Spotlight on Susannah Grant

by Susannah Grant posted on 25 February 2022

This month INC´s Blog Editor talks to herself (ooops – must be going mad) about bullseye spitting, teaching Scottish dancing to Spaniards, royal lingerie and the perils of Indian tigers

Business was always a pleasure in Roussillon

Is it true that a lot of Brits are quite eccentric?

Of course it is, my maternal grandmother was a keen collector of original antiques such as Queen Victoria´s bloomers. Most people adorn their walls with precious family heirlooms, I´ll be lucky to inherit some second-hand gargantuan pants.

Bloomin’ marvellous – but too big for my sister or me

Why are you so restless?

Family holidays were spent at my paternal grandmother´s house in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands yet I was brought up on a diet of exotic tales of our globetrotting ancestors making their name in distant lands.

As soon as I was old enough to ditch armchair travel for the real deal, I was off to explore the world for myself.

My father and brothers enjoy some quality Highland fare

Where did you start?

Funnily enough Madrid was my first port of call. On my gap year, aged 17, armed with 2,000 pesetas (€12), I arrived at Chamartín by train as, understandably, my father refused to pay excess baggage costs for my 3 suitcases and a ghetto blaster the size of a Shetland pony.

At the post office in Bhutan

What were you doing here?

Despite an A Level in Spanish, my poor linguistic skills relegated me to the photocopying cupboard on day one of my internship at McCann Erickson. By the time they realised that I was more of a guillotine operator than a photocopier, cutting off the heads of most of the material I was supposed to be copying, I had acquired sufficient colloquial Spanish to be allowed out to shadow some of the directors or rather one in particular.

I have always preferred to adapt the well-known maritime phrase about having a girl in every port to a more efficient aeronautical version by having a boy in every airport and over the years I have acquired fluency in 4 foreign languages.

One ice cream is never enough in Florence

Where does your heart lie?

Madrid will always be my first love and this is the fourth (and final) stint of living here although my childhood was influenced by my parents´ posting to Italy before I was born which had a lasting impression on them and me. So, after university, having had a narrow escape from Kimberly Clark´s UK graduate recruitment scheme at their factory of sanitary towels whizzing round on a conveyor belt in the heart of the Kent countryside without a nightclub in sight I headed for Florence. I lectured in English at their university for a few very happy ice cream-filled years until the recession eased off in London. Italy will always retain a very special place in my heart.

Another day at the “office” – tasting Port in the Douro

What prompted you to join the wine industry?

My love of French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian language and culture have always been the principal driving forces of my life and these are all spoken in top wine-producing nations. Newly returned to London I enlisted the help of my lifelong friend and fellow wine bod to help me perfect my aim of spitting out wine in a perfect rainbow-shaped arch into a spittoon. We started off with the bath tub and after 2 full days of swilling out €100 of Bulgarian plonk I was ready for professional wine tastings, wine exams and a fabulous fun-filled 12-year career travelling round vineyards all over the world.

Ready for merengue with my husband

What hobbies do you enjoy?

Latin music is my passion. Particularly good old-fashioned salsa, merengue and son Cubano orchestral bands. In my 30s I took a career break to travel for 2 years and the other backpackers in my hostals were rather bemused to see this seasoned woman getting changed to go out salsa dancing at 1 am when they were just staggering back to the dorm intoxicated from a backpacker´s BBQ in Perth, Auckland or Miami.

I have danced my way round the world and once accompanied Cuban Orquesta Aragón (the precursors to Buena Vista Social Club) whilst they were on tour in Colombia.

My own bucking bronco in Panama

What other dances rock your boat?

On one occasion my interpreting skills at a conference were stretched to the limit as I was asked to teach the entire sales team of González Byass (as in Tío Pepe sherry) to dance Scottish reels in Aberdeen. Naturally, the Spanish, with their innate sense of rhythm were instantly better at it than most of their British counterparts. As also exemplified at my wedding. González Byass are also responsible for my year-round addiction to Salmorejo (the weightier Córdoba version of Gazpacho soup). I first tasted it at a lunch at their Jerez bodega and haven´t stopped swigging it surreptitiously out of cartons in supermarket carparks ever since.

Cooking up a storm in China

So are you a bit of a foodie then?  

I live to eat and I also love to cook. My first dish entailed melting plastic cheese slices in a pan with ketchup to make a pot noodle-inspired pasta sauce. I´ve come a long way since then.  

Some of my Japanese-inspired handicrafts

Do you have a creative side?

From time to time I creep out of my natural creative-phobic comfort cave to make jewellery. Although ordinarily I just buy it. As you may have noticed I have a necklace (or two) for each day of the year.

Lesson 1 – dive into as many experiences headfirst as you can

What lessons have you learned over the years?

The world is smaller than you think. I shared a dormitory with an Irish lady in Fiji who happened to know the candidate that Kimberley Clark had chosen over me 15 years earlier. He had been impossibly pig-headed during our last round of interviews and I was not surprised to hear that he was subsequently sacked 6 months into the job for not gelling with the team. So much for multinational psychometric testing.

Trekking in the snow-capped foothills of Everest with my lovely Gurkha guide

What´s next for you?

Probably a shady plot in the British Cemetery of Madrid. Before that I´d like to write up some of the family history of some of my more notable (or should I say notorious) ancestors.

Hanging on for dear life in New Zealand

Why would anyone want to read about your relations?

Well it´s an excuse for some more travelling and although some of my ancestors’ achievements are still in evidence today I would like to document them for posterity.  For example: Tsum, Moscow´s flagship department store was inaugurated by a Scottish family member; another built a Speyside whisky distillery with his own hands; whilst Capetown´s main street is known as Adderley street after my ancestor successfully campaigned to prevent South Africa from becoming a penal colony. Other forefathers were less successful, namely Captain Handcock who was killed by a tiger in Ooty, India, whilst out hunting aged 24 and Jock Delves-Broughton who was suspected of murder as featured in the film and book, White Mischief set in Kenya´s so-called Happy Valley. Not to mention the forebear who did two stints in Wandsworth prison for fraud. Hopefully, my legacy will be less irksome.

Educating the kids on the marvels of Lebanon
Off to work on my trusty steed in Florence

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