• News

    Some Of The UK’s Most Beautiful Gardens Are Reopening

    Staying indoors for most of the day during lockdown has made many of us realise just how much we value nature. Being able to buy plants online affordably has been a source of comfort, but if you’re not lucky enough to have a private garden, even a tiny one, the pull of public parks, commons and botanical gardens is very real.So it’s exciting to hear that some of the UK’s most beautiful gardens are preparing to reopen following coronavirus closures. The world-famous Kew Gardens in London has confirmed that visitors will be welcome again from Monday 1st June – albeit with social distancing restrictions in place. To prevent overcrowding, visitors will have to pre-book a time slot before arriving at Kew, otherwise they’ll be turned away at the gates. Kew Gardens adds: “You must only come to our gardens if you can walk, cycle or drive here safely, and don’t forget that you should only bring people who live with you as your guests.”The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is also reopening its four public gardens on Monday 1st June. Visitors will be able to explore Wisley Garden in Surrey, Rosemoor Garden in Devon, Hyde Hall in Essex and Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire once more, but only if they pre-book a time slot.The National Trust, which owns more than 500 historic houses and gardens in the UK, is also beginning a “phased reopening of its gardens and parklands in England and Northern Ireland” from Wednesday 3rd June. Once again, pre-booking will be essential to ensure visitors can maintain social distancing while exploring the gardens.The National Trust’s director general Helen McGrady said in a statement: “Reopening is the first phase of our recovery, and we need our members and supporters to help us make this gradual transition a success so we can get back to offering nature, beauty and history for everyone.”Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?The UK's Most Iconic Garden Show Is Moving OnlineWhere To Buy Plants During LockdownSmall Garden Ideas For City Dwellers

    Refinery 29 UK
  • Health

    Hay fever or coronavirus: How to tell the difference between allergies and Covid-19 symptoms

    Since being placed in lockdown on 23 March, the UK has experienced a bout of blue skies and sunshine.While the nice weather is something to be enjoyed during the coronavirus pandemic, this season may also see hay fever symptoms flare up among those with the condition.

    The Independent
  • News

    British holidaymakers want to visit Spain, Greece and Italy – but most will wait until next summer

    Spain, Greece and Italy top the holiday wish-list for British travellers – but most will wait until next summer for a foreign getaway.As battles rage within government over the UK’s quarantine plans, Britain’s biggest travel firm says demand is strong for Mediterranean destinations.

    The Independent
  • Lifestyle

    Long Distance Love Is So Much Harder Under Lockdown

    “Hey Lucy, I saw the stats about the pandemic in Brazil. Really hope Henrique and his family are okay. How is Australia doing?” This might sound like standard chat with a close friend during the pandemic but Lucy is a total stranger. We have never met and she is 10,000 miles away but, like me, she is in a long-distance relationship and somehow coronavirus has brought us together. I met my boyfriend Luciano during a chance encounter in my hometown, London, back in 2017 and last May we finally made it official. March 2020 began for me in San Francisco, where he lives, one of several trips to and fro over the last 12 months. On these trips we hung out with family and friends and spent some time in Point Reyes, where we stood on a beach surrounded by sleeping sea lions and looked out at the Grand Princess cruise ship that was anchored offshore. It was not allowed to dock with its passengers, who were sick with coronavirus, and it had made worldwide news that morning. We felt uneasy and our hearts went out to the people on board but it also seemed very far away from us. We didn’t consider that it would hinder our plans for 2020, which included me making a business visa application to move to the US permanently. Three days later I flew back to London and everything changed. COVID-19 was spreading rapidly around the world and Luciano and I watched helplessly as we were cut off from one another, unable to leave our homes – let alone travel abroad – for who knows how long. I started using my blog and Instagram account to talk about my anxiety over the travel ban and tried to come to terms with the fact that I might not see my boyfriend for many more months than I’d planned.One day, not long after an article I had written about our situation was published online, something strange happened. I checked my DMs on Instagram and found a message there from a girl called Whitney: “Hi Rosanna, your article hits home for me, so I wanted to write to you.” She was in Arkansas and going through the same thing with her boyfriend David, who lives in Dublin. She told me how helpful it was to read my words and to know that they were not experiencing this alone. We spoke for a bit and promised to keep in touch and follow each other’s progress. I signed off our little exchange with a warm heart and called Luciano to tell him about the new pen pal I had made. > Yes, we are uniquely equipped to deal with being isolated from our partners but right now there is even less control than usual, and so much more uncertainty. As the weeks went by, more and more couples found me. Australia, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, France, America… They reached out to tell me their stories and to thank me for voicing their own feelings. It began to feel like all four corners of the world were filled with couples desperate to know how and when they would be able to see their loved ones again – and they were all writing to me.Whitney and David had big plans for 2020 as well. David was planning to apply for a K1 (fiancé) visa this autumn but all applications have been paused in light of the epidemic and so they are stuck, like Luciano and me, on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Lucy, who is from Sydney, and her partner Henrique were about to log their visa paperwork in Santa Catarina in the south of Brazil, where they live, when Lucy flew back to Australia for her brother’s wedding. She is now trapped there. “I have to be in the country to apply for a spousal visa, so I just have to wait for the borders in Brazil to open. I know I am lucky to be in a country like Australia, but we all know I would much rather be locked up with him.”Emma and her boyfriend were meant to be together in New Jersey right now but her flight got cancelled. “All those anxieties you wrote about is exactly how I feel. I feel really helpless. It’s the unknown that I’m finding hard, not knowing how long this will go on for. All our plans for the year are cancelled or on hold.”All of us have felt the same sense of powerlessness over the past few months and while our friends and families are sympathetic, we are often met with: “Oh, but you’re used to being apart! This can’t be any different to normal.” Yes, we are uniquely equipped to deal with being isolated from our partners but right now there is even less control than usual, and so much more uncertainty. We are all dependent on not one but two countries’ new travel regulations and handling of the crisis and it feels like our entire futures are at stake. Whitney said to me: “What I hate most about all of this is feeling so powerless. It’s suddenly not up to us as individuals, but our governments.” Chats with partners now include updates from our countries’ daily news briefings. I never thought I’d find myself reading hospital admissions statistics over the phone to my lover but now we pore over them and what they might mean for our future. > We are all dependent on not one but two countries’ new travel regulations and handling of the crisis and it feels like our entire futures are at stake. When these stories started coming in, I was baffled that I had become a sort of spokesperson for a long-distance love club. Soon, however, I was invested in everyone’s stories and I’m keeping up to date with them all, sometimes daily. Eight weeks on and as the situation around the world has developed, so have some of our plans. Whitney is now moving to Ireland instead and Emma has pushed back her trip to December, when we all hope this will be behind us. Lucy is anxiously waiting for the borders to open so she can fly back to Brazil and finally get married. As for me, I am staying positive and looking forward to a three-month trip to California in July which I booked back in February when this situation seemed like a bad dream. Whether or not I’ll be able to go is uncertain but I have people to talk to now who know how I am feeling, and that is a great comfort. We are all rooting for each other and unanimously agree that our relationships will be stronger post-pandemic. I am so glad that social media means we can follow each other’s reunions; I cannot wait to see everyone’s airport selfies (complete with face masks) and to take my own. In Whitney’s most recent message to me she summed up exactly how it feels to be in a long-distance relationship during the pandemic. “We’re all just kind of waiting for that day with no more return tickets, but it’ll happen. We just go day to day knowing that one day things will be different and we can see our partners again. It’s a big change but I know we’re all just looking to a brighter future.”Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?The Best Sex Toys For People In LDRs9 Statistics About Long-Distance RelationshipsThe Long-Distance Guide To Having A Hot V-Day

    Refinery 29 UK
  • Entertainment

    Written In The Stars? What Coronavirus Means For Our Relationship With Astrology

    Every morning during lockdown, 31-year-old Janey* and her flatmate Seraphina* sit down opposite one another to work from home on their laptops at their kitchen table in their shared rented flat. “As we set up the table for work,” Janey tells me almost confessionally, “we listen to our horoscopes on Spotify. We put it on loudspeakers and blast it, dancing to the tinkly music. I’m a Sagittarius and Seraphina is a Pisces. We’re both pretending it’s funny – tongue in cheek – but really I’m just like, ‘TELL ME IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY TODAY’.”Neither she nor her flatmate wants to be named, such is the millennial woman’s love/hate relationship with the fatalism of the stars. We know that science says real world events are definitely not impacted by the mystic movements of the huge rocks (aka other planets and the moon) suspended in the celestial realm beyond Earth and, yet, we can’t look away from their magic. Before the coronavirus crisis swept through the United Kingdom, changing the way we live and relate to one another, these two women never really paid attention to astrology. “Occasionally, we’d do a dramatic reading in a jokey way from a magazine,” Janey says dismissively, “but it was never serious.” > As we set up the table for work we listen to our horoscopes on Spotify. We put it on loudspeakers and blast it, dancing to the tinkly music. We’re both pretending it’s funny – tongue in cheek – but really I’m just like, ‘TELL ME IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY TODAY’.> > Janey, 31According to Medium Chat – an online platform through which people can connect with mediums, tarot, astrologers and psychics – they’re not alone. A survey conducted by Medium Chat of 1,003 UK-based adults found that more than one in three are now regularly consulting their horoscopes in an attempt to divine some answers to the uncertainty that this global pandemic has brought to bear upon us all. The research comes as the platform announces that it has seen a 104% increase in horoscope enquiries made through its website since the UK lockdown announcement in March.Now, I’m not going to get into why a platform dedicated to divination – the art of seeing into the future – needed to conduct a survey to know this. But I am going to ask why so many people seem to be turning to the quasi-spiritual world of mysticism to help them navigate the emotional, economic and social precarity that COVID-19 has left in its wake. Particularly when, as far as I’m aware, no astrologers – not even Susan Miller – actually managed to see it coming, causing The New York Times to ask whether coronavirus could “kill” astrology. Janey and Seraphina are dipping into “Sagittarius Today” and “Pisces Today” respectively. It has become a lockdown ritual that they can’t go without, the £1 Pret filter coffee of isolation. “I actually really want her to tell me that there’s some further aim,” Janey reflects, dropping her guard, “that I’m going in the right direction. Listening every morning does make me feel like I’m being guided somehow even though I know, rationally, that I think it’s all bollocks.” Seraphina, also a self-described cynic, chimes in that she feels her daily horoscope can “really motivate” her some days. “If we listen and the lady who does the reading says it’s going to be a good day, I feel more pumped to get through work and make the most of things.”“It makes me psyched for life!” she adds emphatically, with a wry twist in her tone to let me know that she is absolutely playing on the word ‘psychic’ here.Janey recently went through a break-up and found that her horoscope was “very relatable” and helpful in encouraging her to “maintain a good headspace”. It was helping her so much that she tells me Seraphina actually started encouraging her to listen to it more often so that she didn’t “whinge on” to her flatmate. However it can and has gone the other way for these two women on occasion. “Recently,” Janey explains, “Seraphina’s horoscope has been very negative, telling her she’s going to have a horrible two months of ‘walking uphill’ and feeling lonely.” Not quite what anyone wants to hear from the conduit they’re trusting to deliver secret messages from the universe to them during lockdown. “But at the same time,” Janey adds, “mine have been like, ‘You worked so hard to get to where you are. Fish. Be good to yourself.’ It was funny but then Seraphina started refusing to listen to hers when they got really negative.”At a time when people are looking for answers, it doesn’t require much magical thinking to understand the increasing appeal of astrology. Professor Chris French is the head of the anomalistic psychology research unit at Goldsmiths University in London. Translated into laywoman’s terms, that means he has devoted his career to studying paranormal beliefs and experiences from astrology to clairvoyance, alien abduction and beyond.“It’s really important to make a distinction between people who take astrology very seriously, and actually make major decisions on the basis of their horoscope or what their astrologer tells them, and people who might say that they believe in astrology but don’t really follow it all that closely,” he says. In his experience, the latter – which describes both Janey and Seraphina – is more common. A person’s dependence on looking to something outside of themselves for answers, he explains, can almost always be explained by a psychological phenomenon known as the ‘locus of control’. > We tend to see that all sorts of beliefs – including religious beliefs – increase at times of stress and uncertainty.> > Professor Chris French“If you think of a continuum,” Chris says, “at one end are people with a very internal locus of control. They, in general, view the way that their lives are as being down to decisions that they have made, actions that they have taken, and so on. People at the other end, with an external locus of control, view their situation in life as down to things that happen to them. It’s forces out there that have made their life the way it is.” In reality, he adds, everyone’s life is a mixture of both. Now, as Chris sees it, there’s nothing wrong with following astrology or checking your horoscope if it makes you feel good. “We tend to see that all sorts of beliefs – including religious beliefs – increase at times of stress and uncertainty,” he says. “That makes sense. If you’re consulting an astrologer during a difficult time you will at least get some sense for your own satisfaction of what’s around the next corner and, perhaps, some advice on how you can deal with it.”“A horoscope or an astrological reading might give you the illusion of control, which might be psychologically beneficial in the short term,” Chris says. “You’ll typically find that when people go for astrological readings, they come away feeling quite good about themselves because the astrologer will have said, ‘You know, things might be rough at the moment. I can see that you’re going through a bad patch but things will improve. In six months’ time I can see you in a much better situation,’ which might actually be helpful for somebody, it might give them the courage to take some action that they were thinking about taking anyway.” Medium Chat’s figures revealed that one in four adults who responded to their survey admitted that they had previously made decisions based on their horoscope reading, with 22% saying a horoscope reading had helped them make up their mind about something.However Chris cautions that problems arise when you start making big life choices based on that advice. In the end, he says, our relationship with the stars tends to fall back on what’s known as ‘confirmation bias’ – our predisposition to look for and favour information that confirms what we already believe to be true. This is also why we follow certain people on Instagram and Twitter or read certain newspapers above others. This morning I got a notification from the horoscope app Pattern. I’ve been avoiding it throughout lockdown because it keeps telling me I’m in a “testing ground” and that I may “encounter some challenges”. No shit, guys. But today, in the interests of journalism, I opened it up and read the whole thing: “Pretending you’re just like everyone else only makes you feel more alone and alienated. You don’t have to act out in extreme ways, but it’s natural for you to want to have exciting experiences and live a unique life – the more unconventional, the better.”As an Aries – allegedly the most self-obsessed sign in the zodiac, if you believe in horoscopes – this spoke to me. I’ve thought this ever since I listened to Avril Lavigne’s “Anything But Ordinary” on repeat while sulking in my childhood bedroom. It made me feel good. Pattern gets me, I thought. I’ve got this. Almost instantly, I stopped myself. “Snap out of it, it’s not real. You’re very normal,” I scolded myself out loud because I am at home, alone, in a pandemic. During such turbulent times, we feel the push of logic and the pull of the mystic as we continue to suspend our disbelief and indulge in magic because the real world is increasingly overwhelming and difficult to digest – bush fires, a climate crisis, race riots, a global pandemic, clueless politicians. And that’s just the last six months. Perhaps we’ll never truly be able to explain our complex relationship with astrology. Then again, as science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said: “Magic’s just science we don’t understand yet.” *Names have been changedLike what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Your Horoscope This WeekI Did Exactly What My Star Sign Said For A WeekSusan Miller Tried To Warn Us About Wedding Season

    Refinery 29 UK
  • Lifestyle