar.
  • Ask for the “WC” or “toilet”. “Bathroom”, “washroom”, and “restroom” are North American terms. Look for WC’s in museums, department stores, casual eating places, pubs, and train stations. Public washrooms can also be found at village and town car parks, historic homes, and castles. They are seldom found at Tourist Boards or in small shops or along the main streets.
  • Accommodations include university dorms (during out-of-school session), hostels (available to all ages), B&B’s, guest houses, and hotels. In rural areas and small villages B&B’s are more prevalent.
  • Use the local Tourist Information Centres (TIC) for information on attractions in the area, directions, and special events (concerts, ghost walks, historical re-enactments). Some can book a B&B locally or ahead for you.
  • Pounds, not Euro dollars, are the legal tender in Britain. In the country of Ireland, it’s Euros.
  • Value Added Tax (VAT) is 17.5%. Added to sales and services, it is included in prices posted or quoted.
  • Check with your bank to learn if your bankcard will work in British cash withdrawal machines.
  • Most British banks charge large fees to cash traveler’s checks; it’s best not to use them.Traveller’s checks on Barclay Bank are the easiest to cash as there is a Barclay Bank in most towns; cashing travel checks anywhere except on the bank they are drawn on is prohibitively expensive.
  • Most Bed and Breakfasts take cash only.
  • Newsagents sell phone cards. These are handier than using change for the phones, but some phones aren’t equipped for them. Be aware there are very few public phones.
  • A North American cell phones won’t work in Britain unless they are a tri-band (GSM) phone. You may still need to purchase SIM cards.
  • Contact your local phone company and ask for their “direct access” number to your home country. You save time and money by not going through a UK operator when calling home.
  • The emergency police/ambulance number in the UK is 999.
  • Go to the popular tourist spots early. You will avoid long lineups and wait times. Purchase tickets ahead online if possible.
  • Electric voltage is 240v as opposed to North American 120, so you will need a special plug for the wall. Most portable computer devices come with an adapter or converter but you still need the special plug. If you forget to purchase one before arriving, some hardware/electrical shops/travel shops have them. Some hotels and B and B’s supply them for use while staying with them.
  • A Bank Holiday is a three-day weekend. Businesses may be closed. Many special events take place on these busy weekends. Book your accommodation early.
  • Many attractions are closed off-season.
  • August is the busiest month for tourism in the UK.
  • Before you leave home, check with your email server for instructions on accessing your email through the web. Large cities, like London, have business operated cyber connections. Local libraries and some YMCAs have free-of-charge internet service. Many accommodations have Wi-Fi.
  • No special health precautions are necessary, but do purchase health insurance before you leave home.
  • Have your optometrist write out your eyeglass prescription before you travel. Without it you will be required to pay for an eye exam if you need to replace your glasses.
  • Take raingear. Weather in Britain is unpredictable.
  • Wear sturdy walking shoes. There are cobbled streets, uneven pavements, and worn stone steps to navigate.
  • Laundry facilities are scarce. Take easy-to-wash, quick dry clothing.
  • Visiting historic homes, ruined castles, and heritage sites can be expensive. Save money by purchasing a Great British Heritage Pass (1-888-239-3766). Alternatively, you may wish to join the National Trust, English Heritage, Cadw (Wales), Historic Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, and/or Historic Houses Association. Joining provides you with free entry to sites, guide books, maps, location directions, opening hours and days.
  • Always carry lots of change—you will need it for car parks. Lots of the car parks have peel-off tickets that you need to stick on your car window.
  • Carry a role of paper towels for picnics, clean ups , drying and wiping car windows, etc.
  • Carry a container of water for washing hands, car windows, picnic utensils, etc.
  • Carry bottled water for drinking—none is available. Coffee, tea and soft drinks are expensive.
  • Most towns/villages have bakeries, delis, meat markets, cheese and such for take-out. Green grocers sell veggies and fruit. Small markets have bottled drinking water, laundry soap, etc.
  • Dry your laundry on the back shelf of your rental car. If it’s sunny, by the end of the day, it should be dry.
  • The National Trust sites, historic homes, museums, and some cathedrals offer great meals for the price and are usually freshly cooked each day.
  • Try to avoid market days in a town or get to the town before 8:30 am; otherwise, there are huge traffic jams and you may not be able to find any parking.
  • Before you leave home get some bills and change in British money so you won’t have to hunt up a bank as soon as you arrive. Exchange bureaus generally offer better exchange rates than banks.
  • Villages do not have banks; many small stores do not take credit cards; B & B’s generally do not take credit cards.
  • There are lots of good maps and local guide books in the W. H. Smith stores in the larger (10,000 or more) towns.
  • Because an accommodation is on the Visit Britain Tourist Board list does not mean that it is clean. Price has nothing to do with a place being clean or nice.
  • Washcloths/facecloths are not generally provided in accommodations.
  • If you have not pre-booked accommodation, ask to see a room before you decide to take it; don’t stay if it isn’t satisfactory.
  • If you pay a booking fee to a Tourist Board for a room, be sure to deduct it from what you owe the establishment—some places forget to take it off.
  • Cars seldom stop for pedestrians; cross any street at your own risk.
  • Sometimes there are buttons you can push for the light to turn red so you can cross a major street or highway, but don’t count on the cars stopping.

Even though Britain is an English-speaking country, things can be different from home. Visit the villages and roam the countryside. And above all, enjoy the people who live here.



Brits can be a funny lot. The country might be small, but you could spend a lifetime learning its quirks and idiosyncrasies. Regional pronunciation, strange road rules and its renowned drinking culture can all prove hazardous to the first-time visitor. Here’s our guide to surviving in Blighty.

1. There are three nations in Britain

First things first. The most important thing to know is that Britain is home to not one but three patriotic nations: England, Scotland and Wales.

2. Tea is central to the national psyche

Expect to be offered tea in any eventuality. Celebrations, commiserations, rainy days, sunny days and everything in between all call for a good cuppa. Fierce debate rages as to whether the milk or tea should be poured first.

3. Brits rarely say what they mean

Unfailing politeness is observed in all circumstances. “Sorry” runs the gamut from a genuine apology to a passive aggressive warning that you’re about to be pushed out of the way. Use this handy guide for translations.

4. A “swift half” will always end in the early hours

The pub, one of the greatest British traditions, comes with its own set of rules. Drinks are bought in rounds and you should stick to beer, ale and wine – never shots or cocktails. If you’re invited out for a quick one, prepare to crawl back home at closing time having eaten nothing but half a pack of salt-and-vinegar crisps.

5. You can drink on the street

If you’re coming from the US, you might be surprised to see people with drinks on the pavement (sidewalk). Not only is this allowed, but given the faintest hint of sun Brits will congregate on any patch of concrete, grass or pavement going.

6. Brits really do talk about the weather – a lot

When it changes this much, there’s always something to say. And there really is nothing lovelier than the cloudless skies and gentle sun of a perfect British summer day.

7. Compliments make people nervous

Compliment a Brit and they’re likely to brush it off or make a self-effacing remark, however pleased they are. Don’t even get onto boasting. “Self-praise is known as “blowing your own trumpet” in the U.K. and is tantamount to treason” according to the BBC.

8. There are some astonishingly strange place names

Bottom Flash, Cock Alley, Booty Lane, Nether Wallop and Sandy Balls are all British places. Yes, really. There are so many odd place names, we even made a quiz of the best ones.

9. Measurements are baffling

Distances on roads are calculated in yards and miles. Objects are measured in centimetres and metres. Height is stated in feet and inches. Food is weighed in grams and kilos. People are weighed in stone and pounds. Are you following?

10. Queue jumpers will not be treated kindly

After tea drinking, queuing is the other national pastime. “Queue-barging is the worst solecism a foreigner can commit” say the bastion of traditional British values, Debretts.

11. Stand on the right

If you value your life, stand on the right when you step on an escalator. If you want to walk up or down, stick to the left.

12. There are more weird traditions that you can count

From cheese rolling to bog snorkelling, there’s no end to Britain’s weird and wonderful festivals and traditions. Eccentricity is among the most celebrated British traits.

Cheese rolling, Gloucestershire, England

13. British food is world class

British food has shaken off its poor reputation. You’ll find innovative fine dining everywhere from Cornwall to Edinburgh, hearty roasts and posh pub grub aplenty and exceptional Indian, Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine among others. These days Britain even has its own vineyards.

14. That said, Brits aren’t afraid of a bit of offal

Aside from the classics like haggis (sheep’s stomach filled with sausage meat oats and spices) and black pudding (blood sausage), look out for a resurgence of nose-to-tail eating.

15. You might hear about a chain called Nando’s

Everyone under the age of 25 has gone a bit nuts for a restaurant called Nando’s. The hype doesn’t really translate outside the country, and if you were drawn into the Tumblr furore, you’ll find this summary helpful.

16. In London, never make eye contact

No matter how crowded the train or strange the situation, Londoners will steadfastly ignore eye contact at all costs. Striking up a conversation with a stranger on public transport is practically unheard of.

17. Outside London, always make eye contact

Outside the capital, Brits are generally a friendly lot and happy to chat. Expect people to greet you with anything from “alright, pet” in Newcastle to the occasional “ey’up duck” in Derbyshire.

18. Pronunciation is important

You’d better get familiar with “Worcestershire”, “Marylebone” and “Gloucester”. If you want to get ripped off by a London cabbie, there’s no better way than asking to go to “Lie-ces-ter” rather than “Less-ter” Square.

19. London is not the centre of everything in Britain

Unless you’re talking to a Londoner, in which case Britain solely exists within the M25 motorway.

20. Britain has some of the world’s most gorgeous countryside

Bucolic views don’t get much better than those you’ll find in the Scottish Highlands, the Brecon Beacons and the Lake District. If you want to get away from it all, there are numerous places to choose from.

21. A trip to Britain is unforgettable

There’s a reason it’s one of the most visited countries in the world. Check out our lists of things not to miss in Scotland, England and Wales for starters.


All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU…

Theresa May and Angela MerkelImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

This article is designed to be an easy-to-understand guide on what happens now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union.

What does Brexit mean?

It is a word that has become used as a shorthand way of saying the UK leaving the EU – merging the words Britain and exit to get Brexit, in a same way as a Greek exit from the EU was dubbed Grexit in the past.

Why is Britain leaving the European Union?

A referendum – a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part – was held on Thursday 23 June, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. Leave won by 52% to 48%. The referendum turnout was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting.

Find the result in your area

What was the breakdown across the UK?

England voted strongly for Brexit, by 53.4% to 46.6%, as did Wales, with Leave getting 52.5% of the vote and Remain 47.5%. Scotland and Northern Ireland both backed staying in the EU. Scotland backed Remain by 62% to 38%, while 55.8% in Northern Ireland voted Remain and 44.2% Leave. See the results in more detail.

What is the European Union?

The European Union – often known as the EU – is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries (click here if you want to see the full list). It began after World War Two to foster economic co-operation, with the idea that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other.

It has since grown to become a “single market” allowing goods and people to move around, basically as if the member states were one country.

It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries, its own parliament and it now sets rules in a wide range of areas – including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things such as mobile phone charges. Click here for a beginners’ guide to how the EU works.

What happens now?

Theresa May supported the campaign for Britain to stay in the EU but since becoming prime minister – after her fellow Remain campaigner David Cameron stepped down – she has said she will respect the will of the people and said: “Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it.”

For the UK to leave the EU it has to invoke an agreement called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which gives the two sides two years to agree the terms of the split. Mrs May has said she will not kick-off this process before the end of 2016. This means that we will not begin to get a clear idea of what kind of deal the UK will seek from the EU, on trade and immigration, until next year.

Who is going to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU?

David DavisImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDavid Davis has been appointed Secretary of State for Brexit

Theresa May has set up a new government department, to be headed by veteran Conservative MP and Leave campaigner David Davis, to take responsibility for Brexit. Former defence secretary, Liam Fox, who also campaigned to leave the EU, has been given the job of international trade minister and Boris Johnson, who led the Leave campaign, is foreign secretary.

These men – dubbed the Three Brexiteers – will play a central role in negotiations with the EU and seek out new international agreements, although it will be Mrs May, as prime minister, who will have the final say. The government did not do any emergency planning for Brexit ahead of the referendum – and it is now rushing to hire a team of skilled negotiators to manage the complex business of negotiating withdrawal and ensuring Britain gets the best possible deal.

How long will it take for Britain to leave the EU?

Once Article 50 has been triggered, the UK will have two years to negotiate its withdrawal. Brexit Secretary David Davis has suggested the country could formally sever its relationship with the EU by December 2018. But no one really knows how the Brexit process will work – Article 50 was only created in late 2009 and it has never been used.

Former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, now Chancellor, wanted Britain to remain in the EU, and he has suggested it could take up to six years for the UK to complete exit negotiations. The terms of Britain’s exit will have to be agreed by 27 national parliaments, a process which could take some years, he has argued.

EU law still stands in the UK until it ceases being a member. The UK will continue to abide by EU treaties and laws, but not take part in any decision-making.

BBC graphic
Image captionThe process to take the UK out of the European Union starts with invoking Article 50 and will take at least two years from that point

Why will Brexit take so long?

Unpicking 43 years of treaties and agreements covering thousands of different subjects was never going to be a straightforward task. It is further complicated by the fact that it has never been done before and negotiators will, to some extent, be making it up as they go along.

Will the process of disentangling British laws from EU ones happen at the same time as negotiations to set up a new deal governing the terms of trade between the EU and the UK? No one really knows yet. The post-Brexit trade deal is likely to be the most complex part of the negotiation because it needs the unanimous approval of more than 30 national and regional parliaments across Europe, some of whom may want to hold referendums.

What happens to EU citizens living in the UK?

The government has declined to give a firm guarantee about the status of EU nationals currently living in the UK, saying this is not possible without a reciprocal pledge from other EU members about the millions of British nationals living on the continent.

EU nationals with a right to permanent residence, which is granted after they have lived in the UK for five years, will be be able to stay, the chief civil servant at the Home Office has said. The rights of other EU nationals would be subject to negotiations on Brexit and the “will of Parliament,” he added.

What happens to UK citizens working in the EU?

A lot depends on the kind of deal the UK agrees with the EU. If it remains within the single market, it would almost certainly retain free movement rights, allowing UK citizens to work in the EU and vice versa. If the government opted to impose work permit restrictions, then other countries could reciprocate, meaning Britons would have to apply for visas to work.

What about EU nationals who want to work in the UK?

Again, it depends on whether the UK government decides to introduce a work permit system of the kind that currently applies to non-EU citizens, limiting entry to skilled workers in professions where there are shortages.

Citizens’ Advice has reminded people their rights have not changed yet and asked anyone to contact them if they think they have been discriminated against following the Leave vote.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has suggested EU migrants who come to the UK as Brexit nears may not be given the right to stay. He has said there might have to be a cut-off point if there was a “surge” in new arrivals.

What about all the economic warnings about Brexit? Were they wrong?

There was a dramatic fall in the value of the pound against the dollar and in share prices in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote. Britain also lost its top AAA credit rating, meaning the cost of government borrowing will be higher.

But a month after the vote share prices in the UK had recovered, with the FTSE 100 trading higher than before the referendum. The broader FTSE 250 index, which includes more British-based businesses, remains about 1.5% lower than before the Brexit vote.

A report by the Bank of England, published on 20 July, suggested the UK economy may have, so far, withstood the shock of the Brexit vote. Most of the data was gathered before the result but intelligence gathered since 23 June vote showed “no clear evidence of a sharp general slowing in activity” despite an increase in uncertainty.

It found there had been a dip in housing market activity after 23 June but that transactions had so far proved to be more resilient than some had predicted. Unemployment has also fallen to its lowest rate since July 2005, according to the latest official figures, although the figures cover period before the referendum and some analysts have warned that the positive trend was unlikely to continue for much longer.

What has been the effect on the value of the pound?

Sterling has lost more than 10% of its value against the dollar since Brexit. With the pound worth about $1.32, this is down to the lowest levels since 1985.

It has also fallen in value against the euro. For much of 2015 the pound would buy you between €1.35-1.45. This year sterling has weakened against the euro, and dropped following the Brexit vote to about €1.20.

Some major firms such as Easyjet and John Lewis have pointed out that the slump in sterling has increased their costs.

What does that mean for prices in the shops?

Media captionShoppers will need to keep a close eye on how much they are spending

Summer holidaymakers travelling overseas from the UK are finding that their pounds are buying fewer euros or dollars after the Brexit vote.

The day-to-day spending impact is likely to be more significant. Even if the pound regains some of its value, currency experts expect it to remain at least 10% below where it was on 23 June, in the long term.

If they are correct, imported goods will consequently get more expensive – that means food, clothing and homeware are all likely to get pricier.

These price rises might not kick in immediately. For example, all the big retailers would have factored in the currency risk when organising their finances. In effect they have insured themselves against a fall in the pound, but this will start to unwind next year leading to price increases in the shops.

Sellers of luxury items, such as high-end cars, have much bigger profit margins, so may be able to absorb the extra costs without passing these on to customers.

Will immigration be cut?

HeathrowImage copyrightPA

Prime Minister Theresa May has said one of the main messages she has taken from the Leave vote is that the British people want to see a reduction in immigration.

She has said this will be a focus of Brexit negotiations. The key issue is whether other EU nations will grant the UK access to the single market, if that is what it wants, while at the same time being allowed to restrict the rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK.

Mrs May has said she remains committed to getting net migration – the difference between the numbers entering and leaving the country – down to a “sustainable” level, which she defines as being below 100,000 a year. It is currently running at 330,000 a year, of which 184,000 are EU citizens, and 188,000 are from outside the EU – the figures include a 39,000 outflow of UK citizens.

Could there be a second referendum?

Polling station

It seems highly unlikely. Both the Conservatives and the Labour Party have ruled out another referendum, arguing that it would be an undemocratic breach of trust with the British people who clearly voted to Leave. The Liberal Democrats have vowed to halt Brexit and keep Britain in the EU if they win the next general election.

Some commentators, including former House of Commons clerk Lord Lisvane, have argued that a further referendum would be needed to ratify whatever deal the UK hammers out with the EU, but there are few signs political leaders view this as a viable option.

Will I need a visa to travel to the EU?

While there could be limitations on British nationals’ ability to live and work in EU countries, it seems unlikely they would want to deter tourists. There are many countries outside the European Economic Area, which includes the 28 EU nations plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, that British citizens can visit for up to 90 days without needing a visa and it is possible that such arrangements could be negotiated with European countries.

A passport in front of a European Union flagImage copyrightREUTERS

Will I still be able to use my passport?

Yes. It is a British document – there is no such thing as an EU passport, so your passport will stay the same. In theory, the government could, if it wanted, decide to change the colour, which is currently standardised for EU countries, says the BBC’s Europe correspondent, Chris Morris.

Some say we could still remain in the single market – but what is a single market?

The single market is seen by its advocates as the EU’s biggest achievement and one of the main reasons it was set up in the first place.

Britain was a member of a free trade area in Europe before it joined what was then known as the common market. In a free trade area countries can trade with each other without paying tariffs – but it is not a single market because the member states do not have to merge their economies together.

The European Union single market, which was completed in 1992, allows the free movement of goods, services, money and people within the European Union, as if it was a single country.

It is possible to set up a business or take a job anywhere within it. The idea was to boost trade, create jobs and lower prices. But it requires common law-making to ensure products are made to the same technical standards and imposes other rules to ensure a “level playing field”.

Critics say it generates too many petty regulations and robs members of control over their own affairs. Mass migration from poorer to richer countries has also raised questions about the free movement rule. Read more: A free trade area v EU single market

Has any other member state ever left the EU?

No nation state has ever left the EU. But Greenland, one of Denmark’s overseas territories, held a referendum in 1982, after gaining a greater degree of self government, and voted by 52% to 48% to leave, which it duly did after a period of negotiation. The BBC’s Carolyn Quinn visited Greenland at the end of last year to find out how they did it.

Nicola Sturgeon speaking in Edinburgh on 24 June 2016Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionNicola Sturgeon says a new independence referendum in Scotland is likely

What does this mean for Scotland?

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in the wake of the Leave result that it is “democratically unacceptable” that Scotland faces being taken out of the EU when it voted to Remain. A second independence referendum for the country is now “highly likely”, she has said.

What does it mean for Northern Ireland?

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the impact in Northern Ireland would be “very profound” and that the whole island of Ireland should now be able to vote on reunification. But, speaking while she was still Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers ruled out the call from Sinn Féin for a border poll, saying the circumstances in which one would be called did not exist.

How will pensions, savings, investments and mortgages be affected?

During the referendum campaign, David Cameron said the so-called “triple lock” for state pensions would be threatened by a UK exit. This is the agreement by which pensions increase by at least the level of earnings, inflation or 2.5% every year – whichever is the highest.

If economic performance deteriorates, the Bank of England could decide on a further programme of quantitative easing, as an alternative to cutting interest rates, which would lower bond yields and with them annuity rates. So anyone taking out a pension annuity could get less income for their money. Though it’s worth pointing out that annuity rates have been falling since before the vote anyway.

The Bank of England may consider raising interest rates to combat extra pressure on inflation. That would make mortgages and loans more expensive to repay but would be good news for savers.

However it is still too soon to say whether or not these warnings will prove accurate.

Will duty-free sales on Europe journeys return?

A duty free shopImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Journalists and writers on social media have greeted the reintroduction of duty-free sales as an “upside” or “silver lining” of Brexit. As with most Brexit consequences, whether this will happen depends on how negotiations with the EU play out – whether the “customs union” agreement between Britain and the EU is ended or continued.

Eurotunnel boss Jacques Gounon said last November the reintroduction of duty-free would be “an incredible boost for my business” but he later said that remark had been “light-hearted”. Erik Juul-Mortensen, president of the Tax Free World Association (TFWA) said after the referendum vote “it is not possible to predict how Brexit will affect the duty free and travel retail industry, and it is wiser not to make assumptions about exactly what the impact will be.”

Will EHIC cards still be valid?

They are at the moment but no-one knows the longer term prospects for definite. The EHIC card – which entitles travellers to state-provided medical help for any condition or injury that requires urgent treatment, in any other country within the EU, as well as several non-EU countries – is not an EU initiative. It was negotiated between countries within a group known as the European Economic Area, often simply referred to as the single market (plus Switzerland, which confusingly is not a member of the EEA, but has agreed access to the single market). Therefore, the future of Britons’ EHIC cover could depend on whether the UK decided to sever ties with the EEA.

Will cars need new number plates?

Probably not, says BBC Europe correspondent Chris Morris, because there’s no EU-wide law on vehicle registration or car number places, and the EU flag symbol is a voluntary identifier and not compulsory. The DVLA says there has been no discussion about what would happen to plates with the flag if the UK voted to leave.

Could MPs block an EU exit?

Could the necessary legislation pass the Commons, given that a lot of MPs – all SNP and Lib Dems, nearly all Labour and many Conservatives – were in favour of staying? The referendum result is not legally binding – Parliament still has to pass the laws that will get Britain out of the 28 nation bloc, starting with the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act.

The withdrawal agreement also has to be ratified by Parliament – the House of Lords and/or the Commons could vote against ratification, according to a House of Commons library report. In practice, Conservative MPs who voted to remain in the EU would be whipped to vote with the government. Any who defied the whip would have to face the wrath of voters at the next general election.

One scenario that could see the referendum result overturned, is if MPs forced a general election and a party campaigned on a promise to keep Britain in the EU, got elected and then claimed that the election mandate topped the referendum one. Two-thirds of MPs would have to vote for a general election to be held before the next scheduled one in 2020.

Will leaving the EU mean we don’t have to abide by the European Court of Human Rights?

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is not a European Union institution.

It was set up by the Council of Europe, which has 47 members including Russia and Ukraine. So quitting the EU will not exempt the UK from its decisions.

However, the UK government is committed to repealing the Human Rights Act which requires UK courts to treat the ECHR as setting legal precedents for the UK, in favour of a British Bill of Rights.

As part of that, the UK government is expected to announce measures that will boost the powers of courts in England and Wales to over-rule judgements handed down by the ECHR.

However, the EU has its own European Court of Justice, whose decisions are binding on EU institutions and member states.

Its rulings have sometimes caused controversy in Britain and supporters of a Brexit have called for immediate legislation to curb its powers.

Will the UK be able to rejoin the EU in the future?

BBC Europe editor Katya Adler says the UK would have to start from scratch with no rebate, and enter accession talks with the EU. Every member state would have to agree to the UK re-joining. But she says with elections looming elsewhere in Europe, other leaders might not be generous towards any UK demands. New members are required to adopt the euro as their currency, once they meet the relevant criteria, although the UK could try to negotiate an opt-out.

Who wanted the UK to leave the EU?

The UK Independence Party, which received nearly four million votes – 13% of those cast – in May’s general election, has campaigned for many years for Britain’s exit from the EU. They were joined in their call during the referendum campaign by about half the Conservative Party’s MPs, including Boris Johnson and five members of the then Cabinet. A handful of Labour MPs and Northern Ireland party the DUP were also in favour of leaving.

What were their reasons for wanting the UK to leave?

They said Britain was being held back by the EU, which they said imposed too many rules on business and charged billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also wanted Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to live and/or work.

One of the main principles of EU membership is “free movement”, which means you don’t need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. The Leave campaign also objected to the idea of “ever closer union” between EU member states and what they see as moves towards the creation of a “United States of Europe”.

Who wanted the UK to stay in the EU?

Then Prime Minister David Cameron was the leading voice in the Remain campaign, after reaching an agreement with other European Union leaders that would have changed the terms of Britain’s membership had the country voted to stay in.

He said the deal would give Britain “special” status and help sort out some of the things British people said they didn’t like about the EU, like high levels of immigration – but critics said the deal would make little difference.

Sixteen members of Mr Cameron’s Cabinet, including the woman who would replace him as PM, Theresa May, also backed staying in. The Conservative Party was split on the issue and officially remained neutral in the campaign. The Labour Party, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats were all in favour of staying in.

US president Barack Obama also wanted Britain to remain in the EU, as did other EU nations such as France and Germany.

What were their reasons for wanting the UK to stay?

Those campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU said it gets a big boost from membership – it makes selling things to other EU countries easier and, they argued, the flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services.

They also said Britain’s status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that we are more secure as part of the 28 nation club, rather than going it alone.

What about businesses?

Big business – with a few exceptions – tended to be in favour of Britain staying in the EU because it makes it easier for them to move money, people and products around the world.

Given the crucial role of London as a financial centre, there’s interest in how many jobs may be lost to other hubs in the EU. Four of the biggest US banks have committed to helping maintain the City’s position. But HSBC will move up to 1,000 jobs to Paris, the BBC understands.

Some UK exporters say they’ve had increased orders or enquiries because of the fall in the value of the pound. Pest control firm Rentokil Initial says it could make £15m extra this year thanks to a weaker currency.

Others are less optimistic. Hilary Jones, a director at UK cosmetics firm Lush said the company was “terrified” about the economic impact. She added that while the firm’s Dorset factory would continue to produce goods for the UK market, products for the European market may be made at its new plant in Germany.

Boris Johnson speaking after the UK voted to leave the EUImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionBoris Johnson was one of the most prominent Leave campaigners

Who led the rival sides in the campaign?

  • Britain Stronger in Europe – the main cross-party group campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU was headed by former Marks and Spencer chairman Lord Rose. It was backed by key figures from the Conservative Party, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, most Labour MPs, including party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Alan Johnson, who ran the Labour In for Britain campaign, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Alliance party and the SDLP in Northern Ireland, and the Green Party. Who funded the campaign: Britain Stronger in Europe raised £6.88m, boosted by two donations totalling £2.3m from the supermarket magnate and Labour peer Lord Sainsbury. Other prominent Remain donors included hedge fund manager David Harding (£750,000), businessman and Travelex founder Lloyd Dorfman (£500,000) and the Tower Limited Partnership (£500,000). Read a Who’s Who guide. Who else campaigned to remain: The SNP ran its own remain campaign in Scotland as it did not want to share a platform with the Conservatives. Several smaller groups also registered to campaign.
  • Vote Leave – A cross-party campaign that has the backing of senior Conservatives such as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson plus a handful of Labour MPs, including Gisela Stuart and Graham Stringer, and UKIP’s Douglas Carswell and Suzanne Evans, and the DUP in Northern Ireland. Former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson and SDP founder Lord Owen were also involved. It had a string of affiliated groups such as Farmers for Britain, Muslims for Britain and Out and Proud, a gay anti-EU group, aimed at building support in different communities. Who funded the campaign: Vote Leave raised £2.78m. Its largest supporter was businessman Patrick Barbour, who gave £500,000. Former Conservative Party treasurer Peter Cruddas gave a £350,000 donation and construction mogul Terence Adams handed over £300,000. Read a Who’s Who guide. Who else campaigned to leave: UKIP leader Nigel Farage is not part of Vote Leave. His party ran its own campaign. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition is also running its own out campaign. Several smaller groups also registered to campaign.

Will the EU still use English?

Yes, says BBC Europe editor Katya Adler. There will still be 27 other EU states in the bloc, and others wanting to join in the future, and the common language tends to be English – “much to France’s chagrin”, she says.

Will a Brexit harm product safety?

Probably not, is the answer. It would depend on whether or not the UK decided to get rid of current safety standards. Even if that happened any company wanting to export to the EU would have to comply with its safety rules, and it’s hard to imagine a company would want to produce two batches of the same products.

Thanks for sending in your questions. Here are a selection of them, and our answers:

Which MPs were for staying and which for leaving?

The good news for Edward, from Cambridge, who asked this question, is we have been working on exactly such a list. Click here for the latest version.

How much does the UK contribute to the EU and how much do we get in return?

In answer to this query from Nancy from Hornchurch – the UK is one of 10 member states who pay more into the EU budget than they get out, only France and Germany contribute more. In 2014/15, Poland was the largest beneficiary, followed by Hungary and Greece.

Brexit and EU signsImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK
Image captionThe UK is one of 10 member states who pay more into the EU budget than they get out

The UK also gets an annual rebate that was negotiated by Margaret Thatcher and money back, in the form of regional development grants and payments to farmers, which added up to £4.6bn in 2014/15. According to the latest Treasury figures, the UK’s net contribution for 2014/15 was £8.8bn – nearly double what it was in 2009/10.

The National Audit Office, using a different formula which takes into account EU money paid directly to private sector companies and universities to fund research, and measured over the EU’s financial year, shows the UK’s net contribution for 2014 was £5.7bn. Read more number crunching from Reality Check.

If I retire to Spain or another EU country will my healthcare costs still be covered?

David, from East Sussex, is worried about what will happen to his retirement plans. This is one of those issues where it is not possible to say definitively what would happen. At the moment, the large British expat community in Spain gets free access to Spanish GPs and their hospital treatment is paid for by the NHS. After they become permanent residents Spain pays for their hospital treatment. Similar arrangements are in place with other EU countries.

If Britain remains in the single market, or the European Economic Area as it is known, it might be able to continue with this arrangement, according to a House of Commons library research note. If Britain has to negotiate trade deals with individual member states, it may opt to continue paying for expats’ healthcare through the NHS or decide that they would have to cover their own costs if they continue to live abroad, if the country where they live declines to do so.

What will happen to protected species?

Dee, from Launceston, wanted to know what would happen to EU laws covering protected species such as bats in the event of Britain leaving the EU. The answer is that they would remain in place, initially at least. After the Leave vote, the government will probably review all EU-derived laws in the two years leading up to the official exit date to see which ones to keep or scrap.

The status of Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas, which are designated by the EU, would be reviewed to see what alternative protections could be applied. The same process would apply to European Protected Species legislation, which relate to bats and their habitats.

The government would want to avoid a legislative vacuum caused by the repeal of EU laws before new UK laws are in place – it would also continue to abide by other international agreements covering environmental protection.

How much money will the UK save through changes to migrant child benefits and welfare payments?

Martin, from Poole, in Dorset, wanted to know what taxpayers would have got back from the benefit curbs negotiated by David Cameron in Brussels. We don’t exactly know because the details were never worked out. HM Revenue and Customs suggested about 20,000 EU nationals receive child benefit payments in respect of 34,000 children in their country of origin at an estimated cost of about £30m.

But the total saving would have been significantly less than that because Mr Cameron did not get the blanket ban he wanted. Instead, payments would have been linked to the cost of living in the countries where the children live. David Cameron said as many as 40% of EU migrant families who come to Britain could lose an average of £6,000 a year of in-work benefits when his “emergency brake” was applied. The DWP estimated between 128,700 and 155,100 people would be affected. But the cuts would have been phased in. New arrivals would not have got tax credits and other in-work benefits straight away but would have gradually gained access to them over a four year period at a rate that had not been decided. The plan will never be implemented now.

Will we be barred from the Eurovision Song Contest?

Joe and JakeImage copyrightAP
Image captionTo participate in the Eurovision Song Contest countries need to be a member of the European Broadcasting Union, which is independent of the EU

Sophie from Peterborough, who asks the question, need not worry. We have consulted Alasdair Rendall, president of the UK Eurovision fan club, who says: “All participating countries must be a member of the European Broadcasting Union. The EBU – which is totally independent of the EU – includes countries both inside and outside of the EU, and also includes countries such as Israel that are outside of Europe. Indeed the UK started participating in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1957, 16 years before joining the then EEC.”

Has Brexit made house prices fall?

Sale signsImage copyrightPA

As with most elements of the UK economy, not enough solid data has been published yet to accurately conclude the Brexit effect on house prices. Industry figures have pointed to “uncertainty” among buyers and sellers that could potentially change the housing market.

So far, the most significant research has come from the respected Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which has published the conclusions of a survey of its members. This primarily records sentiment among surveyors.

It found that house prices are expected to fall across the UK in the three months after the referendum vote. However, the dip in prices is only expected to persist over the 12 months from June in London and East Anglia, surveyors predict.

House prices were already slowing in central London, owing to the fall-out from changes to stamp duty rules in April.

Separate figures from property portal Rightmove suggested the average asking price of houses coming on to the market in England and Wales fell by 0.9%, or £2,647, in July compared with June. It said that agents had reported very few sales had fallen through as a result of the vote.

Many potential first-time buyers would welcome a fall in house prices, with ownership among the young falling owing to affordability concerns. Investors in property, or those who have paid off a mortgage and hope to leave homes as inheritance would be unhappy with a long-term reduction in value.

What is the ‘red tape’ that opponents of the EU complain about?

Ged, from Liverpool, suspects “red tape” is a euphemism for employment rights and environmental protection. According to the Open Europe think tank, four of the top five most costly EU regulations are either employment or environment-related. The UK renewable energy strategy, which the think-tank says costs £4.7bn a year, tops the list. The working time directive (£4.2bn a year) – which limits the working week to 48 hours – and the temporary agency workers directive (£2.1bn a year), giving temporary staff many of the same rights as permanent ones – are also on the list.

There is nothing to stop a future UK government reproducing these regulations in British law following the decision to leave the EU. And the costs of so-called “red tape” will not necessarily disappear overnight – if Britain opted to follow the “Norway model” and remained in the European Economic Area most of the EU-derived laws would remain in place.

Will Britain be party to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?

Ste, in Bolton, asked about this. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – or TTIP – currently under negotiation between the EU and United States will create the biggest free trade area the world has ever seen.

Cheerleaders for TTIP, including former PM David Cameron, believe it could make American imports cheaper and boost British exports to the US to the tune of £10bn a year.

But many on the left, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, fear it will shift more power to multinational corporations, undermine public services, wreck food standards and threaten basic rights.

Quitting the EU means the UK will not be part of TTIP. It will have negotiate its own trade deal with the US.

What impact will leaving the EU have on the NHS?

Paddy, from Widnes, wanted to know how leaving the EU will affect the number of doctors we have and impact the NHS.

This became an issue in the referendum debate after the Leave campaign claimed the money Britain sends to the EU, which it claims is £350m a week, could be spent on the NHS instead. The BBC’s Reality Check team looked into this claim.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that leaving the EU would lead to budget cuts and an exodus of overseas doctors and nurses. The Leave campaign dismissed his intervention as “scaremongering” and insisted that EU membership fees could be spent on domestic services like the NHS.

Former Labour health secretary Lord Owen has said that because of TTIP (see answer above) the only way to protect the NHS from further privatisation was to get out of the EU.


The Church of England? We don’t know what it is any more…

Choristers sing during a service for the inauguration of the Tenth General Synod, at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain November 24, 2015.
Choristers sing during a service for the inauguration of the Tenth General Synod, at Westminster Abbey in London CREDIT: REUTERS

When the Church of England Synod meets in high summer, its thoughts inexorably turn to love – or rather, to same-sex relationships: the perennial pachyderm in the Anglican room.

As members gathered on Sunday to discuss the intractable topic, the minds of some may have drifted longingly towards the hearty thwack and ping of the Murray/Raonic final. Alert to wandering attention,  David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s former director of reconciliation, urged his colleagues to “prepare yourself for Wimbledon withdrawal”.

Reconciling the schism between sport, sex and spirituality was the least of the participants’ challenges. Their attendance was regulated in advance with a dense thicket of protocol.

Members were asked to eschew social media, abandon clerical dress for “casual, comfortable clothes”, and “Remember your body language. Watch that it doesn’t say, “I’m bored’.”

If people look bored while you are talking about sex, you’re probably doing it wrong. But the jittery preamble of secrecy around these conversations is intriguing.

There was a time when the C of E’s agonising over sexuality was a source of keen public interest. The General Synod of 1994 drew headlines when demonstrators from the LGBT activist group OutRage held up placards outing ten bishops as gay.

So did the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution on sexuality, which rejected “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture”. Still, as the Sibylline Oracle once gnomically observed, the divine mill will at last grind the flour. In 2003 the Episcopal Church in the USA appointed, with a minimum of fuss, Gene Robinson, a gay priest in a same-sex relationship, to the diocese of New Hampshire. (The fuss came later – he was advised to wear a bulletproof vest for public appearances.)

Meanwhile in the C of E, the laity (not Synod’s House of Laity, that is, but those of us who used to pitch up at church every so often to arrange the flowers, ring the bells, sing the hymns and cherish the liturgy), at first appalled and then bored by the spectacle of Christ’s representatives on earth skirmishing like ferrets in a sack, began to drift away.

In 2013 a majority of respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey described themselves as having “no religion”, rather than the default agnostic self-description of “C of E”.

In That Was The Church That Was, a devastating critique of the C of E, Andrew Brown and Linda Woodhead note that the decline of the established church doesn’t signify a wider lack of interest in spirituality. On the contrary: “As the Church lost its grip over the provision of ceremonies, the English – always great ritual innovators – took to the task of reinventing them with relish.”

For evidence of this I need look no further than my own street and the recent deaths of two neighbours – one a matriarch of 102, the other, untimely, at 47.

Neither family was devout but both would, in recent memory, automatically have turned to the C of E for the funeral obsequies. Neither did.

Their secular ceremonies were dignified, affectionate and deeply touching. Meanwhile at York this weekend,  the vision of George Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, that the C of E would eventually become “a toothless old woman muttering in a corner, ignored by everyone”, seems all too plausible a spectre. Rather than sequestering itself from the secular world, Synod might as well have watched that Murray final, after all.


10 Websites To Learn Something New In 30 Minutes A Day…

Learning something new is always an exciting endeavour to commence. The problem is that most of us get wrapped up in busy distractions throughout the day so that we can never find the time to learn the new skill we want.

What’s worse is that some of us spend hours learning this new skill only to give up after a few months, which is precious time that goes down the toilet.

Luckily, there’s a better solution.

Instead of using our time to sit through long lectures and lengthy video courses, we can take advantage of all the amazing websites that can help uslearn a new skill in 30 minutes or less.

We’ve collected the best sites that teach a diversified list of topics and have decided to share them with you here today. Enjoy!

1. Lynda

Estimated time: 20-30 mins
Topics: Business, marketing, design, software tools

Get access to 1,000s of courses with a 10-day free trial to develop your skills in business, photoshop, software, and much more.

2. Skillshare

Estimated time: 20-30 mins
Topics: Cooking, design, software tools, marketing, photography

Ten dollars per month gets you access to bite-sized, on-demand courses taught by leading experts like Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki, and more.

3. Rype

Estimated time: 15-30 mins
Topics: Foreign languages

Are you “too busy” to learn a language? Meet Rype, your personal trainer for languages. Get unlimited 1-on-1 private language lessons with professional teachers around the world. Each lesson is just 30 minutes, allowing you to fit learning a language into your busy lifestyle. You can try it free for 14-days and see for yourself.

You can also check out the Learn a Language Challenge, where you’ll get 10 new words to your inbox every morning.

4. Hackaday

Estimated time: 5 mins
Topics: Life hacks, productivity

This website delivers tips to make your life better and more productive. Just 5 minutes a day is all you need to learn new life hacks to improve your lifestyle.

5. Codeacademy

Estimated time: 15-30 mins
Topics: Software development

A gamified approach to coding, Codeacademy helps anyone build a website through an interactive learning method. Learn any programming language from HTML, CSS, Javascript, Ruby on Rails, and more by actually building instead of spending your time on theory.

6. 7-min

Estimated time: 7 mins
Topics: Health & Fitness

Do you have just 7 minutes to get in shape? Most of us aren’t in the shape that we want to be because of the lack of time we have. Putting our workout apparel on, driving to the gym, and driving back can take up a lot of our time in themselves.

In just 7 minutes, this website will go through dozens of routines to get you in shape and ready for the day ahead. Time is no longer an excuse!

7. Calm

Estimated time: 10 mins
Topics: Meditation

Get guided meditations right to your screen. With Calm, you can learn different types of meditation where a teacher can guide you step-by-step through the process, even if it’s your first time trying meditation.

8. Highbrow

Estimated time: 5 mins
Topics: Business, creative skills, design, history

Bite-sized email courses delivered to your inbox every morning to learn everything from film history, marketing, business, and more.

9. Big Think

Estimated time: 10 mins
Topics: Technology, science, life

Learn from the world’s experts about scientific breakthroughs, revolutionary business concepts, and more in short, chunk-sized videos.

10. Khan Academy

Estimated time: 30 mins
Topics: Academics

Recognized by Bill Gates as one of the best teachers online, Salman Khan breaks down complicated subjects into simplified concepts to help you understand them in minutes, not weeks.


7 Most Common Regrets People Have When They Look Back On Their Lives…


It’s one of the biggest ironies in life, that many of us live our lives doings things we don’t really want to do, and neglecting things that are truly important to us, and only finally at the ends of our lives, look back and admit we wish we’d done it differently.

It isn’t a big surprise to most people, that on our deathbeds, most of us regret things like not spending enough time with family, or working too much and not having enough fun. We are, as educated adults, aware, even if we are living a life outwardly that makes it seem otherwise, that the most important things in life are family, love, health, and happiness.

Yet, even though we possess enough common sense to know this, many of us are unable to let go of the pursuit of things that often take us farther and farther away from what is truly important, and what we should value the most. Money, professional ‘success’ or promotions, buying more stuff, driving nicer cars, dressing in nicer clothes, filling up our 401ks – these things make us feel like we are accomplishing something during our lives. They allow us to say (if silently) ‘look at me, I’m successful! I’m responsible. I’m smart.’

Yet, while we pursue these things, we miss out on so many others. Like nieces and nephews birthday parties, time with our siblings, family holidays, vacations, intimate relationships.

Many of us now even spend a couple of decades working and casually dating (like so many of us 20s-30s who live in cities), instead of allowing ourselves to love (like we want to) because we are so addicted to just ‘putting the time in’ until we can fill our bank accounts with enough to make us feel safe, or get that next promotion so we can tell ourselves ‘we’ve made it’ far enough before we can allow ourselves to consider falling in love.

Soon, our work, our career, our goals become our identity and we can’t remember what it was like to relax and go spend a spontaneous weekend with family, or chat for hours on the phone with our mom, or to be in a real and meaningful relationship. We stop getting invitations to friend and family gatherings because people stop expecting there to be any chance of our showing up.

In order to remind ourselves what we should already be reminding ourselves of every day (what is important to us), let’s take a look at a list of the most common regrets people have when looking back on their lives:

1. Not having the courage to be true to ourselves

Most people regret not living a life more true to themselves, but instead feeling obligated to fulfill spoken or unspoken obligations to family, society, etc. They wish they had had more courage to do the things they wanted, instead of the things they felt they should do.

2. Remaining in an unfulfilling job or career instead of taking a risk and pursuing something we were passionate about

This sort of goes along with #1, but specifically has to do with where we choose to spend most of our lives. Since most of us work more than 40 hours a week and get only about 2 weeks of vacation per year, our careers and jobs are a HUGE part of our lives. If we spend the majority of our time doing something that we don’t like and that doesn’t fulfill us or challenge us, we are cheating ourselves out of what could be a much more meaningful life.

Let go of the image you want to present to the world (with your perfect job or title) and think about what you’d really be willing to do, if you could wake up every day excited about your job. Take a paycut? Live in a smaller house, or move out of the city? Give up the designer clothes and expensive lattes every day? What’s the value of feeling like your life has meaning and being happier?

3. Not spending more time with family

We all know that family should be the most important thing in our lives, so why do so many of us take it for granted until it’s too late? Say no to working late this week and eat dinner with your family. If you’re not married, call a sibling or your parents and see what they’re up to. If they live far away, schedule a Skype conversation. Look for airfare deals and plan an impromptu weekend home. Go fishing with your dad. Whatever. Just do it now instead of waiting until ‘one day’.

Our parents are going to leave this earth sooner than we are which means we don’t have the luxury of waiting until we’ve retired to finally spend time with them. Siblings and offspring are around longer, sure, but they are only young for so long. Soon they’ll have their own families and like the Neil Young (Old Man) song, they might have as little time for you as you had for them when they wanted you around.

4. Not expressing our true feelings more

Not expressing our true feeling is something most of us regret during our lives, but even more so when we are closer to our deaths. Knowing that the regret is only going to get worse over the years, why not start making an effort now to tell those who are important to you how much they mean to you? Or telling someone you care about, that might not know it, how you feel? The worst outcome can’t be as bad as regretting what you didn’t do, on your death bed

5. Not keeping in touch with old friends

It’s tough keeping in touch with old friends sometimes. Especially if you live or work in different cities, states, or countries. Or if you’ve outgrown each other in some ways, or just have completely different lives. We might think we’ll always have a chance one day to reconnect, or maybe we just don’t think it’s that important because people naturally grow apart.

However, since this is at the top of the list of regrets for most of us at the end of our lives, we can assume that it’s an important one to be aware of. Why not reach out to an old friend via Facebook and just catch up? Plan to have coffee next time you’re in their city or vice versa. Plan a reunion weekend with a group of old friends. What do you have to lose?

6. Working too much/not having enough fun

People seem to really wish they had spent more time having fun, instead of working so many hours, or wasting time fulfilling obligations and doing meaningless things (streaming 50 hours of netflix per week? Probably not going to consider this a great use of time when you’re older). They wish they’d spent more time doing things that made them truly happy/gave them joy.

Hugged someone lately? Gone to the beach and wiggled your toes in the sand and played all day in the water and the sun? Taken a class on something you’ve always wanted to learn to do? Danced? Laughed? Let the wind and the smell of the forest invigorate you while you hike, run, or bike alone in nature? Every minute spent being happy is good for our health, and these moments are those that we will remember fondly. Why not make as many of them as possible?

7. Not traveling enough/Not taking enough vacations

This is big for us in America, as we just don’t have a lot of vacation time, and we have a culture built around the idea that working harder is better and being seen to work more hours makes you look good to your boss/bosses. But statistics prove that people aren’t more efficient, when they take fewer vacations/work more hours. They are in fact, less efficient. Excessive time working, will only be time you wish you had spent doing something of more personal value.

Figure out how to take more 3 day weekends (even if you have to take unpaid vacation), negotiate more vacation days per year, negotiate work from home days, so you can start your weekends earlier and avoid the ‘who’s still at their desk after 6pm’ game at your office. Set boundaries and stick to them. If your company doesn’t respect your need for a personal life, start working towards getting a new job, with a company that does.

In short: Don’t wait until you’re almost dead to start living.


Survey Finds How Many People Regret Not Traveling Enough, the Results Are Impressive…

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If you’ve ever taken a trip that left you smiling for weeks, you’ll know that travel is one of the greatest joys in life. It exposes you to new ideas, ways of life, and can allow you to make friendships that last for years. Even short trips can provide a valuable opportunity to shake you from your regular routine, leaving you refreshed when you get home. Travelling abroad helps you develop appreciation and tolerance for other nationalities and cultures, which help you become a better-rounded individual. It also gives you some great stories to tell!

Why Is Traveling So Great?

Research shows that travelling provides many of us with a serious mood boost. A survey of over 1,000 American adults carried out by Wakefield Research on behalf of Priceline showed that heading away somewhere new made them happier than working out or shopping. According to the research participants, trips do not have to be long to make an appreciable difference to our mood — many Americans stated that they would rather take several short vacations every year than a single, longer trip.

The survey also showed that the majority of traveler were heading to see family and friends, with over 90 percent of those booking trips with Priceline intending to meet up or travel with their loved ones. Both sexes said that romantic vacations were the kind most likely to increase their happiness levels. So even if your partner or relative occasionally annoys you during those long plane or car rides, you’re still likely to have a good time!

How Much Traveling Do We Manage to Fit in Each Year?

Unfortunately, although Americans love to travel, many don’t manage to go away as often as they would like. A survey carried out by The Priceline Group shows that between a third and a half (44 percent) of American adults regret not going on more trips away, and most of the time they miss out because travel costs are too high.

Forty-four percent of adults would like to take four or five trips in 2016, and around 10 percent would ideally go away at least seven times! It’s clear, then, that most Americans wish they could get away on a more frequent basis. With some of the longest working weeks of any country in the world and a frantic pace of life, it isn’t surprising that we dream of taking regular breaks.

How Can You Squeeze More Travel Into Your Year?

If you are like most wannabe travelers, you put your plans on hold because you think the costs will render your ambitions unaffordable. However, there are simple steps you can take to lower the price of your vacation or grand adventure. For example, travelling out of peak season can save you money, as can choosing alternative options such as organizing a house-swap with a family in another state or country instead of staying in hotels. Flights and accommodation costs can also vary significantly by state according to the month in which you are travelling.

There are also some great sites out there that can help you find deals that mean your next trip could cost significantly less than you had imagined. Good places to start are Priceline (, Lastminute (, and Agoda ( There are other, less well-known tips to securing the best price such as searching using Incognito or Private mode in your web browser – the more frequently you search for a destination, the higher the price you will get because businesses want to give you the impression that costs are rising fast for scarcity reasons! Check out The Thrifty Nomad for more little-known tips and tricks.

Travelling is good for the soul, so it’s worth taking the time to find a solution that allows you to see any part of the world that takes your fancy. If you have a “use it or lose it” vacation policy, make a decision to use every single day of your allowance this year and stick to it! Your well-being will be the better for it.


Grant Museum of Zoology in LONDON…

Grant Museum of Zoology

The Grant Museum may have moved in 2011 into new premises – a grand room in a former library in the UCL complex – but it looks as if this zoological museum, the only one of its kind in London, has been here for a century or more. Such is the transporting effect of seeing avenues of display cases stuffed to the gunnels with animal skeletons, taxidermy specimens and creatures preserved in fluid, like a true Victorian wunderkammer. Nods to current trends in museum display – iPads attached to displays invite you to ponder questions about the role of science today – are discreet; the museum doesn’t need to distract or over-explain when its exhibits are among the most engrossing (and very occasionally gross-out) in London.

From a jar of tiny moles to a huge elephant skull that helps to explain the Cyclops myth (its large central cavity could well be a monocular eye socket), there is plenty here to draw gasps of amazement. Grimly fascinating is the museum’s collection of bisected heads, created by Sir Victor Negus, which appear quite normal on one side but can be turned to reveal the brain within. They immediately bring to mind the work of Damien Hirst, and the overlaps between science, nature, art and design don’t stop there – a skeleton of an anaconda twists round a branch like a zen modernist sculpture, sections of shark vertebrae look as if they could be maquettes for Constantin Brancusi’s ‘Endless Column’. Created in the mid-1800s, Leopold and Rudolph Blashka’s glass models of jellyfish, sea anemones, gastropods, sea cucumbers and cephalopods are exquisite art works in their own right.

There’s evidence that the curators have had fun with the displays – a trio of Hawksbill turtles are arranged on a wall in the manner of ceramic flying ducks. However, the serious work of the museum, not only as a reliquary for long lost species (a drawer of dodo bones turned up during the museum’s move) but as a site of ongoing research, shines through – in fact the former library’s pigeon holes are used by UCL zoology staff and students to present a visual (and visceral) A to Z of current projects.