Miss travelling around Europe? You may not after watching Us | Television

Europe has never felt further away from Australia than it does right now. Even though the borders are open, in the uncertain soup of the pandemic (is this the beginning, middle or end?) international travel still remains a fantasy for many of us.

So the next best thing may be to watch a television show about people travelling around Europe – like Us, a four-part series streaming now on ABC’s iView. Released in 2020, and starring Tom Hollander and Saskia Reeves, the BBC One comedy-drama series is based on the book of the same name by David Nicholls, who adapted his own novel for television.

The series starts with Connie Petersen (Reeves) sitting up in bed and announcing to her husband, Douglas (Hollander), “I think I want a divorce.” There’s no big reason – just the small things that grind people down over the years and the gloomy thought of time running out. Leave now, and there may be just enough time to start again, reasons Connie: “We’ve been through a lot and we’ve been happy – don’t you think our work is done?”

Douglas is taken by surprise (and anger, and sadness – he takes out his emotions by going to the local tip and ripping apart cardboard boxes). In his FitBit and polo shirt, he represents a certain type of middle-aged white man – a man who loves routine, who has woken up to a changing world and feels left behind. He is happy, in a melancholy way – he doesn’t want a divorce.

Complicating the stalemate, Douglas and Connie have booked one last family holiday – a big, expensive trip by rail across Europe. This is what hooked me into the series in the first place, the chance to see Europe from the confines of “Fortress Australia”.

Three people ride red bikes down a narrow European laneway in a scene from Us.
Even in such picturesque locations, it is painful to watch Douglas trying so hard and being rejected by his family. Photograph: Colin Hutton/BBC/Drama Republic

But instead of being the next best thing to a trip to Europe, Us is a nightmare journey, where the viewer accompanies a married couple and their adult son Albie (Tom Taylor) as their family implodes. Even the happiest family has tense moments while travelling, but in Us, every meal, museum and conversation seems fraught with peril. Will the trip bring them closer together or will it be the nail in the coffin of their relationship? Can Douglas connect with Albie too, or are they condemned to drift politely away from each other (like so many fathers and sons) as the years progress?

Before the trip, in an effort to keep Connie, Douglas vows to change – and even draws up a master list of things he can work on. These include being more spontaneous and fun-loving like his artistically inclined wife and son.

But is it too late? As we move from the canals of Venice to the coffee houses of Amsterdam, Douglas’s most common refrain is wistful regret. “Maybe we should have been more spontaneous over the years – gone out rather than being too tired or too busy,” he says. Later: “It probably wouldn’t make a difference but I do regret not being more lighthearted.”

Even in such picturesque locations, it is painful to watch Douglas trying so hard and being rejected by his family. His son is frequently disgusted and embarrassed by him, and his wife seems to be continuously correcting him. “Douglas,” she just has to say, and across his face flies a flicker of shame and annoyance.

Hollander does “Sad Dad” really well. He’s uptight and annoying (I couldn’t stay married to him for a week, let alone decades) but flashbacks to the 1990s when the couple first met, flesh out the attraction between opposites, and what drew this unlikely match together in the first place.

Us is a grim postcard from the trenches of middle age and marriage, but it could also be read as a metaphor for Brexit. Do you keep going despite the problems and the pain, or do you throw it all away in the hope of an imagined, more perfect future?

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Man ‘kept as a slave’ for 40 years now enjoys watching football and old World Cups, says charity | UK News

A man freed after being “kept as a slave” for 40 years is now enjoying going for walks, watching football and catching up on the World Cups he has missed, according to a charity.

The victim, known only as Chris, was forced to live in squalid conditions in a 6ft by 4ft shed at a Carlisle caravan park, and had to be taught how to cook his own food and take care of his own basic needs after being found.

He was discovered by Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) investigators during a search warrant at the site in October 2018 following a tip-off from a member of the public.

City Hearts, which has been supporting Chris since his ordeal, allocated him a bed at a safe house where he was taught to cook and use a washing machine.

The shed in which a slave was kept for 40 years
Officers found Chris living in this shed after a tip-off from a member of the public

‘He was timid and scared’

Staff from the charity said it quickly became apparent that he was illiterate and did not communicate in a typical way.

His caseworker Kyle France said: “He was exhausted when he arrived. He was timid and scared, like a deer in headlights. He didn’t realise the severity of what had happened to him.

“When he first arrived, sorting out his hygiene was a priority.

“It was clear he hadn’t had a wash in a very, very long time. He needed a shave, he needed clothes. He just really needed looking after.”

The charity’s chief executive, Ed Newton, told Sky News: “He’s accessing speech and language support. He’s doing really well, and he talks about being really proud of his accomplishments.”

He added: “There are over 130,000 survivors or victims of modern slavery in the UK today.

“One of the key things for us to realise is that this could be round the corner. This could be the shed that backs on to our garden, to our property. And to realise that very often now, modern slavery victims aren’t in chains – they’re hidden in plain sight.”

Peter Swailes entered a guilty plea
Peter Swailes has been handed a nine-month sentence suspended for 18 months

Man gets nine-month suspended sentence

It comes after a man was handed a nine-month sentence suspended for 18 months on Friday for paying Chris, who has learning difficulties, below the minimum wage.

Peter Swailes, 56, and his 81-year-old father, also called Peter Swailes, were arrested by the GLAA in April 2019 for trafficking and modern slavery crimes.

Both men pleaded not guilty to arranging or facilitating the travel of an individual between 2015 and 2019 with a view to him being exploited.

However, the older Peter Swailes died last year before standing trial.

His son went on to plead guilty to the charge at Carlisle Crown Court on 18 January this year before this trial was due to begin.

A judge told him on Friday: “You are not being sentenced on the basis that you kept (Chris) as a slave for 40 years, or indeed that you were responsible for his living conditions at all.

“The extent of your culpability is that with the assistance of your father, and on a limited number of occasions, you facilitated the travel of (Chris) for work purposes, and on occasion paid him less than his minimum entitlement.”

The exploitation of Chris began when he was 15 following a childhood in the care system.

He told City Hearts he was kept padlocked inside the shed when he wasn’t working, had no access to a shower or heating, and his only toilet was a bucket.

He told officers from the GLAA he did farm work, painting, slating and tarmacking, and was paid as little as £10 per day.

Peter Swailes Junior leaving Carlisle Crown Court
Peter Swailes, 56, is seen leaving Carlisle Crown Court in January

During one of his painting jobs, Chris fell from a ladder and broke his back and ribs.

He was taken to hospital, but was removed by those who held him captive before being discharged and dragged back to his life of exploitation.

Martin Plimmer, senior investigating officer on the GLAA investigation, said he had “never known a modern slavery case where the exploitation has taken place over such a long period of time”.

He added: “For four decades, he was in effect kept as a slave.”

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a specious excuse for watching grown men breastfeed for an hour

As the battle over the privatisation of Channel 4 reaches its pointy end, you have to wonder whether a cutting-edge documentary called Breastfeeding My Boyfriend does the broadcaster any favours.

There was a fashion a while back for “high-concept” dramas, where the premise of a show could be explained in a just two or three words at a pitch. Well, meet high-concept factual. Breastfeeding My Boyfriend did exactly what it said on the tin: a film consisting largely of images of men latched onto lactating boobs. It would be nice, or at least novel, if one of these films could just be honest – “If you like watching grown men sucking on boobs, here’s an hour of that. Enjoy!” 

But because it’s a Channel 4 documentary, we had to jump through the hoops of specious social-science. You probably know the drill by now: programme sets up straw man argument (“One of the body’s most natural functions has become one of its most taboo topics”… has it?); programme digs up three examples, because one person doing something kinky is a fetish but three is a definite thing; finally, programme asks with sternest of faces why the thing it has decided is happening is actually happening.

 And so we went to Dorset, Virginia and Mercia to meet Lana and Shawn, Tip and Button and an unnamed OnlyFans sensation called Milky Mummy. Milky Mummy, as it happened, didn’t Breastfeed her Boyfriend – indeed, she blanched at the very idea – but that didn’t stop her being included in the programme. As to the “why” of Lana and Shawn? Well, it became apparent that the why was those twin foes cash and desperation: Lana had ditched teaching for Adult Content Creation aka porn and when the subscribers didn’t come running she pivoted into lacto. The free market always finds a way.

Tip and Button, whose names were so perfect that many of their online followers still think they are a sexual manoeuvre, were the only ones of the three who were doing ANR (adult nursing relationship – have acronym, will travel) because they enjoyed it. 

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Queenstown tourism operators ‘ready and watching’ news of COVID-19 case, developments on NZ travel bubble

As New Zealand health authorities race to contact trace a COVID-19 case in Auckland, tourism operators hoping to “bring on the Aussies” this ski season say they are nervous, but always ready to adapt. 

Local business leaders in Queenstown say the town has taken a hit for the greater good during the pandemic and if the travel bubble does not burst, Australians will be a very welcome addition over winter. 

And to get crowds of people to Queenstown, the ski fields need to be open.  

After the new case was announced, chief executive of NZ Ski Paul Anderson said he was always ready to adapt preparations at The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt ski fields.  

“We’d be silly to expect that we’ll sail through the entire season without any kind of disruption,” he said. 

“That’s our dream, but the reality will be something a little different.” 

Mr Anderson said as someone who operated a business that relied on the movement of people across the country and international borders, he was “massively relieved” when the bubble was announced three weeks ago.  

But given the ongoing uncertainty, he is “ready and watching” announcements like the one yesterday afternoon

“Yes, there’s a risk, but we’re prepared for whatever happens,” he said.

“We need to expect the unexpected.”  

Tourism in Queenstown was crushed by New Zealand’s COVID-19 strategy. Operators are now banking on a strong winter season. (

ABC News: Emily Clark


Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes said the town really suffered when COVID-19 restrictions came in and any developments would be watched very closely. 

The 2021 ski season

Mr Anderson said the slopes were due for a good season of snow and he was looking forward to seeing “our friends over the ditch”. 

Coronet Peak
Under alert level two protocols, there would be enforced social distancing in lift queues.  (

ABC News: Emily Clark


The New Zealand government has said travel in the bubble is a case of “flyer beware” and conditions can change quickly, but the Queenstown ski fields have operated under alert level two during the pandemic and are prepared to do so again. 

New Zealand is currently under alert level one protocols, and on the ski fields that involves physical distancing in some spaces, masks on shuttle buses from Queenstown and the car parks and a lot of hand sanitiser. 

At level two, there would be enforced physical distancing in lift queues and on chairlifts, as well as seated service in the restaurants and possibly capacity restrictions.  

The Coronet Peak slopes
Operators of Coronet Peak are preparing for a better ski season than 2020, but they do not expect visitor numbers to return to pre-COVID-19 levels. (

ABC News: Emily Clark


For those considering booking a trip to Queenstown, the operators have a few tips. 

If you are not travelling with children and are flexible with dates, consider booking outside school holidays.

With options for travel destinations still very limited, the ski fields are likely to be hosting many more domestic tourists, as well as those travelling internationally in the bubble, so keep an eye on NZ school holiday dates too. 

The operators are waiting for Australians, and for the snow.

The season typically starts in early June, but if travellers want to better their chances of good snow, the local tip is to come in August and catch the mid-winter weather. 

Paul Anderson
Ski NZ chief Paul Anderson says while he is “ready and watching” COVID-19 announcements, he has learned to expect the unexpected.

And in terms of when to book and what deals Australians might be able to get, that should be apparent very soon. 

Ms Stokes said the advertising would be “very aggressive”. 

“With our first-mover advantage, we are well aware Australians can’t go anywhere else,” she said. 

“And we know New Zealand is usually up there for Australians, but we really want to make the most of everything we have to offer.” 

For the winter lovers 

The view from Coronet Peak
While they wait for the winter, operators of Queenstown ski fields are looking for specialist workers who would normally follow the season around the world.  (

ABC News: Emily Clark 


Ms Stokes said Queenstown needed casual workers for the winter ahead and anyone who wanted to work in the town should “seriously think about it”. 

“We’re a workforce that is in desperate need of casual workers,” she said. 

“Any of your young people who are thinking about doing their OE (overseas experience) and they want to come live, work and play here in Queenstown, as well as professional services, we’re a great place with a lot of opportunity.”  

Destination Queenstown chief executive Ann Lockhart said there were “plenty of jobs available”. 

“It would be ideal for us to come and do a season here,” she said. 

On ski fields, there is a demand for people with specialised skills, particularly snow sport instructors, snow groomers, as well as back-of-house food and beverage workers.   

For those Australians who chased winter, Mr Anderson said the bubble opened up a chance to do what they would normally do.   

“We’re just ready to go. Last year when we opened, locals were just so grateful to get up here and do something normal,” Mr Anderson said.  

“So yeah, come out and do something normal and something extraordinary. 

The Remarkables
Operators of The Remarkables (pictured), Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt ski fields said they were “massively relieved” when the travel bubble opened.  (

ABC News: Emily Clark


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Why Tenerife is Europe’s best spot for responsible whale watching


ne upside to the realisation that we’ve been treating our oceans as a supersized rubbish tip? The growing popularity of schemes designed to protect their inhabitants, whether it’s National Marine Parks such as the UK’s Plymouth Sound, or Unesco’s World Heritage Marine Programme, which provides protection for areas like Western Australia’s Shark Bay.

The Whale Heritage Site scheme is the latest example. Established in 2015 by the World Cetacean Alliance, its purpose is to identify notable cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) habitats, protecting these species by increasing awareness, encouraging community engagement and promoting responsible whale and dolphin-watching as ethical alternatives to seeing cetaceans in captivity. The scheme’s first two recipients were South Africa’s The Bluff, an area off the coast of Durban, and Australia’s Hervey Bay, an essential stop-off for migrating whales. In January 2021, it was announced that Europe’s first Whale Heritage Site is Tenerife-La Gomera Marine Area, off the coast of Tenerife.

So what’s the appeal of the Canary Islands? It turns out cetaceans head there for the same reason sun-starved tourists do (although the whales’ indulgence of choice is admittedly crustaceans, not cocktails). There’s year-round sun and warm, clear water and, in some areas, the ocean has a depth of 2,000m, which allows cetaceans to feast on a variety of species, ranging from plankton to squid. This staggering depth also provides protection from chilly currents sweeping in across the Atlantic – a major bonus for creatures who can’t simply hop onto dry land and flop onto a sun-lounger.

The area has 28 species of cetacean, although it’s the short-finned pilot whale that most visitors are desperate to spot. “Tenerife has one of the world’s few resident short-finned pilot whale populations,” says Katheryn Wise, wildlife campaign manager at World Animal Protection, which partners with the World Cetacean Alliance to roll out the Whale Heritage Site scheme. “The pilot whales here have unique hunting behaviours which haven’t been observed elsewhere. One example is their deep, high-speed dives to chase and capture squid.”

Tenerife’s waters have become Europe’s first Whale Heritage Site

(Tamara Hinson)

By highlighting areas such as the Tenerife-La Gomera Marine Area, it’s hoped that more people will understand the importance of these creatures. “Cetaceans are great indicators of ecosystem health,” says Jacobo Marrero, a Tenerife-based cetacean expert. “They alert us if there are imbalances, and play an essential role in maintaining the equilibrium. Without these apex predators, the natural balance is easily disrupted.”

South Africa’s Whale Heritage Site – known as The Bluff – is a great example of one which has come full circle. In the early 1900s it was home to the world’s largest land-based whaling operation. Every year, crew manning Durban’s South African Whaling Company’s ships harpooned around 100 whales between March and September, and black and white pictures show enormous carcasses being hauled along a purpose-built railway. A century later, in 2019, The Bluff became the world’s first Whale Heritage Site. Today, an annual Welcoming of the Whales Festival, along with guided walks and tours of the former whaling station, allows locals to learn more about cetaceans. Only two closely monitored whale-watching operations can operate, which brings us on to another benefit of Whale Heritage Sites: to qualify, judges require proof that there are mechanisms in place to safeguard cetaceans’ welfare and to reduce threats.

The pilot whales here have unique hunting behaviours which haven’t been observed elsewhere. One example is their deep, high-speed dives to chase and capture squid

“In Tenerife for example, stakeholder groups are committed to reducing the number of illegal whale-watching operators and to encouraging tourists to use responsible, sustainable operators,” says Elizabeth Cuevas, Whale Heritage Sites manager at the World Cetacean Alliance. “Meanwhile, at California’s Dana Point Whale Heritage Site, the panel identified plastic pollution as a major threat, so there’s a focus on initiatives which reduce plastic pollution. At future sites, ship strikes may be a concern, so the conservation measures may look different again.”

Pilot whales in Tenerife have unique hunting behaviours

(Dylan Walker)

 At a time when there’s growing pressure on organisations such as SeaWorld to abandon shows featuring cetaceans, Whale Heritage Sites don’t just highlight areas where these creatures can be seen in the wild, but ensure that there are measures to protect them. “By raising their prominence, we hope to reduce the demand to see these creatures in tanks, and bring us closer to our vision of making this the last generation of cetaceans in captivity,” says Wise.

In a nutshell, the scheme is about making cetaceans the stars of the show, but in a very different way. It’s about engaging communities and convincing people to care about these marvellous creatures. And not a moment too soon. “The status of many cetacean species is vulnerable to critical,” says Dylan Walker, the World Cetacean Alliance’s chief executive. “Extinction is just around the corner for some, and Whale Heritage sites are a critical tool which allows us to prioritise their protection in the places where they’re clinging on.”

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