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.

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!

sexist-advertising

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?

online-advertising-sexist

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…

project-love

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.

unlikely-attraction

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.

dating-playing-games

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.

dating-inspiration

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.

dating-differently

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.

dating-yourself

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!

How To Write A Bestseller

Writing a bestselling novel is definitely #lifegoals for many of us. However, the hard reality of putting pen to paper, finding time to write, wrestling with characterisation and plot – not to mention the pitfalls of eventually finding a publisher – have left plenty of great stories off the shelf. But don’t be daunted. The dream of headlining the Hay Festival or topping the Amazon books chart can happen – and Cecelia Ahern is a woman who should know. Best known for her debut novel, P.S I Love You, which was written when she was just 21, she’s turned out to be quite the prolific author. Thirteen books later including a YA novel and a rumoured erotic TV screenplay under her belt (yes, you read that right) she’s just released her latest novel, Lyrebird. Here, Ahern shares her secrets for how to turn that story you’re itching to tell into a literary smash.

cecelia-ahern

Discover your most effective way of writing

 
Find what works for you. Because I have children, I’m a very structured writer. I sit down from 9-5, four days a week and write a chapter in each sitting. I’ll walk into my office and light a Jo Malone candle, such as Blackberry & Bay or Grapefruit; it’s the moment I can go ‘aah’ and be creative. I write longhand first so I can see how ideas develop and then I type it up. I edit as I go along so I immediately have a second draft. I start writing in January, edit in the summer and it’s published in autumn. That’s my routine. You might think that it doesn’t sound very creative but it’s about setting out a time and sticking to it.

writing-tips

Creative writing courses aren’t for everyone

 
If you’re a person who needs structure and motivation, then great. But I did creative writing classes at college and I found it was forced creativity. To be given a topic to write about was too restricting and was frustrated I couldn’t write the things I wanted to. I’m a lone ranger. I work best alone.

writing-course

Sharing your work is good – but only once you’ve finished

 
Even now sharing my work is daunting. My mother was the first person who read my work and I remember giving it to her and hiding behind my hands. Which I still do to be honest! What’s needed at this point is encouragement. For me, it’s not about pointing out spelling mistakes or repetitions. It’s all about motivation. Writing a novel is a long process. Sometimes I think, ‘can I finish this?’ So encouragement and praise is important to help you complete your story. Then you can be critical.

writing-feedback

Ideas first. Character second.

 
I always know the beginning and ending of my books. As with Lyrebird, I knew it was about a girl with an ability to mimic sounds. From there, my characters grew. Writing is very visual; basically, I write what I see. It’s like a movie: I watch and write. I’ll have conversations with the characters in my head. Then sometimes an idea will just strike from nowhere. The other day my brother-in-law made a comment and suddenly ‘bam!’ I could see my next book – the story, characters, everything!

writing

Write what you feel, not what you know

 
I have a love/hate relationship with the phrase ‘write what you know’. I think you should write how you feel. Sometimes what you know isn’t that interesting. I love my allotment, but as the basis of a story it might not work. But how you feel about your allotment could work as part of a story.

writing-ideas

Find an agent before pitching to publishers

 
I wouldn’t have had a clue how to go directly to a publisher, even now. My advice would be to pick up the Writers’ Handbook. I was recommended to my agent by a family friend, and was told to send in three chapters and a synopsis. After that I was asked for more chapters, so I was writing on demand. After ten chapters, she asked to meet me and two weeks after that I had secured a deal with Harper Collins. I was so encouraged that someone liked my first ten chapters it gave me faith to go on and finish the book.

Cecelia Ahern’s Lyrebird is out now, published by Harper Collins. For more information on Cecelia Ahern, head to her website, follow on Twitter or find her on Facebook.

Having It All

How peaceful life would be if we really could have it all. Everything you ever wanted landing straight into your lap through a click of the fingers. It would be amazing, wouldn’t it?

multi-tasking

Many people often think that way. So why do we constantly read stories of the rich, famous and successful, who have fallen into the depths of anxiety, stress and addiction? Typically, the main reason is because – in their scramble to ‘have it all’ – they succumb to the short term pleasures in life rather than focusing on the long term gains. So what can we do today, to reap a more rewarding and fulfilling life tomorrow?

having-it-all

CLARITY

 
Uncertainty is the biggest stress that most of us face in life. We should remind ourselves that we are animals and therefore need the same feeling of safety and security that animals do. Stress is there for a reason. It is a red flag that warns us that all is not well, and that there are areas of our lives we need to pay attention to.

no-stress

SEPARATE YOUR ‘NEEDS’ FROM YOUR ‘WANTS’

 
Animals will feel stressed unless they are in a safe environment where they do not have to worry about predators. Such an environment would include a safe place to stay, food, water and other animals of the same species around them for protection – the necessities in life. In the same way, order for us humans to feel safe and secure, we need to first focus on obtaining the things that bring us safety and security; a home, financial security, a strong and healthy body, a long term partner and good friends.

take-note

So, write down all the things you want out of life so you can see them clearly in front of you. Divide them into two lists, “needs” and “wants”. “Needs” are long term goals such as financial security, a home, a car, savings etc. Wants are short term pleasures such as material possessions, nights out and weekends away.

prioritise-needs-and-wants

PRIORITISE

 
Ultimately, it’s crucial to prioritise our “needs” before our “wants” if we wish to attain peace of mind. Many people tend to feed their short term “wants” before their long term “needs”, which leads to insecurity and stress. There is nothing wrong with having the latest mobile phone, seasonal fashions, or a spa weekend away, but make sure your long term plans are in place first. “Wants” are fine in moderation, but keep them under control.

travelling

STAY IN CREDIT

 
Avoid getting into debt through buying unnecessary things. “Wants” will only ever provide you with short term pleasure and these tend to be your material possessions or emotional pleasures which, although are exciting in the moment, lose their appeal very quickly. If you are spending too much time and money on your “wants”, then in the long term, your “needs” will not be met, leaving you insecure and anxious about the future. Only spend what you have. Once you get into debt, you will find that rather than owning your possessions, your possessions start to own you.

shopping-kate-moss

GRATITUDE

 
Finally, be grateful for what you have. There will always be others with more than you, so don’t compare yourself to them. Instead contemplate all the things that you do have, as you will start begin to appreciate how good your life already is.

simplicity

Toby Maguire is founder and CEO of Working in Balance, which runs retreats and workshops specialising in corporate wellness, and wellbeing in the workplace. From January 2017, Working In Balance is hosting a series of unique and rebalancing retreats in the spectacular setting of Six Senses Douro Valley, Portugal. Working in Balance aims to educate individuals and organisations on the negative effects of stress, how to reduce it and how to improve physical and psychological well-being. Guests at the retreats will receive a range of tips on how to work more productively and efficiently, and the retreat also includes an individual wellness assessment, two hours of daily themed workshops and seminars, Tai Chi, meditation and yoga classes, as well as fitness activities and a relaxing daily massage. For more information and to book, see the Working in Balance website.

The Problem With Marriage

There’s something very wrong with marriage in England and Wales that you’re probably not aware of. I wasn’t until this year, when I was asked to fill out some paperwork ahead of my wedding in June. Take a look at the example marriage certificate below to see whether you can pinpoint what makes this document utterly anachronistic. (Hint: mum’s the word.)

wedding-certificate

If your eyes have studied the part reserved for parents and you’re wondering where the area saved for mothers is, you’ll be looking a long time. That’s because it’s forbidden to list your mother on a marriage certificate issued under the jurisdiction of England and Wales. Yes, that’s right: forbidden.

This astounding fact applies regardless of the type of wedding, or what kind of officiant marries you. Yet in Scotland and Northern Ireland, both parents are listed on marriage certificates. What’s going on with this seemingly un-united anomaly within an ostensibly forward-thinking, inclusive part of the United Kingdom? What about people who have no relationship with their father? Whether it’s because they genuinely never knew their father, or because they wish to preclude him from getting a name-check (no, family dynamics can’t always be fixed with a good old cup of tea and a resolute heart-to-heart), there’s a spectacularly Dickensian solution to this scenario. In the acceptable absence of a biological father, the box marked ‘Parent’ will bear the word ‘Unknown’, regardless of a mother’s solo triumph at raising an individual.

marriage-certificate

Stepfathers don’t qualify either, unless they’ve officially adopted the person in question. As for two female parents: my guess is that this is frustratingly complicated – possibly even distressing – to get around.

This draconian piece of legislation exists in 2016 because, basically put, it’s the way it’s always been since certifying marriages became a legal requirement around 1838. The details established back then at the start of Queen Victoria’s reign have never been changed. In 2014, the issue was raised in Parliament after a petition on Change.org was signed by nearly 80,000 people.

just-married

Like him or loathe him, this is what PM at the time, David Cameron said: “The content of marriage registers in England and Wales… require details of the couples’ fathers, but not their mothers. This clearly doesn’t reflect modern Britain – and it’s high time the system was updated.”

But as adamant as Cameron was for redress, the Home Office rejected it. Their reason? HO Minister Richard Harrington claimed that changing the law to include mothers on marriage certificates “wouldn’t allow for different family circumstances”. Which begs the question: what different family circumstances? Same sex male couples? At least the box grants male couples their gender. And what about non-binary parents?

i-do

Two centuries on since certifying this rite of passage became requisite, there are some things about marriage that have come so brilliantly far within the last 10 years; while something as quietly heroic as the work of mothers still fails to be recognised. To me, a feminist by definition for the reason that I’ve always assumed I can, it’s a sobering realisation that, maybe, we’ve still got a very long way to go.

Enter The Echo Chamber

Were you surprised at the Brexit result? Didn’t see it coming? Perhaps your Facebook timeline and Twitter stream erupted into a collective outpouring of shock and sadness when the UK voted to leave. Sound familiar? The opinions of our friends and those who we follow on social networks generally mirror our own, meaning that – thanks to some clever algorithms – we’re all trapped in a filter bubble. So how to escape the digital bubble – and access ideas outside of your usual social sphere? Enter The Echo Chamber – a groundbreaking new weekly newsletter which will make you think. Alice Thwaite -The Echo Chamber’s founder – tells us more…

echo-chamber

What’s The Echo Chamber all about?

 
The Echo Chamber Club is a weekly newsletter. We understand what the majority of people believe and we directly challenge that status quo. We don’t tend to write much ourselves, instead we curate articles written from other sources and encourage our subscribers to read them.

Who’s The Echo Chamber for?

 
It is for educated metropolitans. Most people who live in cities have fairly liberal and centrist beliefs – and The Echo Chamber Club monitors social media to understand what is being shared in this group and then challenges it.

filter-bubble

Why did you start the Echo Chamber?

 
The concept of an ‘echo chamber’ or ‘filter bubble’ has been around for a few years. Eli Pariser (founder of Upworthy) wrote a book in 2012 which showed that social media algorithms are engineered so that you see more of the stories that you normally engage with. So someone who is naturally centrist would not see stories or opinions of people on the fringe on their social media feeds.

This was once a theory, and now it’s turned into a political reality. “Quiet conservatives” were blamed for the polling industry inability to predict the outcome of the 2015 election. Most recently, Brexit took many metropolitans by surprise.

wolfgang-tillmans-brexit

For ages, I tried to think of a solution to this problem. It seemed so huge, and the social networks such giants, that it was impossible to solve. Ironically, when I removed myself from my normal surroundings I thought of an idea, and I realised a weekly newsletter might be just the thing to help people get out of their filter bubble. The Echo Chamber Club was launched merely weeks afterwards.

What can I expect to find in the weekly newsletter?

 
We like to cover things that either have a clear media bias on the subject – like issues like ‘safe spaces’, the burkini, Brexit; or subjects that aren’t covered in the media at all, like the potential genocide in Burundi.

burkini

Why should I care about seeing someone else’s point of view?

 
A lot of media organisations want to make you smarter – and we want to help with that too – but actually our main aim is to make you more empathetic. We want to help people access new ideas. Many educated people struggle with Twitter; let alone with RSS and Reddit. We’ll put in the hours of research so that our subscribers can start with the best contrary articles to their point of view. We will help with your natural sense of curiosity and adventure! In doing so, we hope the leaders of today and tomorrow will make better predictions and decisions about the future of their businesses and policies.

To find out more about The Echo Chamber, head to the website. You can subscribe to The Echo Chamber’s newsletter here – and check out previous newsletters here. Break free from the filter bubble!