RIH Drinks

Is the civilised world going to give up its obsession with gin any time soon? Probably not is the answer to that question, oh gin-swigging friends. Known once upon a time as ‘mother’s ruin’, these days gin couldn’t be hipper, with bars regularly offering special gin & tonic menus, gin festivals taking place across the country, and a bottle or two gracing the booze cupboards of most homes. But not all gins are created equal – and Pinkster Gin has something just a little different to just about anything you might have tasted before…

Described as a “natural gin with a mischievous grin,” Pinkster Gin is the creation of a chap who began experimenting at home, after enjoying making his own sloe gins and other flavoured concoctions. Pairing different fruits with everyone’s favourite spirit, it quickly became obvious that the delicate flavour of raspberry worked beautifully with gin – adding a sweetness and freshness to offset the aromatic botanicals.

The raspberries used in Pinkster Gin are grown in rural Cambridge – so yes, this is a British gin through and through! And how best to imbibe said spirit? Well, the people at Pinkster suggest that topped up with tonic is the best way to bring out the subtle raspberry flavours, before garnishing with fresh fruit and herbs. Mint works well, as does a hint of rosemary – plus a zingy twist of lemon. We’ve also added some fresh rose petals and a drop or two of rosewater to our G&T for a very slightly scented finish. Plus they also make this look SO sophisticated, right?

This is the easiest cocktail to prepare, serve – and impress – your guests if you’re having people over for dinner or hosting a drinks party. Everyone loves a G&T! Choose some pretty glasses, fill with ice cubes, raspberries, lemon slices and mint or rosemary. Add Pinkster gin and a couple of drops of rosewater then top up with good quality tonic. So simple to make, serve and DRINK!

For more information, to buy Pinkster Gin and to find stockists near you, see the brand’s website, where you’ll also find cocktail recipes plus events where you can try the magical stuff.

Damaging Dating

For a single, twenty-something woman living in London, bad dates are a rite of passage. I’ve had my fair share of ‘colourful’ experiences; from the aspiring writer who insisted on recording our conversations into a notebook during our date, to the man who – within five minutes of arriving at the restaurant – was telling me about his time spent in prison for “threatening behaviour”. These stories, if my friends and I are a true representation of the dating scene, are par for the course, and provide excellent dinner party material – I make it a rule to arrive at any event armed with a minimum of three such stories to oil the wheels of conversation during the night.

I have a phone book full of names which conjure up a litany of sins – like the ‘Reverse Cinderella’: the guy who would only ever be available between the hours of midnight and 7am, or the man who I discovered reading through my diary when he stayed at my flat for the first time. My general attitude tends to lean towards the view that “there’s no such thing as bad dates, just good stories,” and I’ve enjoyed dining out on these tales many, many times.  There is, though, a more low-level type of  poor behaviour creeping into the norm – one which is eminently less worthy of dinner party tales. If 2016 was the year of ghosting – the sudden and unexplained cutting-off of contact by someone you’ve been dating – it looks as though 2017 lay claim to ‘breadcrumbing’.

For those of you not embroiled in the heady maelstrom that is dating in the digital age, this less-than-appetising behaviour is characterised by receiving sporadic contact – a text here, an Instagram ‘like’ there – from a potential partner, without it ever progressing into anything more meaningful. A real-life date may be loosely alluded to (“we should meet up sometime…”) but these overtures rarely translate into reality. And yet, regular in their irregularity, the messages continue, strewn in front of you at random, keeping you invested enough in the situation to harbour a vague idea that this could be a great relationship – if only you weren’t both so busy and it wasn’t so difficult to fix a date to go for a drink…

Breadcrumbing is how I’ve found myself in countless non-relationships which are stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque state of texting and interminable waits for replies, with a conservative sprinkling of actual face-to-face contact. Breadcrumbing is the insidious cousin of ghosting. Where ghosting leaves you with a quick sharp shock of realisation – you’ve been dumped – breadcrumbing leads you on, until two years later you realise you’ve been in a static and largely Whatsapp-based relationship with someone you met in 2014 when Tinder was, briefly, your default dating method.

And while – in theory – this annoying behaviour is largely harmless, in my case it started to have a damaging impact on my existing relationships. I found myself turning down plans with friends on a Friday night, keeping the evening free in case the most current breadcrumber should get in touch. I felt a pervading sense of reliance on the validation gleaned from the infrequent contact from whichever guy was in favour at the time. I found that my confidence was knocked with each breadcrumb I too-eagerly responded to, realising that the relationships existed exclusively on the other person’s terms. Allowing myself to be strung along ultimately prevented me from closing the door on numerous unfulfilling relationships, dragging them out until they’d become tired, stale, and sad, and I’d become increasingly jaded.

In the spirit of full disclosure, in no way am I suggesting that this is purely a male behaviour – and my hands aren’t clean of doughy blame; I too, have been a breadcrumber. I’ve been guilty of keeping guys on hold, knowing that I wasn’t interested in them romantically, but enjoying the attention, or not wanting to hurt their feelings by being honest.

If you ask anyone who’s had recent experience of dating, they’re likely to have their very own unique breadcrumbing experience. But why is this behaviour so prevalent? It’s probably fair to lay some culpability at the door of our instant gratification app culture which encourages us to view dating as a never-ending carousel of options; that if one romantic lead goes cold, another is a mere swipe away. On a deeper level, I suspect it’s also down to the fact that humans are inherently self-involved: we each see ourselves as the central character in our lives, with others entering and exiting as bit-part players. When this attitude is combined with dating in an environment in which we have countless options at our disposal, it’s a breeding ground for commitment aversion; our romantic relationships become more superficial and we dip in and out of others’ lives freely, without really stopping to consider the consequences.

Whatever the cause, the bottom line is this: we all lead hectic lives with various demands on our time, but if someone wants to see you, they’ll make it happen. Breadcrumbing is a sign that you’re being kept on the back burner by someone who wants to have their bread-based cake and eat it too. They want the freedom to choose not to commit, resting safe in the knowledge that they could call on you as a back-up during a particularly dry spell, seeing sporadic ‘checking in’ as a good way of doing that.

After having gone through this process more times than I care to admit, I’ve discovered that there are only three failsafe steps to follow when you discover that you’re on the receiving end of a breadcrumbing: delete their number, dust off the crumbs, and don’t look back. The path of the dating world in 2017 may be littered with crumbs, but you don’t need to follow that trail.

Life & Work

You’re a successful arts broadcaster working at the BBC. A journalist in TV and radio – the dream, right? Or perhaps – if you’re Skinny Champagne‘s founder Amanda Thomson – not quite. Of course, quaffing fizz is part of the role if you’re a journo and Thomson has sipped her fair share of bubbles over the years. So why not study in Paris at the Cordon Bleu School and gain a diploma in wine? Sure – a nice little passion project. Next up? Develop your own sugar-free Champagne. Why not? And so Skinny Champagne was born. Raised in the 1970’s, Thomson had grown up eating low sugar, vegetarian foods, so healthy eating was something she’d always lived with – but could she create a healthier version of everyone’s favourite party tipple?

Working with renowned French wine producer, Alexandre Penet, Thomson created the world’s first sugar-free champers: meet Thomson & Scott Skinny Champagne Grand Cru. Launched in 2014, the brand has caused quite a buzz – with media coverage in every title you’d care to name, not to mention being dubbed “the basic bitch drink” by The Guardian and referred to as “a gift from God” by The Times. The Thomson & Scott range now includes a rosé Champagne as well as a sugar-free Prosecco – all of which very regularly sell out at Selfridges. So what makes the over-achiever, health food pioneer and saviour of basic bitches –  and their waistlines – tick? And can she run in heels? We found out.

Motivation for me is all about…

Getting it right. I’m passionate about creating delicious, quality sparkling wines that are made as naturally as possible and use little or no processed sugar. Enjoying my wines with friends, family and colleagues is the best motivation possible.

Success means…

Working to my own timetable. This might mean 24-hour days, spending a weekend in gym gear because I never quite move from laptop to wardrobe, and being in three different countries in a week. I’m stubborn, so being able to set my own agenda – even if it does mean working 24/7 – is liberating. Seeing my bottles stacked higher than my head in Selfridges is a pretty heady rush too!

I couldn’t have got there without…

My husband. When I couldn’t let go of a crazy dream to give up my job as an arts presenter and broadcaster to study for a diploma at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris he was with me all the way.

I always start my day with…

A strong coffee. With a dash of oat milk. I’ll try and hit the Nutribullet too. At this time of year it’s greens (kale, cavolo nero, spinach) with ginger, sweetened with apple and possibly a jot of maple syrup. My husband makes a mean Bircher muesli too. I try and keep things seasonal, and my secret tip is frozen spinach. You can buy it ready chopped, and it comes in cubes.

When I don’t feel inspired I…

Run/spin/lunge/box/jump around! I am extremely energetic and sometimes my mind needs to be bounced around as much as my body. I also love wine, hotel and restaurant gossip and news, and spend a lot of time browsing Code and the Drinks Business, and looking at LinkedIn to see what colleagues are up to.

The landscape for women in business today looks like…

It’s getting brighter. I have occasionally been on the receiving end of casual sexism (a fund manager asked if I’d like to bring in a colleague to help me “go through the figures…”) but there are so many women out there starting up and running incredible businesses. Anya Hindmarch and The White Company’s Chrissie Rucker are two incredible business women who have given me early days support, along with Jacqueline de Rojas in tech.

The trait I most deplore in others is…

Lateness. I am pretty OCD about being on time, and don’t understand why anyone would habitually drift in late to appointments. Although sloppiness and bad manners are up there too (I’ve been accused of having very high standards which I guess must be true).

I’d like to be remembered for…

My sense of fairness, integrity, and my laugh. My husband says he heard me before he saw me for the first time!

What makes me happiest is…

Enjoying wine and good times with friends and family. That, and spending time with people who are passionate about what they do. Whether that’s a local restaurateur who knows everything about seasonal ingredients or the CEO of a FTSE-limited company who will do anything for his or her employees.

Can I run in heels?

Just watch me! My whole business has been built on people telling me it can’t be done.

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

Modern Women

Sure, it’s a cliché, but Kira Cochrane’s Modern Women: 52 Pioneers is cover-to-cover #inspo. Keep it on your nightstand, display it on your coffee table and definitely, definitely buy a copy for the women in your life. Featuring one woman for each week of the year, Modern Women: 52 Pioneers celebrates the lives of 52 remarkable females who have all made their mark on the world – “from suffragettes to scientists, activists to artists, politicians to pilots and writers to riot grrrls”. Some you’ll have heard of, others will be new discoveries, but all of them will inspire you to be bolder, braver and keep breaking down boundaries – no doubt about it, this is a book you’ll keep coming back to. We’re delighted to share an exclusive extract from Modern Women here – let us introduce you to one of the 20th century’s most fascinating feminists, Sophia Duleep Singh…

The art galleries at Hampton Court Palace were closed, subject to an unspecified threat from the suffragettes. This was 1913, the height of the militant movement, when the campaign for women’s votes included arson, window smashing and iconoclasm – paintings slashed or vandalised. But outside Hampton Court Palace, the area where she lived in a grace and favour apartment, Sophia Duleep Singh was selling copies of the newspaper The Suffragette. Public anger towards the campaigners was growing, but she would not be silenced. Photographs show her in a fur coat, her bag bearing a ‘Votes for Women’ sash, beside a sandwich board reading ‘The Suffragette Revolution!’

The struggle for votes for women then stretched back more than a century in Britain. In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft had made the case for women’s right to political representation in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and the first petition for the women’s vote was presented to the House of Commons in 1832. Forty years later, Emmeline Pankhurst, aged fourteen, attended her very first women’s suffrage meeting, and when she was in her mid-forties, in 1903, she co-founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

The non-militant movement, known as suffragists, led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett, had been campaigning carefully and determinedly for years, but with the advent of Pankhurst’s suffragettes (a diminutive and pejorative coined by The Daily Mail newspaper, which the women embraced) the next decade was explosive. Women chained themselves to the Prime Minister’s railings; unveiled a banner on a steam launch on the Thames; and took to the skies in a balloon, scattering suffragette leaflets.

Around 1,000 suffragettes were imprisoned in Britain over the course of a decade, and in 1909, artist Marion Wallace Dunlop went on hunger strike, demanding recognition as a political prisoner. Other women followed her lead and the authorities responded with forcible feeding: a tube forced into a woman’s mouth, nose, or rectum. In June 1913, Emily Wilding Davison was martyred for the movement, stepping on to the racecourse at the Epsom Derby into the path of the king’s horse Anmer, a suffragette banner rolled up in her hand, another pinned around her waist. She died in hospital four days later, and suffragettes processed through London, dressed in white, to mark her funeral.

Sophia Duleep Singh joined the WSPU in 1908, after meeting Una Dugdale, a passionate member, who became the first woman in England to drop the word ‘obey’ from her wedding vows. As Anita Anand writes in her essential 2015 biography of Singh, her activities began, gently enough, with fundraising and bake sales, but in 1909 she became part of the tax resistance movement – women who refused to pay taxes on the basis that there should be no taxation without political representation. On 18 November 1910, Singh was in the vanguard of nine women, including Emmeline Pankhurst, who led a march on parliament, after the latest bill to secure the women’s vote had been deprived the time needed to pass. When they reached parliament, the group found themselves pressed up against the gates, unable to enter. Not far away, more suffragettes were massing, and Singh watched helplessly as they were brutalized and molested by police and the crowds, in what became known as Black Friday.

This didn’t dent Singh’s commitment. In 1911, she joined the suffragette action to subvert the census, one of thousands of women who stayed out on the night of the count, because ‘if women don’t count, neither should they be counted’. That same year, Singh staged her most audacious protest, hurling herself at Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s car, pulling a banner from her fur muff reading ‘Give women the vote!’

This presented a problem for the authorities. Singh was the goddaughter of Queen Victoria, and the granddaughter of Ranjit Singh, the so-called Lion of the Punjab, founder and ruler of the Sikh Empire in India. A decade after Ranjit Singh’s death, his son Duleep Singh, aged eleven, had been forced to sign over his kingdom to the British, who took control of the territory and proceeded to expel him. He was brought to Britain, where Queen Victoria treated him as an exotic pet, and he was given an annual income by the India Office.

Duleep Singh married Bamba Müller, the child of a German merchant and an Abyssinian slave, and they had seven children, six of whom survived infancy. Sophia Duleep Singh was the second youngest. A rift opened in her parents’ marriage while Singh was a child; her father was increasingly unfaithful and his anger at the British deepened. Her mother was lost to a serious depression and drank dangerously, before dying of renal failure when Singh was eleven. Duleep Singh was in Russia, and the care of his children was left to the palace and the government.

Singh became a debutante, moving into a house opposite Hampton Court Palace, her life a round of parties, banquets, shopping and dog shows. But trips to India in her twenties and thirties changed everything. The campaign against British colonial rule awoke Singh’s political consciousness, and on returning to Britain she wrote in her diary of her loathing for the English and desire for India to awake and free itself.

Her dog show days were over. Singh campaigned in support of the lascars, merchant seamen from India and China who were recruited by the British to transport cargo and often exploited, beaten, or left to starve. She became a suffragette, and when Emmeline Pankhurst called for the suspension of campaigning at the start of the First World War, she worked at one of the British hospitals where Indian soldiers were being cared for.

In 1918, women over 30 who owned property won the right to vote in the UK; in 1928, women secured voting rights on the same terms as men. The suffrage campaign was over, but Singh’s commitment to women’s rights was lifelong. In Who’s Who, under interests, she simply wrote, ‘The Advancement of Women’.

Extracted from Modern Women: 52 Pioneers by Kira Cochrane. Published by Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto Group (£20).

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.