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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Undertones Live @ Dublin’s Academy


The Undertones emerged from Derry in 1976, the result of five friends learning how to play basic rock and roll. Now, over 40 years later, they’re coming to the Capital.

Even by the standards of that decade Derry was not the rock and roll capital of anywhere. With no live bands worth watching, they learned by listening to mail order records, reading one of the few copies of NME that made it to Derry but most of all from listening to John Peel’s wonderful show on BBC Radio One.

Practicing in their bedrooms eventually led to the band recording ‘Teenage Kicks’ in 1978 on Terri Hooley’s Good Vibrations label in Belfast. The legendary DJ John Peel received a copy and liked it so much he played it twice in a row on his radio show.

The Undertones signed with Sire Records and ‘Teenage Kicks’ was re-released, resulting in the band’s first appearance on Top Of The Pops. Over the next five years, John O Neill, his younger brother Damian, Feargal Sharkey, Billy Doherty and Michael Bradley crafted further numerous punkpop gems such as `Here Comes The Summer`, ‘Jimmy Jimmy`, `My Perfect Cousin`, `You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It)’ and ‘Wednesday Week’. They also recorded four highly acclaimed LPs. Indeed, they almost enjoyed the life of professional musicians.

In 1983 Feargal Sharkey left the band to pursue a solo career and the remaining members decided to call it a day. The Undertones were to remain silent for the next sixteen years.


In 1999 The Undertones reconvened, without Feargal Sharkey, to once again perform their two-minute, three and a half chord songs to a new generation of fans in Derry. Fellow Derryman Paul McLoone replaced Sharkey on vocals and his vocal prowess and electric onstage presence soon convinced any doubters that he was more than capable of doing the job.

After much consideration the band released an album of new songs called `Get What You Need’, which was critically acclaimed by Q magazine, Uncut, Rolling Stone and Hot Press. Songs like ‘Thrill Me’, ‘I Need Your Love The Way It Used To Be’ and ‘Everything But You’ showed that the art of writing short, sharp songs had not been lost over the previous two decades.

In 2003 ‘Thrill Me’ was released as a limited edition 7” vinyl single and found its way to John Peel’s turntable. He introduced it on his show commenting, “And these are words I thought I would never be saying on radio again, a new single from The Undertones”. He liked it so much he played it twice, just as he did with ‘Teenage Kicks’ in 1978.

In 2007 the band recorded and released another collection of pop nuggets under the title “Dig Yourself Deep” on the Cooking Vinyl label. The LP was described by Allmusic as ‘a true return to the classic sound of The Undertones’.

The story of ‘Teenage Kicks’ was at the heart of the film ‘Good Vibrations’ in 2012, which told the story of Terri Hooley and his record label. The band found themselves being portrayed by five young actors who did their best with the Derry accent.

Since signing a licensing deal with Union Square Music, the four original LPs, ‘The Undertones’, ‘Hypnotised’, ‘The Positive Touch’ and ‘The Sin Of Pride’ have been available in digital and physical form, all with additional tracks and videos.

The band marked Record Store Day 2013 with a 7” vinyl only release, recorded in the famous Toe Rag studio in London. A return to their punk roots, ‘Much Too Late’ sold out the

1,000 copies before the day was out.

2015 has been one of the most successful and enjoyable so far, with shows across Europe and around the UK in front of appreciative and wildly enthusiastic devotees.

2016 will mark the band’s 40th Anniversary.  This will be celebrated with a variety of scorching live performances at festivals and clubs throughout the world along with some very special record releases.

The Undertones

Live at

The Academy, Saturday December 2nd 2017

Tickets from €25 includes booking fee on sale Friday February 10th at 10am

Where to eat in Dublin One

Thinking of where to eat in Dublin One? The one problem you’re going to have is choosing where!

In the heart of Dublin’s City Centre, the Dublin One district spans from O’Connell Street to Capel Street and from Parnell Street to the Liffey Street Lower. This is an area steeped in history that has helped to shape the country. It is now one of the leading shopping districts within the Capital. With shopping comes the need for fuel and this district isn’t short of that!

Here’s our guide to eating in DublinOne:

Good World Chinese Restaurant

International food:

Whether you’re in the mood for pasta, a spicy burrito or a curry – Dublin One has more than it’s share of international food offerings. Here are some of the restaurants in the district that are bringing the world’s menu to Dublin.

Restaurant/Deli Style:

Sitting down to a meal for lunch or dinner is a treat for people who are exploring the city. Restaurants in this district have some very interesting locations from a former Church to a view of the River Liffey, no matter what restaurant you go to here there is a bit of history in all of them.

Fast Food/Food Chains:

These establishments have become household names and can be found in almost every district in capital including Dublin One . Food made fast for your convience can be anything from a plain burger, a pizza with all the toppings or just very filling bagel.

Pub Grub:

There is no shortage of public houses in the capital and over the years they have become a haven for food as well as beverages. No matter what street you will find yourself on you are bound to find a pub with some very tasty grub waiting to be sampled.

Cafe/Coffee shop:

The world of coffee has grown in popularity in recent years and there’s nothing like sitting down for a catch up while you re-energise for the day ahead. Coffee shops and cafes are awash with not only variety in teas and coffees but also delicious snacks for you to enjoy and indulge.

For the sweet tooth:

Walking around can build up an appetite and this can often mean a quick sugar rush. Ice-cream, crepes, chocolate, donuts or cookies are always a delight to have walking between streets and when its a hot summer’s day it makes your day that even more special.

If you weren’t hungry before you read this you’re bound to be now – so happy eating! Capel Street is also part of the Dublin One district and has it’s own foodie offering. Click here to find out more.


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‘Mia Gallagher is a writer with an artist’s imagination’

Mia Gallagher displayed an exceptional flair for voice and characterisation in her 2006 debut novel, HellFire, which depicted a young Dublin woman just released from jail and her quest for answers. Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland is set in Dublin, too, and its characters are also searching for answers, but their minds roam beyond Ireland, to Berlin, Bohemia, Brighton.

There are two main timelines. The action opens in the present day. A bombing of the London underground is told from the point of view of the suicide bomber; meanwhile, in Dublin, fortysomething Georgia Madden, recently transitioned into a female body, records a letter to her father, David, from whom she is estranged.

The second timeline is that of Georgia’s childhood, Ireland in the 1970s. Georgie is a little girl trapped in a little boy’s body. Her mother, Aisling, is dying of cancer. Her father is hapless and well-meaning but entirely out of his depth. He is not convinced Georgie is even his child. Aisling exhorts a hippyish young Englishwoman, Lotte, to take care of Georgie after her death. It is hardly a reasonable request, but then, Aisling is on morphine.

Gallagher is a writer with an artist’s imagination. It advances though experiment. Her technique, to no small extent, is to present artefacts and images, much as a visual artist might, and to allow the audience to take from them what it will. Her characters are divided into those who can see the true natures of the people around them, and those who cannot – who cannot see even their own natures. There is a virtual wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, within the novel, which the reader (or “visitor”) is invited to explore as they wander through what is described as a “floating Raum (space/room) outside normal spacetime conventions” in which the “history/herstory” of Bohemia – the lost homeland of the title – throughout the centuries is told. But told by whom? All is revealed in time.

Lotte tries to help take care of Georgie, but she herself needs taking care of. She is one of the special people endowed with the ability to see. She sees that Georgie is a girl. Lotte is the daughter of Anna Bauer, an evacuated Sudeten German who handled the brutalities inflicted on her during the postwar “wild time” – when Bohemian German women were regarded as “fair game” by soldiers – by putting them out of her mind. Anna’s testimony appears as a transcript for a documentary in which she refers to but avoids detailing the ordeal she endured during the “Nazi-time and the flight and the rapings”. Anna’s trauma, however, has surfaced in the next generation. Her son and Lotte’s twin brother, Andreas, blew himself up in an anti-fascist protest while involved with the German radical left.

Those are just the living characters. Then come the dead ones. Or are they? Georgie’s nine-year-old imagination embarks on some arresting and creepy peregrinations to make sense of her predicament in the context of 70s Dublin, where no recognition of such a predicament exists. Gallagher is astonishingly good at dramatising inner turmoil. She doesn’t resort to adjectives; instead she deploys physical manifestations. David’s stress is “something inhuman crouching in front of him. A whirl of matter and energy.” A child can have an imaginary friend. What if that friend turns vindictive, weird, almost vampiric? What if others start to perceive the friend, too? Characters are haunted, though this is not a supernatural novel: it is a novel about how we process trauma.

One way we process it is through committing acts of terrorism: the 1974 Monaghan bombings, the bombing in which Andreas killed himself, the bombing of the London underground – there is “some subliminal connection between repressing root causes, degeneration and protest”, David muses. The identity of the suicide bomber is not revealed until the end, though the hints are there if you look. Gallagher deploys clues throughout, which help decode the text, such as the scent of almonds, or childhood relics.

This is also a novel about identity. There is Georgia’s fractured gender identity (“Georgie wonders what the teenager’s willy is like: small and mushroomy like hers?”). And there is the fracture of identity that comes with postwar displacement: where is home for Anna Bauer? Or for her daughter? Lotte speaks of her “rootless, rotten DNA”. Her surname isn’t even her own, but that of the stepfather who abused her.

There is so much to say about this novel. It is sprawling, but not sloppy; messy, but not a mess. There will be as many readings of it as there are readers. Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland is challenging, it is brave, it is original, it is flawed, it is moving, it is fascinating. It is art.

Claire Kilroy’s The Devil I Know is published by Faber. This review first appeare din the Guardian


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Lady Gaga Super Bowl Halftime Show Drives 5.1 Million Tweets

It doesn’t matter if people loved, hated or just tolerated Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show: They were tweeting about it.

According to Twitter, there were 2.2 million tweets about Gaga’s #PepsiHalftime show between 8:10 and 8:30 p.m. ET, when the show was live. Combining the tweets leading up to the show, during and in the 10 minutes following, there were 5.1 million tweets about the performance. Meanwhile, Gaga’s @LadyGaga Twitter handle was mentioned 2.1 times between 7:50 and 8:40 p.m. ET.

Read more: Watch Lady Gaga’s Show-Stopping Super Bowl 2017 Halftime Performance

Breaking down the tweets, the most tweeted moment was the minute the show ended, at 8:27 p.m. ET, followed by when Lady Gaga said hi to her mom and dad (8:22 p.m.) and Lady Gaga descending from the NRG Stadium roof in a harness (8:15).

The set list drew a lot of tweets, with show-closer “Bad Romance” the most-tweeted-about song. “Telephone” was the second most-tweeted song, likely because of the question around whether her duet partner Beyoncé might show up, and the third was the socially charged “Born This Way.”

Read more: Lady Gaga Is a Legacy Artist Now, But What a Legacy: Super Bowl 2017 Halftime Show Analysis

Gaga herself added to the tweets right before she hit center stage:

Super Bowl 51


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The Mountain Man Band – Killer Wails


Killer Wails

There are many ways for a band to make themselves memorable. Trying to tailor a new, modern dress for a rather old-fashioned genre like the blues is definitely one of them. With its first album Killer Wails The Mountain Man Band creates a contemporary access to the diversified world of blues rock and found thereby a niche, the Irish musical landscape can only benefit from.

Even though the album contains only four songs, it has already crystallized the path this band wants to walk on: Hard drums, gritty vocals and simply designed tunes. This is anything else but surprising, according to Declan Keane, guitarist and singer of the band: “I’ve always been attracted to nice simple blues and folk music like Robert Johnson and electric stuff by artists like R.L. Burnside. It’s usually very simple concepts that can stand alone without any other instruments. I try and bring that kind of feel to the band, and the music can usually be played on a single acoustic without losing too much.”

The album’s acoustic version of ‘Shot My Gun’ might be the best piece for proving his intentions. Soft and gentle but with rapid pace the fingers fly over the guitar strings while Keane sings with his characteristic grittiness. In fact, in some ways this song might even be the hidden core of the album, since it boils the band’s naturalness and ease down to an essence. The track ‘Bang Bang’, however, distinguishes itself with its hard drums, which unfortunately pushes the other musical components too much into the background. ‘Play The Song’ stands out through its well-balanced compositions and its catchy tunes which makes it to the album’s most mass suitability track and therefore something what describes another important part of The Mountain Man Band’s intention as Keane describes it: “We want to to create music that makes you want to move along to a groove and we are trying to make it relevant and interesting to people who aren’t usually drawn to that kind of thing. ”

This can only work with one thing: Pure simplicity. While every song of Killer Wails has its own characteristic feature, it also gives Keane and his band colleague Pádraic Carter room for distinguishing themselves from other bands. The simplicity, however, has also its reasons as the band explains. Keane and Carter were friends, but separated when Keane decided to move to Canada for a while. When he returned to Ireland, the two friends met up again and made plans for their band project. “Two friends setting up a band!”, Declan remembers, “What could be simpler we thought!”. It still took them a whole year to finish their first album, though. “I think it took us a while to find the right system for writing”, Keane explains. “Also, Pádraic lives in Galway while I live in Dublin currently, so that brings its own challenges, but we make it work”

Even though the album Killer Wails sometimes lacks a bit of precision in production, it is a debut album which makes curious about the band’s hopefully near musical future. Its interpretation of blues-rock converted into its simple, gritty style constitutes a good basis for further artistic experiments. A well-done debut, even if it comes a little shorter than desired.


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Life In Color: Interview with BONNIE X CLYDE

There is a new duo that is taking over the electronic dance scene with a series of hits that exposed the world to their unique style like Why Do I, Worth It, Closer, Rise Above, and The Ride, is none of other than DJ/Producer/Vocalist, BONNIE X CLYDE.

First making their debut festival at last year’s Life in Color Miami, and then their ride had begun. They immediately embarked on their 10 stop headlining ‘Gunshine State Tour’. Within in year the duo performed at various festivals such as, Nocturnal Wonderland, Life Is Beautiful, EDC Orlando, “When we performed at EDC Orlando that was a dream come true”. BXC finished off their exciting year with a performance at Insomniac’s highly-anticipated NYE Festival, Countdown, on December 31st. The future looks bright for BXC as they ride into the new year as they perform at highly anticipated festivals such as CRUSH, Middlelands, and once again returning to Life In Color but this time at the MainStage. “We come so far, we never thought we would be performing at the MainStage. This is a dream come true for us.”

“When we came here to LIC we didn’t realize until we got here that the MainStage is called ‘Sector X’ and our symbol is an X. We started in Miami playing here last year at the RARE stage and we’ve come so far in only a year it’s so fast.”

Their wild ride didn’t stop there with a recent signing with Circle Talent Agency combined with the release of their debut EP via Interscope and Insomniac Records. “It was almost surreal like now, we still can’t believe this all happening so fast. When we were signing with Interscope and our EP also was released on the same day.”

The duo takes risks but does not fear, whenever they write new music. “Everything, our lives, our journey, everything around us, our experiences at every festival, and just in everyday life.” Experimenting with their newest creation Where It Hurts. It’s a combination of their unique bass sound that we all crave and hardstyle. “Where It Hurts was about how we overcame all our obstacles we endured through our journey and how we achieved to where we are now.” Being that we at Life in Color, we asked what was their favorite color at the same time they looked at each other said “BLUE” and laughed. 

If you can dream it then you can achieve it, dreams do come true. When life hits you with its greatest obstacles, when you have to go through the boundaries you never endured, and even if when you hear the word “NO” or “You can’t” just keep BXC in the back of your mind. This was first a dream and now it’s reality for the duo. BONNIE X CLYDE has assuredly positioned themselves for huge success and for many years to come. Get ready to join the ride!

Listen to Where It Hurts

Follow BONNIE X CLYDE:  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | SoundCloud

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13 Men On How Often They Turn Down Sex When Their Girlfriend Is Horny

Unsplash, Max Bender
Unsplash, Max Bender

1. “Ready to get jealous? I turned her down once, because she wanted to have sex for the fifth time that day. I was worn out. Don’t think I could’ve gotten it up if my life depended on it. Other than that, I’ve never said no. She’s too hot to resist.” — Andrew, 26

2. “My girlfriend has a higher libido than I do, so she’s the one trying to wake me up in the middle of the night for sex and I’m the one complaining that I’m too tired. It’s not a fun feeling. I feel like I’m letting her down somehow.” — Justin, 23

3. “I’ve never turned her down. I want to be as close as possible to her as often as possible. And I’m always in the mood, so it’s never been a problem.” — Brady, 20

4. “I hate girls that get insulted when I turn them down. I’ve never turned down my fiancée because of her looks. I’ve only turned her down because I’ve felt sick or tired or stressed. It has nothing to do with her. At all.” — Dalton, 25

5. “The only time I turn her down is when she’s drunk. I don’t want to take advantage of her. Besides, she can get crazy when she’s wasted. She bites hard. Scratches. Leaves hickeys. I’m into rough stuff, but I don’t want to wake up covered in cuts that my boss is going to ask me about.” — Christian, 27

6. “I’ve never turned down my current girlfriend yet. But I had to turn down an ex of mine, because she wanted to use a strap-on and fuck me. I have straight friends that are into that role reversal stuff, but not me. No way.” — Nathan, 22

7. “My wife gets irrationally upset whenever I turn her down. She started crying once, because she thought that I wasn’t attracted to her anymore and that I was cheating on her. News flash: Guys aren’t always in the mood for sex. Most of the time we are. But not always.” — Logan, 29

8. “I turned down my girlfriend (when we first started dating), because neither of us had any condoms left, but she still wanted to go for round two. She said she was on the pill, but I didn’t want to take any chances.” — Ian, 24

9. “I’ve turned her down a few times. Mostly when we were mad at each other. Instead of saying she’s sorry, she tries to make it up to me with sex, but how unhealthy is that? I’m not letting it happen.” — Mitchell, 23

10. “I turn her down waaay more than I want to. I have health issues that make me feel tired all the time. And the medication I take for it lowers my libido. It’s just a combination of things. It sucks. She never complains about it, but I think it bothers her — and that bothers me.” — Austin, 21

11. “Never turned her down before. Then again, she’s never initiated sex before, so…” — Ryan, 25

12. “I rejected her a lot when she first got baby crazy. I wasn’t ready to be a father, and I knew that she was only initiating so she could get pregnant, so I kept turning her down. We have a little boy now, though. It worked out.” — Parker, 26

13. “My girl loves having sex in public, which is fine. I’m into it. But sometimes she doesn’t think things through. Like, I’m not fucking you in a changing room that has a curtain instead of a locking door — especially when there’s a line of women waiting. We have to be smart about it.” — Ruben, 22 TC mark

Holly Riordan

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How to Score the Toughest Restaurant Reservations

A three-month wait for a Michelin-starred meal can put off the most ambitious of diners.

Want to beat the queue in some of the most popular fine-dining spots in Asia and Australia? We asked insiders for tips and tricks on how to get a table at with minimal reservation trauma.

For those who want to skip the line altogether, check out our underrated alternatives that offer similarly impressive fare—minus the wait.

Attica, Melbourne

Why go? Named 2016’s Best Restaurant in Australasia, chef Ben Shewry’s Attica is the only Australian establishment to make the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list last year, claiming the No. 33 spot.

The wait: Open for dinner only. Bookings are released three months in advance at 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month.

The secret: Ditch the idea of a romantic table for two, says Lee Tran Lam, founder of cult Australian food blog, The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry. “When I tried to get a booking for Attica for my partner’s birthday, I noticed that all the two-tops (tables for two) were booked out in about two minutes,” she said. “But there were still tables of four left. So I just made the booking and found two friends who were keen to come along for the ride.” Not a fan of high-stress booking? Get on their waiting list—which has a “surprisingly high” strike rate. And follow Attica on Twitter for announcements of last-minute cancellations.

An alternative: Chef Shannon Bennet’s Vue de Monde offers an equally acclaimed tasting menu. Unlike Attica, it’s also open for lunch.

Mingles, Seoul

Why go? Named Best Korean Restaurant in 2016, Mingles is a Michelin-starred modern Korean restaurant with a seasonal menu.

The wait: The restaurant takes bookings two months out, and you should book three weeks ahead.

The secret: Most high-end Korean restaurants set aside plenty of tables for groups of two and four but fewer for large groups. One strategy for a large group is to split into two bookings, says food blogger and broadcaster Daniel Gray, of Seoul Eats. “Lunches tend to be easy to book and are great value,” he says. “You can also suggest sitting at the bar.”

An alternative: Try Congdu, a contemporary Korean spot in Seoul.

Restaurant André, Singapore

Why go? Chef André Chiang’s Mediterranean-inspired eatery is known for its “Octaphilosophy,” or the eight elements of cooking that inspire him. The restaurant is ranked No. 3 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list of 2016 and is No. 32 in the world.

The wait: Bookings are taken online. The waiting time varies from seven weeks to three months. Diners can ask for two preferred dates and times, and they’ll be given the first table available.

The secret: Here, small tables tend to go fast, so book for a larger group. Chef André Chiang considers booking a midday meal on Wednesday or Friday a “smart move,” because those are the only days you can order the degustation menu at lunchtime. What’s more, you can downsize to a five-course version for S$198 ($140), compared with the full S$350 for eight courses.

An alternative: Chef Julien Royer’s Odette, at the National Gallery Singapore. Booking a month in advance is recommended, but it’s possible to get a table online a week out.

Den, Tokyo 

Why go? Winner of the “One to Watch” Award on the 2016 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s Den is known for its irreverent, contemporary spin on a kaiseki-style menu. The spot is famed, among other things, for its playful but professional service and the occasional friendly appearances of Hasegawa’s beloved dog, Puchi Jr.

The wait: Reservations taken by phone only from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., usually two months ahead.

The secret: Jane Lawson, author of Tokyo Style Guide and founder of Zenbu food tours, recommends a personal appeal: “First, e-mail them (simple, polite English is fine), and let them know how you heard about them and how much you’d love to dine there. In Japan, a little local expertise–especially with the language–can go a long way. If you have a Tokyo-based friend or colleague who speaks Japanese—ask them to call on your behalf.” Outsourcing the booking can pay off. “If you are staying somewhere posh, make sure you utilize the services of the hotel concierge,” Lawson says. “They have a lot of pull.” Given Den’s small size, bookings for one or two work best.

An alternative: Shirosaka—another compact, counter-style restaurant in Akasaka, Tokyo.

Mr. Wong, Sydney

Why go? A buzzy, mod-Cantonese restaurant favored by locals and visiting celebrities alike, and a favorite in the Sydney Morning Herald’s 2017 Good Food Guide.

The wait: Mr. Wong doesn’t take dinner bookings for small groups. This means a notoriously eager, walk-in only queue starts forming at 5:30 p.m., with waiting times of up to two hours.

The secret: Lunch. It takes reservations for lunch! Or, to win the dinner hustle, the best day is Monday, says Dan Hong, Mr. Wong’s executive chef. Or, bring all your friends. The restaurant takes reservations for groups of six or more. “That’s the best way to eat at Mr. Wong anyway, so you can try more dishes,” Hong says. “I would never come with one other person, to be honest.”

An alternative: Try Mr. Wong’s new sister restaurant Queen Chow, in Enmore, a suburb of Sydney.

News by Bloomberg, edited by Hospitality Ireland

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Mills and boon story of Ella Mill's recipe for success

'I want to give you a way to eat your broccoli in a way that you actually want to eat it,' insists Ella Mills

‘I want to give you a way to eat your broccoli in a way that you actually want to eat it,’ insists Ella Mills
Ella and Mathew Mills got married last summer on the island of Mustique
Ella is the daughter of Camilla Sainsbury (of the supermarket family) and the UK’s former Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward (right)

Could Ella Mills be proof of the perfectibility of the human condition? Her hair would suggest so.

It is as glossy and pliant as Kate Middleton’s. She has immaculate teeth, an exemplary diet, her own business (a healthy-eating empire) and one million followers on instagram. Last year, she married her boyfriend Matthew Mills, a predictably handsome “ethical financier” on a beach in the Caribbean.

Her Deliciously Ella news-feed is the apotheosis of #inspo culture – every day she furnishes her army of followers with a daily dose of motivation, prettiness, positivity and status-envy. “When life gives you Monday,” she broadcasts, “dip it in glitter and sparkle all day.”

Mills is so much the sum of millennial aspirations that she is ripe for parody. The internet being what it is, it’s no surprise that the satirical instagram account Deliciously Stella – set up to poke fun at her earnest, wholesome, head-girlishness has 143,000 followers. Last year, its author, Bella Younger, published a book of her own.

Ella and Mathew Mills got married last summer on the island of Mustique

Ella and Mathew Mills got married last summer on the island of Mustique

Ella may be the butt of the joke, but all this is only further proof of the breadth of her influence.

I meet her downstairs in Mae, one of two deli stores that she and her husband (who last year joined her at the helm of the Ella empire) opened last year. Mae stands for Matt and Ella. Here, fragrant staff serve up her vegetarian, nutrient-dense fare to the yoga-loving public of Mayfair and Marylebone. I am presented with a plate filled with broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potatoes, jazzed up with kohlrabi, turmeric and sun-dried tomatoes, among other things. To my astonishment, it is delicious. Just as promised.

In person, she is lightly tanned and unmistakably posh. She is firmly of the establishment – her father is former Labour MP and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shaun Woodward, and her mother, Sainsburys heir Camilla Sainsbury.

She is, however, the first to admit that social media isn’t the whole story and that her life isn’t as perfect and soft-focus as the filters on her Iphone might make it look. She is no stranger to angst or to self-doubt.

Mills’s self-determined transformation from junk-food-eating, depressed student in cripplingly poor health to shimmering beacon of success and vitality has been well told. In 2011, she was in her first year at university when she was struck down with an obscure illness – postural tachycardia syndrome. The condition was disabling. “I couldn’t walk down the street,” she said. The symptoms included palpitations, chronic pain, blackouts and intense fatigue. The worst part, she says, was the psychological impact. “The physical side was really difficult. But I really struggled with the mental side of it. I had quite bad depression, and I really struggled with the isolation of it… I honestly used to sit all day watching the Kardashians and eating pick and mix.”

In a bid to do something, anything, constructive, she started looking into improving her diet. As she learned and experimented, she blogged about her efforts. At first, it was supposed to be a little hobby. “Playing around in the kitchen coming up with ideas. Learning how to use the camera to take a good picture. Learning how to edit it a bit… it all takes a couple of hours’ work.” The endeavour brought a “sense of achievement” that was therapeutic. “You learned something, you did something. There was an element of growing,” she says. She had no background in food so in those early days, as she began devising recipes, it was mostly trial and error. “There were terrible things. Inedible. But actually, with savoury food especially, I find there is always a way to remedy it.”

Ella is the daughter of Camilla Sainsbury (of the supermarket family) and the UK's former Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward (right)

Ella is the daughter of Camilla Sainsbury (of the supermarket family) and the UK’s former Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward (right)

People started logging on in droves. It meant that all the learning happened in public, but the engagement with others that sprang from the project “was what I needed. Because I was really lonely”.

Her symptoms receded as her following grew. After being inundated with requests, she decided to launch a recipe app. Newspapers published stories describing how she had “cured” herself with her healthy diet, and her celebrity status was assured. Her success was precipitous and massive. Her app went to the itunes top five in the UK and US. Brand tie-ups and a publishing deal swiftly followed. Her first book was the fastest-selling debut cookbook in the UK.

A few short years later and Deliciously Ella has become a brand and expanded exponentially. She has just published her third book Deliciously Ella With Friends. This one focusses less on the health message and more on conviviality, because, she says, “in January everyone is on a diet and there’s no joy… just because you want to eat vegetables and eat well doesn’t mean you can’t share food and have fun with it. It should still be an exciting thing. It shouldn’t be just eating kale on your own in the corner. I think joy is the biggest part of it. I think if you don’t enjoy something it’s not sustainable”.

On the back of her success she was christened the “queen of clean” by the media, and somewhere along the way, she became associated with orthorexia – an obsessive, restrictive type of disordered eating, defined by jettisoning everything but health foods. The backlash clearly got to her, because earlier this year she was vocal in disavowing “clean eating,” and saying that the label misrepresents what she is trying to do.

Clean, she says, “has become such a stupid word. Because it’s become so loaded. It’s a slightly media-coined term to draw a massive circle around all sorts of different things and people. I’ve never talked about ‘clean’ and then suddenly I’m the queen of clean? What is that?

“It gets a little bit frustrating because I just don’t get it. And I’m just like, if you read what I write, I always say do what works for you. Only 27pc of the country say they get their five a day. That’s one in four people…

“I want to give you a way to eat your broccoli in a way that you actually want to eat it. I don’t care if you also want to have a pizza. I’ve never been someone to be like, ‘oh are you going to eat that burger!’ It’s about finding that sensible middle ground.

“And the problem with ‘clean’ is that it has totally distorted that whole concept…it makes it so binary and black and white.

“I’m very anti-diets because the minute you say you can never ever have that again, don’t do this, don’t do that, it doesn’t work. Whereas if you say, I’m just going to try and incorporate more fruit and veg into my meals, it’s totally achievable. It suddenly becomes a doable, plausible thing.”

Ultimately, she’s convinced that “if more people are eating avocados and broccoli now as a result of the kind of things that I do, I think that’s a really good thing. And I don’t think you should say it isn’t. We have an obesity crisis. There are two billion people who are obese. Which is the same as the population was in the 1920s. That’s not OK.”

She’s adamant that thinking about food in morally loaded terms of vice or virtue is going about it all the wrong way.

“Every interview I’ve done, I’m always asked, what’s your guilty pleasure? I don’t have a guilty pleasure. No one should have a guilty pleasure. Have a pleasure. It’s such an oxymoron. Your pizza, your ice-cream, whatever. Maybe it’s not kale. It doesn’t matter what it is! It’s your pleasure. It’s what makes you happy.”

Last year was Ella’s busiest year yet. This is in no small part thanks to her new husband. There was the wedding to organise, of course. But it was the business expansion that loomed larger. The union with Mills seems a partnership Jane Austen would heartily approve of – it is both romantic and deeply pragmatic in character. They are not just a couple, but business partners – Matt has helped oversee much of the company’s recent expansion.

The pair were introduced by Ella’s father. “I wasn’t looking for anything, at all. I was loving being single. It was the right time in my life to be single, and sleep with loads of people. And then I met him and we moved in together a week later.”

At just 25 she knows that she’s young to be already married. But then, she is nothing if not precocious.”Through everything that happened with the business, I was very sure of what I wanted, who I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing, that I felt that I was therefore in the position to be able to make the commitment to somebody else,” she explains.

Getting married, she says, didn’t change much between them.

“I think there’s something nice about knowing it’s forever. But I guess we were already so intertwined, especially because we work together, that we’d already taken all that on. We were already there in lots of ways.”

She had never been “that focussed on getting married” and had been distracted with other things in the run-up to the event itself – doing a book tour in America for three weeks, which finished just three days before the wedding. So it took her by surprise that on the day it all felt “more of a big deal than I expected it to… I guess I just thought it would be really fun, with all our friends. But I cried my eyes out the whole time”.

The wedding was a high point during what had otherwise been a tricky period of transition for the larger Woodward family. In 2015, her parents divorced after several decades of marriage and shortly afterwards her father came out. (He is now in a relationship with Luke Redgrave.) Ella admits all this came as a bit of a shock, but is sanguine about it now.

“I have real respect for both of them (my parents) and the way they’ve handled it. It’s not easy – but the way they’ve handled it and dealt with it has been amazing. I’m very grateful to them for… not having to go through court battles and all that – not speaking to each other.”

Her father’s new partner, who is part of the Redgrave acting dynasty, is “lovely” and ultimately, she remains convinced that things have worked for the best.

“Even if it’s not what you would pick in your ideal world, as long as someone is happier and everyone is handling it well, it’s much better to focus on that than trawl back through the past.”

Her family may have fractured, but she’s found new stability in her own marriage. It’s a huge relief, she says, having a husband who is also your business partner. Being part of a team effort relieves a lot of the pressure of having to juggle personal and professional commitments.

Towards the end of last year, their six-month wedding anniversary coincided with a crisis which led to a four-month delay in the opening of the second deli, “through all kinds of factors that were nothing to do with us”.

Matt had a whole itinerary planned to celebrate the anniversary, but “we ended up cancelling the whole thing and we were sitting here on the Friday in the morning, in the dark in a construction site, going ‘fuck, we’re out of money, we’re out of time what are we doing!?’

“There was no agenda, no problem, no arguments. Whereas if we weren’t together and I was calling him saying, ‘I’m not coming to anything you’ve organised because I’m at a building site’, it would have been a problem. While you are worrying about all the other problems, it’s nice to not have to worry about someone being annoyed with you as well”.

Matt covers the business and executive aspects of Deliciously Ella, while she brings the creative flair. He is, she says, “the most balanced person I’ve ever met in my life. I’m like a little yo-yo. He always says about me, I have a lot of feelings. I’ve always got thoughts and worries and opinions.

“And he is much more measured. He’s much better at taking the rough with the smooth. And always finding the solutions. Not panicking when something goes really wrong. And I’ve learned a lot from that”.

She’s not, she says, a natural entrepreneur, in contrast to her husband. “I’m a much more timid person. He’s got no fear, whereas I’m kind of fearful.” Indeed, her new ambition now is tackling the fear and improve her handling of all the stress that comes with the job.

“That’s been a really big focus for me over the last year,” she says. “And that’s my, I guess, New Year’s resolution for 2017- (finding) that mental balance. Just trying to switch off when I can, but more than anything trying to find the right mindset and balance that allows you to kind of take everything on. I know that word mindfulness is thrown around like there’s no tomorrow, but I’ve been having a look at bits of that.”

It doesn’t help that being a social media star means being connected 24/7. “For me finding some time most days where I can just switch off from technology is a really big help as well. You do have to force yourself into switching off.

“For me it’s just been about trying to stop being so stressed and worried about everything. Learning to go with the flow a little bit, and to just jump straight into finding the solution, not the problem. Which is easier said than done. That’s been my problem – trying to flip something around to see the good in something.

As the business grows, the stakes are rising all the time. They now have 60 employees to take care of, while still a relatively small and fledgeling company. Though that may be set to change. Deliciously Ella Energy Balls have already hit shops and are breaking sales records. And a complete supermarket range is in the works.

So in between the “100pc commitment” she brings to her professional life, she’s taking time to “not to have a mental breakdown about that”.

“I’m just really trying to change my mindset. And each time I get close to panicking, every time I panic, I try to stop and to wake my brain for a minute. . . to look at it with a different mindset. I guess (it’s about) realising things are slightly beyond your control.”

Deliciously Ella with Friends is out now, €19.99. Ella Mills will be signing copies of Deliciously Ella with Friends in Easons on O’Connell Street, Dublin next Saturday, February 11, at 12 noon

Sunday Indo Living


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