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T’Pau’s Carol Decker: ‘I struggled to count the zeros on my first royalty …

Carol Decker found fame in 1987 after T’Pau’s first single Heart and Soul featured in a Pepe Jeans commercial. After a string of hits, the group split in 1998 but later reformed and are back with a new album. Carol, 57, and her husband, Richard, live with children Scarlett and Dylan in Henley-on-Thames.

What was your very first job?

At 15, I was a Saturday girl in John Menzies.

I remember being really intimidated. I’m not good at numbers and back then, the tills didn’t add up so we had to work out customers’ change. I was so afraid of a queue of people huffing, puffing and shuffling from one foot to another while I got my sums wrong, I wanted to burst into tears.

Later I worked in an awful boutique, Fashion Flare, selling cheap clothes where the strip lights flickered and gave me headaches.

I earned £57.50 a week and stuck at it for six months until I cried at the thought of going in. My then partner, Ron Rogers co-founder of T’Pau, had a great job as a BT engineer. If he did half a day’s overtime on Saturday, he earned £60.

That equalled my whole week’s wages in four hours! Thinking back, that job showed me the hideous abyss of a dull life where failure wasn’t an option.

How did your childhood influence your attitude towards money?

I’m a Liverpudlian and we moved to Shropshire when I was seven. My mum was a homemaker and my dad was a supermarket man.

In Liverpool we lived in a horrible council flat in Huyton and it was all a bit grubby.

My dad was generous. We were a Freddie Laker family going on package holidays to Benidorm and Malta and I absolutely loved it. Dad enjoyed money but he didn’t rack up loans and I’m still like that now.

Before I got my career off the ground with T’Pau, for years, I was a skint student/muso/on-the-dole and used to really stretching my budget. I still think someone’s going to take my money away.

Your first single, Heart and Soul, was a huge hit in America. What was overnight fame like?

My dream came true.

By the time I got my record deal I was 28 so it was a long time coming. Suddenly, I had paps camped outside my house trying to get a photo of me popping to the corner shop in my rollers, looking like Fag Ash Lil.

We even had decoys when the band were really popular. Once, we couldn’t get out of the stadium with so many paps and fans, so one of my crew wore a red wig, black leather coat and we piled him into a limo with blacked out windows to look like me.

I had my crazy Andy Warhol 15 minutes!

What impact did China in Your Hand have on your career?

The expectation was incredible. It shot to No  1 and stayed there for five weeks, which was crazy. But then I became aware people expect that success every time and started to feel the pressure. Heart and Soul flopped initially going into the UK charts at 98 and dropped straight out.

Our record company was really p‑‑‑‑‑ off and we were worried that we’d be dropped. Then Pepe Jeans scooped it up for their cinema advert and the American public loved it so it shot straight to No 4 in the Billboard 100 and went up and down the charts for five months.

So did you earn a fortune from Pepe?

We didn’t get any money. There wasn’t any big L’Oréal hair endorsements then apart from Michael Jackson’s Pepsi commercial.

For the rest of us, it was considered a great opportunity to let people hear the song and we were grateful at the time.

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Rick Wakeman: 'David Bowie's advice made me millions'2

But when royalties flooded in, did you live out all your pop star fantasies?

Pretty much. We did well because Ronnie and I wrote all our songs and in the early days, we’d get a cheque with lots of zeros. When I read the first one, I couldn’t believe it: I had to put my finger under the zeros.

It would have paid maybe £200,000.

We bought a huge house in London, a big place in Monmouth set in acres of land, a studio, I treated myself to a sports car and exotic holidays.

Did you learn any tough money lessons?

Yes, we had a manager who took £100,000 of our publishing money and put it as a deposit for a house in the country for himself.

A member of our management team alerted us and we were very naive. We were the victims of a man who I firmly believed was all right to start with, but whose head got turned by vast chunks of money flying in. We fired him instantly and racked up huge lawyers’ bills but had to settle out of court to get anything back.

Do you gig these days out of pleasure or necessity?

I do it out of pleasure now.

My first Rewind arena tour in 2001 with Paul Young, Kim Wilde and Heaven 17 wasn’t so much a financial necessity but I thought, I’ve got nothing left to lose. At our peak T’Pau were selling out arenas so you get used to it and my self-esteem needed to be back on that big stage.

When it was all over, a lot happened. My father died, our record company dropped us and Ronnie wanted to break up after 13 years.

So I lost everything in the space of two years and I was very depressed. Although I had money in the bank and was lucky, I was a rudderless ship.

When I got a phone call from a promoter, suddenly it was big stages and a proper crew again. Not quite like the old days, but a bit like the old days and I needed it.

Do you have a pension plan?

I have a pension and a lot of equity in property.

I’ve never been foolish. When I bought a sports car, I bought an MX5, not a Ferrari. I’m financially comfortable but I don’t have a lavish lifestyle at all.

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Carol Decker on Loose Women last month (Pic: Rex Features)

Do you have enough money to retire yet?

Possibly and I could certainly downsize when the kids go to college.

We’re not mortgaged up to the eyeballs and, God bless my mum, soon, I’ll be able to pay the mortgage off because her house will be sold.

I’m self-employed, my husband’s self-employed and I’m 58 this year. Being a bit boring, it would be great to be mortgage-free and at least you’ve got a roof over your head if anything goes wrong.

Best and worst financial moves you’ve ever made?

My best move was buying my house in Kentish Town in 1987 for £250,000. We bought a three-storey Victorian town house on Chetwynd Road in a scruffy area, full of old boozers.

But later the area gentrified and when we moved in 2005 we sold it for almost £900,000.

I’ve not made a massive worst move. Recently, though, I caught bronchitis and had to cancel one third of my tour. I had to pay my band, I’d booked hotels upfront for discounted rates and couldn’t get my money back and I had loads of albums and T-shirts made that normally fly out after gigs, so all that got stacked in the garage.

I spent £2,000 on a new mixing desk but only used it 10 times. It’s not a catastrophic amount of money but it was frustrating.

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And do you invest in stocks and shares?

No, I don’t invest in anything I don’t understand. I’m very cautious and I’ve never had so much money that I can say, “Oh it doesn’t matter if I lose it.”

Any regrets about the way you’ve done business?

Some.

I spent a lot of time in the Nineties feeling sorry for myself and wasted a lot of time. I don’t like change and I did suffer with quite a bit of depression after all the things went wrong. I didn’t dust myself off quickly enough, get writing and back on the horse.

What’s your favourite charity?

Save the Children and DEC, which send emergency aid workers into terrible places.

Then for my mum, who I sadly lost last October, the Salvation Army and Red Cross.

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How do you feel about the Eighties now?

Brilliant! I was young, in a successful rock band, being flown all around the world in private jets, wined and dined and had adoring fans. So I was living the dream.

I still love writing and performing. Pleasure & Pain is the first album that Ronnie and I have written together in 20 years.

Thanks to the Eighties resurgence, I’ve been able to go out on my own tours again. It’s a bit more modest. I play theatres and smaller venues and have my own record label, Gnatfish Records.

Ronnie and I are back together creatively, our album’s had amazing reviews and I’m really proud.

It’s great to have something new to talk about but I wouldn’t have that if I didn’t give a nod to the old hits.

T’Pau’s new album, 'Pleasure & Pain’, is out now.

For tour dates, visit tpau.co.uk or tweet Carol at @caroldecker56

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The face of fertility: why do men find women who are near ovulation more …

Humans are obviously different. We don’t make a show of how fertile we are. But does this mean that women have evolved to conceal ovulation?

Women are most fertile during the late follicular phase of their menstrual cycle, which starts about a week after their period begins and ends a week later with ovulation.

At this time, women experience subtle changes in their psychology, behaviour, and physiology that are akin to the changes we see in non-human primates.

Female Pygmy Chimpanzee in heat quadrupedal knuckle walking You may have heard of Geoffrey Miller’s infamous lap-dancing study1 from 2007. Miller asked professional exotic dancers to keep a record of their nightly tip earnings for two months. The women also reported when their periods began and ended, so Miller could calculate when they were most fertile.

He found that the dancers received about US$67 (£42) per hour when they were near ovulation, but only US$52 (£33) at less fertile times of the month (and US$37 (£23) during their periods).

This suggests that women are sufficiently more attractive at peak fertility to persuade men to part with their hard-earned cash. But why?

We don’t know for sure but it was probably a mix of signals. Research has shown that as ovulation approaches, women’s voices rise in pitch2, their body odour becomes more sexually attractive3, and they wear more revealing clothing4.

The face of fertility

There is also some evidence5 that women’s faces are more attractive to both men and women near ovulation.

The attractiveness effect is weaker when the women’s clothing and hair are obscured in the photograph. So clothing and hair are clearly important, but they’re not everything.

My research collaborators and I wondered whether womens' faces might be changing colour across the month. This isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.

Women’s attractiveness to men doesn’t vary6 over the cycle7 if the women are wearing make-up, which implies that make-up conceals natural changes in skin appearance. And other primates, such as rhesus and Japanese macaques and mandrills, develop a redder face when they’re most fertile.

Japanese Macaques bathing in hot springs near Nagano, Japan Perhaps our own species experiences a similar – if less noticeable – change in facial redness. This could certainly explain the attractiveness effect: studies have found8 men rate women with redder faces more attractive.

To find out, we photographed 22 young women volunteers on an average of 13 occasions and monitored where they were in their cycles, using a camera that replicated the images seen by the human eye.

We asked them to avoid make-up and wear a black hairdressers’ smock so that the colour of their clothes wouldn’t be reflected onto their face (women are more likely9 to wear red or pink clothes when they’re fertile). Then we used a computer program to cut out patches of skin from the cheeks on each photograph.

We found women’s faces did change in redness over the cycle but not to a degree that could be seen by the human eye and therefore could not be detected by men, even unconsciously. Plus women are much more fertile just before ovulation than just after, but the redness of their faces at those two times was almost identical.

It is therefore pretty doubtful that facial skin colour is responsible for the effect of the menstrual cycle on women’s attractiveness to men.

If our species ever advertised our fertility with noticeable changes in facial colour, we don’t any more.

Looking for more

It’s plausible that there are more obvious fluctuations in facial skin colour than those we detected. After all, we did only look at a small area of the cheek. Perhaps womens' lips becomes especially red at peak fertility, even without the help of lipstick (women wear more make-up10 near ovulation).

Some indicators of women’s fertility are stronger when women are more stimulated.

Straight women are more flirtatious when fertile, but only in the presence of men they find attractive11. Men find dilated pupils attractive in a woman, and heterosexual womens' pupils increase in diameter during the fertile phase, but only in response to photographs of their boyfriends.

Whatever is going on, women shouldn’t worry that they’re advertising their fertility status to men by way of a flushed red face. The changes in redness are related to cycle phase, but not to fertility or risk of conception.

Read more:
Evidence shows fertility declines in men as they get older too
Psychology of flirtation: how to know when someone's into you
Why sex is better in my late forties121314
The Conversation

Robert Burriss15 is Research fellow in Psychology at Northumbria University, Newcastle16.

This article was originally published on The Conversation17.

Read the original article18.

References

  1. ^ lap-dancing study (bit.ly)
  2. ^ rise in pitch (bit.ly)
  3. ^ more sexually attractive (beheco.oxfordjournals.org)
  4. ^ more revealing clothing (bit.ly)
  5. ^ some evidence (bit.ly)
  6. ^ doesn’t vary (bit.ly)
  7. ^ over the cycle (bit.ly)
  8. ^ studies have found (bit.ly)
  9. ^ more likely (bit.ly)
  10. ^ more make-up (www.independent.co.uk)
  11. ^ men they find attractive (bit.ly)
  12. ^ Evidence shows fertility declines in men as they get older too (www.independent.co.uk)
  13. ^ Psychology of flirtation: how to know when someone's into you (www.independent.co.uk)
  14. ^ Why sex is better in my late forties (www.independent.co.uk)
  15. ^ Robert Burriss (theconversation.com)
  16. ^ Northumbria University, Newcastle (theconversation.com)
  17. ^ The Conversation (theconversation.com)
  18. ^ original article (theconversation.com)
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Barrhead Travel at 40: How the Scottish holiday firm took its own journey from …

Within months of Barrhead Travel opening their first store on the town’s Main Street, there were queues of customers around the block.

Now, 40 years on, holidaymakers continue to flock to the travel agent – on foot, online and on the telephone.

Barrhead Travel’s astonishing success story began with the frustrations of a banker, Bill Munro, who couldn’t find a travel agent open outside working hours.

And, as the company’s managing director, Jacqueline Dobson, explains, he created his own solution to the problem.

“Bill Munro, our chairman and founder, started the company 40 years ago with one other employee in a shop in Barrhead Main Street.

“He couldn't get a travel agent open in the evenings and weekends, so the whole idea came from customers not being able to book at a convenient time.

“He opened that first store. The shop then grew and grew and on Barrhead Main Street we used to have queues out the street on a Saturday and Sunday morning with people waiting to book holidays.

Barrhead Travel celebrate their 40th anniversary

“We used to, and still do, have special deals on at the weekend that couldn't be bought anywhere else.

“Bill was always very entrepreneurial and made sure customers could only book these deals at Barrhead Travel.”

In those days the destinations were mainly Mediterranean, with Scots lining up to book their traditional Spanish holiday.

But after 40 years of continual expansion, the company now offers trips to every corner of the earth, employing 850 staff and with 56 UK outlets.

Jacqueline said: “We service absolutely everywhere. We do Mediterranean holidays, US, South America, Canada, Asia, Australia, New Zealand.

We’re one of the largest flight suppliers with our own airline contracts. Anything you want we can do, including Antarctica.

“Demand for alternative holidays is really up and coming. There are a lot more expeditions because people really want to have experiences and create memories so we want to be able to offer them something different.”

Jacqueline Dobson has been with the company for 14 years

Jacqueline attributes much of the business’s success – they've won Scottish Travel Agent of the Year for the past 12 years, and UK Travel Agent of the Year annually since 2009 – to the specialist knowledge on offer in each of their stores, which now includes specialist cruise services, and a luxury business travel store in Glasgow offering bespoke, personalised trips.

She said: “Bill designs all our shops, he’s very creative.

There are different sections – package holidays, cruise long-haul, a US/Canadian section, and these staff are specialists in their product area. We really believe customers want to speak to specialists so we fully train our staff.

“We send them out to resorts every year because it’s really important that they do experience the destinations so they can pass that information on to the customer.

“We send 10 to 12 staff away at once so they travel together to experience the hotels and the tourist board will take them around so they can experience the sites and attractions too. That way we can make sure that the destination we send customers to is the right one for them.”

Bill sold the business to his daughter, Sharon, in 2007, but the focus of Barrhead Travel remains unchanged.

They believe it’s all about the customer experience – including having space to park.

Jacqueline added: “Sharon bought the business from her father and we opened further stores in Dundee, Stirling, St James’ Centre in Edinburgh and we were operating 10 websites at that point all over the UK. Our first website, in 1999, was the first internet site for a UK travel operator.

Barrhead Travel have been taking customers to exotic locations for 40 years

“In 2008 we opened Dunfermline, East Kilbride and Silverburn, and Newton Mearns. They were in old petrol stations because we wanted to make sure there was customer parking.

Again they have themed areas with specialist staff.

“Our New Generation store in Silverburn is a really inviting, modern placed to be.

We have TV screens where you can watch footage of your destination and it’s just a really relaxing place to book a holiday.”

The company also operate their own charter flight programme from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and now have stores all over Scotland as well as in the North of England and Northern Ireland.

By creating their own intranet site, instantly linking customer preferences to booking information, they have been able stay ahead of the pack.

But beyond the call centres and technology, the far-flung destinations and the cruise trips, a happy holiday often comes down to one core ingredient – memories.

“I think about my last holiday and what we did, being on top of the Empire State building.

The accommodation was important but it’s what you actually do when you're there that really counts,” said Jacqueline.

“We’re here to help create special memories for our customers.”

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Apparently, men are snapping up these crochet shorts for summer and we don’t …

Men are snapping up these crochet shorts for summer and it's extremely worryingLook at them frolicking in their crochet pants (Picture: Etsy) While women can feel the breeze in flippy mini-skirts and vest tops, men of the UK usually have to suffer through summer heatwaves in stifling shirts and trousers. Until now. Because crochet shorts are, we’re told, the hot look for men this summer.

And by hot, apparently they don’t just mean highly flammable. According to Schuyler Ellers, the American brand behind the technicoloured Lord von Schmitt1 crochet pants, they are ‘great for running, walking, dancing, or just wearing every day!’

They also suggest wearing them at festivals, or for doing morning yoga in winter.

LongboardThey’re perfect for posing on mountain tops (Picture: Etsy) By all accounts, they’re selling like hotcakes. Let’s look at the positives for a moment – they’ve definitely got that on-trend 70s vibe, while the holes provided by the crochet effect are, according to reviews, ‘generous’, allowing air to circulate around your overheated loins.

As for the cons, where do we start? They’re made from Afghan blankets, so if you decide to wear them into the sea, you will probably sink without a trace. Plus, imagine the chafing. ApacheOkay, the fringing’s almost won us round (Picture: Etsy) Also, they’re hurting our eyes.

Nevertheless, if you happen to believe wrapping a doily around your crotch is a good idea, then you can choose between board and, um, booty shorts. Or, there’s the crochet hotpant for the truly unhinged brave. Crochet shortsOh dear god (Picture: Etsy) Prices start from £44. Do your worst.

References^ Lord von Schmitt (www.etsy.com) Continue reading

Survey reveals surprising shifts in travel industry booking trends and travel …

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Survey

Survey reveals surprising shifts in travel industry booking trends and travel habits

Theodore Koumelis1 - 29 June 2015, 10:35

Insights from 2015 Portrait of American Travelers Survey challenge current perceptions about travel intentions and preferences among Americans. Travelers are increasingly migrating from OTAs when making bookings and heading directly to travel brand sites to both research and book travel at a substantially higher rate than in previous years.

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NEW YORK - Leading integrated travel and hospitality marketing firm, MMGY Global has released its 2015 Portrait of American Travelers (POAT) revealing emerging shifts in the travel habits and intentions of Americans that call into question several prevailing beliefs maintained by industry marketers. The results also have significant implications for the manner in which the industry markets its products, and the way in which consumers are likely to respond.

The 25th annual survey of 2,832 U.S. adults, the longest continuous survey of its kind in America, reveals impactful implications for the industry including an uncertain outlook for the future growth of online travel agencies (OTAs), an impressive comeback for the cruise industry, provocative insights into the preferences of Millennial travelers, the sources of information affluents trust, and who is helping fuel the growing sharing economy. “We were surprised to find such significant shifts in travel preferences in just one year.

In addition, the survey revealed several unexpected trends across generational groups,” said Steve Cohen, vice-president of Insights for MMGY Global. “Clearly the industry is in a state of flux, as the way people view and make decisions regarding travel is evolving at a much faster pace than in previous years.” MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers provides an in-depth examination of the impact of the current economic environment on prevailing social values, and the emerging travel habits, preferences, and intentions of Americans. It is widely regarded as a leading barometer of travel trends and an essential tool for both the development and evolution of brand and marketing strategy.

Following is a brief summary of several key shifts revealed in the 2015 POAT study: Brand.com Now Trumps OTAs When Consumers Make Reservations
Despite healthy earnings and reports of growth amid ongoing mergers and acquisitions, the new findings suggest looming challenges for OTAs. Travelers are increasingly migrating from OTAs when making bookings and heading directly to travel brand sites to both research and book travel at a substantially higher rate than in previous years:

  • Only 58 percent of travelers obtained travel information from an OTA during the past year, down significantly from the 84 percent who did so in 2014.
  • From a booking perspective, the insights revealed by the survey are even more provocative: among travelers who regularly seek information from an OTA site when planning a vacation, only 13 percent typically book their reservations on these sites, down from 36 percent just one year ago.
  • Respondents cited the main reasons for booking direct are a belief they will get the best prices by doing so (64%), and that they generally find it more convenient than booking with an OTA (67%).
Despite Recent Negative Publicity, Cruising Is On the Rise and Among Unexpected Audiences
Despite the adverse press coverage the cruise industry has received during the last couple of years, this year’s POAT reveals that interest in cruising is actually up, and its appeal extends across all generational groups:
  • Almost half (48%) of all travelers are now interested in taking a cruise vacation during the next two years, up eight percent from the level who expressed interest in 2014.
  • Surprisingly, Millennials along with Matures, now show the highest growth of interest in cruising.

    Fifty-one percent of travelers from each of these generational groups are interested in taking a cruise during the next two years. This is just one example of how Millennials are fueling overall growth for the industry in an unexpected way: younger Millennials appear to find cruising an affordable and convenient vacation option to explore.

Millennials: Reshaping the World of Travel In Surprising Ways
Considered by many to be an “adventure driven” generation, it has been suggested that Millennials are apt to seek travel experiences in far off and more exotic locales, yet more and more are opting to enjoy and explore adventures in their own backyard:
  • Millennials, more than any other age cohort, are increasingly interested in “staycationing,” with over half (55%) taking a vacation close to home as an alternative to traveling a greater distance during the past year. This figure is up 14 percent from 2014, and a remarkable 23 percent from 2013.
  • Millennials took staycations an average of 3.1 times during the past year, nearly as often as they took traditional vacations – for an average of 3.4 times during the past year.
  • Thirty-four percent of Millennials intend to take more staycations during the next 12 months.
  • When asked why, the reasons cited most frequently included a desire to stay in one place and relax (37%), to spend more time with friends and family (34%), and save money for another vacation (30%).
Millennials with families are also fueling growth in demand for travel services:
  • Millennial families intend to take more vacations over the next year than Millennial couples, 43 percent compared to 27 percent.
  • Millennial families also intend to spend an average of more than $6,000 on vacations during the next 12 months, 19 percent higher than they spent on vacations during the previous year.  
Affluent Travelers Place More Trust in Third-Party Reviews Than Their Own Friends and Family
Affluent travelers (those with an annual household income over $150,000) are increasingly turning to travel review sites for advice and recommendations about travel, with more admitting they trust the opinions of these strangers over those expressed by their circle of family and friends:
  • When searching for inspirational travel ideas, fewer affluent travelers are looking to friends and family.

    Only 37 percent consider their advice influential, down 11 percent from last year.

  • Forty-one percent of affluent travelers say they visited a travel review site for information about a travel destination or supplier during the past year, up seven percent from 2014.
  • Ascribing even greater weight to reviews and ratings by fellow consumers, 53 percent of affluent travelers now trust review sites more than institutional/organizational ratings such as those published by AAA and Forbes.
  • Overwhelmingly, the top resource cited for advice on both destinations and travel suppliers was TripAdvisor (87%).
Sharing Economy: Not Just for Millennials
Shared travel services are gaining popularity with all generational groups. While Millennials are leading the way when it comes to using non-traditional lodging, booking alternative accommodations on sites like Airbnb and HomeAway, and patronizing ride-sharing services like Uber, they are surprisingly not alone:
  • Seventy-four percent of Boomers and 72 percent of GenXers now use shared services and would be interested in doing so again, just slightly less than the 80 percent of Millennials.
  • Ride-sharing is not just about sharing a ride. Travelers are using this service for different reasons, depending on their age, with some citing safety and cashless payment options as primary reasons for using services like Uber.

    Among travelers who have used ride-sharing on vacation, 79 percent like not having to pay their driver directly and feel safer since the app identifies the driver and handles payment.


 

References

  1. ^ Theodore Koumelis (www.traveldailynews.com)
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