Wednesday, 5 August 2015


A little over a year ago, I founded a breakfast group called Lima Bravo Bravo. 

The idea behind it was to bring together bright, brilliant, like-minded women from a wide variety of backgrounds and industries and create a space where we could talk, share ideas and experiences, and generally do that thing that women are particularly good at; being nourishing and nurturing and generous with each other. 
I didn't want it to have a specific agenda, or a theme, or a formality, or even any outcomes other than going away with a spring in one's step, and feeling like one had had a really tremendous conversation. 
I had in my head a kind of eighteenth century salon for twenty-first century women - and a calm antidote to the white noise of the digital world - and so Lima Bravo Bravo was born. 

The group has grown fast over the last twelve months -  small numbers meet about once every six weeks and it's a source of endless joy.  I'm fond of quoting one of my favourite editors, Justine Picardie - 'when you bring women together, they do incredible things' and Lima Bravo Bravo lives that thought every time we get together.

Yesterday, one of Mayfair's most elegant private member's clubs, George, on Mount Street, hosted Lima Bravo Bravo for a delicious breakfast. I had conversations about digital detoxing, about story-telling, about A Little Life and Booker Prize Longlists, about the challenges of setting up a business and about the right place to drink Martinis (and whether drinking them at all was a good idea) and about how tiny a dachshund needed to be to qualify for the soubriquet 'cocktail sausage'. I heard other conversations going on about me about art and books and business and fashion and entrepreneurial collaborations, about lavish weddings at Castle Howard and about living and working in Paris. And there were many more involving and enriching conversations going on.

A huge thank you to Zoe Haldane at  George, and thank you to the members of Lima Bravo Bravo - what a privilege to know such women.

George created a delicious and perfectly pitched menu. George also is one of the rare places that makes perfect coffee, bliss for coffee addicts like me.

Sasha is completely right - eggs and avocado is the hipster breakfast of choice and particularly delicious at George

Lima Bravo Bravo - everyone intent on sharing stories and ideas
Sasha brought the show-stealing Lettice: she's definitely a cocktail sausage
George's mascot is a dachshund - and there are lots of Hockney pictures and prints of Dachshunds hung on the walls

I don't think tiny dogs like avocado and eggs on toast
More scene stealing from Lettice, safe in her mistress's arms - here with Sarah Churchwell and Nicola De Burlet
George coffee cups - Lettice might have posed for the illustration herself.

Avocado and poached eggs so perfectly executed, they deserved a second, more detailed picture

A lovely going home present of scrumptious chocolate and Annick Goutal (thank you very much to Nicola De Burlet of Kenneth Green) - Eau D'Hadrien is one of my favourite summer scents.

Monday, 3 August 2015


Helen Lederer at The Books That Built Me, with huge thanks to Tatler, Prestat chocolate, The Club at Cafe Royal and to Champagne Bollinger
I feel as if I've known Helen Lederer all my life. Possibly, that sense of intimacy is driven by her innate friendliness, coupled with exceptional warm-heartedness and generosity of spirit - five minutes in her company and it's as if the sun has come out on a cloudy day and is shining just for you. But it's also that, since before I was at university, there she was making me laugh, firstly at the Comedy Store, where she was part of the breakthrough group of women comedians back in the eighties, and in the Young Ones, and subsequently in Bottom and French and Saunders, all five series of Ab Fab and many, many more programmes after that.  

Helen has been a consistent presence on screen and on stage, and has only now published her first novel, Losing It, shortlisted for the Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman Prize for Comic Fiction this year. 

Losing It tells the story of Milly who, rather down on her luck, and pursued by bills and bailiffs, agrees to front a miracle weight-loss programme with her progress followed ounce by ounce in the magazine. The fee for the job is very attractive - the only snag is that it only pays out if she gets the weight off. It's extremely readable and an absolute hoot, and, encouraged by the success of her first, Helen has nailed the first three chapters of a second novel, which I can't wait to read. I know it will only confirm how deftly her quick, self-deprecating wit has translated from stage to page.

I'm going to write a little more about each of the books Helen Lederer chose for her Books That Built Me in a future post, because I think they say something insightful and intriguing about her as a writer, but in the meantime, here are the books we discussed over a glass of Bollinger at the Club at Cafe Royal

1. Enid Blyton, First Term at Malory Towers
2. CP Snow, The Conscience of the Rich
3. John Fowles, The Magus
4. Muriel Spark, The Girls of Slender Means
5. Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint
6. David Nicholls, Starter for Ten
7. Emma Henderson, Grace Williams Says it Loud