Cocktails & Culture

What do a 79-year-old artist from Yorkshire and a Notting Hill restaurant have in common? Not a lot, you’re probably thinking. But Mr David Hockney and hot new West Coast-style restaurant Pomona’s actually share something very important. In amidst concrete grey London with its cloudy skies and distinct lack of sunshine, both share a true understanding of colour and the instantly uplifting power it can have. So yes – it makes perfect sense that Pomona’s have come up with a special collection of cocktails, inspired by – of course – David Hockney’s blockbuster exhibition, currently showing at the Tate Britain.

Created by Head Barman Kestutis Stirba (formerly of The Sanderson and The Electric), the collection comprises four cocktails based on iconic Hockney art works. Grand Canyon is inspired by his sweeping studies of the dramatic rock formations to be found in the Arizona National Park – and its deep, bold colours. The cocktail is an update on everyone’s favourite drink du jour – the Negroni – with a very Cali addition: freshly-pressed carrot juice. We loved the Bigger Green Valley – which pays tribute to the verdant landscapes shown in Hockney’s 2008 work of the same name. With cucumber, chartreuse, vodka and citrus accents served long over ice, it captures that fresh, leafy feel of the painting – a spring day on the cusp of summer.

Then there’s the Beach Umbrella – by far the sunniest of the menu. We’re in high summer here, midday on the beach, the sun is high in the sky and colours couldn’t be brighter. This is 100% California – with surf-style pineapple, pisco and arrak, finished with (what else?) sea salt. Finally, Rainy Promenade takes us back to Hockney’s native Yorkshire, inspired by Rainy Night on Bridlington Promenade, with its intense blues, purples and indigos. It’s dark and stormy, but this is a summer storm, and there’s electricity in the air. The cocktail – strong as you like – is our favourite new aperitif, with an unusual combination of port, tequila and orange, which shouldn’t work, but definitely does!

And if you’re having a cocktail or two, it would be rude not to have a little look at Pomona’s menu. However, to glance at the menu would be to decide to order it all – trust us. Simply divided into small plates, mains, salads and sides, it’s a sunny menu that will have you dreaming of moving to California. Cali’s diversity and fusion flavours up the ante on dishes such as steak tartare, served with kimchi to add a sweet-sour freshness to the plate. There’s seafood aplenty, with excellent soft shell crab and generous fish or prawn tacos to add to your must-order list. And yes, you can have Instagram’s fave avocado on toast – served zeitgeisty vegan-style on sweet potato ‘toast’ with coconut ‘labneh’.

Save some space for the mains though – there’s beautifully-cooked organic meat from the Ginger Pig on offer, best accompanied by Asian-style daikon slaw or home fries depending on whether you’re planning on considering the restaurant’s concise selection of desserts. Even if you’re not, you should – served with velvety creme anglaise, the ridiculously rich caramelized croissant and prune pie is a life-changing experience. Pair with a Salted Caramel White Russian, and then book your gym session tomorrow! Alternatively, can we suggest another walk around Mr Hockney’s unforgettable exhibition? Culture and cocktails – you can’t go wrong.

For more information and to book, see Pomona’s website or telephone +44 (0) 20 7229 1503. The David Hockney cocktails are available until May 29th.

Life & Work

When it comes to the fine jewellery market, it’s undoubtedly a women’s world. But just how many successful jewellery brands founded by women can you name? Stocked in Liberty and with her own standalone stores across London, Dinny Hall is the UK’s leading female jeweller. And she’s been a prominent and influential part of the jewellery and fashion world since way back in 1984 when Liberty – the retailer that continues to stock Dinny Hall today – bought her Central St. Martins graduation collection.

Simple, beautiful and elegant, Dinny Hall’s fine, sculptural jewellery includes wear-forever pieces from subtle earrings and pendants to jewel-encrusted rings and necklaces. Every piece is instantly recognisable as Dinny Hall, and these are versatile jewels to wear and enjoy every day too – they’re modern yet timeless. Hall’s eponymous luxury jewellery brand may be well-known, but as Creative Director, she continues to be involved with every aspect of the business – from sketch to creation. A true entrepreneur and a woman who inspires so many, we found out more about the woman behind the brand…

Motivation for me is all about…

My motivation to run my own business first came from wanting to look after myself, not having to have a man do it for me. My partner tells me that I am a ‘Pollyanna’ and a close friend told me that ‘you see the world through rose-tinted glasses’ – perhaps having these traits keeps me motivated because I always think that I am going to achieve what it is I set out to do. Most important though is how you deal with disappointment, because if you give up when things don’t seem to be working out then you will lose your motivation – so never give up.

Success means…

Having the freedom to do what you want. You can only be successful by having a dogged belief in yourself and what you do but with that comes an ethical responsibility. Success in itself means nothing you cannot feel it, see it, touch it and it doesn’t love you – success in itself doesn’t make you happy.

I couldn’t have got there without…

The encouragement of my Mum as a creative child as it all started when I picked up a pencil. A love of what I do. The help of many people who have believed in me (and now my brand) along the way. A steely determination. No fear of change or obstacles along the way.

I always start my day with…

A cup of tea, time to think, a walk with my miniature schnauzer Bo. I carry a Moleskine notebook with me everywhere and I jot down ideas or things that need to be done. I do yoga and sometimes Pilates to keep as sound in mind and body as I can be. A good friend of mine of a similar age and who founded The Women’s Equality Party recently said to me ‘We must be Athletes’ to do what we do! Once I’m at my workplace it is constant and non-stop from the moment I get in until I leave.

When I don’t feel inspired I…

I’m always inspired. There are times when I’m at a low ebb of course and the thought of designing another pair of earrings is not high up on the agenda. I’ll read, I’ll go for a long walk in the country, go to a good movie, go to a gallery, see my friends or tidy up! – all food for creativity. I try to never waste time.

The landscape for women in business today looks like…

There are certain industries where women in business can excel but I’m afraid globally, by and large, it’s still a man’s world – why would we protest march as did so very recently if there was an equal playing field? However, if we are smart – and I mean very smart – I see no reason that women in the West cannot have a better landscape in the near future. For the rest of the world we must educate all women and try to change deep-rooted idealistic and religious belief which holds them back. I also would like to point out that men don’t have to be like women to change attitudes any more that women should feel the need to be like men – vive la difference!

The trait I most deplore in others is…

Greed – this covers a lot of other negative traits and leads to corruption. Greed tends towards the lacking in another, insatiable desire, craving and on to addiction and ultimately it is a truly destructive force. I’m not keen on laziness either!

I’d like to be remembered for…

Creating a great British jewellery brand and being a nice person – a good Mum, partner, friend and I would like to have inspired others.

What makes me happiest is…

When I’m with those I love in Norfolk. Working in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand and being able to do lots if different kinds of yoga (which is where I am now as I write this). When I’m designing and coming up with new ideas (if I think I’m on the right track). When people are shopping in my stores and my new collections are popular and selling. Wandering around junk shops or antique markets anywhere in the world. Looking at amazing architecture. Getting a new handbag!

Can I run in heels?

I can still dance for hours in heels and run too, but I choose to look after my feet. Those days of dancing for three hours non-stop in heels are rare. One thing about shoes is that you can never ever have enough pairs, and if that’s being greedy I’m sorry!

For more information, see the Dinny Hall website. You can also find the brand on Facebook and Instagram or follow on Twitter.

Life & Work

In a city renowned for its stuffy gentlemen’s clubs, Grace Belgravia is quite remarkable really. No Chesterfields, golf tidbits or sexist banter here – it’s a world away from the image you might have of members-only clubs. And that’s because this is a members club exclusively for women. Light, airy and elegantly-appointed, the 11,500 sq. ft. space is dedicated to women’s health and wellbeing, with an impressive range of services on offer. From personal training and yoga to luxury spa treatments (Aromatherapy Associates massages, Natura Bissé facials) and a dedicated team of medical experts, women can expect to be looked after from top to toe. And who’s behind this magical wonderland for women?

Having worked in communications and marketing – and with a Master’s Degree in Luxury Brands and Services – Kate Percival opened Grace Belgravia in 2012, aged 57. And yes, she’s a working mum too. A champion of “preventative medicine and ageing well,” Percival has even overseen the menu of fresh, seasonal, nutritious food on offer at the Grace Restaurant, where you’ll find superfood-rich salads and juices, as well as organic wines and a delicious weekend brunch. Created to support and empower women, the club also hosts a program of events to nourish mind as well as body – think book clubs, talks and arts evenings, as well as ‘power breakfasts’ with successful women in business. Kate Percival is one very busy lady – here’s how London’s leading wonder woman makes it work…

Motivation for me is all about…

Wanting to achieve the best possible outcome whether it be for clients or staff or friends.

Success means…

Making people happy with the service we deliver at Grace. Knowing that we have made a difference, however small, to their lives. We see stressed business women coming here and notice even after a short time the shoulders go down and life takes on a different perspective. Some have even said Grace has saved their lives. That makes everything we work so hard to achieve all worthwhile for me.

I couldn’t have got there without…

My amazing husband and business partner who is both a mentor and dear friend. Having someone who always has your best interests at heart and can stand back and help you see the wood from the trees! And of course a strong team of colleagues in the business. Grace is not a one woman show and is heavily reliant on team effort and a willingness to share information and be collegiate.

I always start my day with…

Peace and quiet! An hour to get ready, collect my thoughts and prepare mentally and physically for the day ahead. Every morning I then walk to the Club and collect my Grace to Go breakfast. I like to know I’m eating the most nutrient-dense food throughout the day and it’s delicious too! To try and practice what I preach with exercise, I now train in the Grace Gym on some mornings during the week alternating between yoga, pilates, and boxing. Once a week I also go speed walking in Hyde Park with my daughters – this is totally rejuvenating since we talk most of the time and put the world to rights!

When I don’t feel inspired I…

Go for a long walk and lots of fresh air. Being able to realise when it is necessary for ‘me time’ also helps. This is what I wanted to achieve with Grace – for it to be a place to restore the balance of work, family and friends, to recharge, rejuvenate, meet empathetic people, and have some fun at the same time. There are so many amazing women at Grace doing so many different things with their lives. They continuously inspire me to keep going even when the going gets tough!

The landscape for women in business today looks like…

Hugely exciting. I truly believe there is nothing one cannot achieve if one puts ones mind to it. Confidence is the most important thing for success and doing things 100% – I hate mediocrity so getting things right first time is really important. That’s not always possible in a start-up business, and one has to make adjustments but principally success is about doing things with integrity.

The trait I most deplore in others is…

Laziness, not being prepared to go the extra mile or doing the homework to make sure that what is produced whether it is a service or a product is as good as it possibly can be.

I’d like to be remembered for…

Energy and drive – and hopefully creating a space to support women both in the club but also through our support for a number of charities through the Grace Belgravia Foundation. And being a good mother, friend, wife and colleague!

What makes me happiest is…

A fulfilled day with lots of my boxes ticked off – lots of work, seeing family and friends, members and everyone around me feeling good about themselves.

Can I run in heels?

For sure! I have never felt healthier or more energised since starting the business, despite experiencing the strain and long hours associated with running a start-up, it’s a testament to the Grace way of life.

Grace Belgravia is London’s leading health, wellbeing and lifestyle club for women built on the philosophy that to thrive in today’s society we need to invest in our greatest asset, our health. For more information on Grace Belgravia and how to join, see the club’s website. You can also follow on Twitter @GraceBelgravia and find the club on Instagram.

Elevate Every Day

Mindfulness. It’s something we seem to talk a lot about these days. When you’re scrolling through Instagram feed and Facebook updates, mindfulness is probably the last thing you’re thinking about though. But – sharing aside – social networks do present us with a practical way to record our daily lives and save memories to look back over later.

How about if you could keep your happy moments and memories to treasure – without having to think about likes, comments or anyone else’s opinion? Meet Elevate: “a beautifully simple way to keep track of the small happy moments in life.” Free to download, the app allows you to take small digital notes – every day, or as often as you like – and save them to look back on later, along with corresponding images.

Elevate is private to you – no social sharing is involved here – meaning that it’s a lovely way to start being mindful about those simple, everyday moments that make you happy. A long walk in the park on a sunny afternoon? Coffee and a catch up with a close friend? Snuggling on the sofa with your kids? Reading your favourite poems on Sunday morning? Add them to Elevate. “No sharing. No likes. Focus on remembering the good times”. Open the app, add details of what you’re remembering, plus the date and time – then take a photograph or add a stock image if you prefer. Press save, et voila.

Feeling sad, depressed or just in need of a little inspiration? Open up Elevate and look through your happy moments and those times you want remember. Mindful scrolling and celebrating those small wins? #winning

For more information, see the Elevate website. Download for iOS devices here and for Android devices here.

RIH Drinks

We like to think we have a pretty healthy relationship with gin, and honestly if you’d told us that we’d fall head over heels for a anything else, we’d have assured you of our unshakable devotion. Well, that was until we met Freya. Don’t worry, you’re not going completely mad as you read this… We’re talking about Freya: an exquisite, unique natural spirit distilled from the purest birch sap. And yes, we mean birch trees.

freya-birch-spirit

It’s hard to describe the flavour of the 40% ABV spirit accurately, but crisp, clean and elegant are all words that come to mind. It’s genuinely unlike anything we’ve ever tried before. And once you’ve tried Freya, you won’t want to drink anything else –  vodka, gin and tequila all seem boring, banal, bland and rather flat in flavour. So what does one drink with Freya? It’s best to keep things simple: poured over ice and topped up with tonic is all you need to do – no complex mixology skills required. As you can see, we’ve added a little fresh mint, some lemon and a few slices of fruit, that’s all.

freya-natural-birch-spirit

So how did this miraculously delicious spirit come about? Freya’s founder Dave Wallwork explains: “I wanted to create a completely new spirit for the best bartenders to build cocktails with from this great base ingredient.” And the name? “Freya was the Norse goddess of Love, life and fertility. A strong character worshipped in the wild forests in Springtime. The perfect embodiment of our new wild spirit.”

freya

How is this magnificent creation made? “We source the birch sap from wild forests in Northern Europe. The trees are tapped each spring using sustainable and traditional methods.The sap is then frozen and brought to the UK where our craft distillery uses it to create Freya.” It’s true that there’s a unique natural freshness to Freya – like a crisp, cold walk on a winter’s day, it’s both invigorating and energising.

freya-birch-spirit-cocktails

Try Freya once, and you won’t walk to drink anything else. Wine, beer and even gin all seem like poor substitutes for such a beautifully light, fresh, clean-tasting spirit. Sipped over ice, served martini-style or paired with tonic, there’s nothing quite like Freya.

For more information and to find stockists of and bars serving Freya, see the brand’s website.

New Books 2017

There are plenty of reasons to be glad that it’s a new year – the last one wasn’t exactly uneventful – but an array of new books is certainly one of them, especially when there are so many juicy novels being published.

First up is Little Deaths by Emma Flint (Picador, 12th Jan), a retelling of a real life murder case from the 1960s. Over a sweltering New York summer, Ruth Malone’s two small children go missing and turn up brutally murdered; almost immediately, the police and the neighbors point the finger at her, a struggling single mother with a penchant for drink. Composed and remote despite this, Ruth is judged for not performing as the exemplary grieving mother, and soon police and press are digging through her life to paint it as sordid and scandalous. Cleverly written – we know from the outset she is in jail, what we don’t know is whether she is culpable – Flint examines the double standards applied to women in the public eye and at the same time carves out a thrilling, unpredictable mystery based on a real case.

Speaking of women accused of murder; Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done goes back a century and picks up the pieces of the notorious Lizzie Borden case. The real-life Borden was put on trail for the axe-murders of her father and stepmother but never convicted despite a high-profile trial. Schmidt takes a look at the day leading up to the slayings and the one after, with a cast of (real life) characters including Lizzie’s shady uncle, her loyal sister, and the miserable Irish maid. Lizzie herself is variously portrayed as Machiavellian and vulnerable; can she even be held responsible for her actions? It’s claustrophobic, creepy fun; every character has a motive and everyone is so hateful you think they deserve what they get. It’s not out until May, and we can’t wait!

Moving away from murder, Katie Khan’s Hold Back the Stars (Doubleday, 26th Jan) is a sweetly written tearjerker about a couple of astronauts with 90 minutes to live. Instead of using that time to find a way to survive, it’s a chance for them to revisit the highs and lows of their relationship; which it turns out took place on a dystopian version of earth where young people aren’t supposed to form permanent connections. So far, so Logan’s Run, but Khan elevates it from stuntish sci-fi to create a charming ‘he said, she said’ romance that would make an excellent film. The ending felt a bit like a cop out, but nonetheless I enjoyed the ride.

Staying with the sci fi theme, The Possessions, by Sara Flannery Murphy (Scribe UK, 9th March) is the unusual novel with a clever premise that more than delivers. Edie is a ‘body’ at the Elysium Society; when she takes a pill she is possessed by the dead relative of whichever paying client is in the room at the time. For five years she does the job professionally, never getting emotionally attached, until she meets Patrick, who is seeking to reconnect with his dead wife Sylvia. But what kind of relationship can a ghost have? And what really went on in Patrick and Sylvia’s marriage?

With January 20th and Trump’s inauguration on the horizon, American fiction is perhaps far more desirable than reality. Nathan Hill’s debut, The Nix (Picador, 26th Jan) is a doorstop of a book in the vein of Donna Tartt or Garth Risk Hallberg – more than 600 pages of sweeping narrative, moving between the student protests of the 1960s, 1980s suburbia, and the safe spaces of the modern university campus. The main focus is the relationship between Samuel, a college professor and failed writer, and his mother, Faye, who disappeared when he was eight. Her arrest for an attack on a presidential candidate throws them back together and prompts him to look at her life before and after motherhood. There are occasional detours that come across as indulgent on Hill’s part – the entitled student who plagues Samuel’s life is a thinly drawn-caricature – but overall this is a masterpiece of a book that will keep you hooked until the end.

For non-fiction fans, Samantha Ellis offers the chance to brush up on your Bronte trivia with a new biography of Anne Bronte. Take Courage (Chatto & Windus, 12th Jan) paints the youngest and littlest known sister as the greatest, the most talented, and the most feminist of them all, exploring her short but remarkable life through her poetry, letters and novels. It’s a treasure trove of information about Haworth and the fantasy worlds the Bronte siblings spawned; Charlotte in particular comes off poorly for not appreciating Anne’s talent. If you enjoyed Ellis’s first book, How to be a Heroine, this won’t disappoint.

Keeping A Healthy Balance

New year’s resolutions can mean giving up booze, signing up to a punishing gym routine and promising ourselves to cut out food groups. But instead of restricting yourself, why not follow the DOSE mantra and “work out, eat well, balance”? Here’s five ways to get into healthy hedonism – which means integrating exercise with eating well and mindful drinking to promote happiness and balance…

Drink better

Instead of the ‘I’m never going to drink again’ cliché, choose drink more mindfully and moderately in 2017. Rather than bingeing on sugary pints, bottles of wine and bubbles, try mixing a ginger JARR Kombucha tea with a splash of gin and lemon, or UGLY sparkling grapefruit and pineapple water with a dash of vodka. Or be a rebel and go alcohol-free… There are plenty of options out there like Superbock and Bitburger Drive non-alcoholic beers and Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirit made from six botanicals that’s the next best thing to a Gin & Tonic. If you’re going to drink bubbles, choose one that cuts back on the sugar like Skinny Champagne.

Mix up your workouts

Don’t get hooked on one type of fitness class. Your body will reach a plateau preventing you from seeing results and by training the same parts of your body you run the risk of injury – not to mention it gets boring and repetitive! Shock the body by working different muscle groups to boost your metabolism, strength and endurance. If you like high-intensity interval training, stretch out with Pilates, or if you’re a spinner, work the upper body with yoga and TRX. Boutiques are including more offerings under one roof so you can mix up your workouts without leaving your favourite studio. Try Another Space in Covent Garden which offers Cycle, HIIT and Yoga all under one roof, or Frame (branches across the city) which hosts a endless variety of classes every day.

Plan an epic challenge

There’s nothing like an over-indulgent festive period to trigger a new fitness challenge. Whether it’s a marathon, bike ride or coastal hike, part of the fun in setting a new goal is linked to dopamine: the neurotransmitter that affects motivation. There are many ways to increase dopamine levels during training like listening to playlists that leave you feeling like a badass and visualising what it will feel like on reaching your goal. We are picturing an awful lot of wine and cheese after the Paris marathon! To keep dopamine flowing long-term, set small goals throughout your training and reward efforts every time a goal is reached. Why not team up with a buddy and run to brunch? Multi-tasking, hello!

Learn the art of breathing

Controlled breathing – like exercise – combats stress and anxiety. It’s just harder to do and for some reason, harder to talk about too… There are 23,040 breaths in each day but few we are actually aware of. When was the last time you took a moment to consciously inhale or exhale? Having more awareness of our breath connects us to the way we move, think and feel. By aligning our breathing with the beat of our heart we can breathe away stress – that’s why exercise feels so good! But when you can’t make it to the studio or outside for a run, there are some simple breathing techniques you can do in a few minutes. We’re currently trialing an app called Breathe Sync.

Get out and about in nature

For your next holiday, make sure you go beyond the hotel and stimulate your sense of adventure – plus there’s no need to travel quite so far either! Why not go horse riding in Ireland, climbing in Scotland, hiking in the Lake District, surfing in Devon or walk the coastal path in Cornwall? Getting out in nature is the best cure for the soul and is sure to leave you feeling revived. Reward your efforts with a chilled, freshly-poured pint at the pub!

DOSE is an online destination for healthy hedonists that fuses the worlds of fitness, healthy food and drink. Whether you’re exercising, socialising with friends, eating well or rewarding efforts over a glass (or two), we want to lead you to your feel good hormones (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphin) to help you stay balanced. Founded in early 2016 as a weekly newsletter sent directly to your inbox with a guide to where to work out, find fuel and a healthier tipple. Everyone’s DOSE is different, find yours. Sign up for the newsletter here, and don’t forget to follow on TwitterFacebook and Instagram too.

Beat The Filter Bubble in 2017

The phenomena of the filter bubble has been a big topic in 2016. Those shocked by the outcome of the Brexit vote and the American election realised that there is a distinct lack of diversity coming from their news channels. Could you name anyone from your social circle who voted for the opposing point of view? You weren’t the only one!

There are problems from the other side too. The information on offer? Fake, intolerant and racist. However, changing other people’s behaviour is something that you have very little control over. But what you can do as a New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is to make sure that the opinions you encounter are as diverse as possible, so that you have a more thorough understanding of how the world is working. Here are some ideas of how to beat the filter bubble – and get out of the echo chamber…

Try Volunteering

The filter bubble is ultimately something that happens online. Algorithms are able to determine the type of articles you like and engage with, so they offer you similar articles. By volunteering you expose yourself to viewpoints and people who sit outside this filter bubble.

Volunteering can be difficult to fit into your schedule, but there are some things you can do which don’t require a regular commitment. Free Cakes for Kids encourages you to bake cakes for children who would not otherwise get one. Old people’s homes regularly put on events or encourage visitors. Running clubs like Good Gym help you speak to people from a variety of different backgrounds, and if you live somewhere like London, there are many different opportunities to choose from.

Read offline – not just online

Try to discover new information sources offline as well as online. Visit second hand book stores and get their recommendations for new books. Go to a coffee shop on Saturday mornings, leave your phone at home and buy a paper or a magazine that you wouldn’t normally read. Join a book club that aims to read books that haven’t been nominated for awards.

Quite often this type of activity demands that you view your time differently. Instead of trying to read the best and most rewarding fiction and non-fiction, you are trying to read a diverse range of titles. So your aim cannot be to maximise the value you get from your time – instead it is to try and have a wide range of opinions and experiences. Some you won’t enjoy, and some won’t be particularly articulate, but you are opening yourself up to new ideas. In many ways it’s similar to going travelling for a couple of months.

Sign up for mailing lists for the opposing political parties

One of the reasons why getting out of a filter bubble is so hard is because it is difficult to know where to begin. However, the first steps are there for everyone to take. If you sign up to a mailing list for a different newspaper or political party then you’ll learn about different points of view. More specifically you’ll understand what the readers think is most important because of the focus of the articles and material. From there, you’ll be able to expand your research further.

Many people believe that it’s the lack of information which is the issue when it comes to filter bubbles, but that’s not the case. It’s your ability to access that information – and we should re-teach ourselves how to do this, like we taught ourselves how to use a library in the 90s and Google in the 00s. Perhaps we need to create a new system in the 10s.

Notice when everyone has the same opinion as you

Whenever you are in a room or on social media and everyone has more or a less the same views, then note that you are probably in a filter bubble. Sometimes these filter bubbles are beneficial – like if you are in a university seminar room or in a business meeting. It’s helpful to be around people who have similar viewpoints so you can work together!

However, if you’re at the pub or in a bar, or you’re watching your social media feed, then simply recognise that there may be other opinions out there that are not contributing to the discussion. Again, simple awareness that these bubbles exist, and understand what issues may sit inside them is incredibly helpful in lifting yourself out of that echo-chamber.

Sign up to The Echo Chamber Club

Finally, sign up to The Echo Chamber Club. As a disclaimer, it is a weekly newsletter that I run, but we go out of our way to monitor where a ‘liberal and progressive’ echo-chamber lies and then curate articles that show you a different point of view. Previous newsletters have included the Russian perspective on the Syrian War, an argument in favour of safe spaces, and a new way of understanding inflation in a global world.


Alice Thwaite is founder and editor-in-chief of The Echo Chamber Club – a weekly newsletter that distributes different points of view to the liberal / progressive norm. The ECC has just released a podcast in which we interview key thinkers; philosophers, journalists, economists and politicians about their values. The idea is that we can then strengthen what it means to have centrist political views.

Tired of Targeted Ads?

Cue cute drooling babies, gurgling along vaguely to the tune of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, and a direct question to the viewer, ‘Are you trying for a baby?’ An advert I’m getting quite familiar with, and quite sick of, to be frank, for digital ovulation tests. As it happens, I’m not trying for a baby. I simply want to watch a video about cats. This ad is relentlessly broadcast to me whenever I watch anything online.

babies-cats

And it’s not like it’s this ad sometimes, and others at other times. I can’t remember the last time I was shown a different ad as the inevitable prelude to an online video. Except for a few months ago when I was faced with endless cycles of a similarly vomit-inducing digital pregnancy test ad from the same company. I don’t know what the Internet knows about me, but it probably knows I’m a woman in my early thirties and I can only assume it’s these factors that result in this unwelcome bombardment of babbling infants.

baby-flat-lay

But it doesn’t stop there. Since this particular advert got my back up, I’ve taken more notice of the targeted advertising that I receive more generally. Over the past month, the adverts I’ve seen include: chocolate, cake décor, laundry detergent, cleaning products, vacuum cleaners, wedding photography, children’s toys, baby formula, and – best of all – ‘sleep tips for new parents’ from a high street life insurance company. How kind of them.

domestic-goddess

If I look at this list and think about the ‘profile’ these organisations have built up of me, it’s a worryingly backwards one. While the chocolate is fair enough (although I am dubious as to whether they promote to males of the same age) it appears to me that my profile is that of a mother (or aspiring mother) who should be married, or at least thinking about getting married, who bakes cakes, cleans the bathroom, does laundry and enjoys vacuuming.

domestic-goddess-vogue

Is it just me, or does this sound like we’ve gone back 50 years? Promoting these products specifically to women in their thirties appears to be reinforcing outdated social stereotypes that our generation assumed had been committed period dramas and ironic Ladybird books. Aside from the simmering rage this realisation stirred up, it also – in the back of my mind – got me wondering, should I be thinking about having a baby? I don’t think I want one right now, but why not? I probably should want one. Everyone else I know does. And now my news feed is pretty much telling me it’s imperative that I do!

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While it’s obvious I’ll never be one to get satisfaction from baking or laundry, the baby thing did for a brief moment at least, get me questioning my decisions. Has personalised advertising replaced nagging grannies and broody friends in asking the cringeworthy and dreaded question, ‘so, are you next dear?’ For me (and it seems, lots of other women – check out the comments on this video) this whole thing is annoying and slightly perturbing, but there’s no harm done, I guess. Unless I end up pregnant precisely because those bundles of joy were so damn persuasive.

But what if it were to cause harm? What if I was struggling to conceive, or had lost a baby? Beyond the obvious question of exactly how companies compile their secretive algorithms and profile us, the more worrying question is, while they aim to present us with products that mirror our interests and lifestyle, what if instead, they are moulding our lifestyles, our motivations and our expectations for ourselves?

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There’s been much talk lately in light of the recent Brexit and Trump victories, about how ‘filter bubbles’ (a term coined by Eli Pariser in 2011) can create an imbalanced world view through algorithmic online filtering. I see a distinct parallel between this ‘filter bubble’ affecting the stories we see and the ‘advertising bubble’, which affects which adverts we’re exposed to.

The ramifications of adverts being so targeted as to blinker out alternative views of ourselves are far-reaching and disconcerting. Not fitting the mould that’s being incessantly rammed in our faces will no doubt contribute to feelings of inadequacy, and in some cases, emotional and psychological trauma. It’s only right that tech companies start thinking about the ethical impact, not only of personalised news feeds, but of personalised advertising. If the ‘filter bubble’ is influencing the way we think about the world, so too the ‘advertising bubble’ is influencing the way we think about ourselves. It’s time we take off the social blinkers before we start baking, hoovering and inadvertently trying out those sleep tips for new parents!

Rethinking Dating

Want to know what separates a date that feels like a job interview and a date that feels fun and enjoyable? It’s all in the approach. There are two ways to approach dating – from a place of fear or from a place of love. We’re Project Love, and we’re all about the latter, here’s how you can do it, in five simple ways…

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Be open to being surprised at who you could be attracted to

 
Time after time, when we speak to happy couples, we hear that the women didn’t end up with the kind of guy that they thought they’d end up with. So don’t assume to know what your type is. Rather than focusing on physical attributes, what they do for a living etc, focus on how you want to feel on the date and anchor into that instead. Approach your date with an open heart and mind to give you both the space to show up fully.

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Give up the game!

 
‘Play it cool, ‘don’t reply to messages on weekends’, ‘play hard to get’ – there are so many ‘rules’ to play this game of dating. But the only game that you should be playing is the game of honesty and authenticity. That’s all people ever want from us. When you’re being real, you open up a space for your date to be real too.

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Get inspired

 
If you’re feeling disillusioned about dating then time for a shot of inspiration to get you feeling optimistic again. Think of one or two couples that you know, and whose relationship really inspires you. Write about what you admire about their relationship and as a bonus, spend some time with them too. They are showing you what’s possible for you.

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Explore and experiment with different ways of meeting people

 
Online dating is a great way to meet people but it doesn’t have to be the only way. Ask your friends to be your matchmaker and set you up on a coffee date with someone. And get involved in activities that you enjoy that will also have you meeting new people. You could decide to try something new like a photography course, a printmaking workshop or learning a new language.

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As well as dating other people, don’t forget to date yourself!

 
This is one of our favourite things that we get clients to do – to take themselves out on a date. We’ve had clients do anything from take themselves out to brunch at their fave cafe with a good book to getting dressed up and taking themselves on a solo date to the theatre. Take yourself out and woo yourself – give yourself the same love and respect that you want from someone else.

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Project Love helps women to create a relationship and life that they love, through online courses, 121 coaching programmes, events, workshops and a regular podcast. Their amazing ‘Get Ready For Love’ 30 day online course promises to transform your love life from the inside out. Feeling stuck in love? We’ve got three Get Ready For Love courses to win, plus membership of Project Love’s private Facebook group. To win, simply follow both Running in Heels and Project Love on Instagram, or Facebook (Running in Heels and Project Love on FB). You get an extra entry if you comment/share anywhere on social media, hashtagged with either #runninginheels or #projectlove. Check out Project Love’s testimonials here.You’ve got one week to enter, go go go!