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Steps star Ian “H” Watkins has spoken out about the challenges of being a single parent during the pandemic.

The singer is father to twin boys Macsen and Cybi, five, who were born via a surrogate in 2016, but says he has been a single parent “virtually from the beginning” after splitting from his former partner Craig Ryder the following year.

Watkins is currently getting ready for the much-anticipated Steps‘ comeback – with an arena tour planned for later this year following the announcement of the band’s reunion in 2020 – but is also juggling the showbiz side of his life with looking after his boys.

With COVID-19 turning the world upside down in the past 18 months, parents have faced the extra challenges of home schooling and keeping children entertained when they were stuck at home, unable to see friends or enjoy their usual hobbies.

Life as a single father can be “tough” and “a little bit crazy”, Watkins tells Sky News, but he wants to highlight that modern family life is changing.

“I have been a single parent virtually from the beginning, I guess, so I know exactly what it’s like to be outnumbered if you are single parent out there,” he tells Sky News. “It’s tough… There is no traditional family unit anymore. Families come in all shapes and sizes.

“When it comes to single parent families, I’m outnumbered, completely. So I have to divide my time and I have to devote attention to what’s needed. I am a little bit of a, well, 90%, I’d say, I’m bad cop because I have to be, you know, I do rule my children with discipline, but I also put the fun dad hat on as well. So it’s a juggling act, really. And it’s tough.”

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Watkins spoke out about his own experiences following research by family holiday site Vrbo suggesting that more than half (56%) of single parents have not had a proper break in more than two years.

“You need a break, especially after the year-and-a-half that we’ve had,” says Watkins. “I mean, that was unexpected and crazy.”

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Getaways in the UK might be easier now than they were during lockdown, but with the traffic light system for travelling abroad ever changing, that is not so easy to plan for.

“I think if we were singing off the same hymn sheet, that would make life a lot easier,” says Watkins, referring to the differing rules across the UK. “I personally think that what [First Minister] Mark Drakeford is doing in Wales is a good thing. I think Boris [Johnson] has been way too lackadaisical. I think it would be nice to have a bit of a happy medium.”

As lockdown measures lift, Watkins has this message for other single parents: “Just keep going. Stay strong. You have got this.”

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Three most-streamed Christmas number ones of all time don’t actually mention Christmas

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Three most-streamed Christmas number ones of all time don't actually mention Christmas

Ed Sheeran’s hit song Perfect has been named the most streamed UK Christmas number one of all time.

The ballad landed the top spot during the 2017 festive period and fended off competition from global superstars, including Whitney Houston and Queen, to claim the title.

To draw in the holiday season, the Official Charts Company created a top 40 list for BBC Radio 2 and BBC Sounds of the most streamed Christmas number ones since it began recording in 1952.

In second place was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which is the only song to ever be a Christmas number one twice – once in 1975, and again in 1991 after Freddie Mercury died.

Clean Bandit’s Rockabye was third – meaning the top three songs in the list actually have nothing to do with Christmas.

Shakin’ Stevens hit Merry Christmas Everyone was fourth, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas was fifth, and Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody was sixth.

The rest of the top 10 is once again mostly dominated by non-festive tracks – including The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me, Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You and Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name.

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But Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M does make an appearance in 10th place.

The top 40 songs by The Official Charts have calculated a combined streaming total of more than 2.25 billion audio plays, although only six of the 40 actually mention Christmas in the lyrics.

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Danny Masterson: Mistrial in case of That ’70s Show actor accused of raping three women

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Danny Masterson: Mistrial in case of That '70s Show actor accused of raping three women

A judge has declared a mistrial in the case of That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson, who was facing three rape charges.

Jurors told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo that they were hopelessly deadlocked, having voted seven times on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 46-year-old is accused of raping three women, including a former girlfriend, in his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003.

Two of the women were 23, and the other was 28.

Masterson denies the charges and said the sex was consensual.

Jurors first told the judge they could not reach verdicts on 18 November but were given time off during Thanksgiving week before being asked to try again.

Two jurors caught COVID-19 on Monday, forcing a restart in deliberations, but two days later verdicts remained elusive, with the foreman saying two jurors voted for conviction on the first count, four on the second count and five on the third count.

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A retrial will be held in March.

The actor has appeared in court

Masterson is a member of the Church of Scientology, and his three accusers were at the time of the alleged crimes.

Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller claimed it had taken two decades for the case to get to trial because the church had tried to keep the women quiet.

The women have launched a lawsuit against the church, saying they were intimidated, harassed and stalked after Masterson was charged.

But Masterson’s lawyer Philip Cohen said the church had been mentioned 700 times during the trial and was an excuse for the prosecution’s failure to build a believable case.

Masterson, who has previously said he is being persecuted for being a member of the church, did not testify and his lawyer focused instead on inconsistencies in evidence from the three women.

During closing arguments, he said: “The key to this case is not when they reported it.

“It’s what they said when they reported it, what they said after they reported it, and what they said at trial.”

Two of the women said Masterson gave them drinks and they became dizzy or passed out before being raped, while the third – the ex-girlfriend – said she woke up to find Masterson raping her.

Mr Cohen said jurors could acquit Masterson if they thought he “actually and reasonably believed” the women consented but Mr Mueller said nobody would believe there was consent, with one of the women repeatedly telling Masterson “no”.

Masterson found fame as Steven Hyde on sitcom That ’70s Show, alongside co-stars Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace.

He worked with Kutcher on Netflix comedy The Ranch but was written out of the show after it was revealed that police were investigating him in late 2017.

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Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie dies aged 79

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Stevie Nicks leads tributes after bandmate Christine McVie dies aged 79

Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie has died aged 79, her family has said.

The British-American rock band, founded in London in 1967, sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the most successful groups ever.

In a post on Facebook, McVie’s family wrote: “It is with a heavy heart we are informing you of Christine’s death.

“She passed away peacefully at hospital this morning, Wednesday, November 30th 2022, following a short illness. She was in the company of her family.”

Keyboardist and singer Christine McVie of the rock band Fleetwood Mac performs on NBC's 'Today' show in New York City, October 9, 2014. Fleetwood Mac is currently on a world concert tour. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
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McVie performing in 2014
**FILE PHOTO** Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac Has Passed Away at 79. Photo of Christine McVie ( Fleetwood Mac) performing circa 1970 Credit: Ron Wolfson / Rock Negatives / MediaPunch /IPX
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McVie pictured in 1970. Pic: AP

The statement continued by asking for the family’s privacy to be respected at “this extremely painful time” and for everyone to remember the “revered musician who was loved universally”.

Fleetwood Mac’s best-known songs include Dreams, Go Your Own Way and Everywhere.

Singer-songwriter and keyboardist McVie penned Songbird, one of the band’s most famous tracks, as well as Oh Daddy, Little Lies and Don’t Stop

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She was among the eight members of the band who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and she left the band a short time later following the death of her father.

She had a successful solo career and reunited with her bandmates in 2013 after a long 15-year hiatus.

In 2017, she revealed that she had retreated from the world and developed agoraphobia after leaving Fleetwood Mac and moving from California to Kent.

Musician Christine McVie from the band Fleetwood Mac performs on stage during a concert inthe Lanxess Arena inCologne,Germany, 04 June 2015. Photo by: Henning Kaiser/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

‘The best musician anyone could have’

“There are no words to describe our sadness at the passing of Christine McVie. She was truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure,” a message on the band’s Twitter page read.

“She was the best musician anyone could have in their band and the best friend anyone could have in their life.

“We were so lucky to have a life with her. Individually and together, we cherished Christine deeply and are thankful for the amazing memories we have.”

Despite its tumultuous history, the group became one of the most famous rock bands of the 1970s and 80s, made up of Mick Fleetwood, Christine and John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

Fleetwood Mac, from left, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, wearing sunglasses, and John McVie, pose with their Grammys at the annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in 1978
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(L-R) Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, wearing sunglasses, and John McVie, pose with their Grammys in 1978
Fleetwood Mac Mick Fleetwood With Stevie Nicks , Christine Mcvie , John Mcvie And Lindsey Buckingham The American Music Awards At Civic Center In Los Angeles 01-16-1978. Credit: 09919329Globe Photos/MediaPunch /IPX
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Mick Fleetwood With Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie And Lindsey Buckingham in 1978

Perhaps their most popular album, Rumours, was released in 1977 and went on to become one of the best-selling albums of all time.

It included hits such as Second Hand News and You Make Loving Fun and sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.

McVie’s death comes two years after Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green died at the age of 73.

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