Renee

Portrait painting, traditional dining and a night at the ballet. (A contemporary cultured week!)

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who got in touch regarding my CEO of the Year award.  I really appreciated the emails, messages on social media and texts from friends. It was lovely of you, and I hope I’ve replied to everyone.

I’m back at art class in fits and starts this term.  Well, not term as it’s not a school; the studio is a trendy communal living space above a pub, twinkling with fairy lights, interesting with strange and unusual objet d’art and lively with a bunny hopping about. But anyway, since Ed got back from his travels I’ve had various things on a Wednesday to prevent me going.  This week Jon is over from San Diego so I’ll be missing my creative fix again.

To avoid artistic withdrawal, I’m going to the final heat of the Portrait Artist of the Year competition on Thursday.  It’s being held at the Wallace Collection, a beautiful little art gallery and museum close to Bond Street. I popped in there last week to see the artists in one of the early heats. The celebrity models sat for four hours in poses that were about as relaxed as you can get for a rigid afternoon, fully clothed (unlike my Wednesday art class) and keeping their eyes fixed zombie-like on a ‘spot in the distance.’

Robert Bathurst sort-of smiled at me though, probably because I was staring. I loved him in Cold Feet – might have hung around to say hello if I’d been on my own and in less of a rush to get home to eat my first Easter egg.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingOn Thursday I pushed the cultural boat across a foaming wave and went to the ballet. Sadler’s Wells is the home of British dance, so I imaged beautiful ballerinas in rose-coloured tutus pirouetting across the stage. I went with someone who has dated several ballerinas in the past, so I think he was hoping for that too.  But it wasn’t.

Matthew Bourne, the choreographer, is a master contemporary storyteller in the ballet genre.  The dancing and portrayals were amusing and (whispers…) a bit strange.  The website described it as “Yearning pas de deuxs and pastoral clog-dances feature in Town and Country’s post-war vignettes.” And, “Take a trip to Gay Paree with The Infernal Galop, as all the glorious clichés of 30s and 40s Paris are paraded (and can-canned) across the stage.” It was fun.  It was different, but it didn’t make me want to put on my pastel pink silk ballet shoes – although I did actually wear them yesterday for driving (as flip flops are dangerous) so maybe that was a subconscious fashion choice.

The ‘town and country’ sketches featured people dressed as cows (at least, I think they were cows!).  This image links nicely to Saturday night’s dinner at Rules, the oldest restaurant in London. It owns its own farm where meat is cultivated for diners’ enjoyment, and we wolfed our way through an enormous roast beef platter – finished on Sunday by a friendly dog named Digby who absolutely refused to give up his cordon bleu bone.

I do love a bit of history, and Rules’ traditional dining rooms are decorated much as they would have been back in 1798. Throughout its 220-year heritage, the tables here have been crowded with writers, artists and actors. Charles Dickens and H G Wells were regulars, and no doubt a ballet dancer or two.  Maybe even Robert Bathhurst, but that’s just a guess.

I visited Elton John’s photography collection recently at the Tate Modern.  It’s a cool, inspired assembly of classic modernist work that he’s amassed over the past few decades.  I’m just mentioning this because I could only think of Abba’s song about Nina Pretty Ballerina this morning, so I googled – and Elton popped up.  I’d forgotten this song, but it’s quite lovely. “Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you’ll marry a music man. Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand.”

Tiny dancer, short week, long Pimms. Enjoy your Easter, Passover, long weekend – and keep in touch: @WeekendWitch.

Corporate Vision Magazine’s Award for CEO of the Year goes to…

I’m celebrating!!

Having received a prestigious business award (and no, it’s not a chocolate trophy from Thorntons!!) I’m inviting you to share in the celebrations with bubbly, home-made muffins and discounts!

I’m very proud that Corporate Vision has named me as CEO of the Year for London, 2017.

In addition, I have been named in the UK Independent Business Honours for Excellence in Training, Coaching and Instruction.

This recognition came as a very welcome honour – and complete surprise!  Well, shock really.  After all, I’m not the largest social media agency in London, which proves yet again that size doesn’t matter – especially when you have good quality online visibility.

Here’s a larger version  of the article for those of us who don’t like tiny print, or you can read it in Corporate Vision’s March 2017 edition on page 88.

CV article

In case you don’t know the magazine, Corporate Vision features topics such as business strategy, emerging trends and the various challenges facing businesses today. The annual awards are research-based, with the panel shortlisting candidates and selecting winners based on information including industry journals, local and national press and client testimonials.

My thanks to the teams at Corporate Vision for choosing me in both categories – and even bigger thanks to those of you who have written testimonials and recommendations, both for my website and on LinkedIn.

So, to celebrate that my training is now officially ‘excellent,’ I’m offering 15% off all courses booked before 30th April 2017 and delivered before July. I’ll bring along my home made muffins (you can choose the flavour) and a bottle of bubbly! Drop me an email or chat via social media if you’d like to find out more..

Inspiration, cakes in Shoreditch and champagne with the man who woke me every day

Driving to the Park Plaza for Friday night’s Soldiering On Awards was a poignant experience.  Sadly, roadside floral tributes have become commonplace, but the crowds spilling out around Westminster Square were eerily quiet as they tiptoed over bouquets and read tribute cards while some, strangely, photographed them.

There was nothing quiet at the awards though! At the Park Plaza on the far side of Westminster Bridge cheering and clapping were the order of the day as over 500 people gathered to celebrate the Soldiering On Awards, recognising the achievements of men, women – and some incredible animals – who have been seriously injured in military service. These winners, in fact all the finalists that were gathered to be honoured there, have gone on to inspire others and create excellence from their tragedies.

C702WVNXwAABuVSIt’s unthinkable. Most of us are lucky enough to never suffer life-changing experiences and we simply can’t imagine what these people have been through, but there was nothing miserable or depressing in that room.  It was empowering.

My highlight of the evening was meeting Mike Read, the DJ whose captivating voice woke me every morning through college, my job in fashion and right up until I broke my clock radio. We spent half an hour chatting about this and that, he got me champagne, he said he couldn’t dance with me later as he hasn’t had dancing lessons – I told him I’m having swimming lessons, not that that was relevant.

17498727_10155169751331255_8419109128308697501_nAnyway, as far removed as most of us are (hopefully forever) from catastrophic injury, many of us do suffer from debilitating or unrelenting illnesses and that can be as difficult emotionally and physically as an unprovoked wound.  You may already know that I work with the Stroke Association to raise awareness of childhood stroke – a cruel and devastating trauma that can change the lives of a baby, child, teenager – and their families, often irrevocably.

I won’t harp on about that today – many of you have read my son Oli’s story, and it’s one that I’m eternally grateful turned out okay for him. I’m just mentioning it because, as I’m typing this, I’m also preparing for a meeting at the Stroke Association’s head office near Shoreditch. (Multitasking at its best – also eating chocolate and keeping one eye on Homeland.)

17555560_10155176863146255_8416856_nI’ll be going from there to visit clients in Hoxton (close to the hotel where my website was hacked!) to chat about Instagram and blogging. I’ve been promised hot chocolate and cake in a Hoxton café, so that will be nice! Although I have to admit I’m a bit caked out after last week’s Bake Off at my client and accountants in Woodford.  Nordens holds this competition annually for the team to bring in their delicious home-made creations – and guess who was a judge? Yes, me!! Well I do have rather a lot of experience eating cake.  Congratulations to Cydney who won with a lovely light lemon drizzle cake topped with mini Easter eggs.

17554955_10155176858516255_58716285_nWhich reminds me, my lovely friends at Kennards Artisan Chocolates (Desire4Food) created a huge Easter egg that was auctioned off at the Soldiering On Awards for a nice few hundred pounds.  (I don’t know the exact amount, but sadly I was outbid.) Massive thanks to them for their unswerving generosity and support.  They’re somewhere around Shoreditch today too, in a pop up shop – so I’ll pop up to visit them while I’m in town.  If you’re around there too check out their Facebook page and join me for a pre-Easter chocolatey treat!

Mike Read’s career has spanned over 40 years as a DJ, writer, journalist, TV presenter, songwriter and much, much more.  For my generation, there’s one song that we remember vividly as zooming to the top of the charts after he banned it from Radio 1’s playlist! (Coincidentally, Holly Johnson, who wrote it, bought a Swarovski diamanté brooch that Joan and I had selected for the Principles stores when I worked in fashion buying. I’d probably listened to Mike that very morning.) As Mr Johnson says, “Shoot it in the right direction, make making it your intention. Live those dreams, scheme those schemes; hit me, hit me, hit me with those laser beams.”

If you intend giving your business a quick blast in the right direction, feel free to call me for advice – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Incredible animals, a 19-course meal and fun on International Women’s Day

It’s two weeks to the Soldiering On Awards. This champagne-fuelled, glitzy evening will celebrate the best of inspirational people, charities and organisations within the military family. Someone decided that each finalist is worthy of public recognition and a shiny golden trophy, and the excitement to find out who has won is mounting.

Last week, two of my colleagues from the charity invited me to an amazing lunch – choosing the menu for the awards dinner! As you may already know from previous blogs (or from eating out with me) I have a healthy appetite.  But I have to admit that, on this occasion, the food actually beat me. We enjoyed the equivalent of 19 tasting courses – along with four glasses of wine!

That’s not a typo.  19 courses.  Six beautiful canapés, decorated with tiny pansies and the most delicate sprigs of herbs preceded a lunch of five hors d’oeuvres, five main courses and three desserts. Then petit fours and coffee.  (I had mint tea.) I posted a couple of pics on Facebook, and people commented of course, especially on the wonderful desserts. If you’re feeling jealous, don’t be! I felt totally ill afterwards 🙂

Then on Friday I was invited to a Women in Business event held by Newham Chamber of Commerce at the snazzy offices of Freshfields law firm in the city. This wonderful morning celebrated International Women’s Day (which was actually two days previous to that, but we’re worth celebrating every day, right?!) This year’s theme: Be Bold for Change.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingRather than eat the breakfast (which did look delicious but was too early for me; I had to get up at 5,30 to be there on time), I spent the first hour or so chatting with Anita Dobson. What a lovely lady! I’ve seen her act, obviously, and in real life she was a delight to spend time with. Both being eastenders, (you see what I did there?) we chatted about days gone by spent at the Ilford Palais, the perils of getting older, such as reading menus at arms’ length, and our shared love of cats.

 

This led on to a chat about animal charities, and I invited her to the Soldiering On Awards, as one category is for a remarkable animal that’s served in the military or worked as part of the military family. I hope she can make it.

Following the breakfast and networking, the morning was a panel discussion of eight super-interesting women hosted by newsreader Julie Etchingham. She’s an incredibly smart lady who flawlessly directed questions at the panel members for an hour.

While most people were impressed with me meeting celebrities, Gill was more excited that I’d also met the founder of her ‘Clubbercise’ class! Claire Burlison Green has built a global business from women exercising to disco music waving glow sticks in the air.  She brought a couple with her for demonstration purposes, but didn’t hand them out to the audience, sadly. It would have been fun on the underground at rush hour.

We didn’t have glow sticks back in the Ilford Palais days. All I remember now is the two of us in little blue corduroy dresses that barely covered our bums, a glass of water with ice and lemon, and a group that hopped on stage singing Let’s Dance when the DJ had his break. (I also remember not wearing coats as we preferred to save the 20p for the cloakroom – so walking home at 1am in the winter, freezing those exposed bottoms and discussing the geography homework we had to finish before going to bed…)

“Let’s sway, while colour lights up your face. Let’s sway – sway through the crowd to an empty space.” While Bowie was singing that – or the people in the 80s band were, we had no idea that 30 years later the crowds would have moved online and social media would fill all the empty spaces. Are you filling yours? I’m around this week if you need any help – here I am: @WeekendWitch.

Arts memberships, soaring doves and David Hockney’s bum

Being a member of the Tate is so wonderful when a major exhibition hits town and tickets sell out in seconds.  The Guardian reported that the Hockney exhibit sold over 20,000 tickets before it opened, with some visitors having to wait until 9pm for their chance to see the eclectic collection of artworks. I later heard is was completely sold out, but I’m not sure if this is true.

Anyway, early or late, it’s worth it. I chose to go late, simply because it was the only chance I had to get there during its first week of opening.  And that choice is one of the beauties of membership; I can just walk in without pre-booking.  The only problem with late night gallery viewing is that the café was closed, but hey-ho, sometimes you have to forego your cream bun in the name of art.

I was familiar with the most well-known pieces of course – but I had no idea his styles spanned different genres. The retrospective begins with Hockney’s early works from the 60’s, covering six decades of rich, vibrant paintings and installations, right up to the pieces that blew me away: his iPad and iPhone creations!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingNow I’m trying that, but it’s not working out. I think you need time to get the hang of it – at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I had a sudden splurge of creativity to get out of my system this week, so I hijacked an easel that I’d bought for Ben several Christmases ago and which has remained neatly in its box, and made a commitment to paint some celebrities. I need my art class to resume – I miss it. (And no, before anyone comments I don’t mean the naked men!!)

PS – post script – written after I thought I’d finished but worth adding in… We caught the end of a documentary about Hockney on BBC4 late on Sunday night. Within two minutes of hearing him discuss something art-related, we saw the great man strip naked and run with everything dangling into an azure-tiled shower cubicle with a skylight!  If I thought I’d seen all of David Hockney beforehand, I certainly have seen it all now!

On a more sobering thought… Our family lost a wonderful lady recently, and Nanna Joyce was buried last week in a lovely spot in London.  At her graveside, Carol and Denise released two white doves that flew in perfect unison, soaring high above us as the sun crept out to cast a warm shadow over the mourners.  The colour theme was lilac and purple, so today’s lyrics seemed an obvious choice.

“Dream if you can a courtyard; an ocean of violets in bloom. Animals strike curious poses – they feel the heat, the heat between me and you.”

I’ve shed tears for Nanna Joyce, and I’ve shed tears for Prince. But memories are always beautiful. That’s why the Facebook feature of reminding you of memories from past years is so popular. Do you share yours? If you need help to do so, ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Being queenly, courageous people and the inspirational animal vote

Marion’s daughter once gave me a fridge magnet that says ‘Don’t treat me any differently than you would the Queen.’ It’s good advice, and last week Philip took it. We spent the weekend in a fabulous Tudor castle, in the very room where Henry VIII slept with his doomed wife Anne Boleyn.

Encased within a sumptuous four poster bed, with a log fire roaring on the opposite side of the octagonal room, champagne sparkling in crystal goblets, truffles (quickly eaten) and a very large bouquet gracing the central table, it was easy to imagine we were royalty.

A wonderful tour guide explained the castle’s turbulent history before we settled down to a very large afternoon tea, complete with clotted cream and jam scones, and five cakes each. (Yes, that’s not a typo.) No sooner had we recovered from all that than we dined on a sumptuous seven-course meal. So to say I felt spoiled during the trip is an understatement.  (To say I felt sick is another…)

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingMy close friends know that I’ve had an interest in Anne Boleyn since early childhood, although Philip didn’t know that when he booked. It added another dimension to the weekend to know I slept in her room.  I thought it was actually their bed, but apparently 500-year-old beds have bedbugs, so I’m guessing a luxury hotel chain purchased new ones at some point.

This was a couple of days after a reception at the House of Lords to honour the finalists of this year’s Soldiering On Awards. The House, otherwise known as the Palace of Westminster, was built 1000 years ago. 1001 to be exact! The elaborate building we know stems from the mid-19th century, following a fire that destroyed the original palace. However, the medieval Great Hall survived intact, so it’s likely that both Anne and I walked through there.  My MP arranged a wonderful tour a couple of years ago for the boys and me – until then we hadn’t realised that UK residents are entitled to visit free of charge, bypassing the £25.50 entrance fee.

Anyway, the reception was held in a lovely terraced room overlooking the river, with Taittinger champagne flowing throughout the evening to toast the inspirational finalists. We celebrated their individual journeys and wished them luck for the award ceremony and banquet on 24th March. (Tickets are still available here if you’d like to join us.)

f7661868c1c6ca4c16aa432bb4738209Two of the award categories are being voted for by members of the public – a People’s Choice Award that showcases some truly amazing people, and an Animal Partner Award for an exceptional animal that has carried out duties to make the lives easier in some way for members of the military family. If you have a spare minute, please take a quick look and cast your vote for the one you most admire.

One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite films, with simple lyrics that transcend time. “Did you ever know that you’re my hero and everything I would like to be? I can fly higher than an eagle, for you are the wind beneath my wings.”

Some of the courageous people being honoured at the House of Lords may not have chosen to be ‘heroes’ but deserve the recognition nonetheless.  We can all fly, whether we’re the eagle or the driving wind; we just sometimes need to be reminded to spread our wings a little wider than normal and remember that the future’s what we make it. Then trust ourselves to make it a good one.

If you’d like to know more about the Soldiering On Awards, drop me an email – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Being too cute, poetry workshops and the perils of conference calling

I didn’t like Donny Osmond back in the day. His cutesy image irritated me, even before I knew the difference between cute and sexy. I didn’t particularly like his voice – or his songs and, anyway, I was a firm David Cassidy girl and you couldn’t be both! Gill, on the other hand, has loved him since she was about five, so when tickets went on sale for his London show I snapped them up.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAnd now, I have to admit, this man is a legend in his own time.  Fifty years in show business and not a scuff mark on him. No one dishes the dirt because there is none to be dished.  He is a true showman and, it appears, a gentleman.  The concert was fab and I’ve finally exonerated myself after several doghouse years as a result of the ER fiasco. I won’t bore you with that story now, you may have already heard it, but Gillian will be nodding at this point. (Although the Toblerone issue is now pending…)

One thing that made me laugh this week was the story of a man (who shall remain nameless) who took part in a conference call while working from home. The call was dragging on, so he took his iPad into the loo (multi-tasking!) – quite forgetting that it was an open-mike call!! I’m laughing again as I’m typing.  Embarrassing!!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingHuge thanks to everyone who come along to the opening night of Traditions, at the Pavilion Art Gallery in Mile End. It’s another fantastic exhibition curated by Katja of Art Catcher, and I met some incredibly talented and creative people. As a result, I’ve been asked if I’ll run a poetry workshop. I love that! It makes a nice change from social media workshops, although I love those too.

Poetry workshops give people space to explore their creativity away from the workplace, but without venturing too deeply into the artistic zone – ie: no mess. It allows you to dig deep into your soul, or simply express what’s on your mind in an inspired environment. I’m looking forward to that!

I don’t know the Osmond songs well, but I do like this one, and the final lyrics are so reminiscent of business days gone by that, in the context of my social media work it’s almost funny. “I’m just a little old-fashioned; it takes more than physical attraction. My initial reaction is, honey, give me love… Not a facsimile of.”

If you’re interested in exploring your inner depths through a poetry session (or business depths through the usual social media ones), give me a call on the number at the top of the page, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.
.

That song wasn’t actually written by The Osmonds, but by Jones Jr, David H / Brown Jr, Wade / Bristol, Johnny William

Tradition, looking up and Morgan vs Farage: an editor’s delight

I’m writing this blog at the National Gallery, one of my favourite London haunts. Aside from the fabulous collection of artworks, obviously – including my number one painting – the actual building is an architectural delight with beautifully mosaic floors and splendid arched and domed ceilings that I’m sure many people miss because we don’t look up enough. Also, the café is very lovely with an array of cakes immediately as you enter, always a winner as far as I’m concerned. The wifi’s good too, and the leather couches situated all along the galleries are comfortable and perfect for sitting, gazing, people-watching, reading, tweeting or blogging! One man nearby is asleep. He has earphones in but his mouth is drooped open. He’s not dribbling, fortunately.

16443476_10154998990331255_1731324406_n (1)I came here for a meeting, then spent a bit of time wandering around until I settled in this nice spot. It’s a wonderful gallery – but then so is the much smaller, teeny little gallery where I’ll be exhibiting my latest poem from Thursday (until the 19th).  I’d love to exhibit somewhere like this, of course, but the Mile End Art Pavilion is equally as exciting. And I’m making the cakes on Thursday – which I’m sharing for free if you’re able to pop along.

traditions-poster-3_orig (1)They’re traditional Jewish honey cakes, in line with the nature of the exhibition – which is called Traditions – and my poetry, which is about traditional Jewish food.  Ironic really, as I’m not kosher and bacon and prawns form the backbone of my diet.  No, that’s not quite true – chocolate does that, so maybe bacon is a rib – if you see where I’m going with this train of thought.

Anyway, it’s always an honour to be included with this illustrious group of artists and the show will be fantastic, so please do come along if you’re free on Feb 2nd, between 6.30 and 8.30pm. (Here’s my poem if you’d prefer to read it online, without the cake.)

Keeping with this traditions theme, I visited the Jewish museum for the first time this week.  It’s a remarkable place in the heart of Camden, tracing Jewish history in the UK from 1066 to present day. I thought I knew a fair bit about the religion, but I picked up some interesting facts, quirky trivia and a few disturbing revelations that reflect a notable parallel to today’s immigration issues.  Being a light-hearted blog I won’t discuss them here but, if you’re in London with a couple of hours to spare, the museum is definitely worth a visit. And if you’re wondering what the parallels might be, here’s a clue…

On Friday night, Gill and I went to the TV studios on Southbank to watch Piers Morgan (who we like) interview Nigel Farage (who we don’t). It was a hell of an interview. It went an hour overtime – giving three hours of solid chat-time for a 42-minute show. The meaty topics didn’t begin until almost two hours had passed, and we believe it was to ensure ITV had enough material to make a programme if Mr F got uppity and walked out when the questions began that he refused to answer. Philip and Hayley think that’s nonsense; for one thing, whatever his views and politics, he is a professional and wouldn’t have an on-air tantrum – and for another, the producer probably planned it that way.  Whatever, it’s going to be very interesting to see how they edit the show, which is being broadcast within the next three weeks.

The interview covered a lot of personal stuff – outweighing political discussion 2:1 and showing the more human side of the man.  I felt sympathy at times with regard to personal trauma and health issues, and I respect his determination to keep his family clear of politics and paparazzi; but my overall opinion didn’t change.  One thing impressed me though – he knows the difference between less and fewer!

As the interview overran we had no time for dinner before heading home.  Feeling hungry often makes me think of this song – it used to be one of my favourite love songs, in a weird kind of way. It’s amusing, although you can’t tell that from the lyrics I’ve chosen. Watch the video on Pinterest for a greater insight into the Jewish tradition of food and dating! “Four in the morning. (What’ll you have?) Well, I’m in the mood for a corned beef on rye. With a tomato and some coleslaw on the side.” See, nothing romantic there but it’s Dean Friedman at his best.

Tweeting about dinner isn’t a great business move unless you’re an eaterie or food critic.  If you’d like advice on what’s appropriate and effective to tweet for your own business, give me a call on 020 8551 7077. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Social media marketing strategies, getting rusty and choo choo loo

I hadn’t planned to write about my toilet adventures, but several people have messaged me following my recent Facebook post to say it was the funniest story they’d heard and that I should blog about it. So much for writing a refined, sophisticated blog then….

I published the story as a helpful tip of the day: when travelling on a train, if you need to use the loo don’t hang a heavy bag on the coat hook on the back of the door. Yes, this is advice based on experience… The train jerked, the bag swung, it knocked the lock, the lock opened… a man walked in! I’m not sure which of us shrieked louder but he beat a hasty retreat.

Under the circumstances, I think he probably should have married me. That would have been the rule in the days of Seven brides for seven brothers, for sure.

I was on my way to Leamington Spa to meet with some super clients.  We had lunch in a hotel on the outskirts of town then chatted about their social media marketing strategy for 2017.  We’re into the third week of the new year now, yet many people I’ve spoken to haven’t defined their goals for this year, or the path they intend to take to score them. I have. I just keep getting a bit distracted from stepping onto that path.

One of my ongoing personal goals is to travel more, and there are hundreds of wonderful places in the UK that I haven’t seen.  So this weekend we started with Bristol, a dynamic city with an over-abundance of wonderful places to eat, enmeshed in culture, arts and the kind of lovely architecture that can keep me busy for hours, just staring at Corinthian columns and great feats of engineering.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingTwo of these fell within the boundaries of our radar, both brainchildren of Isambard Kingdom Brunel – one of the few British engineers I remember learning about in school.  Firstly, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which is a massive structure elegantly spanning the Avon.  It’s jaw-droppingly high and bounces slightly as cars cross. On one side is an interesting visitors’ centre, where we learned that Brunel won a competition to design the bridge at just 24 years old.  He certainly had the entrepreneurial spirit.  Sadly, he didn’t live to see it completed due to delays and funding, plus his untimely death from a stroke,

We also visited his masterpiece of the seas: the SS Great Britain, the former passenger steamship that is now a museum. It’s being preserved and restored, with the hull ensconced in a giant dehumidification chamber within a dry dock – no one will be smashing the glass ceiling here. Conservation work is taking place to control the rust corrosion; I know a bit about this as Hayley is doing similar work on the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s recovered warship. Her PhD focuses on ways to control rust in order to save historical artefacts and she’s working specifically on iron objects from the Tudor ship.

Generally, if we leave things, they rust, rot, decay, fall apart and fail to serve their purpose. This is also true of social media in business. Constant care is needed to ensure fresh and healthy ongoing marketing – I’d be happy to help if you’re not sure which way to steer yours.

Within the last two months I’ve been on a plane, a train (as you now know!) and within the next two I’ll be going on a boat (not in the dry dock – across the sea). Bacharach and David put these appropriate words on Dionne Warwick’s lips: ‘Trains and boats and planes are passing by, they mean a trip to Paris or Rome for someone else but not for me. The trains and boats and planes took you away, away from me.’ Actually, they’re not appropriate lyrics at all!! They’re miserable! The tune’s nice though.

In these days of social media no one gets taken away; in the business world, everyone is just a few clicks closer. And how wonderful is that?!!  If you’d like me to show you how to expand and shrink your world at the same time, give me a call – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Resilience, optimism and decoding the enemy

During the war, Bletchley Park was the workplace of 10,000 people. Eagerly battling away 24 hours a day to decode enemy messages, these people worked under such a heavy blanket of secrecy that many of them were unaware of the overall strategy, focusing only on their own tiny, yet hugely important, part of it.

Communication took place via teams of bike riders scooting around the countryside, and carrier pigeons – some of whom received awards after the war for their bravery. The birds, I mean. Imagine how social media would have affected that war. We take our communication streams for granted today – phone, text, email, Facebook, messenger, Twitter, Viber, Whatsapp – to name just a handful of the most common channels we rely on to get our messages across quickly and accurately.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIf you’re any sort of code-breaking lover (crosswords, Sudoku, the Mastermind game that we played as kids) you must visit Bletchley.  Its rich history and the vivid way its story is told make for a wonderful day out. In fact, I’m going back. We spent so long in the two cafés that we ran out of time to see the whole museum properly. (I’m standing on the stone where Churchill congratulated the Bletchley staff!)
 

 

Alan Turing was an incredibly talented man who suffered a tragic end. He is credited with skills that not only led to the war ending two years early, saving thousands of lives, but as being the father of the computer as we know it. He took artificial intelligence to a higher level than most of us can begin to comprehend, even today in our advanced technological society, decades before anyone could imagine the influence computing would have on our lives.

Coincidentally continuing the war theme, we watched a short documentary that evening about a wonderful pianist named Alice Herz-Sommer, the last survivor of the Holocaust. She died two years ago, aged 110 – and it’s been some while since someone has made me speechless with admiration. This lady was filmed at the age of 106, playing the piano and socialising with her friends. She had the most cheerful, life affirming demeanour and an amazing warmth. She bore no grudge against those who had devastated her family and placed her in the vile ‘town’ of Terezin, a concentration camp where her life was saved simply by her ability to play the piano in an orchestra created for the nazi’s entertainment.

The boys and I heard about Terezin during our recent tour of Prague’s Jewish Quarter, but our short trip left no time to visit the horrific site.  We saw the misery, despair and curtailed legacy in the Synagogue museums though. Alice Herz-Sommer lived an unthinkable life during the war years, yet her beautiful spirit, resilience and optimism could not be broken.  She’s quoted on Wikipedia as saying, “I look at the good… When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive.” It’s so true.

Sometime back in the 80s, long before we’d met, Philip was invited to photograph a breath-taking event.  Survivors of Terezin’s orchestra gathered at Canterbury Cathedral to be reunited for the first time since the concentration camp’s liberation. He says the atmosphere was electric, tangible – and never to be forgotten. Reports I’ve since read say the concert did not dwell on misery, oppression and death, but on hope, optimism and survival. Not a bad life plan, by anyone’s standards.

Rumours is my all-time favourite album, and this seemed like a positive end to a blog that details hope and personal endurance: “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, don’t stop, it’ll soon be here. It’ll be even better than before; yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.” Gone but not forgotten.