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Lorry-obsessed toddler inspires dad to follow dream and get a license




Sam loves her (Picture: Caters News Agency)

Three-year-old Sam loves trucks so much that he regularly stops outside his house to catch a glimpse.

But it seems that this passion runs in the family.

Sam’s father, 42-year-old Peter Cranston, was also obsessed with trucks as a child – something he’s now passing on to his son.

A conveniently located trucking company near the family home regularly lets Peter know if there’s going to be an oversized load so Sam can come out and see the huge trucks go by.

His dad even bought him one (Image: Caters News Agency)

The doting dad even bought Sam a mini truck when he was a year old – so he could drive around himself.

At first the youngster was too small to reach the accelerator, so Peter controlled it for him with a remote control.


Peter said: “The second his legs were long enough to touch the pedals, there was literally no stopping him.

“I take Sam to truck shows and he loves driving his little truck around. He gets a lot of attention and loves to pose for photos outside of the trucks.

“It’s great to see that he loves the same things I did when I was his age.

“He starts laughing and points his finger as he stares dazedly at the various trucks that drive by.”

His passion inspired his father to get his truck driver’s license (Image: Caters News Agency)
“It’s great to see he loves the same things I did when I was his age” (Image: Caters News Agency)

Now Peter has an official ability that will make Sam even more excited about the vehicles.

After years of procrastination, Peter passed his truck driver’s exam last year – inspired by his son’s passion.


He adds: “Last year I finally decided to get my truck driver’s license. I’ve wanted to do it for the last ten years, but there was always something that came up and took me in a different direction.

“But I’ve made a decision, it’s now or never, and now I’m waiting to get my first job as a truck driver. I can’t wait to get started.

“I can’t wait for Sam to see me drive a truck. I think he will be so shocked.’

Peter is also sure that Sam will follow in his footsteps.

He added: “He’s only three but I’m sure Sam will grow up to be a truck driver. There would be something wrong if he didn’t.”


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Monkey Island Estate Review | Escapes




Today’s Monkey Island Estate Hotel in Bray-on-Thames has a colorful history – the unusual name possibly dates back hundreds of years when the small island in the middle of the Thames was settled by local monks. However, the Grade I listed buildings you see today are more recent, having been built by the 3rd Duke of Marlborough in 1723 as a fishing retreat (okay for some). He commissioned the Palladian architect Robert Morris to build two buildings: a two-storey fisherman’s temple and an octagonal fisherman’s pavilion for sleeping and dining, both of which still stand today. The property had various uses, attracting royalty, authors, musicians and hosting several famous parties over the decades, but was neglected for years before luxury hotel group YTL bought and renovated the property.

Now a fully operational luxury hotel, Monkey Island Estate has to be one of the most unique places in the country. History aside, the setting is really something special, on this tiny island in the middle of the Thames, which you can access by crossing a small footbridge. For Londoners, getting there has never been easier Elizabeth line now direct from London to Maidenhead. We boarded at Farringdon and were in Maidenhead in an hour; From there it is a 10 minute taxi ride to Monkey Island. Do look for road works though as the line only ran as far as Paddington for our return journey the next day.

Over on the island we checked into our room, the Wedgwood Suite, which is one of the grandest on offer, complete with wood paneling, detailed sculpted ceilings, an original fireplace, and windows on each side of the room that allow for many different views across the island and the river. In this room you can feel the history of the place. However, there are also all modern comforts and conveniences, including a TV, Nespresso machine and USB chargers. There is a more modern marble decked bathroom with heated floors (very welcome on the cold March day we visited) and a huge bath and shower.

Due to the island’s protected status, YTL was unable to construct new buildings, so they found a great solution to offer guests spa services – a floating spa on a boat moored to one side of the island. A quick hop down and you can hop on board for a very relaxing massage whilst floating on the Thames. We told you that this place is unique.

The rest of the grounds are fun to explore, although it only takes a few minutes to circle the island. It may be small but you still feel wonderfully relaxed surrounded by rushing water on all sides as you walk around. At the other end of the island there are some very elegant chickens and beehives, so it’s worth exploring.

While one of the original buildings is dedicated to guest rooms, the other is dedicated to bars and restaurants, all open to both guests and visitors. The Monkey Bar is light and airy and has a great outdoor terrace in summer; The Monkey Room is a cozy parlor with a roaring fireplace and a ceiling covered in 17th-century frescoes with lots of…monkeys; and finally there is the main restaurant, the Monkey Island Brasserie. The Brasserie offers classic dishes like shrimp cocktail, steak tartare, fish and chips and the Monkey Island Brie Burger. Breakfast is served in the brasserie the next morning and there is also a Sunday Roast Menu to see if you are there on a Sunday.


All in all, Monkey Island is a great little escape from London and really super easy to get to on the Elizabeth Line. YTL did a great job of restoring the property to its former glory and breathing new life into it.

Bray, Maidenhead SL6 2EE

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Baby who ‘sang before he could talk’ goes viral on TikTok




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‘He always was To sing“Since he can make a sound, it’s a harmony,” said Mada Cantwell, 27, of her one-year-old son Taidgh.

Taidgh’s fondness for music drew attention tick tockwhere Mada shared a video of her little one singing – in almost perfect pitch – to the traditional gospel song This Little Light of Mine.

Taidgh seems to know all the words, although he can’t pronounce them correctly.

The adorable video has racked up more than a million views on TikTok, and Mada, from Kilkenny, Ireland, is even considering sending him to singing lessons at some point.


“I just encourage him to sing. I might sign him up for singing lessons in the future, but only if he wants to,” she said.

“I think I could have a little musician on my hands.”

Mada thinks Taidgh comes after her and her husband who are always singing and dancing (Image: Mada Cantwell / SWNS)

She believes Taidgh’s apparent talent was influenced by his family: both Mada and her husband Larry often dance and sing around the house.

“I always sing and dance around the house, and so does his father and his brother,” she said.

Larry, 31, is equally pleased with his son’s singing skills: “I’m his number one groupie, his biggest fan,” he said.

Taidgh will only sing for mum and dad (Image: SWNS)

However, little Taidgh is far from a performer – he prefers to sing in the privacy of his own home and keeps his notes for mum and dad’s ears only.

“He sings every day, but he’s a bit shy, so he doesn’t really sing in front of people,” Mada said.


“The reception he had on Tiktok was amazing.

“I’m the proudest mom. Everyone was very sweet.’

Who knows, maybe Taidgh will top the charts for the next two decades.

We’ll keep our eyes open.

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A refuge for Russians and Ukrainians, Bali rethinking open-door policy




For most of last year, thousands of Russians and Ukrainians flocked to the Indonesian island of Bali to escape the war. There they found refuge in a tropical paradise, where locals rolled out the welcome mat to Ukrainians fleeing the shelling and Russians dodging the draft.

Then a Russian influencer naked scaled a 700-year-old sacred tree.

After that, a Russian street artist painted an anti-war mural on a private home, and a Russian teenager was caught vandalizing a school.

A series of recent motorcycle collisions involving Russians and Ukrainians has raised questions about road safety on the island.

Now the once hospitable Balinese have had enough. Amid a spate of complaints, Bali Governor Wayan Koster announced earlier this month that he was asking the Indonesian government to withdraw Russia and Ukraine’s access to the country’s visa-on-arrival program.


He said many of those who flocked to Bali to escape the war not only flouted a number of local laws but also sought jobs on short-term tourist visas. (Obtaining a visa on arrival is usually instant and requires a $33 fee and no paperwork.)

The Balinese have long put up with badly behaved tourists in mostly isolated incidents. Now they regularly complain about half-naked foreigners riding motorbikes and desecrating objects considered sacred on the predominantly Hindu island.

“It’s like they live in a bubble and don’t care about what’s outside the bubble,” said I Wayan Pardika, 33, a Balinese tour guide for a hotel. “It’s okay for them to be half-naked, just driving around in a bikini and without a helmet. But they don’t see that the locals around them aren’t doing the same.”

The Balinese initially understood the plight of the new emigrants. Many provided loans for car and home rentals to Russians cut off from the international payment system due to sanctions. After two years of lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, they were eager for revenue.

But later they found that many Russians had taken jobs on the island – as surf instructors and tour guides. Some started their own car and home rental businesses, violating tourist visa laws and sapping local income.


“We opened our doors, we opened our arms and we greeted them with big smiles,” said Niluh Djelantik, founder of a luxury shoe brand in Bali. “But our kindness was taken for granted.”

Many Balinese say part of the problem is that authorities are struggling to cope with the sudden influx of Russians, who now make up the island’s second largest tourist group after Australians. Last year, 58,000 Russians and 7,000 Ukrainians visited Bali. This January alone, 22,500 Russians came to the province.

In May 2022, the Indonesian government added Russia and Ukraine to the list of countries eligible for its visa-on-arrival program. The visas allow Russians, Ukrainians and citizens of 85 other countries to stay for an initial 30 days and an additional 30 days if they apply for an extension.

Sandiaga Uno, Minister of Tourism, indicated that the government will not revoke the visa program as requested by the Bali governor. In a weekly address earlier this month, he said the number of people causing problems is “not all that significant.” Last November, Sandiaga told the New York Times that the government would help renew tourist visas for those fleeing the war.

But authorities in Bali have focused on increasing traffic violations involving Russians and Ukrainians, sometimes fatally. In response, Wayan, the governor, last week announced a ban on all foreigners riding motorcycles, a decision Sandiaga said should be reversed.


Grishanti Holon, 33, a Russian digital artist, said many of his compatriots who come to Bali come from small provinces with little contact with the world. He said he formed a group to teach Russians Balinese norms and encouraged them to open shops to create jobs for locals.

“Now too many people come and think, ‘It’s okay for me to do whatever I want,’” Holon said.

The Bali Tourism Authority said it will put up signs in English, Russian and Ukrainian next week urging tourists to follow “common sense rules”. “Do not post offensive, vulgar images on social media,” read one poster. “Restrict scant beachwear to appropriate venues.” Offenders, she warned, would face “heavy fines and deportation.”

Ukrainian Ambassador to Indonesia Vasyl Hamianin told reporters last week he was offended that Wayan lumped Russians and Ukrainians together. Hamianin asked the governor to show him crime statistics involving Ukrainians, citing Indonesian government data showing that Russians were responsible for 56 traffic violations in Bali last week, eclipsing the five Ukrainian cases puts.

Hamianin said the 5,000 Ukrainians currently residing in Bali contribute to the local economy, pay their taxes and are “nice and obedient citizens”. He said they were there because of the war, but “the absolute majority of them say they want to go home”.


“I think it’s only human to allow people fleeing war to stay in your country for some time,” Hamianin said.

Much of the frustration in Bali has centered on Russian tourists. Niluh, the founder of the luxury shoe brand, has an Instagram account with 564,000 followers. Her account has become a clearinghouse for what she believes are examples of bad behavior by Russians in Bali. (On Monday, she posted two videos showing a Russian baring his rear end on a sacred mountain and another alleged Russian picking a fight with a local security officer.)

On Thursday morning, Yuri Chilikin, the Russian tourist who had exposed his behind, showed up at Niluh to apologize.

At Niluh’s request, Chilikin, a 23-year-old from Moscow, agreed to hold a ceremony on the mountain to apologize. Niluh told Chilikin that if he complied with other laws, she would tell local officials not to deport him.

Elena Pozdniakova, 33, an engineer from Moscow who arrived in Bali last September with her husband and 3-year-old daughter, said she was “shamed” by multiple reports of misbehaving Russian tourists.


“I just want to say that not every Russian is like that,” she said.

Pozdniakova’s husband, Sergei Pozdniakov, said he understands the frustration because he has also seen some of his compatriots behaving rudely. Despite the anger on social media, he and his wife say they remain touched by Balinese hospitality. “We’ve never met a Balinese who said, ‘Because you’re Russian, you’re bad,’” Pozdniakov said.

In an interview, Silmy Karim, director general of immigration at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, said he was still considering Wayan’s proposal to scrap the visa-on-arrival program for Russia and Ukraine. He said his main focus is weeding out foreigners who break local laws and he studies the examples of other countries with large numbers of Russian tourists, including Thailand, where more than 350,000 Russians live on the Thai island of Phuket alone.

“You can be neat,” he said. “It’s up to us to take care of them and discipline them.”

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